NFL Week 17 Preview
It's the final week of the 2013 regular season in the NFL. By Sunday night, we'll know which teams are moving on to the post-season, and which are not. Here are five storylines we'll be watching:
The Muddled AFC Wild Card Race
Various sites — Sun. Dec. 29
The Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers and Steelers are still alive for the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot. Each contender has a crucial intra-divisional game to win before claiming the conference's second wild card spot. Miami (8-7) hosts the N.Y. Jets (7-8). The Dolphins need a win and a loss by San Diego or Baltimore to lock up the playoff spot. Baltimore (8-7) plays at Cincinnati (10-5), but the Ravens must beat the AFC North champs and hope for a loss by San Diego. The Chargers (8-7) host Kansas City (11-4) and need a win, plus losses by Miami and Baltimore to advance to the post-season. Pittsburgh (7-8) hosts Cleveland (4-11). The Steelers must win and hope the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers all lose. Miami advances if all four teams win; Baltimore advances if all four lose. Confused? Just wait until Sunday.
The NFC North Race Rests on Aaron Rodgers' Shoulder
Soldier Field, Chicago — Sun. Dec. 29 at 4:25 p.m. (ET)
Green Bay (7-7-1) travels to Chicago (8-7) where the Packers will welcome back quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who hasn't played since breaking his collarbone in his team's Nov. 4 loss to the Bears. The winning team captures the NFC North crown and a playoff spot; the loser goes home. Chicago blew a chance at winning the NFC North title outright last weekend when the Bears lost to the Eagles, 54-11.
The Seahawks Chase Home-Field Advantage
CenturyLink Field, Seattle — Sun. Dec. 29 at 4:25 p.m. (ET)
The Seattle Seahawks (12-3) host the St. Louis Rams (7-8) with a chance to clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win (or a loss by San Francisco). A Super Bowl favorite for weeks, the Seahawks are at risk of falling to the No. 5 seed — and having to play on the road — in the event of a loss and a 49ers win over the Cardinals.
Can the Saints March Into the Playoffs?
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans — Sun. Dec. 29 at 4:25 p.m. (ET)
New Orleans (10-5) hosts Tampa Bay (4-11) on Sunday with an opportunity to wrap up an NFC playoff spot. Drew Brees and the Saints' high-powered offense will be heavily favored over the Bucs, but they only squeaked out a 16-14 win over Tampa in Week 2. If New Orleans wins and Carolina loses at Atlanta, the Saints would claim the NFC South and the No. 2 seed.
The NFC East Title Game
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Tex. — Sun. Dec. 29 at 8:30 p.m. (ET)
Philadelphia (9-6) visits Dallas (8-7) for a game that will decide the NFC East title. If the Cowboys can duplicate their 17-3 win over the Eagles in Week 7, they'll capture the division crown. If not, they'll sit home for the playoffs. Dallas may have to do so without starting quarterback Tomy Romo, who may be out with a back injury. If Romo can't go, backup QB Kyle Orton will get the start against a Philadelphia defense that has been solid recently save for an ugly loss at Minnesota in Week 15.