Depending on who you follow or who made up your fantasy roster, we've either sadly made it to the NFL regular season finish line, or mercifully done so. There are still weeks remaining that will feature football in some form, however this is the culmination of football accounting for an entire afternoon. For those in the dumps, this final game serves as the launching point to diving headfirst into NFL Draft Evaluation season. NFL football will all be meaningful from here on out, as we're no longer forced to watch duds in primetime slots or held up by regional restrictions.
All of the week 17 games will occur of the course of Sunday starting in the afternoon at the regular 1 pm (eastern). Sunday's primetime matinee features the game with biggest playoff ramifications from the final result between NFC North rival Green Bay Packers trying to win the division with a win at Ford Field over the Detroit Lions.
Let’s kickoff 2017 with a final preview of Week 17.
Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers (1pm EST)
With a single catch Antonio Brown managed to propel Pittsburgh into the post-season, simultaneously dashing the playoff hopes of their heated division rivals. For ProCanes cornerback Artie Burns it means that his rookie season will be extended as the Steelers are locked in at the 3rd seed heading into next weekend. Last weekend Burns was blowing up a wide receiver screen intended for Mike Wallace, and jawing with Steve Smith Sr after pushing him out of bounds. Artie and the Black & Yellow crew will try to continue the momentum of their 6 game winning streak against a Browns team riding high from their first win in 2016. Browns QB Robert Griffin III was diagnosed with a concussion after Cleveland's week 16 won against San Diego. Regardless of who starts for the Browns, look for Artie to add his second INT from against Cleveland in week 17.
Running back Duke Johnson's status is up in the air for this one as he went down with an ankle injury in week 16. It's been a quiet season for Miami's all-time leading rusher. Stuck behind Isaiah Crowell on the depth chart, 2016 seen Duke's touches decline from his rookie year. His yards per attempt rushing has increased to 4.9 from 3.6 in 2015. While we're unsure of what his impact will be come Sunday, it does give us the excuse to illustrate the type of game he displayed on the regular when wearing green and orange.
Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1pm EST)
Similar to Cam Newton we have complete faith when it comes to looking for a positive play from Greg Olsen. While Olsen has enjoyed some personal accolades and career achievements, the season has to be a bit of a disappointment in comparison to a season ago when Carolina was the top seed in the NFC. There is little comfort in missing the playoffs, especially given the season the Panthers enjoyed a year ago, however, take solace in that Greg Olsen did his part to keep Carolina at a championship calibre. Along with TE Travis Kelce of Kansas City, both men will be the only players at the position to surpass 1,ooo+ receiving this season. Olsen became the first tight end in league history to post 3 consecutive 1,00o receiving seasons! If Olsen is unable to find the end zone in the final week, his 3 TDs this season will be the fewest trips across the goal-line since he had 2 in his rookie year with Chicago.
Oakland Raiders vs Denver Broncos (4:25pm EST)
Moving from one TE to another (that's how is goes when you're TE U), Clive Walford was able to make the best of his limited opportunities, as he shock a Colt defender off in the redzone to saunter in for a touchdown last weekend. Unfortunately, the guy on the other end of the pass, Derek Carr, left that game and was ruled out for the immediate future with a broken fibula. Walford and the rest of the receiving corp will now look to QB Matt McGloin to take over the pilot seat as Oakland hopes to make a run in the playoff.
There might not be a better test to get playoff ready than an away game at Denver against the reigning champs. Von Miller and the rest of the defense will likely be a bit disappointed that they won't be able to play for the championship repeat in the coming weeks. A wounded Silver and Black could be the best form of revenge before the head into the off-season. Clive is once again going to need to make the most of his opportunities, especially in the absence of Carr if Oakland is to have a realistic shot of making a run towards Houston.
With an Oakland win and New England loss to Miami, the Raiders could finish as the 1 seed in the AFC. A loss + KC loss would place them as the 2 seed. A loss + KC win sees them tumble to the 5th seed.
Kansas City Chiefs vs San Diego Chargers (4:25 pm EST)
Aside from the miraculous return of S Eric Berry, it's hard to name another player that had an out of nowhere performance quite like Travis Benjamin did. Granted 2016 was easily a career year for the former Canes receiver that's only scored more than 3 receiving touchdowns once in his collegiate career. Scoring his 4th of the season a week ago, Benjamin can tie his career best from last year with another TD toss. There was no guarantee that Benjamin would approach anywhere close to the numbers he produced in his final season in Cleveland when he signed with the Chargers this past off-season. However, with an upgrade at quarterback, having Phillip Rivers throwing you deep instead of a committee of arms, the production has not dropped off into oblivion.
