NFL Picks and Predictions: Week 17

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, December 31st, 2016

St Louis Rams v Arizona Cardinals
NFL.COM

Eight is enough.
No less than eight games in Week 17 carry playoff implications.
Of course, you know “Eight is Enough” as the “Family Ties” or “Full
House” of the ’70s, not as a phrase related to the 2016 NFL
postseason. But much like Dick Van Patten went from being the
quintessential 1970s dad to the Druish King in the epic “Spaceballs,”
several of the teams that prevail this week will go on to greater
things in January, and perhaps February. The games that matter range
from the almost-but-not-quite-inconsequential Panthers-Bucs contest to
a winner-take-all matchup between the Packers and Lions.
This is not the first showdown between Green Bay and Detroit for
all the divisional marbles in the season’s final week. It happened in
2014 (when the Pack won, 30-20), and in a quite memorable affair 23
years ago. The Lions won the battle in 1993 — giving them their last
division title — but lost the war when Green Bay bested them on Wild
Card Weekend a week later.
Who will come out on top on Sunday night? See below. Now, let’s get to it!
(Elliot Harrison went 9-7 on his predictions for Week 16, giving him a
record of 158-80-2 thus far this season.)

Baltimore (8-7) at Cincinnatti (5-9-1)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Bengals -2.5 / 41.5
The Ravens should win, as they are the better — and healthier —
team. A.J. Green’s officially sitting this one out, and I can’t
imagine the Bengals would seriously risk playing anyone else who’s
physically compromised, considering this game has no bearing on
playoff fortunes. That said, Marvin Lewis certainly wants to shine up
this season any way he can, as the freefall following a 12-4 campaign
that ended horribly (because of poor team discipline, mind you) can’t
reflect well on his stewardship. What we can imagine is the lack of
balance Baltimore will display. For all the talk of the Terrance
West-Kenneth Dixon conundrum this year (yes, in Maryland, people talk
about that stuff — and Earl Weaver), the Ravens pass 65.2 percent of
the time. Yep, that’s the highest figure in the NFL. Yet Joe Flacco
averages all of 6.5 yards per attempt. Dinks and dunks and none-yard
outs. Get excited.
Pick: Ravens 28 Bengals 21

Houston (9-6) at Tennessee (8-7)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Titans -3 / 40
Savage … Cassel … It’s the NFL on CBS!! Oh man, that never
gets old. There is no dressing up this matchup, which features a pair
of uninspiring quarterbacks leading teams with nothing to play for on
Sunday. Well, almost nothing. While the Texans are locked into the No.
4 seed, they still have something to gain here: confidence! Winning a
fourth straight game would give Houston momentum heading into Wild
Card Weekend — and could increase team-wide belief in the new
starting quarterback. Meanwhile, for the Titans, winning Sunday means
going into the offseason with a winning record. 9-7 just feels so much
better than 8-8. Thus, look for heavy hitting in this AFC South
contest. Great! So can either quarterback hit the broad side of a
barn? Remembering how Matt Cassel looked with the Cowboys last season,
I am leaning towards Tom Savage and the stronger defense on Sunday.
Pick: Texans 20 Titans 17

Carolina (6-9) at Tampa Bay (8-7)
Sunday, Noon FOX
Line: Bucs -6 / 46
Another difficult game to call between two teams that have little
(besides professional pride) riding on the outcome this weekend. For
Cam Newton, playing well might quiet some of the criticism coming from
all over these days (questioning his play, his focus and whether his
2015 MVP campaign was merely an aberration). As for the 8-7 Bucs,
obviously kicking down the playoff door next year is the goal — but
like I said above, it’s much better to head into the offseason with a
winning record than the middling feeling of 8-8. Given that Tampa is
at home — and given the struggles of the Panthers’ offense all season
— I am going with Dirk Koetter’s group. Oh, forgot: The Bucs can make
the playoffs this weekend — IF approximately 851 things happen,
including Stylez G. White and Hardy Nickerson racking up five sacks
Sunday.
Pick: Bucs 25 Panthers 22

