It’s crunch time in the 2022 NFL season, with just two weeks of the regular season remaining. Here we take a look at precisely what’s at stake in Week 17 as the race for the remaining playoff places heats up…
Can the Bills wrap up the No 1 seed in the AFC?
At the moment, nine teams in total are assured of their postseason place, with five from the AFC having already clinched a playoff spot and four from the NFC.
AFC playoff teams: Buffalo Bills (12-3), Kansas City Chiefs (12-3), Cincinnati Bengals (11-4), Baltimore Ravens (10-5), Los Angeles Chargers (9-6)
NFC playoff teams: Philadelphia Eagles (13-2), Minnesota Vikings (12-3), San Francisco 49ers (11-4), Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
NFL Week 17 live on Sky Sports
|NFL Sunday||Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots||Sunday, 6pm, Sky Sports NFL|
|Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers||Sunday, 9.25pm, Sky Sports NFL & Main Event|
|NFL RedZone||Week 17||Sunday, 6pm, Sky Sports Mix|
|Sunday Night Football||Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens||Monday, 1.20am, Sky Sports NFL & Main Event|
|Monday Night Football||Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals||Tuesday, 1.30am, Sky Sports NFL & Main Event|
Within that number, the Bills, Chiefs, Vikings and 49ers have also wrapped up their respective division titles, with Buffalo being the latest to do so courtesy of their 35-13 victory over the Chicago Bears last weekend, their sixth-straight win.
The Bills can now also clinch the No 1 seed in the AFC – and with it a first-round bye and home advantage through the playoffs – with a week to spare if they beat the Bengals on the road on Monday Night Football – live on Sky Sports NFL, 1.30am, Tuesday – and see Kansas City suffer a shock home defeat to the Denver Broncos (4-11) on Sunday.
January 3, 2023, 1:00am
A loss for the Bills would hand the Chiefs back the advantage heading into the final weekend, unless both teams were to slip up which would suddenly open the door to the Bengals – who’d hold the head-to-head tiebreakers over both.
Who else can book a postseason berth on Sunday?
With 14 total places up for grabs in the NFL playoffs, it means there are only five spots left to be fought over (two in the AFC, three in the NFC).
Four are in with a chance of confirming their postseason places in Week 17, the Miami Dolphins (8-7) in the AFC and the New York Giants (8-6-1), Washington Commanders (7-7-1) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8) in the NFC.
The Dolphins need to not only extinguish the hopes of the New England Patriots (7-8) with a victory over their AFC East division rivals when they meet on Sunday – live on Sky Sports NFL, 6pm – but they also need the New York Jets (7-8) to lose or tie their game at the Seattle Seahawks (7-8).
January 1, 2023, 5:00pm
A tie for Miami will also be good enough only if the Jets lose AND the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) lose or tie on Sunday Night Football at the Ravens (10-5) – live on Sky Sports NFL, 1.20am, Monday.
January 2, 2023, 1:10am
The Giants, having missed their chance to clinch a wild card berth last Saturday when suffering a last-gasp defeat to the Vikings, get another shot at avoiding a fate-deciding final weekend as they host an Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1) outfit fresh from five-straight defeats and eight in their last nine.
A win for New York and they’re in. If they were to tie, then they’d need help elsewhere, while a defeat could still yet see them secure a postseason spot if the Seahawks and Commanders were both to lose, OR one of those teams plus defeats also for the Detroit Lions (7-8) and Green Bay Packers (7-8).
The Commanders, meanwhile, will clinch a postseason berth only if they beat the Cleveland Browns (6-9) and the Seahawks, Lions and Packers all lose.
As for Tom Brady’s Buccaneers, the equation is all a great deal more straightforward. Win at home against the Carolina Panthers (6-9) and they’re in, with the NFC South division title also wrapped up in the process. Defeat, however, would hand Carolina the advantage heading into the final weekend as the two teams would be level on win-loss record and the Panthers would hold a 2-0 series sweep of Tampa in the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Can the Eagles, Bengals and Bucs clinch their divisions?
