Week 17 Of The NFL 5 Key Lessons Learned

Week 17 Of The NFL: 5 Key Lessons Learned

Week 17 of the NFL season kicked off with Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco maintaining his impressive form in yet another Browns victory on Thursday night. The Dallas Cowboys secured a crucial win over the Detroit Lions amid some controversy on Saturday night, solidifying their position as one of the NFC’s top teams.

Sunday saw significant developments as the San Francisco 49ers secured the NFC’s No. 1 seed, while the Baltimore Ravens claimed the top spot in the AFC. Additionally, the Chicago Bears clinched the No. 1 pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL draft, acquired from Carolina.

Mason Rudolph led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a pivotal win, keeping their playoff hopes alive, while the Kansas City Chiefs secured their eighth consecutive AFC West title.

In Sunday night’s matchup, the Green Bay Packers dominated the Minnesota Vikings, edging closer to securing a playoff spot in the NFC.

Our NFL Nation reporters provided insights into the week 17 action, addressing key questions and identifying notable trends for each team.

Here are 5 Things We Learned In NFL Week 17

The ugly Eagles loss was a terrible Philly finale for the franchise’s ‘Core Four’ in Week 17

Takeaways from Eagles' Week 17 Loss vs. Cardinals
Takeaways from Eagles’ Week 17 Loss vs. Cardinals

Last year’s Super Bowl buildup held the promise of a fairy-tale conclusion for the Philadelphia Eagles’ renowned “Core Four”. What could have been a fitting farewell for these four pillars of leadership and Philly icons, embarking on what seemed like their final quest for championship glory, instead took an unexpected turn when they opted to return for another shot at Super Bowl triumph. However, it appears that their storybook journey has now reached its conclusion.

The Eagles’ devastating 35-31 defeat against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Week 17 likely marked the last home game for three key players: center Jason Kelce, linebacker Brandon Graham, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. With this loss, their playoff fate slipped from their grasp, placing the Dallas Cowboys on the verge of claiming the NFC East title and sending the Eagles on an away-game playoff journey.

For 36-year-old Kelce, 35-year-old Graham, and 33-year-old Cox, this potential outcome paints a somber picture. Despite their return for the 2023 season on essentially one-year contracts, only right tackle Lane Johnson, aged 33, is anticipated to return in 2024.

Though retirement isn’t explicitly on their minds, the Eagles may face a defensive reconstruction where seasoned players become a luxury. While Cox maintains a respectable standing as Pro Football Focus’ 20th-ranked defensive tackle with five sacks, his $10 million price tag this season raises questions. Graham, costing $5 million, saw a notable decline in productivity, recording just three sacks compared to last season’s 11.

Perhaps the Eagles will defy the odds with a miraculous playoff surge, or even secure another home game next Sunday Week 17. Regardless, a day will come when they reunite, likely amidst applause at Lincoln Financial Field. Nonetheless, their journey deserves a better conclusion than the unexpected and lackluster home finale marred by disappointment and disapproval from the local fans. Surely, this wasn’t the triumphant ending envisioned when the “Core Four” reunited for one final campaign.

The identity of the NFL’s least effective offensive team in 2023 remains uncertain, with the outcome likely to be decided in the closing moments of Week 17.

The Identity Of The NFL's Least Effective Offensive Team In 2023
The Identity Of The NFL’s Least Effective Offensive Team Week 17

Since Carolina traded its first-round pick to Chicago as part of the deal to add Bryce Young, they’ve lacked the consolation that normally goes to the worst team in the NFL, in knowing they’d at least get the top pick in the upcoming draft. They clinched the worst record Sunday Week 17, thus clinching the top pick for the Bears.

