Movie quote of the day:
“You play ball like a girl!”
– Hamilton “Ham” Porter, “The Sandlot” (1993)
Here are the matchups for week 17:
Week 16 record: 9-7 (56.3 percent)
2016 record: 145-93-2 (60.8 percent)
All-time record: 297-198-2 (59.9 percent)
Baltimore Ravens (8-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1)
Paul Brown Stadium
Line: BAL -1.5
Cincinnati has been a disappointment all season and the Bengals rank in the bottom half of the league in both scoring offense and defense. Baltimore’s defense is too tough – which is something that always travels well in the NFL. Even though it’s a home game for the Bengals, I think Andy Dalton is going to have a hard time moving the ball on the Ravens’ defense.
Prediction: Ravens 23, Bengals 20
Houston Texans (9-6) at Tennessee Titans (8-7)
Line: TEN -4
I’m surprised the line is so much in Tennessee’s favor for this game – especially since Marcus Mariota isn’t playing for the Titans – but it makes sense. Houston has already clinched the AFC South division and has no chance of getting a higher seed in the postseason. I think the Texans are going to rest their starters – which is why I’m going to take Tennessee. Since the Titans have a lot of young talent and are eliminated from the playoffs, I think they’re hungry to knock off their division rival and begin their transition into next year on a positive note.
Prediction: Titans 24, Texans 20
Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)
Raymond James Stadium
Line: TB -3.5
This is a dangerous game for Tampa Bay. This is a must-win game for the Buccaneers to have a shot at the playoffs, but Carolina has been playing pretty well the last few weeks – winners of two of its last three games. Also, the Panthers have only lost to the Buccaneers once since 2012. Even though Carolina has had Tampa Bay’s number the last few years, I’m going with the Buccaneers to win this week. It’s a home game with a playoff spot on the line. I think Dirk Koetter will have his squad ready to play.
Prediction: Buccaneers 26, Panthers 21
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) at Indianapolis Colts (7-8)
Lucas Oil Stadium
Line: IND -4.5
Watch out for Jacksonville to possibly go on the road and sneak a win this week. The Jaguars played very well last week against Tennessee, and won by three touchdowns. Neither team has anything to lose or gain from this matchup, but the Jaguars’ coaching staff is fighting for their jobs (I want it on record that I think interim head coach Doug Marrone should be considered to be Jacksonville’s next head coach) and I feel like they’ll have a good game plan to face the Colts. However, I expect Indianapolis will play hard, get the win, and try to send Robert Mathis off into the sunset with a win.
Prediction: Colts 30, Jaguars 24
New England Patriots (13-2) at Miami Dolphins (10-5)
Hard Rock Stadium
Line: NE -9.5
New England has a lot riding on this game as the Patriots try to clinch home-field advantage, but it won’t be easy. Miami has beat New England at home each of the last three years. It’s been a tough place for the Patriots to play recently and I think that trend continues this year. The Dolphins have flown under-the-radar all season and are a sneaky good squad. They have a great defensive line that I think will give Tom Brady fits, and he and the Patriots’ offense will struggle to move the ball.
Prediction: Dolphins 27, Patriots 23
Chicago Bears (3-12) at Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
U.S. Bank Stadium
Line: MIN -6.5
I know the line says Minnesota is over a touchdown favorite, but I don’t trust the Vikings right now. Sam Bradford has been abysmal, they don’t have a run game, and they’ve suffered a lot of injuries. Chicago’s defense is getting healthier and has a decent pass rush with Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd. I think those two players will be able to get by Minnesota’s banged-up offensive line and get pressure on Bradford. I also think Jordan Howard will be too much for the Vikings’defense once again (26 rushes, 153 yards, and a touchdown in the first meeting between these teams).
Prediction: Bears 24, Vikings 19
Buffalo Bills (7-8) at New York Jets (4-11)
East Rutherford, N. J.
Line: BUF -3.5
Buffalo has decided to start over after firing Rex and Rob Ryan this week. Even though the Bills have given up, I still think they’re good enough to beat the atrocious Jets. The Jets have had all kinds of turmoil and bad play at the quarterback position all season. At least Tyrod Taylor has been more consistent and Buffalo has the better run game, which should keep the Jets’ defense honest. I expect this to be a physical game, but I think Buffalo is the better team and will come out on top.
Prediction: Bills 20, Jets 19
Dallas Cowboys (13-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-9)
Lincoln Financial Field
Line: PHI -5.5
It doesn’t sound like Dallas is going to rest its starters for this game despite already clinching the NFC East division, first-round bye, and home-field advantage. However, that doesn’t mean the Cowboys don’t take it easy with their starters. Philadelphia is coming off a big win last week over the Giants and I’m sure there’s nothing the Eagles would love more than to knock off their division rival and go into the offseason coming off a good win. This was a tight game in Dallas back in week eight and I think the Eagles want to get some revenge after letting that game slip away.
