NFL Picks — Week 17

Can the Raiders upset the Chiefs in Charles Woodson's final game? (Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)Can the Raiders upset the Chiefs in Charles Woodson's final game? (Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

WEEKLY NFL PICKS – 2015 WEEK 17

Last week: 8-7

Season record: 39-38-4

So let’s close out 2015 with a winning record, shall we? Heading into it, DA’s NFL spread picks are a hair over .500 at 39-38, so here’s to a happy and healthy New Years, and even better picks. Also, one minor caveat, and yes, it may seem like a bit of a cop-out, but Week 17 warrants it. One game pick will be contingent upon what happens in a game that affects it, which would be the Sunday Night game in relation to the Seattle-Arizona tilt in the late afternoon:

1 PM GAMES

BALTIMORE at CINCINNATI (-9.5)

Series history: Ravens lead 20-19

Streaks/notes: Bengals have won 4 straight, 8 of last 10 at home

So the Ravens have been reduced to spoilers. That was just fine for them last week, with Ryan Mallett coming out of nowhere to slay the red-hot Steelers. Look for another spirited effort from Mallett, who is auditioning for a backup role in Baltimore (or even a starting role elsewhere), while the Bengals know that even a win likely won’t earn them a first-round bye. PICK: RAVENS

DETROIT at CHICAGO (EVEN)

Series history: Bears lead, 96-70-5

Streaks/notes: Lions have won 5 straight

Somehow, even though both teams are 6-9, the Bears are a putrid 1-6 at Soldier Field. At some point, they should break through for a win, and what better time than now with their bags packed after another lost season. The Lions are left wondering what if after a series of brutal losses last year, and might be a little out of steam. PICK: BEARS

JACKSONVILLE at HOUSTON (-6.5)

Series history: Texans lead, 16-11

Streaks/notes: Texans have won 3 straight

Technically, the AFC South race is not over. But really, it is, given the Colts’ approximate 3,326/1 odds of winning football’s sorriest division. That means that even a Texans loss and Colts win won’t matter, so after keeping an eye on some early scores, Bill O’Brien may decide to rest some players. The Jags have nothing to play for except what would be their best season (6-10) since 2010. PICK: JAGUARS

NEW ENGLAND (-10) at MIAMI

Series history: Dolphins lead, 52-48

Streaks/notes: Patriots have won 2 straight; Dolphins have won 2 straight at home

Really, this one should be over before it starts. The Pats knew they could cruise a little bit last week with the Dolphins on the schedule in Week 17. Miami is a sad, sorry, dysfunctional mess with one eye on this week’s tee times at the nearby golf courses. In a game New England needs to lock up the AFC’s top seed yet again (it is the Pats’ sixth straight playoff bye), Miami doesn’t stand a chance, especially given that Tom Brady and Co. have lost their last two visits to South Florida. PICK: PATRIOTS

NEW ORLEANS at ATLANTA (-5.5)

Series history: Falcons lead, 49-44

Streaks/notes: Saints have won 1 straight

Is this the end of the line for Sean Payton? Maybe even Drew Brees? The Saints would like to end what has still been the franchise’s most successful era by far with a win over the rival Falcons. In mid-October, New Orleans dealt Atlanta its first loss after a 5-0 start. It’s also fair to wonder if the Falcons will have the same emotional energy after taking down the 14-0 Panthers last week. PICK: SAINTS

NEW YORK JETS (-3) at BUFFALO

Series history: Bills lead, 59-51

Streaks/notes: Bills have won 4 straight

For all the ranting and raving we’ve done about how this year feels destined for yet another Steelers-Patriots AFC title showdown, Bill Belichick may have helped prevent that by kicking off to the Jets last week in overtime. That means a win-and-in scenario in Buffalo for the Jets, which conjures up memories of the Chad Pennington-led Dolphins in 2008. Despite all the conspiracy theories, here’s thinking (hoping, actually) the Jets stick it to old friend Rex Ryan, not the other way around. Ryan Fitzpatrick wouldn’t mind beating one of his former teams, either. PICK: JETS

