It is very very close to playoff football in the NFL, but one more week of the regular season stands before the postseason kicks off. The final Sunday of regular season football is rather upsetting, because 20 teams will be going home preparing for the next season while 12 others will be one step closer to reaching Super Bowl LII in Minnesota. Perhaps the biggest games of the week are the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers where the Falcons must win the game to make the postseason, the Bills and Dolphins game where the Bills are looking to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, and the Jaguars and Titans game where the Titans are looking to make the playoffs with a win after losing three straight games. With all of this said here’s what to watch for in the last Sunday of the 2017 season. *some games will have shorter previews due to teams resting their starters*
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles; 1:00pm
1. How Long Eagles Starters Play
In a press conference on Friday, Doug Pederson said he wants all of his starters expect Brandon Graham (ankle injury) to play against the Cowboys, but the question is, how long will all of those players play? Does Pederson want Foles to build more chemistry with the receivers so that he can feel comfortable for the playoffs? All of these questions will be answered on Sunday when the time comes against the Cowboys, who will be playing their starters for the entire game. Keep an eye out for that because it will affect the outcome of this game.
2. Dak Prescott Against Backup Players
Dak Prescott will be looking to play a better game than last week as he threw for only 181 yards and 2 interceptions. He hasn’t thrown a TD pass in the last two weeks and will need to change that this weekend if he wants to end off the season on a high note. He faces a Philly defense that ranks 20th in passing yards per game allowed (231.0) and if he can’t take advantage of playinf against backup players, he’ll be criticized heavily for this after Sunday’s game.
Bold Prediction: Dak throws for 300 yards and 2 TDs against the Philly defense.
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions; 1:00pm
1. Brett Hundley Vs Lions Pass Defense
Brett Hundley is coming off another performance he’ll want to forget as he threw for only 130 yards and 2 interceptions him and the offense did not manage to score a single point. He now faces a Lions defense that ranks 28th in passing yards per game allowed (249.3). Since Hundley has thrown all 8 of his TD passes away from home, he could have a big day in Detroit.
2. Matt Stafford Vs Packers Pass Defense
Matt Stafford is coming off a down performance where he only threw for 203 yards, a TD, and an interception. He’ll be looking to have a much better performance against a Packers defense that ranks 22nd in passing yards per game allowed (232.3). The Packers defense has suffered multiple injuries and this may okay a factor in how well they play on Sunday afternoon.
3. Both Teams Run Games
The run game of both teams has struggled and has been very inconsistent this season and the run defense could benefit from that as the Packers rank 20th in rush yards per game allowed (116.0) while the Lions rank 17th (113.1). This game will most likely come down to the quarterback play and could be a shootout since Brett Hundley has thrown all of his TD passes on the road while Stafford is a strong-armed QB who can make every type of throw. It’ll be interesting to see the final stat line of these two QBs and if the run game actually plays a role in the outcome of this game.
Bold Prediction: Matt Stafford throws for 400 yards and 3 TDs
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts; 1:00pm
1. T.J. Yates Vs Colts Pass Defense
T.J. Yates is coming off another rocky performance in which he completed 7 of 16 passes for 83 yards, 1 TD which he threw near the end of the game, and an interception in the red zone. If Yates does this against a Colts defense that ranks 30th in passing yards per game allowed (254.8), he won’t be in a Texans uniform after this season. He must take advantage of this bad defense and must end the season on a high note to convince Bill O’ Brien to keep him on the team.
2. Jacoby Brissett Vs Texans Pass Defense
Brissett is coming off a solid performance against the Ravens last week as he threw for 215 yards an a TD without an interception. He must do the same against a Texans defense that ranks 26th in passing yards per game allowed (246.3). If he does take advantage of this bad defense, the Colts will end up winning this game, which would hurt their position in the draft.
