The final week in the NFL season is always exciting. Teams are scrambling to earn playoff berths; first round byes are on the line; and some coaches are trying to show that they should still be employed come Tuesday.
This year will be no different, with three games directly determining division titles. Let’s take a glance at what’s in store in week 17 this season.
(Note that all games are on Sunday.)
New York Jets (3-12) at Miami (8-7) – Spread: Dolphins -5.5
Both teams are out of the playoff race and Rex Ryan may be searching for a job shortly after the game. Following an announcement that Joe Philbin is keeping his position in Miami, there were actually rumors that Ryan could become the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator. Awkward!
New York is 1-6 on the road and 2-4-1 against the spread this year. The Jets’ lone road win came at Tennessee, 16-11, in week 14. Miami beat New York, 16-13, in a forgettable contest where the Jets refused to throw the ball in week 13. The Fins are 8-7 straight-up and 7-8 against the spread. Miami is 4-3 at home and 3-4 against the number.
Carolina (6-8-1) at Atlanta (6-9) – Spread: Falcons -4
This game is for the NFC South crown with the winner earning a first round playoff game at home. The Panthers have been surprisingly decent on the road this year. Carolina is 2-4-1 outside of Charlotte and 3-4 against the spread. Road losses against Baltimore, Green Bay, Philadelphia, and Minnesota are understandable, and the Panthers won at Tampa Bay and New Orleans while playing Cincinnati to a draw.
Atlanta is 3-4 at home and 4-3 ATS. They won early in the year at the Georgia Dome against New Orleans and Tampa Bay, dropped games to Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, and then beat Arizona in week 13. The Falcons won at Carolina, 19-17, in week 11. In week 16, the Falcons beat the Saints and the Panthers trumped the Browns to set up this week’s play-in game.
Cleveland (7-8) at Baltimore (9-6) – Spread: Ravens -9
The Ravens beat the Browns, 23-21, at FirstEnergy Stadium in week 3. The Ravens kicked two field goals in the final minutes to come from behind in the game. Cleveland was penalized 12 times in the loss. The Browns have split their divisional road games so far, winning at Cincinnati but falling in Pittsburgh. Johnny Manziel has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Baltimore is 5-2 at home and 4-3 against the spread. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is 12-1 against Cleveland. The Browns are out of the running for a playoff spot while Baltimore needs a win and a Chargers loss to reach the postseason. Baltimore would have been in control of its own destiny, but couldn’t overcome the mighty Case Keenum in a week 16 loss to Houston.
Dallas (11-4) at Washington (4-11) – Spread: Cowboys -7
The Cowboys have been the best road team in the NFL. Dallas is 7-0 when traveling and 6-1 against the spread. They won at Philadelphia, 38-27, in week 15 to take over the division lead. Quarterback Tony Romo has 18 touchdown passes on the road and just one interception. While the Cowboys have won the NFC East, a win and some help could give them a first round playoff bye. They played arguably their most complete game of the season in week 16, crushing the playoff-bound Colts, 42-7.
The Skins beat Dallas, 20-17, in overtime in week 8, and knocked Romo from the game in the process. Washington held the ball for more than 38 minutes and QB Colt McCoy completed 25 of 30 throws in the win. The Skins have just one victory since that contest, which came last week against Philly. Robert Griffin III played his best game in ages against the Eagles and will be hoping to build momentum – and solidify his role as starter – against Dallas.
Indianapolis (10-5) at Tennessee (2-13) – Spread: Colts -7
The Colts once again dominated the AFC South while the Titans were only competitive in about half of their games. Indianapolis destroyed Tennessee, 41-17, in week 4. The Colts are 5-0 in divisional games and 4-0-1 against the spread.
Tennessee is 1-6 at home and 1-5-1 against the number. Most recently, the Titans suffered two embarrassing home losses to sub-.500 teams: 36-7 against the Giants in week 14 and 16-11 against the Jets in week 15. Tennessee lost at Jacksonville, 21-13, last week. Another loss in week 17 would give them a decent shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Detroit (11-4) at Green Bay (11-4) – Spread: Packers -7.5
This game is for the NFC North title and a first round bye. Unlike the Falcons/Panthers game, though, the loser will still be going to the post-season as a Wild Card team. The Lions have not won at Lambeau Field since 1991. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is 2-8 against the Packers and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. The Lions beat Green Bay earlier in the year though: 19-7 at Ford Field in week 3. In that game, the Lions shutout the Packers over the final three quarters and limited Aaron Rodgers to 16 of 27 passing.
