Many NFL players have bonuses written into their contracts for leading the NFL in some individual statistical category. Thus, you could see some big-name guys playing in Week 17 just for the cash/glory when their game is otherwise meaningless.
The closest race in the major categories is for passing yards, with Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger leading at 4,842 and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes at 4,816. Big Ben looks for his second passing yardage crown as he tied with Drew Brees at 4,952 in 2014. Mahomes is in his first year as a starter.
Both guys play Sunday in games that matter. Roethlisberger’s Steelers are 14.5-point home favorites against the nothing-to-play-for Bengals. Pittsburgh has to win and have Baltimore lose at home to win the AFC South, otherwise the Steelers miss playoffs entirely. Big Ten threw for 369 yards in a 28-21 win in Cincinnati on Oct. 14. The Bengals rank No. 30 in allowing 276 passing yards per game.
Mahomes’ Chiefs are -13.5 at home against nothing-to-play-for Oakland. Kansas City is the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a victory, and probably a wild-card team with a loss – hard to picture an upset with Raiders on short week and off an emotional victory Monday. Oakland ranks 14th in the NFL in allowing 236 passing yards per game. Mahomes had 295 in Oakland on Dec. 2 in a 40-33 win.
Roethlisberger is -130 on a Bovada Week 17 prop to win the passing title with Mahomes at -110.
The TD passing race is over with Mahomes way ahead with a franchise-record 48. He would need to tie an NFL record for passing TDs in a game to tie Peyton Manning’s single-season record of 55 set in 2013. Only Manning and Tom Brady (50 in 2007) have reached 50.
It’s likely the rushing race is over too as the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott should win his second title in three years as he leads with 1,434. Elliott isn’t likely to play Sunday vs. the Giants with Dallas locked into its playoff seed. The Rams’ Todd Gurley is second with 1,251 but is expected to sit a second week in a row to be fully healthy for the playoffs. The Giants’ Saquon Barkley would need a day for the ages to catch Elliott as the rookie has 1,198 yards.
Gurley should win the TDs title as he leads with 21 overall, three ahead of the Saints’ Alvin Kamara. In total points, the Texans’ Ka’imi Fairbairn is No. 1 with 142 points, with the Saints’ Will Lutz at 134.
Atlanta visits Tampa on Sunday in a meaningless game and the receiving yardage title should be decided there. Julio Jones is banged up and probably shouldn’t play but likely will to ensure winning the crown as he leads with 1,539. Jones also won it in 2015 with 1,871, second-most in history. No. 2 this year is Tampa’s Mike Evans at 1,425 so he would need a huge day to catch Jones. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown leads in TD catches with 15, followed by Green Bay’s Davante Adams with 13.
The sacks race appears over as the Rams’ Aaron Donald leads by four with 19.5, the most ever by a defensive tackle. He’s going to repeat as NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and is the -1200 favorite at Bovada, but can Donald set the NFL single-season sacks record? That’s 22.5 by the Giants’ Michael Strahan in 2001. Donald’s Rams host the 49ers, and Donald had four sacks in San Francisco on Oct. 14 so don’t rule it out.