NFL's Week 17 Late Game Previews


Photo Courtesy of Robert Robinson


Oakland Raiders (4-11) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)


Preview

Although only one of these teams will be in the playoffs, this AFC West matchup is huge in the playoff picture. If the Chiefs win, they will clinch the top seed and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. With a loss and a Chargers win, they would fall all the way to the 5-seed. With that being said, a lot is at stake in this one and I’m sure the fans at Arrowhead Stadium will be loud and hungry for a home playoff game.


Players to watch

For the Chiefs, we all know that their passing game is near unstoppable. With that in mind, they need balance in their offense and will look for running back Spencer Ware to create that. It will be interesting to see how Ware performs this week coming off of an injury that kept him out last week as he will be facing an Oakland defense that ranks 25th against the run. Offensively for Oakland, they must have a big game from quarterback Derek Carr who will be facing a struggling Chiefs secondary that ranks 31st against the pass. However, he will still have to come ready to play as he will be coming into a very hostile environment.


Keys to the game

Oakland Raiders

Put pressure on Mahomes

Long drives

Limit turnovers


Kansas City Chiefs

Establish the run

Create turnovers

Capitalize on big play opportunities


Injury list

Oakland Raiders

Maurice Hurst, DT - Ankle (Questionable)

Gareon Conley, CB - Concussion (Questionable)

Montrel Meander , DB - Quad (Out)


Kansas City Chiefs

Sammy Watkins, WR - Foot (Out)

Eric Berry, S - Heel (Questionable)

Kendall Fuller, CB - Thumb (Questionable)

Spencer Ware, RB - Hamstring (Questionable)

Darrel Williams, RB - Hamstring (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Patrick Mahomes, QB (KC)

Tyreek Hill, WR (KC)

Travis Kelce, TE (KC)

Derek Carr, QB (OAK)

Spencer Ware, RB (KC)


Prediction

Both the players and fans of the Chiefs realize what is at stake in this game. With that being said, Oakland doesn’t stand a chance. I see Patrick Mahomes picking apart this defense on his way to yet another huge performance. I also just don’t see the Raiders offense having enough in them to keep up on the scoreboard. The Chiefs will win this one by multiple scores and will be looking forward to some much-needed rest during their bye week.


Final Score: Chiefs 35, Raiders 14


Written by: Ryan Lippert



Arizona Cardinals (3-12) vs. Seattle Seahawks (9-6)


Preview

After losing key pieces to their defense this year, the Seahawks were expected to enter a rebuild losing playoff hopes in the process; however, their win against the Chiefs at CenturyLink Field locked them in as a wildcard team with a chance at the Lombardi Trophy. Pete Carroll earned a contract extension this past week for his efforts in guiding a team with significantly less talent than in previous years to the postseason. Although Carroll deserves a lot of credit for the teams success, without Russell Wilson at the helm, a chance at the postseason would have left their grasp a long time ago. In week 17, The Hawks will be playing an Arizona team destined for a high selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. They are slotted into the number 1 overall pick heading into the final week of the season and can lock it up with a loss on Sunday. Steve Wilks has been under fire throughout his first year as Arizona’s head coach, but a head coaching change doesn’t seem to be in the cards for a team looking for a their identity. Hopefully they will stock up on talent through the draft and in Free Agency, as they have an abundance of cap space entering the offseason.


Players to watch

Although the hawks have already clinched a playoff berth, they still have reason to play, as the fifth seed can still be won with a victory in week 17. Expect Chris Carson to run all over the Cardinals 30th ranked run defense after achieving 325 yards and 4 touchdowns over the past three weeks. With the running game expected to dominate early, Russell Wilson should have plenty of opportunity in the play action game finding receivers in the seem, and deep across the middle. Patrick Peterson will be shadowing Doug Baldwin throughout the contest leaving the speedy Tyler Lockett with the opportunity to add to his impressive 2018 stats. David Johnson will need to get going early or it will be a long day for the Cardinals and will ultimately end in their 13th loss on the year. Josh Rosen will need to protect the ball and have a strong showing in order to pull out a victory against their division rival.


