There still is one playoff spot up for grabs and a few seeding positions to sort out in Week 17 of the NFL season.
There’s a good chance that an upset in one of those games will affect the playoff brackets.
These are the Sports Book Review consensus point spreads as of Wednesday night.
Steelers at Browns (+11)
The Steelers (9-6) were stripped of the “Most Dangerous Team” sash when they lost to the Ravens 20-17 last week at Baltimore. A loss in Cleveland would end their playoff hopes.
If #Steelers win Sunday, it guarantees a 10-win team will miss playoffs this season. 22nd time it will have happened since 1978.
— Dale Lolley (@dlolleyor) December 31, 2015
Johnny Manziel has been placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol, according to Pro Football Talk, and isn’t likely to play Sunday. That would make Austin Davis the starter and seemingly favor the Steelers, However, forgotten amid all the hubris of the Steelers’ Week 15 comeback win over the Broncos was the fact that they haven’t won a road game in which the opponent’s starting quarterback has finished the game since Week 5 at San Diego, and even then the Steelers needed a last-second touchdown from Le’Veon Bell. In this case the term “starter” is used loosely. Ryan Mallett was the starter who beat the Steelers last week, and whoever starts for the Browns (3-12) Sunday will have a full-throated, Steeler-hating Dawg Pound in his corner and a chance to lead the spoiler-minded Browns to an upset.
Jets at Bills (+3)
You might have heard by now that Rex Ryan has a chance to knock the team that fired him out of the playoffs. Just in case you’ve been buried under Christmas wrapping paper, here’s the deal. If the Steelers win at Cleveland and the Jets (10-5) lose at Buffalo (7-8), the Jets will be out of the playoffs and the Steelers will be in.
There is another reason the Bills could pull off the upset that goes beyond all the Rex Ryan revenge hype. Ryan Fitzpatrick is 3-6 in his career against Rex Ryan-coached teams, and he lost the one time he faced the Ravens when Ryan was defensive coordinator. Fitzpatrick has completed 47.8 percent of his passes in those 10 games, including the Jets’ 22-17 loss to the Bills in Week 10. Ryan must know something about stopping Fitzpatrick, so maybe the Bills don’t need a rah-rah speech to win this game.
Minnesota (+3) at Green Bay
This game has been flexed to prime time because it will decide the NFC North, and the Vikings (10-5) are playing better football than the Packers (10-5) right now. They hit rock bottom when they lost 38-7 at home to Seattle in Week 13, but four days later they’d have taken the Cardinals to overtime at Arizona had they not run one play too many before attempting a field goal. Since then they’ve easily handled the Bears (38-17) and Giants (49-17) at home.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 30, 2015
The Packers, meanwhile, seem to have peaked with their 30-13 win at Minnesota in Week 11. They’re 3-2 since then, but two of those wins come with a “Yeah, but … .” They needed a Hail Mary to beat the Lions and they beat the Cowboys without Tony Romo. The Vikings might have a little more motivation to win this game because a loss could be more costly for them. If they lose and the Seahawks win at Arizona in the afternoon, they would drop to the No. 6 seed and go to Green Bay again next week for a wild-card game. If the Packers lose, they would only drop to the No. 5 seed and they’d get to play the Redskins. This is one of the few Week 17 games that has playoff implications for both teams. It could go either way.
Seattle (+6 1/2) at Arizona
The Cardinals (13-2) have won nine in a row and have a shot at the top seed in the NFC. The Seahawks (9-6) could be without Kam Chancellor and defensive end Michael Bennett. They’re not underdogs very often, however, and are playing for the No. 5 seed and a trip to Washington for a wild-card game. The Seahawks’ 23-17 home loss to the Rams last week was a clunker, but they still allowed only 207 yards of offense and are second in the league with 295.7 yards allowed per game. They lost the game because they committed three turnovers the Rams didn’t turn the ball over. The Seahawks had turned the ball over only four times in their previous seven games. If they take care of the ball at Arizona, they have a chance to win.
San Diego (+9) at Denver
Under normal circumstances, there would be little chance of an upset here. However, the Broncos (10-5) wouldn’t be nearly as much of a favorite if the Patriots win and the Bengals lose in the 1 p.m. time slot. That would lock the Broncos into the No. 2 seed, and they could rest their starters when they host the Chargers (4-11) at 4:25.