Cleveland (1-14) at Pitsburgh (10-5)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Steelers -6 / 43.5
Who knows how many guys the Steelers will rest? Sounds like all
of them. Therefore, DeAngelo Williams, if healthy enough, should
receive plenty of run. Perhaps Eli Rogers picks up some of the Antonio
Brown load. No matter what, Pittsburgh has the depth to produce enough
offense. That said, don’t look for the Browns to lay down, either.
This group hung together, as evidenced by the close win against the
Chargers when the defense shut the door late. Many fans will be
watching this game closely, as a loss means the Browns will get the
No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft. If they win, and the 49ers lose to the
Seahawks, it gets a bit more complex. Here’s what you need to know:
The first overall pick is Cleveland’s to lose, and Pittsburgh is not
trying its darndest to win.
Pick: Steelers 17 Browns 13

Dallas (13-2) at Philadelphia (6-9)
Saturday, Noon FOX
Line: Eagles -4 / 43
Who the heck knows which Cowboys will play in this contest? First
off, who goes most of the way at quarterback for Dallas? Jason Garrett
is in a real pickle here. If he gives Tony Romo reps, what happens if
the veteran absolutely lights it up? (How would that impact the
playoff plan, should Dak Prescott struggle a bit — and the plan
beyond that?) On the other hand, Philadelphia’s defense has been a
different animal at home, and just made life miserable for Romo
counterpart Eli Manning. Is that fair to thrust Romo into the lineup,
on the road, in this kind of matchup? If he falters or gets hurt (Romo
was hurt in Philadelphia last season), what happens to his trade value
— or his free-agent value, should the Cowboys end up just releasing
him? None of those are fun outcomes for the Joneses, from increasing
plays. Worth noting here is that the Eagles are 5-2 at home, thanks to
that stout defense. My gut tells me that Garrett plays his starters
more than fans anticipate (and that I need to do planks at the gym
today).
Pick: Eagles 23 Cowboys 20

Buffalo (7-8) at NY Jets (4-11)
Saturday, Noon CBS
Line: Bills -3.5 / 42
Pride, and in the name of love — that’s what these two teams
are playing for. Neither club, I’m sure, wants to head into the
offseason with heads down. The future of both coaches in this game is
uncertain. After Rex Ryan was dismissed this week, Anthony Lynn was
tabbed to replace him as the interim boss. My colleague Ian Rapoport
says the Bills are taking a serious gander at Lynn as a potential
permanent replacement. Does that mean his players will compete their
butts off for him? As for the Jets, do they have the aerial attack to
win for embattled head coach Todd Bowles? The passing game, after
being a strength last season and in the earlier meeting versus the
Bills this year, has been an abomination. My guess is Shady McCoy goes
off against a talented front that often just hasn’t shown up for work
in 2016. At least we know the Jets won’t lose by 20 or more points,
like they have five times already. Right? We do know that … I think.
Pick: Bills 28 Jets 20

Chicago (3-12) at Minnesota (7-8)
Sunday, Noon FOX
Line: Vikings -5.5 / 41
Don’t laugh, but this has the makings of a great game. Seriously.
No, really. You think Sam Bradford doesn’t have much to play for? How
about Adrian Peterson, who must be hearing the whispers about whether
he has lost a step (and whether the Vikings need to look to the future
at the RB position)? Then there’s Matt Barkley, who surely knows what
the light at the end of the tunnel could be if he were to ball out in
a Bears victory: a chance to legitimately compete for a starting job
next season. Another youngster, Jordan Howard, trucked the Minnesota
defense for over 200 yards from scrimmage last time they played. He’s
the real deal — and will need to be just that (and then some) if
Chicago is to avoid going 0-8 on the road this season. By the way, who
uses the word “youngster” anymore? Old people.
Pick: Vikings 23 Bears 20

