A guide to the best and worst of the NFL slate (and to which fans are stuck with the most of the worst). Maps via 506sports.com.
Only eight Week 17 games have actual ramifications for who will make the playoffs, and Chiefs-Chargers and Browns-Steelers only sort of count in that group. Five more games have ramifications for playoff seeding—a difficult thing to get excited about—and three are truly pointless. Let's hope you don't have to watch one of those! Here are your NFL viewing maps:
Houston at Tennessee: Sad, irrelevant football.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh: Sad, slightly relevant football.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis: Indianapolis has very little at stake here; the Colts need both the Pats and the Bengals to get upset to have a shot at a bye. They're still favored by 10.5 points against a Jaguars squad that has a -182 point differential on the season.
NY Jets at Miami: The Dolphins were embarrassed on the road last week, managing just 103 total yards in Buffalo. They'd make the playoffs if the season ended today, but nobody's scared of Miami, a mediocre squad in every facet of the game that's actually been outscored by five points this season.
Baltimore at Cincinnati: For all the credit the Panthers have gotten this year, the Bengals are actually third in fourth-down attempts (22) and second in fourth-down attempt rate (going for it on 19.3 percent of the time), the highest figures in the league among competitive teams. The Panthers are just 16th in attempts (13) and 15th in attempt rate (12.7 percent). Riverboat Lewis!
Denver at Oakland: Peyton Manning has posted a 113.0 passer rating this season; the Oakland Raiders have allowed a cumulative 102.3 passer rating. He can break the single-season yardage record if he throws for 267 yards, but mostly this game will be about Peyton extending that touchdown mark without making people too uncomfortable.
Kansas City at San Diego: A rematch of a ridiculous game from a few weeks ago, except now the Chiefs have nothing to play for, and the Chargers need help from the fucking Jets to make the playoffs.
Buffalo at New England: The Bills defense has had a great season, ranking eighth in yards allowed per game, sixth in yards allowed per play, fourth in defensive EPA, and fourth in defensive DVOA. Too bad their offense ranked near the bottom of the league in all of those categories.
Washington at NY Giants and Detroit at Minnesota: Better luck next year!
Carolina at Atlanta: Among tight ends this season, Tony Gonzalez ranks second in receptions (79), fifth in yards (803), and fourth in touchdowns (eight, with four in his last four games). Among all tight ends in NFL history, he ranks first in all of those categories by an enormous margin. Godspeed, Tony.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans and St. Louis at Seattle: The Saints and Seahawks have been outstanding at home this season, going 13-1 with an average margin of +16.2 points. There's stuff at stake here—the Buccaneers can cost the Saints a spot in the playoffs, and the Rams can cost the Seahawks a bye—but both these games have double-digit point spreads for a reason.
San Francisco at Arizona: The Cardinals and their second-ranked defense needed to beat the best team in the NFL on the road to have a shot at the playoffs. They did. They still need help from Greg Schiano's squad, because the NFL is a cruel place.
Green Bay at Chicago: Aaron Rodgers returns, in one of two winner-takes-all games this Sunday. The Packers scored 30.3 points/game in the seven games before his injury, and 21.7 points/game in the seven games since. More problematically, the Packers allowed 22.6 points/game in those first seven and 30.7 points/game in those last seven, so they're not exactly out of the woods here.
Our final winner for the season is Mount Vernon, Ill., which gets Jacksonville at Indianapolis, Kansas City at San Diego, Carolina at Atlanta, and St. Louis at Seattle. That last game is the most egregious: Mount Vernon roots Bears, but there are probably a good number of Rams fans there as well (the city is about 80 miles from St. Louis). Unfortunately Packers-Bears is a great high-stakes matchup of two longtime rivals, and Rams-Seahawks will likely be a pointless blowout.