With only one team from each conference getting a bye this season, many playoff teams cannot take their foot off the gas even at week 17, while a few select teams can use this upcoming week as a bye since a loss will not make a big difference to their playoff prospect. Let’s look at teams that should sit their star players and start their star players in week 17.
Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers are currently at 12-3 sitting behind the Bills and Chiefs. Regardless of a loss or win to the Browns next week, the Steelers will not get the number one seed, which means they will play wild card weekend. Since they are two games ahead of their division rivals, the Ravens and the Browns, a loss will not put their division title in jeopardy. The Steelers can have their players sit, rest up, and prepare for their home playoff game two weeks from now.
Buffalo Bills – In exactly the same situation as the Steelers, the Bills have clinched their division but will not clinch the number one seed. The Bills will have to play a home wild-card game in two weeks and it would be smart to sit their starters and let them rest up.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – With the Saints being a game ahead of the Buccaneers and beating them twice in the process, a Saint’s loss and a Buccaneer’s win next week will still give the division title to the Saints. The Buccaneers are currently one game ahead of the Rams and two or more games ahead of any other wild card contenders, which will give them a playoff game even with a loss. The Buccaneers should rest their starters and let them get ready to play an away game.
Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks – These three NFC teams all play their division rivals at 4:25 E next week. While they already have their division titles at hand, the outcome of each game can determine who gets the number one seed and who gets to play a home playoff game on wild-card weekend. This is also a chance for Rodgers to make another case for MVP.
Washington Football Team, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys – Any of these NFC East teams can still make the playoffs depending on the outcomes of games in week 17. With all three teams having a horrendous record, none of these three will make wild-card, but one will have to win the division.
Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns – All 5 of these AFC teams currently have a 10-5 record. One of these 5 teams will be on the outside looking in after week 17. The Colts or Titans will win AFC South and three others will win wild-card spots with one eliminated from the playoffs. All teams should have their starters in and play the game like they are already in playoff mode.
L.A. Rams, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals – With the Buccaneers taking one of the three wild-card spots, there are 2 spots left with these three teams still looking to push their way to the playoffs. Once again, all three teams play at the same time, which means these teams cannot sit their starters based on another game’s outcome.
Kansas City Chiefs – Win or lose in week 17, the Chiefs will hold on to the number one seed in AFC. While their record might suggest they sit the starters, last year’s Ravens tells me otherwise. The Ravens ended the season 14-2, had a bye the first round of playoffs, sat their starters for week 17, and did not play a wild card game. With 2 weeks of not playing, the Ravens were a little rusty going against the Titans ending in a home loss. While the Ravens and Chiefs might be two totally different teams, I still do not think it is the best idea to sit the starters next week. Plus, Mahomes will have a chance to throw for 5,000 yards and 40+ TDs for the season allowing him to make his case for MVP over Rodgers.