The NFL regular season is just one week away from conclusion with just two more playoff spots up for grabs, including the final playoff spot in each conference. While three teams are battling for the No. 7 seed in the AFC and NFC, plenty of teams will see their seasons end next week.
With one week to go in the regular season, there's plenty we learned about every team in the NFL at this point in the season. Even as the regular season winds down, we can learn more about these teams as they prepare for the playoffs -- or the offseason. What did we learned about each team in Week 17?
Trey McBride gives a glimpse of the future: McBride had seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown for the Cardinals, by far his best game in the NFL. McBride had a season-high 10 targets in the game -- or more than he had in the last two games.
McBride caught his first career touchdown pass in the process, an encouraging sign for a player who had just four catches through the first 10 weeks of his rookie season. If anything, McBride appears to be a valuable No. 2 tight end in Arizona in 2023.
Kyle Pitts with Desmond Ridder could be fun: Pitts has been on injured reserve, which makes things intriguing if he were healthy with Ridder at quarterback. Ridder has targeted the tight ends frequently in his starts, with MyCole Pruitt leading the team with 49 receiving yards in Sunday's win.
Ridder would immensely benefit with Pitts catching passes from him, and he would significantly help his development as a passer. Pruitt looks like a good candidate to bring back for 2023, especially if the Falcons go with Ridder another year. Targeting the tight ends seem to be vital for this offense.
The wide receiver position was worse than we thought: Baltimore's wide receivers have the fewest receiving yards in the league going into Week 17. Somehow, they were even more ineffective than they've been all year in Sunday's loss to the Steelers.
DeMarcus Robinson and DeSean Jackson were the only two receivers with a catch. Both players combined for two catches for 18 yards and Sammy Watkins wasn't targeted at all. Baltimore typically has just one wideout on the field, so that doesn't help matters.
If the Ravens want to keep Lamar Jackson around, they have to significantly improve this position in 2023.
This team really missed Jaycee Horn: Tom Brady had his best passing day of the season (432 yards, three touchdowns) against a Panthers secondary that was without its cornerback which opposing quarterbacks had a 35.8 passer rating against this year.
Horn didn't play in the first matchup against Tampa Bay, so the Buccaneers were prepared to throw the ball in his absence. They didn't have Donte Jackson either (been on injured reserve), so it was no surprise Brady would have his way against a depleted secondary. The Panthers allowed just 213.9 yards per game in games Horn has played, so his absence was significant in a must-win game.
Took 17 weeks to throw in the towel: The Bears have the worst record in the NFC, but they were prepared to play and fought hard every week. They looked that way through the first 15 minutes against the Lions -- then the wheels fell apart.
Chicago looked like a deer in the headlights once Detroit stopped Justin Fields on the ground, and the defense had no answer for the Lions' rushing attack either. This was a performance the Bears will look to erase on film quickly, but this is what happens when a team hasn't contended all year.
Donovan Peoples-Jones has thrived with Deshaun Watson: Peoples-Jones doesn't have gaudy stats with Watson, but he's shined when the ball has come his way. His one catch Sunday was a crucial 13-yard touchdown reception that put Cleveland up by two scores over Washington -- a game the Browns wanted to play spoiler after being eliminated from playoff contention.
Watson admitted he and Peoples-Jones worked on that touchdown play in practice leading up to the game and knew Washington would play that coverage. Peoples-Jones has just 46 receiving yards in the last three games, but has two touchdowns in that stretch. He's becoming an important red zone target for Watson.
The offense significantly missed Tony Pollard: Dallas didn't have Pollard available for Thursday's win over Tennessee as the Pro Bowl running back was nursing a thigh injury. The run game was unimpressive as the Cowboys averaged just 2.7 yards per carry and totaled 87 yards.
Ezekiel Elliott had just 19 carries for 37 yards while backup running back Malik Davis had 10 carries for 39 yards. The production would have been significantly better with Pollard, who needs to be healthy and productive for Dallas to make a Super Bowl run.
The 87 rushing yards were the lowest total for Dallas since Week 3. That's not a coincidence.
