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Week 17 picks, predictions against the spread

Can Dan finish the year above .500?

NFL: New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are at the final week of the regular season. The goal all year was to finish above .500 and we got through Week 15 at exactly that. Week 16 gave a three-game buffer for the final week of the season. The problem with Week 17 is not all the games matter to all the teams so some of the lines are strange and you don’t know if playoff-bound teams will be playing all their starters. But those are the cards we’re dealt, so here we go.

Remember these picks are strictly for fun and entertainment purposes and please for your sake do not take these picks as gambling advice. Lines used here come from the Westgate Las Vegas via OddsShark. Home team in CAPS.

NEW ORLEANS (-7.5) over Carolina

Teddy Bridgewater vs Kyle Allen isn’t what anyone was expecting for this game, but that’s what we’re going to get. Regardless of how many other starters play for the Saints, Bridgewater gives them a good chance to still run an effective offense and he’ll want to have a good game with his contract expiring. Carolina has fallen off the past few weeks and shouldn’t look any better with Allen now at quarterback.

HOUSTON (-6.5) over Jacksonville

Houston has to win this game in order to win the AFC South, so expect them to do that. Blake Bortles is starting again for the Jaguars, but his last game against Houston is what led to his benching. The Texans are still seventh in DVOA and that’s more than enough to shut the Jaguars’ offense down.

GREEN BAY (-8) over Detroit

The Packers needed overtime to get past the Jets last week, but the Jets might be a better spot than the Lions, which shows what Detroit’s 2018 has been like. The Lions are 30th in overall DVOA and 32nd in defensive DVOA. That’s not great, Bob. Aaron Rodgers is still probably on a quest to score all of the points without Mike McCarthy.

Atlanta (+1.5) over TAMPA BAY

Rumors are Atlanta is likely to move on from both coordinators this offseason. Defensively, that makes sense — they’re 30th in yards allowed per drive and 28th in points allowed per drive. But on offense, for all the heat Steve Sarkisian has gotten, they still rank fifth in yards per drive and sixth in points per drive. That’s a similar case for the Buccaneers who have been just as bad on defense and the offense has fallen off with not enough points to make up for turnovers during the second half of the season.

Dallas (+6) over GIANTS

The question is if Dallas will play its starters. Jerry Jones says they will, but there’s really no point in doing so with the No. 4 seed locked up in the NFC. Even if they play half a game or only some starters play, there’s not enough to think they’ll fall behind a touchdown to the Giants, who still aren’t at full strength.

NEW ENGLAND (-13.5) over Jets

New England needs to win in order to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. They’re at home against the Jets, so they’re going to win and not take it easy on the divisional opponent. Sam Darnold has played well over the past few weeks, but being in the way of Bill Belichick not having to play on Wild Card Weekend is not an enviable place for a rookie quarterback.

Miami (+4.5) over BUFFALO

This game is part of the reason New England is on its way to another bye in the playoffs. Neither one of these teams are good and Buffalo’s defense is easily the best unit in this game (third in DVOA), but it’s difficult to believe either one of these teams is significantly better than the other.

Chicago (+4.5) over MINNESOTA

The Bears have two reasons to play in this game. With a win and (an unlikely) Rams loss, the Bears could sneak into the No. 2 seed and get a bye. With a with, they’d also knock a division rival out of the playoffs. Maybe they’d rather take a break and worry about themselves, but they appear to be another team at least saying they won’t rest starters. If that’s the case, they’re easily the better team.

KANSAS CITY (-13.5) over Oakland

There’s going to be enough points scored by the Chiefs that if they go into cruise control in the second half, it won’t really matter.

PITTSBURGH (-14.5) over Cincinnati

Pittsburgh has to win this game for any hope at the playoffs (and needs a Baltimore loss). The Steelers have lost some bad games this season, but are still eighth in overall DVOA and fifth on offense. That’s going against a Bengals defense that’s 28th in defensive DVOA and that’s not a good matchup for the Hue Jackson assistant coached unit.

BALTIMORE (-6.5) over Cleveland

Baltimore is win and in with an AFC North title. The Browns have been one of the best teams over the second half of the season, but the Ravens defense has been one of the league’s best and the offense gives such a different look than anything Cleveland has seen to this point. Let us sit back and enjoy one of the hopefully many games featuring Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson.

Philadelphia (-7) over WASHINGTON

Washington is consistently the This Is Fine dog meme. Except with Washington, it never is. This time it’s releasing safety D.J. Swearinger after critical comments of the defensive playcalling. Now that defense has to stop the unstoppable Nick Foles and the Eagles. In all seriousness, with Foles, the Eagles tend to stick to some basic offensive principles that work more often and those should be able to pick apart the Washington defense. The Eagles also have a lot to play for, needing a win and a Minnesota loss to sneak in as the final NFC playoff team.

SEATTLE (-13.5) over Arizona

The Seahawks are locked in as the No. 5 seed, but they are another team claiming they won’t rest starters. Again, even if that’s only half true, they have a big enough advantage over their opponent. Arizona is close to being the worst modern offense by DVOA, dating back to 1986. That is an impressive feat and doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence for covering even a two-touchdown spread.

RAMS (-10) over San Francisco

Last week, the Rams broke a trend. They stopped running out of 11 personnel, put two tight ends on the field, and let C.J. Anderson run into 8-man boxes. Was that because the Rams thought it was a better strategy? Did they just want to put something new on tape for opposing teams to think about? Either way, we could see the Rams do something similar against the 49ers or at least do something else to keep the offense rolling heading into the playoffs after the drop off over the previous few weeks.

Chargers (-6.5) over DENVER

Denver just lost to Oakland, so even if the Chargers aren’t trying to hard to win this game, they’re probably going to win this game. The Chargers also still need to play hard in case the Raiders miraculously beat the Chiefs and in that case, the Chargers suddenly become the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Indianapolis (-3.5) over TENNESSEE

We don’t know if Marcus Mariota is going to play or if he’s near 100 percent, but that might not matter. If Blaine Gabbert has to go, it’s Colts by a billion, but we’ll stick with the minus-3.5 if it’s Mariota. The Colts have been on a roll lately with a wonderfully schemed offense and a defense that is a borderline top-10 unit (11th) by DVOA.

Last week: 9-6-1
Season: 118-115-7