We are finally here. Week 17. The end of the NFL season and the beginning of the playoffs.
In many ways, other than week 1, week 17 is the hardest to predict. With many of the playoff positions already determined many teams will be featuring backups or young talent in an effort to preserve their stars for the playoffs or to hasten the impending rebuild.
In fact, only a few games this week have any intrinsic value, and those will be highlighted further in the article. So without further ado, let us take a look at how this season is going to wrap up.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Baltimore just got eliminated from the playoffs by their arch-rivals and Cincinnati is desperate for this lost season to come to an end. Neither team has anything to play for, neither are going for the playoffs, nor are they jostling for a high draft pick. Both of these teams are in a hellish middle ground that drives sports fans up the wall.
So what this game comes down to is coaching. Who will get their team better prepared and better motivated to finish the season strong. In that case I will take John Harbaugh over Marvin Lewis. I actually am a big fan of Lewis, but Harbaugh is simply better at getting his players to always play hard and play smart.
I like the Ravens to finish the season strong.
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans
This game is very important to exactly one man: Tom Savage. Savage is not only trying to give his team momentum entering the playoffs, but he is also auditioning for a starting job next season. Brock Osweiler is obviously not the answer and the Texans are not about to sign another high-priced free agent at quarterback. So the Texans have two options: 1) draft a quarterback for the future, or 2) go all in with Savage. The problem is that Savage has yet to show any real leadership ability or offensive flare. The best that can be said is that he is competent.
Unfortunately, the Titans are in worse shape. Their entire offense is predicated on a strong run game supplemented by an accurate passer who minimizes mistakes. Neither of those two descriptors apply to Matt Cassel.
In the end this game will come down to defensive prowess and the Texans have the better defense.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cam Newton wants this season to end…desperately. I do not care who the Panthers’ face, a Cam Newton without motivation will not be winning many games; especially behind that awful offensive line.
To make matters worse, the Bucs actually do have something to play for. If the Bucs win and the Lions and Redskins lose, then they would make the playoffs as the last wildcard (if my playoff math is correct). But even without playoff implications, Tampa Bay made some great strides this year and the team as a whole will want to keep that momentum going no matter if it is to the playoffs or to next season.
I like the Buccaneers to take this one.
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
So the Browns got a win. Makes the rest of the season kind of pointless doesn’t it? If you are going to suck that bad, then make history and be the worst ever. But leave it to the Browns to even screw that up. The Steelers do not have much to play for since they have locked up their spot in the postseason.
With all of that being said, Mike Tomlin has never been the type of coach to lay back. He is very aggressive, and in the words of Herm Edwards, plays to win the game. Because of that mentality the Steelers will win, since they are an infinitely better team at this point in time.
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
Yet another game with nothing to play for. The Cowboys have locked up the #1 seed along with the first round bye. The funny thing here is that even if the Cowboys decide to rest Dak Prescott, then that means Tony Romo will get the start. For the Eagles it is damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
I do not think Dallas will rest its guys, but even if they do, the Cowboys will still win.
Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets
Oh dear God, are they honestly allowing this game on TV? The Bills fired the brother Ryan and the Jets at this point in time may be the worst team in the league. The problem with the Jets is not talent or even coaching…it’s heart. It is a team full of individuals. There does not seem to be a unity of purpose and it becomes incumbent on the coach and GM to fix that problem.
The Bills’ problem is a much different one. They suffered a rash of injuries at the outset. Personally I felt that Rex Ryan deserved one more year (not Rob Ryan though). But be that as it may, both of these teams are entering the offseason with a lot of questions.
But as for this game, I will take heart over talent every time. Bills get one more feel good win.
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
A major battle between two majorly disappointing teams. The Vikings started 5-0 and then spiraled out of control as the lack of offensive line help and the absence of a run game sunk what was a promising season for Minnesota.
On the flip side, many in Chicago were looking forward to the team’s progression under John Fox. While very few realistically expected a deep playoff run, many were hoping for at least a winning season with momentum heading into the heart of this rebuild.
Obviously that did not come true for the Bears who with a loss, would complete the worst season in Chicago history for a 16-game schedule.