Special teams were significantly better: The impact interim head coach Jerry Rosburg made was felt in less than a week, starting with the firing of special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes. Special teams were significantly improved in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs.
Eyioma Uwazurike blocked a field goal, Alex Singleton forced a fumble on a punt, and Brandon McManus hit a 49-yard field goal. Denver got 10 points on the board as a result of special teams and took away three, making the game closer than what it probably should have been. Fixing special teams could make the Broncos more competitive in 2023.
James Houston continues to impress: Houston doesn't get talked about enough for the impact he's made on the Lions' pass rush. Houston finished with three sacks and a forced fumble in Sunday's win over the Bears, giving him eight on the season -- in just six games.
Houston leads all NFL rookies in sacks, having 0.5 more than teammate Aidan Hutchinson. Those two are the only rookies with over six sacks on the year -- and they play for the same team. The Lions are playing Houston more as a result, not just on passing downs.
Houston can play. He and Hutchinson can be a force on that defense for a long time.
Takeaways are coming fast: Green Bay had four takeaways in Sunday's win over Minnesota, giving the Packers 12 in their last four games. Green Bay scored 28 points off its four takeaways, the most in a game for the Packers since 2005 -- the catalyst of the blowout victory.
The Packers had just eight takeaways in their previous eight games, a stretch which they went 1-7 and seemingly fell out of the playoff race. The insane amount of takeaways Green Bay is getting has the Packers one win away from the postseason. The defense has played an even bigger role than Aaron Rodgers has.
Horrendous on third down: The Texans finished 6 of 17 on third down in Sunday's loss to the Jaguars, but five of those conversions came when the game was well out of hand. Houston has one of the worst third-down conversion rates in football at 30% -- 30th in the NFL.
The Texans were 16 of 39 on third down in their last three games (41%), a reason why they were more competitive in those contests. The Jaguars put them back to midseason form in converting third downs, and the result was arguably their worst game of the year.
First-quarter decision set the tone: Did Jeff Saturday kicking a field goal from the 5-yard line in the first quarter set the tone for Sunday's blowout loss? The Colts have nothing to play for and nothing to lose, so why kick a 23-yard field goal and take an early lead instead of going for it?
All the Colts needed was a yard on fourth-and-1. The situation wasn't fourth-and-goal and the Colts went for a yard the prior week. The decision just seemed like one teams make when they are trying to lose games to end the season to improve their draft stock.
Doug Pederson was wise to play his starters: The overall result didn't affect Jacksonville's chances to win the AFC South, yet the momentum continued for the Jaguars because Pederson decided to play his starters against the Texans. Jacksonville built a large halftime lead and cruised from there, giving the Jaguars their fourth straight win heading into the Week 18 showdown with Tennessee for the division.
Because of Pederson's decision to play his starters, Jacksonville can still actually make the postseason even if the Jaguars lose to the Titans. Not only does Jacksonville have momentum against a team that has lost six straight, but could get into the playoffs another way (although much harder) as a result of Pederson playing his starters in a "meaningless" game.
First-round rookies impacting defense: George Karlaftis has been playing very well as of late, having 14 pressures and five sacks in his last six games. He had just one pressure Sunday, but it resulted in a sack. The Chiefs have 17 sacks and 87 total pressures over the last six games, a result of Karlaftis' development.
Trent McDuffie also had a strong game Sunday, allowing just three catches for 17 yards. In his last two games, McDuffie has allowed just four catches for 24 yards as he's slowly becoming a good cornerback in the league. McDuffie and Karlaftis are becoming key pieces in the Chiefs defense, needed parts for the team's Super Bowl run.
Different quarterback, another double-digit lead blown: Perhaps Derek Carr isn't the problem when it goes to Josh McDaniels blowing leads. Jarrett Stidham had a very impressive first start in the NFL, yet the Raiders still managed to blow a 10-point, second-half lead -- the fifth this season.
Stidham played very well, completing 23 of 34 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns. His two interceptions in the second half, including the one in overtime that capped the 49ers' comeback victory, looked similar to the games the team lost with Carr at quarterback.
