Yahoo Sports NFL senior writers Terez Paylor, Charles Robinson and Kimberley A. Martin select games this week that will leave us buzzing heading into Monday.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Like there was any other choice.
Who doesn’t love a winner-take-all showdown for a playoff berth in the final week of the regular season?
That’s exactly what we’re getting here on Sunday night in a game that was flexed into primetime. The Colts (9-6) and Titans (9-6) are gunning for a playoff berth, and while Indianapolis hammered Tennessee 38-10 the first time these two teams met, it’s worth noting that the Titans will have home-field advantage this time. It’s also worth noting that their potent run game has come into form over the past month or so, adding a degree of difficulty to this game for the Colts.
Now, that doesn’t mean I’d pick the Titans to win. Their passing offense has been largely inept, and Indianapolis ranks eighth against the run, which could give the Titans loads of trouble. But Tennessee’s defense is pretty good too, and there’s no guarantee that Comeback Player of the Year candidate Andrew Luck is going to go off the way he did a month ago against the Titans.
Regardless, the drama of it all should add up to a fun showdown that will leave one fan base elated, and one devastated.
Colts at Titans
Who doesn’t love a Week 17 playoff game?
While the Colts and Titans aren’t usually the sexiest matchup outside of those markets, fans of pressurized NFL football should be tuning in to this one. The winner punches their ticket to the postseason and the loser is toast. If that isn’t enough on the line, both Colts head coach Frank Reich and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel can take a leap forward with their culture-building efforts by winning this one.
Reich has done a fine job getting the Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck back on track. Meanwhile, Vrabel has kept the Titans upright despite quarterback Marcus Mariota being banged up all season long. The Mariota storyline should add some extra intrigue as we tune in to see if he plays in this one. If he does, it will be a chance for him to get some of his shine back after another injury-plagued and less-than-stellar season.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens were an afterthought in the playoff race weeks ago. Now, with rookie Lamar Jackson as their quarterback, Week 17 means everything.
Not only can Baltimore claim the AFC North title with a victory (or a Pittsburgh loss), but the team can also clinch a first-round bye if things fall the Ravens’ way.
Don’t expect the Browns to go down quietly. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield has done quite a bit of chirping this season, but his confidence is well-warranted. Despite having to wait until Week 3 to see action, Mayfield needs only three passing touchdowns to break Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson’s rookie record (26) and is the clear favorite to win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Cleveland would love to end its season on a four-game winning streak, but it won’t be easy against a Ravens defense that is giving up the fewest points and fewest yards per game. Baltimore hasn’t played in the postseason since the 2014 season when they lost in the divisional round to New England. The Ravens had a chance last year to earn a playoff berth, but they lost to Cincinnati on a last-minute touchdown in Week 17.
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