The NFL will end it’s 100th regular season with 16 divisional matchups in a jam-packed Sunday of action. Some games a mere final steps in the long season, however, others, such as the Sunday Night Football showdown between the 49ers and the Seahawks, carry with them a bevvy of playoff implications.
MUST READ: Week 17 Playoff Implications
Here are the biggest storylines entering Week 17:
NFC West Royalty: 49ers head to Seattle
By far the biggest game on the schedule, the NFC West crown will be decided when the division-leading 49ers (12-3) head to Seattle (11-4) in the NFL’s final game of the regular season. In their first meeting on November 11th, the Seahawks edged the then-undefeated 49ers 27-24 in overtime in San Francisco. After a pair of miscues by both teams (a missed field goal by the 49ers and an interception by Russell Wilson), the teams needed all 10 minutes of overtime to decide the winner.
For the 49ers, a win not only clinches the NFC West but it would assure the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC would go through the Bay Area. The Seahawks can also clinch the top seed albeit with a little help from others. In addition to beating the 49ers, Seattle would need both the Packers and Saints to lose. A win and a Packers loss will lock up a first-round bye.
Oh, and then there is the surprise return of Marshawn Lynch to Seattle to add drama to the already intense divisional showdown. Lynch signed with the Seahawks earlier in the week in an unexpected move that couldn’t have come at a better time for Seattle who lost a pair of running backs last week.
Drew Brees Eyes More Pages in the Record Book
Having already surpassed Peyton Manning for most (regular) season touchdowns in league history, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has his sights on a few more. Currently, Brees leads the league with a 75.3 completion percentage which would break the record of 74.4 percent set last season by… Drew Brees. In fact, if he maintains this percentage this will be the fourth time (2011,2017,2018,2019*) he has broken this record. In the Saints last meeting with the Panthers, Brees completed 77 percent of his passes en route to a 34-31 win.
How the NFC East was (finally) Won
The merciful end of the NFC East race is finally upon us as the Eagles or the Cowboys will “earn” the right to get bounced in the wildcard round by a superior team. To be fair, the Eagles struggles are generally related to injury and issues beyond their control. The Cowboys are classic underachievers. Regardless, someone has to win the division and right now, the Eagles control their own destiny and a win against the 4-11 Giants. The Cowboys host the Redskins at ‘Jerry World’ in what could be Jason Garrett’s last game as Cowboys’ head coach. Even a playoff berth by the Cowboys may not be enough.
A win over the Bills last weekend earned the Patriots their 11th consecutive AFC East title and it is the 19th consecutive season in which the Patriots had at least a share of the best record in the division. Now, with a win over the Dolphins, the Patriots can go a perfect 10-for-10 in earning first-round byes in the 2010s. The last time they were not either the one or two seed in the AFC was the 2009 season in which they finished third. They missed the playoffs entirely in 2008 (Tom Brady played just seven minutes that season) and only missed out on one of the top two seeds one other season since 2001. The Patriots have already appeared in five of the nine Super Bowls this decade and a win Sunday will go a long way in helping them get to their sixth. And fourth straight.