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Week Seventeen Picks

December 27th, 2019

I’m finishing strong.

Or not.

I fell to 9-7 straight up in week sixteen, one game worse than my disappointing finishes in each of the preceding two weeks. I did stumble to a third straight week of 8-7-1 against the spread, though. So that’s … you know, weak.

I head into week seventeen with season records of 158-81-1 (.660) straight up, and 120-114-6 (.513) picking with the points. Let’s see what kind of damage I can do to those results in this final go-round.

Here’s what not to expect.

Cleveland (-2.5) at Cincinnati
Things are looking pretty good for professional football in Ohio, aren’t they? Browns by six.

Chicago (+1) at Minnesota
Neither team has any incentive to try to win this game. The Vikings will be doing everything they can to be healthy as they head into next week’s visit to — well, wherever it may be. The Bears are just plain old done. Let’s figure home team by a field goal.

Atlanta (+1) at Tampa Bay
There’s no figuring this game out. Or maybe there is, except it requires one to care. I’m just going with the seriously flawed, but easy notion that since the Buccaneers beat the Falcons in Atlanta, they ought to be able to beat them in Tampa, too. Bucs by four.

New Orleans (-13) at Carolina
It’s not worth parsing the various things that need to happen for the Saints to clinch the NFC one or two seed. All scenarios require a New Orleans win. That part shouldn’t pose much of challenge. Saints by 17.

NY Jets (+1.5) at Buffalo
If the Bills win, they’re the five seed. If they lose, they’re also the five seed. So unless Buffalo builds an insurmountable lead in the half of football they’re likely to play in order to tune up for next week’s trip to Houston (or maybe it’ll be Kansas City), I’m thinking the Jets come out on top by something like three.

Miami (+15.5) at New England
With a first-round bye on the line, Bill Belichick has told his players that this is a playoff game. The big three predictive stats look like this: passer rating differential, Patriots +26.2; scoring differential, Patriots +13; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +35. These are not factors that point to a close game. New England by 24.

Green Bay (-12.5) at Detroit
With a win, the Packers would earn a week off and at least one home game in the postseason. Green Bay by 10.

LA Chargers (+8.5) at Kansas City
The Chiefs can’t get a first round by without some help from the Dolphins. But they can shore up the three seed on their own. And that might actually matter. Kansas City by a touchdown.

Tennessee (-3.5) at Houston
If the Chiefs and Patriots both win, the Texans will go into this game with nothing to play for — and no shortage of incentives to rest up in preparation for their wild card round visit from the Bills. That would open the door for the Titans to grab the final spot in the AFC postseason field. And since I’m picking both the Chiefs and the Patriots, I guess I have to figure Houston gives this one away. Titans by four.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Jacksonville
I was going to say that no one outside of Indianapolis and Jacksonville could possibly care about this game. Then I remembered that the Raiders’ slim postseason hopes depend on a Colts win. And then I also remembered that probably no one in Jacksonville cares at this point. And who even knows about Indy? And maybe not Oakland. But maybe Las Vegas. Or no one anywhere. Colts by a field goal.

Washington (+11) at Dallas
If a football team gets a win just exactly when it no longer matters, does their coach get to keep his job? I’m thinking probably not. Dallas by 14.

Philadelphia (-4.5) at NY Giants
The Eagles get one more win before their inevitable evisceration in the wild card round. Philadelphia by a touchdown.

Pittsburgh (-2) at Baltimore
The Ravens have no reason to try. The Steelers can at least hope that a Titans loss will put them on the road to Kansas City. Pittsburgh by four.

Arizona (+3.5) at LA Rams
Their NFC title defense is long since over, but the Rams can still secure a winning record. Los Angeles by seven.

Oakland (+3.5) at Denver
The Raiders need way too much to have any real hope of qualifying for the postseason. The only thing they can take care of on their own is the need for a win here. They’ll fall at that hurdle. Broncos by six.

San Francisco (-3) at Seattle
This for all intents and purposes is where the 2019-20 playoffs begin. The winner is the NFC West champion. For the 49ers, that would mean home field through the playoffs. For the Seahawks, it probably means the three seed (unless the Packers and/or Saints manage to lose earlier in the day, opening up better possibilities). In any case, the winner gets at least a home game while the loser ships off of to Philadelphia (for a pretty easy road game). The Seahawks have developed just enough of a limp over the past several weeks to make me believe the Niners have the advantage. San Francisco by a point.

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