Even with most of the playoff spots taken, the last week of the NFL regular season is going to feature plenty of drama.
Ten teams have already clinched a postseason berth with only the AFC South and the final AFC wild-card spot up for grabs. With just two teams fighting for each position, there seems to be less do-or-die games than usual. However, almost every seed can change after the upcoming slate of games with only the Washington Redskins set in their No. 4 slot in the NFC.
As a result, 11 of the 16 games have some importance for the playoffs. You can also be certain those eliminated will not roll over like some fans looking at draft positioning might expect. These players are fighting for their jobs, not the betterment of the franchise.
With Week 17 shaping up to be an exciting slate of games, here is a look at predictions for each contest with a breakdown of the top picks against the spread.
|Away||Predicted Score||Home||ATS Pick|
|New England Patriots||27-13||Miami Dolphins||NE -10|
|Tennessee Titans||14-24||Indianapolis Colts||N/A|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||17-28||Houston Texans||HOU -6.5|
|Detroit Lions||21-17||Chicago Bears||DET +1|
|Baltimore Ravens||20-24||Cincinnati Bengals||BAL +7.5|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||31-10||Cleveland Browns||PIT -10|
|Philadelphia Eagles||27-34||New York Giants||NYG -3|
|New York Jets||24-13||Buffalo Bills||NYJ -3|
|Washington Redskins||16-10||Dallas Cowboys||WAS +3.5|
|New Orleans Saints||20-27||Atlanta Falcons||ATL -4|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7-30||Carolina Panthers||CAR -10.5|
|Oakland Raiders||17-20||Kansas City Chiefs||OAK +6.5|
|San Diego Chargers||13-21||Denver Broncos||SD +9|
|St. Louis Rams||23-24||San Francisco 49ers||SF +3.5|
|Seattle Seahawks||24-28||Arizona Cardinals||SEA +7|
|Minnesota Vikings||27-21||Green Bay Packers||MIN +3|
All spread info courtesy of Odds Shark
New England Patriots (-10) vs. Miami Dolphins
While the New England Patriots certainly haven't been dominant over the past month or so as injuries continue to pile up, it's also important not to exaggerate the team's struggles. The Pats are still in line for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while two of the three losses have come on the road in overtime. The third loss came in a fluky game against the Philadelphia Eagles featuring three non-offensive touchdowns.
With Tom Brady still under center and Rob Gronkowski healthy and catching passes, this is still an offense that will beat most teams.
Additionally, most haven't noticed how well New England's defense has played this year. Chandler Jones leads a front line that ranks second in the NFL in sacks, something that will cause problems for Ryan Tannehill. The quarterback enters the week tied for the most times sacked already this season, including six last Sunday. This has helped stall the offense while also causing plenty of mistakes from the young passer.
Considering Miami also hasn't been able to run the ball consistently and seemingly often forgets Lamar Miller can be a dominant running back, this is not an offense the Patriots will fear.
New England will use a balanced attack to clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs and cruise to victory against a team that has lost five of its last six games.
New York Jets (-3) vs. Buffalo Bills
The New York Jets need this game to clinch a playoff spot, while the Buffalo Bills are fighting just to play the role of spoiler for their coach against his former team. This doesn't always lead to a win, but it certainly helps, especially if the flow of the game slides toward the favorite early.
Of course, the more important factor is that the Jets are simply a much better team. Even with the postseason not guaranteed, this is a group that can legitimately contend in the AFC. Chris Simms discussed the squad's ability on CBS Sports, per Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press:
Chris Simms on CBS Sports Network's "NFL Monday QB" today: "The #Jets are one of the three, four or five best teams in all of football."— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) December 28, 2015
The strength of this team is the defensive front that can stop the Bills rushing attack and put all the pressure on Tyrod Taylor to win with his arm. This has led to inconsistent results this season.
Buffalo could have just as many problems with the Jets offense, which is rolling behind the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran quarterback has 13 touchdowns and just one interception during the five-game winning streak and will want revenge on his former team just as much as Rex Ryan. As long as he continues throwing the ball up to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, he will keep putting up these impressive numbers.
Although the Bills fared well defensively against Kellen Moore last week, they are in for a much tougher test in the Jets and simply won't have the ability to keep up.
Minnesota Vikings (+3) vs. Green Bay Packers
You would think any team led by Aaron Rodgers would be fine offensively, but that hasn't been the case lately with the Green Bay Packers struggling to find consistency on that side of the ball.
Offensive lineman Josh Sitton discussed the offense not carrying its weight lately, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:
I'd be pissed off at us if I was on the defense. They've played pretty damn good this year—even tonight. ... I'd be frustrated if I were them, but they've done a helluva job of not letting that happen and staying positive. We've just got to find a way to be good on offense. We don't have to be great. We have a really good defense and special teams. We just need to be good on offense.
The offense wasn't good or even average in Week 16 against the Arizona Cardinals. With nine sacks allowed and just 178 total yards, it was downright awful.
Things won't get too much easier against an attacking Minnesota Vikings defense that ranks sixth in the NFL with just 19.3 points allowed per game this year. Even after Green Bay easily beat this defense earlier in the year, the squad is back on track with three solid games in a row, and it is ready to take on this challenge for the division title.
Look for Adrian Peterson to once again lead the offense, while Teddy Bridgewater continues to take what the defense gives him. The second-year quarterback has six touchdowns and no interceptions in the last three games, which will be plenty good enough to beat the Packers in this highly anticipated battle.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for more year-round sports analysis.