For the 16th consecutive season, at least five teams will make the playoffs that did not qualify the year before: San Francisco, Houston and Detroit are already confirmed, two more will come via the winner of the Cowboys @ Giants and the winner of the AFC West (either Oakland or Denver).
The final number of new playoff participants could grow to six teams as three clubs – Cincinnati, Oakland and Tennessee – can clinch the AFC’s final Wild Card berth after not qualifying for the 2010 postseason.
All in all, Week 17 features only three games (WAS @ PHI, CHI @ MIN, SEA @ ARI) that have zero playoff implications. All other games either have playoff berths or playoff seedings at stake.
For the Cowboys, this is it. Win and you're in, lose and all hell will break loose.
After the break, our picks for the week 17 games.
Note: There have been rumours about the Packers, Saints and perhaps some other teams resting their starters on Sunday. This is very unfortunate of course for the competitive landscape of the NFL, but also for our BTB pick'em team, where several spots remain up for grabs:
Rabble, Tom and Keg are battling it out for second place, while Dave and KD are locked in a deathmatch for who gets stuck in last place for the whole offseason. Brandon is in some kind of a limbo state, but a couple of bad picks could see him slip as well.
Just like the Cowboys, our pick'em season will come down to the final game and everybody will need to be on top of their game to finish the season strong. We'll also need to understand which teams are playing for real and which aren't. We're therefore allowing changes to the writer picks until Sunday 1:00 pm ET to account for any last minute breaking information.
For now, consider these our provisional picks for week 17, 2011.