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Week 17 NFL matchups, game times, and picks

Playoff spots, playoff seeds, and the draft order will start to be set in stone with today’s games

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

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Arizona Cardinals (4-11) at Atlanta Falcons (5-10), 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX

The Cardinals could barely get anything moving last week on offense without their top two quarterbacks, Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy, and receiver DeAndre Hopkins ended the game with one catch for four yards. Outside of running back James Conner, there hasn’t been much to look forward to. The Falcons have been looking towards the future with rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, and while there have been flashes for the rookie, Ridder is struggling to make anything happen for the Falcons. They’ll depend heavily on the run game and the defense to make stops.

I am taking the Cardinals to win and beat the spread on the road.

Chicago Bears (3-12) at Detroit Lions (7-8), 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX

Detroit should have a better record than they do. I know the story — injuries and a few bad bounces turn into losses. But this is a good team, and the NFC should be worried after this season. They are getting better and more fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball. Jared Goff has surprised everyone at quarterback, and proven himself to be a legitimate leader and starter. The Bears have some growing to do. They have to do a better job protecting quarterback Justin Fields, and getting him some weapons to throw to. Chase Claypool was a nice addition at receiver, but he’s been injured recently, and it’s not enough.

I expect the Lions to take this one and cover the spread.

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8) at Houston Texans (2-12-1), 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS

Division games are always fun, especially in the AFC South. But I don’t anticipate this one being as close as the spread would suggest. The Jaguars have been playing well in recent weeks, looking forward to their Week 18 matchup with Tennessee for the division. The Texans have been trying to figure out the direction of the team, and had some good games throughout the season, but have not done enough to close games out and win. They are playing the role of spoiler here.

The Jaguars have a date with destiny. They’ll be able to win this game easily, and hope to punch their ticket to the dance next week.

Denver Broncos (4-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-3), 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS

The Chiefs have been making things difficult for themselves lately. Two of their last three games have been victories by one score against teams they should have dominated. One of those games was against these same Denver Broncos. Prior to quarterback Russell Wilson going down with a concussion, the Broncos were playing their best game of the season. I don’t have much faith that they can repeat that performance against a fully-healthy Chiefs team gearing up for the playoffs, but one can hope that Denver can steal a game on the road like Chiefsaholic. (Too soon?)

I don’t think it’s likely. The Chiefs will win this one at home, but they won’t cover the spread. Division games are always tough.

Miami Dolphins (8-7) at New England Patriots (7-8), 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS

It’s so mind-blowing to me that just a few weeks ago, we were talking about the possibility of the Dolphins edging the Bills out for the AFC East title. But after losing their last four games, and now with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in concussion protocol, one would have to assume that their season is all but over. The Dolphins can clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Patriots in New England while also getting some help from the Jets with a loss to Seattle. If the Jets win, the Dolphins and New York play and the winner is in, and the loser goes home next week in the regular season finale. The Patriots are likely going to be without their most electric player, Marcus Jones, but still boast one of the league’s best defenses that will cause fits for Teddy Bridgewater.

I am taking the Patriots to win and cover the spread at home.

Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1) at New York Giants (8-6-1), 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS

The Colts are just in a rough spot. They benched quarterback Matt Ryan in hopes of finding a spark somewhere, and then Nick Foles took away any spark you thought they once had. It was good to see Zack Moss in an offense that he is able to run in. But there’s nothing else to celebrate when it comes to the offense of the Colts. Giants head coach Brian Daboll doesn’t have those problems. Daniel Jones and the Giants move the ball, score points, and they have a defense that makes enough plays to keep them in the game.

Giants win and cover the spread. The Colts should start the coaching search sooner rather than later, so they can make a real decision on quarterback.

New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-2), 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX

The Saints are technically still in the playoff hunt. They’re one game behind division-leading Tampa, and could sneak in if they win out and get some help from Bucs opponents. I don’t anticipate that happening, especially when the Saints are running into a juggernaut in the Eagles. Whether Jalen Hurts or Garner Minshew starts at quarterback, the Saints just won’t have what it takes to keep up with the deepest roster in the NFL.

The Saints will keep it closer than most and beat the spread, but the Eagles take the victory.

Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8), 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX

Who would have thought that two teams under .500 playing each other at this point of the season would matter? But that’s certainly the case here. The Buccaneers would like to win this game and solidify the division. Tom Brady doesn’t want to miss the playoffs, but the Panthers can take that opportunity with a win and some help in Week 18. Records won’t show it, but the effort for both teams will be there, and make this a game you want to keep your eyes on.

Tampa Bay is a Super Bowl-winning franchise. They won’t let the division slip from their grasp. The Buccaneers win and cover the spread.

Cleveland Browns (6-9) at Washington Commanders (7-7-1), 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX

Carson Wentz is back at quarterback for Washington. I’m not sure why the decision was made to switch back to Wentz from Taylor Heinicke, but I don’t like it. If you’ve been keeping up with me this season, you know Heinicke is one of my favorite stories this year. Wentz has been largely uninspiring in every stop he’s made in the league, other than when he almost won MVP before tearing his ACL. Deshaun Watson hasn’t looked like his former self since returning to football, either. But I think he’s better than Wentz.

I’m going with the Browns in an upset simply because they have the better run game and better quarterback in this matchup.

San Francisco 49ers (11-4) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-9), 4:05 p.m. EST, FOX

I am so upset about this game for personal, fantasy football-related reasons. The Raiders have decided to bench Derek Carr in favor of Jarrett Stihdam due to the poor performances and lack of winning lately. I can’t say whether I feel it’s a good or bad move, but I do know that it won’t make a difference against the 49ers. San Francisco has the best defense and one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, even while starting Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, at quarterback. When they get Deebo Samuel back, they will be a nightmare for anyone to face in the playoffs.

The 49ers will have their way with the Raiders and confuse Stidham. They will win and cover the double-digit spread.

New York Jets (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (7-8), 4:05 p.m. EST, FOX

This will be a fun matchup. Both teams need a win in order to set themselves up to play for a chance to make the playoffs next weekend. While both teams will need to win out for any real shot, they’ll also need help from other teams in order to put themselves in the proper position to make the tournament. While I don’t personally see either team making it, there is hope, and that should make for a fun game to watch. Mike White is back at quarterback, and that spells inspired Jets football. Call me crazy, but when White is playing, the offense matches the defensive effort, and the Jets are difficult to beat.

I am going with the Jets to take this one. Sauce Gardner is my Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he will show why again this week when she shuts D.K. Metcalf down.

Minnesota Vikings (12-3) at Green Bay Packers (7-8), 4:25 p.m. EST, CBS

This is going to be the most interesting game in the NFC this weekend, in my opinion. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have won their last three games, and they are looking to do their part before asking for help from other teams to make the playoffs. There’s a slim chance, if they win out, that they can get in the tournament, but the Vikings won’t do without a fight. Minnesota has found ways to win tight games all season, and if they are within striking distance, it will be hard for the Packers to stop wideout Justin Jefferson from taking over the game. But there’s something dangerous about a team that is hungry, and the Packers have been doing everything in their power to remain in contention.

I am taking the Packers at home to beat the Vikings and make the final week of the season interesting.

Los Angeles Rams (5-10) at Los Angeles Chargers (9-6), 4:25 p.m. EST, CBS

The Battle of LA. Baker Mayfield has put together a couple good games in three weeks with the Rams. One has earned him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Any team with Bobby Wagner and Jalen Ramsey will have a defense that keeps them in games. But the Chargers are on a roll after clinching a playoff berth for the first time in Justin Herbert’s career. I don’t see them slowing down for the Rams. Mayfield just doesn’t have enough to hang with Herbert.

The Chargers will win and cover.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) at Baltimore Ravens (10-5), 8:20 p.m. EST, NBC

As a Bills fan, we are rooting for the Ravens. Well, at least I am. The Bengals can end up winning the conference, or they can end up losing the division if they lose to both the Bills and the Ravens. But in order for next week’s game to matter in that discussion, the Ravens have to beat the Steelers, and the Bills have to beat the Bengals.

Let’s hope the Ravens do the Bills a favor and handle business both weeks. But with my luck, because I’m hoping for that, it won’t happen. Lamar Jackson is likely out again this week, so I’m taking the Steelers with the upset.