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NFL Week 17 Winners and Losers

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NFL's Biggest Winners and Losers of Week 17

Brendan Maloney: USA Today Sports

The time of the year we've anxiously all waited for all season long has finally arrived; the NFL Playoffs are set to begin this Saturday. As we prepare ourselves for the post-season, Rant Sports takes a look back at Week 17, the final weekend of the regular season. Now that all the games have been played, which teams, coaches, and players emerged as biggest winners this weekend and which ones were dubbed as the biggest losers?

The last weekend of the regular season offered up many story lines for us to look back on. Some teams secured playoff berths with victories while others were sent packing with losses. Some captured division crowns while others saw them fall through their hands. Some teams improved their playoff seedings while others watched them drop. Some individuals tied or set new NFL records (or came really, really close). Yet the biggest news story of the weekend, however, came after all the games were finished: Seven NFL coaches were fired by their teams; most were expected while some were a bit of a surprise.

All in all, as with most regular season finales, Week 17 was filled with tons of drama.

So, as we prepare to head into the post-season this Saturday afternoon, let’s takes a look back at the weekend that was, and players, teams, and coaches that were the twenty biggest winners and losers from Week 17.

(Click the “NEXT” button above the photo to proceed through the slideshow)

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Loser: Lovie Smith

Mark J. Rebilas: USA Today Sports

The biggest surprise of the weekend came when the Chicago Bears made the decision to part ways with Lovie Smith. It was Smith's ninth year with the team and he finished with a solid 10-6 record. However, he only managed to win the division and take the Bears to the post-season three times. The Bears must have felt it was time for a change, and I can understand that, though I don't expect Smith to be out for long.

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Loser: Ken Whisenhunt

Kyle Terada: USA Today Sports

Not surprisingly, Ken Whisenhunt was one of the seven NFL coaches sent packing over the weekend. After an impressive start, the Arizona Cardinals dropped 11 of their last 12 games to finish the season with a 5-11 record.

During his seven years in Arizona, Whisenhunt finished with an overall record of 45-51. He made it to the post-season two times, including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2008 where the Cardinals lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. His team failed to make the playoffs the last three seasons.

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Loser: Norv Turner

Kiby Lee: USA Today Sports

No one was surprised this weekend when the San Diego Chargers fired Norv Turner after six seasons with the team. Since winning the division his first three seasons with the Chargers, Turner has been unable to lead them into the post-season in his three years since.

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Loser: Pat Shurmur

Ron Chenoy: USA Today Sports

It wasn't too surprising that the Cleveland Browns, under new ownership, cut ties with Pat Shurmur. In two seasons, he managed to win just nine games. To be fair, the cupboard is quite bare in Cleveland, so it's hard to tell how much of their lack of success can blamed on Shurmur. Nevertheless, it's best for the franchise to have moved on and start anew.

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Loser: Chan Gailey

Stew Milne: USA Today Sports

The Buffalo Bills were another team this weekend that decided it was time to find a new coach. Chan Gailey was fired after three seasons with the Bills, as his teams finished dead last in the AFC East each of those years.

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Loser: Romeo Crennel

Ron Chenoy: USA Today Sports

Romeo Crennel was yet another NFL coach to receive his walking papers over the weekend, though it was not surprising in the least. To be fair, however, the Kansas City Chiefs probably should have given him another season, considering he was only the head coach for one full year. At the same time, Crennel was only able to win two games this season after going 2-1 last year as the interim head coach.

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Loser: The Houston Texans

Brain Spurlock: USA Today Sports

The Houston Texans had hoped to regain some momentum heading into the post-season, but the Indianapolis Colts had different ideas. The Texans are limping into the play-offs, having lost three of their final four games. Additionally, the loss to the Colts in the regular season finale cost the Texans the No. 1 seed in the AFC as well as a bye. Not a great weekend for the Texans, who need to turn things around very quickly.

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Loser: Tony Romo

Brad Mills: USA Today Sports

Once again, Tony Romo was placed in a position to lead his Dallas Cowboys to a playoff berth in the final game of the regular season against the Washington Redskins. This would be his chance to prove that he has what it takes to win the big game and silence his critics that consider him a choker. However, he began the game with two interceptions on the first two drives of the game (though one was not his fault).

Late in the game, he had a chance to redeem himself and hush the mouths of his naysayers. However, with his team down a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Romo threw his third pick of the game. Though his play alone didn't cost the Cowboys the game, his three turnovers didn't help, and Romo's reputation was further cemented, probably for good this time.

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Losers: Dallas Cowboys

Brendan Maloney: USA Today Sports

For the second season in a row, the Dallas Cowboys failed to capture the NFC East title in the final game of the year. Much like their loss to the New York Giants last year, their defeat at the hands of the Washington Redskins Sunday cost them a playoff berth as well. The Cowboys have developed a reputation as a team that folds when everything is on the line, and although they had a chance to prove everyone wrong, they didn't. Once again, Dallas heads into the off-season with the same issues that have plagued them for several years now.

