NFL Week 17 preview: Playoff race nears boiling point as Tom Brady’s season falters


Tom Brady is no stranger to high-pressure situations — although they usually come in the playoffs, as opposed to weeks past as his stuttering Tampa Bay Buccaneers look to secure their playoff spot.

Brady now has has spent most of his life in the NFL than he has out of the league – he was drafted at the age of 22 years and eight months (8,292 days) on April 16, 2000, and by the time the Bucs meet division rival Carolina Panthers on Sunday, it will have been 8,295 days since that date.

Few seasons have been so eventful for the seven-time Super Bowl winner, who retired and didn’t retire in the space of a few weeks last offseason.

The Bucs are 7-8, atop the NFC South Division but just one game ahead of the Panthers.

Loss in Tampa on Sunday would leave teams with identical records heading into the final week and Carolina ahead via the head-to-head tiebreaker — not a possibility Brady or head coach Todd Bowles would have considered when the he team started the year with two wins.

Carolina will be buoyed by their 21-3 victory over Tampa in Week 7, although that came with PJ Walker in the quarterback slot. Sam Darnold picks up the slack this weekend, looking to back up his 250-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Detroit Lions last time out with another win.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

While the Monday Night Football game may not feature the danger of the Carolina @ Tampa Bay playoffs, it does feature something just as appealing – a season-ending clash between two teams with genuine Super Bowl references. and two of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Josh Allen will be hoping to fuel the Bills’ 13th win of the year and seventh in a row, as the team has already clinched the AFC East division.

With an identical record to the Kansas City Chiefs, still in contention, but an advantage in the head-to-head tiebreaker, a Bills win this weekend would secure the all-important No. 1 seed. of the AFC – granting them a playoff bye and home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

For the Bengals, Joe Burrow has been in imperious form lately.

The 26-year-old won the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award for his performance for 375 yards and three touchdowns against the New England Patriots – and his relationship with his former LSU student Ja ‘Marr Chase, was the engine of Cincinnati. series of seven victories.

Play starts at 8:30 p.m. ET Monday.

Baltimore has already secured its playoff spot, but the final two games of the regular season will have drastic ramifications on a potential Super Bowl route.

Star quarterback Lamar Jackson has missed three straight games with a knee injury and failed to practice for a tenth consecutive day on Wednesday. That would suggest Tyler Huntley will be dressing for another start in place of the 2019 MVP this weekend.

A Ravens win would make their Week 18 clash with the Bengals an AFC North Championship decider following their Week Five win over the same opponent. It would also give Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin the first losing season of his 15-year career.

The Steelers’ slim playoff hopes took another hit when the Los Angeles Chargers secured their spot with a win over Indianapolis on Monday, but more than Tomlin’s impressive career record hangs in the balance Sunday night.

The Steelers-Ravens rivalry is one of the richest and most intense in the NFL, with the AFC North teams having met in the playoffs four times in history and holding four combined Super Bowl titles.

Tune in at 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday to see who takes home the loot.

Tyler Huntley returns the ball against the Atlanta Falcons on December 24.

The loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at the end of November seemed to have ended any realistic dreams of Aaron Rodgers winning a second Super Bowl title, but the Packers and their Cheeseheaded supporters have seen a recent revival of fortunes, combined to the collapse of some NFC rivals, offer an unlikely path to wild-card weekend football.

Standing in their way are the division-champion Minnesota Vikings, who defeated the Packers in a one-sided Week 1 game.

It was one of Minnesota’s few comfortable wins this season, with the team proving remarkably brave in close quarters — they won 11 games with one possession scores. They are the first team in NFL history to achieve so many wins.

A big part of that has been the electric form of third-year wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who has been a nightmare for defenses all season.

His last virtuoso performance against the New York Giants last weekend saw him surpass Vikings legend Randy Moss’ record for the most receiving yards in a single season in franchise history – and the 23-year-old is now just 209 yards behind Calvin Johnson’s league record. 1,964 receiving yards in a season.

The game kicks off at Lambeau Field at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.

After seeming destined for the franchise’s top playoff spot since 2016 for much of the season, the Miami Dolphins now face the very real possibility of wasting another seemingly promising year after losing their last four games. .

Adding to Miami’s troubles this week is the revelation that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered his second concussion of a controversial season in Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The injury means the team are likely to move forward with replacement Teddy Bridgewater in his place.

The Dolphins haven’t won a game without Tua this season and will need at least one win in their last two meetings with the AFC East to end their playoff drought, based on other league results. .

The Patriots, meanwhile, are in must-win territory if they are to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Their stingy defense conceded the fifth-fewest points per game this year, but the team struggled on the other side of the ball, with sophomore quarterback Mac Jones ranking 32nd in the position by QBR metric. from ESPN.

Watch the contest at Gillette Stadium at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Tua Tagovailoa suffered his second concussion of the season.

Here’s how to catch these and other teams across the league in action, wherever you are.

Australia: NFL Game Pass, ESPN, 7Plus

Brazil: NFL Game Pass, ESPN

Canada: CTV, TSN, RDS, NFL Game Pass on DAZN

Germany: NFL Game Pass, ProSieben MAXX, DAZN

Mexico: NFL Game Pass, TUDN, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports

United Kingdom: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5

United States: NFL Game Pass, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, Amazon Prime


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