Three huge divisional matchups dominate the slate of Week 17 games this Sunday with major playoff implications riding on all of them.
The loser in Foxborough, where the New England Patriots face AFC East rivals the Miami Dolphins in an early game, will find it very tough to make it into the postseason.
Later on, the Green Bay Packers can keep their dreams alive with a win at home to the playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings and the Pittsburgh Steelers must beat the Baltimore Ravens to stay alive in the wild card race.
What: Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
When: 1pm ET/10am PT Sunday, January 1st, 2023
How to watch: CBS, Streaming via Paramount+
Odds: MIA Dolphins +125, NE Patriots
The 8-7 Dolphins were dealt a major blow earlier this week when it was revealed that star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had entered the concussion protocol for a second time this season.
He was almost perfect in the first two quarters of Miami's loss to Green Bay last week, but the bang on the head he received just before half-time probably explains his struggles later when he threw three picks.
Teddy Bridgewater steps into his shoes against the Patriots this week and in all likelihood struggles to make enough plays against a team who can smell a way back into the playoff race.
New England have lost five of their last six games, but the last two came in bizarre circumstances with an ill-advised lateral on the last play against the Las Vegas Raiders going spectacularly wrong and the usually sure-handed Rhamondre Stevenson fumbling in the red zone just as the Patriots were about to seal the win at home to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bill Belichick's team have a top-10 defensive unit that would not usually match up well to the Fins' explosive offense, but the connections Tagovailoa makes to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle may not be made by Bridgewater, tipping the balance New England's way.
It could be very close and low on the points. Both teams are averaging around 20 points a game over the past four weeks, and neither have particularly convincing QBs under center, so there could be some value in backing the Under 41.0 point Total at .
What: Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
When: 4.25pm ET/1.25pm PT Sunday, January 1st, 2023
How to watch: CBS, Streaming via Paramount+
Odds: MIN Vikings +160, GB Packers -180
The banged-up Packers need to beat their divisional rivals, and NFC North champions, at what will inevitably be a frigid Lambeau Field.
Green Bay will probably be without LT David Bakhtiari, missing his fourth game as he recovers from an appendectomy, and RT Yosh Nijman, who left the Christmas Day win over the Dolphins with a shoulder injury.
If one or both of those tackles can't play Sunday, Minnesota's pass-rushing duo of Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith will almost certainly be adding to their combined tally of 20.5 sacks on the season.
Packers DL Dean Lowry went on injured reserve this week while WR Christian Watson and big-play kick returner Keisean Nixon also left the game at Miami with injuries that leave their status uncertain.
But the game means much more to the Packers, who have won three in a row and usually beat the Vikings when Aaron Rodgers, who has recorded 57 touchdown passes against just eight interceptions versus Minnesota, is the starter.
What: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
When: 8.20pm ET/5.20pm PT Sunday, January 1st, 2023
How to watch: NBC, Streaming via fuboTV
Odds: PIT Steelers +120, BAL Ravens
The 10-5 Ravens are looking to keep pace with the Cincinnati Bengals and push them all the way for the division title, while the 7-8 Steelers need almost every possible result to go in their favor to clinch the last wild card spot.
Usually in these AFC North battles, the team that establishes run dominance wins and Pittsburgh have been solid against opposing rush attacks this season.
The running game has become even more important to the Ravens since QB Lamar Jackson went down with yet another late-season injury.
The Ravens ended a four-game losing streak in head-to-head meetings with the Steelers three weeks ago thanks in the main to intercepting Pittsburgh backup QB Mitch Trubisky three times, all in Baltimore territory.
But rookie Kenny Pickett returned last week against the Raiders and engineered a late 76-yard touchdown drive that kept their season alive.
More impressive than that though was the defense holding the NFL's leading rusher Josh Jacobs to 44 yards on 15 carries.