Week 17 of the NFL season ought to be fairly predictable. There are nine games matching up teams still playing for playoff position against teams that are already eliminated. Surely, those nine teams with something to play for will easily beat the nine opponents with nothing to play for, right?
Wrong. If history is any guide, we’ll see plenty of unpredictable results tomorrow.
Last year, the NFL schedule provided the same situation heading into Week 17: Nine games matched up teams with something to play for against teams with nothing to play for. And in three of those games, the teams with nothing to play for won.
The one everyone remembers was the Bengals’ dramatic last-minute victory over the Ravens. That turned out to be the last game of the 2017 regular season, and it resulted in a spectacular touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd that knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs and put the Bills in. The result, in addition to putting the Bills in the postseason, was Bills fans donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to Dalton’s and Boyd’s charities.
But that wasn’t the only game in which a team with nothing to play for beat a team still fighting for the playoffs. The Saints, who would have clinched the NFC South with a win, lost to the Buccaneers, who were already eliminated. (The Saints ended up winning the NFC South anyway, but they needed help.) The Seahawks, who needed to win to get to the playoffs, lost to the Cardinals, who had already been eliminated.
So while all the teams that have something to play for tomorrow (the Patriots, Texans, Chiefs, Chargers, Rams, Seahawks, Steelers, Eagles and Ravens) are favored to win against opponents with nothing to play for, expect to see some upsets. The NFL season never goes according to plan.