Three-and-out: NFL’s best matchups of Week 17

The AFC playoff teams are set, but our three matchups to watch this weekend have playoff implications for all six teams involved.

The NFL’s regular season comes to a close on Sunday with all 16 games being division matchups and 14 teams still in contention for the playoffs. Ten of those teams have locked up a spot, but playoff seeding can change for most of them, depending on the results of this weekend’s games, including the regular-season finale on Sunday night between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. One of them could be knocked out of the playoffs with a loss and other scenarios happening before they even play.

We highlight three games on Sunday, with all six teams in those games having playoff implications on the line.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13-2)
AT MIAMI DOLPHINS (10-5)

The New England Patriots have won the AFC East, again, which is a Ground Hog’s Day occurrence recently, and have earned a first-round bye. They can secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win or an Oakland loss.

The Miami Dolphins are one of the six teams in the AFC to have locked down a playoff spot, but they can claim the No. 5 seed with a win and a Kansas City loss.

In the first meeting between the Patriots and Dolphins, New England came away with the win with Jimmy Garoppolo throwing three touchdowns and posting a 135.4 rating. This time, it’s Tom Brady and his second-ranked 110.7 passer rating slinging it for the Patriots and Matt Moore filling in for Ryan Tannehill for the Dolphins. Brady also has the second-highest touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio (25-2) in NFL history.

Despite the expected differences in their passing games, both teams have strong, top-10 ground attacks. LeGarrette Blount is first in the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns and has 1,110 yards while Jay Ajayi is averaging 5.0 yards and is already above 1,200 yards on the season.

But the Patriots have a decided advantage on defense with the No. 3 rushing defense and No. 8 overall defense while the Dolphins are 30th in both those categories.

  PATRIOTS DOLPHINS
SERIES LEADER   52-47
STREAKS 3 of past 4  
COACHES VS. OPP. Bill Belichick: 21-14 Adam Gase: 0-1
LAST WEEK W 41-3 vs. New York Jets W 34-31 (OT) at Buffalo
LAST GAME 9/18/16: Dolphins 24 at Patriots 31. New England QB Jimmy Garoppolo passes for 3 TDs & 135.4 rating. Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount rushes for 123 yards & TD.
LAST GAME AT SITE 1/3/16: Dolphins 20, Patriots 10. Miami QB Ryan Tannehill passes for 350 yards & 2 TDs for 112.8 rating. Dolphins WR DeVante Parker has 106 receiving yards & TD.
REFEREE John Parry
BROADCAST CBS (1:00 PM ET): Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn (Field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Lee, Derek Rackley. SIRIUS: 157 (NE), 93 (Mia). XM: 232 (NE), 229 (Mia).
STATS
PASSING Tom Brady: 266-399-3278-25-2-110.7 (2L) Matt Moore: 31-53-516-6-2-113.4
RUSHING LeGarrette Blount: 285-1110-3.9-17 (1L) Jay Ajayi: 244-1213-5.0-8
RECEIVING Julian Edelman: 90-955-10.6-2 Jarvis Landry: 85-1060-12.5-3
OFFENSE 385.6 336.3
TAKE/GIVE +10 (T3L) +4
DEFENSE 329.5 381.7
SACKS Trey Flowers: 7 Cameron Wake: 11.5
INTs Malcolm Butler: 4 Tony Lippett: 4
PUNTING Ryan Allen: 44.5 Matt Darr: 44.5
KICKING Stephen Gostkowski: 118 (43/46 PAT; 25/29 FG) Andrew Franks: 87 (39/40 PAT; 16/21 FG)

PATRIOTS

Clinched AFC East & 1st rd. bye. Have won 8 consecutive div. titles, longest streak in NFL history…QB TOM BRADY has 12.5 TD/INT ratio (25 pass TDs vs. 2 INTs), 2nd highest in NFL history (min. 20 pass TDs). Ranks 2nd in NFL with 110.7 rating & can clinch 5th season with 100+ rating, 5th most in league history…RB LE GARRETTE BLOUNT had 2 rush TDs last week. Leads NFL with franchise-record 17 rush TDs. Aims for 5th in row with rush TD. RB JAMES WHITE had rec. TD last week. Ties for lead among NFL RBs with 5 TD catches…WR JULIAN EDELMAN has 3 seasons with 90+ catches, 2nd most in franchise history. TE MARTELLUS BENNETT has TD catch in 2 of past 3. Ties for 4th among NFL TEs with 6 rec. TDs…CB MALCOLM BUTLER had 2 INTs last week. Leads team with 4 INTs. CB LOGAN RYAN is only NFL CB with 85+ tackles (85), 1+ sack (1), 1+ FF (1) & 1+ INT (1). LB ROB NINKOVICH has 4+ sacks in 7 consecutive seasons, tied for 4th-longest streak in team history.

