Sunday Sprint Week 17

It’s here, we did it; Week 17 of the NFL regular season. The way we got here was questionable at times (forcing a team to play with no quarterbacks but moving another team’s game three times) but the season was played to completion and the playoffs will start on time. As is customary in Week 17, there was plenty of drama and intrigue up and down the schedule, with the odd meaningless game thrown in. Keep on reading to get the dirty details on everything heading into the postseason.

Minnesota Vikings 37- Detroit Lions 35

A meaningless NFC North matchup went a lot closer than most people expected, largely thanks to another stellar performance from Matthew Stafford. Despite the speculation that this could have been his last game for the Lions, Stafford once again played his heart out for his city and certainly maintained his high trade value. The Lions are heading into what will most likely be a rebuild, bolstered by their newly confirmed top-7 pick. As for the Vikings, something’s gotta give in that organization…we just don’t know what yet…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44- Atlanta Falcons 27

The Bucs had already clinched the playoffs but you wouldn’t know that from the way they came out firing against the lowly Falcons. Tom Brady cemented his GOAT status, tossing four touchdowns without so much as breaking a sweat. He helped his teammate Mike Evans make NFL history by being the first player to start his career with seven consecutive 1000 yards seasons. Unfortunately for Tampa, their stud wideout suffered a potentially serious injury the play after setting the record. Arians and Brady can take comfort in the fact that Antonio Brown had a vintage game, so if Evans can’t go on Wild Card Weekend, at least Brady won’t be without weapons. When it comes to the Falcons, this season becomes just the most recent in a long line of disappointments; one marked by finding new, creative ways to lose and blow leads, a problem that doesn’t appear to have a solution to be found in this system. 

New England Patriots 28- New York Jets 14

It took 17 weeks but Cam Newton finally remembered how to lead an offence. It was actually a breath of fresh air to see the Patriots seemingly having fun playing football. J.C. Jackson secured his ninth pick of the season, a play that appeared to jump start the Pats’ offence. Mix in a trick play where Newton receives a touchdown, the first touchdown pass to a receiver, and a Jonathan Jones pick, and you have the recipe for the best possible end to the worst possible season. Both these teams were already out of playoff contention but the Jets undoubtedly have the busier off season ahead, given that the consensus across many analysts is the organization needs to start over from zero. First order of business was getting rid of Adam Gase, something many are surprised didn’t happen as soon as the final whistle went on Sunday afternoon, but the deed was done hours later. So now what?

Buffalo Bills 56- Miami Dolphins 26

The Dolphins had the playoffs in between their flippers and to say they let it slip away would be generous. It was easy, Miami wins and Miami’s into the postseason. The simple equation didn’t account for them coming out and not being able to get anything going on offence, a fault to be shared evenly among OC Gailey, Tua, and the minimal receiver group. In all fairness, Josh Allen and the Bills are playing like men possessed at this point, so much so that the team felt comfortable bringing in Matt Barkley at halftime and still managed to put up almost 60 points. With the win, Buffalo secures themselves the number two seed heading into the playoffs, ensuring they’ll only have to leave New York for a trip to Arrowhead, should both teams make it to the AFC Championship. The Dolphins will look towards the draft in which they have been gifted the third overall pick via Houston. 

Cleveland Browns 24- Pittsburgh Steelers 22

There have been 197 losses, 14 double-digit loss seasons, and seven head coaches since the Cleveland Browns have played meaningful January football.  It almost didn’t happen but they are finally back in the playoffs. After letting a 15 point lead slip away, it was looking like Mason Rudolph would pull the playoff sleigh away from Cleveland for yet another year. But Myles Garrett and the rest of the defence stood strong to hold off a squad largely made up of backups. The two rivals won’t have to wait long for a rematch as they’re slated to take each other on in the Wild Card round next week. 

New York Giants 23- Dallas Cowboys 19

By some shocking turn of events, every team in the NFC East (except the Philadelphia Eagles) was in a meaningful game in Week 17. The winner of this game put themselves in a position to win the division should the Washington Football Team lose to the Eagles. Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen, although Philly was tantalizingly close to the upset.

Baltimore Ravens 38- Cincinnati Bengals 3

404, no not the error code, the amount of yards the Ravens racked up on the ground. Jackson, Dobbins, and Co simply ran through the Bengals on their way to the playoffs. Baltimore couldn’t have hit their stride at a better time as they prepare to face off against the Titans next weekend. The Bengals will start their offseason thankful that they shouldn’t have to face off against any of these AFC North quarterbacks without their own stud again, as Joe Burrow should be good to go next season. 

