NFL Week 17 Picks: Game by Game Predictions and More
It's the end of the line (for some) in the National Football League.
Week 17 brings with it the finale of the regular season in the NFL, which means that some teams are fighting for their playoff lives while others jostle for position, whether it's in this year's postseason or next year's draft.
Whether it's the quest for the playoffs or the pursuit of individual glory, there are any number of big storylines this week, and here's a look at one for each game as well as my picks for who will win each contest.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
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Biggest Storyline: The Atlanta Falcons will all but certainly rest some star players with the NFC's top seed locked up, but the team still has a couple of things to play for, including matching the 1998 squad's franchise record for regular-season wins.
The Pick: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost five in a row and are coming apart at the seams, and with Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan one touchdown pass away from a franchise record of his own, the starters will stay in long enough for Atlanta to build a lead and head into the playoffs with a win.
Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 20
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Biggest Storyline: You want lame-duck head coaches? Odds are that either the Bills' Chan Gailey or the Jets' Rex Ryan (or both) is fired after the season.
You want lame-duck quarterbacks? This game has buckets full of them, from the nightmare in New York to Ryan Fitzpatrick's shaky job security.
You want exciting football? Change the channel.
The Pick: The Jets are terrible. The Bills are slightly less terrible.
Buffalo 20, New York 10
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
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Biggest Storyline: Both these teams have already locked in playoff berths, and while the Baltimore Ravens can move into the third seed with a win and a New England loss, the Bengals are set as the AFC's sixth seed no matter what happens.
The Pick: The above scenario would set up a rematch in Baltimore that the Ravens won 44-13 back on the first Monday night of the season, but the Bengals will ensure that doesn't happen by getting payback now for that September spanking.
Cincinnati 23, Baltimore 17
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
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Biggest Storyline: The Lions have dropped seven in a row and are playing for pride, but with 108 yards in the finale, Calvin Johnson can become the first receiver in NFL history to accrue 2,000 yards in a season.
The Pick: The Bears held Johnson to his lowest output of the season back in Week 7, and a desperate Chicago team that needs a win and a Minnesota loss to make the playoffs will hold up their end of the bargain.
Chicago 23, Detroit 21
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
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Biggest Storyline: There's been no more surprising team in the NFL this season than the Indianapolis Colts, and the atmosphere in Indy this week will be absolutely electric with the return of head coach Chuck Pagano to the sidelines after undergoing treatment for leukemia.
The Pick: The Texans can secure the AFC's top seed with a win and handled the Colts with ease two weeks ago, but it's going to be a much different atmosphere this week when "Chuckstrong" returns to the field.
The Colts will ride that wave of emotion to a win that shakes up the AFC's playoff bracket.
Indianapolis 21, Houston 20
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
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Biggest Storyline: A nightmare 2012 for the New Orleans Saints that began with "Bountygate" will end with the team missing the playoffs, but the Saints can still salvage a .500 record with a win over the Panthers.
The Pick: Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has been playing much better recently, and while this game doesn't have any postseason implications, a shootout between Newton and Drew Brees of the Saints could be one of the week's most entertaining games.
New Orleans 33, Carolina 28
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Biggest Storyline: The bottom has fallen out for the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, who limp into this week's game fresh off of two straight blowout losses and with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread.
The Pick: Nick Foles will likely miss this game for the Eagles, which provides Michael Vick with one last chance to audition for new teams.
Add that to a chance for Philadelphia to rain on their reeling rival's parade, and this one smells like an upset.
Philadelphia 26, New York 17
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
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Biggest Storyline: Last week's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals knocked the Pittsburgh Steelers out of playoff contention, and this week the Steelers need a win over the Cleveland Browns to avoid their first losing season since 2003.
The Pick: The Steelers lost to the Browns earlier this season without Ben Roethlisberger, but this time it's the Browns that will be shorthanded and facing an angry Pittsburgh team at home.
The Pat Shurmur era ends with a whimper.
Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 6
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
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Biggest Storyline: The biggest storyline of the matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans may be whether inept offenses can score on awful defenses or if they're equally terrible and cancel one another out.
The Pick: There isn't much to like about either of these teams, but the Titans are at home and at least have running back Chris Johnson, which should be enough to offset a worst-in-franchise history defense against the Jags.
Tennessee 23, Jacksonville 16
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
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Biggest Storyline: The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are hurtling in opposite directions, as the Broncos can secure a first-round playoff bye with a win while the Kansas City Chiefs can secure the first pick in next April's draft with a loss.
The Pick: Given that the Broncos still have plenty to play for and the way these teams have played this season, I'd put the probability of both those things happening at approximately eight billion percent.
Denver 31, Kansas City 13
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
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Biggest Storyline: Where to start?
The game itself is huge, as the Green Bay Packers can secure the second seed in the NFC with a win while the Minnesota Vikings are in full-on "win and you're in" mode.
Then there's the small matter of running back Adrian Peterson, who needs 102 rushing yards to reach 2,000 and 208 to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record.
The Pick: It would be a fantastic story if Peterson had a huge game and the Vikings pulled the upset, but the Green Bay offense is just too potent for a one-dimensional Minnesota offense to keep up with.
Green Bay 30, Minnesota 13
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
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Biggest Storyline: Quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots are headed back to the postseason, and a slip-up by either the Denver Broncos or Houston Texans coupled with a New England win would get the Pats a week off.
The Pick: With a win over the Patriots, the Dolphins could finish at .500 for the season, but with a playoff bye still on the line, the odds of Miami walking out of New England with a win aren't very good.
New England 33, Miami 20
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
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Biggest Storyline: There's not a whole lot going on in this Week 17 snoozer between two AFC West also-rans, although Terrelle Pryor and Matt Leinart competing to see who can look worse at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders should be morbidly entertaining.
The Pick: This game will also all but surely mark the end of head coach Norv Turner's tenure with the Chargers, but even at his worst, Turner couldn't screw this game up.
San Diego 27, Oakland 9
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks
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Biggest Storyline: The Seattle Seahawks are riding a four-game winning streak and are coming off a huge win against the San Francisco 49ers, while the St. Louis Rams enter Week 17 with a chance to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2003.
The Pick: Unfortunately for the Rams, they'll be trying for that winning record against a Seattle team that hasn't lost at home this season and has looked as dominant over the past three games as any team in recent memory.
Seattle 31, St. Louis 16
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
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Biggest Storyline: The San Francisco 49ers are smarting after getting stomped by the Seahawks last week, and the San Francisco defense and linebacker Aldon Smith will take out those frustrations on an Arizona Cardinals team with a quarterback who started the season selling popcorn.
The Pick: Smith had two sacks the last time these teams met and needs 3.5 to break Michael Strahan's single-season record, and an angry 49ers team that can lock up the NFC West with a win is going to come out and send a message.
San Francisco 34, Arizona 0
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
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Biggest Storyline: The last game of the 2012 regular season has the makings of a barn burner.
The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet Sunday night in a rematch of a Thanksgiving shootout won by quarterback Robert Griffin and the Redskins.
There's a little more on the line this time, however, as the winner of this game will be crowned NFC East champions.
The Pick: The Redskins have won six straight, while the Cowboys were in this exact position in both 2008 and 2011 and came up short on each occasion.
They will again in 2012.
Washington 31, Dallas 27