The NFL has successfully completed all 256 games during a global pandemic as Week 17 of the 2020 season has come to a close giving us a number of final takeaways as the focus is now the playoffs. The NFL, despite its many challenges due to covid-19, navigated its way through the season due to postponements and rescheduling and never once canceled a single game.
For the first time in NFL history, there was a game played on every single day of the week. While the NFL has a stranglehold on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, having games played on non-traditional days proved quite successful. If the NFL were to tinker with having football on other days, then they now know fans are willing to tune in.
The playoff picture is now complete and with the addition of an extra team to each conference, there will be 12 teams playing on Super Wildcard Weekend while the number one seeds have the lone bye weeks.
But how did we get there?
Without further ado, let’s take a final look at the NFL’s Week 17 takeaways from the week that was.
Playoff Edition: NFL Week 17 Takeaways
Green Bay Wraps Up Number One Seed
For the first time since 2011, the Green Bay Packers are the NFC’s number one seed as the road to the Super Bowl will go through snowy, cold Lambeau Field. The 2020 version of Aaron Rodgers has put the entire NFL on notice with another MVP-like campaign, throwing 48 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards. Perhaps, the scariest thing about this year’s Green Bay team, is how easy they’re clicking on offense.
Davante Adams has also enjoyed a breakout season, hauling in 18 touchdowns and 1,000+ receiving yards despite missing a few games. Throw in a superb running attack led by Aaron Jones and Green Bay has cashed in on a ton of points this season.
What’s equally impressive is how well their defense has played the second half of the season. The Chicago Bears, albeit against lesser teams, have been one of the league’s hottest offenses and Mike Pettine’s defense allowed just one touchdown on Sunday.
Rodgers, a Bears killer over his career, didn’t have a single incompletion in the first half and went a perfect four-for-four in the red zone. With an opportunity to finally host the NFC Championship Game, Green Bay’s stock is through the roof this year. They’ve handled business at home finishing the season 7-1, while also winning at home in the playoffs since 2014.
The Washington Football Team is in
Say what you will about the NFC East, but one of the four teams was going to win the division and in 2020, that fate fell upon the Washington Football Team. Despite their 7-9 record, they are just the third team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record. However, an interesting caveat about that statistic is that the previous two teams won their home playoff game. While Alex Smith has been in and out of the lineup due to injury, Smith looks to put all doubts with his brush of death to rest with a win on Super Wildcard Weekend against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Led by the number two overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Chase Young, Washington’s defense has played well all season. Don’t let their poor record fool you, this is a young, hungry team looking to wreck Brady at FedEx Field.
If there is a major fault with this team, it’s getting off to a slow start. In their NFC East-clinching game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Game 256, Washington got off to a very slow start, trailing 14-10 before Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson decided to pull Jalen Hurts later in the game.
Putting all controversial takes aside, Washington cannot afford a slow start against Brady — who at times can be an unstoppable force once the playoffs begin. Regardless, the NFC East needed a winner and Washington was the best of the (bad) bunch this season. There is a lot to like about this team from Smith’s return to head coach Ron Rivera’s battle with cancer. Can they keep this season alive on Wildcard Weekend?
Doink For the Win
Normally, when a kicker has his ball doink off the goal post, more often than not, it doesn’t usually win their team the AFC South. However, new kicker Sam Sloman had his name etched in the history books for the Tennessee Titans after winning a thrilling back-and-forth game with the Houston Texans. The field goal was set up by Ryan Tannehill’s 65-yard heave to A.J. Brown with little time left on the clock.
How any team is going to stop Derrick Henry is perhaps the larger question heading into Super Wildcard Weekend. Henry joined the elusive 2K rushing club on Sunday, torching Houston for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Henry has proven to be the most dominant running back in recent memory.
Tennessee’s attack makes it difficult to prepare for as the defenses will have to decide to either stop Tannehill’s arm or Henry’s legs, a game plan that has only been executed a few times this season. The AFC South may have been secured in the final game of the season, but Tennessee may be one of a few dangerous teams entering the playoffs.
After coming just short of reaching last year’s Super Bowl, Tennessee has all the tools to make another deep run in 2020. They’ll have a huge test right out of the gate when they’ll host the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson.
The Rest of the NFL Teams Who Qualified in Week 17
There were quite a number of teams that controlled their own destiny heading into Week 17. The Cleveland Browns took care of the Pittsburgh Steelers to earn their first playoff berth since 2002. This new generation of Cleveland players, led by Baker Mayfield and Myles Garrett, has been exciting to watch in 2020. Led by an explosive running duo in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, Cleveland can put up points against any team. For Pittsburgh, they’ve looked like two different teams since going 11-0. The playoffs are its own beast, but the old adage of “there’s no tomorrow,” will ring true for both teams looking to advance this weekend. There’s a lot on the line for both AFC North teams and one will move on while it’s curtains for the other.
Baltimore also took care of business by beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and looking every bit as dominant winning five-straight games. The reigning league MVP, Lamar Jackson, will look to avenge last year’s loss against Tennessee and prove they belong in the upper echelon of teams in the AFC.
The Miami Dolphins, despite winning ten games, will watch the playoffs from home after being obliterated by the Buffalo Bills — who didn’t rest their starters until they were ahead by multiple scores. Tua Tagovailoa had his ups and downs since becoming the starter for Miami, but perhaps putting too much pressure on the young quarterback’s shoulders, was too much to handle. Buffalo will enter the playoffs as the number two seed hosting the Indianapolis Colts.
Speaking of Indianapolis, Miami’s loss now held the door open for them to leapfrog Miami for the final wildcard spot in the AFC. And when opportunity knocked, Indianapolis answered the door. Jonathan Taylor rushed for a franchise-record 253 yards while becoming the third rookie to rush for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Indianapolis took care of the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars and will look to continue that momentum into Buffalo.
Playoff Positioning after NFL Week 17
- Kansas City Chiefs 14-2
- Buffalo Bills 13-3
- Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
- Tennessee Titans 12-4
- Baltimore Ravens 11-5
- Cleveland Browns 11-5
- Indianapolis Colts 11-5
- Green Bay Packers 13-3
- New Orleans Saint 12-4
- Seattle Seahawks 12-4
- Washington Football Team 7-9
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-5
- Los Angeles Rams 10-6
- Chicago Bears 8-8
Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season has concluded and with it brings the ultimate prize for all 14 teams remaining: hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LV.
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