Two playoff seeds up for grabs. A pair of division titles unsettled. A Sunday night showdown for the NFC West — and perhaps the No. 1 seed in the conference. High 2020 NFL draft picks sought after. Players making a final statement, backups getting a showcase and coaches on the hot seat. Week 17 promises to have it all.
Follow along all day long with us through all of the action. We’ll keep you updated on the playoff picture, standout performances and more.
3:30 p.m. ET
The Texans might not have anything to play for when they kick off against the Titans at 4:25 p.m. ET, but they already know they’ll be without two of their top three receivers. Will Fuller V (groin) and Kenny Stills (illness) are inactive. Quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver DeAndre Hopkins are active, but it is not clear how much they will play, if at all.
Here is a full list of the late-game inactives.
3:05 p.m. ET
We’ve been trying to tell you that the crazies come out in Week 17. The latest example: The Patriots just tied their game against the Dolphins with a 38-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady to linebacker Elandon Roberts. Roberts has served as an emergency fullback this season and entered Sunday’s game with 48 snaps on offense.
But this play was his first offensive touch, and he became only the second defensive player to catch a touchdown pass from Brady. The other: Mike Vrabel, to whom Brady threw 10 scoring passes during their time together.
— NFL (@NFL) December 29, 2019
2:50 p.m. ET
It’s difficult to think of any pending free agent who has done more for his value in the past month than Buccaneers receiver Breshad Perriman.
The former Ravens first-round draft pick secured his third consecutive 100-yard game Sunday before halftime of the Buccaneers’ game against the Falcons. Perriman had five receptions for 134 yards midway through the game, including an acrobatic 24-yard touchdown. That gives Perriman 36 receptions for 645 yards and six touchdowns for the season, all career highs.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 29, 2019
Perriman signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Buccaneers last offseason and is in line for much more this winter.
2:30 p.m. ET
We have a situation brewing in Detroit.
The Packers trail the Lions 17-3 at halftime in a game that could cost the Packers a first-round bye in the playoffs. In order to be one of the NFC’s top two seeds, the Packers need to beat the Lions or the Saints need to beat the Panthers. As of this moment, the Saints hold a slim 35-0 lead over the Panthers. If the Packers lose and the Saints win, the Packers will be the No. 3 seed.
If they can turn it around against the Lions, however, they’ll clinch at least the No. 2 seed and would move up to No. 1 if the Seahawks beat the 49ers. Here’s how the chances for the NFC first-round byes look right now.
Chance to earn a bye in the NFC as of ~2:35 p.m.
Packers: 14% pic.twitter.com/kGFY7m9yHq
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 29, 2019
Meanwhile, the Dolphins are making the Patriots work for the AFC’s No. 2 seed. The Pats have worked back from a 10-point deficit, and at halftime, the teams are tied at 10. The Patriots can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win or a Chiefs loss to the Chargers. That game is closer than expected, but the Chiefs are holding a 10-7 halftime lead. If the Patriots lose and the Chiefs win, the Chiefs will move up to No. 2 and the Patriots down to No. 3.
2:00 p.m. ET
It ain’t going the way the Chiefs would hope. Not only do they have their hands full with a motivated Chargers team but they have already suffered a potentially significant injury to a key starter.
Safety Juan Thornhill was carted off the field as the Chiefs trailed 7-3 in the second quarter. The Chiefs originally announced his return as questionable because of a knee injury, but Thornhill didn’t appear able to put any weight on the leg. A second-round draft pick this year, Thornhill has started all 16 games during the regular season. His Chiefs want to beat the Chargers to give themselves a chance to secure the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
Thornhill has now been ruled out.
1:25 p.m. ET
Detroit just executed a similar play against the Packers for a touchdown. Receiver Danny Amendola took a pitch from quarterback David Blough, then threw across the field to Blough for a 19-yard scoring play that gave the Lions a 7-0 lead.
The Packers need a victory to ensure a first-round bye and to remain in contention for the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC.
— NFL (@NFL) December 29, 2019
1:20 p.m. ET
Week 17 brings out the crazies. In Tampa, Falcons offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo checked in as an eligible receiver. The Buccaneers didn’t notice, or care.
The result? Sambrailo was wide open over the middle, and Matt Ryan hit him for a 35-yard touchdown play. It’s the longest touchdown reception by a player listed at 300-plus pounds in NFL history, per the Elias Sports Bureau. The last time an offensive lineman caught a pass of at least 30 yards, scoring or otherwise, was in 2015 when the Bengals’ Jake Fisher went for 31 yards against the Chargers.
