NFL Week 17 Picks: Early Predictions for All Season Finales

Megan ArmstrongContributor IDecember 24, 2018

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) celebrates a game-winning touchdown with receiver Chester Rogers during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. The Colts defeated the Giants 28-27. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Once you've settled down from everything that happened in the NFL Week 16 slate, start preparing for the madness to come in Week 17.

The Kansas City Chiefs failed to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night, which would have sealed the AFC West and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Now, the Chiefs' Week 17 game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead could be the difference between the No. 1 or No. 5 seed.

In the dominant 38-31 victory, the Seahawks clinched a wild-card berth.

The Los Angeles Chargers also failed on Saturday night as the visiting Baltimore Ravens dominated to the tune of a 22-10 win. After the Pittsburgh Steelers fell in devastating fashion in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon, the Ravens sit atop the AFC North while the Steelers might miss the playoffs entirely. 

Pittsburgh needs to beat the Bengals and for the Cleveland Browns, who have won three games in a row, to beat Baltimore in the regular-season finales. 

The most interesting division race to be decided in Week 17 is the AFC South. After the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Houston Texans on a last-second field goal on Sunday, Houston slipped to 10-5. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts mounted a comeback and defeated the New York Giants to improve to 9-6.

With the Steelers' loss, Indy now holds the No. 6 seed in the AFC. The NFL has flexed the Colts' matchup with the Tennessee Titans, also 9-6, to Sunday Night Football. The winner is in the postseason, and the loser won't play meaningful football again until September 2019.

Further, if the Texans drop their finale to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the winner of Sunday Night Football will win the AFC South.

With the Dallas Cowboys clinching the NFC East in Week 16 and Seattle winning, too, the only slot up for grabs in the NFC playoff picture is the last wild-card spot. The Minnesota Vikings have that slot right now at 8-6-1, but the Eagles are right on their tails at 8-7. 

Will the Bears, Cowboys, Rams, Saints, Seahawks and Rams sit their starters in Week 17?

Below is a look at the complete NFL Week 17 schedule with early-game predictions as well as three bolder, more specific predictions. 


Week 17 Matchups and Score Predictions

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: 23-17, Bills

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 27-24, Falcons

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 28-13, Giants

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints: 31-9, Saints

New York Jets at New England Patriots: 35-31, Patriots

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans: 30-6, Texans

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers: 28-12, Packers

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins: 31-17, Eagles

Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos: 31-13, Chargers

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs: 38-28, Chiefs

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: 21-20, Bears

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: 24-23, Browns

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams: 24-10, Rams

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers: 30-6, Steelers

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 27-10, Seahawks

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: 28-27, Colts


Notable Week 17 Predictions 

The Eagles Sneak In the Wild-Card Over Minnesota

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The Eagles are sticking with Carson Wentz as their quarterback of the future, but Nick Foles has been one hell of a quarterback of the moment. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has given Philadelphia new life since stepping in for an injured Wentz in Week 15.

In Week 16, Foles exploded for 471 yards passing and four touchdowns to only one pick. The veteran quarterback is better at getting multiple Eagles involved in the offensive attack, as Nelson Agholor caught five balls for 116 yards plus a touchdown, and Zach Ertz turned 12 catches into 110 yards and two touchdowns. 

Nine Eagles had at least one reception. 

All of this happened against a Texans team that is better than Washington, Philly's Week 17 opponent, by a large margin. Not to mention, Philadelphia upset the Rams in Week 15 in Foles' second game of the 2018 season.

Washington has its third-string quarterback, Josh Johnson, under center. The most intimidating member of the Redskins is a 33-year-old Adrian Peterson, who became the oldest rusher in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards in a season. If the Eagles can find a way to make him look 33 years old, they should be able to take care of Washington.

The Vikings will face Chicago, which has already clinched the NFC North and at least the No. 3 seed. Will the Bears rest some starters or try to move up to the No. 2 seed (which would require a Rams' loss, as Chicago beat L.A. in Week 14)? 

Either way, Minnesota has not played well this season against equal or better competition. The lone win in that category, ironically, came against Philadelphia back in Week 5. The last time these two teams played, Chicago won in an uninspiring performance from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

Believe it or not, Foles has shown more aptitude to perform in big moments than Cousins. 


The Chiefs Still Win the AFC West But Meekly 

Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

All Kansas City has to do to still win the AFC West and No. 1 seed in the AFC is beat the 3-11 Raiders, which sounds like a very enviable position to be in. But with context, it's more concerning than anything that this game matters in Week 17.

It initially sounds ridiculous, but the Chiefs might have peaked too early this season. After starting 9-1, the Chiefs have lost three of their last five and all against equal or better teams: the Rams, Chargers and Seattle.

Since releasing running back Kareem Hunt, Kansas City is 2-2 and not nearly as intimidating on offense. Any less intimidation on offense makes this automatically a much lesser team because the defense is not good. On Sunday night, Seattle put up 464 total yards of offense including 210 yards on the ground.

In Week 13, the Chiefs beat the Raiders but only by seven points (40-33). Full disclosure: It was Kansas City's first game without Hunt and coming off of a bye week.

The Chargers need for the Raiders to pull off the upset and to beat the Broncos in order to clinch the division and home-field advantage. Even with the Chiefs showing major flaws, that seems unlikely. That said, regardless of No. 1 or No. 5 seed, the Chargers feel like the more dangerous team once January hits.

Chiefs star quarterback and MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes can't do everything himself, even if he does have 4,816 yards and 48 touchdowns through the air.


The Browns Ruin the Ravens' Year 

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 23:  Darren Fells #88 celebrates his touchdown with Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Let's get weird. Cleveland has won three games in a row and sits at 7-7-1. With an upset of the 9-6 Ravens, the Browns can finish above .500 for the first time since 2007. If you think the Browns won't compete because they're eliminated from playoff contention, you clearly haven't paid attention to the Baker Mayfield-led Browns. 

In Week 5, Baltimore barely beat Cleveland by a score of 12-9 in overtime. A lot has changed in Baltimore since then—most notably, of course, the quarterback as rookie Lamar Jackson has taken Joe Flacco's starting job. Since then, the Ravens are 5-1 with their lone loss coming at Kansas City in overtime. 

This game will be played in Baltimore, which matters not only for obvious reasons but because—as impressive as he has been—Mayfield is a rookie quarterback prone to rookie mistakes. As enticing as it is to talk about the Jackson-Mayfield matchup, this game will be about defense. 

The Ravens are the No. 1 defense in the NFL and will have everything to play for, and the Browns are the ninth-ranked defense with 30 total takeaways this season (fourth in the NFL). 

Should the Ravens lose and the Steelers beat the hapless Bengals, Baltimore will finish the season on the outside looking in (unless the Colts and Titans tie) as Pittsburgh will win the division.

Who's to say the Browns can't pull off an epic upset to end a season that feels like the foundation for a complete franchise turnaround? Plus, Mayfield seems like the kind of guy who would love nothing more than to spoil Baltimore's division-clinching storybook ending.


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