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Loser: New York Giants

Daniel Shirey: USA Today Sports

Entering into the final game of the regular season, the New York Giants still had a chance, albeit an incredibly small one, to make the post-season. However, once the Chicago Bears narrowly defeated the Detroit Lions, the last hope for the Giants was gone. Sure, they weren't the only team that missed the post-season, but their miss is worse than any other because they went from Super Bowl champions to having to watch the playoffs from home. As a result, their inability to even earn the chance to defend their title makes them one of the weekend's biggest losers.

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Loser (or is he actually a winner?): Andy Reid

Andy Penner: USA Today Sports

In the least surprising move over the weekend, the Philadelphia Eagles parted ways with long-time coach Andy Reid. In fourteen years with the team, Reid was 130-93-1. Though he is responsible for returning the Eagles to national prominence, his teams have underperformed the last couple of seasons. Reid is an outstanding coach, and he may do well with his new team, but the time had come for both parties to cut ties and move on.

The more I think of it now, however, with news that Reid will join the Kansas City Chiefs, I wonder if perhaps he didn't emerge a winner after all. I mean, he got out of Philadelphia didn't he?

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Winner: Russell Wilson

Joe Nicholson: USA Today Sports

Much of the talk this season has surrounded standout rookies Robert Griffin, III and Andrew Luck, yet many have overlooked fellow rookie Russell Wilson. Wilson has quietly had a great season, and over the weekend, the rookie tied Peyton Manning's rookie record of 26 touchdowns in a season. Pretty impressive company. Additionally, his Seattle Seahawks defeated the St. Louis Rams this weekend to be the only team this season to have an undefeated home record. They are heating up at just the right time, and both were big winners over the weekend.

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Winner: Chuck Pagano

Brian Spurlock: USA Today Sports

There is no better story in the NFL this season, and in years, than that of Chuck Pagano and his battle against cancer. After fighting the merciless disease since the beginning of the season, his first in Indianapolis, Pagano triumphantly returned to the sidelines this weekend to coach his play-off bound Colts in their final regular season game, a game in which they emerged victorious. It's a story written for the screen, and Pagano should serve as an inspiration for us all.

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Winner: Washington Redskins

Brad Mills: USA Today Sports

In their defeat of the rival Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the Washington Redskins captured their first NFC East crown since 1999. The performances by rookies Robert Griffin, III and Alfred Morris on such a big stage when the stakes were so high should strike fear in their divisional opponents for years to come. For the first time in nearly 15 years, the Redskins are now in the driver's seat.

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Winner: Alfred Morris

Geoff Burke: USA Today Sports

Running back Alfred Morris played a gargantuan role in the Redskins defeat of the Cowboys. The rookie finished the day with NFL career highs of 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns, proving that he, along with his teammate RG III, will be a force to be reckoned with from here on out.

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Winner: Denver Broncos

Ron Chenoy: USA Today Sports

Thanks to a bit of help from the Texans and Colts over the weekend, the Denver Broncos were able to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, clinching the top seed in the AFC . With their win over the Chiefs, they also swept their divisional opponents for the first time since 1999, which just so happens to be the year they won one of their Super Bowl rings.

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Winner: Drew Brees

Tim Heltman: USA Today Sports

Despite his team's loss in their final game of the season, Drew Brees set some impressive records--records that may stand for a very, very long time. In the New Orleans Saints loss to the Carolina Panthers, Brees threw for nearly 400 yards, giving him 5,177 for the year, making him the first player in history to surpass 5,000 yards passing in three different seasons. Additionally, he had four touchdown passes on the day, bringing his season total to 43 which makes him the first ever to pass for 40 touchdowns in consecutive seasons. Though the Saints may have ended the season on a losing note, Brees finished it as a winner.

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Winner: San Francisco 49ers

Kyle Terada: USA Today Sports

It came down to the final regular season game, but the San Francisco 49ers captured the NFC West divisional crown for the second consecutive season with a win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, taking with them some much-needed momentum into the post-season.

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Winner: Minnesota Vikings

Bruce Klickhohn: USA Today Sports

The Minnesota Vikings were among the biggest winners over the weekend, securing a place in the playoffs by defeating the Green Bay Packers. Though Green Bay had already wrapped up the division title, they were playing for a bye. The Vikings, however, had other plans, pulling out a hard-fought 37-34 victory and earning themselves a chance to defeat the Packers again in the post-season.

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Winner: Adrian Peterson

Brace Hemmelgarn: USA Today Sports

The eyes of football fans were on Adrian Peterson as he attempted to break Eric Dickerson's long-standing record for total rushing yards in a single season. Despite a valiant effort, Peterson, who racked up 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, fell just nine-yards short. Regardless, Peterson deserves heaps of praise. Even more impressively, this Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the surgery to repair his torn ACL suffered last year. Though it's a shame he didn't get the record, he did lead his team to the playoffs, which Peterson will tell you is even better.