With all divisional match ups, expect close games across the board in Week 17, which is the Final Countdown of the NFL season.While the teams in the AFC playoffs are all set, there are still quite a few spots to be decided in the NFC. Only one wildcard has been locked up and the final first-round bye still needs to be claimed. Since most teams have nothing to play for, picking games this week could prove difficult.
It’s a good thing I had one of my best weeks of the year last week, posting an 11-5 record against the spread. We spelled redemption “V-I-N,” alright. Remember that all games this week are on New Year’s Day. Let’s give this one last shot. It’s the Final Countdown in NFL week 17.
Buffalo Bills (7-8) at New York Jets (4-11)
It’s a rematch of last year’s Week 17 game in which the Bills derailed any hope the Jets had of making the playoffs. This time, the game is at MetLife and Rex Ryan will not be the head coach of the Bills. Ryan was fired this week and crazy rumors of him returning to Gang Green have been swirling. One thing is for sure, he won’t be present in this one which may be a good thing for the Bills. The Jets have been blown out in back-to-back divisional games and I don’t see why this one should be any different. Another game of Ryan Fitzpatrick, yay!
Pick: Bills -3.5
Baltimore Ravens (8-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1)
This could be Steve Smith’s final game in an NFL uniform, which is a sad thing to hear. Smith is one of my personal favorites because of his fiery attitude and “leave it all on the field” type mentality. Last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers will ensure that Smith will retire without a Super Bowl ring. That makes this game essentially meaningless for both sides, which are always the toughest to pick. Worse yet, it’s a pick ’em game with the better team on the road.
The Bengals are pretty much down to practice squad players on offense so it’s unlikely they’ll be able to muster the 17 or so points against this stingy Ravens defense that I think will be necessary to win. Steve Smith rides out into the sunset with one last win.
Houston Texans (9-6) at Tennessee Titans (8-7)
This game was supposed to be for the AFC South title, but an underwhelming performance from the Titans against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars derailed that. Marcus Mariota’s season-ending leg injury changes the entire Titans offense. Expect the Texans’ defense to capitalize on that and pick up the win despite being locked in as the No. 4 seed.
Pick: Texans +3
Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a less than 1% chance of making the playoffs… So you’re saying there’s a chance?! I’d say they have a better chance of winning this game, even without newly-suspended Doug Martin. Because they have something to play for, go with the Bucs here.
Pick: Buccaneers -5
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) at Indianapolis Colts (7-8)
The Jaguars pulled a pretty big upset in Week 16, so saying they can’t beat a team with more wins than them again in Week 17 would be a mistake. Obviously, neither team has much to play for here, except a higher draft pick. Protecting Andrew Luck is probably on the Colts minds entering this week, so I’ll take the Jags hoping he sits out most of this game.
Pick: Jaguars +4.5
New England Patriots (13-2) at Miami Dolphins (10-5)
The Patriots have already clinched a first-round bye, but a win on Sunday will ensure that the AFC playoffs go through Foxborough. If the Oakland Raiders lose on Sunday, then this game becomes irrelevant for the Pats. Unfortunately, that game occurs after this one, so the Patriots will just have to win to guarantee themselves the No. 1 seed. The Dolphins run has been impressive, even with Matt Moore at the helm. The Pats are favored for a reason, but blowing out a Dolphins team that is 6-1 at home this year isn’t likely.
Pick: Dolphins +9.5
Chicago Bears (3-12) at Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
After watching the last two weeks, it seems like the Vikings have given up. Their play the last two weeks has put them on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. The Bears have not won a road game all season, and I don’t see that changing this week. That being said, I think they can keep it within six points; they actually beat the Vikings by 10 back on Halloween.
Pick: Bears +6.5
Dallas Cowboys (13-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-9)
The Cowboys are already NFC East champions and the No.1 overall seed in the playoffs. The Eagles are out of playoff contention. Who wins and who loses means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but at the end of the day, this is still an NFC East rivalry game.
How long the Cowboys starters play in this game remains a mystery so I’m taking the safe road here and picking the Eagles.
Pick: Eagles -4.5
Cleveland Browns (1-14) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)
They finally did it! The Cleveland Browns will not join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history! They will still have the number one overall pick no matter what happens on Sunday, so you would think they will be playing as hard as a 1-14 team possibly can.
On the other side of things, the Steelers have decided to rest Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown for this game since they are locked in as the No. 3 seed. Missing those three starters is just enough for the Browns to stay close. (This is the first time I’ve picked the Browns; it just feels dirty.)
Pick: Browns +6
New Orleans Saints (7-8) at Atlanta Falcons (10-5)
If the Falcons win this game, they will lock up the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage until they have to go to Dallas (if it comes to that). The Falcons haven’t had much success of late in the playoffs, but getting at least one home game would mean a lot. The Saints always come to play and won’t go down without a fight. Drew Brees and company keep it just close enough.
Pick: Saints +7
New York Giants (10-5) at Washington Redskins (8-6-1)
This spread is based entirely off the assumption that the Giants will rest their starters, which is pretty likely. They have nothing to gain by winning and nothing to lose by falling to the Redskins on Sunday. I think they’ll play this game like a preseason contest, playing Eli Manning and their starters into the third quarter, at the latest (despite Ben McAdoo’s comments that suggest this is a serious game). That will leave opportunity for the ‘Skins to tack on some points in the final quarter, but not enough to cover the touchdown spread.
Pick: Giants +7.5
Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) at Los Angeles Rams (4-11)
Last week, the Cardinals proved that they are as talented as any team in the NFL by beating the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. They handed the Seahawks their first and only home loss of the 2016 season. On the other side, we have the Rams whose first season in L.A. has not been kind to them. In the latest calamity of errors, they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, previously losers of 13 straight. Now they’re only getting 6.5 points. Not enough to take them here.
Pick: Cardinals -6.5
Oakland Raiders (12-3) at Denver Broncos (8-7)
Last week’s loss eliminated the Broncos from playoff contention. That means neither team from last year’s Super Bowl will be in Super 51 this season. Derek Carr’s season-ending leg injury will make sledding for the Raiders a lot tougher. Matt McGloin’s journey as the Raiders quarterback starts now against one of the toughest possible opponents he could draw. The Raiders need this one, so they’ll pull it out against a struggling Broncos team.
Pick: Raiders +1.5
Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) at San Diego Chargers (5-10)
The Chiefs could be 12-4 this season and not even win their own division. In fact, I think that is a likely scenario given the Week 17 matchups. The Chargers just lost to the Browns, so I have absolutely no confidence in picking them and Josh Lambo this week against a Super Bowl contender.
Pick: Chiefs -6
Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-13)
There’s no denying that the Seahawks are a good football team. There’s also no denying that they are a different team on the road than they are at home. On the road, the Seahawks are 2-4-1 while averaging just over 14 points per game. The last time these two teams met, the Seahawks wiped the floor with the 49ers, 37-18. I expect a similar result here, home, road or on the moon.
Pick: Seahawks -9.5
Green Bay Packers (9-6) at Detroit Lions (9-6)
By the time this game kicks off, everyone will know exactly where the Lions and Packers stand. Either way, this game will be for the NFC North title. That may have sounded crazy had I said that to you after the Redskins loss over a month ago. Since then, the Packers have rattled off five straight and with a sixth straight, they will host a home playoff game in the Wildcard round.
The last time these two teams played in Detroit, Aaron Rodgers threw a Hail Mary to win the game. I hope it comes down to a play like that again on Sunday night.