NFL Week 17

Three Takeaways from NFL Week 17

Along with resolutions and new beginnings, the New Year also brings us toward the end of the NFL season. NFL Week 17 is completed and, as expected with only one more week to go in the regular season, playoff participants are taking shape and storylines are beginning to develop as the NFL gears up for the postseason.

The second-to-last week of the regular season had plenty of storylines of its own, though. The NFC hierarchy is questioned, teams were eliminated from the playoffs, and massive games have been set up for the final week of the season.

Among all these storylines there were three main takeaways that I had from the NFL’s Week 17.

NFL Week 17: Three Takeaways

Could Tom Brady and the Buccaneers Contend in the NFC?

Words that many NFL fans are probably tired of hearing but are Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers emerging as contenders in the NFC? For much of the season, it appeared as though the Philadelphia Eagles were the class of the conference. They were the last undefeated team in the league and had a record of 13-1 heading into Week 16.

Fast forward now to the end of Week 17 and the Eagles have lost two straight games with MVP Contender Jalen Hurts out with an injury. The Eagles now must beat the New York Giants in the last game of the year to guarantee themselves the top seed in the conference, something that seemed assured just a few weeks ago. The injury to Hurts, and the Eagles subsequent play, have raised some questions about the Eagles status as the NFC favorite in the postseason.

The Minnesota Vikings, a team just behind the Eagles at 12-4, have a point differential of minus 19 on the season and were beaten soundly, 41-17, by the Green Bay Packers this week. Throughout this season, the Vikings have rarely looked as good as their record and this most recent result provided some affirmation.

The San Francisco 49ers are still in the hunt for the NFC’s top seed after beating the Raiders on Sunday. This is a team currently on a nine-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the NFL, and boasts the best defense in the league, allowing only 16.5 points per game. Like the Eagles, the 49ers are playing with their third-string QB, rookie Brock Purdy. Purdy has played well, but the inexperience could catch up to the 49ers in the playoffs.

This brings us back to the Bucs, who just won the NFC South with a win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. During the game, Tom Brady found wide receiver Mike Evans for three touchdowns, a connection fans in Tampa Bay have been waiting for all season.

While the Bucs have questions of their own, they will have home field for the first round of the playoffs and will be playing the Dallas Cowboys, a team notorious for playoff failures. After that, it’s the experience of Tom Brady against likely either an inexperienced quarterback or the Minnesota Vikings.

While I’m not saying they’re the best team, it does appear like there is a path for the Bucs in an NFC that no longer seems to have a clear best team in the postseason.

The Lions and Packers set up for a huge game after Week 17 wins

When the 1-6 Detroit Lions beat the 3-5 Green Bay Packers at Ford Field in Week 9 of the regular season, few would have thought that the Week 18 game between these two teams at Lambeau Field would be one of the biggest games in the NFL’s final week.

Both teams have turned their seasons around and are on the doorstep of the NFC’s final playoff spot. The Packers need just a win over the Lions to claim that final spot while the Lions need a win and a loss from the Seattle Seahawks. Regardless of which team wins, they will be a dangerous out in the first round of the playoffs and one that none of the top seeds mentioned earlier in the NFC would want to face.

The Packers have been doing it with defense. During their four-game winning streak, they have only allowed 17 points per game. Couple that with better play from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and this appears to be a tough out in the playoffs, regardless of seeding.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions have been one of the best turnaround stories in the NFL. At one point, the Lions were 1-6 and fans were already wondering if Head Coach Dan Campbell should be let go at the end of his second year. Behind significantly better defensive play, a dangerous offense, and an apparent culture shift within the organization, this team has a lot going for them and many in the NFC would be thankful to see their playoff hopes die at Lambeau Field next week.

Jaguars and Titans set to play for AFC South Title

With the NFL intentionally scheduling all division games in the final week of the season, the odds are that there will be at least one game that will decide the division. This will happen in the AFC South when the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars meet on Saturday night.

It has been a tale of two halves for both of these teams. The Titans, at one point, appeared to be one of the best teams in the AFC. After beating the Packers in Week 11, the Titans moved to 7-3 on the season and were in the driver’s seat in the AFC South. Since then, they have lost six straight games and are backing into a pivotal divisional game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Jaguars, on the other hand, have had a different trajectory to their season. At one point this season the team was 2-6 and it appeared like it would take a few more years to untangle the Urban Meyer debacle. Since then, they have gone 6-2 and control their own destiny for the division title. For Jacksonville, it would only be their second division title since the division was formed in 2002 and their first since 2017.

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