Prediction: Eagles 28, Cowboys 24
Cleveland Browns (1-14) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)
Line: PIT -5.5
Nothing is official yet but I can’t imagine Pittsburgh doesn’t rest its starters. The Steelers have already clinched the AFC North division and the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs and there’s no chance of getting a higher seed. This is a meaningless game for both teams but I still expect the Steelers to get the win regardless if they sit starters or not. Pittsburgh has the better roster and head coach, and this is a home game – I gotta go with the Steelers.
Prediction: Steelers 26, Browns 17
New Orleans Saints (7-8) at Atlanta Falcons (10-5)
Line: ATL -7.5
New Orleans has won its last two games and is quietly playing well. However, I don’t think the Saints have the defense to win this game on the road. Atlanta has the NFL’s best offense – which has scored an average of 34.5 points at home this season. It’s a home game for the Falcons – who are fighting to clinch a first-round bye. I expect the Falcons’ offense to carve up the Saints’ defense this week on their way to a victory.
Prediction: Falcons 34, Saints 28
New York Giants (10-5) at Washington Redskins (8-6-1)
Line: WAS -7.5
I think Washington got back on track after beating down a Chicago team that had been playing well by three touchdowns last week. The Redskins need to win in order to make the playoffs, and I think they’re catching the Giants at the right time to get a win. The Giants’ defense has been fantastic this season, but their offense has stumbled in the last month – scoring just 60 points in their last four games. Washington’s defense isn’t great by any means, but with a playoff spot on the line, I expect the Redksins’ defense to come ready to play and prevent the Giants’ offense from finding the end zone too many times.
Prediction: Redskins 27, Giants 20
Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) at Los Angeles Rams (4-11)
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Line: ARI -6.5
I thought for sure Los Angeles would beat San Francisco last week, but the Rams let one slip away. If they can’t beat the 49ers, I highly doubt they’ll be able to defeat Arizona. Granted, the Cardinals have underperformed this season but they’re still a much better team than Los Angeles right now. The Rams’ offense has been hot garbage this year and I don’t expect that to change in their last game of the season. The Cardinals’ offense has started to come alive recently – scoring 23 points or more in each of their last four games. I think the Rams’ defense is going to have a hard time keeping Arizona off the field.
Prediction: Cardinals 31, Rams 17
Oakland Raiders (12-3) at Denver Broncos (8-7)
Sports Authority Field
Line: DEN -1.5
It will be costly if Oakland can’t get a win this week because that means that New England gets home-field advantage in the playoffs. That being said, I think this is a tall order asking Matt McGloin to go into Denver – a hostile environment – and coming out with a win against one of the league’s top defenses. Even though the Broncos are eliminated from the playoffs, I think their defense is fired up to play a backup quarterback. The Raiders’ defense will keep them in the game, but I think Denver will force McGloin to make one too many mistakes.
Prediction: Broncos 21, Raiders 19
Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) at San Diego Chargers (5-10)
Line: KC -4.5
I think this could be a trap game for Kansas City. San Diego is better than its record would indicate and its coming off a bad loss to the previously winless Browns. I would imagine the Chargers are angry and seeking redemption for last week. However, the Chiefs are well coached and I know Andy Reid will have his team focused and ready to play since the AFC West division title is still up for grabs – especially with Oakland without its starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. I think the Chargers keep it close, but Kansas City emerges victorious.
Prediction: Chiefs 28, Chargers 23
Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-13)
Santa Clara, Calif.
Line: SEA -8.5
Seattle has the NFC West division locked up but a first-round bye in the NFC is still on the line – which likely means the Seahawks will play their starters. If so, I don’t see how San Francisco can win this game. The 49ers’ defense isn’t what it used to be and they lack a pass rush (No. 18 in the league), so, Seattle’s offensive line should be able to keep Russell Wilson upright and he should be able to make plays. Also, Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco’s offense will have a hard time moving the ball on Seattle’s defense. I think the Seahawks win comfortably.
Prediction: Seahawks 26, 49ers 13
Game of the week:
Green Bay Packers (9-6) at Detroit Lions (9-6)
Line: GB -3.5
Green Bay has been en fuego – winners of five in a row and Aaron Rodgers is starting to make an argument for MVP. Having to play this game on the road worries me a little bit as a Packers fan, but Matt Stafford hasn’t been the same quarterback since injuring his finger. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since week 14 and has thrown four interceptions in his last three games. I’m still skeptical of Green Bay’s defense but I think it’s good enough to slow down the Lions’ offense. Also, Rodgers has been playing too well and I can’t pick against him right now. I think the Packers reclaim their NFC North division title.
Prediction: Packers 31, Lions 24
Thanks for reading
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