Jacksonville (3-12) at Indianapolis (7-8)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Colts -4.5 / 47
More speculation on the coaching front in this game. For the
visiting Jaguars, consider Sunday an extended looksie at Doug Marrone
as a potential frontman. If Marrone goes 2-0, how in theee hayle does
team brass hire someone else? And what to make of Chuck Pagano’s
future, one year after he seemed to hang on partially because his
players lobbied for him so hard at the close of last season? For all
the talk of Andrew Luck getting pummeled this season, the rookies on
the Colts’ line have prevented him from getting sacked at all over the
last two games. How about that? Meanwhile, the Jaguars haven’t won in
Indianapolis since “Blame” Gabbert was handing off to MJD in 2012.
T.Y. Hilton could become the first Colt to lead the NFL in receiving
yards since Reggie Wayne in 2007. That’s a fun fact. Here’s a fun
prediction (if you call Naptown home): Adam Vinatieri secures the
Colts’ second straight 8-8 finish with a 46-yard field goal at the end
of regulation.
Pick: Colts 25 Jags 22

New England (13-2) at Miami (10-5)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Patriots -9.5 / 45
    Late-season games in Miami have not been a cake walk for the
Belichick Patriots, whether they have much to play for or not. New
England lost down there in Week 17 last season — as well as in
December of 2013. (Not to mention the Week 1 loss at Miami in 2014.)
The Patriots clinch home-field throughout the playoffs with a win or a
Raiders loss. The Dolphins will be the sixth seed … unless the pass
rush gets to Tom Brady and the Chiefs falter in San Diego. This should
be a tight ballgame, with the Dolphins trying keep their mojo heading
into the postseason. But can the defense continue to play over its
head? The concern: The Patriots running backs, specifically LeGarrette
Blount, who is now one of just four running backs in the last five
years to rush for over 1,000 yards and at least 15 touchdowns.
Pick: Patriots 20 Dolphins 16

Kansas City (11-4) at San Diego (5-10)
Sunday, 3:25 CBS
Line: Chiefs -5.5 / 44.5
The Chargers will give the visiting Chiefs all they can handle,
but I think the added motivation of possibly winning the AFC West
crown will push Kansas City over the top. The last team to win the AFC
West other than the Broncos? The 2010 Chiefs, featuring Todd Haley as
head coach and Matt Cassel under center. Philip Rivers was in his
fifth year as the Chargers’ starting quarterback then, posting his
third consecutive season with a passer rating north of 100. He’s only
pulled that off once since, and is sub-90 this season. For San Diego
to win, Rivers must make the Kansas City back end pay when Justin
Houston and Dee Ford don’t get home. On the subject of San Diego,
let’s hope this isn’t the last game the Chargers ever play there. They
have been part of the fabric of the community for 56 years.
Pick: Chiefs 30 Chargers 23

Arizona (6-8-1) at LA Rams (4-11)
Sunday, 3:25 FOX
Line: Cardinals -6 / 40.5
If you think the Cardinals are going to run all over these guys,
think again. Arizona has failed to turn it on — and keep it on — all
season. The Rams beat Bruce Arians’ squad back in early October — so
long ago that it feels like WWI. Back then, Case Keenum was the
semi-competent starter — something Jared Goff has not been. And we’ll
see if the Rams’ defense is able to get off the field late in the
game, even if the offense puts the unit right back on it. They’ve been
effective at promoting Johnny Hekker’s athleticism. In more important
news, this could be the last game of Larry Fitzgerald’s Hall of Fame
career. Forget the overall numbers — I think Fitz will make it
because of his complete dominance in the 2008 postseason: 546
receiving yards, seven touchdowns. Dude.
Pick: Cardinals 28 Rams 13