Indianapolis Colts 28- Jacksonville Jaguars 14

Don’t worry Duval, it can’t get worse. With their draft stock secured, the next big question is who will come in to lead the operation that Trevor Lawrence will be asked to perform in. As for Indy, they did what they had to do by getting a win to get into the playoffs. And if Jonathan Taylor can have a Wild Card game like he did this week, there’s no telling what could come out of this team’s postseason run (that is if Philip Rivers can fix his career long problem of throwing goal line picks in key times…)

Tennessee Titans 41- Houston Texans 38

The Texans were tantalizingly close to playing spoiler to their division rival’s hopes of claiming the AFC South crown, that is until Sam Sloman doinked the game winning field goal off the upright as time expired. It looked as if overtime would be in order as Houston tied it with a field goal of their own with just a few dozen seconds left on the clock. But a Ryan Tannenhill bomb to A.J. Brown put the Titans in field goal range with plenty of time left and the rest is history. 

LA Rams 18- Arizona Cardinals 7

Grey Cup champion Chris Streveler threw a touchdown pass just moments after entering the game in the first quarter in relief of Kyler Murray and followed that up with a whole lot of nothing (oh and a pick 6). Point being, once Murray pulled up with a leg injury, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Arizona, despite the fact that their opponents were also rolling with a backup QB. But from the outset there was something different about John Wolford. He was looking off defenders like a seasoned vet as opposed to someone making their debut in the league. Thanks to Wolford’s ability to hang in there the Rams are officially playoff bound. 

New Orleans Saints 33- Carolina Panthers 7

No running backs no problem for the Saints as they rolled to an easy win over the powerless Panthers. The methodical win sets the tone nicely as Brees and company lock in the number two seed for the playoffs, hopefully a game for which they’ll have at least one running back in the line up (not that we don’t think Taysom Hill can’t be a starting RB). For Carolina, the problems are mainly at quarterback, as they played both their guys today who combined for five interceptions and no touchdowns. It’s unclear what direction the Panthers will look to go before kickoff next year but don’t be surprised if they make big moves. And if they don’t, then maybe it’s because they found some ageless, injury proof serum to give Christian McCaffrey because that could be their only hope to remain competitive in their division. 

Green Bay Packers 35- Chicago Bears 16

The Green Bay offence is a machine and there’s no way around it. Aaron Rodgers finished the season with more touchdown passes (48) than the team had punts (46) and watching Sunday’s game made it pretty obvious as to why. Either defences are just not interested in covering Rodgers’ targets, or they’re uncoverable. Regardless, the NFC road to the Super Bowl will run through Lambeau. The Bears also earn a playoff spot by virtue of the Arizona Cardinals’ loss to the Rams. 

LA Chargers 38- Kansas City Chiefs 21

With the bye already locked up, the Chiefs took the chance to give their backups some action, including Chad Henne in place of Patrick Mahomes. The results were predictable, but Kansas City have done so much this season that they still are the most feared team in the league. On the other side, Justin Herbert continued to make a strong case for Offensive Rookie of the Year with another three touchdown passes. The best thing that can happen for Herbert and the organization this off season would be replacing Anthony Lynn with a coach who has a proven track record at developing young guys as the wealth of possibility they have in Herbert is scary. 

Seattle Seahawks 26- San Francisco 49ers 23

The Seahawks got themselves a date with the Rams next week thanks to their dicey Week 17 win. Russell Wilson exploded in the fourth quarter but other than that the offence was inconsistent, something they’ll desperately need to fix if they want to get near a Lombardi. For the 49ers, it’s a welcome end to an injury-torn season filled with “what could have beens.” 

Las Vegas Raiders 32- Denver Broncos 31

Did you forget about this game too? Amazing. It’s not hard to see this game as having been Drew Lock’s last chance to prove that he’s the guy to end the Denver Broncos’ quarterback carousel. Whether or not he did enough is up to John Elway as the two touchdowns and 339 yards are impressive but need to be taken with a grain of salt as we consider the opponent. Derek Carr had two touchdowns and two picks in a performance that can best be described, like much of the Raiders’ season, as “meh.”

Washington Football Team 20- Philadelphia Eagles 14

This was the most aggressively NFC Least game of all time. Traded interceptions, recovered fumbles, lost fumbles, replacing your future franchise QB with some white dude…it had it all. And when all was said and done, the Washington Football Team have secured themselves a spot in the 2020 playoffs. As much as we’ve joked about the lack of quality in this division, a massive credit is due to Washington for accomplishing what they did with what they had; from Ron Rivera and his courageous battle with cancer to Alex Smith’s comeback for the ages, this team showed exactly what it means to come to the field and play football.

Make sure you stay tuned to Unbenched as we’ll be providing previews of all the Wild Card Weekend matchups and off season shenanigans. In the meantime, thanks so much for coming back every week for the Sprint, we hope your team did well (or got a good draft choice), and happy playoffs!

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