Keys to the game

Arizona Cardinals

Get David Johnson involved

Limit Turnovers

Keep the Pocket Clean for Rosen


Seattle Seahawks

Pound the ball

Control the Clock

Let Russell Wilson Improvise


Injury list

Arizona Cardinals

Ricky Seals-Jones, TE - Shoulder (Out)

Markus Golden, DE - Ankle (Questionable)

Benson Mayowa, DE - Neck/Back (Questionable)


Seattle Seahawks

J.R. Sweezy, OG - Foot (Doubtful)

D.J. Fluker, OG/OT - Hamstring (Questionable)

Dion Jordan, DE - Knee (Questionable)

Bradley McDougald, S - Knee (Questionable)

Rashaad Penny, RB - Knee (Questionable)

Tedric Thompson, S - Knee (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Chris Carson, RB (SEA)

Russell Wilson, QB (SEA)

Tyler Lockett, WR (SEA)

David Johnson, RB (ARI)

Larry Fitzgerald, WR (ARI)


Prediction

Since the Hawks still have reason to play, this game shouldn’t be very close once the final second ticks off the clock. Division games can teater any given week, but Seattle out classes the Cardinals in almost every area and it doesn't seem likely Arizona comes into Seattle and upsets the red-hot Seahawks with the 12th man backing them up. With Arizona securing the number 1 overall pick in the draft, Seattle will move up to the fifth seed in the NFC playoff picture.


Final Score: Seahawks 33, Cardinals 16


Written by: Jason Feiner



San Francisco 49ers (4-11) vs. Los Angeles Rams (12-3)


Preview

The Rams have been one of the most dominant and consistent teams in their league for the better part of the last two years and now boasting an 12-3 record entering week 17 (second best in the league) they will have an opportunity to secure the number two seed in the NFC with a win against the 49ers. With the Bears only one game back and holding the head to head victory, the Rams need to win their final game against a division foe in order to keep the bye week and automatically advance to the divisional round in January. Todd Gurley was kept out for precautionary measures last week and CJ Anderson came through to fill the void left by the All-Pro; however, it is not likely he sits out again in a must win contest. With the 49ers looking to squash the Rams hopes of securing the bye week in the postseason, this game may be closer than many believe. Divisional matchups are always in the realm of the unknown. Anything can happen.


Players to watch

Jared Goff underwent his worst stretch of games through weeks 13-15, but rebounded last week against the Cardinals leading LAR to a victory. He should continue to improve his play to the same level he displayed earlier this year, as the postseason fast approaches, and his pass catchers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods should heavily assist in that aspect. Todd Gurley has already racked up 21 total touchdowns on the season and has an opportunity to break the 2000 yard mark with 169 total yards in week 17 against San Francisco’s 12th ranked rush defense. If he is unable to suit up again, CJ Anderson should once again head the Rams ground attack with an opportunity for a big night. Nick Mullens has exceeded all expectations put before him after starting the year as a third string quarterback and moving up the depth chart with numerous injuries to the starting cast. He will need help from George Kittle, Dante Pettis and Jeffrey Wilson in order to keep up with the Rams explosive offense. Mullens is in for a rough outing if Aaron Donald can’t be contained. Protecting the pocket from collapsing will be a big key for victory in this matchup.


Keys to the game

San Francisco 49ers

Keep Nick Mullens clean

Establish the Run Early

Take Care of the Ball


Los Angeles Rams

Feed the Ground Game

Spread the Ball around to Numerous Pass Catchers

Let Jared Goff Sling it.


