Week 17 has several storylines left

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The final week of the NFL season usually has some intrigue to it and 2019 is no exception.

In Pittsburgh and Seattle, fans may be sweating it out for different reasons. Same in Oakland and Nashville as the final playoff berths and seeding for the postseason gets done Sunday.

The Steelers were undoubtedly Week 16’s biggest loser, stumbling at the lowly Jets to surrender control of their destiny in reaching the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 6 seed. Unless they get help from the Texans and pull an upset of the mighty Ravens, Pittsburgh will ultimately be unable to survive Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury suffered back in Week 2.

There was a major mishap in Seattle, which ties in nicely because the Seahawks were right there in the running for suffering through the most disastrous Sunday this past week.

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Although there’s still a chance to overcome a stunning 27-13 home loss to Arizona by defeating the visiting 49ers Sunday in order to win the NFC West, I think a season that potentially could have ended down in Miami with a Super Bowl appearance is now beyond the point of no return for Seattle.

Russell Wilson has been an MVP candidate and will likely finish pretty high in the pack following obvious choice Lamar Jackson of the Ravens. But he had no time to throw against the Cardinals and faces similar obstacles going forward since the competition will only intensify from here.

Left tackle Duane Brown, one reason that Wilson was able to be so productive thanks to quality protection, had knee surgery on Monday. The procedure will sideline him for multiple weeks, which means that unless Seattle can pull off a win over San Francisco, he’s unlikely to suit up again until next season. The offensive line, already banged up in other spots, simply won’t be the same without him.

Receiver Josh Gordon, who the team had big plans for down the stretch, was again suspended by the NFL last week, removing him from the equation. Starters Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf combined for a single reception against the Cardinals.

Defensive standouts Jadeveon Clowney and Shaquill Griffin have a chance to return against San Francisco, but free safety Quandre Diggs, whose arrival from Detroit solidified the secondary, is likely to miss another game with a high ankle sprain.

Worst of all, top running back Chris Carson and primary backup C.J. Prosise suffered season-ending injuries against Arizona, leaving untested rookie Travis Homer as the primary back. Although veterans Marshawn Lynch and C.J. Anderson instantly came to the forefront as potential fill-ins that Seattle can ride out this storm with, none will be able to match the production of Carson, whose 1,190 rushing yards still rank fourth in the entire league. He was paying great homage to Lynch’s “Beast Mode” legacy, becoming the latest quality back to play workhorse for Pete Carroll.

He simply can’t be replaced. The same goes for Brown.

Seattle is going to complete its run and even play another game in January. But realistically, it failed to reach the finish line.

Sunday

Saints -13 at Panthers: It took Drew Brees some time to find his rhythm in Nashville, but not even a little rain could disrupt he and Michael Thomas once they got their act together. Count on Sean Payton’s game plan to be even sharper against a known commodity like the Panthers, who have been outscored 108-50 since firing Ron Rivera. Carolina won’t hang within two touchdowns here as New Orleans sews up a playoff bye. SAINTS

Eagles -5 at Giants: Although the heavy lifting is done thanks to Philadelphia’s home upset of Dallas, breaking through here to wrap up the NFC East brings its own set of challenges. Saquon Barkley is healthy and is displaying his dominant form while mobile rookie Daniel Jones has returned and is making good use of a receiving corps that is finally back intact. Look for the Eagles to survive late in a shootout but take the points. GIANTS

Dolphins at Patriots -15.5: Tom Brady needs only to pull off a win here in order to ensure a first-round bye and at least one game in Foxborough, so don’t expect to see many style points. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Miami have proven how willing they are to fight for every scrap despite being set up to fail, so look for rookie head coach Brian Flores to earn a cover against former boss Bill Belichick. DOLPHINS

Colts -3.5 at Jaguars: After letting Tom Coughlin go, word is that Doug Marrone is on thin ice in Jacksonville but may be able to hang around if his team shows a little backbone at home. Unfortunately, the Jags have dropped six of seven, losing all by double-digits, and can’t be trusted against a resilient Indy squad that has its sights set on a .500 finish despite Andrew Luck’s unexpected preseason retirement. COLTS

Cardinals at Rams (No line): With Kyler Murray’s availability in question, we may have seen Arizona’s finest moment this season in that upset of Seattle. For an L.A. team coming off a Super Bowl run, an 8-8 season would be a disaster. Look for them to play with some pride in taking advantage of backup QB Brett Hundley. RAMS

49ers -3 at Seahawks: Seattle has won its last game this season. Expect San Francisco to earn homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by piling on to the Seahawks’ woes. 49ERS

Last week: 3-2-1

Season: 44-50-1

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About the Author

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national sportswriter for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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