A bunch of drama is on tap for the final Sunday of the NFL regular season.
Among the road teams on the schedule for Week 17, there are three division leaders who look poised for victories against familiar foes. Whether it's a playoff spot, a better seed or home-field advantage, more than half of the league still has a lot to play for this weekend.
Here's a look at the entire slate of games followed by three road teams who are locks to win their respective contests.
|Cleveland Browns||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers|
|Washington Redskins||New York Giants||Giants|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|Houston Texans||Tennessee Titans||Titans|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Indianapolis Colts||Colts|
|New York Jets||Miami Dolphins||Dolphins|
|Detroit Lions||Minnesota Vikings||Lions|
|Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||Panthers|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||New Orleans Saints||Saints|
|Buffalo BIlls||New England Patriots||Patriots|
|St. Louis Rams||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks|
|Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||Packers|
|San Francisco 49ers||Arizona Cardinals||49ers|
|Denver Broncos||Oakland Raiders||Broncos|
|Kansas City Chiefs||San Diego Chargers||Chargers|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Dallas Cowboys||Eagles|
Alex Espinoza's Picks
Carolina Panthers (11-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-11)
"Riverboat" Ron Rivera has struck gold with the Panthers in his third year as the head coach. The defense has evolved into one of the league's top units, while Cam Newton showed some moxie in last week's crucial 17-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Now Carolina is in the driver's seat to win the NFC South with a victory over the Falcons on Sunday. Whatever concerns there are surrounding Newton's ankle he injured last week, the quarterback tried to silence them with the media, via the Charlotte Observer.
“How it feels right now, it won’t even make for enough ink for a story,” Newton said. “Whether it’s feeling great right now, feeling bad right now, come Sunday it will be at high-octane performance.”
The Falcons have been out of the playoff hunt for some time now, but that hasn't stopped them from being competitive in the last month. Atlanta is 2-2 in the past four contests and played San Francisco tough on the road last week before suffering a 34-24 defeat.
These two teams played at Carolina in Week 9 and the Panthers rolled to a 34-10 victory. While the contest should be much closer this time around, Carolina is still poised for a win. The Panthers have won 10 of 11 and need a victory to maintain the No. 2 seed in the NFC and earn a first-round bye.
Atlanta will surely be fired up in the career finale for future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, but Carolina will be amped up with so much at stake and should win easy.
Prediction: Panthers win 28-24
Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at Dallas Cowboys (8-7)
The NFC East title will be on the line in the Jerry Dome on Sunday when Philadelphia visits Dallas for a prime-time matchup.
The Eagles flexed their muscles last week on Sunday Night Football with a commanding 54-11 win over the Chicago Bears. LeSean McCoy led a well-rounded Philadelphia attack, carrying the ball 18 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns while earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, joining the ranks of a couple of his teammates.
Now the Eagles are poised to roll over the Cowboys under the lights, as Dallas announced on Friday that quarterback Tony Romo has been placed on injured reserve after undergoing season-ending back surgery. Simply put, the Cowboys don't have much of a chance to win with backup Kyle Orton under center.
Quarterback Nick Foles and Philadelphia's offense have deservedly received a lot of attention for the team's rise to the top of the division, but as Greg A. Bedard of MMQB noted, the defense has been a big factor as well.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has worked wonders transforming his unit from a 4-3, wide-nine defense in Andy Reid’s final seasons, to a multiple 3-4 defense in just a year. As always, change takes time, and it has for the Eagles. Once near the bottom of the league in scoring defense (27.5 points per game allowed in the first four games), the Eagles have been near the top of late (19.2 in the last 11).
Philadelphia is rounding into form at the right time while Dallas' season looks all but finished without Romo. First-year coach Chip Kelly should be doused in Gatorade by the end of the game after leading the Eagles to the NFC East crown.
Prediction: Eagles win 42-20
Denver Broncos (12-3) at Oakland Raiders (4-11)
Of all the games on the schedule, this matchup is the biggest lock for a road win.
While the Broncos are looking to become the AFC's only 13-win team this season en route to clinching home-field advantage for the playoffs, the Oakland Raiders enter the contest on a five-game losing streak. These two divisional foes met in Week 3, and the Broncos waltzed to a 37-21 victory in Denver.
Peyton Manning is the runaway favorite for MVP after breaking Tom Brady's single-season record for passing touchdowns last week. For the year, he now has 5,211 yards with a 67.4 completion percentage, 51 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
In Oakland, the Raiders quarterback position has been something of a carousel all season. This week, Terrelle Pryor will receive the starting nod over Matt McGloin, as the coaching staff is on the hot seat and lobbying for continuity with the media. That's not a good look heading into the season finale against arguably the NFL's top team.
Oakland's defense isn't in much better shape, as it has given up an average of 34.6 points per game during the current skid. The Raiders are just two weeks removed from a 56-31 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, who put up the most points for any team in a single game this year.
With the way Manning and the Broncos are moving the ball right now, this should be an easy blowout.
Prediction: Broncos win 49-17