With an eye on playoff implications, here are the Week 17 NFL picks. As always, picks are against the spread.
Panthers (-7) at Falcons (+7) -- The Panthers (11-4) can clinch the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win over the Falcons (4-11). The last time these two teams played, the Panthers forced four turnovers, Cam Newton threw one touchdown and ran for another in a 34-10 win for Carolina. Despite playing at the Georgia Dome where the Panthers are 0-5 against Matt Ryan's Falcons, this one looks like it's going to be solidly in Carolina's favor.
My pick: Panthers
Ravens (+7) at Bengals (-7) -- The Bengals (10-5) are 7-0 at home this season so far and have the opportunity to clinch a first-round bye with a win and a Patriots loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens (8-7) have won four of their last five games, losing last week to the Patriots 41-7. They lost to the Bengals 20-17 in overtime Nov. 10 and are quite banged up heading into the last week of the season. Arthur Jones (concussion), Elvis Dumervil (ankle), Ray Rice (thigh), and Torrey Smith (thigh) are all questionable for the game. But John Harbaugh's Ravens are 7-4 against this division opponent. Expect it to be close, but the game goes to the Bengals.
My pick: Ravens
Jaguars (+11) at Colts (-11) -- The Colts (10-5) hope to get a first-round bye in the playoffs, but they need quite a bit of help. First, they need to beat the Jaguars (4-11) and then the Colts need the Patriots to lose and the Bengals to lose or tie. Still, that's more than enough motivation against a hapless Jacksonville team that's lost its past two games after winning three straight.
My pick: Colts
Jets (+6) at Dolphins (-6) -- Last week's 19-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills was a major setback for the Dolphins, who will be operating without backup running back Daniel Thomas (ankle) Sunday against the New York Jets. Because of the loss, they have to win against the Jets and hope for either a Baltimore loss/tie or San Diego win. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is 2-1 against the Jets, taking their last matchup Dec. 1 23-3.
My pick: Dolphins
Lions (+3) at Vikings (-3) -- Both team are out of the playoff hunt. Adrian Peterson (groin, foot) isn't expected to play, while Toby Gerhart is out with a hamstring injury. That's not a good sign for a Vikings (4-10-1) team that's going up against the fourth-ranked run defense of the NFL (94.8 yards allowed per game).
My pick: Lions
Washington (+3.5) at Giants (-3.5) -- The Giants (6-9) beat Washington (3-12) 24-17 on Dec. 1 with running back Andre Brown scoring two touchdowns. Brown (concussion) is probable for Sunday's game, but that likely won't matter. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has nine interceptions in his past four games while his team has surprisingly won two close games, including a 23-20 overtime victory over the Detroit Lions last week. But New York also won't have top wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is out with a knee injury.
My pick: Washington
Browns (+7) at Steelers (-7) -- A little more than a month ago, the Steelers trounced the Cleveland Browns, 27-11, on the road. Now, in Pittsburgh, they face a Browns team that has lost its last six games and stands in their way of getting into the playoffs (with tons of help).
My pick: Steelers
Texans (+7) at Titans (-7) -- The Texans have lost 13 straight games. Why not make it 14? Six of those 13 losses have been by seven points or more.
My pick: Titans
49ers (-1) at Cardinals (+1) -- There are huge playoff implications here for both teams. The 49ers (11-4) need the win and a Seattle Seahawks loss to clinch the NFC West and a first-round bye. The Cardinals (10-5) need the win and a Saints loss or tie to clinch a playoff spot. Arizona fell 32-20 in the teams' first matchup, but has won three straight games and seven of its last eight. Their top run defense (84.5 yards allowed per game) will be huge against the 49ers.
My pick: Cardinals
Packers (-3) at Bears (+3) -- Aaron Rodgers returns for the Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) against a Chicago Bears (8-7) team that is coming off its worst loss of the season, a 54-11 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. The winner of this game clinches the NFC North. The Bears can also clinch the division with a tie. Rodgers has three straight wins in Chicago, throwing six touchdowns and only one interception in those games.
My pick: Packers
Bills (+9) at Patriots (-9) --Thad Lewis gets the start at quarterback for the Bills (6-9), who are still playing for pride. Lewis is 2-2 as a starter this season. The Patriots took their first matchup with the Bills in Week 1, 23-21, on a game-winning field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. Patriots have won 19 of their past 20 games against the Bills.
My pick: Patriots
Buccaneers (+12) at Saints (-12) -- The Saints (10-5) can control their own fate by simply beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11). A win clinches a playoff spot for New Orleans. But if the Saints lose, they're not necessarily out of the postseason either. They would need the Arizona Cardinals to lose to the San Francisco 49ers. The Saints can even hope to clinch the NFC South if they win and the Carolina Panthers lose to the Atlanta Falcons.
My pick: Saints
Broncos (-11.5) at Raiders (+11.5) -- Peyton Manning will likely add to his single-season touchdown record against the Oakland Raiders, who are 26th in the league against the pass and have lost five straight. Manning can also break records for passing yards, completions, and first-down completions on Sunday. The Broncos beat the Raiders 37-21 on Sept. 23.
My pick: Broncos
Chiefs (+9) at Chargers (-9) -- The Chargers eked out a close victory over the Chiefs in Week 12, 41-38, and have won four of their last five games. It appears the Chargers are set up to win another important game with the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe out with a concussion. The Chargers need the win as well as a Ravens loss or tie and a Dolphins loss or tie to reach the playoffs. But I expect this one to be close.
My pick: Chiefs
Rams (+12) at Seahawks (-12) -- The Seattle Seahawks (12-3) can clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win or a 49ers loss. The Rams (7-8) kept it close in their last bout, losing 14-9. With the seventh ranked rushing defense, you can expect St. Louis to keep it close again.
My pick: Rams
Eagles (-7) at Cowboys (+7) -- The Cowboys (8-7) are going to be without quarterback Tony Romo, who underwent season-ending back surgery this week. Even with Romo, the Cowboys would have had a tough time against Philadelphia (9-6), which features the NFL's top rushing attack. The Eagles have won six of their last seven games.
My pick: Eagles
Last week: 9-7