But Carolina still has a shot to finish first in something, as the Panthers are in down-to-the-wire battles for the NFL’s worst offense of 2023, both in yards and points scored.
Lowest total offense in the league? Carolina managed just 124 yards in Sunday’s shutout loss to the Jaguars, and that gave them the league’s worst total yardage, by a single yard on the Jets. The Panthers have 4,311 yards — that’s 269.44 yards per game — and the Jets have 4,312, which is 269.50 per game. One yard over 16 games separates them, though the Jets are facing the Patriots (sixth in total defense) so they might have an advantage in terms of ending up worst.

Lowest scoring total in the league? Even with a Week 17 shutout, the Panthers have scored three points more than the Patriots in 2023. Carolina is at 14.8 points per game (236 points) and New England is at 14.6 points per game (233).

If the current averages hold up, the Panthers or their challengers would be not only the NFL’s worst offense this year, but in five full seasons — you have to go back to the Josh Rosen-led 2018 Cardinals to find a team averaging so few yards (they averaged 241.6) or points (14.1). At least those Cardinals earned a No. 1 overall pick (Kyler Murray) for their struggles.

We don’t want to leave out the worst defense in the league in this note by scoring, it’s all but locked up for the Commanders, who are giving up 30 points per game. Arizona would have to give up 47 more points than Washington this week 17 for the Commanders not to clinch the worst scoring defense — they could be the first NFL team to give up 30 a game since 2020, when the Lions and Jaguars both did. Washington also has given up the most yards in the league (385.8 per game) though they have just a 48-yard lead on Cincinnati, so there’s drama there.

Aidan Hutchinson leveled up against the Cowboys in Week 17

Aidan Hutchinson Leveled Up Against The Cowboys Week 17
Aidan Hutchinson Leveled Up Against The Cowboys Week 17

Two games had passed since Aidan Hutchinson had gotten to the quarterback. He had recorded just one sack in his last five games. Detroit’s defense was suffering from a domino effect of a thin secondary and the absence of defensive tackle Alim McNeill, who went on IR before Week 14.

But in one of the biggest games of Week 17 (certainly the most controversial, in hindsight), Hutchinson showed up. He sacked Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott three times on the night.

Hutchinson spends most of his time on the left side of Detroit’s defensive line but the Lions do move him around, knowing the skillset and athleticism he possesses. For much of the first half, Hutchinson manned the outside gaps over Dallas right tackle Terence Steele.

But as soon as the Lion’s defensive coordinator moved Hutchinson to the other side of the line, Hutchinson was able to pull an inside move on left tackle Tyron Smith, who has been playing at an elite level despite a knee injury. That was Hutchinson’s first sack of Prescott.

His next two reflected that versatility, coming from different alignments all along the defensive line. Hutchinson’s second came over center Tyler Biadasz through the A-gap, which wasn’t the first time Glenn decided to try him inside during the game. The punctuation mark came in the fourth quarter when Hutchinson pulled a nasty spin move to get inside of Steele on third and five. It stopped a Cowboys drive with the Lions down four, giving the offense another chance.

Hutchinson should get the benefit of McNeill returning as soon as this week 17 (he’s eligible to come off IR) and ride this momentum into the playoffs, where his services will be crucial to the Lions making any sort of noise in the postseason

Kyler Murray Showed Up Big – In A Potential Offseason Showcase

Kyler Murray Play Week 17 Vs. Eagles
Kyler Murray Play Week 17 Vs. Eagles

Down by two touchdowns at halftime, Kyler Murray led the Arizona Cardinals to a shocking come-from-behind win on the road against one of the top teams in the NFC in the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17.

Murray had his best game since returning from a season-ending ACL knee injury in November, finishing 25-of-31 for 232 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception – a miscommunication between the quarterback and rookie receiver Michael Wilson that led to a 99-year return for a score by Philadelphia safety Sydney Brown. Murray posted a 116.7 passer rating.

With 2:33 remaining and his team trailing by a field goal, Murray led the Cardinals on a 70-yard, seven-play drive that culminated with a James Conner 2-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds left for a 35-31 victory.

Conner also had his best game of the season, rushing for 128 yards and finishing with two total touchdowns, including a deft, one-handed grab for a 5-yard touchdown catch on a scramble drill by Murray.

