NFL Week 17 Picks: Breaking Down Most Critical Matchups

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 NFL Week 17 Picks: Breaking Down Most Critical Matchups
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The 17th week of the NFL season is upon us, and there is still plenty left to be decided. There are four playoff spots up for grabs and 10 teams vying for them.

Who is going to take advantage of the opportunity to make the playoffs, and which teams are going to fall flat on their face?

Below is a list of predictions for all the games, followed by an analysis of some of the most critical games of the weekend.

NFL Week 17 Picks
Cleveland Browns Pittsburgh Steelers PIT
Washington Redskins New York Giants NYG
Baltimore Ravens Cincinnati Bengals CIN
Houston Texans Tenessee Titans TEN
Jacksonville Jaguars Indianapolis Colts IND
New York Jets Miami Dolphins MIA
Detroit Lions Minnesota Vikings MIN
Carolina Panthers Atlanta Falcons CAR
Tampa Bay Buccaneers New Orleans Saints NO
Buffalo Bills New England Patriots NE
St. Louis Rams Seattle Seahawks SEA
Green Bay Packers Chicago Bears GB
San Francisco 49ers Arizona Cardinals AZ
Denver Broncos Oakland Raiders DEN
Kansas City Chiefs San Diego Chargers SD
Philadelphia Eagles Dallas Cowboys PHI

Jeremy Fuchs

Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7)

It's "win and in" in the NFC East, and Philadelphia has all of the momentum. The have won six of their last seven and are coming off a trouncing of the Chicago Bears.

Dallas, meanwhile, may or may not have Tony Romo. Ed Werder of ESPN reports that the star is unlikely to play:

If all else fails, they have Jon Kitna:

Look, even if Romo does play, there's just no way they win this game. The Eagles are one of the hottest teams in football. Nick Foles has been absolutely outstanding, throwing for 2,628 yards, 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

He's been historically good, too, as Corey Seidman of points out:

The Eagles have the best rushing attack, the ninth-ranked passing attack and the 12th-ranked rush defense. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have the 31st-ranked pass defense and the 27th-ranked rush defense.

This could get ugly. Look for Foles and McCoy to walk over the Cowboys' putrid defense and make the playoffs.

Final Score: Eagles 31, Cowboys 10

Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7)

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

It's the same in the North as it is in the East, but the biggest question is: Will the Pack have Aaron Rodgers?

Right now, it's not looking likely, as Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports:

Matt Flynn has been decent in relief, throwing for 1,392 yards and eight touchdowns. Mike McCarthy praised the journeyman backup, telling Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

I thought Matt did a lot of good things. The no-huddle, we had some good moments there in the first half. We had some penalties that put us in a long down and distance, but he definitely gave us a spark in the second half.

Let's go with the assumption that Rodgers does not play. Can the Packers really win?

Yes. Did you see how bad the Bears looked against Philadelphia? They were manhandled, losing to the Eagles 54-11, and it wasn't even that close. The Bears seemingly made a tactical error in putting Jay Cutler back when Josh McCown had been playing so well.

This is how it's going to go down: Eddie Lacy and the Packers will run all day over the Bears' 32nd-ranked rush defense. Matt Flynn will make just enough throws to move the chains, and Jay Cutler will throw a costly interception. I think the Packers will take this one relatively easily.

Final Score: Packers 21, Bears 13

New York Jets (7-8) at Miami Dolphins (8-7)

Not much for the Jets to play for, but the Dolphins do have a chance to make the playoffs.

They do need some help, though. In order to make the second season, the Dolphins need to win against the Jets and hope the Baltimore Ravens lose. They could also get in with a win and a San Diego Chargers win. There are two other scenarios that involve a number of ties.

Can the Fins get in? With all the turmoil that has surrounded South Beach, it would be a bit of a surprise to see them in the postseason.

And they're coming off a woeful loss to Buffalo where they weren't even competitive. That's a game they should have easily won, but they ended up losing 19-0.

Meanwhile, the Jets are probably playing for Rex Ryan's job, although a win does not guarantee he stays as coach. They are coming off a nice win against the Cleveland Browns.

Miami should have all the motivation they need to make the playoffs. Cameron Wake should be able to fluster Geno Smith.

I think this will be a low-scoring game. The Jets offense is awful, and the Dolphins defense isn't too good. 

Quite simply, the Dolphins have more to play for. I think they got their stinker out of the way last week and should be able to beat the Jets.

Final Score: Dolphins 21, Jets 14.

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