Here we are, the last week of the regular season in the NFL…it's kind of sad, actually. These past 16 weeks just flew by; everyone blinked and it's over. At least we get to look forward to some great games in Week 17 and into the playoffs.
The best game this week is also the most important. Both the Cowboys and Giants have been consistently inconsistent all season, looking like top teams in the NFC one week, only to look awful the next. One of the teams will have a chance to redeem its season this week when the two teams face off on Sunday Night Football. The teams are currently tied atop the NFC East, and the winner of this game will get to play next week in the playoffs, while the other team will have to head home.
The Cowboys and Giants aren't the only teams playing for a playoff spot this week. The Bengals, Broncos, Raiders, Titans and Jets will all be vying for the two remaining playoff spots in the AFC. The Bengals and Broncos just have to win to secure the spots, while the others all need some breaks along the way.
Here is the NFL Game Power Rankings for Week 17:
1. New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys
Average Ticket Price: $204.29
The game was originally scheduled to be played at 1 p.m., but NBC had the choice to flex (a.k.a. move the start) to primetime for their Sunday Night Football game. It’s probably a good choice. Two of the most popular teams facing each other with playoff implications should equal some of the highest television ratings for a game all season.
2. Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
Average Ticket Price: $196.17
Both the Lions and Packers have locked up their playoff spots, so this game may be filled with superstar players… on the bench. Players like Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford will most certainly play, but how long they are on the field is really the question.
3. New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills
Average Ticket Price: $178.90
When the Bills beat the Patriots in Week 3 this year, everyone began to view the Bills as legit playoff contenders. Amazing how things can change. Buffalo is now 6-9 and has been among the worst teams in the league including a seven-game losing streak. The Patriots can secure the top seed in the AFC with a win and will be looking for revenge on the struggling Bills.
4. New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
Average Ticket Price: $164.83
Saints QB Drew Brees set the NFL record for most passing yards in a season last week against the Falcons. He will have a chance to bolster that record on Sunday against the Panthers, who have the 21st ranked passing defense in the NFL.
5. Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Average Ticket Price: $125.84
Oh sweet, sweet irony. Chiefs QB Kyle Orton was originally the starting quarterback for the Broncos to open the season but was forced out of town by some guy named Tim Tebow. Now Orton returns to Denver with an opportunity to beat the Broncos and possibly knock them out of the postseason.
6. Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
Average Ticket Price: $121.16
After the Texans clinched their playoff spot a few weeks ago, they have started to play like anything but a playoff team. They have lost two straight games, including one to the hapless Colts, and have looked bad in doing so. If they want any chance at postseason success, they need to start by playing better against the Titans this week.
7. Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins
Average Ticket Price: $100.47
The Eagles have made a nice little comeback at the end of the season and are somewhat miraculously in position to end the season at 8-8. Unfortunately, it is a too little, too late, as they are already eliminated from playoff contention. Things could be worse, though; they could be the Redskins.
8. Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers
Average Ticket Price: $88.80
If you are an NFL team, you can't ask for much more than the opportunity to make the playoffs, and that’s what the Raiders have this week. A win over the Chargers (they beat them 24-17 in Week 10), combined with a Broncos loss, will give the Raiders the AFC West title and a spot in the postseason.
9. Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets
Average Ticket Price: $83.61
When Jets coach Rex Ryan starts telling everyone how much better his team is than anyone else and then they go out and get embarrassed, people start to get sick of Ryan's antics. I got sick of them as soon as he opened his mouth the first time a couple years ago. The Jets need a lot to go their way this week if they want a spot in the playoffs, starting with beating the Dolphins.
10. Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
Average Ticket Price: $79.89
Ravens LB Ray Lewis said this week that their game against the Bengals is "a playoff game," due to the implications the game carries. If the Ravens win, they will be the AFC North champions and get a first-round playoff bye. They can also make it a little more difficult for their AFC North rival Bengals to make the postseason.
11. Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Average Ticket Price: $78.85
It's another lost season for the Cleveland Browns, who have had only two winning seasons since rejoining the NFL in 1999. In that same span the Steelers have gone to seven postseasons and will make it eight this year. They also have a chance at a first-round bye if the Ravens lose to the Bengals.
12. Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears
Average Ticket Price: $76.15
Just five short weeks ago, the Bears were 7-3 and looked like a top team in the NFC. But thanks to injuries to QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte, Chicago has lost five straight games. They can salvage the end of the season by beating the not-so-good Vikings, who will be without RB Adrian Peterson, who tore both his ACL and MCL last Sunday.
13. Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Average Ticket Price: $64.53
The Falcons could not find the end zone very easily last week against the Saints, scoring only 16 points, which mostly came on field goals. They are already in the postseason, so their game against the Buccaneers will give them a chance to get back on track before Wild Card Weekend.
14. Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks
Average Ticket Price: $57.76
Neither the Seahawks nor Cardinals are in play for a playoff spot, so many of the top players in this game will probably not see as many snaps. No need to risk serious injury for a game that is meaningless.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
Average Ticket Price: $47.42
I would like to say this game is meaningless too, but this one does have some meaning for the Colts. They have won two straight games and are now in danger of falling out of the coveted #1 draft position with another win. It will be interesting to see if the Colts play to lose this Sunday.
16. St. Louis Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
Average Ticket Price: $45.45
The Rams are the only other team in the running for the top pick in the draft, and they must be crossing their fingers that the Colts beat the Jaguars. They shouldn't have any trouble losing against the 49ers, who will be playing for a bye in the playoffs.
If you are looking for tickets to any of these games or any game the rest of the season, check out our NFL Ticket Page. Come back next Thursday for the Wild Card Weekend rankings!
Rankings are based on the average price of tickets sold on the TicketNetwork Exchange as of 12/28/2011 at 4 p.m. EST.