There are plenty of playoff implications in Week 17 of the NFL season, including positioning in both conferences. Three playoff spots are still up for grabs while the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs are all locked into their spots. Here’s a look at the most important games for Week 17 along with the playoff implications:
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
Odds: Falcons -3.5
There’s plenty on the line in the Panthers-Falcons matchup in Week 17. The Panthers are in the playoffs but they can finish as high as No. 4 if they win and the New Orleans Saints lose. That would hand them the NFC South. If the Panthers lose, they’ll finish fifth.
As for the Falcons, they need a win or a Seattle Seahawks loss. The latter seems unlikely as the Seahawks are hosting the hapless Arizona Cardinals in Week 17.
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Odds: Saints -7.5
The Saints are in good standing as they’ve clinched their playoff spot but they can move up or down significantly. A win combined with a Los Angeles Rams loss can put the Saints in the No. 3 slot. A loss could drop them to fourth or fifth.
Home-field advantage is important for the Saints as they are 7-1 at home this season compared to just 4-3 on the road.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens
Odds: Ravens -10
The Ravens control their own destiny in Week 17 and would be the No. 5 seed should they win. However, don’t assume anything in this spot. The Ravens were a two-touchdown home favorite over the pathetic Indianapolis Colts and needed a big defensive stop at the end of the game to fight back the Colts. The Bengals showed signs of life last week with a win over the Detroit Lions.
The Ravens have actually been one of the best teams in the NFL in the month of December and if they don’t show up half asleep again, they should cruise.
Oakland Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers
Odds: Chargers -7
The Chargers need a win and a Tennessee Titans loss to sneak in as the No. 6 seed. The Titans loss seems unlikely as they host the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have nothing to play for. However, the win should be doable. The Chargers have won eight of 11 with the three losses coming to playoff-bound teams. The Raiders are far from that as evidenced by their ugly five-turnover effort in Philadelphia on Monday night.
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins
Odds: Bills -3
The Bills’ 17-year playoff drought could come to an end but they’ll need to win and get some help to make that happen. The win won’t come easily as they’ve lost four of their last six at Miami. LeSean McCoy doesn’t fare well against the Dolphins as they’ve held him to 59.2 rushing yards per game in six meetings.
The Bills need a win as well as either losses by the Titans and Chargers, or a loss by the Ravens and Chargers.
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams
Odds: Rams -4
The Rams have clinched the NFC West but could finish as high as No. 3 or as low as No. 4. To secure the No. 3 spot, they’ll have to take care of the red-hot San Francisco 49ers, who have won four straight games.
The Rams have won three of their last four at home, scoring at least 26 points in every game.