It is the end of the road for 20 teams after this week, and with the AFC all sealed up team-wise there is only seeding left to determine. For the NFC, however, there is a lot to sort through still as the Packers, Lions, Buccaneers, and Redskins will all be fighting for the final two spots in the playoffs. It should be exciting. For the final time in the regular season, here are my picks.
Last Week: 9-7
Sunday, January 1st, 1:00 e.t.
Baltimore Ravens (8-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1)
The Ravens fought hard but the Steelers stole a win and the AFC North away from them last week at Heinz Field in the final seconds. Now Baltimore hits the road with a bad taste in their mouth. That could mean motivation, but now this team has nothing to play for and I think they will come out deflated and the Bengals can take advantage of this playing at home.
Cincinnati 20, Baltimore 14
Cleveland Browns (1-14) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)
Cleveland finally has a win this year, and it took them 15 games to get it. That was a good thing too because if they didn’t win that game this one wasn’t a great bet for them. Although the Steelers essentially have nothing to play for, I think they will go out and get the “W” because that is the Mike Tomlin way. Call this a warm-up game before they host Miami next week.
Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 9
Houston Texans (9-6) @ Tennessee Titans (8-7)
The Titans were stabbed multiple times in the chest last week losing their quarterback Marcus Mariota and their season all in one day. This game could have been for all of the marbles, but instead it is a rather meaningless affair with everything decided between these two squads. Still, with a decent defense and an offense that has shown a bit of a shriek with Tom Savage at the helm, I see the Texans walking away from this game with the season sweep.
Houston 29, Tennessee 17
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) @ Indianapolis Colts (7-8)
The Colts were finding somewhat of a rhythm on defense until they headed out to Oakland and got hammered. This week should provide them with a good bounce-back opportunity against a Jacksonville team that is very inconsistent across the way. Their defense should keep them in this one though but I certainly like Indy’s offense over the Jaguars’.
Indianapolis 22, Jacksonville 17
Carolina Panthers (6-9) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)
The Panthers, and specifically Cam Newton, have been a mess this year as the 2015 MVP is completing just 45% of his passes over the past month. On the road against a Tampa Bay team that needs to have this one seems like a tall task, but I’m smelling an upset. Doug Martin will not be in this game due to a drug suspension and that could take some wind out from behind Tampa’s sails.
Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 22
Chicago Bears (3-12) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
Matt Barkley showed us all that he is still Matt Barkley when he threw five picks against the Redskins last week. Sure, the Bears were in come from behind mode and he had to force the issue a bit but it doesn’t change the fact that he can be reckless with the football. On the road against a Viking defense that has been humbled lately, I like Minnesota to bounce back and play well. Their offense has been watchable lately, even against some decent defenses.
Minnesota 18, Chicago 13
Dallas Cowboys (13-2) @ Philadelphia Eagles (6-9)
The Eagles looked like a different team with Lane Johnson in at right tackle and their defense played the prototypical bend but don’t break style last week against the Giants. The Cowboys ride into town having nothing at all to play for. Jason Garrett won’t be resting his starters, but at the same time there won’t be a huge sense of urgency. Playing at home, I think the Iggles can drop a NFC East foe for the second straight week.
Philadelphia 27, Dallas 17
Buffalo Bills (7-8) @ New York Jets (4-11)
Rex Ryan was shown the door Tuesday and now it will be Anthony Lynn taking over as head coach. Remember when this guy was the running back coach at the beginning of the year? Funny how he’s been on the rise while the only thing the Bills do well is run the ball. The Jets can stop the run, but I just don’t think their offense has enough firepower to hold off the stampeded from Buffalo.
Buffalo 20, New York 10
New England Patriots (13-2) @ Miami Dolphins (10-5)
The Patriots and Dolphins are headed to the playoffs and in this game Miami won’t have anything to play for since they are locked in at the #5 seed. New England, however, will have the #1 seed in their sights as a win will bring that to them. Matt Moore has been solid in relief of Ryan Tannehill, but I don’t see him standing up to Tom Brady. I also think the Pats will be able to run the ball against the ‘Phins which won’t bode well for the home team.
New England 35, Miami 21
Sunday, January 1st, 4:25 e.t.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) @ San Diego Chargers (5-10)
A Chiefs win and a Raiders loss will bring the AFC West crown to Kansas City so they should be playing with a lot of heart on Sunday. This KC team can be scary because they have a suddenly explosive and playoff level offense to pair with their opportunistic defense. The Chargers will likely be playing for the final time in San Diego on Sunday so they should be fired up, but I don’t like the mistakes their offense is prone to making and that prevents me from picking them here.
Kansas City 31, San Diego 24
Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-11)
The Cardinals shocked the world and clipped the Seahawks for the first time at home last week and will finish their season on the road against a Rams team that struggles to break 10 points most weeks. David Johnson has his eyes set on breaking 100 scrimmage yards for each game in the 2016 season here also, and I think he will. Arizona’s offense has gotten up off the mat over the last few weeks while the Rams continue to be stuck in neutral.
Arizona 31, Los Angeles 13
New Orleans Saints (7-8) @ Atlanta Falcons (10-5)
I was going to pick the Saints in an upset here, but this is a different Falcon team that is winning all of the games they should be when they have to. They have a shot at reeling in the #2 seed, and I don’t think they will pass up that chance at home against the Saints who have nothing to play for besides spoiler. Their defense has regressed some and that is not good news facing the best offense in football.
Atlanta 38, New Orleans 28
Oakland Raiders (12-3) @ Denver Broncos (8-7)
On the road in Denver with Mr. Matt McGloin doing his thing under center, it is tough to see the Raiders walking away with a win, but I think this Bronco team is in a horrible funk right now. Their offense has been atrocious the last couple of weeks, and the defense has seemingly given up at times. With noting to play for, don’t be surprised if they come out flat, even against a backup QB.
Oakland 23, Denver 12
New York Giants (10-5) @ Washington Redskins (8-6-1)
The Giants were able to move the ball against the Eagles, but three Eli Manning interceptions doomed the G-Men on the road. Now they will be facing one of the better offenses in the league this week. If Kirk Cousins passes for more than 370 yards, he will have a 5,000 yard season believe it or not. I don’t think it will happen, but I do see Washington playing a good game and scoring some points against a Giant team that has still been showing struggles keeping up on offense.
Washington 26, New York 18
Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (2-13)
The Seahawks did have a minor hiccup last week at home against the Cardinals, but they will get an easy game on the road against the 49ers who can’t beat anybody outside of the Rams this year. I think that Seattle will keep it held back on offense and try to win this game with their “D”. They should get that running game cranking against a team that has been horrible in that department as well.
Seattle 24, San Francisco 13
Sunday, January 1st, 8:30 e.t.
Green Bay Packers (9-6) @ Detroit Lions (9-6)
This game could be a loser goes home scenario in addition to a battle for the NFC North title. Ford Field should be rocking early, but I don’t think they will be late because this Packer storm is coming on strong and each week they are looking more and more like the 2010 team that won it all. Aaron Rodgers has fought his way back into the MVP conversation and after seeing the bad effort put forth out of Detroits’ defense on Monday night, I don’t have much confidence in them being able to get the job done with all the marbles on the line.
Power Pick of the Week: Green Bay 34, Detroit 21
Week 17 Bonus Predictions
Sure Bet of the Week (13-2): Arizona over Los Angeles
Upset of the Week: Carolina over Tampa Bay
Offensive Player of the Week: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
Defensive Player of the Week: Khalil Mack, LB, Raiders
Rookie of the Week: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
Best Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Colts
Best Running Back: LeGarrette Blount, Patriots