NFL Game Picks: Week 17
It’s almost time to put a bow on the 2018 NFL regular season. Four months of football have flown by, but there’s still one week to go before we move on to the postseason. And it certainly shouldn’t be a boring one. Nine playoff spots have been taken, but three are still up for grabs, and there’s plenty to decide in terms of seeding too. It’s the last time all 32 teams will be in action, and it all goes down on Sunday, so let’s take one final look at the 2018 regular season.
Atlanta Falcons (6-9) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10)
As is tradition, the final Sunday gets most of the games without postseason implications out of the way at 1 p.m. This is one of those games. The Falcons and Buccaneers have long been eliminated, but pride remains on the line. Tampa Bay doesn’t want to be swept by a division rival, and Atlanta would like to avoid a double-digit loss season. The Falcons have won their last two, so they end the year with three in a row; a hopeful sign for a healthier 2019.
The pick: Atlanta 20, Tampa Bay 16
Miami Dolphins (7-8) @ Buffalo Bills (5-10)
Talk about going out with a whimper. After knocking off the Patriots in wild fashion, Miami looked to make a postseason push… then proceeded to get kicked by the Vikings and Jaguars. With Ryan Tannehill likely playing the final game of his Dolphin career, this match is merely a showcase for teams looking to grab a QB in the offseason. Buffalo is certainly nothing to write home about, but the Bills are at home, so they’ll get the edge in this one.
The pick: Buffalo 17, Miami 13
Dallas Cowboys (9-6) @ New York Giants (5-10)
You have to hand it to Dallas. After looking dead in the water at 3-5, the Cowboys have put together a solid season thanks to top-tier defensive play and a drastically improved offense, and now the NFC East is theirs for the third time in five years. The Giants have had a nice little turnaround of their own, but it’s too little, too late. With Dallas having nothing to play for in this final week though, the Giants get to double their win total from last year.
The pick: NY Giants 23, Dallas 17
Detroit Lions (5-10) @ Green Bay Packers (6-8-1)
It’s bizarre to see how badly the Lions regressed. They fired their head coach after a 9-7 season in 2017 because they thought he was “holding them back,” and, yes, the defense has thrived under Matt Patricia, but the offense has been absolutely anemic. That needs to be addressed soon. The Packers’ problems have already been made evident. There’s a lot to do in the offseason between these two teams, but for now, they play one more game. Green Bay finishes with a home victory.
The pick: Green Bay 19, Detroit 13
New York Jets (4-11) @ New England Patriots (10-5)
Since 2010, there are only four NFL teams that haven’t played in a wild-card game: The Browns, Buccaneers, Bears… and Patriots. New England has a strong chance to continue that streak, thanks to some help from Nick Foles and the Eagles. The Patriots didn’t look their sharpest against Buffalo last week, so they shouldn’t take the Jets lightly, considering that Sam Darnold has gone toe-to-toe with Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers these past two weeks.
The pick: New England 29, NY Jets 19
Carolina Panthers (6-9) @ New Orleans Saints (13-2)
Two of the best quarterbacks in the NFC will be sitting this one out, but for completely different reasons. Cam Newton is injured, and so is Taylor Heinicke, so Kyle Allen gets his first career start. Meanwhile, the Saints have the No. 1 seed all wrapped up, so Teddy Bridgewater gets a one-game audition just in time for free agency. Can the Saints’ second stringers knock off the bruised Panthers? Sure can. Make it eight losses to end the season for Carolina.
The pick: New Orleans 24, Carolina 10
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) @ Houston Texans (10-5)
You were this close, Houston! The Texans could smell their first ever first-round playoff bye, but it’s slipped out of their hands and into New England’s thanks to the plucky Eagles. In all likelihood, the Texans will have to settle for a wild-card round home game, but they need to win this one to assure the division is theirs. The Jaguars would be happy to hand Houston a major road upset, but the chances of Blake Bortles staying in Jacksonville next year are more likely.
The pick: Houston 31, Jacksonville 14
Chicago Bears (11-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)
Now we get to the good stuff. Every game at 4:25 p.m. has playoff implications, but there may be none larger than this one. For Chicago, the chance at a first-round playoff bye is on the line. For Minnesota, a wild-card spot is up for grabs. Win, and get in. Lose, and pray the Redskins can pull off an upset of the red-hot Eagles. It’s been a disappointing season for the Vikings, so will it end that way too? It’s a close call, but the Vikings find a way to win at home.