DOLPHINS

Clinched 1st playoff berth since 2008…QB MATT MOORE has 6 pass TDs vs. 2 INTs for 113.6 rating in past 2. Passed for 281 yards & 3 TDs in last start vs. NE (12/24/11)…RB JAY AJAYI rushed for 206 yards with TD last week & is 4th player in NFL history with 3 games of 200+ rush yards in single season. Ranks 4th in team history with 1,213 rush yards. Rookie RB KENYAN DRAKE had 45-yard rush TD last week. Is 1st rookie in team history with 2+ rush TDs (2) & KR-TD…WR JARVIS LANDRY is 6th player in team history with consecutive 1,000-yard rec. seasons. Is 1 of 2 players in NFL history (ODELL BECKHAM JR.) with 80+ catches in each of 1st 3 seasons. WR KENNY STILLS has 7 TD catches of 20+ yards, 2nd most in NFL…LB CAMERON WAKE has 10.5 sacks, 4 FFs & INT in past 10. Aims for 4th in row with sack. Ties for 2nd in NFL with 5 FFs.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS (10-5)
AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (8-6-1)

The New York Giants have clinched a playoff berth and are locked in as the NFC’s No. 5 seed, but the Washington Redskins need a win and need to have Detroit and Green Bay not end in a tie to get into the playoffs.

This one could be a battle of strength against strength and weakness against weakness. The Giants have only the 24th-ranked offense going against the Redskins’ No. 29-ranked defense. The Redskins have the third-ranked offense against the Giants’ 11th-ranked defense.

Last time, that meant a 29-27 win for the Redskins as QB Kirk Cousins threw for 296 yards and touchdowns but needed a 37-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining for the win. Cousins ranks second in the NFL with a franchise-record 4,630 yards passing and has put together his second consecutive season with more than 4,000 yards.

When Eli Manning is on, the Giants are on. They have won all five games in which Manning has a passer rating above 100 and lost all three games in which he is below 70. In those three losses, he has a combined six interceptions against three touchdowns. His inconsistency is one reason the Giants have a minus-5 turnover differential.

But Odell Beckham Jr. is the straw that stirs the Giants offense. He is third in the league with 96 catches and second with 1,323 yards. In his four games against the Redskins, he has 35 receptions for 485 yards (121.3 per game) and five TD catches.

While the Giants have three receivers with more than 40 catches, the Redskins have six and spread the ball around more, with Pierre Garcon (945 yards) and DeSean Jackson (971) both tempting 1,000-yard seasons.

  GIANTS REDSKINS
SERIES LEADER 97-66-4  
STREAKS   Past 2
COACHES VS. OPP. Ben McAdoo: 0-1 Jay Gruden: 2-3
LAST WEEK L 24-19 at Philadelphia W 41-21 at Chicago
LAST GAME 9/25/16: Redskins 29 at Giants 27. Washington QB Kirk Cousins passes for 296 yards & 2 TDs for 106.4 rating. Redskins K Dustin Hopkins has GW 37-yard FG with 1:51 remaining.
LAST GAME AT SITE 11/29/15: Redskins 20, Giants 14. Washington QB Kirk Cousins passes for 302 yards & has 2 TDs (1 passing, 1 rushing). Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan records 2 sacks.
REFEREE Gene Steratore
BROADCAST FOX (4:25 PM ET): Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (Field reporter). Westwood One: John Sadak, Ross Tucker. SIRIUS: 133 (NYG), 82 (Was). XM: 234 (NYG), 82 (Was).
STATS
PASSING Eli Manning: 360-571-3847-26-16-86.2 Kirk Cousins 384-571-4630 (2L)-24-10-98.6
RUSHING Rashad Jennings: 163-541-3.3-2 Robert Kelley (R): 156-671-4.3-6
RECEIVING Odell Beckham Jr.: 96 (3L)-1323 (2L)-13.8-10 Pierre Garçon: 75-945-12.6-3
OFFENSE 330.6 411.3 (3L)
TAKE/GIVE -5 3
DEFENSE 343.4 380.9
SACKS Olivier Vernon: 8.5 Ryan Kerrigan: 11
INTs Landon Collins: 5 (T2L) Bashaud Breeland, Josh Norman: 3
PUNTING Brad Wing: 46.3 Tress Way: 44.3
KICKING Robbie Gould: 43 (19/22 PAT; 8/8 FG) Dustin Hopkins: 134 (3L) (35/38 PAT; 33/40 FG)

