NFL Week 17 Preview
Giants @ Bears
This game is hilarious to think about when you realize that both the Bears and Giants will be picking in the top ten of the NFL draft, but the Giants own both of the picks. This was apart of the Justin Fields trade, but Fields isn't even supposed to play in this game. With Fields still healing from his ankle injury, Andy Dalton is set to start for the Bears against either Jake Fromm or Mike Glennon. This far into the 2021-2022 season, I never would have anticipated watching a game that features any three of these quarterbacks starting; but here we are. This game is filled with second chances and improbable stories; it is the reason why football is so great. Just when you thought these quarterbacks were out of the league, here they are with their futures in their hands. While it may not be as entertaining as watching quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers; it will be great to watch these quarterbacks show that they are still capable of being NFL starters. In this game, I see Akiem Hicks causing the Giants' offense problems. Hicks is one of the biggest disrupters in the NFL; both as a pass rusher and run stuffer. He has extremely favorable matchups on both the right and left side of the Giants' interior offensive line. While the biggest headlines in this game is all about the starting quarterbacks, I anticipate the Bears' defense stealing the show. Nobody is quite sure of what Matt Nagy's future looks like in the NFL, but I see the Bears winning back-to-back games here in a late effort to remain the head coach for the Bears.
What to Watch For: How does Matt Nagy call this game with his job on the line?
Player of the Game: Akiem Hicks DT Bears
Final Score: Giants 16 Bears 20
Jaguars @ Patriots
In 2022, the Jaguars are going to focus on building their foundation. While they have foundational pieces, they don't have a foundation. Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Josh Allen, and James Robinson are all players that the Jaguars can build around, but they need a coach who can bring everyone on the team together. While there is potential in Jacksonville, there's a playoff spot looming in New England. After back-to-back losses in playoff-like atmospheres, the Patriots are looking at a must win. Bill Belichick understands what is at stake in this game and why this is one of the biggest games in Mac Jones' young career. While both Jones and Lawrence are rookies this year, Jones has not been playing like a rookie. His intelligence and understanding of coverages has allowed him to catch up to the speed of the NFL. Jones' anticipation and poise under high intensity scenarios has been extremely impressive. Jones is going to be very good in the league for a very long time, and he is going to start off his career by clinching a playoff birth against the Jaguars.
What to Watch For: Can Mac Jones rebound after two losses?
Player of the Game: Mac Jones QB Patriots
Final Score: Jaguars 13 Patriots 27
Buccaneers @ Jets
For rookie quarterbacks, it is really easy to get down on yourself. It is hard to adjust to the speed of the game and defensive coordinators go out of their way to make their lives miserable. Last week, Zach Wilson came up with a huge win against the Jaguars. While it may not be huge in a playoff standpoint or some crazy upset, it is huge in the eyes of the rookie quarterback. Right now the Jets' coaching staff needs to feed Wilson with confidence. He hasn't had the ideal rookie season; it has been filled with more failure than success, but that was a major victory. With all that being said, Wilson is still a rookie quarterback, and Todd Bowles knows that. He is going to throw many unique looks Wilson's way and dial up simulated pressure. While both Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul are out of the game with various injuries, the Bucs still have Ndamokung Suh, Joe Tryon, and Vita Vea. I anticipate the Buccaneers jumping out to an early lead which will force Mike McDaniel to dial up a heavy amount of pass plays. In a game where the Jets are already disadvantaged from a matchup standpoint, it is unlikely that the Jets will be able to pull off the upset while being one-dimensional. This game is a huge test for Todd Bowles; down two of his best players will he be able to generate pressure without bringing heavy blitzes? The Buccaneers are fighting for home-field advantage and if they want a shot at the first round bye, Tampa needs to win this game.
What to Watch For: Down two of his best players will Todd Bowles be able to generate pressure without bringing heavy blitzes?
Player of the Game: Vita Vea DT Buccaneers
Final Score: Buccaneers 33 Jets 16
Falcons @ Bills
The Bills finally came to life against the Patriots last week and told: "you, you, you, and you" that they are back! Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs are beginning to pick up where they left off in 2020. One player that has come into his own for the Bills this year is Isaiah McKenzie. McKenzie had his best game as a pro, last week, against the Patriots. He is one of those players that can be used all over the field: in the slot, backfield, or out wide. McKenzie is a mismatch waiting to happen and is Brian Daboll's secret weapon. Defensively, the Bills don't match up too well against this Falcons team. Arthur Smith wants to run the ball down the defense's throats with Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis. The Bills' defense is designed to stop the pass; Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde are two of the best coverage safeties in the NFL. While that safety duo is awesome at keeping a ceiling for the offense and limiting downfield passes; that isn't the Falcons cup of tea. I anticipate the Falcons getting busy in the running game, but struggling to keep up with the Bills' high-powered offense. With Calvin Ridley set to return next year, I anticipate the Falcons being a team that can air it out. I'm not sure who their quarterback will be, but this season is the ugly before the beautiful stage.