Again, is Carr really the problem? Or is he the scapegoat?
Pass defense is ready for the playoffs: The Chargers secondary has not allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for over 160 yards in each of the last four games, a run which the pass defense has allowed just 124.8 pass yards per game (including just 132 to Baker Mayfield).
Sure the Chargers haven't faced world beaters at quarterback recently (Tua Tagovailoa was the best one they faced in the stretch), but the pass defense is showing they are ready for the elite quarterbacks coming their way in the postseason. This pass defense shouldn't be taken lightly.
Took 17 weeks to allow a 100-yard rusher: The Rams were one of just four teams to not allow a 100-yard rusher on the year, so it was a bit of a surprise Austin Ekeler broke the streak. Ekeler's 72-yard run did Los Angeles in as he finished with 10 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns on the ground (the Rams allowed a season-high 192 rush yards).
The Rams run defense has been a bright spot in a very disappointing season, yet they joined the party of futility in Week 17.
Run game nonexistent again: This gets discussed way too much for a team with Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert on it. The Dolphins had just 86 rushing yards and averaged 3.2 yards per carry in Sunday's loss, but at least Mike McDaniel called for 27 carries this time.
The Dolphins have run for less than 100 yards in four of the last five games, losing all of them. Miami has averaged just 96.2 rush yards per game during the five-game losing streak, and abandoned the run during an 188-yard performance against the Bills in the snow. With Tua Tagovailoa out, the Dolphins have to commit to the run -- and they just won't do it.
This team gets blown out when Justin Jefferson is a non-factor: Jefferson was held to one catch for 15 yards on five targets in Sunday's blowout loss to the Packers, a similar fate to when the star wideout was taken out of the game plan. Jefferson had just six catches for 48 yards in a 24-7 loss to the Eagles and three catches for 33 yards in the 40-3 loss to the Cowboys.
When Jefferson is taken out of the offense, the Vikings are ineffective and they get blown out. This is a disturbing trend that doesn't bode well for the playoffs.
Depleted secondary shines bright: The Patriots were missing three cornerbacks in Sunday's win over the Dolphins, leaving Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Tae Hayes, and practice-squad elevation Quandre Mosely to face Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Sure Miami didn't have Tua Tagovailoa throwing to Hill and Waddle, but both have been productive in games without the Pro Bowl quarterback. Hill and Waddle combined for seven catches for 107 yards, but had no receiving touchdowns as the Dolphins could manifest just 14 points in the first 58 minutes.
For the cards the Patriots were dealt at cornerback, they found a way to have the best possible hand.
Marshon Lattimore's impact was felt: The Saints were hanging on by a thread when Lattimore picked off Gardner Minshew for a 12-yard touchdown with 5:27 left that put the game away for New Orleans. Lattimore missed 10 games with a lacerated kidney and abdominal injuries, but made his presence felt in his first game back.
The Saints went 27 minutes of game time without a score as the Eagles were rallying from a 13-0 hole. When the game was trending in the Eagles' favor, Lattimore made sure the Saints stole a win on the road.
Minshew had a 27.1 rating targeting Lattimore. His presence in the secondary certainly made a difference, which is what New Orleans missed most of this season.
Daniel Jones had his best game as a pro when Giants needed it most: There isn't much to say regarding how great Jones was in Sunday's win over the Colts. Jones completed 19 of 24 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and rushed for 91 yards and two scores in New York's blowout victory.
Chalk up another game with no turnovers for Jones, as the quarterback has just two over his last six games (one interception, one fumble). The Giants are competent on offense because of Jones and his ability to protect the football this year (he has just seven giveaways and the lowest interception rate in football at 1.1%). New York is in the playoffs because of Jones, who had his best game of his career with the postseason on the line.
Breece Hall injury really changed the season: Hall's season-ending ACL injury affected the Jets in more ways than one, as the team ultimately couldn't overcome the loss of an impact player, ending its playoff chances.
The Jets are 2-7 since Hall tore his ACL, going with three different quarterbacks and averaging just 92.1 rushing yards per game. Losing a breakout player like Hall altered the course of the season and affected the offense the rest of the way.