Injury list

San Francisco 49ers

Dante Pettis, WR - Knee (Out)

Marquise Goodwin, WR - Calf (Out)

Matt Breida, RB - Ankle (Out)

Garrett Celek, TE - Concussion (Out)

Tarvarius Moore, CB - Shoulder (Questionable)


Los Angeles Rams

Todd Gurley, RB - Knee (Out)

Lamarcus Joyner, S - Ankle (Out)

Justin Davis, RB - Shoulder (Questionable)

Ethan Westbrooks, DL - Illness (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Brandin Cooks, WR (LAR)

Jared Goff, QB (LAR)

Todd Gurley, RB (LAR) or CJ Anderson, RB (LAR)

George Kittle, TE (SF)

Robert Woods, WR (LAR)


Prediction

Division matchups tend to be doozy's, as they can fall any way each given week and with the 49ers upsetting the Seahawks two weeks ago throwing their playoff hopes into jeopardy at the time, they have an opportunity make a rival play on Wildcard weekend. Although this game has a good possibility to be closer than what many believe, the Rams should pull away in the 4th quarter. If they enter a chess match, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley and Jared Goff will eventually take over securing the number 2 seed in the NFC.


Final Score: Rams 30, 49ers 17

Written by: Jason Feiner



Los Angeles Chargers (11-4) vs. Denver Broncos (6-9)


Preview

This AFC West matchup features two teams that are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Chargers have clinched playoff berth but are looking to improve their seeding. With a win and a Chiefs loss, the Chargers will win the AFC West and clinch the top seed and home field advantage in the AFC playoffs. On the other side, Denver has no hopes of a postseason but will be looking to end their season on a high note. The Broncos won’t hold back and will look to try to spoil the Chargers divisional championship hopes.


Players to watch

Unfortunately for the Broncos, they will be without starting running back Phillip Lindsay who was placed on the Injured Reserve due to a wrist injury. With that in mind, they will call on Royce Freeman to take on most of the carries against a solid Chargers defense. The Chargers will look for their running back to have a huge game as well. Melvin Gordon will be in his second game off an injury and will look to give the Chargers a balanced offensive attack. It will also be important that they get him back on track going into the playoffs so this could be a great tune-up game for him.


Keys to the game

Los Angeles Chargers

Protect Rivers

Establish balanced offense

Create turnovers


Denver Broncos

Protect Keenum

Put pressure on Rivers

Put together long drives


Injury list

Los Angeles Chargers

Sean Culkin, TE - Back (Questionable)


Denver Broncos

Phillip Lindsay, RB - Wrist (Out)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Philip Rivers, QB (LAC)

Melvin Gordon, RB (LAC)

Keenan Allen, WR (LAC)

Case Keenum, QB (DEN)

Mike Williams, WR (LAC)


Prediction

The Chargers have a lot at stake in this game. Their players and traveling fans will be coming into this one fired up. However, they are still on the road in what is usually a very tough environment to play in at Mile High Stadium. Even with that being a factor, I don’t see Denver having much of a shot in this one. Without Lindsay, they won’t have enough fire power on offense to keep up on the scoreboard. The Chargers will win by multiple scores and hope to have some help from Oakland to get them the division title.


Final Score: Chargers 27, Broncos 14


Written by: Ryan Lippert



Chicago Bears (11-4) vs. Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)


Preview

The Bears sit comfortably in the 3rd seed, while the Vikings are desperate for a win in order to keep the 6th and final seed in the NFC. That isn’t to say the Bears don’t have motivation to win. If the Rams somehow lose to the 49ers in Los Angeles this weekend, and the Bears win, the Bears would secure a 1st round and 2nd overall seed behind the Saints. If the Vikings are able to pull off the victory against their NFC North winning division rivals, they’d have to travel back Chicago only a week later. This is where it gets tricky; would Matt Nagy and the Bears rather play the surging Vikings back to back, or a Nick Foles led Eagles at home in the wild card round? If the answer is Minnesota, then Nagy might want to not show his cards and save the team’s true game plan for next week.


Players to watch

This is by far the biggest game of Kirk Cousins’ career. Unless the Vikings’ offensive line can block the likes of Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, and the rest of the Bears’ pass rush, then it’ll be a long offseason for Cousins. The naysayers will be coming by the busload. For that not to happen, Minnesota will need to feed Dalvin Cook, regardless of his success in order to set up the play action and deliver the ball to the duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. On the other side, Xavier Rhodes will be looking to eliminate Allen Robinson, while Anthony Barr will attempt to shut down the short passing game lead by Tarik Cohen. Both defenses are littered with too many names to list, and this will come down to who can pressure Mitchell Trubisky and Kirk Cousins more.


