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NFL season 2013, Week 17: What to watch in Sunday's games

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Nearly every game on the Week 17 schedule has playoff implications. The others will affect the NFL Draft order.

Two play-in games in the NFC and a three-way tie for the final AFC wild card spot should provide plenty of excitement in Week 17. If that wasn't enough, one of the best quarterbacks in football, Aaron Rodgers, will make his return this week after missing nearly two months.

The NFL couldn't have imagined a better slate of games. Here's what to watch for on Sunday.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Baltimore Ravens are one of three teams tied for the final AFC wild card spot. They need to beat the Bengals to have a realistic shot at the sixth seed in the conference and they'll also need quite a bit of help. Cincinnati, meanwhile, still has a shot at the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye with a win and a Patriots loss. The Bengals are 7-0 at home this season, so the odds are stacked against Baltimore a bit. Still, the stakes will be high for this AFC North clash.

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m. ET, FOX)

The Carolina Panthers are now one win away from clinching the NFC South and having a shot at the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. If the Panthers win, the Seahawks lose and the 49ers win, there would be a three-way tie for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Carolina would have the tiebreaker and take over the top seed in that scenario. Meanwhile, the Falcons are one of six four-win teams in the NFL right now and could stand to improve their draft position with a loss.

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

It's a long shot, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have a chance at the playoffs. Pittsburgh would need to win and have Miami, Baltimore and San Diego all lose in order to get the second wild card spot in the AFC. For Cleveland, this matchup will only affect draft position.

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m. ET, FOX)

To be honest, this NFC North showdown doesn't mean a whole lot to either team. The Lions have already been eliminated from the playoffs and the Vikings are merely playing for draft position. Adrian Peterson is listed as doubtful for this game, and Minnesota has no reason to rush him back into action.

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

For those paying closer attention to the 2014 NFL Draft order than the NFL playoff picture, this is a big game. With a loss, the Houston Texans will have the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. If the Texans wins, it opens the door for the St. Louis Rams to take over the No. 1 pick (via the Washington Redskins).

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Among the teams in the AFC still fighting for the No. 2 seed is the Indianapolis Colts. A Colts win and losses from both the Bengals and the Patriots would give the Colts the No. 2 seed. Once again, this game will have an impact on the 2014 NFL Draft order. The Jaguars can draft as high as No. 2 overall with a loss.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Out of the teams tied for the final wild card spot in the AFC, the Miami Dolphins need the least amount of help. In the event of a three-way tie, the Dolphins have the tiebreaker. Miami needs to win and needs the Chargers to win in order to maintain that tie breaker. In a head-to-head tie with the Ravens, the Dolphins would be left out of the playoffs. Sunday is a big one for Miami. It also may be the last game Rex Ryan coaches for the Jets, so there's that to look out for as well.

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (1 p.m. ET, FOX)

The Washington Redskins control a lot of what happens at the top of the 2014 NFL Draft order and they already traded away the pick. With a loss, the Redskins will wrap up at least the second-worst record in the NFL. A loss and a Texans win would give the Redskins the league's worst record. Of course, regardless of the Redskins' record, their pick will go the Rams as part of the Robert Griffin III trade.

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)

One more win separates the New England Patriots from a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. After taking care of the Ravens in Week 16, the Patriots need to beat the Bills to secure the No. 2 seed. If the Broncos somehow lose to the Raiders, the Patriots could even be in play for the top seed in the conference.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (4: 25 p.m.ET, FOX)

Welcome back, Aaron Rodgers. Hopefully you're not too rusty, because this game is for the division championship and a spot in the playoffs. After nearly two months off, Rodgers returns for Green Bay's game against Chicago, which will determine the winner of the NFC North. Both the Packers and Bears dealt with key injuries this season, but Rodgers and Jay Cutler are now healthy for this big game.

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)

With 12 wins under their belt, the Denver Broncos need only one more to secure the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Win No. 13 shouldn't be too hard to come by, either. The Broncos play the Oakland Raiders, who are jockeying for position at the top of the 2014 NFL Draft order.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Kansas City Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC, so Andy Reid may elect to rest his starters for a good portion of the game. That's good news for the Chargers, who still have an outside chance at the playoffs. San Diego would need a win and losses by both the Dolphins and Ravens to sneak into the postseason. The Chargers lucked out by playing the Chiefs this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX)

It may seem like things have spiraled out of control for the New Orleans Saints in recent weeks, but they still just need a win to get into the playoffs. The Buccaneers have struggled this season and the Saints are at home, so this shouldn't be too tough for New Orleans. But crazier things have happened. If the Saints lose, the Cardinals will have a shot at the playoffs.

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX)

The San Francisco 49ers edged the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16, clinching a playoff spot. Now, San Francisco has a chance to win the division if it beats Arizona and gets some help from St. Louis. The Cardinals will be fighting for their playoff lives in this one, though. After upsetting the Seahawks in Seattle last week, the Cardinals need a win and a Saints loss to get the final wild card spot. If New Orleans wins, Arizona could miss the playoffs with 11 wins.

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks (4:25 ET, FOX)

Aside from the aforementioned playoff implications of this matchup, keep an eye on whether the Seahawks are able to bounce back after a rough game in Week 16. Some are talking about the Seahawks being vulnerable heading into the playoffs, but a win would net them a division championship and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Despite a slip-up last week, most teams probably aren't interested in traveling to Seattle.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

For the third consecutive season, the Cowboys will have a chance to make the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season. This time, Dallas will have to win in Week 17 without Tony Romo, who was placed on injured reserve after back surgery on Friday. Kyle Orton will start for the Cowboys against the red hot Philadelphia Eagles. The winner of this game wins the NFC East and will head to the playoffs.

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