The NFL’s 2019 regular season is quickly coming to a close, but there’s still plenty of playoff drama to be had for fans and players alike. Ten of the 12 post-season spots are set, but there are still teams who are jockeying for better seeding — or who are still just trying to extend their seasons past this weekend.
The only team that can really relax on Sunday is the Baltimore Ravens. They’ve locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC, so coach John Harbaugh said he will rest MVP candidate quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Back-up quarterback Robert Griffin III will most likely start on Sunday at home against the Steelers, but third-string QB Trace McSorley might see some snaps as well.
“It definitely feels a little bit different,” McSorley told reporters Tuesday. “You don’t necessarily know exactly when or how it’ll work out with that. You just gotta be ready.”
Pittsburgh is in a fight for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. Tennessee has the spot right now, but if they lose, and Pittsburgh wins, the Steelers would take the sixth seed. Pittsburgh opened as a 3-point underdog, but with Jackson and other Ravens starters resting, the line has moved to -2 in the Steelers’ favor.
Tennessee is at Houston, and what began as a pick ‘em game, has now swung to 3.5 points in the Titans’ favor. The Texans are currently in the fourth spot, but if Kansas City were to lose its game at home against the Los Angeles Chargers, then Houston could move up to the third seed.
KC is in a Precarious Spot
The chances of the Chiefs losing to the Chargers seem remote, but strange things can — and sometimes do — happen. The Chargers are out of the NFL playoffs, and they really don’t have anything left to play for in this game. Still, playing spoiler to the Chiefs could help boost their spirits in what has otherwise been a disappointing year.
Oddmakers like Kansas City’s chances. The line opened at seven, but has moved to nine in favor of the Chiefs. Still, KC coach Andy Reid isn’t taking Los Angeles lightly, and said the starters are playing.
“We’re going into play and do the best we possibly can do — that’s how we’re going to roll with it,” Reid told reporters on Tuesday. “There are things at stake. You’ve got to finish the season. I’ve sat here on the other side of it and sat guys — that’s not this situation, so you want to play to win, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
NFC More Tumultuous than AFC
While several of the spots are locked up in the AFC, the NFC is far more chaotic. The only team that is locked in to its NFL playoffs spot is No. 6 Minnesota. The other five spots could go a variety of ways, depending on the results in Week 17.
The team with the most to lose on Sunday is the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners are currently the No. 1 seed, but if they lose at Seattle, they could drop all the way to the fifth seed. The Seahawks opened as a 1-point favorite, but the sharps pounded that line, swinging it 3.5 points in the 49ers’ favor.
Seattle added a weapon at running back when they signed Marshawn Lynch this week, but San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan says the team isn’t overly concerned.
“I saw the backs they lost, so you knew they were going to sign someone,” Shanahan said. “They signed a good one. I know Marshawn will come in, and he’ll be ready regardless of how much time he’s had off. Marshawn’s a competitor, he’s a battler, so I think it was smart of them.”
If the 49ers stumble, Green Bay would move into the NFC’s top spot. The Packers are at Detroit, and are laying 12.5 points. If they win, and San Francisco wins, they stay in the second spot
New Orleans could also grab the top spot, but they need to defeat Carolina, and have both Green Bay and San Francisco lose. Beating the Panthers, where Green Bay is a 13-point favorite, shouldn’t be a problem. Getting the Seahawks and Lions to pull off the upsets might be asking too much.
Philadelphia is No, 4 in the NFL playoffs, and has to beat the New York Giants to stay in the post-season. If they lose, Dallas would take that spot as the winner of the NFC East. The Eagles are a 4.5-point pick to beat the Giants.