Week 17 is all about one word: Motivation. Who has it? Who doesn't? Teams fighting for a playoff spot or a bye will go all-out while others will rest starters and some will be counting down the minutes till the season's over.
The key is zeroing in on teams with everything to play for, and fading those who have already checked out.
Underdogs went 8-7-1 against the spread last week and are 129-104-6.
My most confident picks ATS this week are the Packers, Saints, Colts and Titans. Avoid Bears-Vikings and Browns-Bengals.
Playoff Implication Games
GAME OF THE WEEK
49ERS (12-3) AT SEAHAWKS (11-4)
49ers by 3; O/U: 47
TV: Ch. 4, 8:20 p.m.
It's only fitting that this rematch will close out the 2019 regular season. San Francisco clinches the No. 1 seed with a win and Seattle would need a win and help to get home field. But the winner clinches the NFC West and doesn't have to be the fifth seed. Seattle won the Monday night thriller in Week 10, 27-24, on a last-second kick in overtime. The Seahawks have since lost their top three running backs and were so desperate for help they brought in Marshawn Lynch. While it usually isn't wise to bet against Russell Wilson in prime time - especially when he's getting points - San Francisco is the play here for many reasons. Unlike the first meeting, the 49ers will have tight end George Kittle, their own version of Beast Mode, and Emmanuel Sanders, who left the Week 10 game early with an injury. The 49ers are the more complete team, have an elite defense and won't lose twice to Seattle with a No. 1 seed staring them in the face.
The pick: 49ers
EAGLES (8-7) AT GIANTS (4-11)
Eagles by 4; O/U: 44.5
TV: Ch. 5, 4:25 p.m.
The Eagles are NFC East champs with a win (or Dallas loss). Will the Giants be up to play spoiler in what is likely Pat Shurmur's last game as coach? Shur. The Eagles needed to rally from 17-3 down to beat the Giants in overtime on Monday Night Football just three weeks ago, and that was against Eli Manning. Daniel Jones gives the Giants an advantage with the Eagles not being familiar with him. Big Blue will make the rival Eagles work for the division crown. Philly wins but only by a field goal.
The pick: Giants
REDSKINS (3-12) AT COWBOYS (7-8), 4:25 p.m.
Cowboys by 10.5; O/U: 45.5
Dallas beat Washington, 31-21, in Week 2, part of a 3-0 start. The Cowboys are 4-8 since then and now the rival Redskins could be pumped to play spoiler (Dallas needs a win and Eagles loss to win the East). While the Cowboys team that trounced the Rams, 44-21, in Week 15 could show up, this feels like a few too many points to lay with a team that must be feeling defeated and deflated after last week's loss in Philly.
The pick: Redskins
SAINTS (12-3) AT PANTHERS (5-10), 1 p.m.
Saints by 13; O/U: 45.5
Carolina has lost seven straight, the best loss a 34-31 decision on a last-second kick at New Orleans in Week 12. The Panthers have shown little fight since Ron Rivera was fired, though, and this feels like it will be over by halftime. With New Orleans needing a win and help to earn a first-round bye, expect Drew Brees and Michael Thomas to pad their record-setting stats in a blowout.
The pick: Saints
LOCK OF THE WEEK
PACKERS (12-3) AT LIONS (3-11-1), 1 p.m.
Packers by 13; O/U: 43.5
After winning the NFC North Monday night with a win at Minnesota, Green Bay can clinch a first-round bye with a win and possibly even get home field if San Francisco loses at Seattle. Detroit, losers of eight straight and 0-9-1 ATS in its last 10, doesn't stand a chance against Aaron Rodgers. He is 14-5 against the Lions with 39 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and will pick them apart again. The Packers make it 6-0 against the division with a one-sided win.
The pick: Packers
TITANS (8-7) AT TEXANS (10-5), 4:25 p.m.
Titans by 3.5; O/U: 45
Even after back-to-back home losses to Houston and New Orleans, it's all right there for Tennessee. A win and they're in as the sixth seed. Houston reportedly will play its starters (it can technically still be the 3 seed), but it's more certain the Texans will be hosting the Bills next Saturday in the first game of wild-card weekend. Why risk an injury? Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown have a big day through the air as the Titans avenge the 24-21 loss in Week 15 with a comfortable win.
The pick: Titans
RAIDERS (7-8) AT BRONCOS (6-9), 4:25 p.m.
Broncos by 3; O/U: 40.5
Oakland needed to win and have a bunch of things go its way last week to keep its slim hopes of being the sixth seed alive. It did. They did. Can it all happen again? Doubtful. Oakland beat Denver in Week 1 and I was all set to take the Raiders in a must-win spot . . . until I was reminded of Derek Carr's struggles in the cold. The Raiders are 0-9 in the last nine games with Carr starting when the weather is below 50 degrees. Sunday's forecast in Denver is in the mid-30s. Denver will be up to play spoiler at home.
The pick: Broncos
STEELERS (8-7) AT RAVENS (13-2), 4:25 p.m.
