Week 17 is highlighted by four AFC teams battling for one playoff spot, none of whom control their own destiny. While I am sure there have been instances in the past where all of the clubs competing for a playoff spot in the final weekend needed help to get in, I can’t recall the last time that occurred. Most of the hype is focused on a pair of NFC games in which the winner continues to play next week, while the season is over for the loser, making those contests virtual playoff games. Lost in the shuffle is what should be a really great game between Arizona and San Francisco, which unfortunately for us is on at the same time as the Pats game.


Week 17 NFL Games – Previews and Predictions


Early Games

Baltimore Ravens (8-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) ★★★★★
Early game on CBS; Jim Nantz and Phil Simms
The Bengals still have a chance at a first round bye, and would like nothing more than to knock out a division rival that has beat up a bit on them over the years. Whether it was because they came out flat after a big game the week before, a short week, Joe Flacco not stepping into his throws due to an injury, or all of the above, Baltimore looked terrible last week for such an important game. While I would expect John Harbaugh’s team to play much better this week, it’s a lot to expect a club that is 2-5 away from home to go on the road and beat a Cincinnati team that is so fundamentally sound, especially on defense – and is 7-0 at home, averaging 43.5 points per game at Paul Brown Stadium.

Pick • Bengals 24, Ravens 17
Bengals -6
under 44½
Final Score: Bengals 34, Ravens 17 … Cincinnati wins and covers by 11 … over by 6½


New York Jets (7-8) at Miami Dolphins (8-7) ★★★
Early game on CBS; Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf
While the Jets are wondering if this will be the final game for Rex Ryan and Ed Reed (among others), the Dolphins should be far more focused considering they have a playoff spot on the line. However, the players in green do love Rex, so they may be playing with a bit more intensity than they have exhibited previously this year. Even so, Miami is more talented and should be able to win this game – and then turn their attention to the other games that need to go their way.

Pick • Dolphins 20, Jets 13
Dolphins -5½
under 41½ (two units) ✔✔ +200
Final Score: Jets 20, Dolphins 7 … New York wins and covers by 18½ … under by 14½


Cleveland Browns (4-11) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) ★★
Early game on CBS; Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein
Since week nine the Steelers are averaging 29.3 points per game; that streak closely coincides with when Le’Veon Bell become the starter at running back. Bell rushed for 124 yards last week and now has 1,163 yards from scrimmage this season. However, the Cleveland defense is not bad at all (335 yards per game, 10th best) and has the unstoppable Josh Gordon on offense. Gordon leads the league with 1,564 yards receiving; perhaps even more impressive is that 619 of those yards have come after the catch.

Pick • Steelers 24, Browns 17
Steelers -6½
under 44½
Final Score: Steelers 20, Browns 7 … Pittsburgh wins and covers by 6½ … under by 17½


Carolina Panthers (11-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-11) ★★
Early game on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch
Ron Rivera has gone from being the favorite for being the first NFL coach to be fired in 2013, to being seriously discussed as Coach Of The Year. With ten wins in their last eleven games the Panthers have vaulted from being an also-ran that nobody considered for the playoffs, to locking up a first round bye. Atlanta’s season has been a polar opposite, descending from playing in the conference championship to being one of the first teams eliminated from the post season. Carolina still has plenty to play for, as they need a victory to lock up the number two seed; Atlanta has plenty of work to do this off season in fixing their offensive line and entire defense.

Pick • Panthers 24, Falcons 17
Panthers -6½
under 46 (one unit) ✔ +100
Final Score: Panthers 21, Falcons 20 … Atlanta loses but covers by 5½ … under by 5


Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) at Indianapolis Colts (10-5) ★★
Early game on CBS; Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker
If you are a Jacksonville fan, are you happy that your team has won four of the last seven, giving you hope for 2014? Or are you pissed that the team fumbled away a golden opportunity for the first overall pick in the draft when there was no chance of making the playoffs after an 0-8 start? After a second half funk when they lost three of five, the Colts have rediscovered there offense; much of that resurgence is due to Donald Brown (5.6 yards per carry) replacing Trent Richardson (2.9 ypc).

