Analysis

What We Learned: 33 Expert Takeaways From Week 17

In Week 17, the NFC playoff picture became a bit clearer, while the herd of playoff contenders thinned significantly. The Giants clinched their first playoff berth since 2016, the Buccaneers locked up the NFC South, but the Eagles missed a chance to secure home-field advantage for the second week in a row.

The Patriots and Seahawks moved into their conferences’ final playoff spots, for now, but five more teams are lurking. Six teams — three in each conference — were eliminated from the playoff race.

The 33rd Team’s experts weigh in with 33 takeaways from Sunday’s games.

Giants 38, Colts 10

1. “No one is sure about Daniel Jones, right? I just know the Giants can get some consistency, and you know what? I’m gonna give him a pass as far as consistency this season, because we haven’t really had the receivers. We had a few wide receivers like Darius Slayton, who came on down the stretch of the season, who’s making some plays for us. I think we need some downfield threats at wide receiver for Daniel Jones to really let his hair down and be able to produce on a consistent level every week. We’ve got the running game.” – Brandon Jacobs

2. “In my mind, a Week 18 game against Philadelphia is the perfect setup for the Giants. The Eagles are the best team in the National Football League, and I think everybody knows that with Jalen Hurts, right? … So the starters gotta play, they gotta play so Philly gotta play. I’m not sure if Jalen Hurts will be back for it, but for the Giants, this is a game you may need going into the playoffs to build momentum. I mean we made the playoffs, too, we didn’t have to play Week 17 in 2007, but we did, and it did some wonders for us. … I think Brian Daboll should play the starters. I think he’s the type of guy to say, ‘Why not us? Let’s go out and try to stick it to Philly and get some momentum going into the postseason.’ ” – Brandon Jacobs

3. “The Giants keep one of the most amazing streaks in NFL history alive with (their) clinching a postseason spot. That means four teams that weren’t in the postseason last year are in the postseason – the Ravens, the Vikings, the Chargers and the Giants. Why is that significant? It’s the 33rd straight season that the NFL has had at least four teams that didn’t make the postseason the previous year, make it the following year.” – Trey Wingo

Saints 20, Eagles 10

 4. “I think this adversity could be good for the Philadelphia Eagles. They’ve been cruising for the most part of the season. Nothing has really gone wrong for them except one little misstep against the Washington Commanders midway through the season. Jalen Hurts may come back against the New York Giants. The Giants have already secured their playoff spot, and they can’t make any movement next week. So I feel like getting Hurts re-acclimated into that offense, you get a win, you get home-field advantage, and you use that momentum to propel yourself into the playoffs. You get a bye, rest up, get a little healthier, maybe tackle Lane Johnson comes back in that first playoff game, then you make your push for the Super Bowl.” – Tank Williams

 5. “Social media, analysts on TV, they’re going to try to bury the Eagles for losing two games in a row. They went into a hostile environment and lost a close game to the Dallas Cowboys, who are a really good football team, and lost a game to the New Orleans Saints, who were still playing for their playoff lives. Two teams that were still in it, giving it their best shot in those games. I think the Philadelphia Eagles will learn from this, they will get better from this. And watch out, they may even become a more dangerous team in the playoffs because of the adversity they’ve faced.” – Tank Williams

Patriots 23, Dolphins 21

6. “The game-changer on New England is its defense. Unfortunately they lost a couple games leading up to this one. … But if you watched those games, the defense was the theme that kept them in it. And now in this situation, the defense was the thing that helped them overcome all the other adversity they’ve had to deal with these games and actually get a victory and keep their playoff chances alive.” – Tank Williams

7. “The major takeaway for the New England Patriots, not only this game, but this season, is the brilliant coaching, too. Bill Belichick understands the limitations that he has to deal with on this team, but playing to his team’s strength and, more than anything else, trying to find a way to win. And they have an opportunity next week to get a win against the Buffalo Bills and find themselves in the playoffs once again.” – Tank Williams 

