Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 17 NFL Picks
In the final week of the 2012 NFL season, there is still much to play for in Week 17.
In the NFC, the last wild-card spot is up for grabs, as is the division title in the NFC East. That means the Minnesota Vikings will be playing for their season's life as they take on the Green Bay Packers. So too will the Washington Redskins as they host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.
Over in the AFC, the playoffs are all set, but the No. 1 draft pick is yet to be determined. While no NFL teams truly want to lose a game, plenty of fans and draft aficionados will be curious to see how Kansas City and Jacksonville perform against Denver and Tennessee.
Check out our picks for all of these games and more!
Our B/R Panel of Experts
Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight up.
Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
B/R Consensus: Bears (9-2)
Vegas: Bears (-3)
Both of these teams have played like junk during the second half of the season, so I'm taking the team at home with the guy tracking down 2,000 receiving yards.
To keep their playoff hopes alive, the Chicago Bears must win. And they will. Jay Cutler will operate against the overrated Detroit defense, bringing his Bears to 10 wins.
The Bears have one last chance to look competent on offense—and to get into the playoffs. Of course, they need some help even with a win over the Lions. Is anyone else already looking forward to tracking the Lions players' arrests this offseason?
It's hard to imagine the Lions pulling a win off given their poor showings two weeks straight and the desperation of the Bears. Add to it a Chicago defense that was back to its old tricks this past weekend—generating turnovers and points once again—as well as the Bears having to win to even have a shot at the playoffs, and it all adds up to a loss for the Lions.
Also Picking the Lions: Langland
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans
B/R Consensus: Titans (8-3)
Vegas: Titans (-4)
I'm not saying the Jaguars are going to tank this game to get the No. 1 pick, but I'm also not going to pretend this team doesn't deserve that No. 1 pick anyway.
In the most Jaguars-like move ever, the team will actually win in Week 17—ensuring that they hold the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
The Jaguars gave the Patriots a game. The Titans gave the Packers a gift. These are two bad teams that could both be getting new head coaches this offseason. Chad Henne and company finish off 2012 on a high note.
This is a nightmare game to end the year for sure. The Titans are at home, and six wins isn't a completely embarrassing season. Look for them to take the W.
Also Picking the Jaguars: Hangst
Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts
B/R Consensus: Texans (6-5)
Vegas: Texans (-4.5)
The Colts stuck around when this game was in Houston, so they could pull the upset here, but Houston is playing for playoff seeding and just has way too much talent to pick against here.
Andrew Luck is quickly gaining Tom Brady-like status with me. That means only picking against him in the most dire of situations. This isn't one of those situations. Colts win.
The Texans have fallen back to Earth after spending the better part of the year as the "most complete team in the league." Yeah, that's all over now as they scramble just to keep home-field advantage, which they do by beating the Colts.
The Texans won't have anything to play for, so expect the Colts to celebrate an emotional day with a win. Chuck Pagano will be on the sidelines, so look for his players to give it their all.
Also Picking the Colts: Frenz; Hangst; Gagnon
Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
B/R Consensus: Packers (8-3)
Vegas: Packers (-3)
I want to see Peterson get the record; I really do. That doesn't change the fact that I think the Packers are the much better team here (even on the road). Clay Matthews is back, and that's the difference here.
The Packers would love to rest starters this week, but with playoff seeding at stake, it's more important to win. And they will.
The Packers will be playing to win, which is not what the Vikings wanted to hear. Adrian Peterson most likely falls just short of Eric Dickerson's record, and the Vikings fall just short of victory in a hard-fought game.
The Packers have a first-round bye at stake, and the Vikings have their playoff hopes at risk. On paper, this is a Packers win. But to steal a phrase, games aren't played on paper. The Vikings defense will step up, Adrian Peterson will have a good day against a questionable run defense, and Christian Ponder will keep it together for one more game.
Also Picking the Vikings: Langland; Hansen
Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots
B/R Consensus: Patriots (Unanimous)
Vegas: Patriots (-10)
The Pats hate the state of Florida for some reason, so it wouldn't surprise me to see this game closer than that spread. However, I see little chance that the Dolphins put up enough points to match even Brady at his worst.
The Patriots know better than any team in the NFL how important momentum and health are heading into the playoffs. They'll get their momentum with a win in Week 17. And if they can stay healthy, a Super Bowl is a very real possibility.
The Patriots looked less than inspiring against the Jaguars, but they will look much better back home in Foxborough against a team they know quite well. Cameron Wake and the Dolphins front seven will harass Tom Brady, but the Pats pull away in the second half.
The Patriots are still playing for a first-round bye, and while Miami would love nothing more than to play the spoiler to that while simultaneously putting itself to .500, the Patriots can't possibly come out as flat as they have in two straight weeks against the 49ers and Jaguars.
Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
B/R Consensus: Saints (10-1)
Vegas: Saints (-4)
I hate picking the Saints this season. One week, they'll dominate. The next, they'll play down to an opponent's level and get blown off the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Still, this game comes down to which shows up the most ready.
The Saints' final game of the year will result in a win. It's too little, too late for the team that entered the year with hopes of hosting and playing in the Super Bowl.
The Saints held off the Dallas Cowboys Sunday and won in overtime to continue their winning ways at the end of the season. At the same time, the Panthers beat the Raiders and are also winning down the stretch after a tough season. New Orleans has more firepower and should pull off a Week 17 victory, but both teams will enter 2013 looking for better results than 2012.
**Against the Grain**
Carolina has been playing much better football of late. The Saints defense is going to give up a lot of yards. The Panthers pull a narrow upset.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
B/R Consensus: Giants (9-2)
Vegas: Giants (-9.5)
Anything can happen in a divisional rivalry like this, but at home against a turnover-prone Eagles squad, the Giants should roll.
For the reigning Super Bowl champions to make it back to the playoffs, they have to win in Week 17 and get some help with a Washington loss. That pressure will be on the Giants, and they'll deliver their end.
The Giants are playing bad football, plain and simple. Nothing seems in sync on either side of the ball. Whether it's Eli Manning and his receivers or the front seven and the secondary, everything is off-kilter. That being said, the Eagles secondary is ripe for the picking, and Eli, Cruz and company get one last regular season win.
Going out on a limb. The lifeless Giants almost look as though they've given up. They have too many problems on both sides of the ball right now, and the Eagles are in a nice spot to play spoiler.
Also Picking the Eagles: Frenz
Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
B/R Consensus: Steelers (10-1)
The Steelers aren't headed to the postseason after losing to Cincinnati, but look for Big Ben and crew to take out some frustrations on a hapless Browns team that isn't playing for anything either.
Mike Tomlin's team won't be happy that they're missing the playoffs, and they're likely to take that out on the opposition. Big win for Pittsburgh this week.
Big Ben was playing great football prior to his injury. Now, he's giving the Steelers less-than-stellar play at the quarterback position. The Browns are in full-on audition mode for their new bosses. Look for Mike Tomlin's crew to play loose and carefree and to get a Week 17 victory.
**Against the Grain**
The Browns have come around during the second half of the season. They beat the Steelers only a few weeks ago, and now Pittsburgh has nothing to play for. I'm not sure it'll show up, while Cleveland will want to send a message to wrap up a promising year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons
B/R Consensus: Falcons (10-1)
If the Falcons sit a bunch of starters, this could be a lot closer than expected, but the Buccaneers are in a downward spiral and may be tuning out Coach Schiano. Even at less-than-total effort, look for the Falcons to roll.
The Falcons are the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but you can bet they are still intent on proving their critics wrong and entering the postseason on a roll.
The Falcons have nothing left to play for as the NFC's No. 1 seed, but will still trot their starters out onto the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17. The Buccaneers are in a serious rut, and Josh Freeman is a turnover machine of late. This will be the second straight December where Tampa Bay fails to win a game.
Picking the Buccaneers: Dunlevy
New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills
B/R Consensus: Bills (10-1)
Vegas: Bills (-3.5)
C.J. Spiller, at home, versus the Jets' atrocious run defense? Sure.
It's tough to pick the Bills, even given their opponent. I'm banking on a down week for the Jets (again) and a home-field advantage getting Ryan Fitzpatrick and Co. to their fifth win.
Oh, Jets fans. Remember that Week 1 win over the Bills? Feels like a million years ago, doesn't it? The Bills and the Jets are bad enough to deserve each other. It doesn't matter who the quarterback is for the Jets in this game, the Bills will win.
The way these two teams are playing, a scoreless tie would not surprise me in the least. The Jets, however, have managed to look worse in their second meetings with AFC East opponents (lost to Miami by 21 and New England by 30), and that was in two home games.
**Against the Grain**
In almost every measurable way, the New York Jets are an unmitigated disaster, but even disasters can pull off wins—especially season-ending wins against a divisional foe. At this point, the Jets know they need to—but cannot—keep their quarterbacks protected, so a steady dose of running should help augment this weakness.
But what really has me in the Jets' corner this week is the element of surprise—no one thinks they are capable of winning, but the Bills aren't the steadiest of teams, so the Jets should be able to take advantage of lowered expectations and get a win this week.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals
B/R Consensus: Bengals (9-2)
If this were the first game of the playoffs, I would give the nod to Baltimore. Instead, I think both teams coast a little bit in this game as the regular season winds down and Baltimore desperately tries to get everyone healthy.
