The final week of the NFL regular season has arrived, and there is still plenty of suspense in the air. While all six AFC playoff teams have been determined, the NFC has two spots up for grabs based on this week’s results.
Some opportunistic squads took advantage of clinching opportunities in Week 16, namely the Seahawks, Bengals and Colts. If the Redskins are able to pull out a victory against Dallas this week, we will find the unlikely scenario of three rookie quarterbacks in the postseason.
A solid 65 percent overall last week spearheaded by a 13-3 mark straight up takes me into this week on a high note with my season totals at:
Straight: 160-79 (67 percent)
Spread: 122-117 (51 percent)
Over/Under: 122-117 (51 percent)
With another solid week to close out the regular season, I should be able to cross over the 58 percent threshold overall, which would put me at just about par with years past. While some of my lofty preseason goals did not pan out, the least I can hope for is to remain consistent rather than depreciating.
With that in mind, let’s tackle this week’s matchups across the league.
Chicago Bears (-3) at Detroit Lions (O/U = 44.5)
With a big win against Arizona last week, the Bears have kept themselves in playoff contention heading into the last week of the season. They can still snag the No. 6 seed in the NFC with a win in Detroit along with a Vikings loss to the Packers. If either of those things fail to occur then their season is shot, but all they can worry about is taking care of business and winning at Ford Field.
The Lions' disappointments continued with their seventh straight loss in Week 16, and they look to be a lock for a top five pick in the upcoming draft. Despite a miraculous record-setting season for Calvin Johnson, this team has been downright awful down the stretch, and it should be an interesting offseason.
While I could see the Lions pulling this one out just to thwart their division rival’s hopes, I’m going to give the edge to Chicago because they still have something worth fighting for.
Baltimore Ravens (+2.5) at Cincinnati Bengals (O/U = 41)
A win either way in this battle won’t affect the final rankings in the AFC North as the Ravens have already locked it up, but this division rivalry should provide some fireworks nonetheless. With both teams locked into their playoff spots this one will be like a playoff preview, although it’s highly unlikely they will end up facing off again during the postseason.
Regardless of that fact, a win for either team will provide some serious momentum as they approach the playoffs, so look for a hard-fought game. I think the Bengals win at home to even the season rivalry.
Houston Texans (-7) at Indianapolis Colts (O/U = 46.5)
This matchup features the top two teams in the AFC South as the Texans head to Indy in hopes of remaining the AFC’s No. 1 seed. With a victory on the road they will secure the coveted home-field advantage, and after failing to do so last week they are likely thirstier than ever to prove they are worthy.
The Colts could seriously shake up the AFC playoff bracket with a win at home in the return of Chuck Pagano. Depending on the outcomes of a couple of other games, they could potentially knock the Texans from the No. 1 spot all the way down to No. 3, eliminating their chances not only at home-field advantage, but potentially even the wild-card bye.
The Colts can’t gain much by winning this one while the Texans have a lot to lose if they don’t pull it out. I’m thinking that the return of their head coach will be enough to inspire this Indy team to a win and throw a serious wrench in Houston’s plans.
Philadelphia Eagles (+7.5) at New York Giants (O/U = 46)
Last year’s Super Bowl champion Giants find themselves on the outside looking in heading into the final week and will need a win here along with some help to squeak in. Their only scenario to make the postseason would take a victory here teamed with losses for the Cowboys, Bears and Vikings.
While that doesn’t seem too likely at this point, it would be crazy to rule it out after the unpredictable run the G-Men made last year en route to the title. At the very least I think they take care of business here and finish off with a win.
Straight: New York
Spread: New York
Arizona Cardinals (+16.5) at San Francisco 49ers (O/U = 39)
With a lot of possibilities looming for the 49ers they would do well to handle the division rival Cardinals at home here. With a Packers loss they could have the No. 2 spot and first-round bye lined up, but with a loss at home and some other specific turnouts they could potentially drop as low as the fifth seed.
While I don’t think it’s likely they lose this one, it sure would shake up things out west if they came out and laid an egg.
Straight: San Francisco
St. Louis Rams (+10.5) at Seattle Seahawks (O/U = 41)
The obvious beneficiaries of a San Fran loss would be these Seattle Seahawks, who could then win the division with a victory over the Rams in this one. The more likely scenario, however, will result in them remaining in the fifth seed where they currently sit.
After a month's worth of jaw-dropping performances rookie QB Russell Wilson is finally getting his due as one of the top rookies in the NFL this season. I think he continues down that path here with a solid victory as he leads his team into the postseason in year one.
Spread: St. Louis
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Minnesota Vikings (O/U = 46)
This old division rivalry has a lot of history and also holds the key to a lot of playoff scenarios. For the Packers a victory would mean a first-round bye, something they could really use as they work to get back to 100 percent following many injuries throughout this season.
For the Vikings a win in front of the home fans would solidify them the No. 6 spot in the NFC playoffs while a loss eliminates them from the playoff picture and opens the door for Chicago or New York.
With a lot on the line for both teams, this one is guaranteed to provide some great competition, not to mention the fact that Adrian Peterson could potentially eclipse the 2,000-yard mark on the season with a 102-yard performance. Despite having their backs against the wall, I don’t think the Vikes will have enough to slow down the onslaught of the GB offense and will lose this one to end their season.
Straight: Green Bay
Spread: Green Bay
Dallas Cowboys (+3) at Washington Redskins (O/U = 48.5)
With the division crown on the line, this game epitomizes what Week 17 in the NFL is all about. With a slew of possibilities opening up across the NFC depending on who wins this one, there is one thing for sure for both teams: Win, and you’re in.
If the Cowboys lose here then they are immediately eliminated while the Redskins could still squeak into a wild-card spot if the cards fall right for them. After losing last week in OT to New Orleans, this Dallas squad has officially put themselves into a chokehold and needs a huge performance to survive.
The Redskins have won six straight and look to have a lot of confidence heading into this one. My prediction is that RGIII takes care of business and earns his team the No. 4 spot in the NFC while eliminating a hated rival in the process.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) at Atlanta Falcons (O/U = 47)
New York Jets (+3) at Buffalo Bills (O/U = 39.5)
Jacksonville Jaguars (+4.5) at Tennessee Titans (O/U = 42)
Carolina Panthers (+5.5) at New Orleans Saints (O/U = 54)
Straight: New Orleans
Spread: New Orleans
Cleveland Browns (+4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (O/U = 41)
Oakland Raiders (+5) at San Diego Chargers (O/U = 42)
Straight: San Diego
Spread: San Diego
Miami Dolphins (+10) at New England Patriots (O/U = 46.5)
Straight: New England
Spread: New England
Kansas City Chiefs (+16) at Denver Broncos (O/U = 42)
Spread: Kansas City
Spread and O/U numbers provided courtesy of VegasInsider.com