The 2013 NFL regular season will culminate in Week 17 as teams make their final push for the playoffs.
With four division titles up for grabs and four postseason berths remaining, nearly every game will carry significant weight. Whether it's for a spot in the tournament, a division crown or improved seeding, there'll be everything to play for on the regular season's final Sunday.
Without further ado, here are my picks for every Week 17 matchup.
|Carolina Panthers (-5.5)||Atlanta Falcons|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5)|
|Tennessee Titans (-7)||Houston Texans|
|Indianapolis Colts (-10.5)||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Miami Dolphins (-5.5)||New York Jets|
|Minnesota Vikings (-3)||Detroit Lions|
|New York Giants (-3.5)||Washington Redskins|
|Pittsburgh Steelers (-7)||Cleveland Browns|
|Denver Broncos (-11)||Oakland Raiders|
|New England Patriots (-8)||Buffalo Bills|
|New Orleans Saints (-13)||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Arizona Cardinals (Even)||San Francisco 49ers|
|San Diego Chargers (-9.5)||Kansas City Chiefs|
|Seattle Seahawks (-11.5)||St. Louis Rams|
|Green Bay Packers (-3)||Chicago Bears|
|Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5)||Dallas Cowboys|
Lines via Covers.com
Carolina Panthers (-5.5) Over Atlanta Falcons
The Carolina Panthers can lock up the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win over the reeling Atlanta Falcons in Week 17. However, a loss combined with a New Orleans Saints' win would see Drew Brees and company steal the division title and send Carolina on the road next month as an NFC Wild Card.
Therefore, given the stakes, watch for the Panthers to pull out a big win in the Georgia Dome this weekend.
Which team will win the NFC South in Week 17?
Carolina will be a 5.5-point favorite on the road and for good reason. In addition to being 4-11, the Falcons are 0-8 against teams with winning records this season, including suffering a 24-point loss at Carolina back in Week 9.
The Panthers' stout defense forced four turnovers and held the Falcons offense to just 289 total yards in the rout. Meanwhile, Cam Newton and the Panthers offense found success both on the ground and through the air, racking up 373 total yards and three touchdowns.
Although the Panthers were dealt an excruciating loss in the Georgia Dome in Week 4 of last season, many players, including defensive back Captain Munnerlyn believe this Carolina team is different than that one and capable of redemption, per Panthers.com's Max Henson: "We had a heartbreaking loss last year in the Georgia Dome. But it seems like everything is going our way this year. This is a different team."
Miami Dolphins (-5.5) Over New York Jets
While the Carolina Panthers have already secured a playoff berth, the Miami Dolphins will need a win in Week 17 in order to keep their postseason prospects alive, per The Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly on Twitter:
Bryant McKinnie says everybody on the Dolphins roster knows what is at stake vs the Jets. http://t.co/gwl1grZ3N6— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) December 27, 2013
Fortunately, Joe Philbin's resilient Dolphins will host a struggling and turnover-prone New York Jets squad this weekend at Sun Life Stadium. The oddsmakers have made Miami a 5.5-point favorite over its division rival, and it's certainly not hard to see why.
After all, the Dolphins blasted the Jets in Week 13, crushing them 23-3 at MetLife Stadium to ignite a crucial three-game winning streak. Miami forced three turnovers in the victory and outgained New York 453-177 in total yards.
Therefore, the Jets will have to make some drastic changes to their approach this week in order to spring the upset in South Florida.
Keep in mind that the Jets' minus-17 turnover differential is tied with the Houston Texans for worst in the NFL through 16 weeks.
Seattle Seahawks (-11.5) Over St. Louis Rams
The Seattle Seahawks will attempt to bounce back at home and erase any doubt regarding their championship potential in Week 17 when they play host to the upset-minded St. Louis Rams.
Seattle will be a mighty favorite to win its seventh home game of the season, and you've got to like their chances of doing just that on Sunday. After all, prior to Week 16's stunning loss to Arizona, Seattle had gone two years without losing a home game and still boasts one of the league's top defensive units.
In addition to their stellar defense, the Seahawks feature a top-five rushing attack that is sure to neutralize St. Louis' exceptional pass rush. Led by bruising running back Marshawn Lynch, the 'Hawks are averaging over 138 rushing yards per week and will wear the Rams down if they can continue to earn quick stops defensively.
Seattle possesses the best defense in the NFL in terms of fewest yards allowed and second-best in fewest points allowed. As a result, Russell Wilson and the offense should have plenty of room for error in Week 17, as they have all season long.
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