3. Both Teams Run Game
The run game of both teams will be critical to the outcome of this game especially for the Texans as T.J. Yates has been inconsistent in the games he has played so far this season. The Colts rank 27th in rush yards per game allowed (122.8) while the Texans rank 12th (106.7) which means the Texans will have a much easier time stopping Frank Gore and Marlon Mack from gashing them while the Colts will struggle to stop Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue.
Bold Prediction: Both Quarterbacks throw for a combined 500 passing yards.
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings; 1:00pm
1. How Long the Vikings Starters Play
The Vikings are playing for a first round bye and will get it if they win on Sunday against the Bears. However, if the Vikings starters can blow out the Bears within the first half, the Vikings may decide to play some backups and we may see Teddy Bridgwater make another appearance. It all depends on the first half performance and if the starters do play the whole game, the Vikings should clinch a first round bye for the playoffs.
2. Bears Offensive Play
Mitch Trubisky only managed to throw for 193 yards and a TD while the run game only racked up 97 yards. This offense must produce more yardage if they want any chance of upsetting the Vikings in Minnesota on Sunday. It starts with the run and the Vikings rank 2nd agaiant the run (87.1) while the Vikings also rank 2nd in passing yards per game allowed (193.8). Trubisky and the offense will struggle, unless Mike Zimmer decides to rest a lot of his starters if the game gets out of hand quickly.
Bold Prediction: Trubisky throws for 250 yards passing yards 3 TDs
New York Jets @ New England Patriots; 1:00pm
1. How Long Patriots Starters Play
There is one thing the Patriots are playing for and that is home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Like the Vikings, if the Pats end up blowing out the Jets in the first half, Bill Belichick may decide to rest the starters to give the backup players some reps. Regardless of whether or not the starters rest, the Patriots should come out of this game as the winners because the Pats are going to face two quarterbacks who have very little experience in the NFL.
2. Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenburg
Petty and Hackenburg will get a lot of reps on Sunday against the Patriots as Tod Bowles and he Jets fan base want to see if these quarterbacks can take over as the starting quarterback for next year. They face a Patriots defense that ranks 29th in passing yards per game allowed (254.2) so these two could do well against New England to wrap up the season.
Bold Prediction: Both Jets quarterbacks combine for 400 passing yards and 2 TDs
Washington Redskins @ New York Giants; 1:00pm
1. Eli Manning Vs Redskins Pass Defense
Eli Manning is coming off an ugly performance against the Cardinals where he threw for 263 yards and 2 interceptions and was shut out. This week, he faces a Redskins defense that ranks 14th in passing yards per game allowed (219.9) so he may face a similar challenge in the Redskins defense. The Redskins will be looking to take advantage of a leaky offensive line and make Manning have a nightmare day on Sunday.
2. Kirk Cousins Vs Giants Pass Defense
Kirk Cousins is coming off a great performance against the Broncos where he threw for 299 yards, 3 TDs, and an interception. He could have a similar performance against a Giants defense that ranks 31st in passing yards per game allowed (260.1). However, the Giants defense limited Cousins to 242 passing yards and 2 TDs along with an interception their last game, so the Giants will make it a challenge for him on Sunday.
3. Giants O-Line Vs Redskins D-Line
This will be a pivotal matchup to watch since the Giants offensive line struggles to protect Eli Manning and open up holes for the run game. They do rank 20th in total sacks allowed (32.0), which is good but that’s because Eli gets the ball out quick. This Redskins D-line will look to get after Manning early and often and they currently rank 7th in total sacks (40.0). If they can shut down the receivers, the pass rush will get home and will create several 2nd and long and 3rd and long situations come Sunday.
Bold Prediction: Redskins rack up 5 sacks and 3 turnovers.
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers; 1:00pm
1. How Long Steelers Players Play
The Steelers will be hoping the Patriots lose and win against the Browns to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but that is highly unlikely since the Jets are a mess. The Steelers have already clinched a first-round bye and like the Pats and Vikes, if they blowout the Browns in the first half, Mike Tomlin may decide to sit starters to reduce risk of injuries. With this said, the Browns should not win this game regardless of what happens on Sunday.
