Fennelly on Football: What to Watch For in Week 17 in the NFL

With the Giants and the Jets playing out the string here as Week 17 of the NFL season approaches, New York area football fans will be searching for something to care about this New Year’s Eve.

In the NFC, all but one of the playoff spots are already spoken for. The Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams have clinched their respective divisions while the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints have also wrapped up playoff spots. The only remaining invite is the final wildcard berth, which will go to either the defending conference champion Atlanta Falcons or the Seattle Seahawks.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars have all won their divisions. The wildcards are still unsettled, however. Two of the following four teams will go to the playoffs: the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills or the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Jets (5-10) will travel to New England to play the Patriots (12-3). The Jets will be playing for whatever pride they have left but won’t be playing to save head coach Todd Bowles’ job. Bowles’ contract was extended on Friday after the team exceeded many experts’ preseason win-total predictions. Don’t expect the Patriots to show any mercy in this one as they need a win to clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs.

Jet fans would like to finally get a gander at second-year QB Christian Hackenberg, who has taken some reps with the first team this week in practice. Bowles has not ruled out sending Hackenberg, a second-round pick in last year’s draft who has only been active for four games in his Jet career, out if the game gets away from starter Bryce Petty. We all know Petty is not the future, so this will be worth keeping an eye on.

The Giants (2-13) will close out the worst season in their 93-year history Sunday at home against the 7-8 Washington Redskins. They may have no choice but to get pushed around in this game by a superior team. With injuries piling up on both sides of the ball and their special teams is disarray due to all the changing faces, it’s almost impossible to envision the Giants avoiding a franchise-record fourteenth loss.

Big Blue defrayed some of that pain by naming a new GM this week, Dave Gettleman, which should give the fan base some idea of what the future holds. A loss will also seal the second overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft for the Giants. The big question in this game is whether the fans will get to see rookie QB Davis Webb last some point but interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo has all but put the kibosh on that notion.

Week 17 Viewing Guide

My suggestion is to turn on NFL Red Zone and follow the games that way. There is no Sunday night or Monday game this week. Seven of the 16 games on the slate will kickoff at 1:00 PM while the other nine will kickoff at 4:25 PM.

At 1:00 on CBS, most of the nation will see the Jets-Patriots tilt with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the call while the network will cover the Browns-Steelers and Texans-Colts games regionally.

Over at FOX, all four games: Redskins-Giants, Bears-Vikings, Cowboys-Eagles and Packers-Lions. will be covered regionally. In the NY market, we’ll see the Giants-Redskins game called by Sam Rosen and Matt Millen.

At 4:25 PM, CBS goes regional for all five games. In New York, we’ll be treated to the Bills-Dolphins game. FOX will feature the Panthers-Falcons game, the only matchup between two possible playoff teams. New Yorkers will probably watch that one with the sound off as Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will provide the call.

What I’ll be watching….games that feature teams that have something to play for. Those teams are: the Patriots and all the wildcard contenders int he AFC and the Vikings-Bears and Panthers-Falcons games in the NFC.




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