Steelers by 2; O/U: 37.5
This is the most intriguing game of the week. Baltimore locked up home field last week with its 11th straight win and will rest Lamar Jackson and a bunch of starters. But John Harbaugh said the team "wants that 14th win." The Steelers need a win and help to get the sixth seed, but do you trust their sitting "Duck" at quarterback on the road? Robert Griffin III could be motivated to show he's still got something left, and the Ravens defense will be the difference as Baltimore wins the lowest-scoring game of the week.
The pick: Ravens
DOLPHINS (4-11) AT PATRIOTS (12-3), 1 p.m.
Patriots by 15.5; O/U: 44.5
New England easily covered as 18.5-point favorites in Miami in Week 2, winning 43-0. This should be closer but not that much, as the Pats need to win to lock up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Pats won their last two Week 17 games in blowouts: 38-3 and 26-6 (sorry for the reminder, Jets fans).
The pick: Patriots
CHARGERS (5-10) AT CHIEFS (11-4), 1 p.m.
Chiefs by 9; O/U: 45.5
Kansas City has won and covered five straight, starting with a 24-17 win over the Chargers in Mexico City. This one won't be as close, not with the Chiefs still in the hunt for a first-round bye and the Chargers 60 minutes away from ending one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memory. One thing to be cautious of: If the Patriots are up big, the Chiefs could pull starters in the second half once they know they're not getting a bye. Still, KC's defense has really played well of late, allowing three points in back-to-back games and nine and 16 the two games before that.
The pick: Chiefs
Non-Playoff Implication Games
JETS (6-9) AT BILLS (10-5)
Bills by 1.5; O/U: 36
TV: Ch. 2, 1 p.m.
Buffalo is locked into the fifth seed and will be playing a road playoff game next week. Even if the Bills play starters, you have to think it won't be for the whole game. A win would make the Jets 6-2 in the second half. That's motivation for a team looking to end a lost season on a positive note, especially against a division rival that it let a 16-0 lead get away from in a 17-16 season-opening loss.
The pick: Jets
BEARS (7-8) AT VIKINGS (10-5), 1 p.m.
Vikings by 1; O/U: 37
This is the toughest game of the week to pick. The Vikings went from -7 to -1 once they lost Monday night and were locked into the sixth seed. Will the Vikings rest starters or try and win to avoid going into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak? Chicago won the teams' Week 4 matchup, 16-6, and is 3-0 against the Vikings since Kirk Cousins joined the team. Chicago figures to be motivated to finish 8-8.
The pick: Bears
CARDINALS (5-9-1) AT RAMS (8-7), 4:25 p.m.
Rams by 7; O/U: 49
It must be tough for a team that went to the Super Bowl last season to play Week 17 knowing this is it. Sean McVay is 5-0 against Arizona with every win being lopsided: 33-0, 32-16, 34-0, 31-9 and 34-7 just four weeks ago so my pick was going to be the Rams . . . until I read reports that McVay might not play starters the whole game, including Jared Goff.
The pick: Cardinals
FALCONS (6-9) AT BUCS (7-8), 1 p.m.
Bucs by 1; O/U: 48
Both NFC South teams have played their best football in the second half and this should be a high-scoring finale. Tampa Bay won at Atlanta, 35-22, in Week 12 and I think the good Jameis Winston shows up more than the bad version in his last shot to earn some more Tampa Bay Bucks.
The pick: Bucs
COLTS (7-8) AT JAGUARS (5-10), 4:25 p.m.
Colts by 4; O/U: 43
Save for two drives in Oakland two weeks ago, Jacksonville has long looked like a team counting down the days to its offseason vacation plans. Finishing 8-8 without Andrew Luck should motivate Jacoby Brissett and Frank Reich's team, which doesn't quit, and beat the Jaguars by 20 in Week 11.
The pick: Colts
BROWNS (6-9) AT BENGALS (1-14), 1 p.m.
Browns by 2.5; O/U: 43.5
Cincinnati has one win but doesn't it feel like Cleveland had the worse season? Sideline barking doesn't make me want to back a Browns team that just wants this season to be over. This is likely Andy Dalton's finale with the Bengals, and with the team locking up the top pick last week, it could go all-out at home (trick plays!) to beat its in-state rival.
The pick: Bengals
STAFF STANDINGS AND PICKS
(best bets in bold)
111-123-6 overall, 8-8 best bets
Last week: 6-9-1
Jets Giants Redskins Packers
Saints Titans Broncos Ravens
Patriots Chiefs Bears Cardinals
Bucs Colts Bengals 49ers
Last week: 8-7-1
Bills Giants Cowboys Packers
Saints Titans Broncos Ravens
Patriots Chiefs Vikings Cardinals
Bucs Colts Browns 49ers
Last week: 12-3-1
Bills Giants Cowboys Lions
Saints Titans Raiders Ravens
Dolphins Chiefs Vikings Cardinals
Falcons Colts Bengals 49ers
Last week: 11-4-1
Bills Eagles Redskins Lions
Saints Texans Raiders Ravens
Patriots Chiefs Vikings Rams
Falcons Colts Browns Seahawks