Pick • Colts 28, Jaguars 20
Jaguars +11½
over 45½
Final Score: Colts 30, Jaguars 10 … Indianapolis wins and covers by 8½ … under by 5½


Detroit Lions (7-8) at Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1) ★★
Early game on FOX; Gus Johnson and Charles Davis
Call this the Dead Man Walking Bowl. Both head coaches, Jim Schwartz and Leslie Frazier, will probably be unemployed within 24 hours after the clock reaches all zeroes early on Black Monday. Detroit has turned the ball over 34 times this year, second worst in the NFL, and has a minus-15 turnover differential over the last six games; not surprisingly they lost five of those games to quickly go from a playoff shoo-in to being eliminated from the post season prior to the final weekend. Should NFL teams still use the Tampa-2 defense? Consider this: the two worst defenses in the league in terms of yardage allowed use the Tampa-2: Frazier’s Vikings (408 yards per game) and Dallas DC Monte Kiffin (419 yards per game).

Pick • Upset: Lions 28, Vikings 24
Lions +3
over 51½
Final Score: Vikings 14, Lions 13 … Detroit loses but covers by 2 … under by 24½


Houston Texans (2-13) at Tennessee Titans (6-9)
Early game on CBS; Andrew Catalon and Adam Archuleta
Every time I have felt that the Texans would end their losing streak and that they couldn’t possibly fail to beat some team, they managed to find a way to do just that. Now with the first overall pick of the draft at stake, do they screw up yet again by winning? It’s a definite possibility against a Tennessee team playing out the string for lame duck head coach Mike Munchak. Tennessee QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has surprised some (including me) that he deserves at least a chance to compete for a job as a starter next year. Fitzpatrick has completed 62% of his passes for over seven yards per attempt, and has thrown 12 touchdowns to 7 interceptions since taking over for Jake Locker November 10.

Pick • Titans 24, Texans 17
Titans -6½
under 44½
Final Score: Titans 16, Texans 10 … Houston loses but covers by ½ … under by 18½


Washington Redskins (3-12) at New York Giants (6-9)
Early game on FOX; Dick Stockton and Ronde Barber
Washington does have something to play for in this game: if they lose and Houston beats Tennessee, they get the first overall pick of the draft. Oops, they traded that pick away to St. Louis so they could move up a few spots to select Robert Griffin two years ago. Say sayonara Mike Shanahan in what is certainly his last game as head coach in Washington, and probably his last game as a head coach in the NFL period while Kirk Cousins auditions for a job as a starting quarterback somewhere else in 2014.

Pick • Giants 31, Redskins 17
Giants -3½ (two units) ✔✔ +200
over 45½
Final Score: Giants 20, Redskins 6 … New York wins and covers by 10½ … under by 19½


Kenbrell Thompkins is expected to return to play for the Patriots against Buffalo

Late Games

Buffalo Bills (6-9) at New England Patriots (11-4) ★★★★★
Late game on CBS; Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts
Comparing the motivation for these clubs is all you need to know about the state of the two franchises. New England wants a win to clinch a first round bye, and with a little help home field throughout the playoffs. Buffalo is shooting to avoid a double-digit losing season for the first time in five years, and a winning record within the division for the first time in six seasons. With a victory Tom Brady will register his 148th regular season victory; that would give him one more than Dan Marino, and tie him with John Elway for the third most in NFL history.

Pick • Patriots 27, Bills 17
Patriots -8½
under 47½
Final Score: Patriots 34, Bills 20 … New England wins and covers by 5½ … over by 6½


San Francisco 49ers (11-4) at Arizona Cardinals (10-5) ★★★★★
Late game on FOX; Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston
What a great game this should be; it’s a shame that it is on at the same time the Patriots are playing. Two great defenses, two sets of excellent linebackers, and both teams with something to play for in the final game of the season. San Francisco has put together their second five-game winning streak of the year after a 1-2 start while Arizona has three in a row and seven of their last eight after being written off by most when they started the season 3-4. The Niners are giving up 16.8 points per game (third best in the NFL) while the Cardinals are seventh at 20.1 points per game, first in rushing (84 yards per game) and are averaging just 14.7 point against over the last six games. Record this game to watch it later if you can and focus on the play of the linebackers: Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and John Abraham for Arizona, and NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith for San Francisco. As for the game itself, it should be close, but a Carson Palmer pick – his 21 interceptions are tied for the second most in the NFL with Geno Smith – dooms Arizona’s hopes for a playoff spot.