What to Watch For: Can the Bills' defense stuff the Falcons' run game?
Player of the Game: Stefon Diggs WR Bills
Final Score: Falcons 23 Bills 31
Dolphins @ Titans
This game is huge; the AFC South title is in reach for the Titans while the playoffs are in reach for the Dolphins. Miami has had one of the most improbable seasons in NFL history; after starting the year 1-7, they are now 8-7. This team has rallied around Tua Tagovailoa and has come together. Jaylen Waddle is one of the best rookies in the 2021 class and his chemistry with Tagovailoa has been causing defenses problems. One duo that caused the 49ers' defense problems last week was Ryan Tannehill and AJ Brown. Brown helped revive the Titans' offense that couldn't get anything going while he and Derrick Henry on IR. With Henry set for a playoff comeback, I anticipate the Titans winning this game so they can rest their starters next week. Bud Dupree is off the COVID list which is great news for the Titans. Dupree is an elite speed rusher who will make Tagovailoa uncomfortable. While the Dolphins' miraculous run has been awesome to watch, I expect the Titans to lay the Dolphins' playoff dreams to rest by winning this game and clinching the AFC South.
What to Watch For: Xavien Howard vs AJ Brown
Player of the Game: Jeffery Simmons DT Titans
Final Score: Dolphins 27 Titans 28
Eagles @ Football Team (WFT)
The Eagles are another team that is miraculously in prime position to make a playoff run. After starting the season 2-5, the Eagles are now 8-7 and control their destiny. The WFT has also had a crazy season but in a different light; they have been fighting and clawing all season long. While they may not come up with a lot of wins, they never get blown out... until last week. The Cowboys embarrassed the WFT on Sunday Night Football, and I expect the Eagles to pick up where the Cowboys left off. Devonta Smith should be able to beat whatever defender is lined up opposite from him. With both Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders out for the Eagles, Kenny Gainwelll and Boston Scott are going to carry the load for Philly. While run lanes will be there for those running backs, the runner that will punish WFT's defense most will be Jalen Hurts. Hurts is an elite playmaker both with his arm and legs. WFT's defense won't know how to stop him and I expect the Eagles to get one win closer to clinching a playoff spot.
What to Watch For: Can Kenny Gainwell carry the load for the Eagles?
Player of the Game: Jalen Hurts QB Eagles
Final Score: Eagles 26 WFT 20
Rams @ Ravens
It feels as if the Ravens are like a boulder that won't stop rolling downhill. They've been plagued by injuries all season long; every time it looks like they're going to catch a break, another key player gets injured. With Lamar Jackson still out due to an ankle injury, Tyler Huntley will start against a Rams team that has been on fire lately. The Ravens have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, which is very uncharacteristic of a Ravens defense. The Rams have one of the best passing attacks in the NFL which means that this Ravens team is in trouble. Baltimore needs to find a way to put pressure on Matthew Stafford or else this defense is burnt toast. Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. have been a phenomenal pairing; the Ravens just don't have the personnel to match up with those two. Two things will be proven in this game: Tyler Huntley will prove that he's capable of being a starting quarterback and the Rams will prove that they are not pretenders. This is the week that the Rams win the NFC West.
What to Watch For: Can Tyler Huntley put the Ravens' offense on his back?
Player of the Game: Cooper Kupp WR Rams
Final Score: Rams 30 Ravens 27
Raiders @ Colts
The Colts dodged a bullet ahead of a game that will have a playoff-like atmosphere. Carson Wentz will be their starting quarterback after spending all week on the COVID list. Both teams are fighting for wildcard spots, but the Colts are in a better position than the Raiders. If the Colts win this game, they are guaranteed a playoff spot. The Raiders still need some help from other teams to get a shot at playing in the post-season. The Colts are a sleeper team that I can see having a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl. With Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson back in the lineup for Indy, I expect the Colts to have their way against the Raiders. Jonathan Taylor is alive and well in the playoff race and is going against a mediocre run defense. Outside of Maxx Crosby, the Raiders don't have any elite run defenders and I anticipate JT helping his case for the MVP against the Raiders. One player that the Colts will be without is Eric Fisher, which means Crosby will have favorable matchups. Crosby is a one-man wrecking crew and if there is one player that can ruin the Colts' playoff party it would be Crosby. I expect Frank Reich to devote all his assets to stopping Crosby. This is the Colts' game to lose, but I don't anticipate anything but confetti afterward.
