There is some sort of weird cousin analogy that links Week 17 to the NFL preseason, but I am too lazy to unearth it at this time. You are also too busy to wade through that muck. Anyway, know that I spent a good deal of time searching Google and Twitter using various keywords like “milestone” and “season high” and “incentive.” There is probably a more efficient way to have garnered this information, but the manual way was all that I had at my disposal. So without further ado, let us see who has what on the line for Week 17 of the NFL season.
Note: If you discover a milestone or incentive that is not listed below, please inform me via comments or Twitter so that I can add it (and give you credit).
SMIFF is (probably) hanging up his cleats. The one and only Steve Smith, Sr. says he is “89 percent sure” that Sunday’s game against the Bengals will be his last. Here is video of Smith citing his daughter as one of the main reasons he believes he is done after Sunday. Soooooo, maybe 8 to 10 targets for the guy retiring? And perhaps the Ravens bring a spirited effort into an otherwise meaningless game (both teams are eliminated from playoff contention).
Mike Evans needs 9 catches against the Panthers to reach 100 for the season. The Buccaneers are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, even though they need a billion scenarios to break favorably in order to sneak in. Still, with Cameron Brate lost for the season and no other discernible red zone threats on the team, Evans has all the makings of a target-monster this weekend.
Isaiah Crowell needs one touchdown to match his career high of seven. I am not overly fond of math but I know two touchdowns would mean a new personal record for “The Crow.” Against the nothing-to-play-for Steelers, I could see it happening.
Ezekiel Elliott is third ALL-TIME in rushing yardage for a player in his rookie season (1,631). Only Eric Dickerson (1,808) and George Rogers (1,674) had higher rushing totals as rookies. The Cowboys have said that the rookie rushing record is of no importance to them, but you have to think Zeke at least wants the 44 yards that would allow him to leap Rogers for the second place. The 178 yards it would require to pass Dickerson seems out of reach with Dallas likely resting their starters some this weekend—but being second fiddle to Eric flipping Dickerson is still an excellent achievement. Zeke is also only six yards (rushing or receiving) away from 2,000 scrimmage yards. The only other rookie runners to accomplish the 2,000 scrimmage yards feat were Eric Dickerson (surprise) and Edgerrin James. Pretty elite company.
LeSean McCoy and the Bills could finish 8-8 with a win over the Jets this weekend. Brandon Marshall has not missed a game all season and needs to shake off a questionable tag (hip, shoulder) in order to keep that streak alive. That said, he is a banged up veteran playing in a meaningless game. I would not expect fireworks.
Jordan Howard has not scored a touchdown on the road all season. He faces the Vikings at US Bank Stadium this Sunday. More importantly, Howard needs 61 yards rushing to break Matt Forte’s franchise record for rookie rushing yards. Howard is sitting on 1,178 yards currently, good for seventh in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Vikings will be attempting to end a disappointing season with a victory, which would allow them to draw even at 8-8 overall. I would put my money on Howard.
The Colts need a win to finish 8-8 overall. Chuck Pagano said that finishing 8-8 means everything. Or “the world.” I don’t remember, but it was cliche and lame. What is important is that it has been discussed. There are a plethora of Colts milestones and incentives that could be reached this weekend, involving Adam Vinatieri, Frank Gore, and T.Y. Hilton. Feel free to read here for more information. Chief among those storylines is that Adam Vinatieri needs one stinking field goal to earn $500,000 bucks. He is almost guaranteed to kick five PATs this weekend. The other major milestone is Gore needing 37 rushing yards to reach the 1,000 yard plateau. He would be the first Indy running back to accomplish that feat since Joseph Addai way back in 2007. Hey, I found a way we can all throw shade on Trent Richardson in Week 17 of 2016! You are welcome, ladies and gents.
Does Bill Belichick care about milestones? I highly doubt it. In fact, I could see the Patriots mailing it in a bit this week. Do you really think the Pats would be afraid to travel on the road to face the Raiders and Matt McGloin for a chance to play in the Superbowl? I don’t. I would tread lightly with my Brady shares this weekend.
Travis Kelce needs 100 yards against the Chargers to set the NFL record for most 100-yard games in a season by a tight end (7). Here is a list of players who have accomplished this feat or come close to it—impressive company for sure. Everyone knows the Antonio Gates narrative by now—the big guy needs one touchdown to tie Tony Gonzalez for the most touchdowns scored by a tight end, ever (111). In my weekly tight end rankings I discussed why I believe Gates will NOT reach this milestone this weekend.
David Johnson needs 159 yards receiving to reach 1,000 rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. This is something only Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk have done in the NFL. It is DEFINITELY on Johnson’s mind, and on the minds of the coaching staff. However, Johnson will need to bust a big one and get close to the record in order for the team to begin chasing the milestone. But still. It’s David flipping Johnson. The devil’s advocate in me would also like to point out that DJ is obviously a prized possession and this game against the Rams means absolutely nothing.
Demaryius Thomas needs 4 receptions to mark his fifth straight year with at least 90 receptions. Only some dude named Antonio Brown is averaging more catches over the last four seasons.
No New York Giants receiver has ever been the NFL leader in receiving yardage, but Odell Beckham, Jr. (1323) is only 30 yards behind T.Y. Hilton (1353) for that distinction. Julio Jones is not 100 percent but is sitting pretty at 1313. Antonio Brown (1284) will not play this weekend, so that leaves Mike Evans (1256) as the only other serious contender. Jordy Nelson (1191) would have to have an all-time game...
Russell Wilson can set a new career high for passing yardage if he surpasses 63 yards this week. Wilson has already set a new career high for interceptions with 11, so at least that is behind him.
Drew Brees has 4,858 yards passing, so the epic 5,000 yard plateau is highly attainable. The Saints are also going for an 8-8 record and trying to play spoiler against a divisional opponent. The game is in a dome, too, so you can throw out the damning home-away splits for Brees and Brandin Cooks. Michael Thomas needs 7 receptions, 58 yards, and one touchdown to hold each of those records for a Saints rookie receiver. He also needs only 19 yards to surpass the 1,000 yard mark. Amazingly enough, Thomas never reached the 1,000 yard mark in college. I love me some Brees-to-Thomas stacks this weekend.
Jordy Nelson needs nine catches, nine yards, and one touchdown to hit the 100-1200-15 club, which would put him into HALL-OF-FAME company with only Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter, and Jerry Rice. Check out the statistics here. And by the way, those numbers are apparently not Pro-Bowl worthy.
Finally, Aaron Rodgers (36), Drew Brees (35), and Matt Ryan (34) are neck-and-neck (and neck?) for the NFL lead in touchdown passes. Rodgers and Ryan are jockeying for playoff positions, so that is infinitely more important to them and their respective teams. Brees, however, appears to have no shortage of reasons to “let it all hang out” this weekend. Hmm...