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NFL 2012 Season – Week 17 Preview

NFL Week 17
Alex Trautwig, Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

Playoff spots and playoff seeding will be determined in the last week of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a preview of all of this week’s games:

Sunday, Dec. 30

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions — 1:00 P.M.

Ford Field, Detroit
Chicago (9-6) can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Vikings’ loss or tie. The Bears have the 29th-ranked passing offense in the league. The Lions rank 13th in total defense. Detroit (4-11) has lost seven games in a row. The Lions lost 13-7 to the Bears in Week 7. Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson has been unstoppable, setting a new NFL single-season receiving yardage mark. The Bears lead the league in interceptions with 23.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans — 1:00 P.M.

LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
Jacksonville (2-13) is next-to-last in the league in points scored and total offense. The Jaguars placed breakout wide receiver Cecil Shorts on injured reserve with a concussion. The Titans’ defense has allowed the most points in the NFL and nearly 375 yards per game. Tennessee (5-10) lost to the Jaguars, 24-19 in Week 12. Titans’ running back Chris Johnson is fourth in the AFC with 1,187 yards. The Jaguars rank 31st in the NFL in run defense, allowing 145.1 yards per game.

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts — 1:00 P.M.

Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
Houston (12-3) can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a victory or a loss by the Patriots or Broncos. The Texans can clinch home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs with a win or a tie and a Denver loss or tie, or a Patriots’ loss or tie and a Broncos’ loss. Texans’ running back Arian Foster, the AFC’s second-leading rusher, was cleared to play after leaving last week’s loss to the Vikings with an irregular heartbeat. The Colts’ defense has been shaky at times, ranking 26th overall in the NFL. Head coach Chuck Pagano will return for Indianapolis (10-5) after missing most of the season receiving treatment for leukemia. Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck has led his team on seven fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drives. The Texans rank ninth in the league in total defense. Houston beat the Colts, 29-17, in Week 15.

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints — 1:00 P.M.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Carolina (6-9) relies on quarterback Cam Newton to move its offense. He has thrown eight touchdowns against just one interception in his last four games. The Saints’ defense has allowed the most yards in the league this season. The Panthers beat the Saints, 35-27, in Week 2. New Orleans (7-8) is led by quarterback Drew Brees, who has thrown for an NFL-high 4,781 yards. The Panthers’ rank eighth in the league in total defense.

Philadelphia Eagles at NY Giants — 1:00 P.M.

MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
New York (8-7) can clinch a playoff berth with a win and losses by the Cowboys, Bears and Vikings. Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning is 260 yards away from a 4,000-yard passing season. The Eagles rank 26th in the league in points allowed. With rookie quarterback Nick Foles sidelined with a broken hand, Michael Vick is slated to return for Philadelphia (4-11). Vick helped the Eagles to a 19-17 win over the Giants in Week 4. The Giants rank 30th in the NFL in total defense.

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers — 1:00 P.M.

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Cleveland (5-10) could start backup quarterback Colt McCoy in place of injured Brandon Weeden on Sunday. The Browns rank 27th in the league in total offense. The Steelers have the league’s top-ranked total defense. Pittsburgh (7-8) will try to even out its record, but they were eliminated from playoff contention by the Bengals last week. The Steelers committed eight turnovers in losing to the Browns, 20-14, in Week 12.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons — 1:00 P.M.

Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Tampa Bay (6-9) has lost five games in a row, including a 24-23 loss to the Falcons in Week 12. Buccaneers’ star running back Doug Martin has averaged just 65.5 yards per game during his last four contests. The Falcons’ defense has given up the fourth-fewest points in the NFL — 18.5 per game. NFC South champ Atlanta (13-2) has already secured home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown 10 touchdowns against just one interception in his last four games. While the Tampa Bay defense is the league’s best against the run, it ranks last against the pass.

NY Jets at Buffalo Bills — 1:00 P.M.

Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
New York (6-9) may start Greg McElroy again at quarterback, but he was sacked a team-record-tying 11 times last week. The Jets rank 30th in the NFL in total offense. The Bills’ defense has allowed the second-most points in the league this season, including 48 in a season-opening loss to New York. Buffalo’s (5-10) biggest offensive weapon is running back C.J. Spiller, who ranks fifth in the AFC with 1,185 yards rushing. The Jets’ defense ranks 27th in the league against the run, allowing 135.3 yards per game.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 P.M.

Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
AFC North champ Baltimore (10-5) is led by quarterback Joe Flacco, who has seven touchdowns and two interceptions in his last three games. The Bengals have the NFL’s sixth-ranked overall defense, which has improved greatly since the team’s 44-13 loss to the Ravens in Week 1. Cincinnati (9-6) will be the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs regardless of the results of Sunday’s games. Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton has slumped lately, throwing three touchdowns and five interceptions in his last four games. The Baltimore defense ranks 12th in the league in points-allowed, yielding 21.4 per game.

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots — 4:25 P.M.

Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Miami (7-8) can finish at .500 by beating New England (11-4). The AFC East-champion Patriots can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a win and a loss by the Texans or Broncos. The Patriots can clinch home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs with a win and losses by both Houston and Denver. New England’s offense has scored the most points and accumulated the most yards in the NFL. The Miami defense has allowed just 19.3 points per contest. The Patriots beat the Dolphins, 23-16, in Week 13. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill has not thrown an interception in 136 pass attempts. The New England defense has picked-off an AFC-high 19 passes.

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings — 4:25 P.M.

Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, Minn.
NFC North champ Green Bay (11-4) can clinch a first-round bye with a win, a tie and a loss by the 49ers, or losses by the 49ers and Seahawks. Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with a 106.2 passer rating, but he has been sacked an NFC-high 46 times. The Vikings’ defense has registered 39 sacks, including two against Rodgers in a 23-14 loss in Week 13. Minnesota (9-6) can clinch a playoff spot with a win or losses or ties by all of the Cowboys, Giants and Bears. Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson needs just 102 rushing yards to surpass 2,000 on the season and 207 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season NFL rushing record. The Packers’ rank 10th in the NFL in total defense.

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos — 4:25 P.M.

Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
Kansas City (2-13) has scored the fewest points in the NFL this year. The Chiefs will run Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis against a Broncos’ defensive unit that ranks third in the league in total defense. AFC West champ Denver (12-3) can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a win or a Patriots’ loss or tie. The Broncos can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win and a Texans’ loss or tie. Denver beat Kansas City, 17-9, in Week 12. Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown for eight touchdowns and 1,095 yards in his last four games. The Chiefs’ defense has played much better than its offense.

Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers — 4:25 P.M.

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Oakland (4-11) will be without starting quarterback Carson Palmer, who suffered cracked ribs and a punctured lung in last week’s game against Carolina. Either Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor will start in place of Palmer, but it may not matter with the Raiders’ anemic offense that ranks 29th in the league in points scored per game. The Chargers’ defense had 11 sacks last week against the Jets. San Diego (6-9) beat Oakland, 22-14, in Week 1. The Chargers’ have won two out of their last three games. Quarterback Philip Rivers will work against an Oakland defense that has allowed the third-most points in the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers — 4:25 P.M.

Candlestick Park, San Francisco
San Francisco (10-4-1) can win the NFC West with a victory against Arizona (5-10) or a Seahawks’ loss. The 49ers can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a win or tie and Packers’ loss. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick faces a Cardinals’ defense ranked 12th-overall in the NFL. Arizona is not sure who will start at quarterback — either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Lindley. The Cardinals do not have a passing touchdown in their last six games. 49ers’ linebacker Aldon Smith needs 3.5 sacks to break Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22.5. Arizona lost to San Francisco, 24-3, in Week 8.

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks — 4:25 P.M.

CenturyLink Field, Seattle
St. Louis (7-7-1) is in search of a winning record, but they have to beat one of the NFL’s hottest teams to achieve it. Seattle (10-5) will clinch the NFC West with a win and a 49ers’ loss. The Seahawks can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a victory and losses by the 49ers and Packers. Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown for 21 touchdowns and just six interceptions since Week 5. The Rams’ defense is tied for the NFC lead in sacks with 46. Running back Steven Jackson is the key to the St. Louis offense. The Seahawks’ defense allows an NFL-low 15.5 points per game. The Rams won the Week 4 meeting between the teams, 19-13.

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins — 8:20 P.M.

FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
Washington (9-6) and Dallas (8-7) renew their storied NFC East rivalry with the division title on the line. The winner of this Sunday night’s game heads to the playoffs. The Redskins can still clinch a playoff spot with losses by both the Bears and Vikings. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was nearly unstoppable in the Redskins’ 38-31 win over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Dallas’ quarterback Tony Romo threw for 441 yards against a frazzled Washington secondary in their first meeting.

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