What’s at stake in Week 17 in the NFL

This is the second season the NFL regular season includes 18 weeks and 17 games, and the third season each conference will place seven teams in the postseason. The NFL playoffs are closing in.

Two games remain for every team. The Thursday night battle will likely not impact anything meaningful as the Cowboys seemed destined for the NFC’s 5-seed and the Titans are immensely banged up and quickly losing steam in the race with Jacksonville in the AFC South.

Here are some key games to watch on New Year’s weekend and what is at stake for teams vying for the postseason.

Monday Night Football

Buffalo Bills (12-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)
Line: BUF -1 | O/U: 49.5

Stakes: Why not start with the final Monday Night game of the regular season, and arguably the best MNF matchup of the year.  Josh Allen and the Bills are aiming to seal the top-seed in the AFC playoffs while Kansas City looms with an identical 12-3 record (Buffalo has the head-to-head tiebreak).  Joe Burrow and the Bengals clinch the AFC North Division for a second year in a row with a victory Monday night, and their own path to the AFC’s top-seed would remain a possibility, though KC is a game ahead in the standings. A win would also put Cincinnati ahead of Buffalo for the race for the 2-seed should KC lock up the top spot, and could bring this MNF game as a rematch in the Divisional round.

10:00 a.m. Window

Cleveland Browns (6-9) at Washington Commanders (7-7-1)
Line: WASH -2 | O/U: 40

Stakes: The Washington pro football team controls its playoff destiny.  I repeat: The Carson Wentz/Taylor Heinicke Washington Commanders will be a playoff team if they can win their final two games.  It starts with the Browns visiting Landover on Sunday.  And with the Cowboys, next week’s opponent, probably not having anything at stake for their seeding, Washington is in strong position for the playoffs with a victory this week.

The Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions are all rooting hard for Cleveland to beat Washington.  Should that occur, the door is open for the 7-seed in the NFC (Cowboys and Giants very likely the 5 and 6-seeds, respectively).


Miami Dolphins (8-7) at New England Patriots (7-8)
Line: NE -2.5 | 41

Stakes: Two playoff spots are up for grabs in the AFC. Miami will turn to Teddy Bridgewater to lead them into Foxboro to try to clinch a playoff spot with a win over Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who need a win to stay in the mix.


Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8)
Line: TB -3 | O/U: 40.5

Stakes: The winner has the inside track at the NFC South title and a home playoff game.  Carolina visits New Orleans and Tampa Bay visits Atlanta in Week 18.


Afternoon Window

1:25 p.m. | CBS

Minnesota Vikings (12-3) at Green Bay Packers (7-8)
Line: GB -3.5 | O/U: 48

Stakes: Green Bay is, somehow, back from the dead, with a very real chance at making the playoffs.  First, they must beat division-rival Minnesota on Sunday at Lambeau Field, then host Detroit in the finale.  Two wins, and at least one Washington loss, puts the Packers in the playoffs.  Notably, if Washington loses at least once, and Green Bay and Seattle both win out, the Packers would have the tiebreak over the Seahawks for the NFC’s final playoff spot based on record in conference games.  Minnesota is trying to sweep the Packers, eliminate them from playoff contention, and seal the NFC’s 2-seed which could land them two home playoff games and avoid a visit to San Francisco in the Divisional round.


1:05 p.m. | FOX

New York Jets (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (7-8)
Line: NYJ -1.5 | O/U: 42

Stakes: Pretty simple. Both teams need a win to meaningfully stay alive.  The Jets are turning back to Mike White.  Seattle is a short home underdog in what is a revenge game for both Pete Carroll and Geno Smith.  A Jets win sets up a win-and-your-in finale vs Miami in Week 18.  Seattle will be rooting for Cleveland in the morning slate to beat Washington, while also pulling for Minnesota to kill off Green Bay in the late afternoon, all the while trying themselves to beat a resilient New York squad.


Other games with implications

10:00 a.m.

Colts at Giants (NYG -5.5): Giants clinch playoff spot and likely 6-seed with a victory
Bears at Lions (DET -6): Lions stay alive for playoffs with a win and hope for a Washington loss. Detroit visits Green Bay in Week 18!  Bears angling with Houston for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Saints at Eagles (PHI -6.5): Eagles clinch NFC East and top overall seed in the NFC Playoffs with a victory.
Broncos at Chiefs (KC -12.5): Chiefs trying to put heat on Buffalo for the 1-seed in the AFC Playoffs, while Denver plays their first game post Nathaniel Hackett-firing and a first-round pick headed to Seattle near the top of the draft.
Jaguars at Texans (JAX -4): Jaguars gunning for the AFC South title with a banged-up Tennessee waiting in Week 18. Texans are feisty for a 2-win team who for the moment still has the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Sunday Night Football
Steelers at Ravens (BAL -2.5): A Baltimore win puts the pressure on Cincinnati on Monday night for the AFC North division title, with the Ravens and Bengals set to meet in the regular season finale next week.  A Pittsburgh win keeps their slim but non-zero playoff hopes alive.