The final week of the NFL regular season is the trickiest in regards to spreads, because not only does a prognosticator have to sort out a team’s strengths and weaknesses, but also its playoff scenarios and whether it will choose to rest its players or not. This year, Week 17 will be no different in regards to NFL picks.
The slate for Week 17 features a number of teams fighting for playoff spots or playoff position, including the Saints, Falcons, Bears, Packers, Giants, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Chiefs and Colts.
Last Week: 10-6
It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” – the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 17’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBSSports.com).
Pick Your Knows: NFL Week 17 Picks Against the Spread
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-6.5)
Brett Favre is listed as doubtful with a concussion and Calvin Johnson is questionable with the Lions. Last week, the Vikings shocked the Eagles – and QB Joe Webb outplayed Michael Vick. With Favre likely out, expect Webb to get another shot. Sunday’s game is also one last audition for interim head coach Leslie Frazier, so expect the Vikes to outplay the Lions on this day.
KP’s Pick: Minnesota
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-7.5)
Each team has something at stake in this game. New Orleans can still earn the top seed in the NFC, while the Bucs still have faint hope of reaching the playoffs (they will need help). Raheem Morris was quoted last week as pushing his young team for a 10-win season no matter what. It’s possible each team could see how Atlanta is playing and choose to rest players, but expect New Orleans to do that, and not Tampa Bay. Take the Bucs and the points.
KP’s Pick: Tampa Bay
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-9.5)
The Bengals are missing most of its offensive weapons due to injury, specifically Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and likely Jermaine Greshman, too. But that didn’t stop Cincy last week, as the Bengals eliminated the Chargers from playoff contention. Look at it this way: Players are getting opportunities to impress on the field. Also, there’s a chance the Ravens may begin to rest players if the Steelers cruise against the Browns. The Bengals have also won three straight games against Baltimore. Take Cincy and the points.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-4.5)
A Kansas City win guarantees the #3 seed, while Oakland is playing for pride – and likely hoping to bump New England (who has the Raiders’ top pick) back in the draft. Darren McFadden is dealing with turf toe, which will likely hamper him. The Chiefs are also lights out at home, and it’s a safe bet that Kansas City covers and ensures itself the third seed in the AFC.
KP’s Pick: Kansas City
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-3.5)
The Jets will reportedly start Mark Sanchez, but no one is sure how long Rex Ryan will play him. New York will likely be conservative, since this game barely affects its playoff standing. The Jets have the 6th best rush offense, while the Bills have the league’s worst rush defense. With a conservative game plan, New York will run – and run all over Buffalo. Even when potentially resting players, New York still covers.
KP’s Pick: New York Jets
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-14.5)
This is a very high spread line, but the difference in talent is also quite large. Atlanta and Matt Ryan are nearly unbeatable at home, and the Falcons need a win to lock up homefield advantage in the playoffs. Carolina will play hard for John Fox’s last game, but the Falcons have too much balance on offense, and the Panthers’ weak pass attack can’t catch up once behind in games. Atlanta covers and clinches home field advantage in the NFC.
KP’s Pick: Atlanta
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (+6.5)
If the Steelers win, the division is in their hands. With a loss to the Browns, and a Ravens win, Pittsburgh can lose its chance at a bye. But the Browns have played well at home, and have played better football with Colt McCoy under center. Still, Cleveland’s strength is its run game, and Pittsburgh has the top run defense in the NFL. Expect the Steelers to shut down the Browns offense, win by a touchdown and take the division.
KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-3.5)
The Patriots have already locked up homefield in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean that New England will rest its starters. Last year, the Pats started everyone, and Wes Welker injured his knee and was out for the year. It’s a good bet that Belichick will still choose to start Brady and Co. for at least a half, and perhaps the entire game. With that in mind, plus the way New England plays at home, the Pats will cover.
KP’s Pick: New England
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+4.5)
Hakeem Nicks is out with a broken bone in his foot, and his loss will take a hit on a Giants passing game. The Giants are struggling, after a blown lead to the Eagles followed by a blowout loss to the Packers. New York needs a win (and a Green Bay loss) to make the playoffs. Rex Grossman struggled last week for the Redskins, and that was against a soft Jacksonville defense. New York’s defense is much more talented – and it’s the Giants’ D that wins this game.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (+3.5)
Earlier this week, Philip Rivers announced that he will play, and the Chargers will not rest players, even after being out of the playoff chase. On top of that, Knowshon Moreno – one of Denver’s biggest playmakers – is battling injuries and could be hampered. Neither team has much to play for and it’s safe to therefore choose by overall talent, which would be San Diego.
KP’s Pick: San Diego
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (+2.5)
While the Jags can still make the playoffs (with help), this is a tough one to call because Jacksonville will not have key starters David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew. Meanwhile, Houston has been struggling for weeks and will be without star WR Andre Johnson. To top it all off, Houston is seeking revenge from a heartbreaking Hail Mary loss earlier in the season. Combine everything in question, and Houston knocks the Jags out of the playoffs.
KP’s Pick: Houston
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-5.5)
Philly’s loss last week cemented a bye for the Bears, and while Chicago has a chance at the top seed, they will know their fate by kickoff. Meanwhile, if Green Bay wins, they are in the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were clicking against the Giants last week, and they will continue to play red hot at home – and the Packers cover and earn a wild card spot.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-11.5)
Jon Kitna is listed as questionable after getting injured last week, and it’s likely that Stephen McGee starts for the Cowboys. That would point to a lopsided game, but the Eagles lost a chance at a bye last week. Therefore, both Mike Vick and DeSean Jackson could rest and heal up. With that in mind, and McGee likely getting a week of reps (plus Philly playing on short rest), Dallas has a good chance at keeping the game close. Take Dallas and the points.
KP’s Pick: Dallas
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-9.5)
In the last matchup between these two teams, the Titans kept the game close. The Colts can get into the playoffs with a win, and Indy is playing at home. The Colts run defense has also played better over recent weeks, and the Indy pass offense is #1 in the NFL, while Tennessee’s pass defense is ranked 28th. With a playoff spot on the line, Peyton Manning and the Colts win big. Colts cover easily.
KP’s Pick: Indianapolis
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5)
San Francisco has nothing to play for after getting eliminated last week, and the team will be playing under an interim coach after Singletary was fired. It’s possible that Alex Smith could be playing for a job in football, while on the other side John Skelton has won 2 of 3 starts for the Cardinals. Neither team has much to play for, but Arizona has more active weapons.
KP’s Pick: Arizona
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks (+2.5)
Reports at the beginning of the week stated that Charlie Whitehurst would start for the Seahawks, and the latest news on Hasselbeck is that he’s questionable for Sunday. The entire NFC West is awful on the road, yet is .500 or better at home – so that bodes well for the Seahawks. But Seattle has lost 4 of 5, and with Whitehurst running the offense, St. Louis is the safe bet to take the division and advance to the playoffs.
KP’s Pick: St. Louis