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NFL Week 17 picks: Falcons beat Panthers, Jaguars stop Titans, Ravens, Chargers make AFC playoffs; 49ers lock of week

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones gives quarterback Matt

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones gives quarterback Matt Ryan a hug on the sidelines during a game against the Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Charlotte. Credit: AP / Curtis Compton

Every week is unpredictable in the NFL, but Week 17 is in a league of its own. Which teams are resting starters for the playoffs? Which teams that are out of it will be motivated to play spoiler?

One of the new wrinkles in recent seasons is that Week 17 consists only of division matchups, so it’s a good bet that teams will show up and not let a rival just coast into the postseason. That’s the theme of this week, as many underdogs may not win but they should be able to cover big point spreads. Favorites went 8-6-2 against the spread (ATS) last week, giving them a 113-107-14 lead for the season.

My most confident picks ATS this week are: 49ers, Jaguars, Bengals, Cardinals and Colts. Tricky games to avoid: Lions-Packers, Bills-Dolphins and Chiefs-Broncos.


JETS (5-10) AT PATRIOTS (12-3)

Patriots by 14.5; O/U: 43.5

TV: Ch. 2

Considering these teams’ fortunes, it’s a good bet that a Jets touchdown will be overturned just like it was in Week 6 (sorry for the reminder, Austin Seferian-Jenkins). The Jets just covered as a 16-point underdog two weeks ago in New Orleans, so if you want to take the points, we don’t blame you. They’ve also played the Patriots close of late, with eight of the last nine being decided by seven or fewer points. But it’s that one game that wasn’t close — a 41-3 Pats rout in Week 16 last season — that makes me lean Pats here. New England clinches the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win, and it will have no trouble running up the score. In the Pats’ last two home games, it beat the Bills by 21 and Dolphins by 18. The Jets will be the third AFC East team to be on the wrong end of a lopsided score.

The pick: Patriots


Redskins by 3; O/U: 39.5

TV: Ch. 5

This New Year’s Eve matchup should’ve been scheduled closer to midnight considering how the Giants dropped the ball this season. Two wins? It still is hard to believe, but at least a 2-14 record will lock up the No. 2 pick in the draft. Kirk Cousins, seeking a big payday in the offseason, has a big day against a depleted secondary. Also, Washington may be motivated to finish .500.

The pick: Redskins

BEARS (5-10) AT VIKINGS (12-3)

Vikings by 11; O/U: 38.5

Minnesota clinches the NFC’s No. 2 seed with a win and could possibly be home for the entire postseason (Super Bowl LII is in Minneapolis if you didn’t know). The Vikings are one of the NFL’s best bets at home: 6-1 ATS this season and, according to, they’re on an eye-opening 28-8 ATS home run. They’ll add to those numbers with a big win.

The pick: Vikings

COWBOYS (8-7) AT EAGLES (13-2)

Cowboys by 2.5; O/U: 40

When these teams met in the 2016 season finale, the roles were reversed: Dallas was the NFC’s No. 1 seed and Philadelphia was out of it. The Cowboys rested starters then, and you have to think the Eagles will do the same, even if their Christmas Night game showed Philly needs some fine-tuning on both sides of the ball. Ezekiel Elliott, in his second game back from suspension, will be the freshest player on the field and it will show.

The pick: Cowboys

PACKERS (7-8) AT LIONS (8-7)

Lions by 6; O/U: 43.5

A season ago, this Week 17 matchup decided the NFC North champion. Now, both teams are out of it. At least Detroit fans won’t have to see Aaron Rodgers picking the Lions secondary apart. Matthew Stafford dominated at Green Bay in a 30-17 win on Monday night in Week 9, and he should have another big game.

The pick: Lions

BROWNS (0-15) AT STEELERS (12-3)

Steelers by 10.5; O/U: 38

The Browns, trying to avoid becoming the second team to go 0-16 in NFL history, couldn’t have asked for a worse place to play that 16th game. All they do is play catch-up at Heinz Field, losing their last 13 trips by an average of 57 points (OK, OK, the second number is made up for the Heinz reference). They’re not winning this one, but let’s take a shot that they can at least keep it to single digits against a Steelers team that reportedly is going to sit Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell and already is without Antonio Brown.

The pick: Browns

TEXANS (4-11) AT COLTS (3-12)

Colts by 5; O/U: 40

Not many will care about this game, but the Colts players sure will. It’s likely Chuck Pagano’s finale as Colts coach, and it also may be Frank Gore’s final game in Indy. Expect an inspired performance from the Colts, who already beat Houston, 20-14, earlier this season.

The pick: Colts



Falcons by 4; O/U: 45

It’s been a roller-coaster season for the defending NFC champion Falcons, and now all they need to do is win and they punch their ticket for another playoff ride. Carolina is already playoff-bound, but it still has an outside shot at the division if New Orleans loses. Atlanta is the more desperate team, and you have to roll with Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones at home against a Panthers team that despite its 11 wins has been inconsistent at times.

The pick: Falcons

SAINTS (11-4) AT BUCS (4-11)

Saints by 6.5; O/U: 49.5

With New Orleans needing only a win to clinch the NFC South title, expect Drew Brees & Co. to get it done. But it won’t be as easy as the Saints’ 30-10 win over the Bucs in Week 9. Jameis Winston and the Bucs haven’t quit, losing by three to both the Falcons and Panthers the last two weeks. Based on Weeks 15 and 16, you have to think a feisty Bucs team will be motivated to try and prevent a division rival from winning a title in their home building.