What to Watch For: Can Darius Leonard blow up the Raiders' offense?
Player of the Game: Darius Leonard LB Colts
Final Score: Raiders 22 Colts 27
Chiefs @ Bengals
This is hands down the best game of the day. The Chiefs are the hottest team in the NFL while the Bengals are coming off of arguably the most impressive win of the season. I am hoping that this game is an offensive dual where all of the stars shine bright. If we are talking about pure offensive star power; it is hard to beat this game. Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Mixon, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce are all pro bowl caliber players. Joe Burrow is coming off his best game as a pro and clinched helped lead the Bengals to their first playoff appearance in seven years. The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since 1990 and this game is a great preview of what they should be expecting in a few weeks. Both teams have bottom-eight pass defense; that means this game will most likely be very high scoring. The who-dey nation will be rocking and I anticipate home-field advantage playing a part in this game. One area I believe the Bengals have the biggest advantage is on their defensive line. The Bengals can generate pressure with just four-man rushes and a two-shell secondary. Bengals defensive coordinator, Lou Anarumo, will bring simulated pressure and with Jessie Bates in the secondary, I anticipate the Bengals' defense winning this game. This game should be awesome, and I like Joe Burrow to come away with the biggest win in his career.
What to Watch For: Offensive fireworks!
Player of the Game: Jessie Bates FS Bengals
Final Score: Chiefs 33 Bengals 37
Lions @ Seahawks
This game is filled with uncertainty: will Russell Wilson be the Seahawks' quarterback next year? will Pete Carroll be coaching the Seahawks next year? will Dan Campbell be coaching the Lions next year? will Jared Goff be the Lions' quarterback next year? There are question marks all over the field, but that means all of these players will play and the coaches will coach their hearts out. While most Lions' fans eyes are on the NFL draft, Seahawks fans should be rooting for their team to win this game. That should go without saying, but when franchises don't have a shot at the playoffs, their fanbases tend to revert to hoping for a better draft pick. These games are meaningful in the eyes of Jody Allen and Jon Schneider. Job security is on the line in this game, so I expect Pete Carroll to fight for everything he has. Nobody knows what Russell Wilson's future looks like in Seattle; that means this could be his last home game as a Seahawk. He understands what is at stake, and I expect him to air the ball out against the Lions. This will be a vintage Russell Wilson game as I see the Seahawks winning this one in demanding fashion.
What to Watch For: The Seahawks' offensive approach
Player of the Game: Russell Wilson QB Seahawks
Final Score: Lions 13 Seahawks 41
Broncos @ Chargers
The Chargers are the most erratic team in the NFL, just when you think they are going to make a playoff race they lose a game they should win. Last week, the Chargers' defense made Davis Mills look like he was Justin Herbert. While Linval Joseph is a proven veteran, I'd like to see the Chargers make a run at Akiem Hicks in free agency. Brandon Staley's defense runs through the defensive tackle being able to take up multiple gaps. That is why the Rams and Bears defenses have been so good when Staley was there; their defense ran through Aaron Donald and Hicks. The Broncos should be able to run the ball on the Chargers' defense, just like every other team has been able to do this year. Justin Herbert is a really good quarterback and the Chargers' offense has really good weapons: Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams; however, I have no faith in this team. I also really love the Chargers' coaches, they just don't have any clutch gene. I'm going to pick the Chargers in this game because I believe their defense will confuse Drew Lock and their offense will put up points, but I am not very confident in this team.
What to Watch For: Can Justin Herbert put together an undeniable performance?
Player of the Game: Justin Herbert QB Chargers
Final Score: Broncos 23 Chargers 27
Panthers @ Saints
No team has been affected by COVID more than the Saints, and I expect that to be apparent against the Panthers. Practically their entire offensive line has been on and off the COVID list this week as well as Marcus Williams. No matter who is playing for the Saints this week, the team has no rhythm because they haven't been able to practice together. They also don't have a lot of film to study on Sam Darnold because he has not started a game for nearly two months. The Panthers have been self-scouting all week long and understand that they need to switch things up in order to win this game. I anticipate Darnold having the full-time role as starting quarterback with Cam Newton coming in for goal-line situations. The Panthers' defense needs to focus on stopping number 41 for the Saints. Alvin Kamara is a big play waiting to happen; in what I expect to be a low-scoring game, Kamara will be getting the ball a lot. The Saints have had a hellish week of practice and I anticipate them playing a sloppy game. The Panthers' defense is going to give Taysom Hill problems and come out with a win in a close game.