2. DeShone Kizer and the Offense
Kizer has been a mess all season long and looked awful last week as he completed 18 of 36 passes for 182 yards and 2 interceptions in a loss to the Bears last week. This week he faces an even tougher challenge in the Steelers defense that ranks 5th in passing yards per game allowed (196.3). This offense will need to have its best performance if they want to win their first game of the season and not become the 2nd team to go 0-16 in NFL history.
Bold Prediction: Kizer throws 3 interceptions and Browns become 2nd team to be 0-16.
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons; 4:25pm
1. Matt Ryan Vs Panthers Pass Defense
Matt Ryan played relatively well against the Saints as he threw for 288 passing yards, a TD, and an interception. This week he has a much tougher challenge in the Panthers defense that ranks 16th in passing yards per game allowed (223.6). Ryan will need to play well if he wants to guide his team to the Super Bowl in Minnesota.
2. Cam Newton Vs Falcons Pass Defense
Cam Newton is coming off a sloppy performance where he threw for only 160 yards, an interception, and fumbled near the goal line which could’ve cost him the game, but luckily it didn’t. He faces a Falcons defense that ranks 12th in passing yards per game allowed (217.9). The Falcons defense will also need to keep Cam Newton in the pocket so he doesn’t run for first downs and extend drives.
3. Both Teams Run Games
Both teams will have a tough time running the ball against the opposing defense as the Falcons rank 8th in rushing yards per game allowed (105.2) while the Panthers rank 6th against the run (89.9). Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman will need to run well to take pressure off Matt Ryan as he has been shaky over the past few weeks while the Panthers must run effectively to set up some Cam Newton runs, which would neutralize the pass rush of the Falcons. The team that can run the ball more efficiently, will win this game.
Bold Prediction: Both defenses combine and force 5 turnovers along with 6 sacks.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens; 4:25pm
1. Joe Flacco Vs Bengals Pass Defense
Joe Flacco is coming off a gutsy performance where he completed 29 of 38 passes and threw 2 TD passes as well. Flacco will have a much tougher time throwing against the Bengals defense as they rank 7th in passing yards per game allowed (212.3). All Joe Flacco needs to do is not turn the ball over and he should be taking the Ravens to the playoffs and play in wild card weekend next weekend.
2. Andy Dalton Vs Ravens Pass Defense
Andy Dalton will be hoping he plays as good as he did last week as he threw for 238 passing yards, 1 TD, and an interception. Dalton will be put to the test against a Ravens defense that ranks 10th in passing yards per game allowed (213.9). Also in their last game, Dalton only threw for 144 yards and 4 interceptions against this defense, so Dalton knows he has to keep his cool when facing this defense.
3. Both Teams Run Games
The run game of both teams has been inconsistent all season long but when it comes to run defense, the Ravens are a much better team defending the run as they rank 14th in rush yards per game allowed (108.9) while the Bengals struggle mightily ranking 31st in rush yards per game allowed (128.5). If the Bengals want any chance of winning this game, they’ll need to play to their strength, which is defending well against the pass and to do that, the Bengals need to stop the run to force the offense to become one-dimensional.
Bold Prediction: Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton combine for 6 TD passes.
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins; 4:25pm
1. Tyrod Taylor Vs Dolphins Pass Defense
T-mobile will be looking to play as well as he did against the Dolphins in their first matchup as Taylor threw for 224 yards and a TD, pulling out a win at home. Now he faces a Miami defense that ranks 17th in passing yards per game allowed (227.8). Taylor knows he must do his part in trying to take done the Dolphins yet again to try and clinch their spot in the playoffs and play in wild card weekend next week.
2. Jay Cutler Vs Bills Pass Defense
Cutler will be hoping he doesn’t play as poorly as he did in the first game against the Bills where he threw the ball Newley 50 times which led to 3 interceptions and a loss that weekend. He’ll have a chance to bounce back against a Bills defense that ranks 18th in passing yards per game allowed (228.3). The Bills defense will look to have the same formula in this game to come away with a victory to hopefully make the postseason.
