Bold predictions for NFL Week 17: Steelers' Mason Rudolph, Packers' Jordan Love win upset amid playoff chase

Week 17 of 2023 NFL The season is underway, and we've already seen Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco — it still seems funny to write that, given that he's the Baltimore Ravens' all-time passing yards and touchdown leader — make Browns history.

Flacco threw for 300 or more yards for the fourth straight game in the Browns' 37-20 win over the New York Jets to tie a Cleveland record for most consecutive games with at least 300 yards. Flacco also snapped the Jets' streak of 33 games without allowing 300 passing yards, which was the longest by a defense since the 2005-08 Indianapolis Colts.

Because anything can happen when it comes to NFLWhat's next, you ask? Well, here are five bold predictions for this weekend's Week 17 slate, which includes Saturday night's game — the NFC North champion Detroit Lions at the Dallas Cowboys — and the rest on Sunday.

Jordan Love throws for more than 300 yards for the second time in 2023, prompting Packers to thwart victory over Vikings

The Week 17 finale between the 7-8 Green Bay Packers and 7-8 Minnesota Vikings is essentially a playoff game, since the loser's chances of making the postseason will evaporate into thin air.

With the Packers down Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander Thanks to a one-match suspension, first-year quarterback Jordan Love will need to bring his “A” game to “Sunday Night Football” on the road at Minnesota, and he will. Although Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores' unit has been putting quarterbacks in trouble all season, yielding an NFL-high rate of 48.3%, Love and the NFL The smallest attack will produce enough points to win.

His 27 assists are tied for third in the league this season, but he'll likely need to score with the Vikings as Alexander won't be trailing 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson as he has been the past few meetings. Love will step up and throw for more than 300 yards for the second time in his career to make amends. The first time he did that was in Week 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers in a narrow 23-20 win.

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Love has thrown eight touchdowns and just one interception against the blitz, and he's taking on Flores' chaotic defense in a big way to avenge Green Bay's 24-10 Week 8 loss against the Vikings, keeping the Packers squarely in the NFC chase. Week 18.

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Mason Rudolph exploded in his first start of the season after coming off the bench as the Steelers' third-string quarterback, throwing for 290 yards and a touchdown in a 34-11 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16. With him “Scheduled to be this week's quarterback.” In the 8-7 Seattle Seahawks, they would come out again and keep Pittsburgh in the AFC wild card race entering the final week of the season.

Rudolph threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns against Cincy with receiver George Pickens coming back to life and accounting for 195 of those yards and two scores, including an 86-yard touchdown to start the game. The duo would connect for over 100 yards again as Rudolph threw for over 315 yards (career high), sacked NFL leader TJ Watt (17.0) and the Steelers defense did enough despite injuries in the secondary to pull out a major road win . Geno Smith, DK Metcalfe, Tyler Lockett & Co.

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The Buccaneers are winners of four straight games and need to win just one of their last two games to clinch the NFC South division title. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was thriving over the stretch with nine touchdowns and just one interception along with 1,010 passing yards on a 62.8% completion percentage, good for a 110.6 passer rating.

Wide receiver Chris Godwin's breakout over the past two weeks played a key role in the team scoring 30 or more points in each of those wins, which came at the Packers (34-20) and against the Jacksonville Jaguars (30-12). His 233 receiving yards (third-most in the NFL in a time period) on 16 catches (tied for second-most in a time period) are two of the most prolific totals in the league since Week 15.

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However, the Pro Bowl wide receiver has only one receiving touchdown this season, which is currently tied for his lowest since his rookie year in 2017 when he also had just one receiving touchdown. Godwin's targets have been in the double digits in each of the past three weeks, and in a game where Tampa Bay could clinch the division, he comes in with his second touchdown of the season.

The Saints' seventh-ranked passing defense (194.7 yards allowed per game, seventh in the NFL) and 18 passes allowed (also seventh in the NFL) will focus on league receiving touchdowns leader Mike Evans, who has 13, Which will open up the opportunity for Godwin to end the scoring drought. His only touchdown of the season came in a 24-18 Week 8 loss at the Buffalo Bills from three yards out. That changes on Sunday.

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Falcons rookie running back Bijan Robinson, the eighth overall pick in 2023 NFL draft, is having a solid season despite some ignorance early in the season from head coach and offensive play caller Arthur Smith. His 1,246 yards from scrimmage are seventh in the NFL among running backs, and 873 of them have reached the ground, tied for 10th in the league.

Robinson will do something on Sunday for the Bears that he has only done in four games this season: rush for 80 or more yards in a game. The home Bears have yet to allow an individual rusher to go 80 or more on the ground this season, but Robinson will be the first. He went for 72 on the ground on just 12 carries, six yards per rush, in Atlanta's 29-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts, a game the Falcons played in cruise control all afternoon.

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Chicago plays Atlanta tighter on Sunday, forcing Robinson to be more involved in the game, leading to him doing to the Bears defense what no individual rusher has done this season: run for at least 80 yards.

The Carolina Panthers have a lead going into the fourth quarter versus the Jaguars

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The Panthers are 2-13 this season and could clinch the worst record in the NFL in 2023 with a loss and a win over the Arizona Cardinals. They've actually been historically bad this season.

How bad is it, you ask? Well, they haven't held the lead in the fourth quarter this season, making them the first team not to lead in the fourth quarter entering this late (entering Week 17) in a single season in NFL history.

However, they will be ahead of the 8-7 Jaguars at some point in the fourth quarter on Sunday. The Panthers had a season-high 30 points and 394 total yards in their 33-30 loss to the Packers in Week 16. The Jaguars are on a four-game losing streak in which they have allowed 30 or more points in three of those games. Four consecutive defeats. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has five turnovers in just the last two games.

Carolina rookie quarterback Bryce Young, the first overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, threw for more yards in Week 16 (312) than he did in Weeks 14-15 combined (304) and threw multiple touchdowns (two) in a game for the first time. Time since Week 5 at Detroit Lions. The Panthers will have the lead going into the fourth quarter of a game for the first time this season after carrying some positive momentum from Week 16.

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