Week 17 of the NFL season is often fraught with obstacles for those playing DFS and season-long fantasy football. Some teams will be locked into the playoffs and a win or loss will be meaningless to their next step in the playoffs. Some players won’t be 100 percent and could rest because they don’t have enough to play for. Some younger players might see more playing time to help evaluate where they are in live action. And some players might be going for bonus incentives tied to a statistic like yardage accumulated.
But, there are many, many teams that very much need to win their Week 17 game for a chance to make the playoffs. We’ll go through the games and each team’s playoff motivation.
Must win teams and matchups
The Lions blew a golden opportunity last week when they lost to the Panthers, but they do still have a chance to make the playoffs and will play their starters and go all out.
The Bears are done for the season and are looking to practice for next season.
The Saints still have a shot and are in must-win territory, while the Eagles need the win to clinch the No. 1 seed. The Saints need the win more, but the Eagles will play their starters for a shot at the No. 1 seed. But, they also won’t rush Jalen Hurts back, especially with a chance to secure the No. 1 seed with a win next week against the Giants.
The Giants can secure a playoff spot with a win. They can also get in with a loss, but they’ll be playing all out at home in a good matchup.
The Colts are just trying to get the season over with at this point.
The Buccaneers win the NFC South and a playoff spot if they can win this game while the Panthers playoff chances would be eliminated. If the Panthers win, they take over the lead in the NFC South, but don’t secure the division and a playoff spot just yet.
Both teams are in the playoff race and need to win and get help to secure that last wild card spot. The Jets are eliminated with a loss, while the Seahawks would still have a slim chance if they lose.
The Vikings still have a shot at the No. 1 seed so they will play all-out, but they will need the Eagles to lose both of their games to finish out the season.
The Packers are very much in must-win mode, as they need wins and help to get into the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (SNF)
The Steelers need a win and a lot of help to sneak into the playoffs, while a loss eliminates them from contention.
The Ravens are already in the playoffs, but do have a shot at the AFC North title and a home game in the playoffs. They need to win this game, have the Bills beat the Bengals on MNF and then beat the Bengals in the season finale to take home the crown.
Clinched playoff spot, but chance for bye/home field
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (MNF)
The Bills, Chiefs and Bengals are in a fight for the No. 1 seed with two games left to play. This is good news for fantasy this week, as a bunch of fantasy players from these teams will be on track to play fully and with high stakes.
If the Bills were to lose, it would open things up for the Chiefs to take the No. 1 seed with a win over the awful Broncos on Sunday. It would also keep the Bengals in the hunt for the No. 1 and No. 2 seed with the head to head tiebreaker over both teams.
If the Bills win, it pushes the Bengals out of contention for the No. 1 and 2 seeds, but the Chiefs would still have a shot next week if they win as well.
The Chiefs lost to the Bills, but they have an identical record at the moment. They will hope for a Bengals win over the Bills and to win their game against the Broncos to take over the No. 1 seed. This is a must-win game for the No. 1 seed, so they will play all starters normally while the Broncos are out of the playoffs and have a new interim head coach this week.
Dallas Cowboys at Tennessee Titans (TNF)
Results: The Cowboys won, but the results don’t really impact the the other games going this weekend. The Eagles didn’t clinch the NFC East, but they need to win to get the No. 1 seed no matter.
The Titans have virtually nothing to play for this week, but the Cowboys do need a win this week. Of course, the Cowboys chances of taking over the Eagles for the division are slim, but they still have a shot. It is a slim enough chance that they could lean toward resting Tony Pollard or other injured players. The Titans will be without Ryan Tannehill and have no skin in this game, so a win seems like a strong possibility with Malik Willis starting and Derrick Henry doubtful.
Cleveland Browns at Washington Commanders
The Commanders currently have a wild card spot, but need wins to keep ahold of it with the Lions, Packers and Seahawks just a half game behind and breathing down their necks. The Browns are looking toward next season.
The 49ers still have a slim shot at the No. 1 seed, but it’s not enough of a shot to push hurting players into action with the division secured. The Raiders, well, they appear to have given up on the season, but still have a small chance with help to get in.
Have nothing to play for
The Jaguars need to beat the Titans in Week 18 to get in the playoffs and vice versa. That is the only game those two teams need to concern themselves with for the playoffs. Unfortunately they do have to play this week. Doug Pederson says he’ll play his starters, but that doesn’t mean he won’t pull guys if he gets the itch.
The Texans are of course out of the playoff chase, but somehow keep playing well despite just two wins on the season and a need for the No. 1 pick.
Out of playoff contention
Amazingly, this is the only game where both teams have nothing to play for. Get out the party favors!