Green Bay is 7-0 at home and 5-1-1 against the spread. The Packers have won their home games by an average margin of 21 points. Rodgers has 23 TDs and no interceptions this year at Lambeau.
For a more in-depth early look at this game, check out our “sneak peek”.
Jacksonville (3-12) at Houston (8-7) – Spread: Texans -10
The Jaguars wrap up the season in Houston. After losing their first three road games by more than 22 points, on average, the Jaguars have been more competitive in recent tries. Jacksonville covered at Baltimore in a 20-12 loss in week 15. The Jags remain winless on the road, though, and are 2-4-1 ATS. Jacksonville hurt its draft stock in week 16 by beating the Titans at home.
Houston is technically still alive in the AFC playoff race., but they need a win plus losses by San Diego and Baltimore to make the postseason. The Texans beat the Jaguars, 27-13, in week 14 and are 3-2 straight-up (3-1-1 ATS) against divisional opponents. With QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Mallett both out for the season, Case Keenum gets the ball again for Houston in week 17. He led the Texans to a season-saving win over the Ravens last week in his best career NFL start.
San Diego (9-6) at Kansas City (8-7) – Spread: Chiefs -2.5
As was expected, the Broncos are on top of the AFC West, the Raiders are at the bottom, and these two teams are in between, squirming for a Wild Card spot. San Diego can qualify for the postseason with a victory, while KC needs a victory plus a ton of help (to wit, losses by the Chargers, Ravens, and Texans).
In week 7, the Chiefs won in San Diego, 23-20. The Chargers kicked a game-tying field goal with 1:57 left, but K.C. promptly marched the other way and won it on a 48 yard try with 21 seconds on the clock. The Chiefs held the ball for 39 minutes in the win, keeping a then-red-hot Philip Rivers on the sideline. Kansas City is 5-2 straight-up and against the spread at home with wins over New England and Seattle. The Chargers are 4-3 ATS on the road.
In week 16, the Chargers overcame a 14-point second-half deficit on the road in San Francisco, ultimately prevailing (38-35) in OT. Rivers is battling through a bulging disc in his back that may require surgery at season’s end, but it would take a small army to keep him out of this pivotal game.
Chicago (5-10) at Minnesota (6-9) – Spread: Vikings -7
The Bears’ season has been a disaster, and their last three road games have been the worst part. The Bears lost in New England, 51-23, in week 8, dropped a 55-14 decision to the Packers in week 10, and fell at Detroit, 34-17, on Thanksgiving (after jumping out to a 14-3 lead). Overall, Chicago is 3-4 on the road straight-up and against the spread.
The Vikings dropped a 21-13 decision to the Bears in week 11. Minnesota is 4-3 at home and 5-2 against the spread. Looking back, the Vikings’ season was derailed by their divisional rivals, as Minnesota is 0-5 in divisional games (2-3 ATS). They lost a tight road game in Miami last week (37-35), with rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater playing one of his best games of the year.
Buffalo (8-7) at New England (12-3) – Spread: Patriots -3.5
While the Bills have had a pretty good season, they were outclassed at home in a 37-22 loss to New England in week 6. Buffalo committed all three turnovers in the game and Tom Brady passed for 361 yards and four touchdowns. The Bills are 3-2 against the AFC EAST both SU and ATS.
The Patriots are 7-0 at home and 5-2 against the spread with blowout wins in recent weeks over Detroit, Denver, and Miami. They have not lost a divisional game since falling at Miami in week 1. Thanks to Denver’s loss to Cincinnati on MNF, New England has locked up the top seed in the AFC playoffs and does not need this game in any meaningful way. Expect the Pats to rest some key players for all or part of the game.
Philadelphia (9-6) at New York Giants (6-9) – Spread: Giants -3
After a stunning loss to the lowly Redskins in week 16, the Eagles are out of the playoff race. But they will be looking to finish the season on a high note against division rival New York. Arguably, Philadelphia’s most complete effort of the season was a 27-0 win over the Giants in week 6. The passing game worked, the running game was effective, and the defense was dominant. The Eagles have won six of their last seven games in New York, but haven’t swept the season series with the Giants since 2010.