This won't be easy. The Bengals won't be favorites, but I'm picking them to upset the division leaders. A.J. Green and Andy Dalton will get loose, and the Cincinnati defense will bottle-up the Ravens run game.
The Baltimore Ravens absolutely dominated the New York Giants in Week 16 and, in the process, clinched themselves an AFC North title, so Sunday's meeting against the Cincinnati Bengals won't decide the division—but don't tell the Bengals that. The Bengals still have much to prove, though they themselves have clinched a playoff berth, and that attitude—and their superior defense—should temper Baltimore's expectations a few degrees come Sunday.
**Against the Grain**
The Ravens and Cincy are pretty much locked into their playoff spots, and it's likely neither goes too nuts in trying to win this game, as it doesn't matter save for pride. That being said, the raw talent on Baltimore is a bit more than what Cincy has, so in a game where everyone is trying to not get hurt, I expect the Ravens to come out on top.
Also Picking the Ravens: Gagnon
Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
B/R Consensus: Redskins (8-3)
Vegas: Redskins (-3)
This one's a bit of a coin flip and should be a fantastic game to watch. In the end, as much as I love RGIII, I can't bet on that Redskins defense.
Your NFC East division champion Washington Redskins. Bank on it. RGIII and friends will get it done because they're excellent under pressure, and the Cowboys aren't.
The Cowboys were exposed on defense last week. I just don't think they can hold up with all of those injuries, and they're running into the hottest team in the conference. Besides, Washington beat Dallas on the road on Thanksgiving.
Also Picking the Cowboys: Hansen; Dunlevy
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos
B/R Consensus: Broncos (Unanimous)
Vegas: Broncos (-16)
By the end of this game, we could see every Broncos starter on the bench. Still wouldn't matter...they roll.
Make it 12 straight wins for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Who wants to play these guys in the postseason? I wouldn't.
The Chiefs actually hung around the last time these two teams met earlier this season. Not this time. Peyton Manning and Von Miller are too much for a Kansas City team that has a strong ground game and not much else.
The Broncos still have an outside shot at the No. 1 seed, while the Chiefs can secure the No. 1 overall pick with a loss. This is quite possibly the best team in the NFL versus the worst team in the NFL. I don't think it's real hard to pick a winner, but weirder things have happened in the AFC West, and the Chiefs lost by only eight points in Kansas City a few weeks ago. Of course, the Chiefs will have to score more than one touchdown to beat Peyton Manning and company.
Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers
B/R Consensus: Chargers (9-2)
If the Raiders can generate some semblance of a pass rush against the Chargers' bush-league protection, maybe the game flips the other way. What does it matter, though? Both of these teams should be working on draft prep already anyway.
In classic Norv Turner fashion, he'll win his last game as head coach of the San Diego Chargers, managing to disappoint fans who are hoping for losses in order to improve their draft standing.
Two teams playing out the string. This won't be pretty or much fun to look at, but someone has to win, and it says here the team with the talented but erratic quarterback (the Chargers) wins over the team without a competent quarterback (the Raiders).
There really isn't a logical explanation for picking either of these teams to win the game. Unless the game ends in a tie, one team will be victorious and hurt their draft position in the process. The Raiders lost in Week 1 to the Chargers at home because of several botched long snaps by the backup long snapper. That's not going to happen again, and Oakland's defense is playing well. That's probably enough to beat the Chargers in San Diego with half the stadium filled with Raiders fans.
Also Picking the Raiders: Gagnon
Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers
B/R Consensus: 49ers (Unanimous)
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers are still working on fine-tuning their new offensive set pieces, so they won't let up much in this one. Big victory for the Niners on the way.
How well will the 49ers play coming off their Sunday night performance? They'll win, but it's a good thing they're playing the Arizona Cardinals. Time to get healthy for the playoffs.
After a beating at the hands of the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football, the 49ers will be out for vengeance in Week 17. San Francisco is in a must-win situation if it wants to take the NFC West crown for the second straight season. Brian Hoyer and the 5-10 Cardinals don't pose much of a threat at Candlestick, so it's safe to expect a blowout as the Niners get geared up for the postseason.
Seattle Seahawks vs. St. Louis Rams
B/R Consensus: Seahawks (Unanimous)
St. Louis has beaten Seattle this season and has the defensive tools to do it again. However, this Seahawks team is firing on all cylinders, and the offense has done a complete 180 from that earlier matchup. Oh, and the Seahawks have one of the most devastating home-field advantages we've ever seen.
The Seahawks don't lose at home. Ever. And they're playing for a chance to play at home opening weekend. This is a dangerous team, and one that will get another win in Week 17.
The Seahawks are most definitely "the team no one wants to play" after putting up boatloads of points the last three weeks while playing lights-out defense. The Rams have a decent defense themselves, but CenturyLink is where teams go to get beat.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.