PHILADELPHIA at NEW YORK GIANTS (-3.5)

Series history: Giants lead, 84-79-2

Streaks/notes: Eagles have won 3 straight, and 7 of last 8 at New York

It seemed last week like the Giants had packed it in, but Odell Beckham Jr. is back and might have one more monster game left in him. Speaking of packing it in, the Eagles had already done that under the now-fired Chip Kelly, so what is left to play for? The Giants should be the more motivated bunch to avoid playing the Rams in London next season. PICK: GIANTS

PITTSBURGH (-11) at CLEVELAND

Series history: Steelers lead, 69-58

Streaks/notes: Steelers have won 1 straight, are 28-6 vs. Browns since their return to NFL in ’99

It truly doesn’t matter if the Browns started Bernie Kozar in his prime at quarterback, because the Steelers will be seething after being stunned by the Ravens last week. That’s bad news for Austin Davis as he takes over for the concussed Johnny Manziel. Expect Big Ben and Antonio Brown to go off on the hapless Browns, likely playing their final game under head coach Mike Pettine. PICK: STEELERS

TENNESSEE at INDIANAPOLIS (-6)

Series history: Colts lead, 28-14

Streaks/notes: Colts have won 8 straight, 13 of 14

“So you’re saying there’s a chance?” Cue Lloyd Christmas’ naivety on Indy’s playoff chances, which ESPN calculated at 3,326-to-1. Well, better than nothing, right? The Colts should somehow find a way to end this sorry season at 8-8, but with the likes of Josh Freeman, Ryan Lindley, or Stephen Morris probably starting at QB, it won’t be easy. PICK: TITANS

WASHINGTON at DALLAS (-3.5)

Series history: Cowboys lead, 66-43-2

Streaks/notes: Cowboys have won 2 straight

These games are never fun to pick. Washington is locked into the No. 4 seed, meaning plenty of rest for its regulars. The Cowboys have been a joke since Tony Romo went down, but with more healthy bodies on the field and a nice nugget of possibly sweeping their archrivals in the cards, they should get to 5-11. PICK: COWBOYS

4:25 PM GAMES

OAKLAND at KANSAS CITY (-7)

Series history: Chiefs lead, 59-52-2

Streaks/notes: Chiefs have won 2 straight

This is the final game in the storied career of Charles Woodson, so it’s possible Oakland has another spirited effort to give in an attempt to get to .500. Woodson spoke emotionally about his team’s playoff chances dissipating with a 34-20 loss to Kansas City in Week 13, but the Chiefs, winners of nine straight after a five-game losing streak, could be ripe for an upset. They have been barely getting by against mediocre teams, but are still alive for the AFC West crown. If nothing else, this one will be a tight one as Woodson rides off into the sunset. PICK: RAIDERS

ST. LOUIS (-3.5) at SAN FRANCISCO

Series history: 49ers lead, 65-64-3

Streaks/notes: Rams have won 2 straight

The Rams may have yet another year in St. Louis to look forward to, and Jeff Fisher still has a job despite a 12th-straight non-winning season. The Rams would love to get to .500 (which they haven’t done since 2006), and the 49ers are 0-5 against division foes in 2015. Still, something tells us this won’t be easy for the Rams, especially coming off an uplifting upset win over Seattle. PICK: 49ERS

SAN DIEGO at DENVER (-9)

Series history: Broncos lead, 62-49-1

Streaks/notes: Broncos have won 4 straight, 8 of 9, but in 9-game span have a -6 point differential

Denver likely won’t be alive for the top seed so long as the Patriots dispatch of the pathetic Dolphins in the early games, but it will need a win against San Diego to nail down the AFC West, which would be accompanied with a first-round bye. It was nice to see the Broncos come up big in the second half and overtime last Monday night after three straight second-half gooseeggs, and for as hard as Philip Rivers and Danny Woodhead are trying, the Bolts may not have much left in what very well could be their last game as the San Diego Chargers. PICK: BRONCOS

