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NFL Week 17 Picks: Predicting Winners in Most Pivotal Games

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 24: Matt Flynn #10 of the Green Bay Packers talks with Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on November 24, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo Tom Lynn /Getty Images)
Tom Lynn/Getty Images
Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIDecember 25, 2013

Two games with win-or-go-home stakes for both teams? It must be Week 17 in the NFL. The battles for the NFC East and NFC North will indeed send one team to the postseason and the other home for the winter. 

In addition to those two must-see clashes, there are 11 other games on the schedule that will impact playoff qualification and/or positioning. 

If you love football, this is going to be a Sunday you won't soon forget. Here's a look at my predictions for each game. Those division matchups and another crucial game are broken down in depth just beneath the table.

Week 17 Schedule and Predictions (All times EST)
Sunday, Dec. 29TimeTVLocationPrediction
Carolina at Atlanta1 p.m.FoxGeorgia DomeCarolina
Baltimore at Cincinnati1 p.m.CBSPaul Brown StadiumCincinnati
Houston at Tennessee1 p.m.CBSLP FieldTennessee
Jacksonville at Indianapolis1 p.m.CBSLucas Oil StadiumIndianapolis
NY Jets at Miami1 p.m.CBSSun Life StadiumMiami
Detroit at Minnesota1 p.m.FoxMall of America FieldMinnesota
Washington at N.Y. Giants1 p.m.FoxMetLife StadiumN.Y. Giants
Cleveland at Pittsburgh1 p.m.CBSHeinz FieldPittsburgh
Green Bay at Chicago4:25 p.m.FoxSoldier FieldGreen Bay
Denver at Oakland4:25 p.m.CBSO.co ColiseumDenver
Buffalo at New England4:25 p.m.CBSGillette StadiumNew England
Tampa Bay at New Orleans4:25 p.m.FoxMercedes-Benz SuperdomeNew Orleans
San Francisco at Arizona4:25 p.m.foxU of Phoenix StadiumSan Francisco
Kansas City at San Diego4:25 p.m.CBSQualcomm StadiumKansas City
St. Louis at Seattle4:25 p.m.FoxCenturyLink FieldSeattle
Philadelphia at Dallas8:30 p.m.FoxAT&T StadiumPhiladelphia
Brian Mazique

 

Green Bay Packers Win the Division

Whether Aaron Rodgers plays in the final game of the season is obviously important for the outcome of this game, but even with Matt Flynn at quarterback, the Packers are going to beat the Chicago Bears.

To put it plainly, Mike McCarthy is a better head coach than Marc Trestman. The former has somehow kept his team afloat without its franchise quarterback and perennial MVP candidate.

The latter has implemented a stellar offensive system that has the Bears scoring enough to win.

Chicago is third in the NFL in scoring. It has scored more than 400 points in a season for just the fourth time in franchise history.

The last two times this happened, the Bears went to the Super Bowl. That's all fine and dandy, but this year's defense is in shambles. It's ranked 30th in points allowed and isn't forcing turnovers the way it did under Lovie Smith.

On Sunday night, the Bears were blown to smithereens by the Philadelphia Eagles. The team looked unprepared and seemed to make no halftime adjustments to stop the Eagles' attack.

Philly ran for 298 yards in what looked like a BCS game.

Aside from Trestman's failures before and during the 54-11 loss, his late-game decision-making has been putrid all season. Five of the Bears' seven losses have been by eight points or less. This is a product of peculiar strategies and poor play-calling.

More than Rodgers' potential presence, and more than the faulty run defense, Trestman's inexperience at the helm will cost the Bears this game. 

 

The Philadelphia Eagles Will Take the Dallas Cowboys

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 24:  Kyle Orton #18 of the Dallas Cowboys during a preseason game at AT&T Stadium on August 24, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Even though the Bears' defense is pretty bad, the Eagles still deserve credit for such a dominant offensive performance. After all, it isn't as if the Bears are the only team the Eagles have lit up.

Philly hasn't scored less than 30 in three weeks, and the team is averaging 34.5 points over its last seven games.

Dallas' defense is dead last in the NFL in total yards allowed. Compound that with Tony Romo's absence from the game, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today, and things aren't looking good for the Cowboys. 

Romo is much maligned, but the entire NFL is about to see just how much Romo means to this team—if he is indeed out. Philadelphia's defense played very well against the Bears' high-scoring attack.

It seems safe to assume the team should perform well against a Cowboys team that could be led by Kyle Orton. No disrespect to Orton, but it's clear he's no Romo. Dallas will miss its starter's escapability and arm strength.

 

San Francisco Will Stop Arizona

Dec 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (left) and guard Alex Boone (right) celebrate with wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) after a touchdown during the first quarter of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

I love how the Arizona Cardinals are playing, but no team is playing quite as well as the San Francisco 49ers. For my money, the 'Niners are the best team in the league right now.

The Cardinals are coming off a huge win over the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. That's a feat even the 'Niners failed to accomplish earlier in the season. However, San Francisco is a much different team now.

All aspects of the team's offense are clicking. The return of Michael Crabtree has freed the mind and arm of Colin Kaepernick. No longer are the 49ers that one-dimensional offensive team that put inordinate amounts of pressure on its defense.

The run game is still featured, but the passing game is making its mark. Kaepernick has three passing touchdowns and no picks in the last two games. Frank Gore and the running game has been as consistent as ever.

This aspect of the Niners' game has eclipsed the 160-yard mark the last three weeks.

As good as the Cardinals defense has played—and it's been very good—the Niners have enough facets of their offense clicking to gut out a low-scoring game.

 

All stat references from Pro Football Reference.

 

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