The final regular season week of the 2016/17 National Football League season is set to get underway this Sunday. Older football fans may remember when the NFL scheduled Saturday afternoon games during December. But, the proliferation of college bowl games have squeezed the NFL aside. Who doesn't want to watch the Belk Bowl?
(What's a Belk?)
There are a few games this week that will decide playoffs or "get on home, with ya." There are a couple of other games that will determine playoff seeding. But, the schedule is a little bit light on meaningful games fraught with emotion. Except, that is, in Green Bay. Their Packers could win the NFC North! They could also be out of the post-season entirely. Cheer up, Packer backers! The heat generated by a little stress thaws the winter chill.
What to watch and when to watch it? It's what we do.
Cardinals @ Rams 4:25 p.m. Eastern/1:25 p.m. Pacific, Fox: One of these teams made a big preseason splash. When the Rams returned to L.A. it marked a new day dawning for the NFL in a market it hadn't inhabited for two decades. No one knew if the team would be any good (they weren't), but Angelenos were excited just to have a team. We'll see how long that lasts in a market impatient with anything that isn't perfect. Look at the Botox sales figures. As for the Arizona Cardinals, they didn't make a splash. Instead, they came into this season with a quiet confidence. They knew they weren't the favorite. Seattle was ensconced in that role. But Arizona fans believed the Cardinals could be a surprise team, ranging up in the Seahawks' rear-view mirror saying, "Objects are closer than they appear." Alas, very little went right. The Cardinals piled up more-than-adequate offensive numbers alongside more-than-adequate defensive numbers. But the result was a less-than-adequate season. Every team has post-season questions. Arizona has a post-season conundrum. The oddsmakers list Arizona as a 6.5 point favorite. The Cards are the better team. But road teams sometimes quit in Week 17. Take the Rams and the points.
Seahawks @ 49ers 4:25 p.m. Eastern/1:25 p.m. Pacific, Fox: This was once a rivalry. Someday, it will be again. But the 49ers have a lot of work to be done, and much of it is in the front office. General manager Trent Baalke is expected to be relieved of his command in the very near future. Some 49er fans would like to see him relieved of his neck! While we understand, we can't condone violence. Sadly, for 49er fans who remember the glory days, the Seahawks are what the Niners aspire to be. A constant playoff presence, the Hawks are a team no one wants to play come next month. They aren't the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. But they may be the best team in the conference not wearing a ten-gallon hat, and drawling "Y'all." In the spirit of college football players who are choosing to skip their bowl games, this is a game that both teams would prefer not to play. But, play it they must. The Seahawks are a 9.5 point favorite. The 49ers surprised us with a pulse last week. But the Hawks almost can't help but cover the number this week.