In the race for the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs, not one team is in a win-and-in situation.
We have a situation where four teams are alive for one spot, and all four need help to get in. I'm sure this has happened before, but it has to be incredibly rare.
The Ravens win a two-team tiebreaker with the Dolphins, but if the Chargers make it a three-way tie, the Dolphins win the tiebreaker and go to the playoffs. Got that?
It might get even stranger. If the Dolphins and Ravens both win in the early games, the Chargers are knocked out. San Diego will be playing the Chiefs, who will likely rest starters because they have the fifth seed locked up. But the Dolphins would need a Chargers win so all three teams finish 9-7 (remember, they need a three-team tie) and the Ravens would need a Chiefs win (they need a two-team tie). So two teams with absolutely nothing to play for could determine if the Dolphins or Ravens go to the playoffs.
Welcome to the wildest Week 17 the NFL has had.
Only one of 12 seeds is determined. The NFC doesn't have one division champion yet. Of the 16 games, 13 have some kind of playoff implication (the Chargers-Chiefs could fall off that list, but as mentioned, that result could strangely determine the sixth seed for someone else). A lot of the games look easy on paper for the favorite, but every Week 17 some team gets up to play spoiler and the favorite doesn't see it coming. It'll happen again.
So one last time this season (thankfully, given that I can't pick a winner), let's pick Sunday's games:
Carolina (-6.5) over Atlanta: The Panthers have done really well handling bad teams this year. And with all that's on the line (a division title, a first-round bye and even the No. 1 seed in the NFC isn't out of the question) expect the Panthers to roll.
Baltimore (+6) over Cincinnati: We've learned not to write the Ravens off. Their playoff lives are on the line, so the Bengals aren't going to have an easy afternoon.
Tennessee (-7) over Houston: I don't think the Texans, who lock up the No. 1 pick with a loss, are all that motivated to even be in a position to screw up at the end and win.
Jacksonville (+11.5) over Indianapolis: I think the Colts win, but I still can't shake the thought of their offensive line playing so poorly and leading to that terrible slump in November and early December.
N.Y. Jets (+6) over Miami: The Jets' defensive line is good and the Dolphins' offensive line might be the worst in the league. It'll be close.
Minnesota (-3) over Detroit: If there's one team that seems like a good bet to mail in Week 17 after being eliminated, it's the Jim Schwartz-led Lions.
Washington (+3.5) over N.Y. Giants: If you're wagering on this game, seek help.
Pittsburgh (-7) over Cleveland: The Steelers are still alive, and the Browns are losing some steam late in the season. Pittsburgh is the one AFC wild-card contender that looks like it could make a run. Too bad it'll need a miracle to get in.
Chicago (+3) over Green Bay: Let's not forget that Aaron Rodgers might be rusty after almost two months off, and the Packers defense has been pretty bad ... and will be without Clay Matthews.
Denver (-12.5) over Oakland: We've seen the Raiders' defense get throttled at home a few times this season, so I'm not banking on them slowing down the Broncos, who can clinch the No. 1 seed.
Buffalo (+9.5) over New England: Just got a feeling that the Bills are the team that's going to play a lot harder than anyone thinks in Week 17.
Tampa Bay (+12.5) over New Orleans: The Buccaneers have tried hard for most of this season. And the Saints have to feel a letdown after last week's loss at Carolina, right?
San Francisco (pick 'em) over Arizona: I like what the Cardinals have done. I still think San Francisco is a much better team.
San Diego (-9.5) over Kansas City: Tough to pick without knowing if the Chargers will be eliminated (a Ravens or Dolphins win in the early games, and San Diego's season is done) but I do know the Chiefs have no reason to play their starters.
St. Louis (+10.5) over Seattle: The Rams have been pretty tough lately, and the Seahawks aren't lighting it up on offense. Seahawks win a close one.
Dallas (+6.5) over Philadelphia: The Cowboys defense is terrible, but it did play the Eagles very well in the first meeting. And Kyle Orton's not the worst backup in the league. Dallas can at least keep it close.
Last week: 8-8
Season to date: 99-137-6
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