NFL

NFL Talking Point: Which matchups will decide Week 17's biggest games?

By Sports Desk December 31, 2022

The 2022 NFL season heads into its final two weeks with battles for the postseason and for playoff seeding set to go right to the wire.

Nine teams have already clinched their place in the postseason, and there are seven teams with clinching scenarios in Week 17.

That should make for a fascinating slate of games in which the finer details that often prove decisive will be even more critical.

In a week where so many have so much to play for, Stats Perform has picked out the biggest games of the week and used its advanced data to break down the key matchups that could settle their outcomes.

Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Win Probability: Buccaneers 72.9 per cent

Key Matchup: Panthers' run game vs. Tampa Bay defense

The Buccaneers know the task in front of them at Raymond James Stadium: win and, despite an extremely underwhelming season, and they are in the playoffs as champions of the dismal NFC South.

Lose and the Panthers will have the lead of the division with the tiebreaker over Tampa Bay heading into the final week of the regular season.

Carolina stunningly prevailed 21-3 over Tampa Bay in Week 7 and the key to that win will again likely determine whether the Panthers can complete the sweep.

The Panthers averaged 6.4 yards per rush in that victory and head into this game on the back of racking up 320 yards on the ground in a dominant win over the Detroit Lions.

While Carolina had success running the ball against Tampa Bay in the previous meeting, the Buccaneers remain one of the better teams in the NFL defending the ground game. Indeed, their run success rate allowed of 33.7 per cent is tied for the fourth-best in the NFL.

If the Bucs can take away the Carolina ground game and force Sam Darnold to win the game on his arm, Tampa Bay figure to be excellently positioned to claim victory and the fourth seed in the NFC playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

Win Probability: Vikings 56.3 per cent

Key Matchup: Justin Jefferson vs. Jaire Alexander

Way back in Week 1, the Vikings cruised to a 23-7 win over the Packers that set the tone for hugely contrasting seasons. The Vikings have usurped the Packers as the dominant force in the NFC North, though each of their 11 wins since the season-opening defeat of Green Bay have been by one score.

Though the Vikings' ability to close out tight games has been extremely impressive, their inability to put teams away earlier gives them an air of vulnerability that Green Bay will look to exploit as the 7-8 Packers aim to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Still looking over their shoulders at the hottest team in football, the San Francisco 49ers, in the race for the second seed in the NFC, and within touching distance of the Philadelphia Eagles in the fight for the one seed, the Vikings have no shortage of motivation to make it two wins out of two against their biggest rivals this season.

Their simplest route to claiming a comfortable win over the Packers is to feed the man who shredded Green Bay in the season opener. Justin Jefferson had nine catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns in that contest and has continued to embellish his resume as arguably the best wide receiver in football in 2022.

No receiver in the NFL has more receptions of 20 yards or more than Jefferson's 27 this season, and the Packers will be desperate to try to limit his impact at Lambeau Field.

The debate in Week 1 surrounded whether the Packers should have had cornerback Jaire Alexander shadow Jefferson and he will surely look to match up with the Vikings star this time around.

While not performing at his All-Pro level of 2020, Alexander is 23rd among outside cornerbacks with at least 200 coverage snaps for burn rate, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted. Alexander has allowed receivers to win their matchup on 33 of his 72 targets for a burn rate of 45.9 per cent.

Jefferson will still fancy he can get the better of Alexander and, coming off a strong performance against the Miami Dolphins, the latter's ability to contain one of the NFL's premier offensive weapons may have a significant bearing on whether the Packers are playing postseason football in the second full week of January.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Buffalo Bills

Win Probability: Bills 61.5 per cent

Key Matchup: Joe Burrow vs. Buffalo pass rush

The Bengals and Bills square off in one of the most significant Monday Night Football games in recent memory with both teams firmly in the mix for the one seed in the AFC.

