NFL Picks Week 17: Previewing Every Regular-Season Finale
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Now that it's finally here, we can close out the 2012 regular season with NFL Week 17 picks.
And there's plenty of action for fans across the nation.
Most notably is the NFC East clash between Robert Griffin III's Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. Big D is looking to win its first division title since 2009, whereas the Redskins haven't won it since 1999.
Before we decipher Dallas and Washington, however, let's dive into the rest of Sunday's slate.
Because there's also much more that has yet to be determined regarding the postseason.
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
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Although there's no playoff implications here, the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills will be an interesting contest.
The offenses know how to run the ball well, but Buffalo is certainly the stronger passing team with receiver Steve Johnson.
New York has struggled immensely on offense this season, and the Bills defense will step up. After all, Mario Williams and Co. has improved, albeit minimally, as the season has progressed.
Bills 21, Jets 14
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
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Only twice this season have the Miami Dolphins scored 30-plus points.
By comparison, the New England Patriots rank No. 1 in scoring with an average of 35 per game.
In short, don't expect the Dolphins to stay on par with Tom Brady. Miami may present a strong pass rush, but the Dolphins are quite suspect in coverage.
And for as vulnerable as New England's defense can be, the Pats are still well-versed at forcing turnovers and locking down when inside their own red zone.
Patriots 34, Miami 16
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
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Don't sleep on the Cincinnati Bengals.
Even though Cincy endured a roller-coaster season early on, the Bengals are among the hottest teams right now.
On the other hand, the Baltimore Ravens are back on the upswing after getting a Week 16 win. The difference between these divisional rivals, though, has been defense.
Cincinnati presents an outstanding pass rush and rush defense. Baltimore has struggled even when healthy in 2012. Factor in generating turnovers and the Bengals have a slight edge.
Bengals 20, Ravens 14
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
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The 1988 NFL season was the most recent year when the Cleveland Browns swept the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Trent Richardson wasn't even born yet.
That's the level of significance for Cleveland entering this matchup after winning over Pittsburgh in Week 12. As for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger and Co. are just trying to reach .500.
Pittsburgh undoubtedly fields the better passing game, but Richardson gives Cleveland a rushing advantage. The end result will come down to turnovers. This is where the Browns have been more consistent in 2012, because the Steelers have recorded only nine picks thus far.
Browns 19, Steelers 16
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
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The Houston Texans are still playing to clinch home-field advantage, so anticipate a full-fledged effort from Gary Kubiak's squad.
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts certainly bring a solid passing attack to thwart downfield and stretch Houston out.
Still, Indy must also stop the Texans. The Colts defense allows an average of almost 25 points per game. Additionally, Indy gives up 5.1 yards per rushing attempt.
The result is a greater impact from Arian Foster and the Texans ground game to control the tempo throughout.
Texans 24, Colts 17
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
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At first glance the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans don't offer much in Week 17.
That said, look further into the matchup; would you want to get swept by Jacksonville?
Well, that is just what's at stake, because Tennessee fell to the Jags earlier this season. Resorting back to this late December matchup, the Titans still possess the better rushing attack and slightly better defense.
Jacksonville simply gives up too many yards and points to help its offense out. At least Tennessee can force turnovers and provide more opportunities for Chris Johnson.
Titans 27, Jaguars 20
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
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If there has been any consistency from the New York Giants since the middle of this season, disappointment comes to mind.
After starting 6-2, New York has gone just 2-5 and no longer controls its own destiny for a playoff berth.
Therefore, expect the Philadelphia Eagles to put the Giants of 2012 away. First, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN:
And secondly, Big Blue's pass rush has been anything but impressive this fall. New York struggled against the Eagles early on and RG3 echoed that as well. With Philly's offense keeping the Giants off balance, that prevent Eli Manning from any chance of making a late-game comeback.
Eagles 21, Giants 20
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
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All the Chicago Bears need to do is run the rock with Matt Forte.
The Detroit Lions give up an average of 4.5 yards per carry and the coverage allows a 63.9 completion percentage.
So, slamming with Forte will set up Brandon Marshall off play-action and allow Chicago to remain balanced. A byproduct of that balance also results in fewer possessions for the Lions offense.
Given that the Bears' pass defense has been exploited before in 2012, Chicago can't risk giving Calvin Johnson additional opportunities. Shortening the game is to the Windy City's advantage because Detroit doesn't present a consistently reliable running game to win the possession battle.
Bears 16, Lions 13
Green Bay at Minnesota Vikings
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Pushing the pace has to be the Green Bay Packers' approach in Week 17.
