There is no shortage of intrigue in the Week 17 games. While everyone else is talking about playoff possibilities and seeding scenarios, I am going to start with a couple games whose impact will last well past the Super Bowl in February.
THE GAMES THAT WILL PUT SOMEONE ON THE CLOCK: Colts-Jaguars and **49ers-Rams**. Did you catch the HBO sneak preview for "Luck" a couple of weeks ago? I watched like 25 minutes before I found out it was about horse racing and not the NFL draft. I'll have to learn to live with that disappointment. Either the Colts or the Rams will pick first in 2012. If the Colts lose, they choose No. 1, regardless of what else happens. If the Colts win, and the Rams lose, St. Louis picks No. 1 for the second time in three years. If both teams win or lose, the Colts "win" all tiebreakers with the Rams, so they'll have the top slot.
So how does it go down? The 49ers are looking to lock up the No. 2 seed and a bye in the playoffs. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo apparently has his next job lined up, so he's all prepared for Black Monday. Even if it's Kendall Hunter or Tom Rathman getting carries, this shouldn't be close. The Rams are giving up 154 yards a game on the ground. Meanwhile, the 49ers have given up the least number of points this season, and the Rams have scored the least. Final score? 49ers 27, Rams -4.
Meanwhile, the Colts will make this Sunday interesting, because I have a sneaking suspicion they win against Jacksonville. Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday and some others could be playing their final games as Colts, and they're fresh off the energy of their upset of the Texans. The Colts look like they're having fun playing football again -- hey, better late to the party than not to have come at all -- and they're playing against Blaine Gabbert, who's been the worst QB in football this season. Plus, Dan Orlovsky just had triplets. I don't know what that really means, but it's more good karma for Indianapolis. I'm not saying it's a pretty game, and I think it's close, but a miracle in St. Louis (like the 49ers bus driver getting lost on the way to the stadium) and the end of this game will be one the entire world will want to see with so much at stake. Come to think of it, that might make things interesting. Delay the 49ers in getting to the Edward Jones Dome until the start of the third quarter. With the Rams playing literally against no one, they could get up like 17-0 by halftime and really make it interesting for the second half.
THE GAME THAT WILL END THE TEBOW MADNESS: Broncos-Chiefs. One of my favorite movie scenes of all-time is from "Outbreak", the 1995 flick about monkeys spreading a disease that could bring about the end of the world. (Just think about how much the world gets saved in the movies. Seriously. I think the original "Planet of the Apes" is the only one where the world doesn't make it.) Anyway, Donald Sutherland plays an army general who treats a colonel just horribly throughout the movie. At the end, the colonel gets to arrest Sutherland's character, whose response is to smile and say to the colonel "What a wonderful moment this must be for you." Playing the role of the colonel this week is Kyle Orton. Think about his season: trade bait in Denver, starter in Denver, scourge of Denver, waived, picked up by Chiefs, hurt on first play, beats Packers to end unbeaten season, and now he can end the Broncos' magic carpet ride and exact revenge. I think Orton puts up a lot of points, but more importantly the Chiefs are a bad defensive matchup for Tebow. K.C.'s defense is much better than you think -- after giving up 89 points the first two weeks of the season, they're now 15th in total defense. They've tightened up a ton, and at times this year they've looked dominant. The Chiefs love playing for interim coach Romeo Crennel, who might be coaching for his job this weekend. I think this is the shocker of shockers, and the Chiefs win. I know, I've turned the page on Tebow in a week, but that's how it happens.
THE GAME THAT WILL MAKE HUE JACKSON A PROPHET: Chargers-Raiders. After last week's win over the Chiefs, Jackson said how earlier this season, "The man (Al Davis) told me 'Hue, we'll win it in the end.' I believe that." I don't know how much I believe that as much as I do the Chargers are in full mail-it-in mode. You're expecting fire and fight from a team who knows its head coach (and GM, possibly) could be fired? You don't just go from those depths to an inspired effort away from home in Week 17. When beat writers are saying that the Chargers locker room has an end-of-season feel to it before the actual end of the season, it's not happening. And how fitting would it be to see the Empire Raiders be the team to triumph over the Rebellion Tebows? (Are you picturing Tebow, minus a hand, desperately holding onto a weather vane and hoping John Elway can read his thoughts and come save him?) Bottom line is this: The past two years, Oakland is 9-2 in the division. They've clearly been the best team over that stretch, and that trend will continue. I have to believe someone's going to step up and win a game in the final week.
THE GAME THAT WILL SEND AN UNDESERVING TEAM TO THE PLAYOFFS: Cowboys-Giants. Good luck trying to figure these two teams out. All season long I've said Dallas is going to win the NFC East, so I have to stick with them here on the road in Week 17. Why? First of all, the Giants are coming off a playoff-type game against the Jets. And the Giants realize they're 8-7, right? After the game they talked like they were 12-3 and just dispatched an inferior, loud-mouth team. Um, you're just as inferior as the Jets. And this is why I'm staying with Dallas, Tony Thumbo and all. The Cowboys' season has been more about missed opportunities than not being good enough. (See games against the Lions, Giants, Jets, and Patriots for details.) That's more correctable than the Giants' flaws.
THE GAME THAT OPENS UP THE REST OF THE AFC PLAYOFF RACE: Ravens-Bengals. What's been the knock on Cincinnati all season long? They haven't won any big games. And that bears out. How many wins do they have against teams over .500? One, and that's against Tennessee, who's no giant. A win over Baltimore would validate the Bengals as a contender, and they can say, "See, we are really good. We deserve to be in the playoffs!" Sadly, that's not going to happen. Baltimore is playing for the AFC North crown and a bye and also, they're the better football team. You think home-field is going to make a difference? The team has had to beg fans to come to this week's game, even offering buy-one-get-one-free tickets. And the playoffs are at stake. How are we not talking about relocating them to Los Angeles? I know the Ravens are banged up, and if they had nothing at stake, I could see it playing out differently. Cedric Benson has fumbled five times in the past two weeks, and turnovers will rule the day for the Ravens. This one has 17-6 written all over it.
See Jason Smith on "NFL Fantasy Live," airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the NFL RedZone channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes Fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.