Pick • Niners 20, Cardinals 17
49ers -½
under 42½
Final Score: Niners 23, Cardinals 20 … San Francisco wins and covers by 2½ … over by ½


Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) at Chicago Bears (8-7) ★★★★
Late game on FOX; Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
Armchair HC time: wouldn’t it have made more sense to start Matt Flynn, with Aaron Rodgers ready to come in at any time? If Flynn is getting the job done, then there’s nothing lost; if he’s not then Rodgers gives the team an emotional spark as well as giving the Chicago defense a different look. On the other hand if Rodgers struggles, you’re handcuffed; unless he’s injured you’re not going to take him out and put Flynn in the game under center, right? While Chicago hopes Rodgers is rusty, they also hope Jay Cutler has amnesia – and not just for last week’s debacle against Philadelphia; the Bears quarterback is 1-8 lifetime against Green Bay.

Pick • Upset: Bears 28, Packers 27
Bears +3
over 52½
Final Score: Packers 33, Bears 28 … Green Bay wins and covers by 2 … over by 8½


Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) at San Diego Chargers (8-7) ★★★★
Late game on CBS; Marv Albert and Rich Gannon
Conventional wisdom is that the Chiefs will rest their key players and avoid risking injury since Kansas City is locked into the fifth seed. However, Andy Reid may not want to have his team head into the post season on a 2-5 skid, and San Diego could possibly find that they have been eliminated from the playoffs by the time the game kicks off. I’ll guess that the Chargers will still have something to play for and that Reid will pull his best players before the second half.

Pick • Chargers 28, Chiefs 20
Chiefs +9½
over 44½
Final Score: Chargers 27, Chiefs 24 in OT … Kansas City loses but covers by 6½ … over by 6½


Denver Broncos (12-3) at Oakland Raiders (4-11) ★★★
Late game on CBS; Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots
The Broncos will be going all out in this game, because there are some records to break. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Peyton Manning got his 266 yards to pass Drew Brees for most yards passing in a single season, and the Broncos got their 18 points to pass the Patriots for the most points scored in a single season – and as a result of their priorities they lost this game and home field advantage in the playoffs? Alas, this is the Raiders; unfortunately I can’t see that happening.

Pick • Broncos 38, Raiders 28
Raiders +12
over 53½ (two units) ✘✘ -220
Final Score: Broncos 34, Raiders 14 … Denver wins and covers by 8 … under by 5½


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) at New Orleans Saints (10-5) ★★★
Late game on FOX; Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick
While the Saints appear to be stumbling down the stretch (back-to-back losses for the first time this season, and three losses in the last four games), they are also coming off a stretch in which they played four of their last five games on the road. New Orleans is 7-0 at home this year and injury-riddled Tampa Bay does not have the talent to keep up with the Saints. Home Sweet Dome, the Saints should rebound with a convincing win.

Pick • Saints 31, Bucs 14
Saints -12½
under 47½
Final Score: Saints 42, Bucs 17 … New Orleans wins and covers by 12½ … over by 11½


St. Louis Rams (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (12-3) ★★★
Late game on FOX; Chris Myers and Tim Ryan
The Seahawks lost at home for the first time since 2011 last week; a new streak begins Sunday. Once Seattle opens up a lead it is just too difficult to comeback against the number one pass defense (174 yards per game, 5.9 yards per pass attempt). If the Rams grab a lead though, watch out: Robert Quinn (18 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss), Chris Long (7.5 sacks) and Alec Ogletree (91 solo tackles, 10 tackles for a loss) can create havoc in the backfield and Seattle is not built to come from behind. The bad news for St. Louis is that they like to keep the ball on the ground (Zac Stacy has 958 yards rushing even though he didn’t play until October), and Seattle is just as stout against the run; they have allowed a league-low four rushing touchdowns to go with their NFL-best 281 yards allowed per game.

Pick • Seahawks 23, Rams 13
Rams +11½
under 43 (one unit) ✔ +100
Final Score: Seahawks 27, Rams 9 … Seattle wins and covers by 6½ … under by 7


