The NFL is on spoiler alert in Week 17.
This doesn’t mean that the ending of TV shows will be revealed. This type of spoiler is an NFL team that’s not going to the playoffs, but can prevent another team from making the playoffs or affect that team’s playoff seeding with a win.
Depending on what happens Monday night, as many as nine games have spoiler potential in Week 17. They are ranked here by their chances of becoming actual spoilers.
No. 9: Jaguars (at Texans)
The Texans have very little to worry about. According to MakeNFLPlayoffs.com, they have a 99.8 percent chance of making the playoffs even if they lose Sunday. If it weren’t for that, the Jaguars would be higher on this list. They showed some character Sunday in New Orleans. Even though wins by the Colts and Texans in 1 p.m. games eliminated the Jaguars from playoff contention, they still fought back from a 24-0 deficit to pull within 31-19 against the Saints before going down 38-27. Even though this game will have little influence on the playoffs, it will be interesting to see the Jaguars’ up-and-coming offense against the Texans’ defense.
No. 8: Chargers (at Broncos)
Even with the Broncos (11-4) winning on Monday night, they still haven’t clinched the AFC West. If they lose at home to the Chargers (4-11) on Sunday, the Chiefs would win the division if they beat the Raiders at home. The only team the Chargers have beaten on the road this season is the Jaguars. The Broncos lost at home to the Raiders two weeks ago, but they’re not vulnerable enough to fall at home to the lowly Chargers.
No. 7: Dolphins (vs. Patriots)
The Dolphins (5-10) could foil the Patriots’ home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win Sunday at Miami, but the only reason they’re ranked ahead of the Chargers on this list is because they’re at home. The Dolphins have pretty much mailed it in. They couldn’t even beat Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst at home Sunday. How are they going to beat Tom Brady when Brady wants to ensure that the Patriots won’t have to go on the road in the playoffs.
No. 6: Buccaneers (at Panthers)
The Buccaneers (6-9) just lost at home to the Bears, their third straight defeat. They go to Carolina in Week 17 and could knock the Panthers out of the top seed in the NFC playoffs. They could be bigger underdogs than both the Chargers and Dolphins, but they’re more of a spoiler threat because Jameis Winston gives this franchise some upside and Doug Martin still has a chance to win the league rushing title. He’s 74 yards behind Adrian Peterson. Also, the Panthers don’t seem to be in any hurry to bring Jonathan Stewart back before the playoffs. A win Sunday could be a springboard to next season for the Bucs.
No. 5: Titans (at Colts)
The Colts are still alive in Week 17, but will need a plethora of events to go their way to make the playoffs in addition to a win over the Titans (3-12). Two of the Titans’ wins have come on the road, but they had Marcus Mariota in those victories over the Buccaneers and Saints. Mariota is likely shut down for the season. There’s a good chance, though, that Zach Mettenberger will be the best healthy quarterback at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday. So the Titans will have a decent chance to win this game whether they’re spoilers or not.
No. 4: Ravens (at Bengals)
The Ravens (5-10) could pull off double duty as a spoiler. They did serious damage to the Steelers’ playoff hopes with Sunday’s 20-17 win, and they could make life more difficult for the Bengals in the playoffs with a win Sunday. With their loss on Monday night, they Bengals are now in danger of losing a first-round bye. Either way, the Ravens could be a spoiler, especially against A.J. McCarron. They’d be ranked higher on this list, however, if their game against the Steelers was next week and they had a chance to directly eliminate the Steelers. That rivalry is more intense that the Ravens’ rivalry with the Bengals.
No. 3: Raiders (at Chiefs)
The AFC West title will be decided in the 4:25 p.m. ET time slot on Sunday. The Raiders (8-8) are playing for their first non-losing season since 2011 and with their franchise quarterback in place they’re trying to build for the future. The Chiefs (10-5) have won nine straight, but the Raiders showed they can be dangerous on the road when they won at Denver in Week 14.
No. 2: Bills (vs. Jets)
Rex Ryan hasn’t been to the playoffs in five years. Whether he’s trying to tweak Bill Belichick or get back at his old team, it seems his career has become all about grudge matches. If the Steelers win at Cleveland Sunday, the Jets will have to beat the Bills in a game going on at the same time less than 200 miles away. The Bills (7-8) already have won at MetLife Stadium this season. Knocking the Jets out of the playoffs would mean that much more to Rex Ryan. Bills running back Boobie Dixon said that this game is the Bills’ “Super Bowl,” according to NFL.com. The Jets certainly need to beware, but they’ve won five in a row and finally are in control of their playoff fortunes after weeks of worrying that they could win out and still miss the playoffs. They’re not likely to be caught off guard. Furthermore, this won’t be the only “Super Bowl” taking place in Week 17.
No. 1: Browns (vs. Steelers)
The collective spirit of the Dawg Pound outweighs Rex Ryan’s personal vendetta and makes the Browns the strongest spoiler candidate of Week 17. The Browns (3-12) are in control of their own spoiler destiny because if they beat the Steelers, they’ll end their season no matter what happens in Buffalo. The Browns gave the Chiefs all they could handle at Kansas City and have a knack for kicking the Steelers when they’re down. In 2009, they were 1-11 when they beat the Steelers 13-6 at Cleveland to hand them their fifth straight loss. In 2012, they were 2-8 when they hosted a Steelers team that was without Ben Roethlisberger and coming off a loss. The Browns forced eight turnovers and won 20-14. If the Steelers don’t put Sunday’s stunning loss to the Ravens behind them, they’ll smell vulnerability in the Dawg Pound.