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NFL Predictions Week 17: Picks and Projections for Top Upsets on the Schedule

Theo SalaunContributor IIIDecember 25, 2019

Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards runs for a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Gail Burton/Associated Press

Hope your holidays are as happy as your wallet is fat. Week 17 brings the last full slate of NFL games—a final chance for investors to choose whom to back among 16 different contests. 

 

But, with the added element of a tantalizing closeness to vacation, most games are even harder to predict than usual in the league's regular-season finale. There are 17 teams already eliminated from playoff contention, meaning more than half of the league's rosters are one week away from the offseason. Many players will still put everything on the line to get a win, but there will be some thinking more about their vacation plans than the task at hand.

 

Additionally, 10 of the 12 available playoff spots have already been clinched. Some are still jockeying for position, but circumstances could cause many of those teams to ease off the gas and preserve energy for the playoffs.

 

That leaves us with five teams, three in the AFC and two in the NFC, playing all out for a shot at the postseason: the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. In fittingly dramatic fashion, the Steelers and Raiders figure to be involved in the week's top upsets.

Below, we list the spreads and totals for the entire Week 17 schedule and indicate our picks for winners and over/under expectations in bold. Then we analyze why, contrary to Vegas' expectations (courtesy of Caesars), the Raiders are likely to upset the Denver Broncos and the two-point-favorite Steelers are set to fall to the Baltimore Ravens' second unit.

                                      

Week 17 NFL Odds

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers—O/U: 47.5

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-1.0)—O/U: 37.0

Cleveland Browns (-3.0) at Cincinnati Bengals—O/U: 44.5

Green Bay Packers (-12.5) at Detroit Lions—O/U: 43.0

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.0)—O/U 45.0

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-15.5)—O/U 45.0

New Orleans Saints (-13.0) at Carolina Panthers—O/U 47.0

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-1.5)—O/U: 36.0

Indianapolis Colts (-3.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars—O/U 43.5

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-3.5)—O/U 41.0

Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) at New York Giants—O/U 45.0

Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.0) at Baltimore RavensO/U 38.0

Tennessee Titans (-3.0) at Houston Texans—O/U 46.0

Washington's National Football Team at Dallas Cowboys (-11.0)—O/U 44.5

San Francisco 49ers (-3.0) at Seattle Seahawks—O/U 47.0

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5)—O/U 46.5

All spreads and over/unders courtesy of Caesars. There is no information for the Cardinals-Rams game, likely because of question marks over Kyler Murray's status.

                     

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-3.5)

Vegas expects Derek Carr to enter a chilly stadium in Denver and succumb to the elements. Caesars has Carr's Raiders as a 3.5-point underdog against Drew Lock's Broncos. Considering his 2-10 record in games played in temperatures under 50 degrees, those expectations may be reasonable.

But this is the last Raiders season in Oakland and there is no way Jon Gruden's team isn't fired up for a chance at the postseason.

DeAndre Washington has played well in his stead, but star running back Josh Jacobs should be back, and that gives Oakland a different gear on offense. The defense should be ramped up with the season on the line too. Although Denver has offensive weapons who the team wants to continue building chemistry with Lock, it would be wise to prioritize health by lessening Courtland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay's workloads.

Many things need to fall into place for Oakland to squeeze into the playoffs, but small chances can breed staggering motivation, so it should not be surprising if Oakland picks on Denver's rookie quarterback and unmotivated defense enough to pull off this upset.

Prediction: Raiders 24, Broncos 17

                

Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.0) at Baltimore Ravens

I get it. Lamar Jackson is sitting out, as are team stalwarts like Marshal Yanda and Mark Ingram. Much of the personnel who embody the Baltimore identity are either unlikely to play or unlikely to play very much—and second-stringers shouldn't be able to beat an NFL team fighting for a chance at the postseason.

But Jackson is being replaced by another mobile quarterback, Robert Griffin III, while Ingram is replaced by Gus Edwards, who boasts a career 5.2 yards-per-carry average, and Justice Hill, a promising 2019 fourth-rounder who is already carving out a third-down niche. Baltimore's offensive scheme has been indomitable this season and should remain effective even after digging deeper into the depth chart.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh offense is a travesty. The Steelers are vying for playoff position while letting two goobers take turns at the wheel. Neither quarterback Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges can get out of the holiday spirit and stop gifting the ball to opposing defenses. Conversely, in an act of self-loathing, neither can gift the ball deep to their receivers with any consistency, either.

Hodges will be the starter after Rudolph was placed on injured reserve, but even if Baltimore doesn't play its starters fully, the backup personnel will still have sufficient knowledge of the scheme to be too tough for the undrafted rookie to overcome.

Prediction: Ravens 28, Steelers 21