The Giants have been solid at home recently. They beat Washington, 24-13, in week 15, lost by a field goal to Dallas in week 12, and fell to San Francisco, 16-10, in week 11. New York is 3-4 at home and 4-3 against the spread. Probably to their fans’ dismay, the Giants got hot once they were eliminated from the playoffs; with only draft position left to play for, the Giants have posted three straight wins and shot up the NFL standings.
Cincinnati (10-4) at Pittsburgh (10-5) – Spread: Steelers -3.5
Both the Bengals and Steelers have sewed up playoff berths, but this game will determine who wins the division and who has to travel in the first round as a Wild Card team. The Bengals have won four straight on the road with easy victories over New Orleans, Houston, and Cleveland, and a 14-13 squeaker in Tampa Bay. The Bengals are 5-2 on the road and 4-3 against the spread. However, Cincinnati has dropped six of their last eight in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers scored 25 unanswered points to beat the Bengals 42-21 in week 14. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 185 yards in the win. The Steelers are 3-2 within the division and 2-3 ATS.
For a more in-depth early look at this game, check out our “sneak peek”.
New Orleans (6-9) at Tampa Bay (2-13) – Spread: Saints -3.5
It has been a strange season for New Orleans. Uncharacteristically, the Saints have played mediocre ball at home but, recently, been strong on the road. The Saints have rattled off three straight road wins (against Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Chicago), and lost a nail-biter at Detroit (24-23) in week 8. New Orleans is 3-4 on the road and 4-3 against the spread. Last week, the Saints feel at home to Atlanta, erasing any shot at a playoff berth in what has been a dreadfully disappointing season in the Big Easy.
Tampa Bay fell to New Orleans, 37-31, in overtime in week 5. The Bucs remain winless at home and are 1-6 against the spread. A loss in week 17 would give the Bucs a very good chance at the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft. With both Josh McCown and Mike Glennon struggling under center – and Marcus Mariota likely to declare – Tampa fans are likely to dawn black and gold come Sunday.
Oakland (3-12) at Denver (11-4) – Spread: Broncos -14
Don’t sleep on the Raiders. Sure, they fired their coach months ago, the GM is on thin ice, and their record is awful, but they’ve found a way to win money for their backers on the road. Oakland has not won outside of the Bay Area, but are 4-3 against the spread. Their two most recent road games haven’t followed that trend, though. After close losses at Seattle and San Diego, Oakland got crushed in St. Louis (52-0) in week 13 and in Kansas City (31-13) in week 15.
The Broncos are 7-0 at home, but just 3-4 against the spread. Denver is 5-0 against the AFC West (3-2 ATS). The Broncos beat Miami at home, 39-36, in week 12, and clipped Buffalo, 24-17, in week 14. The Broncos also emerged from the Black Hole with a 41-17 win in week 10. Denver needs to win to earn a first round playoff bye, so don’t expect the team to rest too many starters.
Arizona (11-4) at San Francisco (7-8) – Spread: 49ers -6
The Cardinals have clinched a playoff spot, but their top two quarterbacks are injured and, unless Seattle loses to St. Louis, they can not earn the NFC West title. Arizona is 4-3 straight-up and against the spread away from home. The Cardinals beat San Francisco, 23-14, in week 3. Arizona outscored the Niners 17-0 in the second half. After Ryan Lindley managed just six points in a week 16 loss to the Seahawks, Logan Thomas is scheduled to get the start in week 17.
San Francisco is hoping to close the season, and likely the Jim Harbaugh era, with a win. The Niners are going to miss the playoffs for the first time under Harbaugh and can thank their divisional record, as they went just 1-4 (straight-up and ATS) in divisional games. The agonizing season continued last week, as the Niners saw a 14-point second-half lead evaporate against the Chargers.
St. Louis (6-9) at Seattle (11-4) – Spread: Seahawks -13
After losing starting QB Sam Bradford in the preseason, the Rams started the year poorly. But they proved to be a tough customer in a difficult division for the second half of the season. The Rams are 3-4 straight-up and against the spread on the road with wins over Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and Washington. St. Louis beat Seattle, 28-26, in week 7.
The Seahawks are 6-1 at home and 5-2 against the spread. Most recently, the Seahawks beat Arizona, 19-3, at home in week 12, and knocked off the Niners, 17-7, in week 15. With a win, the Seahawks would clinch the NFC West title and earn homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
(Photo credit: Alan Kotok (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)