Browns 24, Commanders 10

8. “The Browns offense, especially in the second half, showed what it’s capable of and hopefully gave us a glimpse of what to expect in 2023. Deshaun Watson threw three touchdown passes and ran for 31 yards, and Nick Chubb went over 100 yards rushing. To cap it off, Amari Cooper had two touchdowns and 105 yards on only four targets. They have a strong foundation on offense with Watson, Cooper, Chubb, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and David Njoku.” – T.J. McCreight

9. “Deshaun Watson was decidedly average today. He was 9 for 18 for 169 yards, but you know what? Instead of throwing three interceptions, as Carson Wentz did, Deshaun Watson managed to throw three touchdowns.” – Trey Wingo

10. “You learned today if you’re the Washington Commanders that Carson Wentz cannot be your franchise quarterback. You’re learning the same lesson that the Philadelphia Eagles learned. You’re learning the same lesson that the Indianapolis Colts learned. Now will the Commanders actually learn it? Because you know the Commanders, they can be a stubborn bunch in terms of making the right decision. Their track record ain’t so good with that, and it makes you wonder who actually made the decision to bring Carson Wentz back from the dead?” – Trey Wingo

Falcons 20, Cardinals 19

11. “In a game between two teams that are looking forward to next year, the Falcons were the winners. It’s hard to believe big changes aren’t coming to Arizona after one more game. Nothing happened today that will change that. I actually believe this will be the least desirable opening when the dust settles” – Joe Banner

12. “The Falcons hoped that this year they could start to see that the foundation laid by a new front office and head coach from a few years ago would start to pay off. That said, this game showed that Atlanta does have some pieces for the future, but they have a long way to go.” – Joe Banner

Jaguars 31, Texans 3

 13. “We saw it again today, Jacksonville’s top-5 rush-yards-per-carry (4.8) play-calling is the perfect complement for Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars defense.” – Dave Wannstedt

Chiefs 27, Broncos 24

14. “The Broncos are horrible in the offensive line. I think they’re just confused or just not very good in their approach to the game offensively. They’re disjointed. There’s no rhythm. They played a lot of open edges in a bad offensive line. That’s not good. You’re moving out different protections to help your quarterback. They knew a blitz was coming, but they didn’t handle it well as coaches. Whoever gets that job, that’s a real good football team waiting to happen.” – Mike Martz

15. “The Chiefs have a defense that can make just enough plays to win. They obviously have an offense that can do whatever they need whenever they need. But it’s that third phase of team football, the special teams, the one that gets overlooked all the time. That may be the reason Arrowhead Stadium faithful will be sitting there sometime in January, February saying what happened? How are we not in the Super Bowl?” – Trey Wingo

16. “Patrick Mahomes, I believe, has locked up the MVP with three touchdown passes and 310 yards (against Denver). He has over 5,000 passing yards for the season. He’s only the third quarterback all-time with multiple 5,000-passing-yards seasons, and he has 40 touchdown passes. The Kansas City Chiefs also have Travis Kelcie, who should be in any discussion for Offensive Player of the Year. A player nobody talks about really is defensive tackle Chris Jones, who had a sack to end the game today. He should be in every discussion for Defensive Player of the Year.”  – Trey Wingo

17. “Russell Wilson, he’s no bust. If they get a good guy in there to coach who’s an offensive mind, that will coach the details and get guys going in the right direction offensively, because they’re potentially very good on defense, I think that’s a gem for somebody to go in as a head coach.” – Mike Martz

Buccaneers 30, Panthers 24

18. “In the second half, it seemed like Tom Brady realized that he might have a future Hall of Famer on his team, and he just started throwing the ball. This was a game Mike Evans dominated – three touchdowns, 207 yards. He doubled his touchdown production for the season. And the offense really found its gear for the first time in a long time.” – Ronde Barber

19. “We know Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. We know what he can do in the playoffs. The Bucs can get hot similar to the Cincinnati Bengals, when everybody was sleeping on them last year, and they ended up making a run all the way to the Super Bowl and came that close to coming away with a win.”  – Tank Williams

20. “Tampa Bay punter Jake Camarda saved the game, and possibly the season, for the Bucs. Moving to his left and with the rush coming at him, he was somehow able to put his foot on the ball and avoid a total disaster. It was an incredibly athletic play in a high-pressure situation by the athletic Camarda.” – T.J. McCreight 