Defeat for the Bills would likely give the Kansas City Chiefs, who face the Denver Broncos on Sunday, top spot going into Week 18, but it would also see the Bengals leapfrog them and put Cincinnati in position to potentially host two home playoff games. The Bengals also hold the tiebreaker over the Chiefs but are a game back on Kansas City.

Even with a win in Buffalo, the Bengals would likely need help from the Las Vegas Raiders against the Chiefs in Week 18 to top the AFC. Their path to keeping those hopes alive with victory in Orchard Park surrounds the man who propelled Cincinnati to the Super Bowl last season, Joe Burrow.

Though the Bengals' offensive line has improved this year, it still ranks 24th in pass block win rate. Buffalo's defense, missing Von Miller following his season-ending knee injury, is fourth in pass rush win rate.

It is a mismatch on paper, but one Burrow can negate with his ability to get the ball out quickly and accurately.

Only Tom Brady (2.35 seconds) has a quicker average time to throw from snap to release than Burrow (2.45 seconds) among quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts, and the Cincinnati quarterback has again been devastatingly accurate with his ball placement. He has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 87.5 per cent of attempts, the third-best ratio in the league (min. 200 throws).

Burrow is a quarterback who in his still young pro career has shone while under the biggest spotlights. Both he and a Buffalo defense minus the player recruited in the offseason to help put the Bills over the top, will hope to prove they are ready to deliver in the pressure cooker of the playoffs by producing a decisive performance in a game that will go a long way to deciding how complicated each team's path becomes.

Related items

  • One dead and more than 20 injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade One dead and more than 20 injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade

    One person has died and more than 20 others have been injured after shots were fired near the scene of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade.

    A video on social media showed armed officers rush into Union Station on a day supporters gathered near the building at the end of the parade route to celebrate Sunday’s victory with the team’s players and staff.

    The Kansas City Police Department said at least 22 people suffered gunshot wounds, including the fatally injured victim, and confirmed three people had been taken into custody.

    Radio Station KKFI said on social media that one of their presenters, DJ Lisa Lopez, was killed in the shooting.

    KKFI said in a statement: “Our hearts and prayers are with her family. This senseless act has taken a beautiful person from her family and this KC Community.”

    Kansas City Police Department chief Stacey Graves said at a press conference: “At the conclusion of the Chiefs’ rally today, there were shots fired on the west side of Union Station.

    “Immediately, officers responded to the area, took two people into custody and also immediately rendered life-sustaining aid to those victims.”

    At a later briefing, she added: “We have confirmed there is one deceased person. Our gunshot total has went up to 22.

    “Right now, we’re still working on the total number of victims. This is still an active investigation.

    “We do have three persons detained and under investigation for today’s incident.

    “Our investigators are working with all of the surviving victims to connect them with loved ones. We are also working to identify our deceased victim so we can notify their family as soon as possible.”

    The Kansas City Chiefs confirmed their players, coaches and staff were all safe and accounted for.

    “We are truly saddened by the senseless act of violence that occurred outside of Union Station at the conclusion of today’s parade and rally,” the team said in a statement.

    “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and all of Kansas City.

    “We are in close communication with the Mayor’s office as well as the Kansas City Police Department.

    “At this time, we have confirmed that all of our players, coaches, staff and their families are safe and accounted for.

    “We thank the local law enforcement officers and first responders who were on-scene to assist.”

    Kansas City players and staff were celebrating beating the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas on Sunday to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions in 19 years.

    Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes took to social media, saying: “Praying for Kansas City.”

    Travis Kelce wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying: “I am heartbroken over the tragedy that took place today. My heart is with all who came out to celebrate with us and have been affected. KC, you mean the world to me.”

    Linebacker Drue Tranquill posted: “Please join me in prayer for all the victims in this heinous act. Pray that doctors & first responders would have steady hands & that all would experience full healing.”

    Offensive lineman Trey Smith thanked first responders, adding: “You’re the ones who should be celebrated today.”

    A statement from the NFL read: “We are deeply saddened by the senseless shooting that occurred today near the end of the rally in Kansas City for the Chiefs. Our thoughts are with the victims and everyone affected.