Keys to the game

Chicago Bears

Sack, hit, and pressure Kirk Cousins religiously

Shut down the run game

Don’t turn the ball over


Minnesota Vikings

Establish the run

Protect Cousins at all costs

Get pressure while only rushing four D-linemen


Injury list

Chicago Bears

Eddie Jackson, S - Ankle (Out)

Aaron Lynch, LB - Elbow (Out)

Allen Robinson, WR - Ribs (Out)

Bilal Nichols, DT - Knee (Questionable)


Minnesota Vikings

Chad Beebe, WR - Hamstring (Out)

C.J. Ham, FB - Elbow (Out)

Eric Kendricks, LB - Hamstring (Out)

Marcus Sherels, CB - Foot (Out)

Tom Compton, OG - Shoulder (Questionable)

Xavier Rhodes, CB - Groin (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Dalvin Cook, RB (MIN)

Adam Thielen, WR (MIN)

Bears Defense, D/ST (CHI)

Kirk Cousins, QB (MIN)

Mitchell Trubisky, QB (CHI)


Prediction

If it’s a straight up game, the Bears would be my answer, but it’s hard to predict what Matt Nagy’s thought process might be heading into week 17. Especially knowing the Rams should easily win against the 49ers this Sunday. Regardless, the Vikings at home with that defense and a ground game are a tough team to beat no matter the stakes. If the Bears come to play and want to spoil Minnesota’s chances at the playoffs, I lean towards the “New Age Monsters of the Midway” wreaking havoc on the Vikings’ offense and pulling off the victory in a tough divisional matchup. If Nagy decides to play it safe and dumb down the play calling so that the Vikings have nothing on film that they can use, I lean in favor of Minnesota. Desperation, home field advantage, and a Bears’ dilemma should play a factor into this week’s matchup; hence I will give the Vikings the slight edge to beat the NFC North champs and retain their wildcard spot (Only to lose one week later in Chicago).


Final Score: Vikings 24, Bears 21


Written by: Jack Bourgeois



Cleveland Browns (7-7-1) vs. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)


Preview

The Baltimore Ravens just have to beat the Cleveland Browns, and they will be in the 2018 NFL playoffs. Had you asked the Ravens before the season, they would have taken this situation 10 times out of 10. Now, the Cleveland Browns have been one of the better teams in the NFL since they fired their head coach, Hue Jackson, earlier in the season. Cleveland is playing for pride, and Pittsburgh is playing for the playoffs.


Players to watch

This matchup will come down to which rookie quarterback will have the better game between Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield. Although I believe Baker to be the better quarterback in the long run, I believe Lamar will have an easier time driving the ball down the field against the Browns’ defense. Michael Crabtree could present problems in the red zone for Cleveland. Nick Chubb will have to move piles forward if the Browns are going to keep drives alive as well.


Keys to the game

Cleveland Browns

Move the ball

Contain Jackson in the pocket

Win the turnover battle


Baltimore Ravens

Get after Baker

Limit big plays in the passing game

Win the time of possession battle


Injury list

Cleveland Browns

Denzel Ward, CB - Concussion (Out)

JC Tretter, OC - Ankle (Questionable)


Baltimore Ravens

John Brown, WR - Hamstring (Questionable)

Terrell Suggs, OLB - Hamstring (Questionable)

Tavon Young, CB - Groin (Questionable)

Anthony Levine, DB - Toe/Ankle (Questionable)

Alex Lewis, OG - Shoulder (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Lamar Jackson, QB (BAL)

Baker Mayfield, QB (CLE)

Nick Chubb, RB (CLE)

Michael Crabtree, WR (BAL)

Gus Edwards, RB (BAL)


Prediction

At the end of the day, I truly believe that the Cleveland Browns are the better football team on Sunday. Baker Mayfield has the chance to silence all doubters by waltzing into Baltimore and picking up a huge win against the best defense in the league. If the Browns are able to contain Jackson in the pocket and force him to throw the ball down the field, they could simply outscore the otherwise average Baltimore Ravens’ offense. Nick Chubb might have to carry the ball 30 times to manage the clock, but I look for the Browns to pull off the upset.


