After sixteen weeks, the 2017 NFL Regular Season comes to a close, and thankfully the New Orleans Saints have qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2013. In order for the Saints to win the NFC South Championship for the first time since the 2011 season, they must defeat the four-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are not only the worst team in the NFC South, but the second-worst team in the entire NFC.
The task at hand couldn't be more simple: Beat a team that you should beat, if you truly are the contenders and champions you believe you are. It has been too long since the Saints have worn the NFC South crown, but now the king stands poised to reclaim the throne. There could be no better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve than with an NFC South Championship party! Who Dat!
Now let's take a look at the Saints' regular season finale as well as all of the pivotal matchups in the final week of the 2017 NFL Season.
Last week I went 13-3
I told you so: Saints over Falcons!
What do I know: Cowboys over Seahawks?
Sunday, December 31st - Early Games
Redskins(7-8) at Giants(2-13)
Washington’s offense will put on a show in this one, while Eli Manning plays what may be his final game as a Giant. Washington wins 30-27.
Jets(9-6) at Patriots(13-2)
Playoff Scenario: A Patriots win secures homefield advantage in the AFC.
New England will come out hot then put it in cruise control once the game and homefield advantage are at hand. New England wins 27-14.
Bears(5-10) at Vikings(12-3)
Playoff Scenario: A Vikings win secures the second seed and a first-round bye in the NFC.
Expect another solid outing from the Vikes as they lock down the second seed in the NFC after trouncing Chicago at home. Minnesota wins 38-17.
Packers(7-8) at Lions(8-7)
The Brett Hundley era mercifully comes to a close for Green Bay in this one, as Matthew Stafford leads Detroit to a resounding victory in Motown. Detroit wins 27-14.
Texans(4-11) at Colts(3-12)
Jacoby Brissett will have a great showing in a close home victory over the disappointing Texans. Indianapolis wins 21-20.
Browns(0-15) at Steelers(12-3)
Playoff Scenario: A Steelers win coupled with at Patriots loss secures homefield advantage in the AFC.
Cleveland’s atrocious season culminates with their sixteenth loss in sixteen contests. A winless season that will produce another first overall draft pick and will further compound the feeling of hopelessness for the Browns faithful. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, will do their part but won't get the help they need from the Jets. Therefore its only a matter of time before they travel to Foxboro for the AFC Championship Game. Pittsburgh wins 24-17.
Cowboys(8-7) at Eagles(13-2)
Neither team has anything to play for in this one, but Philly will likely play Nick Foles for a good portion of this game in order to build his confidence, his teammates confidence in him, and the fans confidence in him, as his next start will be in the playoffs in two weeks. Philadelphia wins 21-17.
Sunday, December 31st - Late Games
49ers(5-10) at Rams(11-4)
Jimmy G and the red-hot 49ers come to Los Angeles with an incredible amount of momentum and will likely have a home crowd advantage, as Los Angeles has an obscene amount of Niners fans in the region. Los Angeles is likely to sit top stars like Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Aaron Donald, not just to protect and rest them for their home Wild Card game next week, but for other motives as well.
A Rams loss drops them to the fourth seed, where they would potentially face Philly in the Divisional round, thus avoiding Minnesota who crushed them 24-7 on November 9th. Philly is vulnerable with Nick Foles under center and the Rams would love that matchup as opposed to a trip to the Twin Cities. They’ll put themselves in position to drop this game and San Francisco will take full advantage of that. San Francisco wins 38-21.
Raiders(6-9) at Chargers(8-7)
Playoff Scenario: A Chargers win coupled with a Titans loss and a Ravens win will clinch a Wild Card spot.
Much like the aforementioned 49ers, the Raiders have an overwhelming fanbase in the Greater Los Angeles region and will definitely have a home crowd advantage over the Chargers in this one. This will definitely make things tough for the Bolts but they're the better team this season and they’ll pull out a tough win while doing a lot of scoreboard watching. Los Angeles wins 23-21.