SEATTLE at ARIZONA (-6.5)

Series history: Cardinals lead, 17-16

Streaks/notes: Cardinals have won 1 straight

With Carolina also kicking off at 4:25, the Cardinals won’t be able to rest players as they hold out hope of grabbing the NFC’s top seed. Bruce Arians has said he’ll play to win no matter what, and we’re inclined to believe the man that may just take home his third Coach of the Year award in four seasons. Still, a runaway seems unlikely against a hot Hawks team that is looking to bounce back after being shocked by the Rams last Sunday. PICK: SEAHAWKS

TAMPA BAY at CAROLINA (-11)

Series history: Panthers lead, 19-11

Streaks/notes: Panthers have won 5 straight

Carolina’s undefeated season is a thing of the past, so now Ron Rivera’s team gets to try and bounce back for the first time in 2015. Tampa Bay has been fading fast after being in the hunt through November, but with the No. 1 seed still at stake and facing adversity for really the first time this year, it may be a struggle for Carolina even though they should become just the sixth 15-1 team in NFL history. PICK: BUCCANEERS

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

MINNESOTA at GREEN BAY (-3)

Series history: Packers lead, 59-49-2

Streaks/notes: Packers have won 5 straight (including 1 tie)

Okay, so here’s where things get tricky. Remember our article on “tanking” in the NFL and sports in general? The outcome, and how both coaches approach this game that will decide the NFC North, very well may hinge on the result of the Seahawks-Cardinals game. Neither team should want to face Seattle, even at home, with a trip to Washington the better alternative. That means that if Seattle loses, a Minnesota win gives them the division, but also a date with the Hawks. The Packers would automatically be the No. 5 seed with a loss and play Washington, but would also play the Seahawks by winning the North if Seattle loses its game with Arizona. Green Bay did beat Seattle this year, but that was in Week 2 when Kam Chancellor was still holding out. So it would actually be detrimental to BOTH teams to win in a sense if Seattle loses. If Seattle wins, Green Bay would have more incentive to get a home game, while Minnesota might be inclined to rest some players and get ready to play the Redskins. Also, on a side note, in addition to the Broncos, the Packers have a chance to become just the third (and possibly fourth) team since realignment to lose all three division home games and win all three on the road. The 2007 Panthers and 2011 Broncos are the others. PICK: VIKINGS (if Seattle wins; Packers if Seattle loses)

UPSET CANDIDATES

We had some luck in this department last week, with three of our four candidates winning straight up, so we’ll give it another crack this week.

1. BILLS over JETS. This one would help the Steelers out in a major way, so it’s certainly possible. Buffalo won the first meeting, 22-17, on a Thursday night in November. The Jets are the team with all the pressure on it.

2. VIKINGS over PACKERS. Obviously, as mentioned above, this will hinge on what happens with Seattle and Arizona. But if the Vikings are serious about this division title thing, they might just get it. Green Bay looked awful in Arizona last week, and really have not beaten many big-time foes this year (although they did dust the Vikings in late November, 30-13). The Packers have already lost at home to the Lions and Bears this year, so why not the Vikings too?

3. SAINTS over FALCONS. By no means would this be a big upset, but maybe the perception is that Atlanta deserves a better playoff fate after beating Carolina last week. Not really, because the Falcons were rolling at 6-2 before losing five of six. You can never totally count out Drew Brees and Sean Payton, especially in what might be their final game together.

4. RAIDERS over CHIEFS. This won’t be nearly as big an upset if the Chiefs catch a glimpse of the scoreboard and see the Broncos running away from the Chargers in Denver. That could prompt some personnel changes from Andy Reid, and give the Raiders a better chance a win to get to .500 in Charles Woodson’s last hurrah. It’s also worth pondering whether Woodson might get another crack on offense after losing three yards on his only career rushing attempt last Thursday night.

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