3. Both Teams Run Games
Both teams have had their ups and downs when it comes to running the ball, but the Dolphins have a big advantage when it comes to stopping the run as they rank 15th in rush yards per game allowed (109.5) while the Bills are one of the worst teams in stopping the run as they ranks 30th allowing 126.7 yards per game. If the Bills want a chance at making the playoffs, they’re going to need to stop the run, or else Miami will run away (pun intended) with this game.
Bold Prediction: Shady McCoy racks up 150 scrimmage yards and 2 TDs.
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 4:25pm
1. Drew Brees Vs Bucs Pass Defense
Brees will be looking to light up the Bucs defense like he did in the first game where he threw for 263 passing yards, 2 TDs, and managed to score 30 points. This week he’ll play just as well against a Bucs defense that ranks dead last in passing yards per game allowed (262.5). The Bucs defense will be looking to upset the Saints and prevent them from winning the division on their home field come Sunday.
2. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram Vs Bucs Defense
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram will are coming off a game in which they both combined for only 76 rushing yards and a TD on the ground while Kamara caught 7 passes for 58 yards. They’ll probably have a much better outing against a Bucs defense that ranks 24th in rush yards per game allowed (119.2). If the Bucs want to spoil the Saints hopes of clinching the title, stopping the run must be a priority for them.
3. Jameis Winston Vs Saints Pass Defense
Jameis will be looking to play as well as he did last week against the Panthers where he completed 21 of 27 passes for 367 passing yards and a TD. Jameis is capable of winning games but the Saints defense will make it difficult since they rank 11th in passing yards per game allowed (216.8). Jameis will have to carry the team to a victory since the defense cant stop anyone and because the run game has struggled all season long.
Bold Prediction: Kamara and Ingram rack up 250 scrimmage yards and 3 TDs.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans; 4:25pm
1. Marcus Mariota and the Offense
Marcus Mariota needs to stop running the ball over and needs to be clutch in this game to come away with a victory. He’ll be facing a Jaguars defense that ranks 1st in passing yards per game allowed (173.5). Lucky for Mariota, Doug Marrone may decide to rest some of his starters to ensure that they are healthy for the next weekend’s wild card game.
2. How Long Jaguars Starters Play
The Jaguars will be the 3rd seed regardless of a win or loss and whatever else happens in the AFC seeding. With this said, Doug Marrone may choose to rest some starters once the game actually starts because all week he has said he has no plans in resting his players. Everyone will have to wait and see on Sunday how this all unfolds and if the starters do get rest, the Titans may have a big chance of making the playoffs if they win against the Jags.
Bold Prediction: Marcus Mariota throws 3 TDs and 3 interceptions.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos; 4:25pm
1. How Long Chiefs Starters Play
Everyone knows that Alex Smith won’t be playing because Patrick Mahomes will be starting as the Chiefs have already secured the 4th seed in the playoffs. This may work in the Broncos favor because they are at home and they won’t be resting any starters especially on defense, which means they’ll throw all sorts of blitzes to throw Mahomes off. Again, it all depends on what Andy Reid believed is right on Sunday.
2. Patrick Mahomes’ 1st Start Vs No Fly Zone
Pat Mahomes will be getting his 1st start in a tough environment in Denver and will have a chance to prove that he should be the starting quarterback for Kansas City next year. He faces the No Fly Zone, which ranks 4th in passing yards per game allowed (196.1). If Mahomes lights up the Broncos defense, Andy Reid will have a tough decision to make in the offseason on whether or not Alex Smith should be released from the team.
3. Paxton Lynch Vs Chiefs Pass Defense
Paxton Lynch will get another chance in showing John Elway and the entire Broncos fan base that he should be the starting quarterback next year. He’s facing a Chiefs defense that ranks 27th in passing yards per game allowed (248.4). Lynch also has the benefit of playing against backup players as Andy Reid has decided to rest a lot of his starters to ensure that they all play next weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how well these two quarterbacks play come Sunday.
