Remember that difficult algebra test you had in school? Well, you can times that by 100 and it still won’t be as confusing as trying to break down NFL variables against the spread (ATS) in Week 17.
OK, OK, maybe it’s not that big of a task, but you get the picture. The Giants and Steelers had something to play for last week, unlike this week, and that’s reflected in the point spreads. For example, if some of these games were played last week, the spreads would be nearly a touchdown difference (see: Eagles favored over Cowboys, Redskins giving Giants a TD-plus and the Steelers less-than-a-TD favorite among a few).
Week 17 consists of 16 division contests, but only half of them have playoff implications. The biggest, of course, is the Sunday night tilt for the NFC North title between the Packers and Lions. The rest of the playoff teams are pretty much locked up, but seedings could change. The wildest of all scenarios for Week 17 is that even if Washington beats the Giants earlier in the day, Green Bay and Detroit could still make the postseason. How? By playing to a tie. Could you imagine if that game went to overtime? “Let’s flip a coin: Winner gets the division and loser gets the second wild card.”
Favorites went 8-7 ATS last week, giving them the season lead by one game at 114-113-1. Look for favorites to have a big week in the regular-season finale, even if some of those favorites haven’t technically been the better teams all season.
PACKERS (9-6) AT LIONS (9-6), 8:30 p.m.
TV: Ch. 4
Packers by 3; O/U: 49.5
For weeks, all you’ve heard is “The Packers and Lions will be playing for the NFC North title in Week 17.” Now it’s here, with Green Bay riding a five-game win streak and Detroit losing its last two to set up a winner-take-all showdown. The Lions aren’t going to lay down, so don’t expect a rout, but it’s hard not to take a Packers team that looks as if it could make a Super Bowl run. Aaron Rodgers has 14 touchdown passes with no interceptions over the last six games, and the Lions won’t be able to contain him for the entire game. Green Bay led Detroit 31-3 in Week 3 before holding out for a 34-27 win. Rodgers stays hot as Matthew Stafford (3-10 in prime time) and Detroit’s fourth-quarter magic runs out: Packers 27, Lions 20.
The pick: Packers
GIANTS (10-5) AT REDSKINS (8-6-1), 4:25 p.m.
TV: Ch. 5; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)
Redskins by 7.5; O/U: 44.5
If ever there was a game when Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense could get untracked, this is it. The Redskins have allowed the fifth-most passing yards and Odell Beckham Jr. could have one of his big days. Now, here’s the issue: How long are the Giants’ starters going to play? The Giants say they’re going to play to win to enter the playoffs with momentum, but Vegas apparently isn’t buying what the Giants are selling, and that’s why this line is so high. If the Giants do play, don’t be surprised if they eclipse the 30-point mark for the first time this season. While the Giants are locked into the NFC’s No. 5 seed, the Redskins need to win to get the second wild card. That could also be motivation against a division rival, so take the points.
The pick: Giants
SAINTS (7-8) AT FALCONS (10-5), 4:25 p.m.
Falcons by 7; O/U: 56
Atlanta clinches the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win, so expect them to go all-out. Expect the same kind of effort from its NFC South rival, which enjoyed playing spoiler last week against Tampa Bay. Drew Brees and the Saints’ No. 1 offense will match Matt Ryan and the No. 2 offense early, but the Falcons are playing like a Super Bowl contender and will win by over a touchdown. The Falcons beat the Saints, 45-32, in Week 3, and have scored 40-plus points in five games and 30-plus points in 10 games. They’ll cover this number.
The pick: Falcons
SEAHAWKS (9-5-1) AT 49ERS (2-13), 4:25 p.m.
Seahawks by 10; O/U: 43
There’s eye-opening stats and then there’s pick-your-jaw-off-the-floor stats: In its last 19 games, San Francisco is 3-0 against the Rams and 0-16 against the rest of the NFL. Wow! That includes a 37-18 loss at Seattle in Week 3. With Seattle needing a win and loss by Atlanta to earn a first-round bye, expect the Seahawks to win another lopsided contest. One more stat, an eye-closer for the 49ers: The Seahawks have won eight of the last nine meetings and outscored them, 233-96.
The pick: Seahawks
PATRIOTS (13-2) AT DOLPHINS (10-5), 1 p.m.
