Happy New Year!! After everybody, including the NFL, is looking to move ahead, including the outcome of the playoff seedings once and for all for the NFL Playoffs, there’s still a lot to sort through in the final week of the regular season, such as who will win the NFC East, if Cleveland will break their playoff drought once and for all, and whether Phillip Rivers or Derrick Henry will claim the AFC South. Here are the predictions for what may be for this Sunday:
Miami Dolphins (10-5) @ Buffalo Bills (12-3) @ 1pm: With Big Ben resting for Pittsburgh, that gives Buffalo a better chance to claim the #2 seed for the playoffs. They face a Miami team that will be without Ryan Fitzpatrick due to COVID-19, even though Tua was already named the starting QB for this Sunday. As the Bills need either a win or Steelers loss to claim the #2 seed, Miami at the least needs a win or a Browns, Colts, or Ravens loss to clinch the playoffs. Since there are no indications that Buffalo will be intentionally shorthanded, including Josh Allen, facing a Bills’ team that will have fans for their first playoff game and that has been looking very dynamic throughout the last few weeks will be a tough slope to climb for Tua. Expect the Dolphins to come up short and hope for help.
PREDICTION: Bills win 34-21
Baltimore Ravens (10-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1) @ 1pm: With Baltimore surging at the right time, they are on the cusp of their third straight playoff appearance. The only issue is that the Bengals, without Joe Burrow, have started to look interesting with back-to-back wins over the Steelers and Texans. Baltimore needs a win or Browns or Colts loss to secure a playoff berth and could possibly play at Buffalo for the second year in a row. Last time it was Week 17 between the Ravens and Bengals, Cincinnati stomped on Baltimore’s playoff hopes and gave it to Buffalo. However, with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens continuing to trend up, the upset possibility in Cincinnati may be unlikely.
PREDICTION: Ravens win 37-17
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) @ Cleveland Browns (10-5) @ 1pm: Even with a chance to claim a #2 seed and eliminate the Browns from the playoffs, the Steelers made the huge decision to sit out Big Ben at Cleveland. This gives the Browns a huge boost with their star weapons returning from the COVID-19 list after their absence led to their upset loss at the Jets last week. They have one last chance to secure a playoff berth and end the NFL’s longest playoff drought with a win or Colts loss or combination of help. The running game can still be solid despite looking weak last week, and even without Denzel Ward, the Browns can see a path to victory by putting a lot of pressure on Mason Rudolph, minus the brawl between Garrett and Rudolph that happened in Cleveland last time.
PREDICTION: Browns win 30-20
Minnesota Vikings (6-9) @ Detroit Lions (5-10) @ 1pm: With both teams out of the playoffs, there’s not too much to explain what’s at stake. Dalvin Cook is sitting out the regular-season finale due to the passing of his father, and Kenny Golladay is out too, making it only 6 games he played during the 2020 season and possibly this season his final in Detroit as he’ll be a free agent during the offseason. The Lions continue to falter and even without Cook, the passing game for Minnesota can still triumph over a weak-looking Lions’ defense.
PREDICTION: Vikings win 33-17
New York Jets (2-13) @ New England Patriots (6-9) @ 1pm: Another meaningless game in New England, and something that has not happened at this point in the season in a very long time. The Patriots have struggled in the post-TB 12 era and the Jets are starting to gain a little boost with back-to-back wins over teams that are close to the playoffs. The Jets could surprise Cam Newton, but don’t expect much this time, especially in what is possibly Adam Gase’s final game as the Jets HC.
PREDICTION: Patriots win 28-17
Dallas Cowboys (6-9) @ New York Giants (5-10) @ 1pm: The only way this game has meaning is if the Eagles win against Washington later that night. The Giants have not seen a playoff scenario in Week 17 for a long time, while the Cowboys had a scenario similar to this last season, but needs the Eagles to win this time. The Cowboys winning streak is on the line along with the NFC East crown, while the Giants are looking for one more win to clinch the NFC East for the first time since 2011. Daniel Jones has not had much success this season and is aware, while Andy Dalton is close to looking as good as Dad Prescott has been the last few seasons. In New York, a close game going down to the wire is a huge possibility, and a healthy Giants’ defense and strong Cowboys’ offense makes for quite a clash. But, coming down to a possible FG, it could be Graham Gano for the Giants.
PREDICTION: Giants win 24-21
Atlanta Falcons (4-11) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5) @ 1pm: The only scenario in this game is the Buccaneers playing at the winner of the NFC East if they win or the Rams lose. Two weeks ago, Brady made another comeback win over Matt Ryan and may very well see no need to make a comeback this time. It’s possible that the Buccaneers can make a playoff run, but first they’ll seal the deal at home against an injured Falcons’ team.