GIANTS

Clinched playoff berth…QB ELI MANNING has 1,500 pass yards (300 per game) & 12 TDs for 95.7 rating in past 5 meetings. Has 3,847 pass yards & needs 153 yards for 6th season with 4,000+ pass yards, most in franchise history…Rookie RB PAUL PERKINS had career-high 68 rush yards last week…In 4 career meetings, WR ODELL BECKHAM JR. has 35 receptions for 485 yards (121.3 per game) & 5 TD catches. Has 13 career games with 125+ rec. yards, most in player’s 1st 3 NFL seasons. Rookie WR STERLING SHEPARD has 8 TD catches, tied 3rd most by rookie in NYG history. Ranks 2nd among NFL rookies with 62 receptions & 653 rec. yards. WR VICTOR CRUZ has 32 catches for 493 yards (98.6 per game) & TD in past 5 meetings…DE OLIVIER VERNON has 4 sacks in past 3 on road. DT DAMON HARRISON has 82 tackles, most by NFL DT. S LANDON COLLINS is only player with 5+ INTs (5) & 3+ sacks (3). Has 117 tackles, most by safety in franchise history.

REDSKINS

QB KIRK COUSINS ranks 2nd in NFL with franchise-record 4,630 pass yards, 2nd consecutive season with 4,000+ pass yards. Has 1,398 pass yards (279.6 per game) with 10 TDs & 3 INTs for 103.9 rating in past 5 at home…RB ROBERT KELLEY ranks 3rd among NFL rookies with 671 rush yards & ties for 2nd with 6 rush TDs. RB MACK BROWN had career-high 82 rush yards & TD last week…WR DE SEAN JACKSON has 327 rec. yards & TD in past 3. Aims for 3rd in row vs. division with TD catch. WR JAMISON CROWDER has 3 TDs in past 4 at home. Since 2015, TE JORDAN REED leads NFC TEs with 16 rec. TDs…DE CHRIS BAKER aims for 3rd game in row vs. NYG with sack. LB RYAN KERRIGAN has 11 sacks, 2nd career season with 10+ sacks. CB JOSH NORMAN had 2 INTs last week. Has 48 PD since 2014, 2nd most in NFL.    

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-6)
AT DETROIT LIONS (9-6)

It’s the final game of the regular season, a Sunday night matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions with a playoff spot on the line. Well, maybe, depending on the results of the afternoon games.

The Packers will claim the division with a win. With a loss, Green Bay can secure a playoff berth with a Washington loss.

The Lions will lock up the NFC North with a win and can earn a first-round bye with a win combined with losses by both Atlanta and Seattle. With a loss, Detroit can clinch a playoff berth with a Washington loss.

The Packers won the last meeting, at Lambeau Field, 34-27 with QB Aaron Rodgers throwing for only 205 yards but getting four touchdowns and producing a 129.3 rating. It was also Jordy Nelson’s first 100-yard game of the season and he’s had four more since then on his way to 1,191 yards and a league-leading 14 touchdowns.

Rodgers is over 4,000 yards (4,128) once again and has an NFL-leading 36 touchdown passes. He’s been terrific of late, throwing 14 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last six games, as the Packers now have a plus-seven turnover differential.

