Last week: 11-5 straight up, not bad considering the tumultuous week. 149-88 for the season.
For the first time in the history of the league, Week 17 isn’t the final week of the regular season. With all the COVID-19 issues hitting so many teams and with various states of motivation for several matchups, the picks here are best guesses as to who might actually be playing.
The NFL gave us a respite with no Thursday night game. Every game is on Sunday with the exception of a crucially important Browns vs. Steelers matchup on Monday night.
– Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals (+5): This is a marquee matchup that could foreshadow the AFC Championship Game. If you like great QB play and skillful passing games, this is a must-watch. The Chiefs have given up more than one touchdown just once in the last five weeks, but they haven’t seen Joe Burrow throwing to Ja’marr Chase, Tee Higgins and friends. If the Bengals can contain Travis Kelce in the middle of the field, they should win. That’s easier said than done; despite having a good group of safeties and LBs, Cincinnati has struggled all year with teams that feature the TE as a receiver and can also run the ball. The Chiefs run game hasn’t been terribly efficient lately, but it’s still capable.
Chiefs 30, Bengals 28
– Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans (-3.5): Good litmus test to see just how well the impressive Miami turnaround holds up against a good team. Give the Dolphins credit for winning the games they should, but this is a playoff-type game against a good Titans squad that can win with offense or defense. The Dolphins’ sharp, well-coordinated defense gives them a real chance, but the offensive line will have to allow Tua Tagovailoa time to operate and clean throwing lanes. That’s a tough task in Tennessee.
Titans 17, Dolphins 13
– New York Giants at Chicago Bears (-4): Two teams that have had significant portions of the team check out on the lost seasons meet in a game that could be Matt Nagy’s last appearance in Chicago. Give the Bears the upper paw at home and for having the better QB, no matter which of the three winds up starting…
Bears 27, Giants 13
– Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team (+3.5): The WFT that we saw get annihilated by Dallas stands no chance against the plucky Eagles, who have taken flight lately into the final NFC wild-card spot. The overall point differential between these two teams is telling: The Eagles are plus-80 — better than Green Bay or Tennessee — while the Football Team sits at an unhealthy minus-110. The football application of the Pythagorean theorem makes this seem academic.
Eagles 36, Football Team 17
– Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts (-7): Important game in the AFC wild-card race, where the Colts have surged to the top of the crowded heap, but the Raiders are still hanging around. A Las Vegas win gives the Raiders a huge tiebreaker boost in the standings. These are the types of games the Colts imported Carson Wentz to win, period. It will take Wentz losing it for the Cots to fall at home.
Colts 27, Raiders 17
– Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5): Good luck figuring out which Chargers team shows up. Denver’s outstanding defense can render it moot. On an unrelated note, pray for the wildfire victims in Colorado. It’s one thing to live in an area where wildfires are a known risk, but this is something completely different.
Broncos 20, Chargers 17
– Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets (+11.5): Last year around this time the Jets stunned the Browns. These Bucs are not those COVID-ravaged Browns, alas.
Buccaneers 28, Jets 14
– Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots (-16.5): Not gonna happen. Next…
Patriots 33, Jaguars 12
– Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills (-14.5): Not gonna happen 2.0.
Bills 37, Falcons 21
– Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks (-7): It sure looks like Tim Boyle will get the start at QB for Detroit in place of injured Jared Goff. It’s an interesting game for two teams that are out of the postseason. The undermanned Lions have a chance if the faded Seahawks don’t bring the A-game effort, even with Boyle at QB. Don’t bet on it, however…
Seahawks 24, Lions 16
– Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys (-6): Tall order for the reeling Cardinals to try to break out of their slump by facing the red-hot Cowboys and their playmaking defense. Dallas is giving up fewer than 15 points per contest over their four-game win streak and is getting it done with the combination of a fearsome pass rush and an opportunistic secondary. The Arizona team we’ve seen the last month has no chance against that. Can they get back to being the Cardinals team of the first half of the season, the one that was the best in football? They’re perilously close to being this year’s version of the 2020 Steelers, the last team to lose in the regular season but an easy out in the playoffs after peaking too early.
Cowboys 32, Cardinals 21
– Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-6.5): Expect a lot of fans dressed as empty seats in New Orleans, where the Saints need to win to stay alive in the postseason hunt. Carolina has quietly been one of the NFL’s bottom-feeders, especially since the start of November.
Saints 22, Panthers 11
– Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens (+3.5): Speaking of teams that have fallen badly over the last two months, the Ravens have a worse record than the Lions and Texans over the last seven weeks. And the dilapidated Baltimore secondary is a terrible mismatch against Matthew Stafford throwing to Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and friends. L.A.’s recently rejuvenated run game makes it even tougher.
Rams 33, Ravens 15
– Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers (-12.5): This could be the dawn of the Trey Lance era in San Francisco. First-start jitters aside, I expect a strong showing from Lance against a Texans defense that allows more yards per play than any other in the NFL over the last month. Great weekend to have George Kittle in fantasy football.
49ers 34, Texans 17
– Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-7): The way the Packers secondary has been playing lately, not even a premium weapon like Justin Jefferson should faze Green Bay. The Packers need to win at home to stay atop the NFC and earn the postseason bye. Don’t expect the Vikings to be more than a speed bump, but Minnesota could be a pretty bouncy speed bump indeed.
Packers 28, Vikings 20
– Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5): This should be the last home game for Ben Roethlisberger. Any momentum you might think Pittsburgh derives from that goes in the face of the betting lines. Pittsburgh opened as one-point underdogs, and the line has raced out to 3.5 in most books and higher in some select casinos. The Browns keep the playoff light flickering.
Browns 22, Steelers 17
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