It’s all over after this, so even though Week 17 is largely meaningless for most teams, the fact that it’s our last full Sunday of football until next September makes it special.
Enjoy it while you can.
Then go watch “Concussion.” Will Smith is supposedly pretty good in it. Here are the Top 10 games of the final week of the regular season.
Sunday, Jan. 3
N.Y. Jets at Buffalo: Rex Ryan could prevent his former team’s first playoff appearance since he took them to the AFC Championship in January of 2011.
He’d need help from the Steelers, but beyond that, is looking to avoid a losing season in his first year leading Buffalo, since he has technically come up short on the expectations he set forth when he took the gig.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have forged a bond that should prove troublesome to a Bills secondary that’s playing without top corner Stephon Gilmore.
DT Marcell Dareus hurt his shoulder and suffered a neck injury that caused him to lose feeling in his hand, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him miss this contest.
New England at Miami: Last week’s loss to the Jets means the Patriots need to win this game to ensure the AFC playoffs go through Gillette Stadium.
Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola have a shot at returning to the lineup, but the offensive line will get one final pre-playoff test against Ndamukong Suh to make sure they’re ready given all the injuries they’ve suffered.
This should be the last game of the Dan Campbell era, so it’s only fitting he’ll be matching wits with Bill Belichick in what is a must-win game for the Pats. Consider it baptism by fire before being fired.
Baltimore at Cincinnati: Coming off an immense upset of the Steelers, the Ravens will look to prevent the Bengals from going into the postseason on a winning note.
Ryan Mallett impressed enough to be seriously considered as Joe Flacco’s backup, but he’s also auditioning for other teams that might be interested in someone who rolled out of bed and beat Pittsburgh.
Buck Allen is back in the Baltimore coaching staff’s good graces, so we’ll see how the offense fares against an elite Cincy defense looking to make sure the team improves to 6-2 at home.
Jacksonville at Houston: The Jaguars fell in New Orleans and are 5-10, but have an opportunity to establish their highest win total since 2010 by coming up with a victory here.
Brandon Weeden has delivered back-to-back wins in relief of Brian Hoyer, who has a chance to return this week to close the deal on an AFC South title.
Granted, it’s already over for Indy if the Broncos didn’t hold serve at home on Monday night, but the Texans could be in jeopardy if they fall here since the Colts are playing the Titans.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland: The Steelers have allowed the most passing yards in franchise history (4,173), which creates an opportunity for Johnny Manziel to close on a good note after an inconsistent performance in a loss in Kansas City.
Although he ran for over 100 yards, Manziel struggled passing the ball but has a chance to show he can beat teams with his arm here. Ben Roethlisberger is looking to bounce back from a rare off game where he failed to throw a TD pass.
Oakland at Kansas City: The Chiefs will look to put a tenth consecutive victory in the books and ensure a playoff berth at home against their arch rival.
They survived in Oakland, 34-20, on Dec. 6 and will pose a challenge to Derek Carr and receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who will have a few extra days of rest since they last played on Christmas Eve.
An upset win would give the Raiders an 8-8 finish, matching their best record since last reaching the Super Bowl in the 2002 season.
Tampa Bay at Carolina: The Bucs’ struggles in the red zone cost them mightily in the home finale against Chicago, but Jameis Winston and an improved-looking offense has nothing to lose here.
The Panthers are no longer playing for perfection, but need a victory here to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
San Diego at Denver: Coming off the Monday night game, the Broncos will likely not be able to work Peyton Manning into the rotation, which means this will be another opportunity for Brock Osweiler to get on-the-job training as he prepares for what will likely be his first playoff start given how slow Manning’s recovery process has gone.
Seattle at Arizona: The Seahawks need a victory to avoid being the No. 6 seed in the NFC, so count on them putting forth a playoff-like effort since the reward is a trip to Washington instead of Green Bay or Minnesota.
Russell Wilson and his crew finally tasted defeat for the first time since a Week 10, 39-32 loss to the Cardinals on Nov. 15. Seattle surrendered the most points it had allowed since 2011 and got down 19-0 at home, so getting off to a good start will be invaluable to its cause.
Minnesota at Green Bay: This game decides the NFC North, with the loser falling to either fifth or sixth in the NFC playoff picture. The Packers have lost their aura of invincibility but handled the Vikings rather easily in Minneapolis when the teams met on Nov. 22.
Green Bay scored the game’s last 11 points and Eddie Lacy ran for 100 yards, so maintaining possession will be critical for the Packers if they’re to win another division title.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].