Patriots by 9.5; O/U: 44.5
For New England, it’s simple: Win in Miami and it has home-field advantage in the playoffs. The same scenario presented itself last season, but the Patriots couldn’t get the job done and it was costly as they lost at Denver in the AFC title game. They’ve lost three in a row in Miami, but with so much on the line, you have to think Tom Brady will make sure the AFC playoffs go through Foxborough. Plus, Miami just had the win of its season in Buffalo, an overtime thriller, and will be looking to get healthy on defense. Brady adds another three or four TD passes for his closing argument for league MVP and the Pats win easily to clinch the top seed.
The pick: Patriots
RAIDERS (12-3) AT BRONCOS (8-7), 4:25 p.m.
Broncos by 1; O/U: 40
TV: Ch. 2
A Raiders loss and a Chiefs win means Oakland will go from the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye to the No. 5 seed and playing at Houston in the wild-card round. The belief here is that that is exactly what will happen. Why? Because without Derek Carr, backup Matt McGloin will have a long day against Von Miller and the Denver defense, which will end its season the same way it did last year with a super performance. The Broncos have lost three in a row and four of five after a 7-3 start and were KO’d from playoff contention in Kansas City last week. But it’s how they lost that is a big reason why they’ll be motivated in this one. The Chiefs’ 33-10 win was capped with a jump-throw TD pass by defensive lineman Dontari Poe, a rub-it-in-your-face kind of play that the Broncos couldn’t have been happy with. Also, the Raiders ran all over the Broncos in a 30-20 win back in Week 9 in prime time, just another reason Denver should be motivated to win this game. Look for the defending Super Bowl champs to play spoiler and keep the Raiders from the AFC West title.
The pick: Broncos
CHIEFS (11-4) AT CHARGERS (5-10), 4:25 p.m.
Chiefs by 5.5; O/U: 44.5
San Diego has nothing to play for while the Chiefs could win the AFC West and lock up the No. 2 seed with a win and Raiders loss. The Chargers would love to get payback for Week 1, when they blew a 21-point third-quarter lead before losing in overtime. They’ll give everything they have, but with injuries at running back and considering they lost to the winless Browns last week, it’s hard to take them against a Chiefs team that will be motivated to earn a bye.
The pick: Chiefs
PANTHERS (6-9) AT BUCS (8-7), 1 p.m.
Bucs by 4.5; O/U: 46
The Bucs need to win and have so many things go their way to make the playoffs it’s not even worth listing. They’re not making it. After back-to-back losses at Dallas and New Orleans derailed their playoff push, it’s hard to see them going full force in this one. The Panthers, as they showed at Washington on Monday night two weeks ago, haven’t packed it in, and won’t against a division rival. This is way too many points.
The pick: Panthers
NON-PLAYOFF IMPLICATION GAMES
BILLS (7-8) AT JETS (4-11), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 2; Radio: ESPN (98.7)
Bills by 3.5; O/U: 42.5
If Rex Ryan was on the sideline and Tyrod Taylor wasn’t, the Bills would be the clear choice against a Jets team that appears to have packed it in weeks ago. But after Buffalo fired Ryan on Tuesday and decided to give EJ Manuel the start, this one isn’t as easy to pick. The Jets have been outscored, 75-16, in losses to the Dolphins and Patriots the last two weeks. There’s been infighting, too, another sign to stay away. But wouldn’t it be so Jets-like for Ryan Fitzpatrick to put together his best game in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Bills after last year doing the exact opposite in a meaningful Week 17 game in Buffalo? Maybe the Jets will find a way to play for pride. Even if they don’t, it’s hard to lay a field-goal plus with a Bills team that has no motivation.
The pick: Jets
COWBOYS (13-2) AT EAGLES (6-9), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 5
Eagles by 4; O/U: 43.5
This is a tough one to break down because you just don’t know how long Dak Prescott and the Dallas regulars are going to play. Tony Romo reportedly won’t see any game time, meaning Mark Sanchez could play the entire second half and even more. Dallas is the NFC’s No. 1 seed and doesn’t need this game, but it also doesn’t want to have two weeks off and be rusty once the playoffs start. For Philly, this one means more, a chance to end its season with home wins against the rival Giants and Cowboys. The Eagles are 5-2 at home this season, and Carson Wentz & Co. will treat this like their playoff game. Don’t forget: The Eagles had a 10-point fourth-quarter lead at Dallas in Week 8 before melting down and losing in overtime. That extra bit of motivation could be the difference in a cover.