Kansas City did clinch a spot in the playoffs last weekend by defeating the Broncos. However, with the exception of Pittsburgh (3) and Houston (4) the rest of the AFC playoff seedings are in flux. KC needs Denver to help a rival out by beating Oakland along with the Chiefs taking care of business against San Diego to earn the 2nd seed.
As illustrated earlier, Denzel Perryman got "Jacked Up" last weekend against the Browns. He left that game with a knee injury and is listed as doubtful for week 17.
This is also the second time in as many years that there is serious speculation as to whether Sunday's game will be the final one in San Diego for the Chargers as they figure out whether to relocate or build a new stadium.
Seattle Seahawks vs San Fransisco 49ers (4:25pm EST)
For those who missed the old Kanye like how I've missed the old Jimmy Graham, fear not! One of them has made a comeback of late. While he won't be close to the 1,000 receiving yard, double-digit touchdown days, he's once again becoming a feature in the offense. Sadly Graham could be the benefit of extra targets with the leg injury to WR TJ Lockett last week. His 859 yards receiving places him in top 30 among pass-catchers in the league heading into the final week of the season. Perhaps after Jimmy has done endowing wisdom on the current Canes, and prepping for the the Niners, he could could try his leg at kicking FGs for the team.
Green Bay Packers vs Detroit Lions (8:30 pm EST)
The main event of the day features a Lions team that is on the verge of going from high playoff seed to being that guy breathing on the glass looking from the outside in. This game is ultimately a playoff play-in game for each side. Winner gets to play next week, loser leaves with the disappointment of falling short. CB Ladarius Gunter will be in for a day as he will match up with Marvin Jones. While Jones is fast, Gunter could use his size to get an advantage at the line of scrimmage. Gunter left last weeks game with an elbow injury and did not return. Vikings WR Adam Thielen feasted on the Packers secondary for a career best 202 yards receiving along with 2 TDs. Coincidence? Sure, but we're in the ProCanes business here. While Green Bay is going to need to do what Dallas did and put pressure on Stafford to make the wrong decision, Gunter and the rest of the secondary are going to need to play much better than they did against the Minnesota to start the new year with an opportunity to play for a big shiny ring.
With 36 more rushing yards Frank Gore will surpass the 1,000 rushing mark for the 9th time in his illustrious career. For context, Edgerrin James, a current 2017 semifinalist for the NFL Hall of Fame produced seven 1,000+ yard rushing seasons in his career.
Matchup of the Week
Clive Walford vs Denver Secondary
Clive was able to spin jaunt into the end zone a week ago against the Colts. Denver is a different animal. Yeah, they gave up a jump pass TD to a defensive tackle, but Denver still is one of the tougher defenses in the NFL. Walford can be security blanket for McGloin in a game Oakland has incentive to win.
Fantasy U Player of the week
For those odd leagues that have you playing in week 17 you're seeing why it's difficult to put a team together that is healthy enough to do so and has incentive as well. With Lamar Miller resting up for the playoffs, Phillip Dorsett seeing his targets dwindle, don't overthink this. Greg is solid, dependable and has marked new territory for the tight end position.
With coaches being fired before the NFL's version of Black Monday, there is a decent chance that Miami alums will get the chance to interview for some open positions.
- Former Miami safety Ed Reed is likely looking for work elsewhere after Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan was fired this week. Reed was serving as an assistant secondary coach
- There has been talk that Carolina Panthers Coach Ron Rivera could "going, going, back, back, to Cali, Cali", to become LA Rams head coach. Former Canes QB Ken Dorsey has been Carolina's QB coach since 2013. It's all just talk now, but who knows where he ends up if the talk becomes reality.
- There are mumblings that four-year letterman at the U, Alonzo Highsmith, currently working as a senior personnel executive for Green Bay will get some interviews for open GM positions in the coming off-season.
- Sadly Vince Wilfork's name has been dragged in the media because of his son. Here's a piece on 'Big Vince' that highlights his impact on and off the field.
Happy New Years CANES FAM. Best Wishes to you and yours.