The Buccaneers (7-8) aren’t the only team who can clinch a division championship win this weekend, with the Eagles (13-2) and Bengals (11-4) also eyeing up that possibility.
The Eagles missed out on the opportunity of wrapping up their division last Saturday when suffering a 40-34 defeat to the Cowboys (12-4), keeping alive their great rivals’ faint hopes of pinching the NFC East from under their nose on the final weekend. A win at home against the New Orleans Saints (6-9) on Sunday would see them avoid such an embarrassment.
Victory at the weekend would also see Philadelphia clinch the No 1 seed in the NFC, while a tie too would guarantee them a first-round bye and home advantage through the playoffs, so long as the Vikings (12-3) also lose or tie their game at the Packers (7-8) on Sunday – live on Sky Sports NFL, 9.25pm.
January 1, 2023, 9:15pm
As for the Bengals, they will clinch the AFC North division title only by bettering the Ravens’ (10-5) result against the Steelers (7-8). If Baltimore lose or tie and Cincinnati beat the Bills on Monday night, or if they tie following a Ravens defeat, the Bengals will be champions and avoid an end-of-season showdown for the crown – Baltimore visit Cincinnati in their final regular-season game.
The Buccaneers clinch their division, and a postseason berth, with a victory over the Panthers on Sunday.
And, as for the sole remaining undecided division, the AFC South can’t be claimed this weekend. Current leaders, the Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8), and the Tennessee Titans (7-9), face off in a winner-takes-all regular-season finale in Jacksonville next weekend – regardless of the Jaguars’ result at the Houston Texans (2-12-1) this Sunday.
What else is there to play for in Week 17?
Plenty. Though the greatest intrigue lies within the NFC.
As already mentioned, of the final two available playoff spots in the AFC, one is already guaranteed to be determined on the final weekend of the season when the Jags host the Titans, while a win for the Dolphins (8-7) at the Patriots (7-8) this Sunday will wrap up the other.
As for the NFC, the Seahawks (7-8), Lions (7-8) and Packers (7-8) are all primed, ready to pounce, should either of the Giants (8-6-1) or Commanders (7-7-1) slip up this weekend and open up the possibility of pinching one of the two remaining wild card spots.
The Seahawks host the Jets (7-8), who are themselves hopeful of hanging on to their slim playoff hopes with a win and a Dolphins defeat, which would set up a final-weekend showdown between the two teams for the final AFC wild card berth (providing the Patriots also lose to the Bills in Week 18).
Meanwhile, the Lions have to beat the lowly Chicago Bears (3-12) at home, and the Packers must also successfully navigate the sterner task of the Vikings (12-3) when they come to Green Bay. Were both teams to win, it would set up a mouth-watering matchup between the two in Week 18, with the Lions heading to Lambeau Field for a possible ‘win and in’ encounter.
In the NFC South, the Panthers (6-9) and the Saints (6-9) are still in contention for the division, and it will be Carolina who hold the upper hand were they to beat the Bucs in Tampa this weekend. The Saints, meanwhile, have the odds far more stacked against them. They’d need to not only win on the road at the NFL’s-best Eagles (13-2) on Sunday, but then also beat Carolina in their final game (plus hope the Bucs lose at the Atlanta Falcons in Week 18).
Elsewhere, still clinging on to their increasingly faint playoff aspirations in the AFC are the Steelers (7-8) and Las Vegas Raiders (6-9). Pittsburgh travel to Baltimore (10-5) on Sunday night, while the Raiders host the 49ers (11-4).
Sky Sports NFL brings you SIX live games over the Christmas weekend; Bengals @ Patriots kicks off the Christmas Eve festivities at 6pm, while there is also RedZone on Sky Sports Mix on Saturday night; the Packers visit the Dolphins as part of the Christmas Day triple-bill, again the action under way from 6pm.