NFL Week 17 Takeaways: The Eagles are losing, Tom Brady is back, and what about the Jazz, the Lions?

The New York Giants are making the playoffs for the first time since 2016, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the NFC Southern champions, and the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions are holding out for postseason hopes.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs outlasted the Denver Broncos to keep their hopes alive for a top seed in the AFC playoffs, while the Philadelphia Eagles lost their second straight game without Jalen Hurts and need to beat the Giants next week to lock in the lead. Seeds in the NFC.

we asked the athleteTim Graham, Jeff Howe, and Ted Nguyen to comment on some of Sunday’s biggest events.

What surprised you most about the early games on Sunday?

Graham: Clenchin is not easy. Minshew Mania didn’t move on to the Eagles, who are stuttering without Jalen Hurts, still needing a win to lock up the NFC’s top seed and were ambushed at home by the Saints. The Broncos decided to keep making things difficult for the Chiefs, but that didn’t do for Nathaniel Hackett on Sunday afternoon. If only the Broncos could take on the AFC West Kings every week. Then Hackett might look competent enough not to be fired last week. The Broncos scored a season-high 28 points against the Chiefs on December 11 and then posted their second-highest tally on Sunday, this time under interim head coach Jerry Rosberg. The Broncos hadn’t won yet, but they were a bit like the team’s national television executives, like seven primetime games a month. Speaking of a Chiefs win that puts a lot of pressure on Monday night’s game between the Bills and the Bengals, who each beat the Chiefs but need to catch them for the tiebreaker to matter.

Howe: Mike Evans exploded for 10 catches, 207 yards, and three touchdowns. Tom Brady and Evans haven’t been in sync for most of the season, so this will be huge if they keep rolling in the playoffs. The Bucs have been incredibly old on offense this season so I’m not sure that one game means they’ve got it all figured out, but they should be happy with any signs of optimism at this point. No one is going to want to see Brady in the playoffs – and it looks like he’ll be the Cowboys – but that task will be much more difficult if Evans becomes a powerhouse.

Nguyen: The Saints completely shut down the Eagles. Jalen Hurts missed his second straight game, but Gardner Minshew is a fine quarterback, who puts up numbers whenever he’s pressed into play. Last week, he led the offense to 34 points against the Cowboys. Seemed drenched in Sunday. The return of cornerback Marshon Latimore gave the Saints’ defense a huge boost and he had a pick six in the fourth quarter. Missed right tackle Len Johnson also hurts the Eagles — Mincio has been sacked six times. The Eagles suffered a lot of impactful injuries at the wrong time. They really need to secure a first-round bye with the Vikings and 49ers on the horizon.

Mike Evans caught three TD passes on Sunday and was on the receiving end of 207 of Tom Brady’s 432-yard pass against Carolina. (Nathan Ray Sibeck / USA Today)

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are the NFC South Champions. Brady threw for 432 yards. Does Tampa Bay have anything left for the playoff run?

Graham: One game not to reconnect, but if Tom Brady can keep his relationship with Mike Evans as fresh as Sunday, beware. Evans hasn’t scored since week 4 and the target/catch ratio has been horrible most weeks. But he exploded against the Panthers, catching 10 of his 12 targets for 207 yards and three TDs. Brady looked a lot like Brady, and even scored on a QB sneak, which was pretty robotic in his Patriots days. My main offensive concern is the lack of a running game. Leonard Fournette will need to find some long-lost traction. But only four defenses allowed fewer yards per game and only two defenses allowed fewer first downs than the Buccaneers. very giddy. This could get interesting.

Howe: I would never count on Brady, but this is the Bucks’ worst team since his arrival in 2020, so I’d say a run is less likely than one might normally expect with one of his teams. The other factor, though, is that the Cowboys’ recent postseason history doesn’t inspire much confidence. On paper, the Cowboys are better than the Bucs, but this would be a matchup between the greatest winner in history and a team with a quarter-century of post-season torture. It’s weird how hard it isn’t to talk yourself into thinking the Bucs can run. Factor in Jalen Hurts’ injury, the Vikings’ inexperience, and the 49ers’ QB situation – Brock Purdy’s been great, but the first-time playoff pressure is real – and no NFC contender is perfect. There is a way for sure, but I’m not sure it’s a possible one.

Nguyen: Yes, I think they do. The Buccaneers have a lot of guns, and if they can protect Brady, he’s still an elite quarterback as he showed Sunday. Ryan Jensen is set to return from IR this week so the offensive line gets a lot better. Bucs defense is also very good. They are still a bit inconsistent and the coaching staff are prone to questionable decisions but they have the tools and the midfield to be annoying in the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if they upset someone.

Which team did you least expect to be talking about as a potential playoff or playoff team after Week 17?

Graham: The Jaguars head into the regular season final at the top of the AFC South. Urban Meyer experienced his best season last season, but clearly couldn’t demoralize an organization for years to come. Doug Pedersen has done a great job of reviving (can you revive a team that hasn’t been alive a generation ago?) Jaguars, though you’d have to give Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk a tip for their ill-timed launch of GM John Robinson a month early despite his start 7-3 that seemed to have them escaping from the top division. The Titans lost six straight heading into next week’s game in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars have won four in a row and five of the past six after defeating Texas on Sunday, 31-3. (Troy Taormina/USA Today)

Howe: There are some great candidates for this, but I’d go with black. I mean, they’ve only had one playoff win in the Super Bowl era, and that happened 31 years ago. They were 1-6 with the worst defense on the planet just two months ago. They still need some help getting into the playoffs, but the fact that they’re still alive is great. The Jaguars are good, but I picked them to win the division in week 3 (oops, did I accidentally give myself credit for that here?). The Giants and Seahawks are another pair that were pretty unexpected.

Nguyen: If we’re talking preseason predictions, what about the New York Giants clinching a playoff spot in Week 17? Most expected a rebuild with roster condition and gun shortages, but Brian Dabul and Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka continue to find ways to score points. The good teams put the bad teams away and the Giants buried the Colts, 38-10. These employees should get a lot of credit. I’m not sure how many people, including the most rabid Giants fans, thought they would be a playoff team before the season.

The Eagles lost two in a row without Jalen Hurts. How big is the Week 18 matchup against the Giants now with the NFC’s top seed on the line?

Graham: The Giants have clinched and must balance the value of making a statement against being healthy and ready for the first round. The Eagles stay a week away from getting a victory vacation, so they need a win more than the Giants. This dynamic can make this a tilting endeavor as Brian Dabul rests key players and pushes the Eagles to get all the benefits that come with being the top seed in the conference. Even if Jalen Hurts isn’t a hundred percent, there could potentially be a huge payoff for letting him play next Sunday to earn extra time later. And what would the Eagles offense look like if Hurts didn’t play in a month?

Howe: It’s crucial for Hurts to come back healthy, but there’s a tricky dynamic at play here. Obviously, no one is going to refuse goodbye, but the element of rust is real. If Hurts can’t play next week and the Eagles get the top seed, it’s going a month between games, which isn’t ideal. Anyway, the Eagles would rather play a team like the 49ers in front of a Philly crowd, so home field advantage is a big deal, but not as big as making sure the Hurts are OK.

Nguyen: Like I said in my previous answer, the Eagles need this bye week to get healthy. Even if Hurts is healthy, he could use more time to make sure the shoulder heals and his running ability isn’t affected. If they have to play shorthand in the first round, it will be tough – as they showed on Sunday against the Saints.

(Gardner Minshew top photo: Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)


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