    “We are grateful for the quick and thorough response of law enforcement and emergency personnel.”

    Earlier, the city had been in party mode as Super Bowl MVP Mahomes and team-mate Travis Kelce took centre stage on a platform near Union Station.

    Mahomes had told a cheering crowd the Chiefs were going for a “three-peat” next season while Kelce led the supporters in some chanting.

  • One person dead and over 20 injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade One person dead and over 20 injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade

    One person has died and more than 20 others have been injured after shots were fired near the scene of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade.

    A video on social media showed armed officers rush into Union Station on a day supporters gathered near the building at the end of the parade route to celebrate Sunday’s victory with the team’s players and staff.

    The Kansas City Police Department said at least 22 people suffered gunshot wounds, including the fatally injured victim, and confirmed three people had been taken into custody.

    Kansas City Police Department chief Stacey Graves said at a press conference: “At the conclusion of the Chiefs’ rally today, there were shots fired on the west side of Union Station.

    “Immediately, officers responded to the area, took two people into custody and also immediately rendered life-sustaining aid to those victims.”

    At a later briefing, she added: “We have confirmed there is one deceased person. Our gunshot total has went up to 22.

    “Right now, we’re still working on the total number of victims. This is still an active investigation.

    “We do have three persons detained and under investigation for today’s incident.

    “Our investigators are working with all of the surviving victims to connect them with loved ones. We are also working to identify our deceased victim so we can notify their family as soon as possible.”

    The Kansas City Chiefs confirmed their players, coaches and staff were all safe and accounted for.

    “We are truly saddened by the senseless act of violence that occurred outside of Union Station at the conclusion of today’s parade and rally,” the team said in a statement.

    “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and all of Kansas City.

    “We are in close communication with the Mayor’s office as well as the Kansas City Police Department.

    “At this time, we have confirmed that all of our players, coaches, staff and their families are safe and accounted for.

    “We thank the local law enforcement officers and first responders who were on-scene to assist.”

    Kansas City players and staff were celebrating beating the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas on Sunday to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions in 19 years.

    Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes took to social media, saying: “Praying for Kansas City.”

    Linebacker Drue Tranquill posted: “Please join me in prayer for all the victims in this heinous act. Pray that doctors & first responders would have steady hands & that all would experience full healing.”

    Offensive lineman Trey Smith thanked first responders, adding: “You’re the ones who should be celebrated today.”

    A statement from the NFL read: “We are deeply saddened by the senseless shooting that occurred today near the end of the rally in Kansas City for the Chiefs. Our thoughts are with the victims and everyone affected.

    “We are grateful for the quick and thorough response of law enforcement and emergency personnel.”

    Earlier, the city had been in party mode as Super Bowl MVP Mahomes and team-mate Travis Kelce took centre stage on a platform near Union Station.

    Mahomes had told a cheering crowd the Chiefs were going for a “three-peat” next season while Kelce led the supporters in some chanting.

  • One person dead and multiple injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade One person dead and multiple injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade

    One person has died and there are multiple injuries after shots were fired near the scene of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade.

    A video on social media showed armed officers rush into Union Station on a day supporters gathered near the building at the end of the NFL side’s parade route.

    The Kansas City Police Department confirmed that one person had died and two armed people had been taken into custody following the incident.

    Kansas City Police Department chief Stacey Graves said at a press conference: “At the conclusion of the Chiefs’ rally today, there were shots fired on the west side of Union Station.

    “Immediately, officers responded to the area, took two people into custody and also immediately rendered life-sustaining aid to those victims.

    “We’re still gathering information on the number and the status of victims. We know that one of the victims is deceased.

    “Right now, we have up to 10 to 15 injured. We do not have an exact number of people who were victims of a gunshot wound.

    During the press conference, it was announced that the Kansas City Chiefs had confirmed all their players, coaches and staff were safe and accounted for.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.