The pick: Minnesota 31, Chicago 28
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)
The Steelers are kicking themselves. Miscues and bad losses have left Pittsburgh needing a win and some help from the rival Browns in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013. It starts with a win over Cincinnati, and although that seems like a sure thing, the Steelers can’t afford to be caught napping. At this point, the Bengals would love nothing more than to eliminate Pittsburgh from the postseason. This might be closer than one would expect.
The pick: Pittsburgh 20, Cincinnati 16
Cleveland Browns (7-7-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
The Browns are in the ultimate position of power. Depending on whether they win or lose this game, they will eliminate either the Steelers or Ravens. Really, it’s a win-win situation. But the Browns are looking for a win. After all, a victory would place the Browns at 8-7-1, signaling their first winning season since 2007. It won’t be easy to do though, as Baltimore’s defense has been up to its regular standards recently. This is one of week 17’s hidden gems.
The pick: Cleveland 16, Baltimore 13
Los Angeles Chargers (11-4) @ Denver Broncos (6-9)
This one certainly seems like a mismatch. Denver officially has nothing more to play for, as last week’s loss to Oakland ended the streak of not having back-to-back losing seasons under Pat Bowlen, while Los Angeles still has slim hopes to take the AFC’s top seed. Division games are always hard to account for, but with Denver likely wanting to show Vance Joseph the door as soon as possible, the Chargers should come away with an easy win.
The pick: LA Chargers 29, Denver 7
Oakland Raiders (4-11) @ Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
This is a carbon copy of the previous game. The situation is a little less intense for Kansas City than it is for Los Angeles, as the Chiefs are at home and don’t need another team to lose in order to wrap up the No. 1 seed, but they shouldn’t underestimate the Raiders. Oakland has won two of its last three and played Kansas City close at the start of December. Ultimately, Patrick Mahomes should lead the Chiefs to victory, but there might be a scare.
The pick: Kansas City 29, Oakland 22
San Francisco 49ers (4-11) @ Los Angeles Rams (12-3)
Does San Francisco have any shot of winning this one? Yes, but there’s a lot to overcome. Jared Goff shook off his recent blues in Arizona last week, and the team looked fine with C.J. Anderson in the backfield. Don’t forget that Aaron Donald is just 3.5 sacks away from breaking the single-season record, too, so the defense should be in top form. The Niners have pulled off a handful of minor upsets this season, but they’ll need to be their very best to get the big one.
The pick: LA Rams 29, San Francisco 17
Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) @ Washington Redskins (7-8)
Football is ridiculous. The Eagles were 6-7 and almost completely out of it. Enter Nick Foles, the savior of Philadelphia sports, and, lo and behold, the Eagles somehow have a chance to snag a wild-card bid with a win and a Minnesota loss. And it’s not all that unlikely either, considering that the Vikings have a tough test against Chicago. But Philly needs to do its part. Sunday’s bout is against the struggling Redskins. That really should be a win.
The pick: Philadelphia 32, Washington 14
Arizona Cardinals (3-12) @ Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
What a “rebuilding” year for Seattle. The defense has thrived without the Legion of Boom, and the offense has established a punishing ground game and a nasty passing attack. This is a scary team for the higher-ups in the NFC. There’s not much on the line in this one, though the Seahawks would likely prefer to go to Dallas instead of Chicago or Los Angeles during wild-card weekend. As such, they’ll take care of business at home.
The pick: Seattle 27, Arizona 10
Indianapolis Colts (9-6) @ Tennessee Titans (9-6)
What a fascinating game to have on Sunday night. This is essentially a “win and get in, lose and go home” game, as, barring a tie, one of these teams is guaranteed a spot in the postseason. Tennessee, notorious for being hot and cold, has been hot lately with four straight wins. The Colts, of course, have won eight of their last nine. There’s a lot of momentum going into this one, but only can take home the W. It should be a thrilling finale the NFL regular season.
The pick: Indianapolis 27, Tennessee 23
DJ Bauer is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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