Final Score: Browns 21, Ravens 17


Written by: Jake Leicht



Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) vs. Washington Redskins (7-8)


Preview

This week culminates an odd season for the NFC East. The Redskins looked to be the best team in the division until QB Alex Smith broke his leg. The Cowboys then turned it on and quickly clinched the division, while the Eagles have been up and down all year. But now, behind the arm of Nick Foles, Philly is coming off two huge wins against the Rams and Texans and can sneak into the playoffs with a win and a Minnesota Vikings loss. The Redskins will try to play spoiler, but the Eagles have so much more to play for. Can Nick Foles work his magic once again?


Players to watch

Josh Johnson, the first overall pick in the AAF QB draft, will try to help the Redskins offense find some semblance of an identity with his running ability. Before last week’s game against the Titans, Adrian Peterson failed to reach 100 yards in 7 straight weeks. He’ll need to build off of his strong performance against Tennessee so that the Redskins can control the ball. Nick Foles has been an absolute spark plug to the Eagles offense, and he’ll try and use Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz to attack a Washington secondary that just cut Pro Bowl alternate D.J. Swearinger.


Keys to the game

Philadelphia Eagles

Don’t turn the ball over

Contain Josh Johnson’s legs

Continue to build trust on offense


Washington Redskins

Control the clock with AP

Strong linebacker play against Ertz and Sproles

Force turnovers


Injury list

Philadelphia Eagles

D.J. Alexander, LB - Hamstring (Out)

Sidney Jones, CB - Hamstring (Out)

Isaac Seumalo, OL - Pectoral (Out)

Mike Wallace, WR - Ankle (Out)

Carson Wentz, QB - Back (Out)

Michael Bennett, DE - Foot (Questionable)

Jordan Hicks, LB - Calf (Questionable)

Jason Kelce, C - Knee (Questionable)

Jason Peters, OT - Quadricep (Questionable)


Washington Redskins

Ty Nsekhe, OT - Knee (Out)

Maurice Harris, WR - Concussion (Out)

Vernon Davis, TE - Concussion (Doubtful)

Ryan Anderson, LB - Hamstring (Questionable)

Tony Bergstrom, OL - Knee/Ankle (Questionable)

Josh Doctson, WR - Illness (Questionable)

Matt Ioannidis, DL - Hamstring (Questionable)

Zac Kerin, OL - Knee (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Zach Ertz, TE (PHI)

Adrian Peterson, RB (WAS)

Alshon Jeffery, WR (PHI)

Josh Adams, RB (PHI)

Eagles DST (PHI)


Prediction

The Eagles need this game far too much for them to come out flat and lose it. After beating two of the top teams in the league they should handily win this game by continuing their success on offense. The Washington defense has slowed down since the beginning of the year, and they will be unable to match up with Philly’s offensive weapons. And while Josh Johnson has been an upgrade over Mark Sanchez, he just doesn’t have enough pop to turn the weak Redskins receiving corps into something useful. Despite Philadelphia winning this game, however, they will miss the playoffs, as I believe the Bears beat the Vikings in a close one in week 17.


Final Score: Eagles 27, Redskins 13


Written by: Alexander Amir



Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)


Preview

This AFC North rivalry is even more meaningful this time around. This is due to playoffs being on the line. Obviously, the Bengals are out of the picture but there is still hope for Pittsburgh. With a win and a Ravens loss to the Browns, the Steelers will win the AFC North and secure a playoff spot. A loss would end the Steelers season. You better believe the Bengals would love nothing more than to be the team to do just that.


Players to watch

Luckily for Pittsburgh, they will be getting back a key component of their offense this week. Running back James Conner has been cleared to play after missing the last two weeks. He will be looking to get back on track as he will be facing a terrible Cincinnati run defense. For the Bengals, they must find some success in the passing game. With both A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd on the Injured Reserve, Jeff Driskel will be looking for a new top target. That man could very well be former first-round pick John Ross, who has looked good at times this season.


