By Dan Durkin–
(CBS) It’s hard to believe it, but the NFL regular season comes to an end this weekend. Seven teams that made the playoffs last season are set to return. Week 17 features several intriguing matchups that will impact seeding in both conferences.READ MORE: One Person Missing, Three Rescued From Lake Michigan In Evanston Amid Dangerous Rip Currents
With Black Monday looming for many NFL franchises, here’s my take on how this weekend’s action plays out.
Jets 27, BILLS 20 — noon
The only thing that stands between the Jets making the playoffs is former coach Rex Ryan and his Buffalo Bills. These two teams have gone in opposite directions since the Bills beat the Jets, 22-17, back in Week 10. Brandon Marshall will make the playoffs for the first time in his NFL career.
Patriots 31, DOLPHINS 20 — noon
Having lost to Denver, New England is motivated to wrap up a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Patriots have lost their last two games in Sun Life Stadium but will take care of business against a Dolphins team preparing for yet another offseason rebuild.
BENGALS 23, Ravens 17 — noon
The Bengals missed out on an opportunity to get a first-round bye, squandering a 14-3 lead last week in Denver. The Bengals offense has taken an expected step back under backup quarterback A.J. McCarron, but they still have enough to get past an undermanned Ravens team.
FALCONS 31, Saints 24 — noon
Prior to the season, this game was likely thought of as the NFC South de facto championship game, yet neither team will finish the season with a winning record. Sean Payton’s future is uncertain with the Saints, whose defense is the league’s worst, and there’s no chance Drew Brees will be worth the money he’s scheduled to make next season. The Falcons are building something under Dan Quinn and will fight hard to finish the season .500.
TEXANS 27, Jaguars 24 — noon
The Texans’ game of musical chairs at quarterback finds Brian Hoyer as the last man sitting once again. They’ve gone through four different quarterbacks this season yet still have an opportunity to close out the atrocious AFC South and head to the playoffs. The Jaguars can score; they just can’t stop anybody from doing the same to them.
Steelers 34, BROWNS 16 — noon
The Steelers missed a golden opportunity last week, losing to a Ryan Mallet-led Ravens outfit. Now their only chance to make the playoffs is a win against Cleveland and a Jets loss to Buffalo. I know this much: The Steelers will take care of their end of the bargain against the Browns.
COLTS 23, Titans 17 — noon
In one of the league’s worst-kept secrets, Colts coach Chuck Pagano is seemingly halfway out the door. The problem is this situation won’t get any better until general manager Ryan Grigson is let go as well. Grigson has literally done nothing to protect Andrew Luck since drafting him, yet Pagano will be the fall guy. The Titans are vying for the top overall pick and won’t do anything to change that this weekend in Indianapolis.
Lions 27, BEARS 23 — noonREAD MORE: Chicago Weather: Last Weekend Of Summer May Be Among Nicest
It’s the NFC North basement battle in Chicago. The Lions are playing for their coach’s job, while the Bears are trying to avoid their second straight double-digit loss season. The Lions offense has been effective under new coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, and their weapons will give the Bears’ back seven on defense fits.
Eagles 31, GIANTS 27 — noon
Might this be Tom Coughlin’s last game in New York? His Giants haven’t made the playoffs for four straight seasons and six of their last seven. The Eagles already got a head start on Black Monday and pushed the ejector button on the Chip Kelly experiment. The Eagles secondary will be shredded by Odell Beckham Jr., but I have a feeling DeMarco Murray is used properly for the first time this season and has a big game for Philly.
CHIEFS 23, Raiders 20 — 3:25 p.m.
The Chiefs are in the playoffs but could end up as the No. 3, No. 5 or No. 6 seed depending on the outcome of the Broncos’ game. If they win against the Raiders, they assure themselves the No. 5 seed. The Chiefs are dealing with some injuries along their defensive front and will face a stout Raiders offensive line. The Raiders are building something strong for the future, but they’ll have a tough time on the road against a stout Chiefs defense.
PANTHERS 31, Bucs 20 — 3:25 p.m.
The Panthers’ push for perfection was stymied last week by the Falcons. In many ways, that’s a good thing. Now they can refocus their energy for the playoffs. They get a nice tune-up game at home against a bad Bucs team.
BRONCOS 31, Chargers 17 — 3:25 p.m.
Denver has an opportunity to secure the No. 1 seed should New England falter in Miami. The Broncos are doing just enough on offense to eke out wins but should bust out this weekend against the Chargers. San Diego has an uncertain future and certainly is no match for Denver on either side of the ball.
Rams 20, 49ERS 17 — 3:25 p.m.
The Rams are such a difficult team to figure out. They look hapless against the majority of the league yet swept the season series against the Seahawks. Go figure. Speaking of hapless, that’s a perfect description for the 49ers. Their offensive line will be dominated by the Rams.
CARDINALS 27, Seahawks 24 — 3:25 p.m.
The Cardinals have clinched one of the NFC’s top two seeds but have an opportunity to get home-field advantage should they win and the Panthers lose. Meanwhile, Seattle is playoff-bound as well and has an opportunity to get the No. 5 seed, should it and Green Bay win. I’ve maintained all year the Cardinals are the NFC’s best team, and they’ll prove it against the Seahawks.
Vikings 24, PACKERS 23 — 7:30 p.m.
While the Bears and Lions battle for the basement, the Packers host the Vikings for the NFC North crown. The Packers offense — and in particular their offensive line — is in shambles. They were utterly dismantled last week against Arizona. The Vikings’ defensive front is just as talented and will give the Packers fits. I like the Vikings to do as they’ve done all year and grind it out with their defense and running game.
Season record through Week 16: 151-89 (Last week: 10-6)MORE NEWS: Artists Who Struggled Mightily Amid Pandemic Hope To Make Up For Lost Time At West Loop Art Fest
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @djdurkin.