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Colts-Titans will be flexed to 'Sunday Night Football' for Week 17

Frank Schwab
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Through all the drama of Week 16, the NFL ended up with one clear game to give to “Sunday Night Football” to end the season.

The Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans square off next Sunday night, a game that can be livestreamed on the Yahoo Sports mobile app (IOS and Android), with the winner going to the playoffs as either a wild-card team or the AFC South champion if the Houston Texans lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier Sunday. The NFL announced Sunday night that Colts-Titans will be the final game of the regular season.

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Last season, the NFL bagged the “Sunday Night Football” finale when there was no game that had direct playoff implications for both teams. That won’t be the case this year.

Steelers loss made NFL’s decision easier

The Steelers’ late loss to the New Orleans Saints helped the NFL’s decision. With that loss, the Steelers either make the playoffs as AFC North champions or are out, barring a Titans-Colts tie (imagine the drama if the Steelers win in Week 17, need a tie and the Sunday night game goes to overtime).

Had the Steelers won — and they led the Saints late in the fourth quarter — there was a Week 17 scenario in which the Ravens clinched the AFC North with a win over the Browns, the Steelers clinched a wild-card spot with a win over the Bengals and the Texans clinched the AFC South by beating the Jaguars. That would have made the Titans-Colts game meaningless.

But the Steelers lost, making Titans-Colts a play-in game.

Colts won first meeting vs. Titans

The Titans could be going into that all-important game without their quarterback. Marcus Mariota was knocked out of Saturday’s win against the Washington Redskins with what was called a stinger. Titans coach Mike Vrabel offered little update on Mariota’s status after the game. Blaine Gabbert will start if Mariota can’t go.

The Colts blew out the Titans 38-10 in the first meeting between the teams, Nov. 18 at Indianapolis. Both teams scored key comeback wins in Week 16 to help their playoff chances, and both got a little bit of good news when the Eagles came back to beat the Texans on Sunday.

The NFL changed its scheduling in recent years, so all games that are interconnected in the playoff race are played in the same time slot, to avoid a situation in which a team clinches a spot early and it renders another game meaningless. As the Sunday night game was going on, one slot was still up in the air: If the Chiefs beat the Seahawks, Kansas City would host Oakland at 1 p.m. Eastern time. If Seattle defeated Kansas City, the Raiders-Chiefs game would be at 4:25 p.m.

This season there’s still plenty to be sorted out in Week 17, with a pretty good final contest.

Week 17 schedule, all games Sunday, Dec. 30

1 p.m. Eastern games
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
New York Jets at New England Patriots

1 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET (based on Sunday night result)
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs

4:25 p.m. ET
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams

8:20 p.m. ET
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will lead his team in a Week 17 showdown against the Colts, if he's healthy. (AP)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will lead his team in a Week 17 showdown against the Colts, if he’s healthy. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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