Entry: NFL Preview - Week 17. Saturday, December 30, 2006

This is a pretty big weekend in the NFL this season.  Usually this has been known as a throw-away week, as a number of teams bench their key starters in order to prepare for the playoffs, but this year there are a number of teams either vying for a playoff spot, or are vying for a first round bye in the playoffs.

For all intents and purposes, every game except possibly three this week has playoff implications.  Here's what it looks like:

- Saturday:  NY Giants vs. Washington.  Giants need this win to get into the playoffs though a tie breaker.  Green Bay has to lose or tie, or they can win the "strength of victory" comparison in order to clinch.

- Sunday:  Minnesota vs. St. Louis.  St. Louis is still in the running to get a playoff bid, albeit a long shot.  The Giants, Carolina, and Atlanta has to lose or tie.

- Carolina vs. New Orleans.  Carolina needs to win for a possible berth.  They also need the Giants and the Packers to lose or tie.

- NY Jets vs. Oakland.  Jets clinch a playoff spot with a win.

- Dallas vs. Detroit.  The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win, if Philly loses.

- Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati.  Cincinatti needs a win, plus a Jets loss...OR, a win with both Denver losing and Kansas City winning.

- New England vs. Tennessee.  First, this is an exciting game, as it'll be interesting to see what Bellichek can come up with to stop Vince Young.  Second, Tennessee gets in the playoffs if they win, Cincy and Denver loses, and Kansas City wins.

- Jacksonville vs. Kansas City.  This screams playoff scenarios, because KC's outcome has long-ranging effects.  For Jacksonville to get into the playoffs, they need a win, a Jets loss, and Cincinatti and Tennessee to both lose or tie.  For Kansas City to get in, they need a win, Cincinatti and Tennessee to lose or tie, and an outright Denver loss.

- Miami vs. Indianapolis.  Indianapolis can clinch a first-round bye with a win and a Baltimore loss.

- San Francisco vs. Denver.  Denver needs a win to clinch a playoff spot.

- Buffalo vs. Baltimore.  Baltimore's wrapped up the AFC North, and they need a win to clinch a first-round bye.

- Atlanta vs. Philadelphia.  Atlanta needs a win, an outright Carolina loss, and a Green Bay and Giants loss or tie.  Philadelphia needs a win to clinch the NFC East and a wild card game at home.

- And Sunday night....Green Bay vs. Chicago.  Ugh. 

Green Bay needs:

1. A win plus a NY Giants win + GB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over NYG OR
2. A win plus a NY Giants loss or tie plus a St. Louis loss or tie OR
3. A win plus a NY Giants loss or tie plus a Carolina win OR
4. A win plus a NY Giants loss or tie plus an Atlanta win OR
5. A tie plus a NY Giants loss plus a St. Louis loss plus an Atlanta loss or tie plus a Carolina loss or tie

God.  Green Bay needs to simply lose so we don't have to worry about this crap.  If this confuses you as much as it confused me, maybe this will help. Regardless, we won't know who's in the playoffs until about 11pm EST on Sunday night.

So, only three games this week - Seattle/Tampa Bay, Cleveland/Houston, and San Diego/Arizona - don't matter.  Seattle and San Diego have already locked in their spots, and the others somehow have been eliminated from playoff contention.  How those teams managed to be that bad in a year where it seems almost everybody had a realistic shot at the playoffs is amazing.

The NFL realizes how important this week is, and they responded; for the first time, they are allowing double doubleheaders on Fox and CBS.  That means, unless you live in a franchise market, you get to see four games this week; two at 1:00 EST and two at 4:00 EST.

I know what I'll be doing around that time.  Do you?


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