The end of the 2017 NFL regular season is here with Week 17 taking place this Sunday on New Year’s Eve. There are twelve teams that will make the playoffs and nine of those teams are already known. What we need to know is who the AFC’s two wildcard teams are with four teams (Baltimore, Tennessee, San Diego, and Buffalo) fighting for two spots. In the NFC, there’s one spot left with only Atlanta or Seattle able to claim it. Some of the seeding needs to be sorted out too with the Panthers trying to win the NFC South from the Saints. I’ll get into the playoff scenarios when I focus on the individual teams.
Every game on the schedule this week is a divisional game. If you’re wondering, the NFC dominated the head to head battle against the AFC, which I tweeted out earlier in the week.
There’s no Thursday, Saturday or Monday game this week. There’s not even a Sunday night game. Every game is taking place at either 1pmET or 4:25pmET Sunday with teams dealing with similar playoff scenarios playing at the same time.
This is the hardest week to pick games because there are going to be a bunch of teams resting key players heading into the playoffs. Some bad teams may sit starters just because they want to put in some younger guy to see what they can get from him. A lot of it is a crapshoot, so if you’re betting, please be smart about it. I’m a heavy bettor and even I take it easy in Week 17 every year because you just never know.
Last Week’s Results:
11-5 Straight Up (158-82 Season, .658)
9-6-1 Point Spread (122-113-5 Season, .519)
Note: The point spreads I use come from VegasInsider. All times listed are in the Eastern Time zone.
Chicago (5-10) @ Minnesota (12-3) -12 [1:00pm SUN]
The Vikings haven’t clinched the two-seed and that first round bye yet, so they’ll be trying to win this game one week after a road shutout against the Packers. I don’t think the Bears offense will be able to do much since they are so limited in the passing game this year (second to last in the NFL).
The Pick: Minnesota 27-13
Green Bay (7-8) @ Detroit (8-7) -7 [1:00pm SUN]
The Lions have a much better QB advantage with Matt Stafford, who is likely playing hurt, against Brett Hundley, so give me the home team here. The Packers should bounce back next year with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. I think the awful play of Hundley makes Rodgers look like the MVP favorite next year because we can see how bad the Packers are without him.
The Pick: Detroit 33-16
NY Jets (5-10) @ New England (12-3) -15.5 [1:00pm SUN]
New England needs this week to lock up the top seed in the AFC because if they lose and the Steelers win then it goes to the Steelers. The Jets have lost three straight, the offense is brutal with Bryce Petty at QB and I don’t see them doing much in this game. The Patriots will probably run RB Dion Lewis a lot, keep QB Tom Brady from taking big hits and win easily.
The Pick: New England 31-10
Houston (4-11) @ Indianapolis (3-12) -4 [1:00pm SUN]
Two terrible teams going nowhere. Doesn’t really matter. Let’s go Colts at home.
The Pick: Indianapolis 23-17
Washington (7-8) -3.5 @ NY Giants (2-13) [1:00pm SUN]
It’s a meaningless game that Washington should win since they have more talent. A Giants loss means they lock up the no. 2 pick in the draft. It will be interesting to see if they draft a QB in that spot because Eli Manning is probably going to retire in a year or two and it may be the right time to draft the heir apparent.
The Pick: Washington 24-20
Dallas (8-7) -2.5 @ Philadelphia (13-2) [1:00pm SUN]
The reason Dallas is favored on the road is that the Eagles have already clinched the top seed in the NFC meaning they have a bye next week. Philly will be resting their key guys. The Cowboys are eliminated, so they have nothing to play for and may choose to sit star players like QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott because why risk injuries? Good luck picking the winner.
The Pick: Dallas 23-20
Cleveland (0-15) @ Pittsburgh (12-3) -13 [1:00pm SUN]
As I mentioned in the New England game, the top seed in the AFC is still up for grabs, so Pittsburgh will try here. That’s bad news for the Browns, who are likely going to finish 0-16 one year after being 1-15. What a brutal time to be a Browns fans. At least it can’t get worse next year! See that, Browns fans, I’m trying to be positive for you.
The Pick: Pittsburgh 30-13
Carolina (11-4) @ Atlanta (9-6) -4 [4:25pm SUN]
Hey look, it’s a meaningful game! Yes! If the Falcons win they are the six seed in the NFC while the Panthers are already in. It’s big for the Panthers because if they win and the Saints lose then the Panthers win the NFC South, which means a home game next week in the playoffs.
The Falcons are surprisingly average at home with a 4-3 record. When they played at Carolina earlier in the year, Carolina won 20-17 after the Falcons blew a 10-0 first quarter lead. I think the Falcons are going to feed WR Julio Jones early and he had a 118-yard game last time they played, so he should do well again. Atlanta’s run game has been inconsistent with RBs Freeman and Coleman not playing as well as last year. They know that, so that’s why I think it’s a big Julio game. Rely on your best player to get you there. The concern for Atlanta is can they stop the run? Carolina runs for 134 yards per game (4th in the NFL) led by QB Cam Newton and the Falcons are 8th against the run, but I’m not sure if they can do it. I’m still going Falcons on a last-minute field goal in what is probably the game of the week.
The Pick: Atlanta 27-24
Kansas City (9-6) @ Denver (5-10) -3.5 [4:25pm SUN]
It’s a meaningless game for the AFC West Champion Chiefs, who are expected to rest their starters since they are set as #4 in the AFC. That’s why the lowly Broncos are favored. I’ll go with Denver beating the Chiefs backups.
