We have finally reached the last week of the regular season, and mercifully so for some teams. Either way, this season has gone by in a blink and there is a full slate of 16 games to be played. Eleven of these games will have playoff implications and there are still a couple of things we have to sort out before getting to the playoffs. Who will emerge from the final stanza victorious? Here are my picks.
Last Week: 12-4
Sunday, December 31st, 1:00 e.t.
Green Bay Packers (7-8) @ Detroit Lions (8-7)
This is one of the five games that does not have any playoff implications. The Lions were stunned by the Bengals last week and now their season is over. They draw Brett Hundley’s Packers on at home and Green Bay has been a surprisingly better road team than home by quite a large margin. I think that will show up here as the Pack fights to even its record at 8-8.
Green Bay 20, Detroit 17 ***UPSET OF THE WEEK***
Chicago Bears (5-10) @ Minnesota Vikings (12-3)
The Vikings will lock up a first round BYE with a win over Chicago at home, which will happen. The Minnesota defense has been dominant while the Bears on offense have nothing much in the way of a passing game. That does not bode well for them on the road.
Minnesota 31, Chicago 7
Washington Redskins (7-8) @ New York Giants (2-13)
The Giants were shut out on the road in Arizona and will be thrilled once this game comes to an end as their nightmare season will finally be terminated. Both teams are ravaged by injuries but I like the Redskins to go to 8-8 because they still have spurts where they look like a competent team and the Giants have a lot of controversy surrounding its team and players.
Washington 32, New York 12
New York Jets (5-10) @ New England Patriots (12-3)
The Patriots lock up the #1 seed with a win here and that will be the case over a Jet team that did overachieve this season. They have done a good job playing competitive football this year but on the road against a Pats team that has a lot to play for, I don’t like those odds.
New England 29, New York 12
Cleveland Browns (0-15) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)
Will the Browns get a win this year? I’ve been saying no for the past month and nothing about this game will change my mind because the Steelers need a win to maintain that #2 seed in the playoffs. They will also want to win given the chance that they could slide up to the #1 seed with a New England loss. Either way, there is no chance for a letdown at home here. Sorry Browns, you’re joining the 2008 Lions in infamy.
Pittsburgh 30, Cleveland 9
Dallas Cowboys (8-7) @ Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)
The Eagles were lucky to defeat the Raiders last week and it took a great second half effort from their defense to do so. Their offense looked lost and this game will serve as a chance for them to right the ship. Even still it is likely that the backups will be playing a lot of this game and the Cowboys should be running their normal offense, fully healthy. In the end that should line up for a meaningless Dallas win.
Dallas 21, Philadelphia 15
Houston Texans (4-11) @ Indianapolis Colts (3-12)
The loser of this game will finish in last place in the AFC South and the Texans look like a fish out of water. Meanwhile, the Colts have been playing some competitive football against playoff hopeful teams lately. That can show up at home against Houston in a game that means nothing for the playoff picture.
Indianapolis 21, Houston 17
Sunday, December 31st, 4:25 e.t.
Buffalo Bills (8-7) @ Miami Dolphins (6-9)
The Bills, in order to make it into the playoffs, have to hope for a win here and a loss from the Chargers or the Ravens and Titans. That should motivate them but something tells me the Dolphins are going to come out motivated to play spoiler here. I think the Buffalo offense struggles to get going and costs the Bills their first playoff shot since 1999.
Miami 23, Buffalo 13
New Orleans Saints (11-4) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11)
The Saints will take a win here (or a Panther loss) and that will give them the NFC South. There should not be much trouble in putting the Buccaneers away with a secondary that struggles and a “D” that has been having trouble tackling lately. That should mean for a big game out of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Give me N’awlins.
New Orleans 34, Tampa Bay 20
Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) @ Tennessee Titans (8-7)
The Titans will need a win here to edge their way into the postseason, but we are in the midst of a Titanic (pun somewhat intended) collapse at the end of the year here. The Jacksonville defense was embarrassed by the Niners on the road last week so I think they will come out motivated to show up their division rivals here. Marcus Mariota has been a turnover machine this year and that is not good news against the defense that leads the league in takeaways.
Jacksonville 24, Tennessee 14 ***LOCK OF THE WEEK***
Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) @ Denver Broncos (5-10)
The Chiefs have nothing to play for here because they are locked in as a #4 seed, so it stands to reason that they will rest their starters as per Andy Reid tradition. That could mean a random win for the Broncos at home only their offense is really bad so that could thwart this pick. Even still, I’ll take Denver because I do still like their defense, especially versus a lot of non-starters.
Denver 19, Kansas City 13
Oakland Raiders (6-9) @ Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
The Chargers have a decent chance of getting into the playoffs. All they are going to need to do is win this game and hope for a Tennessee loss to get in. Both of these things I am predicting to happen. The Raiders have a bad defense, even though Nick Foles and the Eagles struggled mightily against them last week. L.A.’s offense is capable of putting together big days and I think they have the chance to do so here as they sneak into the playoffs.
Los Angeles 38, Oakland 21
San Francisco 49ers (5-10) @ Los Angeles Rams (11-4)
The 49ers still have not lost since naming Jimmy Garoppolo the starter and I think that trend will continue. Sean McVay has come out already saying that there is not much of a difference in being the #3 seed or #4 seed so there is a good chance that some starters will be rested throughout. Meanwhile, San Fran will try their best to win this game as they try to create some hope and excitement for the 2018 season. I like the Niners on the road here.
San Francisco 30, Los Angeles 24
Arizona Cardinals (7-8) @ Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
The Seahawks are in need of a win here and an Atlanta loss to Carolina (which is possible) in order to sneak into the playoffs. If they do get in they could be that sneaky team that puts a run together. The Cardinals stand in their way and I think that they will put up a fight but in the end their offense won’t have enough to get the job done on the road against a Seattle “D” that was balling out last week against Dallas.
Seattle 22, Arizona 16
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) @ Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
The formula for the Ravens is simple: win and you’re in. That should not be a problem at home against a hapless Bengal team. Yes, they did upset the Lions a week ago, but the Detroit defense is nowhere near the level that Baltimore’s is. Cincy will want to get a win in Marvin Lewis’s last game with the team but it just will not happen. Baltimore’s offense has been picking it up lately and it makes you think that maybe they could make some noise in January.
Baltimore 27, Cincinnati 10
Carolina Panthers (11-4) @ Atlanta Falcons (9-6)
This is the best game on the Week 17 slate. Here is the scenario: the Panthers win the NFC South with a win and a Saint loss. The Falcons will make it in the playoffs as the #6 seed with a win (or a Seattle loss). Desperation will likely rear its head from Atlanta at home here and I think they will pull off a very close win against a Carolina team that has had an inconsistent offense this season.
Atlanta 27, Carolina 23
Projected Playoff Picture (based off of the above picks)
#1 Seed- New England Patriots (13-3)
#2 Seed- Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
#3 Seed- Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5)
#4 Seed- Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
#5 Seed- Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
#6 Seed- Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
Wild Card Matchups:
Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs
#1 Seed: Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
#2 Seed: Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
#3 Seed: New Orleans Saints (12-4)
#4 Seed: Los Angeles Rams (11-5)
#5 Seed: Carolina Panthers (11-5)
#6 Seed: Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
Wild Card Matchups:
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers @ Los Angeles Rams