Sunday marks the final week of the regular season and, as usual, there are a number of playoff races hanging in the balance with some teams controlling their own destiny and others needing to win and then get some help.
The two teams that need help are the Eagles and Steelers. The 8-7 Eagles need to win their game against the Redskins and have the Bears beat the 8-7-1 Vikings. If that happens, the Eagles would get into the playoff tournament and have a chance to defend their Super Bowl title.
The other team that needs help is Pittsburgh, which must beat the Bengals and have the Browns upset the Ravens, who need to win to get into the playoffs.
With that, here’s The Post’s NFL High Five for Week 17:
Déjà vu to watch
A year ago, the Ravens found themselves in the exact same scenario they find themselves in Sunday, when they play the Browns, and they left themselves scarred from the experience.
Last year, on the final Sunday of the schedule, the Ravens played the Bengals and, with a win, they would have qualified for the playoffs. They lost on a 49-yard, fourth-down touchdown with 44 seconds remaining and missed the playoffs.
On Sunday, if the Ravens beat the Browns at home, they will get into the playoffs. A loss (barring help) and they will find themselves in the same position as last year: On the outside looking in.
How much is that memory of a year ago seared into the collective psyche of the Ravens?
Baltimore rookie tight end Mark Andrews told reporters this week that every player has been reminded about last year’s ill-fated season finale.
“When [the rookies] got brought in here, it was something that was talked about,” Andrews said. “It’s been talked about this whole time from players to coaches. It’s something that’s on everyone’s mind. We’re well aware of what happened last year. There are a lot of hungry guys in this locker room.’’
If the Ravens (9-6) beat the Browns (7-7-1), they would clinch their first AFC North title in six years and earn a home playoff game, and in the process almost certainly keep the rival Steelers from making the playoffs. To do so, though, the Ravens must get past the lingering disappointment from their failure a year ago.
“Definitely, last year doesn’t sit well with us,” Baltimore cornerback Brandon Carr told reporters. “We had a prime opportunity to extend our season, and we failed at it. We didn’t finish the job, so that’s why this year, the art of finish is big for us.’’
There is a scenario in which the Ravens can lose to Cleveland and still get into the playoffs, but that would require the heavily favored Steelers to lose to the Bengals.
“We all know where we’ve been; we don’t need to talk about anything, we all know,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve all learned from all of our past experiences this year, last year, previous years, all those things, the guys who have been here. The guys who were here, that drives us, certainly. When you have a gut-wrenching experience, a tough one like we had the last two years, you take those with you, and it makes you stronger.”
Strange bedfellows to watch
The AFC North playoff scenario is forcing the Steelers to root for the Browns, who are one of their fiercest rivals. Needless to say, it’s a strange and uncomfortable situation.
But the 8-6-1 Steelers get into the playoffs with a win over the Bengals and a Browns win at Baltimore.
“Pray for Cleveland; pray for the Browns,” Steelers safety Sean Davis told reporters during the week.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, who played for the Browns from 2010-16, said he’s “talked to a couple of’’ his former teammates “just giving them some motivation.”
“But at the end of the day, I know those dudes, I know how they feel over there,’’ Haden said. “Even if they may not be in the [playoff] picture, they want to end on a good note.’’
The Steelers also can make the playoffs with a tie against the Bengals and a Ravens loss, or a win over Cincinnati combined with a tie between the Colts and Titans.
“With the way [the season] has gone, it’s a little deflating,’’ Steelers guard David DeCastro told reporters, referring to needing help from other teams. “But at the end of the day, it’s not over. We realize that, too. You just have to know there’s a chance. As bad as you feel now, you’ll feel worse if Baltimore loses and you lose, too.”
Return on investment to watch
A year ago, the Vikings cruised into the playoffs as NFC North champions and made it to the conference title game with Case Keenum at quarterback.
In the offseason, Keenum was deemed not worthy of retaining, so the Vikings paid Kirk Cousins an unprecedented $84 million guaranteed to lead them further: the Super Bowl.
Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Bears in Minneapolis represents a pressure-point moment for Cousins and the Vikings, who will earn a wild-card playoff berth with a win. The Vikings could still earn a spot in the postseason with a loss to the Bears, but that would require the Eagles to lose to the Redskins in a game Philadelphia must win to have a chance at a postseason berth.
Cousins, while with the Redskins, faced a similar scenario at the end of 2016 when he played the Giants with a playoff spot on the line and lost 19-10.
Cousins, for all if his gaudy stats, has a miserable record against opponents with a winning record (the Bears are 11-4).
“We understand what’s at stake,” Cousins told reporters. “There have been plenty of games this year where I’ve given everything I have and we don’t come out on top and I don’t have a great game. But there’s also been [games] where I do that exact same process and it’s more than good enough and I play at a very high level or we play at a very high level. We just have to be the best team that night.”
The last time the Vikings and Bears met, a 25-20 Chicago win earlier this season, Cousins was intercepted twice.
“He wants to do good for the team,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told reporters. “He wants to do good for everybody. I don’t think that he ever tries to be more cautious.’’
New Orleans audition to watch
Speculation about the future of Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater already has been raging based on the rampant needs of teams around the NFL and Bridgewater scheduled to be a free agent after this season.
The 26-year-old former Louisville star, whose NFL career was sidetracked by a devastating knee injury before the 2016 season, will have a chance to audition not only for the Saints as a potential successor to incumbent Drew Brees, but for other possible suitors outside of New Orleans.
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The 13-2 Saints, who already have locked up the NFC’s No. 1 seed, will start Bridgewater in his first significant playing time since suffering that knee injury.
Depending on how he plays, it could increase his market value and possibly make it more difficult for the Saints to re-sign him.
“Whatever happens Sunday I’ll be excited, just thinking about the road I’ve had to take to just get to this point,” Bridgewater told reporters. “So I’m excited. I’m excited for this team. I’m excited to be in the position we’re in now.”
Bridgewater, a Vikings first-round draft pick in 2014, went 17-12 as a starter for Minnesota. Brees turns 40 in January.
“I can’t predict what’s in the future,” Bridgewater said. “I have to control what’s in front of me right now. And that’s an opportunity to play this Sunday or just continuing to be a great teammate. Not looking down the road, just continuing to take it one day at a time.”
Comeback completion to watch
Through six games, the Colts were 1-5 and foundering. On Sunday, Indianapolis can clinch its first playoff berth since 2014.
To do that, the 9-6 Colts will have to defeat the 9-6 Titans for the 11th consecutive time. With Andrew Luck at quarterback, the Colts have defeated Tennessee in the past 10 meetings, matching a feat the Broncos’ John Elway accomplished against the Patriots. No quarterback ever has defeated a team 11 times in a row.
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“What happened previously and what happened in previous years, it doesn’t matter,” Luck told reporters. “What happened last weekend does not matter. It’s a new cycle.”
If the Colts win and make the playoffs, they’ll become only the second team since the realignment in 2012 to make the playoffs after a 1-5 start.
“We’ve come a long way,” Colts rookie head coach Frank Reich said.
By the 8:20 p.m. kickoff, both the Colts and Titans will know exactly what’s at stake. The AFC South title will be available if Houston loses to Jacksonville earlier in the day. For the Titans, a No. 2 seed in the AFC with a first-round bye would be available if the Texans, Patriots and Ravens all lose.