Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Week 17 in the NFL is perhaps the most unpredictable time of the season. Although we've had ample opportunity to evaluate the talent level of each respective roster, there are several squads playing meaningless football games this coming weekend.
On Sunday, there will be five contests between teams with no chance of advancing to the playoffs. There will be six games between teams playing meaningful football against squads already guaranteed a spot on their couch after this weekend. In the only two games between teams guaranteed a playoff spot, three of the four teams are already locked into their respective seeds.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons matchup is not included in any of the aforementioned statistics. However, with the Bucs out of playoff contention and the Falcons locked into the No. 1 seed in the NFC, this game will not have an effect on the 2012 postseason either.
That means 20 squads have nothing but pride to play for in Week 17. It's impossible to know which teams are going to come to play, which are already booking their postseason vacations and which are going to rest their starters for the playoffs.
Furthermore, there are only two games in which both teams are guaranteed to have meaningful playoff implications on the line.
All of these factors make playing the odds this weekend an incredibly volatile proposition.
Let's take a look at the betting lines for each Week 17 matchup. First, we will examine the games that have absolutely no postseason implications. Next, we'll take a look at contests between teams playing an immensely important game against squads with nothing but pride on the line. Lastly, we'll break down two matchups between teams that both have something to play for on Sunday.
This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only. All odds are courtesy of the International Business Times.
New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy.
The following games have no postseason implications:
New York Jets (+3.5) at Buffalo Bills,
Cleveland Browns (+7) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Jacksonville Jaguars (+4) at Tennessee Titans
Carolina Panthers (+4.5) at New Orleans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) at Atlanta Falcons
Oakland Raiders (+4.5) at San Diego Chargers
These are games that would one should avoid betting on this weekend. Some of the players on these teams are merely auditioning for a new contract, others are playing under lame-duck coaching staffs, while the majority are just hoping not to get seriously injured. Some teams may be unwilling to unleash their entire playbook because they don't want to tip their hands for postseason play.
No matter what the case, these outcomes have no effect on the 2012 playoffs.
There are undoubtedly players out there who will give it their all no matter what. Hopefully, that applies to the vast majority of the players in the NFL. They are professionals who are paid handsomely to perform at the highest level each and every week, no matter the circumstances. However, it doesn't always work out that way.
It's incredibly difficult to physically and emotionally invest oneself in something meaningless, especially heading into final game of a grueling season. Although our society tends to glorify professional football players into supernatural beings, the reality is that they are just as human as you and me. Each of them is capable of inadvertently mailing in an uninspiring performance this week due to lack of mental fortitude.
Unfortunately, some players are going suit up, make sure they avoid injury, take their paycheck and either go home or prepare for the playoffs. That's what makes the outcomes of these games completely unpredictable. Stay cautious while prognosticating the final results of any of the above contests.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
The following games are between one team playing a game with serious playoff implications and an opponent with either no chance to make the 2012 postseason, or no way to improve its seed:
Miami Dolphins (+10) at New England Patriots
Houston Texans (-4.5) at Indianapolis Colts,
Philadelphia Eagles (+7.5) at New York Giants
Chicago Bears (-3) at Detroit Lions
Kansas City Chiefs (+16) at Denver Broncos
St. Louis Rams (+10.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Arizona Cardinals (+15) at San Francisco 49ers
Baltimore Ravens (+3) at Cincinnati Bengals
The NFL schedule makers were crafty with flex scheduling in Week 17. Every team listed above that still has a chance to either make the postseason or improve its seed is guaranteed to have an incentive to win on Sunday.
The New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Bears, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers each play either before or at the same time as another game that could affect its standing within its respective conference. The Texans would seal their playoff fate with a win in their 1 p.m. matchup.
In other words, the timing of this weekend's games was orchestrated so that as many teams as possible had something meaningful to play for.
However, that does not mean that it's safe to play the favorites in these matchups. The oddsmakers spotted the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals at least 10 points each. Furthermore, the Philadelphia Eagles opened up as 9.5 underdogs to the Giants, but the line has moved to 7.5 points since Michael Vick was named the starter.
If the underdogs decide to play hard in their final matchups of the season, there is a significant chance that they can win some games against the spread.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
The following games are between teams that all have something to play for in Week 17:
Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Dallas Cowboys (+3) vs. Washington Redskins
The Vikings are in a win-and-in scenario heading into Week 17. Beat the Green Bay Packers at home, and they will earn the sixth seed in the NFC. The Packers will throw the kitchen sink at Minnesota in order to secure a first-round bye. This matchup will come down to whether the Vikings defense can defend Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay's lethal passing attack.The pressure is going to be on Jared Allen to rush the passer.
Minnesota is coming off a huge win against Houston last weekend, but it's difficult to beat good teams in consecutive weeks. The Packers should be able to cover the spread.
The Cowboys vs. Redskins game is virtually a tossup. Oddsmakers usually award three points to the home team, so the three-point spread signifies that the teams are equal in talent. If Robert Griffin III is healthy, the 'Skins should come out with a win and the NFC East crown. This is exactly the kind of game that Tony Romo and Co. choked in last season, and they seem poised to do so again.