🚨 BIG MAN TD FOR THE FALCONS 🚨 pic.twitter.com/DERo8ADnSY
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 29, 2019
1:05 p.m. ET
The meaningless Vikings-Bears matchup of Week 17 has already made a mark on history. Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins is active but did not start Sunday, ending his streak of 79 consecutive regular-season starts dating back to the start of the 2015 season. (The streak is 80, including playoffs.) Backup Sean Mannion got the start for the Vikings, who are already locked into the NFC’s No. 6 playoff seed.
11:55 a.m. ET
Two teams in today’s early window are locked into their playoff seeds: the Bills (AFC No. 5) and the Vikings (NFC No. 6). So it’s not surprising that both are benching many of their top-line players for their meaningless games.
The Vikings deactivated running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, and left tackle Riley Reiff. Quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t expected to play much if at all against the Bears, either.
A full list of early inactives can be found here.
11:05 a.m. ET
We’ll be watching four teams in particular during the 1 p.m. ET games today. The Packers can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Lions and stay in contention for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Saints need a win over the Panthers to maintain their chances for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. The AFC’s No. 2 seed also remains in play: The Chiefs could move up to the No. 2 seed with a win over the Chargers and a Patriots loss to the Dolphins. Otherwise, the Patriots will clinch with a win.
Here’s what the playoff standings look like before we get underway today:
1. Baltimore Ravens (13-2)
2. New England Patriots (12-3)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
4. Houston Texans (10-5)
5. Buffalo Bills (10-5)
6. Tennessee Titans (8-7)
In the hunt: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7), Oakland Raiders (7-8)
1. San Francisco 49ers (12-3)
2. Green Bay Packers (12-3)
3. New Orleans Saints (12-3)
4. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-4)
6. Minnesota Vikings (10-5)
In the hunt: Dallas Cowboys (7-8)
10:25 a.m. ET
If you’re not preparing for the playoffs in Week 17, you’re jockeying for position in the 2020 draft. The first pick is already spoken for: The Bengals have locked it up and will likely use it to select LSU’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow.
Here’s how ESPN’s Football Power Index projects the top 10, with the Broncos and Falcons having the best chances to move up if an unexpected series of results occurs today. The full 32-team projection is here.
1. Cincinnati Bengals (1-14)
2. Washington Redskins (3-12)
3. Detroit Lions (3-11-1)
4. New York Giants (4-11)
5. Miami Dolphins (4-11)
6. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10)
7. Los Angeles Chargers (5-10)
8. Carolina Panthers (5-10)
9. Arizona Cardinals (5-9-1)
10. New York Jets (6-9)
10 a.m. ET
It won’t be all about the playoffs on Sunday. A handful of NFL head coaches could be working their final games with their current franchises. Here’s where we stand.
Two teams have confirmed openings via in-season firings: the Panthers and Redskins.
The Jaguars reportedly plan to dismiss Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone after Week 17, according to sources.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank announced on Friday that the team is retaining coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff for the 2020 season.
Lions owner Martha Ford says the team is retaining general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia for the 2020 season.
Positions that could become open include but are not limited to the head coach job with the Browns, Cowboys and Giants. The Browns and Giants are eliminated from the playoffs. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is in a must-win position, and even a win might not be enough. Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, meanwhile, is just completing his first season with Cleveland, but the team largely disappointed after beginning with huge expectations. Giants coach Pat Shurmur is finishing off his second year.
Here’s the full breakdown of the coaching carousel.
9:30 a.m. ET
Somehow 16 weeks wasn’t quite enough to settle everything, and there is still much up for grabs in the final slate of the 2019 regular season. For one, playoff seeds aren’t final, and two teams still need to clinch playoff spots. A full rundown of what’s at stake is here in this post, but here’s a quick summary, along with some other relevant nuggets.