Sunday Night

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at Dallas Cowboys (8-7) ★★★★
Sunday night on NBC; Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth
After blowing a 23-point halftime lead at home to Green Bay the Cowboys managed to beat the pitiful Washington Redskins on the last play of the game to keep their playoff hopes alive last week. The positive vibes in Dallas didn’t last long though as Tony Romo has been placed on IR, meaning that the Cowboys will count on Kyle Orton to keep up with the prolific Philadelphia offense. That’s actually a bit harsh since Orton is one of the best backups in the league; he is 35-34 as an NFL starter. The thing is that Orton hasn’t played a meaningful game in more than two years, and if he stumbles Dallas has coaxed 41-year old Jon Kitna off a high school sideline to be the backup; Kitna is even more stale, having last started an NFL game in 2010. The reason the quarterback position is so important for Dallas is because (a) their defense (league worst 419 yards per game, 25th-ranked 27.2 points per game) stinks, so they need to score a lot to keep up; (b) the Eagles offense is very good, and will score early and often; they rank second in both points (27.9 per game) and yardage (421 yards per game); and (c) Dallas depends so heavily on their passing game: their 21.2 rushing attempts per game is the second fewest in the NFL. The Cowboys do have the playmakers like Dez Bryant (85 receptions, 1,134 yards, 12 touchdowns) to take advantage of a porous Philly pass defense (30th-ranked 285 yards per game) but the Eagles will easily counter that between LeSean McCoy (NFL-best 1,476 yards rushing and 2,012 yards from scrimmage), DeSean Jackson (79 catches for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns) and Riley Cooper (44 receptions, 796 yards, eight touchdowns).

Pick • Eagles 28, Cowboys 21
Eagles -6½
under 53½
Final Score: Eagles 24, Cowboys 22 … Dallas loses but covers by 4½ … under by 7½



$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Not much risked, with a very modest total gain for week sixteen – although a return on investment of just over twenty percent ain’t too shabby. At this point I have pretty much just cashed my chips in for what has been a very profitable season, as you can see.


Tale Of The Tape

Week 16 Results

Straight Up: 9-7, 56%
Underdogs to win straight up: 1-2

Against the Spread: 8-8, 50%
ATS picking favorites: 3-4, 43% (1-1, -10)
ATS picking underdogs: 5-4, 56% (2-0, +200)
ATS Confidence Picks: 3-1, 75% (+190)
One Unit Plays ATS: 3-1, +190
Two Unit Plays ATS: none
Three Unit Plays ATS: none
Four Unit Plays ATS: none
Five Unit Plays ATS: none
440 risked, net +190; +43.2% ROI

Over Under Total: 10-6, 63%
Picking Over: 3-4, 43% (0-1, -110)
Picking Under: 7-2, 78% (2-0, +200)
O/U Confidence Picks: 2-1, 67% (+90)
One Unit Plays O/U: 2-1, +90
Two Unit Plays O/U: none
Three Unit Plays O/U: none
Four Unit Plays O/U: none
Five Unit Plays O/U: none
330 risked, net +90; +27.3% ROI

Money Line: none

Best Play of the Week: correct (Saints-Panthers under 47); +100

3-Game Teasers: none
3-Game Parlays: 0-1, -100
4-Game Parlays: none

College Games: none

Week 16 Grand Total:
870 risked
net +180
+20.7% ROI


Season Totals

Straight Up: 159-80-1 (66%)
Underdogs to win straight up: 24-23 (51%)

Against the Spread: 117-115-8 (50%)
ATS picking favorites: 57-56-7, 50% (26-23-1, -400)
ATS picking underdogs: 60-59-1, 50% (15-9, +570)
ATS Confidence Picks: 41-32-1, 56% (+170)
One Unit Plays ATS: 28-17-1, 62% (+920)
Two Unit Plays ATS: 10-11, 48% (-410)
Three Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 33% (-360)
Four Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 50% (-480)
Five Unit Plays ATS: 1-0, 100% (+500)

Over Under Total: 121-119 (50%)
Picking Over: 68-58, 54% (20-13, +920)
Picking Under: 53-61, 46% (16-16, -120)
O/U Confidence Picks: 36-29, 55% (+800)
One Unit Plays O/U: 24-19, 56% (+310)
Two Unit Plays O/U: 9-9, 50% (-180)
Three Unit Plays O/U: 2-1, 67% (+270)
Four Unit Plays O/U: 1-0, 100% (+400)
Five Unit Plays O/U: none

Money Line: 2-0-1, +860

Best Play of the Week: 12-3, 80% (+2600)

3-Game Teasers: 8-6 (+610)
3-Game Parlays: 4-7 (+1420)
4-Game Parlays: 0-1 (-110)

College Games: 50-18-1, 74%; net +5415

Season Grand Total:
170-93-3 (65%)
37,960 risked
net +9,165
+24.1% ROI



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