NFL Predictions: Week 17 matchups will change the AFC Playoff Picture

NFL, Teddy Bridgewater, Miami Dolphins - Rutherford, New Jersey.Syndication The Record
NFL, Teddy Bridgewater, Miami Dolphins - Rutherford, New Jersey.Syndication The Record /

An intense slate of Week 17 matchups will help solidify a pending playoff picture. The NFL post-season is around the corner, and franchises are doing their best to prepare. Nine out of fourteen teams clinched seeding, creating urgency for teams outside of the playoff picture. A win at this stage of the season could lead to a championship, and a loss could close the door on Super Bowl hopes.

Here are a few playoff scenarios to keep an eye on this weekend.

NFL Week 17 Scenario: Cincinnati Bengals could clinch the AFC North

Cincinnati Needs: CIN Win + BAL loss or tie

or CIN tie + BAL loss

The battle for the AFC North is coming down to the wire. A PCL Strain in Lamar Jackson’s knee helped the Bengals become a contender for the crown. Without No. 8, John Harbaugh’s squad failed to maintain dominance. A 13-3 loss to Cleveland caused the Ravens to move down in the standings – allowing the Bengals to take the throne. Cincinnati’s seven-game win streak included victories against the Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Titans, reminding viewers how dominant they can be.

A matchup against the Buffalo Bills will determine the Bengals’ position in the AFC post-season bracket. If Cincinnati wins, they could clinch the division with a Baltimore loss or tie to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Home-field advantage will aid Zac Taylor’s team Sunday against Ken Dorsey and the Buffalo offense. This season, the Bills rank second in yards per game (402.3) and fourth in points per game (28.0) – a tough task for Lou Anarumo’s defense. Cincinnati ranks 13th in yards allowed per game (332.3) and will need to limit big plays to clinch a playoff berth.

Playmakers should perform well, and Cincinnati will get the job done. The chemistry between Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow is strong, resulting in points on the scoreboard. This season, LSU’s dynamic duo have connected for eight touchdown passes – the most by a Bengal receiver this season. Assistance from Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins will keep Buffalo’s defense on their toes. Leslie Frazier’s squad ranks fifteenth in passing yards allowed per game (213.3) – giving a slight advantage to Brian Callahan’s offense which ranks fifth in passing yards per game (269.2).

The outcome of Monday night’s showdown will impact the AFC playoff picture. If the Bengals can secure a spot in the bracket, they could have a real shot at winning a Vince Lombardi trophy.

NFL Week 17 Scenario: Miami Dolphins could clinch a playoff berth

Miami Needs: MIA Win + NYJ loss or tie

or MIA tie + NYJ loss + PIT loss or tie

It’s been a long season for Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins, but they continue to persevere. Miami currently holds the seventh seed (8-7) in the AFC playoff picture and can lock in their post-season ticket with a win in Week 17. Defeating their division rival will be a nice way to gain entrance into the playoffs, but will their backup quarterback be enough to get the job done?

Tua Tagovailoa has entered the NFL concussion protocol for the second time this season – allowing an opportunity for Teddy Bridgewater to add to his legacy. Veteran experience should help the Dolphins earn their first playoff berth since 2016. A 20-7 win in Week 1 will boost McDaniel’s team’s confidence as they try to steal a victory on the road. This season Miami ranks second in passing yards per game (274.9) and ninth in points scored per game (24.3) – making it hard for defenses to control the outcome. Limiting opposing offenses to minimal points is a specialty for New England. Their defense is ranked fifth in points allowed per game (19.4) – making Sunday’s showdown a must-watch event.

Assistance from Seattle is essential to Miami’s playoff berth. If the Seahawks defeat or tie with the Jets and the Dolphins beat the Patriots, McDaniel’s’ squad is playoff bound. Miami would join the five other franchises that clinched before the end of the regular season.

Making the playoffs is only part of a goal most franchises set for their staff before the season begins. Winning a championship requires resilience, and the hunt for a playoff berth can bring out the best in teams willing to lay it all on the line. This week’s slate of games has playoff implications, and the strongest team will walk away with a ticket to the next stage of the season.