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NFL Week 17: Ten Things You Need To Know

That's all, folks! After 17 arduous, thrilling, enthralling, weeks, the regular season in the NFL has officially wrapped up. With playoff pl


That’s all, folks! After 17 arduous, thrilling, enthralling, weeks, the regular season in the NFL has officially wrapped up. With playoff places and seedings still very much up for grabs, don’t be fooled into thinking that this was a glorified week off for teams. On the contrary, it may have been the fitting finale to the Super Bowl 50 schedule. Without further ado, here is the final regular season instalment of Ten Things You Need To Know. 1. Before the season, you could have bet your bottom dollar that Rex Ryan had the Bills’ matchups against the Jets circled and marked with an ‘X’ as must-win. Aside from pride, nobody could have foreseen just how important those Ryan-Bowl’s would turn out to be. The Jets lost both of them, both of them by the score of 22-17, which officially eliminated them from playoff contention. Had they won both? They would have been the number 1 seed in the AFC. They say the NFL comes down to fine margins, but this is all too familiar heartbreak for Gang Green fans. Even a solitary victory against their former coach’s current employers would have seen the Jets make the playoffs, but Ryan made it his mission to destroy New York’s playoff ambitions, and he succeeded. The Bills finished the season .500 for third in the AFC East, while the Jets finished second on a 10-6 record. 2. The main beneficiaries of the Jets loss? That will be the Pittsburgh Steelers. A dismissing of the Browns 28-12 meant that the Steelers overhauled the Jets to nab the final unclaimed AFC wildcard slot. What a few weeks for the Steelers, who looked like the team to beat before their playoff hopes were put on life support thanks to their loss to arch-rivals Baltimore. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and while they were helped by playing a Cleveland team praying for an end to the 2015 season, they still had to get the job done. The Steelers did, the Jets didn’t, and that is the main reason why the Steelers will be in the playoffs in 2015. Anybody fancy facing Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger? Didn’t think so. Their first test? The Cincinnati Bengals, who have a history of going one-and-done, will be without their key player in Andy Dalton, and who the Steelers beat just a few short weeks ago. 3. Finally, we have the confirmed winner of the NFC North: The Minnesota Vikings. They downed the Green Bay Packers 20-13 at Lambeau Field to jump the Packers into first place, and secure the virtue of the NFC’s third seed, and the chance to host the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday in Minneapolis. It was the Vikings’ first division title since 2009, and the Packers first season since 1968 without a division win over an opponent at home. Their reward is a trip to the nation’s capital to face the 4 seeded Washington Redskins. The Packers have been sluggish of late, and again got out of the blocks slowly. Though on paper a trip to Washington to face the Redskins is more favourable than hosting a dangerous Seattle Seahawks team, it’s hard to argue against the notion that the Redskins have been playing the better ball down the stretch, and certainly have the hotter quarterback of the two teams in Kirk Cousins, who dismantled the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday for a half, throwing three touchdowns in that time. 4. The final AFC spot in the playoffs that wasn’t confirmed before Sunday was the victor of the AFC South. Well, with the job 99% complete, the Houston Texans made sure of it by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-6. J.J Watt, sans cast on his broken hand, was dominant again, with three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. They will need to have their star player firing on all cylinders if they are going to be taken seriously as playoff contenders, especially as their first test will be against the hottest team in the NFL, hosting the Kansas City Chiefs. The Texans victory against the Jaguars was pretty much moot, as they won the division thanks to the New Orleans Saints beating the Atlanta Falcons anyway, but you never want to limp into the postseason. 5. The Patriots wasted an opportunity to claim the number 1 seed in the NFL  as they were outmuscled 20-10 by the Miami Dolphins, in what may be interim head coach Dan Campbell’s last game in charge of Miami. Worryingly, Tom Brady was sacked twice, and was rolled up on by Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. After the game, he was seen limping, with no statement regarding the severity of his injury. To protect Brady without removing him completely, the Patriots dialled up only 21 passing attempts, to limit the damage he could take. Eventually, when the game was lost, Brady was pulled from action for Jimmy Garoppolo. The Patriots limp into the playoffs, losing four of their last six, and desperately need to get healthy on offense in order to be a serious threat in the playoffs. 6. Denver clinched the number 1 seed in the AFC thanks to a hard fought 27-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers. The bigger story may have been the decision that was made to bring Peyton Manning in at quarterback to replace Brock Osweiler, who turned the ball over three times. Now, the focus will be on which quarterback Gary Kubiak will select to start the Broncos playoff games. Osweiler has gone 4-2 as a starter, while Manning looked healthy in limited passing downs on Sunday. One thing’s for certain, this will almost overshadow wildcard weekend next week. 7. Seattle laid down a marker for the rest of the playoff teams while a smouldering performance against the number 2 seeds in the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals. For the fourth straight season, the Seahawks will finish with the fewest points conceded on defense in the NFL, while the offense is quietly peaking at just the right time. We all know how dangerous Seattle can be, and it should be no surprise that the two number 6 seeds in the Seahawks and Steelers are probably the most feared in the NFC and AFC respectively right now. A trip to the Minnesota Vikings awaits the Seahawks, who will not be taken lightly by Pete Carroll’s squad. The Cardinals looked off-colour all evening, but you can rest assured that head coach Bruce Arians will use this blowout as motivation come the divisional round of the playoffs. 8. The Bengals had to settle for the number three seed in the playoffs, riding A.J McCarron and Jeremy Hill to a 24-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. As such, the Bengals host the Steelers in a tough AFC North matchup that will see McCarron come up against the team who made his start to life as an NFL quarterback torrid just a few short weeks ago. The indications suggest that Andy Dalton still needs a couple of weeks to return to action, so the Bengals playoff hopes land squarely on that of his deputy, as they bid to finally buck there one-and-done trend of recent years. 9. If you would have told the Kansas City Chiefs they would be the number 5 seed in the AFC after Week 6, they would have bitten your arm off or called you a liar. Well, the Chiefs won 10 straight, thanks to their win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, after their 1-5 start, to remain the NFL’s hottest team entering the postseason. The fact that they could as easily have been the number #3 seed speaks volumes of how far this team has come, and they had to do it all without their star offensive playmaker, Jamaal Charles. Now, a particularly tricky trip to Houston awaits Kansas City, who haven’t won a playoff game in 22 seasons in eight attempts, the longest active streak in the NFL. 10. Was it ever in doubt that the Carolina Panthers would be anything but the number 1 seed in the NFC? Well they put an exclamation point on that by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-10, meaning that the Panthers finish with a 15-1 record and secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They are, on paper at least, the team to beat in the NFL in 2015, while Cam Newton should be the league MVP. He threw for a further two touchdowns, while running for a couple more, as he tied Steve Young’s career rushing TD’s record by a quarterback, doing it in five season, compared to Young’s 15. While the Panthers topped the NFC South for the second consecutive year, the Buccaneers finished fourth for the fourth time in five years, despite improving in head coach Lovie Smith’s second season in charge.


NFL Week 17: Ten Things You Need To Know

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