Early window (1 p.m. ET):
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City already has locked down the AFC West, but more can be had. It can clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win and a Patriots loss on Sunday. It’ll be the No. 3 seed with a win and a Patriots win, or a loss and a Texans loss. But the Chiefs will fall to the No. 4 spot with a loss and a Texans win. Meanwhile, the FPI is projecting the Chargers to pick No. 7 overall in the 2020 draft.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are locked into the No. 6 seed no matter the outcome of this game, and the Bears have been eliminated and don’t have a first-round pick in the 2020 draft. Not much to see here, except perhaps a Week 17 high note to close the regular season.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. According to the FPI, the Falcons have a 10% chance of moving up into the top 10 of the 2020 draft, whereas the Buccaneers are currently projected to pick No. 17 overall. But there will be plenty more at stake. With Quinn’s job reportedly safe for the 2020 season, the Falcons can knock the Bucs out of second place in the NFC South. And the Bucs will be watching Jameis Winston, who could become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season. Tampa Bay will have to make a call on Winston and its future at the position in the offseason.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: The Saints can clinch a first-round bye with a win and a loss by either the 49ers or Packers, or with victories by the Packers and Seahawks. To get the No. 1 seed, the Saints need a win, along with losses by the 49ers and Packers. Otherwise, they will be the No. 3 seed. On the other side, the FPI projects the Panthers to lose and get the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Need another reason to tune in? Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey needs 67 receiving yards and 39 rushing yards to become the first player in NFL history to have 1,400 yards rushing and 1,000 receiving in the same season, while New Orleans receiver Michael Thomas is 112 receiving yards shy of 1,800 for the season, which would make him the fifth player in NFL history to reach the mark.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: The Patriots can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win or a Chiefs loss. They won’t be seeded any lower than No. 3. And the Dolphins are currently in the No. 5 spot for the 2020 draft, with only a 2.5% chance of falling lower than that, according to the FPI.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: The Packers can clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win and a 49ers loss. They’ll be the No. 2 seed with a win and a 49ers win, or a loss and a Saints loss. But they’ll fall to the No. 3 seed with a loss and a Saints win. Meanwhile, the FPI projects the Lions to get the No. 3 overall pick of the draft.
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills: The Bills already have clinched the No. 5 seed regardless of the outcome of this game, and the FPI projects the Jets to pick No. 10 overall in the draft. Also worth watching: Buffalo’s Josh Allen needs one rushing touchdown to become the third player since the 1970 merger with 20 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs in a single season.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are already locked in to the No. 1 pick in the draft, so they have every reason to try to win this game. The FPI is projecting the Browns to pick No. 13 in the draft, but they have a 14.7% chance to move up into the top 10.
Victor Cruz and Rob Ninkovich say the Saints will be motivated to earn a bye week and will beat the Panthers.
Late window (4:25 p.m. ET):
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans: The Titans can clinch the AFC’s No. 6 seed with a win or losses by the Steelers and Colts. And at the forefront of their bid will be Ryan Tannehill. It’s perhaps his last opportunity to give Tennessee a reason to re-sign him in the offseason. The Texans, already AFC South champs, will be the No. 3 seed if they win and the Chiefs lose. Otherwise, they will be the No. 4 seed.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: Pittsburgh can clinch the AFC’s No. 6 seed via three different scenarios: (1) a win and a Titans loss, (2) losses by the Titans and Raiders with a Colts win, or (3) wins by the Colts and Raiders along with losses by the Bears, Lions, Chargers and Patriots. The Ravens already have clinched home-field advantage and plan to hold out most of their key players for this game. Get ready for Robert Griffin under center.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams: Both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. The FPI projects a Cardinals loss boosting them to the No. 9 pick in the draft. The Rams traded their pick to the Jaguars (projected to be No. 20 overall).
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys need a victory and an Eagles loss to win the NFC East. Otherwise, they will be eliminated from the playoffs. Garrett could be coaching for his job Sunday. Meanwhile, the FPI is projecting the Redskins to lose and wind up with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars: Both teams are eliminated, but the outcome could impact tiebreakers for the AFC’s No. 6 seed. The FPI projects the Jaguars to pick No. 6 and the Colts to pick No. 16 in the draft.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: Win, and in. The Eagles will clinch the NFC East and the No. 4 seed, with a win or a Cowboys loss. They’ll be eliminated if they lose and the Cowboys win. The FPI projects the Giants to have the No. 4 pick in the draft.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos: So you’re telling me there’s a chance. The Raiders are still alive for the AFC’s No. 6 seed! They’ll need a win, combined with losses by the Titans and Steelers, as well as a Colts win and a win by at least one of the following teams: the Bears, Lions, Chargers or Patriots. And on the other side, the FPI gives the Broncos a 20.6% chance of moving into the top 10 of the draft.
Sunday Night Football (8:20 p.m. ET):
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: Everything is on the line. The 49ers would clinch the NFC West and the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a win. Otherwise, they will be the No. 5 seed. The Seahawks would win the NFC West with a victory but would need losses by the Packers and Saints to be the top seed. They’ll be No. 2 if they win and the Packers lose. Otherwise, a win will deliver them the No. 3 seed. A loss would put them at No. 5.