What to Watch For: Can the Panthers stop Alvin Kamara?
Player of the Game: Jeremy Chinn S Panthers
Final Score: Panthers 23 Saints 20
Texans @ 49ers
This should quietly be one of the better games of this week's slate. The Texans just pulled off a major upset against the Chargers last week and Davis Mills looked awesome. Mills is having a rookie season that can be built on. If Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson were putting up his number, they'd get way more hype. One of my favorite storylines in this game is that it's a showdown between two rookie quarterbacks: Mills and Trey Lance. Lance showed a lot of potential in his last start against the Cardinals but hasn't touched the field since that game. According to his coaches, Lance has shown exponential progression in the past month of practice. He is a quarterback whom I believe will be dominating in the NFL for the next decade, and he'll show why he was a top-three pick in the draft against the Texans. I want to see him run Kyle Shanahan's normal offense, not the one with 10+ designed quarterback runs. I want to see him run the outside zone with a bootleg threat. I also want him to let it loose; one reason why the 49ers drafted him was because of his arm. He is capable of taking the top off a defense. With George Kittle and Elijah Mitchell healthy, Brandon Aiyuk playing like a first-round pick, and Deebo Samuel having an all-pro season, I believe the 49ers play one of their best games of the season and beat the Texans.
What to Watch For: Davis Mills vs Trey Lance
Player of the Game: Trey Lance QB 49ers
Final Score: Texans 21 49ers 31
Cardinals @ Cowboys
This game will have a playoff-like atmosphere. Whether it's high school, college, or the NFL, Kyler Murray has never lost in AT&T stadium. With that being said, he hasn't looked the same since Deandre Hopkins left the lineup. The Cardinals have dropped back-to-back games and stand at 10-5 after starting the season 7-0. The Cowboys also have a lot to play for in this game. Homefield advantage and that first-round bye are in reach for them. This game has major playoff implications so I expect both teams to keep their foot on the gas. The Cowboys wiped the floor last week against the WFT and look like legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl. While the Cowboys are a very good team and have a ton of young talent on both their offense and defense, I think Kyler Murray will catch them off guard. Even though Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs are both defensive player of the year contenders, they haven't faced an elite quarterback since Patrick Mahomes (seven weeks ago). This should be a high-scoring game, but with James Conner's status uncertain, I see the Cowboys' offense outscoring the Cardinals'. This game may be a preview for one that we see later this month.
What to Watch For: Can Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs stop Kyler Murray?
Player of the Game: Michael Gallup WR Cowboys
Final Score: Cardinals 30 Cowboys 33
Vikings @ Packers
With Kirk Cousins ironically missing this game due to COVID-19, the Vikings are facing a potential elimination against the Green Bay Packers who have a shot at clinching home-field advantage. The Vikings are choosing to roll with Sean Mannion at quarterback rather than Kellen Mond. By no means was I a "Kellen Mond believer" coming out of the draft, but the fact that Mike Zimmer is picking Mannion to start over him is concerning. That says a lot about Mond's progression and where he is at as a rookie. With Mannion starting, the Vikings will need to rely on Dalvin Cook to carry this offense. The only way that the Vikings can somehow upset Aaron Rodgers in this game is by keeping him off the field. Cook is one of the best running backs in the NFL and he is capable of carrying this entire offense. As for the Packers, I believe this will be the game that Aaron Rodgers seals the envelope on the MVP race. It is Sunday Night Football in freezing cold Lambeau stadium, home field advantage is on the line, and Aaron Rodgers just surpassed Brett Favre for touchdowns passes as a Packer. The context behind this game is too meaningful for the Packers to not win this game, I anticipate this game being a blowout.
What to Watch For: Does Kellen Mond get in the game?
Player of the Game: Aaron Rodgers QB Packers
Final Score: Vikings 12 Packers 38
Browns @ Steelers
The way things are sounding, this will be Ben Roethlisberger's final game at Heinz Field as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a two-time Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger helped build that stadium and is one of the greatest players to ever suit up in the black and gold. With this game most likely being Big Ben's final time playing in Heinz Field, I expect his teammates to play their hearts out for him. A potential playoff spot is still in reach for the Steelers, so this is a must-win game. The Browns are decimated in the secondary which means that Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool could be in for a big game to close out Roethlisberger's career. Baker Mayfield is hurting and TJ Watt is attempting to lead the NFL in sacks in back-to-back seasons. I expect Big Ben to play this game as if it was his last and leave the city of Pittsburgh the same way he came into it; as a winner.
What to Watch For: Do the Steelers let Ben cook?
Player of the Game: Ben Roethlisberger QB Steelers
Final Score: Browns 20 Steelers 24