Miles Sanders needs to get the ball more: Sanders is fifth in the NFL in rushing and eighth in rushing touchdowns. He's fifth among running backs in yards per touch (5.42) since 2019 (his rookie year). The Eagles gave Sanders just 12 touches in Sunday's loss to the Saints, as Sanders rushed for 61 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
Sanders getting the ball needs to be paramount in this offense, yet the Eagles coaching staff failed him -- and Gardner Minshew -- in running the ball just 14 times (designed runs) on the afternoon. Did Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen forget they have a backup quarterback and a Pro Bowl running back?
Knee injury aside, the Eagles didn't activate Trey Sermon if they were actually concerned about Sanders. Getting just 12 touches is unacceptable.
The running game stepped up in a big way: Pittsburgh's run game has not been as good as in past years, yet found a way to shine against a Baltimore run defense that allowed 87.5 yards per game (third in the NFL). Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren combined for 187 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
The 198 rushing yards were the most for the Steelers since Week 10 and the most Baltimore has allowed in any game this season. Pittsburgh has averaged 141.8 rush yards per game over the last six games, a huge reason why the Steelers are still in the playoff mix heading into the final week.
Brock Purdy checks off another box: The 49ers went down 24-14 with with 10:22 remaining in the third quarter, then Purdy took over the game. The rookie quarterback finished 13 of 23 for 236 yards with an interception over the rest of the game, but he averaged 10.2 yards per attempt and led San Francisco on scoring drives on five of his final seven possessions (which included a missed field goal).
Not only did Purdy bring the 49ers back, but he led them on what would have been a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter and was credited for a game-winning drive in overtime (even though all he did was kneel for 2 yards on it).
Purdy played well despite the deficit. He's proving to be more than just a game manager.
Kenneth Walker is back: After injuries caused Walker to hit a rookie wall (39 carries, 126 yards, 3.5 yards per carry from Weeks 10 through 15), the running back has shown up when Seattle needed him to keep its playoff hopes alive. Walker had 23 carries for 133 yards against the Jets -- setting the tone with a 60-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
Seattle rushed for 198 yards in Sunday's win, easily their highest total since their bye week in Week 11 (only one 100-yard rushing game in the five games prior to Sunday). As Walker goes, so do the Seahawks.
Tom Brady reconnected with Mike Evans: One week after having just three catches for 25 yards, Brady was able to find his top wideout in the biggest game of the year. Evans -- who didn't have a touchdown in his past 11 games -- had three scores to go with his 10 catches for 207 yards.
Evans had just 18 catches in his last 39 targets (five games), so having 10 catches on 12 targets was huge for a Buccaneers pass offense that has been sporadic throughout the year. Chris Godwin also had nine catches for 120 yards on nine targets -- a strong sign for Tampa Bay headed into the postseason.
Joshua Dobbs gives Tennessee the best chance to win in Week 18: Dobbs went 20 of 39 for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his first start for Tennessee -- not bad for a player who signed with the team's practice squad a week prior. The Titans decided they will start Dobbs in Week 18 against the Jaguars for the division title, and it's the right call.
Dobbs is just a better option than Malik Willis at this time. His throws are more accurate and the offense flowed efficiently without Derrick Henry available. Opposing defenses at least have to respect Dobbs in his ability to throw the football, which could set Henry up for a big game in the AFC South title match.
The Titans have a chance with Dobbs. That's all Tennessee can ask for.
Starting Carson Wentz with playoffs on line was a mistake: What was Ron Rivera thinking going back to Wentz? In his first start since returning from injury (and essentially being replaced for Taylor Heinicke), Wentz went 16 of 23 for 148 yards and three interceptions (31.4 rating) in a loss that eliminated the Commanders from playoff contention.
In his last two games where his team essentially fought for their playoff lives, Wentz is 33 of 57 for 328 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions (50.9 rating). This idea of going back to Wentz was destined to fail, and a huge gaffe by Rivera to leave the season on the line to Wentz.