The pick: Eagles
LOCK OF THE WEEK
CARDINALS (6-8-1) AT RAMS (4-11), 4:25 p.m.
Cardinals by 6.5; O/U: 41
Arizona, last year’s NFC runner-up, entered this season with Super Bowl aspirations. Now, it’s playing for pride in the finale. The Rams won at Arizona, 17-13, in Week 4, one of many surprising losses by the Cardinals. They’ll want revenge in this one, but even more motivation will be the fact that this could be Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald’s last games in Cardinals jerseys. Look for the duo to connect on a touchdown or two and David Johnson to have another big day as Arizona ends the season looking super, just not Super.
The pick: Cardinals
BEARS (3-12) AT VIKINGS (7-8), 1 p.m.
Vikings by 6.5; O/U: 42.5
Minnesota couldn’t have had a worse trip to Green Bay last week. The Vikings’ team plane skid off the runway and it took five hours to get everyone to the hotel. Then, against Green Bay the secondary reportedly defied Mike Zimmer’s game plan and were grounded by the Packers. Things should go better back home in Week 17 as the Vikings get to pick on Matt Barkley (5 INTs last week) and end the season on a high note. Remember, this is a payback game for the Bears’ Week 8 upset win on Monday night.
The pick: Vikings
BROWNS (1-14) AT STEELERS (10-5), 1 p.m.
Steelers by 6.5; O/U: 43
The Steelers have won 23 of the last 26 meetings against the Browns, including seven of eight. With Pittsburgh locked in to the AFC’s No. 3 seed, it has nothing to play for, but does it really want to enter the playoffs losing to the 1-14 Browns? Nah. Pittsburgh’s backups should put up enough points to earn the cover. Plus, Cleveland is probably still reveling in last week’s dramatic win to end their “pursuit” of 0-16.
The pick: Steelers
RAVENS (8-7) AT BENGALS (5-9-1), 1 p.m.
Pick ’em; O/U: 41.5
Baltimore had control of the AFC North last week in Pittsburgh, then let Antonio Brown reach the ball over the goal line and just like that the Ravens were eliminated from playoff contention. While many might think the Ravens will not be up for this game after such a tough defeat, the guess here is that a veteran team that always fights under John Harbaugh will want to beat a divisional rival on the road to end with a winning record. Also important to note: This could be Steve Smith’s final game, so look for the Ravens and the receiver to be motivated.
The pick: Ravens
TEXANS (9-6) AT TITANS (8-7), 1 p.m.
Titans by 3; O/U: 40
This was shaping up to be an AFC South winner-take-all showdown. Then, Tennessee got crushed in Jacksonville last week, losing Marcus Mariota in the process, and Houston’s win later that night locked up the division title for the Texans. Houston is locked into the AFC’s No. 4 seed and has nothing to play for. Tennessee should be motivated to finish with a winning record, and win and cover with backup Matt Cassel (yes, he’s still in the league).
The pick: Titans
JAGUARS (3-12) AT COLTS (7-8), 1 p.m.
Colts by 4.5; O/U: 47
If Jacksonville played all season the way it did in last week’s 38-17 win at Tennessee, Gus Bradley would still be coaching the Jaguars and they would’ve clinched the AFC South title weeks ago. The Jags beat the Colts, 30-27, in London earlier this season, and this should be another close one.
The pick: Jaguars
(Best bets in bold)
Record: 124-105-11 overall, 10-6 best bets
Last week: 6-10
Packers Giants Falcons Seahawks Patriots
Broncos Chiefs Panthers Jets Eagles Cardinals
Vikings Steelers Ravens Titans Jaguars
Record: 120-109-11 overall, 9-7 best bets
Last week: 10-6
Packers Redskins Falcons 49ers Dolphins
Broncos Chiefs Bucs Jets Eagles Cardinals
Vikings Steelers Ravens Titans Colts
Record: 129-100-11 overall, 7-8-1 best bets
Last week: 7-9
Lions Giants Saints 49ers Dolphins
Raiders Chiefs Bucs Bills Eagles Cardinals
Vikings Steelers Bengals Titans Colts
KIMBERLEY A. MARTIN
Record: 107-122-11 overall, 10-5-1 best bets
Last week: 8-8
Packers Giants Falcons Seahawks Patriots
Broncos Chiefs Bucs Jets Eagles Cardinals
Vikings Steelers Ravens Texans Colts