Keys to the game

Cincinnati Bengals

Long drives

Pressure on Roethlisberger

Limit turnovers


Pittsburgh Steelers

Protect Roethlisberger

Get Conner going early

Create turnovers


Injury list

Cincinnati Bengals

Tyler Boyd, WR - MCL (IR)

Vontaze Burfict, OLB - Concussion (Out)

Jordan Evans, OLB - Ankle (IR)

Tony McRae, CB - Hamstring (Out)

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB - Shoulder (IR)


Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown, WR - Knee (Questionable)

Vince Williams, ILB - Toe (Doubtful)

James Connor, RB - Ankle (Questionable)

Sean Davis, FS - Quadriceps (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Ben Roethlisberger, QB (PIT)

Antonio Brown, WR (PIT)

James Conner, RB (PIT)

Joe Mixon, RB (CIN)

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (PIT)


Prediction

There is no question that Heinz Field will be rocking on Sunday as this will be a true playoff atmosphere. The fans and players know what is at stake and I believe that they will get into the heads of the Bengals. Conner will have a huge first game back and the Steelers will be able to move the ball at will. Offensively, the Bengals simply lack the weapons to keep up on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will win this one in a game that should never be close and they will have to wait and see what happens in the Ravens game to see if they are playoff bound.


Final Score: Steelers 31, Bengals 14


Written by: Ryan Lippert



Indianapolis Colts (9-6) vs. Tennessee Titans (9-6)


Preview

The Colts and Titans will close the 2018 regular season off with a matchup that features a ‘win and gets in’ for the playoffs. Both teams also have a chance to still in the AFC South if the Texans fall to the Jaguars. Indianapolis is riding a 3-game winning streak and could be one of the hottest teams to enter the playoffs if they find a way to sneak into the playoffs after their 1-5 start. Tennessee has put themselves in a great position after having an up and down season. The Titans are banged up on both sides of the ball but if they can keep the Colts offense off the field then they will help increase their chances. Indy’s defense has been a pleasant surprise and if they can play lights out then the Titans offense will have a tough time regardless who is their quarterback for this matchup.


Players to watch

Andrew Luck is 10-0 versus the Titans and with another win he will become the first quarterback to start with 11 wins against one opponent. Darius Leonard will look to cap off his defensive rookie of the year campaign with another solid performance and he will be key in stopping the redhot Derrick Henry. Corey Davis will need to help take the top off the Indy defense so they aren’t constantly putting 8 men in the box to stop the Titans run game. Adoree Jackson and Malcolm Butler will need to work together on helping stop T.Y. Hilton from lighting up their defense like he did in the previous matchup.


Keys to the game

Indianapolis Colts

Get off to fast start

Force turnovers

Make Titans one-dimensional (Pass-heavy)


Tennessee Titans

Control the clock

Establish the run

Limit explosive plays


Injury list

Indianapolis Colts

Daurice Fountain, WR - Ankle (Out)

Ryan Kelly, C - Neck (Out)

Eric Ebron, TE - Concussion/Knee (Questionable)

Clayton Geathers, S - Knee (Questionable)

Nate Hairston, CB - Hip (Questionable)

T.Y. Hilton. WR - Ankle (Questionable)

Dontrelle Inman, WR - Shoulder (Questionable)

Zach Pascal, WR - Knee (Questionable)

Jabaal Sheard, DE - Teeth/Knee (Questionable)


Tennessee Titans

Brian Orakpo, OLB - Elbow (Out)

Marcus Mariota, QB - Neck/Foot (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

T.Y. Hilton, WR (IND)

Derrick Henry, RB (TEN)

Marlon Mack, RB (IND)

Andrew Luck, QB (IND)

Corey Davis, WR (TEN)


Prediction

The health of the Titans is the biggest factor into this matchup. The loss of Jurrell Casey is going to make it so much easier on the Colts run game. Even if Marcus Mariota plays through his injury he will be less than 100% and Blaine Gabbert isn’t the most trustworthy quarterback for a must-win game. Luck and the offense will find ways to move the ball to put up the points and the Indy defense makes the plays to help close out the win to help put Indianapolis in the playoffs.


Final Score: Colts 28, Titans 17


Written by: Cody Manning