The Pick: Denver 23-13
Jacksonville (10-5) @ Tennessee (8-7) -3.5 [4:25pm SUN]
If the Titans win they get one of the two wild-card spots in the AFC regardless what anybody else does. Controlling your own destiny is huge. The Jags are already AFC South Champions that are locked in as the #3 seed, so it doesn’t matter to them although I assume they are mad about giving up 44 points to the Niners last week. There’s a story out there about the Jags not resting their starters, but I don’t know if I believe that. It’s dumb to play key players in meaningless games. What if star RB Leonard Fournette gets hurt? It would destroy their playoff chances.
The Titans are losers of their last three and the offense didn’t look good in any of those games. Back in week two, the Titans crushed the Jags 37-16, so maybe the Titans know how to beat them. I’ll go with the Titans although I don’t have a lot of confidence in them. If the Titans win to get in, it’s possible we see this same matchup in Jacksonville next week. I’ll definitely pick the Jags if that happens.
The Pick: Tennessee 23-17
San Francisco (5-10) @ LA Rams (11-4) -1.5 [4:25pm SUN]
The Rams are probably going to rest their starters, so the Niners coming into this game with their new QB savior Jimmy Garoppolo should win the game. I’m not mad about my Rams doing that either. It’s the smart thing to do even though dropping down to the 4 seed (very possible) means a tougher first-round matchup. Meanwhile, Niners fans will celebrate ending the year on a high note. Good for them.
The Pick: San Francisco 26-20
Oakland (6-9) @ LA Chargers (8-7) -8 [4:25pm SUN]
The Chargers get in the playoffs with a win plus losses for the Titans and Bills. Another scenario is a Chargers win plus Titans and Ravens losses. Good thing for the Chargers is it feels like the Raiders have checked out after three straight losses where their offense looked terrible. This should be a blowout win for the Chargers and a playoff game is possible, but based on my picks I don’t see it happening.
The Pick: San Diego 34-16
Buffalo (8-7) -3 @ Miami (6-9) [4:25pm SUN]
It’s must-win for the Bills because they get a wildcard spot if they win and the Ravens lose. The Bills would also get in if they win, plus losses for the Chargers and Titans. There’s also a tie scenario in play for the Bills, but that’s unlikely.
When these teams met in Buffalo two weeks ago, the Bills won 24-16 thanks to three costly Dolphins turnovers. The problem with this game is Buffalo is only 2-5 on the road this year and I fully expect the Dolphins try hard to spoil Buffalo’s playoff hopes. I think Miami will try to feed RB Kenyan Drake against Buffalo’s 30th ranked rush defense and if they can limit turnovers, they should have a good shot. Sorry Bills fans, but I’m predicting a loss. No playoffs for you, which would extend the streak where they haven’t made it to the playoffs since 1999, which is the longest streak in the four major North American sports.
The Pick: Miami 24-23
Arizona (7-8) @ Seattle (9-6) -9 [4:25pm SUN]
This is a huge game for the Seahawks, who get in the playoffs with a win plus a Falcons loss. That scenario is possible because the Falcons play a good Panthers team. I fully expect the Seahawks to handle their business after they dominated on the road against the Cowboys when both teams had something to play for. I saw a stat that said the Cardinals are 3-1 in the last four years in Seattle with Bruce Arians coaching, so don’t expect this to be easy despite the records of the teams. I’ll still go Seahawks with QB Russell Wilson as a viable threat in the MVP discussion and I expect him to have a big game. Plus, that Seahawks defense isn’t dead yet and I have little confidence in QB Drew Stanton playing well there.
The Pick: Seattle 31-17
New Orleans (11-4) -7 @ Tampa Bay (4-11) [4:25pm SUN]
If the Saints win they lock up the NFC South and then they are the #3 or #4 seed depending on the Rams game. They would also win the division if the Panthers lose. Obviously, a home game in the Superdome is what the Saints want, so they will be playing all their key guys like the impressive Pro Bowl RB duo of Ingram and Kamara. That’s bad news for the Bucs, who are 24th against the run and last in the NFL against the pass. I don’t expect the Bucs to put up much of a fight either. They have given up.
The Pick: New Orleans 34-20
Cincinnati (6-9) @ Baltimore (9-6) -9.5 [4:25pm SUN]
A Ravens win gives them the #5 seed in the AFC and a date in KC against the Chiefs next week in the playoffs. The Ravens would also get in if the Bills or Titans lose, so they have a few options.
As for the Bengals, this is the last game for head coach Marvin Lewis, so perhaps they’ll play hard for him. I just don’t think they have enough talent due to the defensive injuries they are dealing with. The Ravens have won five of their last six (only loss was a one-point loss to the Steelers), so they are going to be a team nobody wants to see in the playoffs. I think the Ravens are going to run the ball, dominate on defense and win easily here to clinch that 5th seed in the AFC playoffs.
The Pick: Baltimore 27-10
If my predictions are accurate the playoffs would look like this.
Byes: (1) New England and (2) Pittsburgh
(6) Tennessee @ (3) Jacksonville
(5) Baltimore @ (4) Kansas City
Byes: (1) Philadelphia and (2) Minnesota
(6) Atlanta @ (3) New Orleans
(5) Carolina @ (4) LA Rams
My Fave Five Bets Of The Week
Last week: 2-2-1 (Season 38-38-4)
There’s one more week to give me a .500 record in this section.
Here are my five favorite bets for this week.
@ LA Chargers -8 Oakland
San Francisco +1.5 @ LA Rams
@ Minnesota -12 Chicago
New Orleans @ Tampa Bay OVER 50.5
@ Detroit -7 Green Bay
That’s all for this week. I’ll be back to preview the four playoff games during Wildcard Weekend next week. Enjoy the games.