Oakland (12-3) at Denver (8-7)
Sunday, 3:25 CBS
Line: Broncos -1.5 / 40.5
This game should tell us much about the Raiders and the AFC
playoff picture. If Matt McGloin can succeed against the top secondary
in football, then there is hope for Oakland yet (even to get the top
seed). If the Broncos win, that puts the Chiefs in position to not
only win the AFC West by beating the Chargers, but to go from being
the fifth seed in the AFC to the second. Think about that. Instead of
the Raiders getting a week off, then hosting a team in Oakland, they
would have to go on the road to face the Texans in the wild-card
round. Could be worse, but you know both the Chiefs and Raiders want
that bye — this is especially true for the team playing its backup
QB. This game will be close, because the Oakland pass rush will be all
up in the Broncos’ pocket. Remember last year?
Pick: Broncos 20 Raiders 17

NY Giants (10-5) at Washington (8-6-1)
Sunday, 3:25 FOX
Line: Redskins -7 / 44.5
We know the Giants have clinched the fifth seed in the NFC,
meaning they will most likely play the winner of the NFC North.
Meanwhile, the Redskins are still trying to squeeze into that sixth
and final wild-card spot. A win over Eli Manning and Co. would be a
huge step in the right direction, not only in terms of getting into
the playoffs, but putting the inconsistency of the last month in the
rearview mirror. I trust Kirk Cousins to handle the moment, even
against a defense that has played well for two months now. The issue
is the other side. More specifically, there are two issues: A) Can
Manning perform better than he has historically in Washington? B) How
much will New York’s prominent guys play, considering that the Giants
can’t gain anything by winning?
Pick: Redskins 27 Giants 13

Seattle (9-5-1) at San Francisco (2-13)
Sunday, 3:25 FOX
Line: Seahawks -10 / 43.5
At some point, confidence in the Seahawks will wane. Not this
week. Seattle still has an opportunity to get the second seed in the
NFC. Will Pete Carroll’s guys blow that opportunity against a two-win
49er team? Yes — if former Niners Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Anquan
Boldin, Mike Iupati and Patrick Willis get special permission to run
around at the Big Blue Jean this weekend. This pick probably makes it
seem like I don’t trust the 49ers’ low-octane attack against a
motivated Seahawks defense. I am comfortable with that. San Francisco
hasn’t beaten these guys in a long time. Seattle just needs to pray
the Falcons lose Sunday.
Pick: Seahawks 30 49ers 10

New Orleans (7-8) at Atlanta (10-5)
Sunday, 3:25 FOX
Line: Falcons -6.5 / 56.5
First, the important stuff. With a win, the Falcons can secure a
first-round bye in the playoffs. The Saints can avoid a third
consecutive losing season by prevailing in their division rival’s
stadium. This will be the last regular-season game ever at the Georgia
Dome. Yeah, I preferred the Fulton County days, anyway … Steve
Bartkowski to Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, with no time on the clock,
1983. So many wild games in this series, from Mike Smith going for it
on fourth down late on Atlanta’s side of the field in 2011 to the
track meet in the 2014 opener, and even this season’s showdown in New
Orleans, when the Falcons’ offense looked like the ’98 Vikings (we all
remember who beat those guys). Drew Brees will give the defense fits,
but I’m taking the Falcons, because they need that home game.
Pick: Falcons 34 Saints 28

Green Bay (9-6) at Detroit (9-6)
Sunday, 7:30 NBC
Line: Packers -3 / 49.5
This is the big momma of Week 17. Packers at Lions will be the
only game that definitively decides a division. Last time these two
teams met, Green Bay pulled way out front, 31-3, only to watch as
Matthew Stafford got hot and Marvin Jones impersonated Herman Moore.
Detroit would pull within seven before the Packers were able to run
out the clock. Of course, when these two longtime NFC North opponents
last faced each other in Detroit, this happened. So we could all be in
store for an epic battle at Ford Field on Sunday night. Most important
for Green Bay is something Aaron Rodgers mentioned this week: getting
off to a fast start. The Pack can’t let the Detroit crowd go full
nutso. Never go full nutso. The Lions have been a rhythm team all
year. Allowing them to build momentum, with Stafford throwing darts,
could get the Packers down two scores. Neither of these teams have
enjoyed much success running the ball, so whichever can accomplish
that and stick with it has the better opportunity to win on Sunday.
Pick: Packers 27 Lions 24

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