The pick: Bucs


Ravens by 9.5; O/U: 40

Baltimore clinches the AFC’s No. 5 seed with a win, so get ready for a Ravens-Chiefs wild-card matchup next weekend. Expect the Bengals to put up a fight, though. This is Marvin Lewis’ finale as Cincinnati coach, and you saw what kind of effect that had last week as the Bengals beat a Lions team that needed a win to stay in the playoff hunt. If you watched any of last Saturday’s Ravens-Colts game, you know that Baltimore’s offense isn’t explosive. Cincy has a solid defense, will want some payback from that 20-0 Week 1 loss and Andy Dalton and A.J. Green can make enough big connections to keep this close.

The pick: Bengals

JAGUARS (10-5) AT TITANS (8-7)

Titans by 3; O/U: 42

This is an intriguing matchup. Tennessee is in with a win, and Jackonsville is locked in as the AFC’s No. 3 seed. But coach Doug Marrone has said the Jaguars will play to win the game (cue the Herm Edwards classic rant). Jacksonville just gave up 44 points to the 49ers, so it doesn’t want to enter the playoffs off two losses. Also, do you blame them for wanting to keep a division rival — one that beat them 37-16 earlier in the season — out of the playoffs? To a football fanatic like myself on the outside looking in, though, the Jaguars would be better off losing this game, ensuring they’d face the Titans in the wild-card round and not a more dangerous team like the Chargers. Based on Marrone’s words, though, expect Jacksonville to play with a purpose and beat a Titans team that was never as good as their 8-4 record.

The pick: Jaguars


Bills by 2; O/U: 42.5

Buffalo needs a win and some help to end the NFL’s longest playoff drought (1999). It should win, but nothing’s guaranteed — just ask the 2015 Jets, who needing only a win to get in, lost at Buffalo in the regular-season finale. The Bills just beat the Dolphins, 24-16, in Week 15, and while it wouldn’t be a surprise if Miami got payback, the safer play is Buffalo. One playoff note: If the Bills win, Titans lose and Chargers win, L.A. and not Buffalo gets the AFC’s 6th seed because of the Chargers’ win over Buffalo in Week 11. That was the Nathan Peterman 5-INT game, a decision that coach Sean McDermott may never live down.

The pick: Bills


Chargers by 8; O/U: 42

This is another matchup in a week full of them where the team out of it has a chance to play spoiler against a division rival. The Chargers are clearly the better team and should win, but will the Raiders make it easy? With the spread being over a touchdown, we’re willing to roll the dice with the soon-to-be Vegas Raiders.

The pick: Raiders

CHIEFS (9-6) AT BRONCOS (5-10)

Broncos by 3.5; O/U: 38

When the Chiefs were in the midst of going from 5-0 to 6-6, some fans called for rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes to take over. Well, they’ll get their wish in Week 17 as he gets the start in a meaningless game for KC, which is locked in as the AFC’s No. 4 seed. The Broncos will want to finish a disappointing season on a high note, and their defense plus the Denver elevation are a tough assignment for a first NFL start. But something tells me the strong-armed Mahomes will have success, giving the Chiefs a QB controversy as they enter the playoffs (just kidding, Andy Reid).

The pick: Chiefs


Seahawks by 9; O/U: 38.5

My first thought on this game was that Seattle would roll. The Seahawks need a win and a Falcons loss to get in, so the motivation is there. Also, it’s their first game home since a 42-7 shellacking at the hands of the Rams, so expect a proud team to show up and finish the season with a win. But this spread is just two or three points too high. The Cardinals have played great defense the last month. This also could be the final games with Arizona for coach Bruce Arians and Larry Fitzgerald, so it’s hard to not see the Cardinals giving it their all in a division game.

The pick: Cardinals


49ERS (5-10) AT RAMS (11-4)

49ers by 3.5; O/U: 44

This line opened at Rams -7, then Sean McVay said his starters may rest and it moved in a hurry. Now, with the Rams coach saying L.A.’s top offensive starters will sit, San Francisco is favored. The way Jimmy Garoppolo has played, the 49ers would’ve given a full-strength Rams team all it can handle. Jimmy G is 6-0 as an NFL starter, including 4-0 since taking over for San Fran. The 49ers just scored 44 against one of the NFL’s best defenses in Jacksonville, and there’s no reason to think Garoppolo & Co. will slow down in the season finale. San Francisco enters the offseason on a five-game win streak and gives its fans something to be excited about for the 2018 season.

The pick: 49ers

Staff picks and standings

(best bets in bold)


105-121-14 overall, 3-13 best bets

Last week: 5-9-2

Patriots Redskins Vikings Cowboys

Lions Browns Colts Falcons

Bucs Bengals Jaguars Bills

Raiders Chiefs Cardinals 49ers


108-118-14, 10-6 best bets

Last week: 6-8-2

Patriots Redskins Vikings Cowboys

Lions Steelers Colts Falcons

Saints Ravens Titans Dolphins

Chargers Broncos Seahawks 49ers


115-111-14, 7-8-1 best bets

Last week: 7-7-2

Jets Redskins Vikings Cowboys

Lions Steelers Texans Falcons

Saints Bengals Jaguars Bills

Chargers Chiefs Cardinals Rams


105-106-13, 7-8 best bets

Last week: 5-9-2

Patriots Giants Vikings Eagles

Lions Steelers Colts Falcons

Saints Ravens Jaguars Bills

Chargers Chiefs Seahawks 49ers

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