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NFL Picks, Week 17: Buccaneers-Falcons, Panthers-Saints, Giants-Cowboys And More

It's the NFL's Week 17, when gambling takes on a hint of homework. You gotta know who's trying for the playoffs, who's already there, who's playing for pride, and who's (maybe) playing or the number one draft pick. The lines - and the scenarios - are here!

The picks:

Detroit (-4) @ Green Bay. The game of the weekend, as far as Falcons fans are concerned (assuming Atlanta takes care of the Bucs, which yeah, let's just go with that). The Packers have already clinched home-field advantage through the playoffs, so don't expect to see much of Aaron Rodgers and other starters. On the other hand, the Lions have something huge at stake - avoiding the Saints. Lose here, Detroit heads to New Orleans; win and they face the winner of Dallas/New York, sending Atlanta to the Superdome. I'm sure the players would never admit it, but we all know the preferable destination. The power of Lambeau should still win out, but that may be wishful thinking. PICK: Green Bay

Tennessee (-1) @ Houston. Houston has already clinched the AFC South, while Tennessee is still playing for something. Well, sort of - the Titans have to win and have three other games go their way for the postseason to happen. I just don't think the Texans are in any place to rest starters, because, well, how many do they have left anyway? PICK: Houston

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville (-3 1/2). The problem with running this column on Sunday is the obvious stuff has already been said - and I deal in obvious stuff, if you haven't noticed. But let me stress, as others have: the current Colts players don't want Andrew Luck. They want Mr. Manning behind center in 2012, not some rookie they don't know. Plus, there is no tanking in the NFL - when careers last 3.5 years on average (no research done, FYI), players can't afford to slack just because the postseason isn't on the line. That doesn't mean their jobs aren't. The Colts will win, blow the first pick, and we'll spend the next few months wondering who will trade with the Rams - assuming they'll stay the course with Sam Bradford. PICK: Indianapolis

NY Jets @ Miami (-3). Eh, the Jets are technically playing for something - but like the Titans, they need a win plus three other games to fall their way. And there aren't many teams that would be more delighted to send Rex Ryan home to his XXL loveseat than the Dolphins. PICK: Miami

Chicago @ Minnesota (-1). I'm guessing I'm the only one reading this who's ever started Joe Webb on their fantasy team. I did it last year - obviously, my team sucked - but I quickly realized the guy had actual skills, and I was perplexed when the Vikings drafted Christian Ponder so early. Well, the spotlight is now yours, Mr. Webb. And wait, is this Vikings team the first one to start a black quarterback and a white running back (Toby Gerhart) in the same game? Wow, the future sure looks wacky. (I'm writing this in 2011, future-folk.) PICK: Minnesota

Buffalo @ New England (-12). With a win, the Patriots will clinch home-field advantage through the playoffs, and Buffalo's one-time hope has been long extinguished. Here's the rub, though: the Bills can void most of Ryan Fitzpatrick's massive contract in the off-season if they see fit. So ol' Fitzy has a prize to earn as well, and he's smart enough to know it. PICK: Buffalo

Carolina @ New Orleans (-9). The Saints clinch a first-round bye with a win plus a 49ers loss, but that doesn't look likely with San Francisco going up against St. Louis. So don't be surprised to see New Orleans starters pulled if the 49ers go up early - unless, of course, the Saints are really scoreboard-watching. Tom Brady is only 190 yards behind Drew Brees' NFL record passing mark. If Brady is on pace for 400 yards, does Sean Payton dare pull Brees when he's sitting at 150 at halftime? PICK: Carolina

Washington @ Philadelphia (-9 1/2). Nothing makes me happier than to report there are NO playoff implications here. No matter who wins, who loses, who ties, there are no teams involved with this game going to the postseason. Oh 2012, you pesky rapscallion, off to a rousing start! PICK: Washington

San Francisco (-12) @ St. Louis. All hands will be on the 49ers deck, as the team clinches a first-round bye with a win. San Fran waxed the Rams 26-0 early in December, and the result here should be similar. PICK: San Francisco

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-12). My best Christmas present was having this game flexed to 4:15; the New Year's Eve open bar would have made a 1 p.m. kickoff less than ideal for this season-ticket holder. However, it also gives the game a potential of worthlessness: if Detroit beats Green Bay earlier in the day, Atlanta will be headed to New Orleans win or lose. Since I'm expecting the Pack's second string to actually win, I'll go ahead and call for Atlanta to rub this in Tampa's face a little bit. But I wouldn't place my bets until about 4:10. PICK: Atlanta

Baltimore (-1) @ Cincinnati. The Ravens earn a first-round bye with a win, and Cincinnati is officially a wild-card team if victorious. This is another one you might not want to touch until game-time, though - if the Jets lose earlier in the day, the Bengals won't be playing for anything. That said, two things: 1) The Bengals might not rest anybody anyway, and 2) I'm pretty sure the Ravens suck. PICK: Cincinnati

Pittsburgh (-7 1/2) @ Cleveland. The Steelers have already clinched a wild-card spot, but earn the division and a first-round bye with a win plus a Ravens loss. Ben Roethlisberger is likely to take the field, and should play the entire game unless an injury and/or runaway Bengals win occurs. There will be blood. PICK: Pittsburgh

Seattle @ Arizona (-1 1/2). One of the few games you can safely ignore. Let's do so here. PICK: Arizona

Kansas City @ Denver (-3). Tim Tebow is going to the playoffs, y'all. That's not so much a prediction as a realization of inevitability. The Broncos clinch a wild-card berth with a win, or an Oakland loss - and they'll get it done themselves. The release of Kyle Orton - now KC's starter - may be the best QB-related move Denver has made in a decade. PICK: Denver

San Diego @ Oakland (-2 1/2). The Chargers ain't goin' anywhere, but can make sure Oakland stays home by winning here. The Raiders need a win and a Denver loss to keep playing in 2012, but I don't see either happening. PICK: San Diego

Dallas @ NY Giants (-3). Here we come to the final game of the Week 17 slate, otherwise known as the NFL's wet dream: two marquee teams, big names on both sides, and it's win or go home. The Cowboys at the Giants, winner takes the NFC East, loser watches the playoffs on the couch. I don't know much, but I do know this game will destroy the psyche of one fan-base for the next eight months. And if I have to choose, I hope it's the people who root for Keith Brooking. Because, gross. PICK: NY Giants

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Last week: 9-7
Yearly total: 126-110-4

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.