The final week of the current NFL Regular Season is here and wouldn’t you know it? Drama’s present in plenty of games. At least nine games could have serious playoff implications. There’s even future consequences for teams involved in otherwise meaningless skirmishes. Will the Giants stick with Eli Manning? Could the Buccaneers actually extend Jameis Winston? Which coaches will finally burn up on the hot seat? NFL Week 17 isn’t time to turn off the television and plan your New Year’s party. Drama’s the name of the game in my NFL Week 17 Free Picks. Keep the television on and watch it all unfold!
Sunday, Dec. 30
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers -7.5
The Packers needed overtime and 44 points to just escape MetLife Stadium with a victory over the Jets in Week 16. Not only did the Packers look horrible last Sunday, but the trends say they fail miserably against the spread on Dec. 30. Green Bay’s 1-6 ATS in their last 7 versus the NFC North, 0-5-1 ATS in their last 6 following an ATS win, and 3-10-1 ATS in their last 14 versus the NFC.
This is one of the few games with absolutely no drama. With nothing at stake, and Aaron Rodgers probably deciding if he should do another State Farm commercial, taking the points makes sense. Detroit’s yearning for that moral victory, while Green Bay’s on a nasty slide right now that the public will dutifully ignore.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Lions +7.5
Atlanta Falcons -1.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With nothing left to play for, the Falcons would be wise to sit Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether those two will play out a full game in Week 17. The Buccaneers do get the edge based on trends: 6-1 ATS in their last 7 in December, 4-1 ATS in their last 6 overall, and 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 following an SU loss. Quarterback Jameis Winston is basically playing for his football life. A bad effort here could send him packing. The division rival Falcons would love to see the Bucs enter an off season of turmoil by sending them to the golf courses with tails tucked.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Falcons -1.5
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints -7.5
If I’m Sean Payton, I play my starters for at least a half. It could be difficult to come out with an edge in the Divisional Playoffs after sitting for 14 days.
When odds makers wait until the last minute to set a betting line, the only real thing to do is pick based on trends. The trends tell us the Saints cover no matter who starts at quarterback. New Orleans is 6-2 ATS in the last 8 meetings and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games. Saints cover in an easy effort against a Panthers team that has had a waste of a season.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Saints -7.5
New York Jets at New England Patriots -13.5
The Patriots control their own destiny. If they beat the Jets, they secure the #2 seed, get the bye, and host a playoff game. If they lose on Sunday, there’s a chance they fall to a wildcard.
New England won’t lose, but this is a ridiculous spread. The Jets are 7-3-1 ATS in the last 11 meetings while the Patriots are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 versus the AFC. NYJ knows how to keep it close against Tom Brady and New England even though they almost never win. They’ll cover in Week 17. Take the JETS. I can’t believe i just wrote that again.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Jets +13.5
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans -7.5
Houston’s gained a playoff berth in Week 16 even though the Eagles beat them. With a win, the Texans take the AFC South. A loss means that they’re destined for a wildcard berth while the Colts-Titans winner takes the South.
Jacksonville would like nothing more than to put a beating onto the Texans and force them to play next week. The Jags are 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 on the road, 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 versus the AFC South, and 2-7-2 ATS in their last 11, though. I’m backing Houston to win and cover against a Jaguars team that just wants to get this game over with and won’t care about the result.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Texans -7.5
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills -3
Neither one of these teams did enough to get to the postseason. Buffalo made some huge strides in the second half, though. Miami was a disappointment. Neither has much to play for. However, with a loss the Dolphins’ front office might question whether they should stick with Adam Gase.
That could motivate Miami. Both are awful ATS: Miami is 2-10 ATS in their last 12 on the road while Buffalo is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 at home, which is why I’m using the motivation factor to make my pick.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Dolphins +3
Philadelphia Eagles -6.5 at Washington Redskins
Even though Washington has no shot of getting to the playoffs, they can’t stay away from drama, right? The Redskins cut safety D.J. Swearinger on Dec. 24 after he criticized the coaches. How’s that for a Christmas present?
It’s another sign that Washington’s a mess of a franchise. The Redskins are in full implosion mode and it won’t get better in Week 17. Washington is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 in Week 17, 3-9 ATS in their last 12 versus the NFC East and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 versus the NFC.
Philadelphia’s got a lot to play for. If Chicago beats Minnesota and the Eagles win, they make it to the playoffs. Eagles all the way.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Eagles -6.5
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants -6.5
The Giants have said that Eli Manning will be their starting quarterback next season. Although they’ve said it, a terrible performance against Dallas could send Eli to the bench or onto the trading block.