The Cardinals finished with 221 yards on the ground. Arizona didn’t punt once all game.
The victory was Murray’s eighth fourth-quarter comeback and 10th game-winning drive as a pro. Murray’s late-game heroics helped Arizona head coach Jonathan Gannon earn a victory against his old team, with the offseason tampering issues for the former Eagles defensive coordinator remaining a significant storyline heading into Sunday’s contest.

Murray missed two days of practice due to illness, yet still played well and is now 3-4 as a starter this season. Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort and Gannon will have a difficult decision to make this offseason on whether to keep Murray and his $230 million contract on the roster or hit the reset button and select a new quarterback in the draft to lead the franchise in 2024.

The Cardinals currently have the No. 4 overall selection in the 2024 draft heading into the regular-season finale matchup at home against the Seattle Seahawks, who remain in the postseason hunt.

Arizona also holds the first-round selection of the Houston Texans, currently slated to select No. 17.

Murray is deciding to move on a tough one for the franchise. He is only 26 years old, with plenty of treads left on his proverbial tires. And while durability and overall fit in Arizona’s offense are concerns, whether the Cardinals can find a comparable replacement for the Oklahoma product in the draft also is a legitimate issue.

For now, Murray remains focused on the present.

“The guys played great today,” Murray said after the game. “We executed and we did our thing. It was good to feel that. Obviously, with everything that happened, there was a lot of disappointment this year. A lot of tough losses. But we’re trying to finish the season off the right way.”

The giants’ offensive decline may lead to Brian Daboll calling his plays next year

Giants Coach Brian Daboll On The Sidelines Against The Rams.
Giants Coach Brian Daboll On The Sidelines Against The Rams in Week  17.

Mike Kafka was one of the hottest names on the head-coaching carousel last offseason, interviewing for four different vacant jobs. He was praised for the way he helped develop Daniel Jones and build the Giants a productive offense.

One year later, he’s not likely to have any interview offers. He might even be out of a job.

Though no one is sure what Brian Daboll is planning, several people in the organization said they would not be surprised if Daboll takes over the offensive play calling himself in 2024. It’s what many believe he initially planned to do when the Giants hired him two years ago. After all, one of the big reasons the Giants hired him away from Buffalo was because of his offensive mind.

And it has bothered him that the offense has collapsed — though that’s hardly surprising given the injuries they’ve had at quarterback and along the offensive line. There was a time this season when he was so involved with the offense it appeared to many as if he was already calling the plays. And at other times, during his postgame press conferences, he’s seemed to be bothered by the choices of offensive plays.

One point of contention happened on Sunday Week 17 when, with the Giants trailing by a point, a 31-yard run by quarterback Tyrod Taylor got the Giants to the Ram’s 34 with 43 seconds remaining. The Giants had no timeouts left, but they needed to get a little closer on a windy day to give Mason Crosby a better shot at a game-winning field goal.

But Kafka called a draw play to Saquon Barkley that resulted in a 2-yard loss.

Even if that had worked, it would’ve meant the Giants would have probably had to kick on the next play. A pass towards the sidelines had a better chance to pick up yards and would have stopped the clock and given them another shot if it fell incomplete.

Asked to explain the call, all Daboll would say was “Yeah, I’d like to have it back.”

Daboll doesn’t say much in his press conferences, ever, so it’s hard to say for sure that he disagreed with the call. Presumably, he could have overruled it if he wanted. There was time, since Taylor spiked the ball on the previous play so the clock was stopped.

But with the Giants’ offense ranked 30th — and dead last through the air — plus the way franchise quarterback Daniel Jones seemed to regress at the start of the season, plus the ongoing issues with the offensive line, it’s clear changes are coming next month. Kafka and Giants offensive line coach Bobby Johnson are the most obvious likely casualties.

Then maybe Daboll can run the offense the way he wanted to all along.



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