From first place in midseason to first out now, NFL Week 17 will wrap up the sad irony for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Instead of seeking the NFC East title in Week 17 against the Washington Football Team, the eliminated Eagles will crown another team as the champion, in the Sunday Night Football national spotlight, no less. That’s like contending for an Academy Award only to be asked on stage to name the winner.
We open the Odds Five with an NJ sports betting Who Needs It Week 17 list, capped by the NFC East.
NFL Week 17 must-win scenarios
Here are the teams that must show up this week:
- Chicago Bears (vs Green Bay Packers)
- Green Bay Packers (at Chicago)
- Tennessee Titans (at Houston Texans)
- Miami Dolphins (at Buffalo Bills)
- Baltimore Ravens (at Cincinnati Bengals
- Cleveland Browns (vs Pittsburgh Steelers)
- Arizona Cardinals (at Los Angeles Rams)
- Los Angeles Rams (vs Cardinals)
- Indianapolis Colts (vs Jacksonville Jaguars
- Everyone but the Eagles in the NFC East
They all still have something to play for this week.
The NFC East champion will be the first team in NFL history (of 342 candidates) to start a season 2-7 or worse and make the playoffs, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.
If the host Eagles defeat Washington, the winner between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys in the afternoon enters the postseason with a home game for the first round. If Washington triumphs, the Football Team earns the NFC East.
Washington has looked abysmal offensively in two consecutive outings, losing to the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers at home. The Football Team was beaten by the four-win Panthers in Week 16 when all it had to do was win to clinch the division. Washington was never in the game, falling behind 20-0 and playing with an offensive lack of awareness. Washington’s body language and team chemistry are bad.
Alex Smith, if healthy, will start at quarterback for Washington against the Eagles. He missed the Panthers game.
Betting angles: Washington, Dallas and the New York Giants must play hard. With the Eagles, one can’t tell.
The early DraftKings Sportsbook line spoke volumes. The last-place, eliminated Eagles opened as a one-point pick against first-place Washington, which has everything to play for.
Cowboys look hungrier than anyone in NFC East
Remember the Arizona Cardinals humbling them on Monday Night Football?
Remember this team at 3-9?
The Cowboys have won three straight and suddenly look like they remember the talented receiving corps of CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, who singed the Eagles on deep patterns in Week 16’s 37-17 victory. Dallas outscored the Eagles 34-3 after falling behind early.
Ironically, Dallas was the preseason favorite to secure this division and could still get it.
The Giants fought hard in a 27-13 setback to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16, losing the game they were supposed to lose. Yet despite dropping three straight games by a combined total of 73-26, the Giants have a road to the playoffs with a win over Dallas and an Eagles triumph.
It would seem fitting in this division that both Week 17 games end in a tie.
Miami Dolphins gain late Christmas gift
If the Miami Dolphins reach the playoffs, they will credit the most bizarre stroke of luck in last Saturday’s 26-25 triumph over the Las Vegas Raiders.
Miami fell behind 25-23 on a Daniel Carlson field goal Saturday night with just 19 seconds remaining. Should be game over.
But on the ensuing possession, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed a long pass AND the Raiders were called for a bonehead face mask penalty.
That made the difference as Jason Sanders drilled the game-winning field goal with one second remaining. The Dolphins are guaranteed a playoff berth if they can defeat the host Buffalo Bills in the season finale.
Miami will be playing for something in Week 17 at Buffalo.
Lessons from the Dolphins-Raiders game: The Raiders remain an undisciplined team, although they covered the +2.5 here.
Dolphins bettors got a bad break when the go-ahead TD Las Vegas scored with 3:37 left was followed by a missed extra point. That took any possibility of overtime, and a chance to win by a field goal, out of play.
Bettors of the under got burned by 22 points being scored in the last four minutes.
Dolphins coaches hopefully learned a lesson by bringing Fitzpatrick into the game. He engineered 13 fourth-quarter points in relief of Tua Tagovailoa, who is too green for this kind of pressure.
A quarterback has to look pretty lost to make the Raiders look like a good defensive team. Fitzpatrick ought to be starting the rest of the way.
Ravens enter Week 17 in playoff position
The Baltimore Ravens, denied leapfrogging into a playoff spot when Miami stole the game from the Raiders, did manage the feat Sunday with the Pittsburgh Steelers rallying from 24-7 down to beat the Indianapolis Colts, 28-24. And the Cleveland Browns losing to the New York Jets also helped the cause.
Baltimore took care of business against the New York Giants and will likely get to 11-5 after its Week 17 matchup against the host Cincinnati Bengals. Win and you’re in. The Ravens have won four straight and have hit their best stride of the second half.
The Arizona Cardinals, fresh off good-looking victories over the Giants and the Eagles, fell flat as a pancake in losing to the San Francisco 49ers. Now they must defeat the Los Angeles Rams on the road to guarantee a playoff spot.
Betting note: Rams quarterback Jared Goff suffered a broken thumb and will likely miss the game.
And who woke up Da Bears?
Arizona’s loss opened the door for Chicago, which stormed through with its third straight triumph, ripping the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-17. “Da Bears,” who looked rudderless a month ago, have scored more than 30 points in four consecutive games (hope you had the over).
When is the last time they did that? Not since the Gale Sayers era, in 1965. Chicago can guarantee a playoff berth by beating Green Bay or the Rams beating Arizona.
Browns still fighting for a playoff spot
The Browns look to rebound from their self-inflicted wounds, finishing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finally managed to clinch the division with Sunday’s come-from-behind 28-24 triumph over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Browns lost their top receivers because of positive COVID-19 tests. That’s why they flopped and got beaten by the suddenly live New York Jets, who won their second game in a row.
Now the Browns must defeat the Steelers at home to guarantee a playoff spot. And while Pittsburgh may not need the game, this is a bitter rivalry, and the Steelers could play harder than expected. The Browns are heavily favored.
NFL Week 17 around the league
The Kansas City Chiefs have wrapped up the AFC home field throughout the playoffs. They don’t need to win this week.
The Packers need a win or Seattle Seahawks loss to wrap up the No. 1 NFC position.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh