Thursday, December 29, 2016

NFL 2016-17 Week 17 Preview

New Orleans at Atlanta  - The Falcons have a chance to win the game and lock up the second seed in the NFC playoffs, although they have to do it against the league's top-rated offense. Clearly, New Orleans was in the mood to play spoiler against Tampa Bay last week. While this game does not hold quite the same significance, the Saints could still deny Atlanta the second seed, as a Falcons loss coupled with a Seattle win would force the Falcons to host a Wild Card game next weekend, instead of getting the weekend off to rest. Still, Atlanta has been playing hot all season, and their offense is not too shabby, either. I predict that they get the job done in this particular contest. My pick: Atlanta

Baltimore at Cincinnati - A meaningless game now. The Ravens already lost the big game last week, and are now out of the playoffs for yet another season. Still, they would like to at least finish on a winning note, and with a winning record. So, expect them to play well against a hapless Bengals team that has disappointed time and again this season. Not a thrilling game, most likely, but one that the Ravens likely win for their home fans. My pick: Baltimore

Carolina at Tampa Bay  - Not quite meaningless, although the chances of Tampa Bay qualifying are so remote as to be essentially non-existent. Since this game could mean something for the Bucs, I suspect that they bounce back from their two previous disappointments in the last couple of weeks, and finish up strong by beating Carolina. Talk about disappointing seasons! The Panthers had a disastrous season, when many (including yours truly) expected much, much more from this team. My pick: Tampa Bay

Houston at Tennessee - Another meaningless game now. I thought this was going to be a huge, winner takes all showdown, but by virtue of Tennessee losing last weekend coupled with Houston winning and clinching the division, the Texans can now rest their starters, and Tennessee will likely play a statement game with their pride on the line. This will be the Titans playoff game, in effect, while the Texans rest up and get ready for the real playoffs. That gives Tennessee a decisive advantage. My pick: Tennessee

N.Y. Giants at Washington - This game will mean everything to Washington, and essentially nothing to the Giants. I suspect that the Giants might have their starters for at least part of the first half, although they will likely take them out by the time the second half kicks off. Why risk any injuries to key players? Also, Washington is determined to win this one, surely. So, it is hard to imagine the Giants winning this divisional road game, even if it would be nice to see them do it. Better to stay healthy for the playoffs. But that likely means a forgettable game this Sunday. My pick: Washington

Green Bay at Detroit  - Now this is the big game! A winner takes all showdown for the division title, with the loser likely missing out on the playoffs altogether. The Lions have home field advantage, and that could prove to be huge. After all, the Lions are 6-1 at home this season, and that one loss was by a single point against Tennessee. Plus, I would hate Detroit's chances if this game had to be played in frigid Lambeau Field, as their history there is especially bad. Green Bay, in the meantime, is 3-4 on the road, although they have been absolutely on fire in the last few weeks, winners of five straight. That makes this game very intriguing. History would suggest that the Packers will win, because they always seem to get the best of the Detroit Lions. Sooner or later, these things change, right? Still, I am not convinced that the Lions, who have a history in recent decades of choking in big games like this, will find a way to do it, although this year, they actually have, earning the moniker of "cardiac kids" for the 2016 season. This should be a really great game, but I cannot get past this feeling that the Packers will win. My pick: Green Bay

Jacksonville at Indianapolis - Neither of these teams are going to the playoffs, although both of these teams have played some incredibly impressive football games recently. The Colts are the better team, and they have home field advantage, so I would expect them to win. Still, Jax's win against Tennessee last weekend was mighty impressive, and a win here would obviously give them a boost for the offseason to come. But the Colts had playoff expectations, and want to close this season out in the strongest fashion possible, which a solid win would provide. My pick: Indianapolis

New England at Miami -  The Dolphins already clinched a spot in the postseason, and so they do not really need this game. Of course, the Patriots clinched the division, but they are looking to lock up the top seed in the AFC, so this does mean something to them. New England obviously knows how to win, and my suspicion is that they will notch another mark in the "W" column in this contest. My pick: New England

Chicago at Minnesota - Yet another meaningless game. These are the two bottom feeders in the NFC North. While the Vikings had a much more successful season, they also have to live with having gotten off to an impressive 5-0 start, only to watch the entire season fall apart for them thereafter. For Chicago, this was a miserable season as well, although expectations were not as high. Also, they have improved and played better as the season grew older. Not sure if that will be enough to win a road game in Minnesota, though. My pick: Minnesota

Buffalo at N.Y. Jets - The Bills enter this game without head coach Rex Ryan, after this franchise missed the playoffs for a record 17th consecutive season. Buffalo is disappointed, and the tough loss to Pittsburgh, with everything riding on it, seems to have burst their bubble. Frankly, I am not sure that they will be anywhere near their best, given the hectic nature of this week. The Jets, in the meantime, have suffered through a miserable season, and the lowest point surely had to be that 41-3 beating last week at the hands of their longtime division rival and tormentors, the New England Patriots. For the Jets, nothing will make this season memorable, although a win to finish out the year would be a solid way to end a very difficult and frustrating season. My pick: N.Y. Jets

Dallas at Philadelphia - The 'Boys will travel to Philly to face the Eagles, who managed a huge win against the Giants last week. Yes, the Eagles showed that they were not merely quitting on the year, and their fans will be fired up to aim for a big win to end the season against their most hated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. As for Dallas, they really have nothing to gain by winning this one, and after Elliot was on ice for the second half of the season, they may indeed pull out their starters early, which gives the Eagles a very good chance to pull off a win here. My pick: Philadelphia

Cleveland at Pittsburgh - The Browns will try and notch their second victory of the season against a Steelers team that might just rest their starters. The Steelers have nothing to really benefit from winning this game, as they are pretty much locked in the third seed. So, this could be a real opportunity for Cleveland, although I suspect that maybe a first half start by the Steelers regulars, coupled with the ineptitude of the Browns, could ultimately result in another in a long line of Cleveland losses. But they played inspired to win against San Diego last week, and are playing a team with nothing to prove, giving them a chance to steal this one. My pick: Cleveland

Oakland at Denver - The Raiders hope to finally clinch the AFC West division title, while the Broncos want to end their season in a positive fashion, having already been knocked out of the playoff race. Denver will want to put on a good show for their disappointed home fans, but this game actually means quite a lot for the Raiders. There are questions as to how well they can even perform without Carr, but I suspect that they really, really want to win this game to get that division title and the playoff bye that comes with it. So, my suspicion is that they find a way to win on the road at Mile High. My pick: Oakland

Arizona at L.A. Rams - The Rams are terrible! They were 3-1 after a quarter of the season was done, and looked like legitimate playoff contenders. Since then? 1-10 and, most likely, about to be 1-11. Fans on the Los Angeles area might have been ecstatic to get their old team back, but the Rams quickly doused that enthusiasm with such a poor level of play. I mean, seriously! The 49ers are literally winless against the rest of the league, but they are 2-0 against the Rams. Yes, that's how bad LA is. As for the Cardinals, they went 13-3 last season, and made it all the way to the NFC Championship. Then, they made some moves in the offseason that some people felt put them as among the two or three elite teams with a legitimate chance at the Super Bowl. This season has been disastrous for them, although they are still far, far better than the Rams, and should be able to prove it fairly easily in this game. My pick: Arizona

Kansas City at San Diego - The Chiefs are still fighting for a possible AFC West title, which will come their way with a win and an Oakland loss. That is not an impossible scenario by any stretch of the imagination, as Oakland has a tough road game against last year's Super Bowl champs, while KC is playing a weak San Diego team. The Chargers found various ways to keep choking earlier in the season, and they appear to be returning to that now, as the season is winding down. KC probably comes in with serious intensity, and that should prove to be too much for the reeling Chargers. The Chiefs should win, although whether or not the AFC West title comes with it is not necessarily a guarantee. My pick: Kansas City 

Seattle at San Francisco - The 49ers finally snapped their 13-game losing streak, although they now have to finish off the season against the Seahawks. Still, Seattle is not the same team that we have gotten used to them being in recent seasons. That said, they should beat the 49ers, as they want to be prepared for the postseason, and also, still have a chance at that second seed. So, expect them to beat a San Francisco team that, I suspect, will try to put on a show and end on an up note for their home fans, following a disastrous season. It could go either way, but the Seahawks are the better team, and I expect them to show it in this game. My pick: Seattle

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