The Cowboys will rest their starters. It’s hard to put too much faith in Dallas to win and cover. Also, the Giants have been hot against the spread, going 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 overall and 4-0-1 ATS in their last 5 versus the NFC. This is a team that will look to end on a high note, with or without Odell Beckham Jr.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Giants -6.5
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks -13.0
Seattle has a lot to play for on Sunday. Although beating Kansas City in Week 16 handed the Seahawks a wildcard, it didn’t hand Seattle the fifth seed. Whether the Bears win or lose, they’ll finish no worse than the third seed. If the Bears end up the second seed, the Rams end up the third seed.
Seattle wants the fifth seed so that they can go to Dallas and play the Cowboys in a week. They don’t want to battle the Rams for the third time in Los Angeles or take on the Bears at Soldier Field. Seattle will start Russell Wilson. They’ll also win and cover because they’ve gone 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 overall. They’re as hot as teams can be at this point in the season.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Seahawks -13.0
San Francisco 49ers at L.A. Rams -9.5
The Rams are in desperate need of a bye. The only way to get it is for L.A. to beat the San Francisco 49ers. It’s that simple. Win and get a bye and host a playoff game. Lose and host a playoff game against a top wildcard team: the Vikings, Seahawks, or Eagles.
The Rams should win, but it’s been hard for them to cover. Los Angeles will only beat the 49ers by a touchdown, maybe less, causing the fans at L.A. Memorial Coliseum to wring their hands for most of the 60 minutes.
This is also a big game for Nick Mullens, who has a lot to play for as a backup to Jimmy G next season. Mullens has proven that he’s a worthy starter in this league. The combination of Mullens and the 49ers selecting in the top-3 gives San Francisco a lot of buying power at the draft. A cover here won’t dent those chances. The Rams are too hard to bank on against a large spread like this, but they’ll get the win.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: 49ers +9.5
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers -14
In less than 24 hours, the Pittsburgh Steelers went from winning the AFC North to possibly missing the playoffs. Pittsburgh’s only shot of making the playoffs is to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and hope Cleveland upsets the Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers can’t get a wildcard. Either the Chargers or Chiefs will be the fifth wildcard while the Titans versus Colts winner gets the other wildcard. Pittsburgh must win the division and hope the Browns pull off the upset or they’re out. How’s that for irony?
The spread implies Pittsburgh definitely wins. They might not if they’re still down on themselves after losing to the Saints. Even if Pittsburgh does win, they won’t cover because the Bengals are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 on the road. Pittsburgh will do enough for the win, but that’s about it.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Bengals +14
L.A. Chargers -6.5 at Denver Broncos
The Chargers blew it in Week 16. LAC had a chance to get a game up on Kansas City because the Chiefs lost to Seattle, but they couldn’t beat the visiting Ravens. There’s an outside chance the Chargers win the AFC West and grab homefield advantage. The Raiders, their most hated rivals, must beat the Chiefs on the road, though.
Los Angeles can’t worry about what the Chiefs do. The trends point to a Chargers cover. LAC is 8-2-5 ATS in the last 15 in Denver, 9-2 ATS in their last 11 following a double-digit loss at home and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 on the road versus a team with a losing home record. It also helps that Denver looked pathetic on Monday Night against the lowly Raiders. This is not a Denver team that looks too interested in winning.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: LAC -6.5
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens -5.5
Baltimore must win to take the AFC North Division. There’s plenty of motivation there. But, they face a team that’s playing well. Cleveland has won 4-of-5. The Browns are 7-7-1 overall. A win puts them above .500. From their perspective, Cleveland has as much to play for on Sunday as the Ravens do. Moral victories are usually for suckers, but if you’re a Browns fan, a winning season is the late Christmas present you’ve been waiting your entire life for.
The trends are all over the place in this matchup. While Baltimore is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 overall, they’re also 1-5 ATS in their last 6 versus the AFC North, and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 at home. Cleveland is 1-5 ATS in the last 6 meetings, but 5-1 ATS in their last 6 following an ATS loss.
The Ravens’ should win. They’ll only win by 3.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Browns +5.5
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs -13.5
Although Kansas City should beat the Raiders and gain homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, they’ve fallen off a cliff when it comes to covering spreads. KC started the season going 7-0 ATS.
Since the blistering start, the Chiefs are 1-6-1 ATS in their last 8. Although that points to a Raiders cover, the trends still give Kansas City the edge. The Chiefs are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in Week 17, the home team is 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings, and the Raiders are 1-4 ATS in the last 5 in Kansas City. Andy Reid’s team wins and covers despite a lofty number.
NFL Week 17 Free Picks: Chiefs -13.5