The NFL didn’t have a great option for its final game of the 2020 regular season, but it stuck with the one that had the best chance to have playoff drama.
The Washington Football Team can clinch an NFC East championship with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles, who were eliminated with a loss on Sunday. That will be the Sunday night game to end the season, the NFL announced.
If the Dallas Cowboys (6-9) lose to the New York Giants (5-10) and Washington (6-9) falls to Philadelphia, then New York will win the NFC East.
The NFL changed its scheduling approach years ago, putting all 16 games on Sunday. If multiple games mattered to the same playoff spot, those games are played simultaneously to maximize interest and drama.
NFL Week 17 schedule
(All times Eastern)
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m., CBS
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m., CBS
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m., Fox
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, 1 or 4:25 p.m., CBS
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts, 1 or 4:25 p.m., CBS
New York Jets at New England Patriots, 1 p.m., CBS
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, 1 p.m., Fox
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m., Fox
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m., NBC
‘Sunday Night Football’ scheduling explanation
Part of the scheduling has been trying to find a winner-take-all game for the Sunday night slot. That worked out very well last season, when the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers played a thriller with the NFC West title on the line. The 49ers won when linebacker Dre Greenlaw made a tackle on the 1-yard line in the final seconds.
In 2017, there was an unusual situation in which the NFL passed on a Sunday night game for Week 17 because there was no game on the schedule with direct playoff implications.
There was no obvious pick for that Sunday night slot this season. There wasn’t a game that had winner-take-all stakes. Washington vs. Philadelphia would have been with the NFC East championship on the line, but the Eagles were eliminated with a Week 16 loss to the Cowboys.
When the Titans-Packers game kicked off Sunday, the AFC South and NFC East were the only divisions not clinched. Each of those divisions had two teams alive for the title, but those teams weren’t scheduled to play each other in Week 17.
Wild-card spots up for grabs
Most of the intrigue for Week 17 will come from the wild-card spots. In the AFC, three division titles have been clinched and the Kansas City Chiefs will have the first-round bye, but none of the wild-card spots are officially clinched. The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and the second-place team in the AFC South among the Titans and Colts are all alive for the three wild-card spots. All of those teams have 10 wins.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only NFC team locked into a wild-card spot. The New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks have clinched division titles. The Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears are alive for the final two unclaimed wild-card spots. Green Bay takes the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win, but the Saints and Seahawks are still alive for that top seed.
Dallas’ game earlier in the day will be important for the NFL and NBC, as well.
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