Motivation is all over the place in terms of these different teams, so we’re going to try and isolate five teams that actually care about what happens in Week 17, coupled with matchups against teams that, preferably, might not care.
The only exception would be the Panthers-Falcons situation, but I just see the Panthers as a better team and one that should care deeply about the outcome of its game, pending some other results.
Maybe they bring out Nick Foles to wing it around, but the smart move is to play it safe and to get out of Dodge without anyone suffering any harm that will keep a critical player off the field over the next two weeks.
The Vikings are really good at blowing out bad teams, and the Bears are a bad team.
The Vikings can’t catch the Eagles for home field, but they can secure a bye with a win, and that’s a big deal for a team that has overcome a lot of obstacles and, if things break right, might not have to leave home before the Super Bowl.
The Panthers literally just fought the Buccaneers to the bitter end in Week 16; why would they assume that the Bucs will just roll over against the Saints at home? But the Panthers know that there’s a chance Minnesota could lose and the Saints could lose and that would result in Carolina, if it won, securing the No.
Even just New Orleans losing and Carolina winning would result in the Panthers winning the NFC South.