NFL Week 17 Predictions: Can't-Miss Picks and Complete Matchup Guide
While the once extremely clouded NFL playoff picture is more clear heading into Week 17, there are a few matchups, especially in the NFC, that will decide who's in and who's out.
The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins battle in what essentially is the NFC East title game, and the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers knock helmets with Adrian Peterson ferociously approaching 2,000 rushing yards and Aaron Rodgers' club looking to lock up the No. 2 spot.
Not as much drama as we've seen in years past, but plenty of intriguing storylines will keep us eagerly tracking all the games.
Here are picks for the 2012 season finales.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
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Matt Ryan went for 353 through the air in his first contest against the Buccaneers, and on Sunday, he shouldn't have any trouble moving the football aerially.
Tampa Bay allows 303 passing yards per game, the most in the NFL, and with Atlanta attempting to gain as much positive momentum as possible heading into the playoffs, it will be looking to put up a big number on their division rival.
Josh Freeman has struggled on the road this season compared to his outings at home, so a few interceptions are likely.
Falcons 37 Buccaneers 28
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
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Though the Jets 2012 season will live in infamy in New York City, Rex Ryan will undoubtedly go down fighting.
He has had a deft grasp of how to stop the Buffalo Bills offense over the last few seasons, and with the way Chan Gailey's group is floundering on both sides of the ball, it'll lose its 11th game of the year in frustrating fashion.
Expect a few zone blitzes to confuse Ryan Fitzpatrick and the injury-depleted Bills attack.
Jets 24 Bills 13
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
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The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off a high after finally beating the Pittsburgh Steelers with Andy Dalton under center and now get another chance to build more confidence against the Baltimore Ravens.
Dalton and Joe Falcco should have similar outings—a few touchdowns and an interception—but the Bengals defense will play a better all-around game due to its fundamentally-sound and exceptionally active front seven.
Bengals 27 Ravens 24
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
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The Chicago Bears need to beat Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions and get some help to make the NFC playoffs.
They won ugly against against Jim Schwartz's squadron earlier in the year, 13-7, but with the playoffs on the line, expect Lovie Smith's group to play with more urgency than ever.
Bears 20 Lions 14
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
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In this battle of 2012 futility, there aren't many storylines.
Technically, the Jacksonville Jaguars are alive in the race for the No. 1 overall pick in next April's draft, but with the Kansas City Chiefs—the team that has the lead in the No. 1 pick sweepstakes— playing the Denver Broncos, the chance of Mike Mularkey "earning" the top pick is rather unlikely.
The Tennessee Titans, with second-year quarterback Jake Locker, would like to capture a win to end the year, which would provide some momentum heading into 2013, and frankly, they have more talent on both sides of the football than Jacksonville.
In a sloppy affair, Chris Johnson will lead the Titans to victory.
Titans 30 Jaguars 17
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
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The Indianapolis Colts are locked into their No. 5 spot in the AFC playoffs, and they're looking at the season finale against the Houston Texans as a prime postseason tune-up.
Chuck Pagano has told the media he won't rest his starters, and that seems to be an intelligent decision. (h/t WISHTV.com)
For a young team that has exceeded expectations in 2012, why not play to win against the AFC's best team to close out the year?
Andrew Luck should dice through Wade Phillips' secondary despite what has become the normal one or two sacks from J.J. Watt.
The Texans are playing for home-field advantage, so they'll be firing on all offensive and defensive cylinders, as well.
But at home, in what would be an exquisite cap to an exquisite season, Luck leads another signature fourth-quarter comeback.
Colts 31 Texans 27
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
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Got to love these games, especially when they have no playoff implications and the potential of gaudy statistics are the only meaningful aspect.
Cam Newton and Drew Brees are absolute stat-sheet stuffers, and the Saints and Panthers defenses are rather friendly to opposing quarterbacks.
Although Brees struggled against the Panthers in a Week 2 loss, he is averaging 362 yards through the air in his last four games.