Aaron Rodgers and the passing game face a Minnesota Vikings defense that allows a 63.5 completion percentage.
Even worse, Minnesota has given up 24 passing touchdowns in 2012. Green Bay moving faster will also force Christian Ponder to keep up, as opposed to letting Adrian Peterson shorten the contest for the Vikings.
Regardless of Peterson's impact, Minnesota still lacks balance. The Packers, though, have improved on the ground and will keep the Vikings honest with each possession.
Packers 31, Vikings 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
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The Atlanta Falcons won't get any legitimate respect until they make a strong run through the postseason.
The Dirty Birds have already clinched the NFC's home-field advantage, so buffing out the rough spots in Week 17 is a good confidence booster.
Hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Matt Ryan gets the NFL's worst pass defense. Without question will the Falcons offense move the rock and score early on. Tampa Bay, however, does field a balanced offense when Josh Freeman isn't being interception-prone.
Include the Bucs already out of the postseason and this game is nothing more than a playoff tune-up for Atlanta.
Falcons 23, Buccaneers 20
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
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Once again Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are encoring 2011 with a strong finish in 2012.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, though, are simply trying to reach .500 after beginning 0-4.
The ultimate decider here will be the more opportunistic defense. We've seen the explosive potential of each offense, so whoever is given more possessions to score gains an immense advantage.
The teams cancel one another out, however, because Carolina forces more fumbles and the Saints have recorded more interceptions. So who then gets the advantage?
New Orleans, as Brees will not be outplayed by Newton.
Saints 30, Panthers 24
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
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It would certainly be easy for the Kansas City Chiefs to roll over for the Denver Broncos.
Considering that K.C. likely to get the No. 1 draft pick next spring, why risk losing that opportunity?
Well the Broncos have yet to clinch a playoff bye and Kansas City winning or exposing another weakness of Denver could salvage the Chiefs' season to a small degree. Then again, K.C. also lacks across the board in everything except rushing offense.
So regardless of how much effort is offered from the Chiefs, expect the Broncos to crush, because the motive to earning a postseason bye week is enough for Denver to put this game away by halftime.
Broncos 38, Chiefs 14
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
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Only bragging rights are on the line between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.
Neither team is in the postseason mix, but a loss would actually help boost the draft pick for next spring.
As for who wins, it's the Chargers. San Diego presents a much more capable pass rush to control the line of scrimmage and Philip Rivers is better than any quarterback for Oakland.
Despite the Raiders trying to avoid the season sweep from the Bolts, Oakland's inability to slow any offense down, outside of Kansas City, costs it another game.
Chargers 24, Raiders 10
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
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If there's one game that will be a blowout in Week 17, this is it.
The San Francisco 49ers can't afford to hold anything back against the Arizona Cardinals.
Coming off an abysmal performance against Seattle last week, the need to regain confidence comes in the form of suplexing the Cardinals.
Arizona lacks everywhere offensively, which leads to Aldon and Justin Smith having a field day with quarterback pressure. Flip possessions and San Francisco's offense will move with ease, because the Cardinals are susceptible up front and to the play-action pass.
Patrick Peterson and Co. may blanket well in coverage on occasion, but not when the front seven fails miserably against the run.
49ers 41, Cardinals 7
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks
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The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks are two eerily similar teams.
Each are capable of stuffing the run up front and suffocating consistency in man coverage.
Offensively, though, is where the disparity begins to unfold. Russell Wilson is a much more efficient passer than Sam Bradford and Marshawn Lynch is averaging one full yard per carry more than Steven Jackson.
The Seahawks are simply too high-powered with excellent balance for St. Louis to completely slow down. In turn, Bradford and the Rams don't move the ball enough to match pace.
Seahawks 31, Rams 17
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
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Finally, we get to the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.
Easily the game of the week, Washington features an offense with Robert Griffin III that is capable of putting up 30-plus points any time.
Dallas can be just as explosive with Tony Romo, so this game comes down to which defense steps up.
Washington is more vulnerable to the pass, but also possesses a better knack for generating turnovers. The Redskins have recorded 18 picks to Big D's seven. Both, however, are supremely vulnerable against the run, which will allow the offenses to remain balanced on each possession.
The Redskins have fielded a stronger and more consistently reliable rushing attack this season, though. Off that RG3 is able to set up the pass.
Include his impressive decision-making skill set and the Cowboys fall short of the postseason once again.
Redskins 35, Cowboys 30
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