The Vikings have won games based on defense and special teams and this Bears team is completely incapable of countering either of those. Matt Barkley just threw 5 interceptions last week and the Bears’ special teams are amongst the worst in the league.
The Vikings should win this one walking away.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
Do not let last week’s performance fool you…the Jaguars still sucks. Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut and after four years Blake Bortles finally put together a decent 4th quarter. The sad thing is that even with the inspired play by Bortles, had Mariota not been injured the Jaguars still likely would have lost.
I would not be surprised to see Jacksonville take a quarterback in the 3rd or 4th round of the draft as an insurance policy. Indianapolis has not been very good either, but they at least have a reliable quarterback and in this game that is all they are going to need.
I like the Colts to get the W against the lowly Jags.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
Both teams have not only clinched a playoff spot, but both are locked into their positions as well. But here’s the rub: New England is notorious for resting starters. It was not that long ago that Bill Belichick started Doug Flutie in week 17 against the Dolphins and let Flutie do a drop kick.
I expect the Dolphins to play hard and the Patriots to treat it like a preseason game; therefore I am picking the Dolphins to win this one.
Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers
There is a lot at stake for the Chiefs here. If the Chiefs win and the Raiders lose, then the Chiefs will be the 2nd seed and get a first round bye. That is huge motivation, especially for a team that has some seasoned veterans on their defense. Kansas City will be fighting hard for that bye.
The Chargers technically have nothing to play for, however; it may be the last game they ever play in San Diego. While southern California is not known for the ferocity of their sports fandom, I have a feeling there will be a good crowd there to send this team off. Furthermore, Philip Rivers loves San Diego and was outspoken in his opposition to the team moving to L.A. and I have a feeling he will come out slinging.
It won’t matter though. I have said repeatedly that the Chiefs may be the most well-rounded team in the NFL and with the motivation to win that they have I can not imagine them losing here.
Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams
Are the Cardinals good enough to score points? Yes, they are? Then they are good enough to beat the worst offense in the league. The Rams offense is an absolute joke and the GM should be on the street right along with their former coach.
Cardinals win in what may be the last game of Larry Fitzgerald’s career.
Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos
The poor Raiders. They looked like a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl, until Derek Carr had his leg broken. Now their hopes land on the shoulder of either Matt McGloin or Connor Cook. It does not look good.
The Broncos’ offense has been terrible, but they are at home and they have that great defense.
I have no faith in that Raider offense without Carr and their defense is not good enough to win them games. I like the Broncos to win here and cost the Raiders that 1st round bye.
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
The Giants are a better team and if they really want to make a push, then I think they would take this game. That being said, the Redskins can still make the playoffs and I have a feeling that the Giants will be conservative and sit some players, leaving it wide open for the Redskins.
Redskins sneak into the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
The Seahawks should rest Russell Wilson and that bad wheel of his, but even if they do the 49ers are not a match for the Seahawks. San Francisco has been horrid this year. Despite the “brilliance” of Chip Kelly they have been one of the worst offenses in the NFL and make no mistake they will be looking for a new quarterback this offseason.
When the only splash you have made all season is your quarterback’s pregame ritual, then you have a lot of work to do. Seahawks win and ease into the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are competing for a bye and have the home field advantage. The Saints are playing for nothing. Drew Brees is a great competitor who will go out and do everything he can to win, but in the end he is leading a team without a defense and a head coach that is seemingly checked out.
The Falcons have been the best offense in the NFL all year long and they shouldn’t have much trouble against the Saints defense. Falcons win.
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
This is the game of the week. This game is practically win or go home. The winner is crowned NFC North Champion and the loser will likely be eliminated unless some other teams help them out.
Both of these teams have suspect defenses and are completely dependant on the play of their respective quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford has been incredible, constantly leading his team from behind in the final minutes of games. Whether it be throwing down field or lowering his head and taking on linebackers while running for the first down.
Aaron Rodgers’ accomplishments speak for themselves and over the Packers’ 5-game win streak there has not been a better quarterback in the NFL. This game should be a shootout and should be a great game.