Chiefs(9-6) at Broncos(5-10)
As the AFC West Champion Chiefs are locked into their Wild Card spot, they have little to play for in this contest at Mile High, but the intrigue lies with Kansas City resting Alex Smith and giving first-round pick Patrick Mahomes his first career start. This will give Kansas City a glimpse into what may be their immediate future at quarterback, should Smith lay another playoff dud in the coming weeks. Kansas City wins 31-19.
Jaguars(10-5) at Titans(8-7)
Playoff Scenario: A Titans win will clinch a Wild Card spot where they will face these same Jaguars next week in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is clearly the better, more consistent team, but Tennessee desperately needs this one. With Jacksonville’s Wild Card spot all locked up and a high likelihood they face this very team again next week, the Jags are likely to go “vanilla” with the gameplan here as well as rest many of their key people. Tennessee wins 29-24.
Bills(8-7) at Dolphins(6-9)
Playoff Scenario: A Bills win coupled with a Titans loss and a Chargers loss or a Bills win and a Ravens loss will clinch a Wild Card spot.
Buffalo is likely to do the most scoreboard watching of any team this Sunday, as they need the most pieces to fall into place in order to qualify for the playoffs. Most importantly, they need to take care of their own business and win in Miami, which won't be easy against a division rival. They’ll do their part by squeaking out a victory in this one, but they’ll need to keep their fingers crossed in the other games. Buffalo wins 27-26.
Cardinals(7-8) at Seahawks(9-6)
Playoff Scenario: A Seahawks win coupled with a Falcons loss secures Seattle a Wild Card spot.
As he has all season, Russell Wilson will carry the Seahawks on his back as they knock off Arizona at home. They’ll also be watching the Carolina at Atlanta score throughout the game. Seattle wins 30-19.
Bengals(6-9) at Ravens(9-6)
Playoff Scenario: A Ravens win will clinch a Wild Card spot where they will face the Chiefs in Kansas City.
It’s a win and you're in scenario for Baltimore, and their defense will have little trouble attacking the offensively inept Bengals at home. The only struggle they may face is focusing on Cincy as they'll likely be mentally preparing for the Chiefs. Baltimore wins 17-14.
Panthers(11-4) at Falcons(9-6) - Game of the Week
Playoff Scenario: A Falcons win or Seahawks loss secures Atlanta a Wild Card spot.
This pivotal matchup will hinge on one deciding factor: The arm of Cam Newton. If Cam can throw for over 200 yards while avoiding crippling interceptions, Carolina will leave Atlanta with a victory. While Carolina has secured a playoff spot, Atlanta is fighting for their playoff lives, which makes this a playoff game for the Falcons, thus making them all the more dangerous, especially at home.
Atlanta will be depending on huge contributions from Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in this game, in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, as they are unlikely to get any help from Arizona in Seattle. Cam may barely miss the 200 yard mark, but he will avoid the costly INTs in a crucial performance in Atlanta. Ultimately, this game will come down to special teams, where it will be either a Graham Gano kick or a Matt Bryant miss that decides this game as time expires. Carolina wins 24-23.
Saints(11-4) at Buccaneers(4-11)
The Saints are well aware of what is at stake in this game and what it will take to achieve their goal of winning the NFC South Championship. Beating a Tampa squad that took some liberties with some of their stars earlier this season is merely an added bonus to their NFC South title-clinching performance.
Expect a balanced offensive performance and a stout defensive effort to seal a 12-win season and the NFC South division title for the Saints here in Tampa. They’ll bring in the backup brigade by the fourth quarter and begin to watch the scoreboard to see who will enter the Superdome next weekend and become the Saints’ first postseason victim. New Orleans takes this game and claims their division title. Saints win 23-14.
There you have it, the final week of the 2017 NFL regular season. Here’s to the Saints winning the NFC South title to ring in the New Year! Leave us your picks, comments, and insight below. Happy New Year, Who Dat Nation!