For the Lions, Matthew Stafford has had a good first season without Calvin Johnson, and Golden Tate has stepped up as the leading receiver, now with 85 catches for 1,000 yards. Stafford needs only 20 yards for his sixth consecutive season with 4,000 yards, and in his past seven NFC North games at home is averaging 268 yards and nearly two touchdowns with only three combined interceptions.

Without much of a consistent running game for either team, this one could come down to which quarterback has the best game.

  PACKERS LIONS
SERIES LEADER 97-68-7  
STREAKS Past 2  
COACHES VS. OPP. Mike McCarthy: 17-4 Jim Caldwell: 2-3
LAST WEEK W 38-25 vs. Minnesota L 42-21 at Dallas
LAST GAME 9/25/16: Lions 27 at Packers 34. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers passes for 205 yards & 4 TDs for 129.3 rating. Packers WR Jordy Nelson has 6 catches for 101 yards & 2 TDs.
LAST GAME AT SITE 12/3/15: Packers 27, Lions 23. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers throws GW 61-yard TD to TE Richard Rodgers as time expires. Packers WR Davante Adams has TD catch.
REFEREE Jerome Boger
BROADCAST NBC (8:30 PM ET): Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Kugler, James Lofton. SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 225 (GB), 226 (Det). XM: 88 (WW1), 225 (GB), 226 (Det).
STATS
PASSING Aaron Rodgers: 374-571-4128-36 (1L)-7-102.7 Matthew Stafford: 362-553-3980-22-9-93.1
RUSHING Ty Montgomery: 69-413-6.0-3 Theo Riddick: 92-357-3.9-1
RECEIVING Jordy Nelson: 91-1191-13.1-14 (1L) Golden Tate: 85-1000-11.8-3
OFFENSE 363.5 334.2
TAKE/GIVE 7 0
DEFENSE 361 348.5
SACKS Nick Perry: 10 Kerry Hyder: 8
INTs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: 5 (T2L) 4 tied: 2
PUNTING Jacob Schum: 43.8 Sam Martin: 48.4 (2L)
KICKING Mason Crosby: 117 (42/44 PAT; 25/29 FG) Matt Prater: 118 (28/30 PAT; 30/34 FG)

PACKERS

QB AARON RODGERS has 1,718 pass yards (286.3 per game) with 14 TDs & 0 INTs for 118.8 rating in past 6. In 15 career meetings, has 30 pass TDs vs. 6 INTs for 108 rating. Has 4,128 pass yards, 6th career 4,000-yard season, most in GB history...RB TY MONTGOMERY has 3 rush TDs in past 3…WR JORDY NELSON leads NFL with 14 rec. TDs. Has 30 receptions for 437 yards (109.3 per game) & 5 TDs in past 4. Has 1,191 rec. yards, 3rd career 1,000-yard season. WR DAVANTE ADAMS has 4 TD catches in past 5. TE RICHARD RODGERS aims for 4th in row vs. Det. with rec. TD…LB CLAY MATTHEWS has 3 sacks, FF & 2 PD in past 4 vs. division. LB JULIUS PEPPERS has 7.5 sacks, 9th consecutive season with 7+ sacks. Has 3 sacks & 3 FFs in past 3 at Det. LB NICK PERRY has 5 sacks & INT in past 3 vs. division. S HA HA CLINTON-DIX has 2 sacks & 2 INTs in past 4 on road vs. NFC North.

LIONS

QB MATTHEW STAFFORD has 3,980 pass yards & needs 20 yards for 6th consecutive 4,000-yard season. In past 7 at home vs. division, has 1,879 pass yards (268.4 per game) with 13 TDs & 3 INTs for 99.7 rating…RB ZACH ZENNER had career-high 67 rush yards & 2 TDs in Week 16…WR GOLDEN TATE has 2 TDs in past 3 games at home vs. GB. Has 85 receptions for 1,000 yards, 2nd career 1,000-yard season. WR ANQUAN BOLDIN has 500+ rec. yards in all 14 NFL seasons. Aims for 4th game in row vs. NFC North with TD catch…DE EZEKIEL ANSAH has 3 sacks in 3 career home meetings. DE KERRY HYDER has 5 sacks in past 5 vs. division. LB TAHIR WHITEHEAD has 125 tackles, 1st career 100-tackle season. S GLOVER QUIN has 16 INTs since 2013, most among NFC safeties.       

 

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