Unceremoniously, the NFL has canceled Sunday Night Football for Week 17 of the 2017 NFL season.
“We felt that both from a competitive standpoint and from a fan perspective, the most fair thing to do is to schedule all Week 17 games in either the 1 p.m. or 4.25 p.m. windows,” NFL senior vice president of broadcasting Howard Katz said in a statement on Wednesday. New Year’s Eve—this Sunday is December 31—isn’t great for television ratings. No Sunday Night Football game has fallen on New Year’s Eve since the Bears hosted the Packers in 2006, according to TV ratings website Deadline.
This year, there is no massive divisional game like that one with playoff implications on the line. The Cowboys travel to the Eagles, who have already clinched a first-round bye. The ‘Boys can’t make it in. The Lions and Packers are going to play out the trailing embers of disappointing seasons at Ford Field. Ditto the Redskins and Giants. In light of those dead games and more besides, the NFL has moved everything to the afternoon.
“The NFL hadn’t yet decided which teams would play in the Sunday night game, but none met the criteria for a must-watch showdown,” Deadline wrote on Wednesday. That’s not the same as saying there is nothing riding on Sunday’s games, of course. There remain three teams looking at the playoff positions with hope heading into Week 17. Here’s how they make it in.
It’s a simple enough equation for the banged-up Seahawks to make it into the postseason. Seattle, at 9-6, needs to win at home against the Arizona Cardinals at 4.25 p.m. ET and hope for some help from the Panthers. Carolina plays the Atlanta Falcons at the same time. If the Falcons win, they’re in. If the Falcons and the Seahawks lose, the Falcons head to the playoffs courtesy of the tiebreaker. But Atlanta inarguably has the harder game…
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers need help from the stumbling Titans to make the playoffs, where their NFL-best pass-rush could do damage. If Tennessee beats the Jaguars in Nashville on Sunday (kickoff 4.25 p.m. ET), then the Titans are in no matter what anyone else does. A Titans loss to the Jaguars, though, combined with a win for the Chargers against the Oakland Raiders, would slot the Chargers into the AFC’s sixth seed. That’s provided, as The New York Times explains, the Dolphins beat the Bills and/or the Ravens beat the Bengals. If both of those fail to happen then even a win against the Raiders would knock the Chargers out of the race.
The Bills’ fortunes are tied up with the Ravens’. Firstly, Buffalo needs to take care of its own business against the Dolphins. Obviously, a loss knocks the Bills out altogether. A win combined with a Ravens loss to the Bengals would fire the Bills into the fifth or sixth seed in the AFC, depending on the result in Nashville. If the Ravens win, then the Bills need both the Titans and the Chargers to lose.
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