Surprisingly there are only a handful of Week 17 games that are truly meaningless, and will have no bearing whatsoever on qualifying for the playoffs, playoff seeding, or the pecking order at the top of April’s draft. The massively important games that will decide the post-season dance partners have been placed in the late time slot to ensure competitive balance. That includes Baltimore/Cincinnati, Kansas City/Denver, San Diego/Oakland, and New York/ Dallas in prime time.
So that gives you plenty of time to re-calibrate the continually osculating room, figure out why you’re wearing your shirt backwards, and shake that heavy fog that’s still lingering from the first hours of 2012 early this morning.
We’ll be around all day, and we’ll feel the hangover pain for you. Bring your headache and your green hat, and let’s take our last Sunday morning trip around the league.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
An Atlanta win is almost a certainty with the Falcons play the woeful Bucs, so the Lions need a win of their own to avoid dropping to the No. 6 seed in the NFC and traveling to New Orleans in the first round. Mike McCarthy will be happy to help with that as he sits his starters for all or most of what’s a meaningless game for Green Bay.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
The Battle Red Blog wonders why the Texans would allow a college bowl game to be played at Reliant Stadium less than 24 hours before an NFL game. Money is the likely motivator, but it’s not worth the risk in damage to the field prior to the main tenants playing their game.
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags have been tortured by Peyton Manning in their own division, and a win today nearly guarantees that they’ll avoid a similar fate and halt Andrew Luck’s arrival in Indianapolis. Trading Manning isn’t an option since his bonus is due five days before the free agency and trading period opens, so losing today is ideal for Indy. Purposely losing just doesn’t happen, though, because it’s both difficult and dangerous.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
The Jets need a win and some serious help to make the playoffs, and in a few hours they’ll likely be looking back on a lost season, wondering how so much offensive talent could be wasted so regularly. As Manish Mehta notes, the Jets have just 33 points over their last 31 possessions, a pace that’s ahead of only the lowly Rams and Jaguars during that stretch.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Christian Ponder has a giant stuffed smiling blue gorilla named George in the corner of his living room. Yes, that’s the most interesting fact about this game. Carry on…
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
Overall the Patriots’ offensive line has performed well this year, and has kept Tom Brady upright. But now he enters this game with a wounded shoulder just a week after being sacked four times (only the second time this year he’s gone down more than three times in a game), and Logan Mankins is out. Winning and getting home field advantage will be nice, but finishing this game with a healthy Brady will be much better.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton is in a difficult situation with Drew Brees. His pursuit of history alongside Brady today means it’ll be difficult if not impossible to remove Brees from the game, but if the 49ers open up an early lead on the Rams as expected, this game will become very meaningless, very quickly.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy needs 203 rushing yards today to become the Eagles’ all-time single-season leader. Yet somehow he still needs to be regularly reassured that he’s really, really good.
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
Patrick Willis is getting a playoff tune-up. He’s active today for the first time in nearly a month.
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
This is one of the most meaningless games on today’s slate, but pride is still at stake, as it is on any NFL Sunday. After the first meeting in Week 3 between these two division rivals Darnell Dockett said the Seahawks were “soft as cotton,” a remark that no doubt hasn’t been forgotten.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons need to win and hope for some help to avoid the Saints next weekend, and they’re playing a Bucs team that’s in the middle of its longest losing streak since 1985 after dropping nine straight games.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
It’s taken a few gimmicks and wild public relations moves, but Mike Brown may be slowly regaining the Bengals fan base, and he’s doing it one $250,000 check at a time. The ultimate sales pitch would be a playoff berth, and that could happen with a win today.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Ben Roethliberger’s injury won’t restrict him at all, and he’ll start and play until the game is decided.
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
Tim Tebow could play the hero, just as he’s done nearly every week since he became the Broncos’ starter. The difference today is that Kyle Orton could be the villain, and during the first day of 2012 as we look back on the Broncos in 2011, it’s amazing to think that a few months ago Tebow was lining up for snaps at wide receiver.
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
The San Diego Tribune’s Kevin Acee reports that it’s “all but certain” that Norv Turner is coaching his last game with the Chargers today.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News thinks it’s ridiculous that Tom Coughlin’s coaching career in New York could rest on one game, which is the situation that’s been created by the Giants front office. Coughlin has won 57 percent of his games with the Giants, and he’s had seven seasons with a record of .500 or better, which is the first time that’s happened for the Giants since the early 60′s.