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A Yinzer’s Guide to Week 17 in the NFL

The final week of the NFL regular season is upon us, and the playoff picture is almost completely painted. For the Steelers, there isn’t much reason to even show up -- and they might beat the Browns, even if they don’t. But nevertheless, there’s still NFL football happening on New Year’s Day.

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Top Storyline that Might Affect the Steelers

Let’s be honest: with so little meaningful football left to play, three storylines do not exist which would greatly affect the Steelers. There really is just one: AFC playoff seedings. The six teams are already decided: Pittsburgh, New England, Miami, Houston, Oakland and Kansas City. Pittsburgh and Houston are locked in as the three- and four-seeds. For the Steelers, it adds up to this: essentially, they’ve got a bye-week scrimmage against the Ohio State University Junior Varsity Football Team, colloquially known as the Cleveland Browns.

It’s the other four AFC playoff teams that will make it interesting, because each one of them controls their own destiny to some extent. If the Patriots win, they’re the top seed. If the Raiders win, they’re no worse than the No. 2 seed, but they might snatch the top spot if the Patriots lose — to Miami, who are trying to become the fifth seed, which can only happen if the Chiefs lose. But the Chiefs, who could be as low as the sixth seed, could be as high as the second seed, if they win and Oakland loses. The Steelers cannot end up playing New England or Oakland in the wildcard round; the Patriots cannot fall lower than the second seed, and the Raiders cannot fall below fifth. The Steelers will host the sixth seed, which could either be Miami or Kansas City.

So, entering the final week of the season, only the Steelers and Texans have the luxury of resting players. And only Pittsburgh gets to play the Browns, which is the only thing easier in sports that striking out former Pittsburgh Pirate Pedro Alvarez.

Best Game of the Week with No Hypocycloids

Green Bay @ Detroit

This one isn’t quite as obvious as at may seem, because there are several games where one or both teams are playing for their playoff lives. But this is the only Week 17 game where each participant is trying to win the same division, which should ultimately be good for an ejection or two. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been up and down this year, but the Green Bay defense is looking like the one of several recent years’ past. If Pittsburgh is the team that no one in the AFC wants to face right now, Green Bay is their NFC doppelganger.

Worst Game of the Week a.k.a. This Will Be Bad — Honest! No Ryan!

Buffalo @ New York Jets

This was one of the worst games of the year early in the season when the teams met in Buffalo, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be any better this time around. The Bills will be traveling with a different head coach and defensive coordinator, as Rex and Rob Ryan were fired this week. Each team also will be starting a different quarterback than in their previous matchup. And Jets head coach Todd Bowles just had a major medical scare, so there are possible focus issues at play, too. There’s literally nothing for either of these teams to play for. In fact, the loser may be able to improve its draft position.

Five Pointless Points

  1. Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Jr. is retiring after Sunday’s game against the Bengals. Part of me wants to acknowledge that the league is losing a transcendent wide receiver who helped change the game for little guys, and to some degree helped pave the way for Antonio Brown. The rest of me just wants to say good riddance to the hot-headed punk who started fights and feuds everywhere he went.
  2. As the head coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan guaranteed a Super Bowl victory. As the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Rex Ryan guaranteed a Super Bowl victory. Both tenures ended about a half-step shy of abject failure. Moral of the story: don’t hire Rex Ryan unless you want to get yours fans’ hopes up and then dash them two years later.
  3. Perhaps the Ryan brothers being fired as a package deal — and right before the Bills’ rematch with the Jets, no less — is poetic justice. I was a huge critic of the Bills’ firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman just days after the team lost, 37-31, in a prime-time matchup with the Jets in Buffalo. At the time, I sarcastically claimed that the obvious change to make when your offense scores 31 — a score that should win almost any game in the NFL — but your defense gives up 37 — a score that should lose almost any game in the NFL — is to fire the guy who runs the squad that actually did its job. It was nepotism that saved Brother Rob’s job, plain and simple. He has ruined every defense that he’s ever touched, and Rex is a horrible leader who would sacrifice his team’s chances at the post-season just to keep his sibling on the payroll. In my opinion, the firings couldn’t have happened to two more deserving coaches — except maybe if it happened to Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis and whichever of his assistants he’d like to take down with him. They earned that at least a year ago.
  4. Best of luck to Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin.
  5. And, as the regular-season Yinzer’s Guide signs off for 2016, I have one last thing to say, and it’s to Vontaze Burfict: Happy New Year, ya filthy jagoff.