PREDICTION: Buccaneers win 37-23
Green Bay Packers (12-3) @ Chicago Bears (8-7) @ 4:25pm: A pivotal game at Soldier Field sees a lot in store for both teams. For Green Bay, there are on the cusp of the top seed in the playoffs with a win or Seahawks loss. For Chicago, a win or Cardinals loss and they’re in after going 5-1 to start the season. The Bears had looked huge over the past few weeks with mounting wins over the Lions, Jaguars, and Texans, while Green Bay has looked consistent as they have ever been with Rodgers hot in the MVP race. This game can also go down to the wire and with the Bears streaking and hosting, expect Cairo Santos to boot the Bears into the playoffs and keep the top seed in contention between Green Bay and Seattle.
PREDICTION: Bears win 31-28
Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) @ Denver Broncos (5-10) @ 4:25pm: The Raiders blew another chance this season to stay alive in the playoffs by allowing the Dolphins to keep their playoff hopes alive in Vegas last Saturday. The Broncos are coming off a hard-fought loss at the Chargers and with how the rivalry has been between these two teams this weekend, expect the Broncos to use their high altitude and Drew Lock seeing some healthy weapons end their season on a high note.
PREDICTION: Broncos win 27-24
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) @ Indianapolis Colts (10-5) @ 4:25pm: The Jaguars won the overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, so there’s no harm in them trying to upset the Colts like they did to start the season, which is still their only win of the season. The Colts can clinch the AFC South if they win and the Titans lose at Houston. The Colts have improved since their Week 1 loss at Jacksonville and sees a clear path to victory at home. They would still clinch a playoff spot if they win and they receive other help. The Colts continue to look like a team that can make a playoff run, especially with Rivers chasing that elusive Super Bowl appearance.
PREDICTION: Colts win 37-16
Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) @ Kansas City Chiefs (14-1) @ 4:25pm: With the Chiefs already clinching the #1 seed in the playoffs, Mahomes is expected to sit out for Sunday’s regular-season finale at home against the Chargers. Justin Herbert looks to end the season with one more impressive performance to solidify his chances of winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Even with no Keenan Allen, Herbert can win in Kansas City and still has Austin Ekeler as a dangerous RB-WR player in his backfield.
PREDICTION: Chargers win 28-21
Arizona Cardinals (8-7) @ Los Angeles Rams (9-6) @ 4:25pm: This game may determine who will go to the playoffs, but the Rams got hit hard. Jared Goff is out with a thumb injury, and Cooper Kupp is out due to COVID-19. The Cardinals have a huge chance at SoFi Stadium to secure a playoff berth after a rough loss against the 49ers last week. The Cardinals are not as shorthanded as the Rams are, as Hopkins and Murray are still healthy enough to play, so expect Hopkins to show how he can still bring a team into the playoffs.
PREDICTION: Cardinals win 27-17
Seattle Seahawks (11-4) @ San Francisco 49ers (6-9) @ 4:25pm: The Seahawks have won the NFC West for the first time since 2016, while the 49ers have failed at a chance to defend their NFC crown. Seattle has a chance to secure the top seed with a win and Packers and Saints loss. However, even with the Seahawks staying near the top, the 49ers are coming off a huge win over the Cardinals, who are still fighting for their playoff hopes. The 49ers and Seahawks have split the series over the last two seasons, and after C.J. Beathard have Jeff Wilson a big performance last week, he can carve a hole into the Seahawks’ top-seed chances.
PREDICTION: 49ers win 24-20
New Orleans Saints (11-4) @ Carolina Panthers (5-10) @ 4:25pm: The Saints are coming off a revenge game against the Vikings on Christmas Day by eliminating the Vikings from the playoffs and securing their 4th straight NFC South title. Now, they can secure a 2-seed with a win or Seahawks loss, or the top seed with a Saints win and Packers and 49ers loss. The Saints are without Thomas for what could be the final time this season, but with Alvin Kamara coming off a record-tying performance at home, the Saints can still work against a McCaffrey-less Panthers.
PREDICTION: Saints win 34-24
Tennessee Titans (10-5) @ Houston Texans (4-11) @ 4:25pm: After a hard loss where weather elements favored Green Bay on Sunday night, they travel to Houston for one last chance to win the AFC South with a win or Colts loss. However, J.J. Watt’s postgame speech last week may be a huge motivator to spoil the Titans’ title chances. However, Derrick Henry wants an improvement from last week, and still leading the NFL in rushing yards entering Week 17, he sees a chance with a huge game and a chance at hosting the #5 seed. However, they can still clinch a playoff berth with a win or a Dolphins or Ravens loss at the most.
PREDICTION: Titans win 37-34
Washington Football Team (6-9) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) @ 8:20pm (SNF): Game 256 of the 2020 NFL Season will determine the winner of one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL this season despite a losing record for all 4 teams. After being eliminated by the Cowboys, the Eagles can spoil Washington’s playoff chances by defeating them and allowing the winner of the Cowboys-Giants game to advance to the playoffs. Jalen Hurts may have a future with Philadelphia as their starting QB, prompting Carson Wentz’s exit. Washington has to hope that Alex Smith returns for prime time and that Chase Young makes a huge stand to limit Hurts. However, the Eagles are very aggressive all the time, and could spell disaster for Washington, even if Smith is active.
PREDICTION: Eagles win 27-20