The 2022 season is in its final two weeks and there's still plenty to be determined. Week 17 comes with an opportunity for several teams to either lock in their playoff position or move one step closer in that direction, and there are a few head-to-head matchups that will have implications that stretch beyond just those two clubs.
Here, we're going to dive into a few scenarios and make some bold predictions for how things will look once the dust settles on Week 17. Some teams will remain alive, others will fall to the wayside, and one team will inch toward locking up home-field advantage in the AFC.
Packers keep playoff hopes alive
The pieces keep falling into place that keep the Green Bay Packers alive in the NFC playoff race. A three-game winning streak coupled with various other favorable outcomes has Aaron Rodgers and Co. making a late-season surge. The simplest path for Green Bay at the moment revolves around them winning out, starting with a Week 17 head-to-head with Minnesota at Lambeau Field.
At 12-3, the Vikings have been a little bit of fool's gold, as they've routinely come out on the right end of one-score games and boast a defense that is statistically one of the worst units in the league. They've allowed 30.3 points per game over the last seven games (worst in the NFL) and are giving up 402.3 total yards per game on the year (31st in the NFL). With that in mind, this is an extremely favorable matchup for Rodgers, who is 27-4 in the regular season in December and January at home. That includes nine straight wins coming into this game during which he has thrown for 20 touchdowns and just two picks.
While Rodgers has historically played well, this game will be about Green Bay's defense shutting down the Vikings' high-powered offense. That unit is getting hot at the right time, as it has allowed just 17 points per game over this winning streak and has created eight turnovers. With their playoff lives on the line, Rodgers and the Packers defense gets the win over Minnesota, keeping them lurking around for yet another week.
Carolina fends off Tampa Bay
The NFC South could be determined this week with the Buccaneers hosting the Panthers. Thanks to the overtime win over Arizona last week, all Tampa Bay needs to do to secure the division crown is slay Carolina at home in Week 17. However, that won't happen this weekend, as Carolina will take down the Bucs to keep its own dreams of winning the NFC South going. For the Panthers to do that, they'd need to win out, so this will have the feel of a playoff game for both clubs.
While the Bucs boast the greatest quarterback in the history of the sport and have various members of that Super Bowl LV-winning squad still littered across the roster, they haven't been playing good football. Since Week 12, Tampa Bay is scoring just 16.6 points per game and has 11 total turnovers. The Bucs' downfield explosiveness in the passing game and rushing attack have both disappeared, and they look like a club struggling to find any identity.
Meanwhile, Carolina is scoring 26.5 points per game since Week 12 and has gone 3-1 over that stretch thanks to a dominating rushing attack. The Panthers are going to slow this game down and dominate time of possession thanks to that stellar rushing attack, giving them an old-school-style victory that puts them in the driver's seat of this division race.
Mike White shines in return to Jets
Mike White is back for the New York Jets after the quarterback missed the previous two games due to a rib injury. White being cleared before this Week 17 matchup in Seattle couldn't come at a better time, as the Jets are still very much in playoff contention. So long as they win out AND the Patriots lose/tie against either Miami or Buffalo over the next two weeks, they'll punch their ticket as one of the wild card clubs. So, getting the quarterback that the team has rallied around this season for such a pivotal couple of weeks is massive for Gang Green.
Upon his return, White will help propel New York to an impressive road win over Seattle. When the 27-year-old started for the Jets from Week 12 to Week 14, the offense was among the best in the league. The Jets averaged 21.7 points per game, and their 420.3 total yards per game were third most in the NFL over that stretch. White's 952 passing yards were the third most in the NFL in that span as well.
Against a Seattle defense that is allowing 25.3 points per game this season (29th in the NFL), White is set up for a comeback where he puts up numbers similar to his three-touchdown performance back in Week 12 against Chicago.
Lions get eliminated from playoff contention
The Detroit Lions are going to turn back into a pumpkin in Week 17. That transition already started last week when they were run over by the Carolina Panthers to the tune of 320 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Now, a loss against Chicago and a win by the Washington Commanders -- who host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday -- would be the final two nails in their coffin, which we expect to happen. Washington is a slim favorite over the Browns, but a favorite nonetheless, so oddsmakers see this piece of the equation that results in Detroit's playoff hopes dissolving as more likely than not.
Meanwhile, beating Chicago is no sure thing here for Detroit. As we saw last week, it can be had on the ground and that's what the Bears do best with Justin Fields under center. The Lions narrowly won this matchup back in Week 10 when they walked away with the 31-30 victory. In that game, Fields threw for two touchdowns and went nuclear on the ground, rushing for 147 yards and two more scores. With running back Khalil Herbert returning to action last week, the backfield is that much deeper for Chicago alongside David Montgomery.
The Bears come out on the winning side here with a ball-controlled victory, headlined by a dominating rushing attack, that helps send Detroit packing.
Chiefs move into prime position for No. 1 seed
All the Buffalo Bills need to do is win their final two games and the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the home-field advantage that comes with it is theirs for the taking. The biggest challenge standing in their way of that goal, however, is a trip to Cincinnati to take on a Bengals team that has won seven straight games coming into Monday night.
The Bills are slim one-point road favorites at Caesars Sportsbook, but this game is essentially a coin flip. Joe Burrow has been playing at an MVP level for the bulk of the season, leading the league in passer rating since Week 3 and completing 70% of his throws over that stretch. In his career, Burrow also has a .631 winning percentage at home. We see Cincy pulling off the home upset, which then swings the door wide open for Kansas City to swoop in and steal the No. 1 seed away from Buffalo.
With Buffalo falling to the Bengals, the Chiefs would then need to simply win their remaining games to lock up the top seed. In the final two weeks, K.C. is facing a 4-11 Broncos team that just fired its head coach and then a 6-9 Raiders club that benched starting quarterback Derek Carr for the remainder of the year.