21. “Now all of a sudden that (Bucs) defense is playing up to expectations. They got three turnovers against the Carolina Panthers, and as we’ve noticed throughout this NFL season, there’s so much parity in the NFL any team can win on any given Sunday.” – Tank Williams

Lions 41, Bears 10

22. “I think the Lions can get into the playoffs, and I think they can go a ways in the playoffs. I think they can end up in the NFC Championship. Are they good enough to get to the Super Bowl? I don’t know if they’re good enough on defense. But this is a team that clearly is one of the top five or six in the league right now.” — Mike Martz

23. “After a 1-6 start, the Lions are 8-8 and still have a chance to get into the playoffs. It was total domination against the Bears. They sacked Justin Fields seven times and held the Bears to 10 points. Jared Goff completed passes to 10 different players, and the Lions rushed for 265 yards. This team has some nice building blocks for the future, and if they add a few pieces on defense this offseason, they could be a contender in the NFC North in 2023.” – T.J. McCreight

24. “I think coordinator Ben Johnson has done a great job on the offense, as has Hank Fraley, the offensive line coach. I think they’re probably one of the two or three best offenses in the league today, easily, easily.” — Mike Martz

25. “D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, they’re just hitting their stride on offense, which is what you want. … Defense will be their Achilles. They want to be in a lot of man coverage, that’s what they believe in, and if you get a running quarterback, that’s going to hurt them a little bit.” — Mike Martz

Packers 41, Vikings 17

26. “This game against the Minnesota Vikings, it was completely about the (Packers’) defense. This defense stepped up to the challenge of eliminating Justin Jefferson. And in my opinion, and I’ve said this before when it comes to the Minnesota Vikings, they don’t truly scare anyone. But Justin Jefferson scares everyone, and the Packers made it their business to eliminate who he was going to be in this game to give their team an opportunity to win.” — Greg Jennings

27. “Are the Vikings the same team that got beat up by the Philadelphia Eagles early in the season? Or the Dallas Cowboys? Or the team that was behind 33-0 to the Indianapolis Colts? A lot of questions out there about the Minnesota Vikings, their inability to get Justin Jefferson involved in the game , four early turnovers, major breakdowns in the kicking game.” — Rich Gannon

28. “The Vikings’ defense is a real issue. It’s 31st in total defense. They’re dead last against the pass, and they had no answer today for Aaron Rodgers. I just think this is a team that needs to play well next week against the Bears. They need to go into the postseason with some confidence and momentum. The Vikings simply don’t have any confidence or momentum right now.” — Rich Gannon

Seahawks 23, Jets 6

29. “The New York Jets have lost five games in a row, but you can look at three points that defined their season. The loss of rookie running back Breece Hall, the play of quarterback Zach Wilson, and the injuries to tackle Mekhi Becton. This team needs to find their franchise quarterback, and they may end up doing it through an established passer. They have some pieces, but the season did unravel. It didn’t help that Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith is a former Jet.” – T.J. McCreight

49ers 37, Raiders 34, OT

30. “There’s no way after one game we can all of a sudden say the Raiders have their starting quarterback in 2023, but I think there’s a feeling within the organization with Josh McDaniels that Jarrett Stidham has a chance to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Next week will be really important.” – Rich Gannon

31. “The Commanders lost to San Francisco last week, and they lost on Sunday to the Browns. That means every team this season that has played the 49ers has gone on to lose their very next game. The only team that has won their next game after (playing) San Francisco would be the Kansas City Chiefs, who needed a bye week and a miracle to come back and beat the Tennessee Titans, who were led by Malik Willis by the way, and that game went to overtime. … When you play the 49ers, you’re going to lose next week because they beat you up.” – Trey Wingo

Steelers 16, Ravens 13

32. “Mike Tomlin has been able to keep this Steelers team focused week-in, week-out. To start the season 2-6 and to lose the best player on the team, T.J. Watt, and to still be going into the last week of the season with a chance to go to the playoffs, Mike Tomlin has shown once again why he’s considered one of the top coaches in the NFL.” – Samari Rolle

33. “The Steelers will always be a tough matchup for anyone that’s not physical because they will be physical. They will always be tough and disciplined.” – Samari Rolle

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