The 2022 NFL regular season wraps up this week with Week 17, which features several critical games that will determine the playoff picture. Some key storylines to watch:
Dolphins-Patriots battle could decide AFC East
Sunday’s matchup between the 8-7 Miami Dolphins and 6-9 New England Patriots has major playoff implications in the AFC East division (source). The Dolphins are currently second in the division behind the Buffalo Bills, while the Patriots are still clinging to slim playoff hopes. A Dolphins win would put them in prime position for a wild card spot, while a Patriots victory would keep their postseason chances alive heading into Week 18.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s return from a concussion makes this a must-watch game. Backup QB Teddy Bridgewater led Miami to a big win over the Bills last week, but Tua gives them the best chance against a tough Patriots defense. Expect lots of scoring opportunities for playmakers like WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in what projects to be a thrilling AFC East showdown.
NFC East up for grabs in Cowboys-Commanders
The NFC East could come down to the final game of the regular season as the 11-4 Dallas Cowboys take on the 7-8 Washington Commanders on Sunday (source). Dallas is currently tied with the Philadelphia Eagles atop the division, while Washington is fighting to stay alive in the playoff race.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is expected to play despite injuring his knee last week, but his mobility could be limited against a fierce Commanders pass rush. RB Tony Pollard may see even more touches to take pressure off Prescott. This game could hinge on turnovers, as Cowboys LB Micah Parsons will look to force Commanders QB Carson Wentz into mistakes. ExpectParsons and the Dallas defense to capitalize if Wentz struggles.
|Tied 1st NFC East
|Tied 1st NFC East
|Tied 2nd NFC
Seahawks can clinch playoff spot with win over Jets
The red-hot Seattle Seahawks can punch their ticket to the playoffs with a win over the New York Jets on Sunday. At 7-8, the Jets are barely clinging to postseason hopes. But the motivated Seahawks are powered by breakout rookie RB Kenneth Walker III, who trails only Nick Chubb in rushing yards since Week 5 (source).
Seattle QB Geno Smith is also having a career year, while the defense has been opportunistic with multiple defensive touchdowns over the past month. The Jets have the talent to pull off the road upset, but the surging Seahawks playing at deafening Lumen Field gives them the edge to lock up an improbable playoff berth.
Jaguars, Titans battle for AFC South in regular season finale
Sunday’s game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans is essentially an AFC South championship play-in game (source). Both teams are 7-9 and evenly matched. The winner takes the division, while the loser will be eliminated from playoff contention.
Titans RB Derrick Henry is expected to play through a hip injury and shoulder the load for Tennessee’s offense. Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence came alive last week and will look to keep momentum going. Jacksonville has a fierce pass rush led by No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker that could give Tennessee’s makeshift offensive line issues.
In the end, Henry’s rugged running style and ability to wear down defenses gives the Titans the edge at home. But expect this AFC South matchup to come down to the final possession with Lawrence looking to lead a game-winning drive.
Week 17 presents several other games with major playoff implications. The Ravens-Bengals, Vikings-Packers, Buccaneers-Panthers, and Lions-Packers matchups will all impact the crowded NFC and AFC wild card races. Heading into the final week, only the Eagles and Chiefs have secured playoff spots so far.
Once the dust settles on Sunday, the stage will be set for a dramatic Week 18 finish. Several division titles and wild card spots remain up for grabs, which will make for an exciting final Sunday to close out the NFL’s regular season.
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