Week 17 NFL Predictions: Breaking Down Most Important Matchups

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Week 17 NFL Predictions: Breaking Down Most Important Matchups
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The final week of a wild NFL season is upon us, and Week 17 promises plenty of matchups with major playoff implications.

There are four spots up for grabs, with 10 teams in contention. Nearly every game has massive playoff implications.

Below we'll predict every game on the Week 17 slate, before focusing intently on some of the most important matchups of the weekend.

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


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

All the Saints need to do is beat the Bucs to make the playoffs.

And, in all honesty, it shouldn't be too hard.

The Saints are incredible at home, with the Superdome giving them an almost unfair advantage. The team is 7-0 in the Big Easy and averages 32.9 points per game there. Meanwhile, on the road, the team averages just under 18 points.

And yes, the Saints have lost three of their last four, including a bad loss in St. Louis. But they're a different team at home. They absolutely dominated the Carolina Panthers at home and beat potential playoff teams in Dallas and Miami. They also beat the San Francisco 49ers at home.

Tampa Bay also happens to be a bad team. It has lost three of its last four and has only one win on the road. Its pass defense, which was supposed to be elite with the addition of Darrelle Revis, has only been average, giving up 229.1 yards per game.

Mike Glennon has been decent, but this is an offense that only averages 18 points per game.

Look for the Saints to win this one pretty easily. 

Final Score: Saints 31, Bucs 7

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers is finally back, returning after a seven-game absence:

While it's impossible to know just how well Rodgers will play, the team is happy to have him back under center, as guard Josh Sitton told Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Aaron just knows everything so well; he can get us into the best situation possible. He can make plays with his feet. He can make throws that most quarterbacks in this league can't make. If you look at some of his throws, it's like, 'Where the hell is he throwing the ball?' and it's a catch somehow. He's a special player and we're happy to have him back.

It's hard to imagine that Rodgers will be his elite self after so much time off, but he should be good enough to force the Bears to back off the line. That's good news for the Packers, who can use Eddie Lacy to attack the Bears' 32nd-ranked rush defense. Lacy, a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown the last time these two teams met.

The Packers are the better team, especially after the Bears were exposed in their embarrassing loss to Philadelphia last week. I think the Packers will take this one without a problem.

Final Score: Packers 27, Bears 14

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

It's going to be very hard for the Cowboys to beat the Eagles without Tony Romo, who was placed on IR after having back surgery, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas:

While there are some Romo-haters who think the 'Boys have a better chance without No. 9, they are simply misguided. Take a look at the career stats of Romo and Sunday's starter Kyle Orton:

Tony Romo vs. Kyle Orton
Player Games Yards Completion Percentage Yards per Game Touchdowns Interceptions
Tony Romo 130 29,565 64.6 227.4 208 101
Kyle Orton 74 14,661 58.4 198.1 81 57


But the Romo-Orton debate, in the end, doesn't matter, because Dallas' defense cannot stop anyone. 

They have the 31st-ranked pass defense, giving up 290.7 yards per game, and the 27th-ranked rush defense, giving up 127.9 yards per game on the ground.

That's not going to work against the electric Eagles. Nick Foles has been fantastic, throwing for 2,628 yards, 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions. LeSean McCoy has been even better, rushing for 1,476 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging a gaudy 5.1 yards per carry.

Let's be blunt: This is not going to be close. The Eagles are one of the hottest teams in football, and Dallas has lost two of its last three. It's going to be a blowout.

Final Score: Eagles 35, Cowboys 10

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