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Week Seventeen Picks

December 29th, 2016

You know, 10-6 may be barely adequate picking straight up, but it’s pretty damned good against the spread. So I’m calling week sixteen a … well, let’s just say it wasn’t so bad.

I head into the always unpredictable, always uneven week seventeen with season records of 152-86-2 (.638) straight up, 110-127-3 (.465) against the spread.

Here’s what not to expect in the weird week ahead.

Houston (+3) at Tennessee
If the Texans pull off a win here, they’re the AFC four seed — and very likely facing a visit from Kansas City in the wild card round. If the Texans lose — oh, right, same thing. The Titans don’t have much to play for either. Unless you count a winning record (for the first time in five years) and a tie for the best record in the AFC South. Not much. But not nothing. Matt Cassel and the Titans end the season on the best note possible under the circumstances. Titans by four.

Buffalo (+3.5) at NY Jets

Some team by some number of points. Probably. Maybe it’ll be the Bills. And maybe it’ll be by three. I think I’ll just go with that.

Baltimore (+1) at Cincinnati
Another game in which neither team has a damned thing left to play for. This is what makes week 17 so magical. Home team by a field goal.

Jacksonville (+4.5) at Indianapolis
The Colts get a home win to finish the season 8-8 and ensure their new tradition of mediocrity continues for another year. Indy by a touchdown.

Dallas (+3.5) at Philadelphia
I find it very hard to believe that the Cowboys will leave their key starters in past halftime in a game that means nothing to them (they’re locked in as the NFC one seed). But they say they’re playing to win, so whatever. Dallas by six.

Chicago (+5.5) at Minnesota
The Vikings are looking to finish at .500. The Bears are looking at drafting a quarterback early in the first round. Minnesota by a touchdown.

Carolina (+5) at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers aren’t getting to the postseason (they need entirely too much help), but I expect them to go down swinging. Tampa by three.

Cleveland (+6) at Pittsburgh
Can a team rest its most important starters and still beat a divisional rival? Well, if that rival is Cleveland, probably, yeah. Pittsburgh by four.

New England (-9.5) at Miami
If the Patriots want to sew up the AFC one seed and home field through the playoffs — and I suspect they do — they’re going to need to play to win this game. The Dolphins can potentially slide up to the five seed, and a rather less daunting wild card matchup (at Houston rather than at Texans) if they win and the Chiefs lose to the Chargers. But the Chiefs aren’t losing to the Chargers. And the Dolphins probably couldn’t beat the Patriots even if they wanted to. Here, by the way, are your big three predictives: scoring differential, Patriots +5.6; passer rating differential, Patriots +7.5; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +6. I have a hard time giving nine and a half to the home team in a division match, but I expect New England to come out ahead by seven anyhow.

NY Giants (+7) at Washington
The Giants are the NFC five seed whether they win or lose this game. The Racists are looking to sneak into the postseason as the six. That and home field should get it done. Washington by four.

New Orleans (+7) at Atlanta
There’s a first-round bye on the line for the Falcons. Atlanta also has the advantage of being at home. And, you know, the better team. Falcons by 13.

Arizona (-6) at Los Angeles
The Cardinals are indeed every bit as bad as their record. The good news (such as it is) for them is that they’re not nearly so bad as the Rams’ record. Arizona by a touchdown.

Kansas City (-6) at San Diego
The Chiefs may not be able to overtake the Raiders for the AFC West title. But if they miss, it’ll be because Oakland beats Denver, not because Kansas City loses to San Diego. Chiefs by three.

Seattle (-9.5) at San Francisco
I’m not sure there’s much difference between the three and four seeds in the NFC (beyond when you end up having to travel to Dallas). But the Seahawks probably need to end the season on a good note more than they need to worry about seeding, anyhow. Seattle by 10.

Oakland (+1.5) at Denver
This is a bit of a coin toss. But I suspect the Denver defense gets it done against Matt McGloin and the Oakland O. Broncos by three.

Green Bay (-3.5) at Detroit
In which the Packers complete their rebound from 4-6 to NFC North champions, and the Lions take sole possession of the NFL record for most consecutive postseason games lost (9). Green Bay by nine.

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