Bold Prediction: Mahomes throws 3 TDs for 250 yards.
Oakland Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers; 4:25pm
1. Philip Rivers Vs Raiders Pass Defense
Rivers will be looking back on his first game against the Raiders and will be looking to play as well as he did then, in this game as he threw for 268 passing yards and 1 TD. He faces a Raiders defense that now ranks 21st in passing yards per game allowed (231.9). Rivers is more than capable of winning this game by carrying the offense and may need to do that on Sunday as Melvin Gordon may not be playing due to an injury he suffered in last week’s game against the Jets.
2. Derek Carr Vs Chargers Pass Defense
Carr will be hoping he doesn’t play as poorly as he did las week where he threw for only 140 yards, a TD, and 2 interceptions, one which gave the Eagles the lead with under a minute to go in the game. He could have just as much of a toy time against a Chargers defense that ranks 3rd in passing yards per game allowed (195.0). If Carr can’t perform well against the Chargers, he’ll have a long day ahead of him.
3. Marshawn Lynch Vs Chargers Run Defense
Marshawn Lynch is coming off a great performance against the Eagles as he rushed the ball 25 times for 95 yards but also fumbled once. He could have a similar, if not better performance than last week as the Chargers rank dead last in stopping the run (132.9). If the Chargers want to win the game, they must stop Lynch from tearing them up or else the Chargers may not make the playoffs.
Bold Prediction: Philip Rivers throws for 400 yards and 4 TDs.
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams; 4:25pm
1. Jimmy Garropolo Vs Rams Pass Defense
Jimmy Garropolo is red hot and has been unbelievable, especially last week as he lit up the Jaguars defense with 44 points and threw for 242 yards, 2 TDs, and an interception. Now he’ll be facing a Rams defense that ranks 6th in passing yards per game allowed (212.2), but Sean McVay has decided to rest a good amount of his starters, which will work in his favor. The Niners and Garropolo will look to pull off an upset in L.A. and it is very possible with several Rams starters not playing no Sunday.
2. How Long Rams Starters Play
The Rams are set to rest Jared Goff, Andrew Whitworth, Todd Gurley, and a few other players on the defensive side of the ball to make sure they are fresh for wild cars weekend. This is an interesting move by Sean McVay as Jimmy Garropolo has been red hot since arriving in San Fran and could steal a win and knock the Rams down to the 4th seed. It seems the Niners will steal a win and McVay may decide to rest more players when game time actually arrives.
Bold Prediction: Jimmy G throws for 400 yards, 3 TDs, and wins the game.
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks; 4:25pm
1. Russell Wilson Vs Cardinals Pass Defense
Russell Wilson will be looking to play as well as he did in the first game against the Cardinals this week as he threw for 238 yards and threw 2 TDs. He’ll be facing a Cardinals defense that ranks 15th in passing yards per game allowed (223.1). Wilson knows he can’t afford to turn the ball over or else the Seahawks will not make the playoffs or win the game for that matter.
2. Chandler Jones
Chandler Jones has been one of the only bright spots with this Cardinals team and he currently ranks 1st in the league with total sacks with 15.0 and will be looking to grasp the sack-leader title after this week. He faces a Seahawks offensive line that ranks 11th in most sacks allowed (40.0) and in the first game, he managed to sack Russell Wilson once and will look to do the same in this game. Keep an eye out for him when the game comes around because he knows that he’ll be a big factor in the outcome of this game.
3. Drew Stanton Vs Legion of Boom
Stanton was in this game when Richard Sherman went down with an injury, and he played relatively well as he threw for 273 passing yards and a TD. Now, he faces a Seahawks defense that ranks 9th in passing yards per game allowed (213.6) and will look to get revenge by winning the game and preventing the Seahawks from making it to the postseason. It’ll be intriguing to watch how this game unfolds come Sunday.
Bold Prediction: Chandler Jones racks up 2 sacks and forces a fumble and ends the season as the sack leader.