32 things we learned from NFL Week 17: QBs remain predictive, whether starting or backing up

The 32 things we learned from Week 17 of the 2022 NFL season:

1. You know that old adage – the one suggesting if you have two or three starting-caliber quarterbacks on your roster, then you don’t really have one? Might be time to rethink that. Sixty-four different QBs have now started this season, most ever in a non-strike campaign.

2. The New York Jets (Mike White), Miami Dolphins (Teddy Bridgewater), Tennessee Titans (Joshua Dobbs), Las Vegas Raiders (Jarrett Stidham), Washington Commanders (Carson Wentz) and Arizona Cardinals (David Blough) all made changes under center from Week 16 to 17.

2a. None of those quarterbacks engineered a victory Sunday … so maybe that aforementioned adage was proven airtight after all?

3. The Jets’ 23-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks eliminated them from playoff contention, extending their league-worst drought. The NYJ last reached postseason in 2010.

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4. The San Francisco 49ers’ Brock Purdy entered the season third on the team’s quarterback depth chart. Sunday night, the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2022 draft (as the last player selected) joined Virgil Carter, Mike Kruczek, Ben Roethlisberger and Phil Simms as the fifth rookie QB to win his first four starts.

4a. Purdy also has multiple TD passes in each of his past five appearances. Only Justin Herbert possesses a longer streak (seven games in 2020) among rookie passers since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

5. Purdy and the Niners escaped the Raiders, who benched QB Derek Carr, in overtime, giving San Francisco a shot at claiming the NFC’s No. 1 seed and the first-round bye and home-field advantage that come with it.

6. Another backup, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Gardner Minshew II, dropped his second straight start after the NFC East leaders surprisingly stumbled Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Philly is suddenly just about out of runway after the NFC’s top seed once seemed a fait accompli … though the Birds can still secure it by beating the New York Giants – Big Blue is now locked in as the NFC’s No. 6 seed – in Week 18.

7. The Eagles’ two-game skid without injured QB Jalen Hurts might also have the unintended consequence of boosting his MVP case amid suggestions many quarterbacks would thrive given the benefit of being surrounded by Philadelphia’s Pro Bowl-laden roster.

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes could be headed to his second league MVP award.

8. Of course Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes may just about have the MVP hardware locked up. Sunday, he joined Drew Brees and Tom Brady as the only players to throw for 5,000 yards in a season more than once.

8a. Mahomes, who also has the most TD passes in the league, reached 40 for the second time in his career.

9. Speaking of previous league MVPs, Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers ran their winning streak to four Sunday, embarrassing the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings 41-17. However, the touchdowns the Pack scored on special teams and defense sparked their victory more so than Rodgers. But with a win at Lambeau Field in Week 18 against the Detroit Lions, Rodgers and Co. are going back to the playoffs as road warriors.

10. If you like sacks, the Eagles-Saints game had them in abundance, the teams combining for 13.

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11. Philadelphia had seven quarterback takedowns Sunday, giving the Eagles 68 overall. They need five more to break the 1984 Chicago Bears’ single-season record (72) since sacks became an official league statistic in 1982.

12. Eagles DE Brandon Graham had a pair of sacks, making Philadelphia the first team since 1982 to have four separate players record double-digits in that category. (Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave are the others.)

13. The Eagles are also the first team in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to register at least a half-dozen sacks in five straight games.

QB Tom Brady (12) and the Buccaneers are headed back to postseason.

14. Was there ever a doubt Brady would come up with his best outing of the year (432 yards and three TDs passing, one rushing TD) when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed it most? Well, maybe. Regardless, the Bucs are now back-to-back division champs for the first time in team history and will host a game in the wild-card round after knocking off the Carolina Panthers.

15. Brady completed 34 passes Sunday, adding yet another record to his seemingly endless collection. He became the first player to connect on at least 30 throws in five consecutive games.

16. TB12’s big day was enabled by WR Mike Evans – the pair hadn’t been vibing on the field for weeks – after he snagged 10 balls for 207 yards and all three of Brady’s TD throws.

17. Evans surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the ninth time and is the only NFL player to start a career by hitting that plateau in each of his first nine seasons.

18. Brady has now quarterbacked 19 teams to division titles. Amazing.

19. Brady’s former team, the New England Patriots, is poised to reach the postseason for the second time since TB12 left following the 2019 campaign. A win in Week 18 at Buffalo punches the Pats’ ticket.

20. The Patriots punched the Miami Dolphins in the snout Sunday, winning 23-21 in large part because New England scored its franchise record seventh defensive TD – Kyle Dugger’s 39-yard pick-six – of the season, the most by a team in five years.

21. And no, speculators, Bill Belichick isn’t getting fired.

22. Tip of the cap to Giants QB Daniel Jones, who passed for a pair of touchdowns and ran for two more as New York wrapped up its first playoff spot in six years by blasting the Indianapolis Colts.

23. Jones, who will be a free agent after the season, also made a compelling case for the team to re-sign him while maybe putting some of those Eli Manning comparisons – on the field, anyway – to rest. Noteworthy: Manning never rushed for multiple TDs in a game during in his 16-year career.

24. As long as we’re on NFC East quarterbacks, how much longer will Wentz be one? For the second straight year – he was with the Indianapolis Colts in 2021 – he came up small in the biggest spot, throwing a trio of interceptions as Washington was handled by the Cleveland Browns and booted from the playoff picture.

25. How about that Detroit Lions defense, the one that had permitted the most points and yards in the league entering Week 17? After a sluggish start Sunday, the unit limited the Chicago Bears to nine first downs, 10 points and 230 yards while collecting seven sacks … which helps explain the Lions’ game-ending 34-0 run.

26. The Jaguars and Titans will play a de facto AFC South championship game in Week 18 at Jacksonville. That means for the fourth time in the Super Bowl era, a team will be crowned division champions despite losing five in a row at some point during the season.

27. Kansas City’s Jerick McKinnon has a touchdown reception in five consecutive games, the first running back since the merger to pull that off.

28. If you’ve never heard of the Battle of Los Angeles … well, something happened over the skies of the Left Coast one night in the winter of 1942 as the United States was entering World War II. 

28a. But for our purposes, the LA Chargers smoked the Rams 31-10 Sunday in the first regular-season meeting of the teams at SoFi Stadium.

29. The Rams’ 11 losses are the most ever by a defending Super Bowl champion.

30. But if you own Bolts RB Austin Ekeler, you may well be a fantasy football champion. Ekeler, a first-round fantasy pick who wasn’t drafted in the real world, racked up 122 yards Sunday and scored his 17th and 18th TDs of the season.

30a. Ekeler reached the end zone a league-high 20 times in 2021 and can become the first player since Todd Gurley in 2017-18 to pace the NFL in pay dirt visits two years in a row.

31. Regarding fantasy, if you rolled into your championship round counting on Kirk Cousins, Derrick Henry, Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, the 49ers defense or Travis Kelce … welp.

32. Wentz and the Commanders didn’t show up Sunday, but Washington did unveil a new mascot to its loyal (if disillusioned) fans. Meet Major Tuddy. 

32a. Are slaughterhouses open on national holidays?

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Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.