Newton too has been sizzling, accounting for an average of nearly 308 total yards in his last five games. During that span, he has tallied 14 total touchdowns with one interception.
At home, Brees should make a few more plays than Newton.
Saints 45 Panthers 41
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
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Michael Vick is starting.
MICHAEL VICK IS STARTING!
In a last gasp to show off his skills, or what remains of them—presumably for another organization—the high-profile, inherently talented but oft-injured quarterback will be the Eagles' No. 1 quarterback against the defending champion New York Giants.
Eli Manning and the G-Men need major help to sneak into the playoffs, and after a surprisingly atrocious offensive and defensive performance against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16, they get the luxury of facing the hapless Eagles at home.
Eli gets it done.
Giants 28 Eagles 20
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
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Depression has blanketed the city of Pittsburgh, as its Steelers won't advance to the postseason for the first time since 2009.
However, getting swept by the Cleveland Browns would take the misery to a new level.
Expect a gusty effort the Ben Roethlisberger and spirited play from the defense against an upstart Browns team that boasts quite the defense of its own.
As usual, quarterback play is the tiebreaker, and Big Ben out-duels Brandon Weeden.
Steelers 23 Browns 17
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
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The San Diego Chargers players will be amped up to give head coach Norv Turner a win as a parting gift.
They shouldn't have the most difficult time with the Oakland Raiders, a team that can't get out of its own way and will be without quarterback Carson Palmer (h/t CBS Sports via Rotoworld.com).
Philip Rivers won't be as inconsistent against the Raiders defense as he's been against other defensive units and will be instrumental in a San Diego win to end the year.
Chargers 34 Raiders 14
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
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The San Francisco 49ers would like to get back on the winning track after getting crushed by the Seahawks in Seattle.
They'll do so against an aimlessly wandering Arizona Cardinals team.
Really, it's that simple.
49ers 30 Cardinals 7
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks
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The St. Louis Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks all the way back in the end of September and did so by totally stifling Russell Wilson, who threw three interceptions without a touchdown.
While the cornerback duo of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins will make life difficult for Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, Wilson is much more comfortable as a passer now, and Marshawn Lynch is thriving in the read-option offense.
Expect the Seahawks' defensive front seven to be the ultimate determining factor in this one.
Seahawks 27 Rams 14
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
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Adrian Peterson is 102 yards away from 2,000 on the season, and his Minnesota Vikings are a win away from a miraculous trip to the postseason.
The Green Bay Packers are jockeying for playoff positioning, and keeping AP out of the NFC playoffs after the damage he did against them on Lambeau Field early this season will be a top priority.
Mike McCarthy's team will sell out against the run, but Peterson is a monster on a mission.
He will lead his club to a win that will remind everyone the Vikings will be a tough out in the playoffs.
Vikings 28 Packers 27
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
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The Miami Dolphins are on the upswing, but they're still no match for the offensively-efficient New England Patriots.
Ryan Tannehill should keep it close in the first half, but after a rather lackluster performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars a week ago, Tom Brady will have his club playing fundamentally-sound football.
In the end, Brady's bunch does enough to get a win heading into the playoffs.
Patriots 34 Dolphins 24
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
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When will John Fox sit Peyton Manning?
Sorry, Kansas City.
Broncos 35 Chiefs 13
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
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The NFC East championship game features two hot quarterbacks, an emerging superstar wide receiver in Dez Bryant and a whole lot of intrigue.
Robert Griffin III really burst onto the scene on when he dismantled the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving this year, and although Rob Ryan will likely make major adjustments, expect RG3 to put on another show.
Though it's easy to do, don't forget about Alfred Morris, either.
He went for 124 yards at 5.6 yards per carry in the first meeting.
The Tony Romo to Bryant connection is inevitable, but the Redskins will do enough to keep him from winning the game single-handedly.
Washington holds off a furious comeback rally from Romo and Co. in thrilling fashion.
Redskins 30 Cowboys 27