Jan. 05, 2018
NFL Week 17 Preview and Predictions
Week 17 Headlines
Packers Blunder?: Multiple teams complained to the NFL last week that the Packers violated the rules regarding players who are eligible to be placed on injured reserve -- and that Green Bay should have to release quarterback Aaron Rodgers as a result
Harrison to Patriots: James Harrison, a longtime member of the Steelers and winner of two Super Bowls while in Pittsburgh, is switching his allegiances. Harrison has signed on with the Steelers chief rival, the New England Patriots.
Fantasy Football Start Em/Sit Em
Starting Quarterbacks: Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo
Sitting Quarterbacks: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Ben Roethlisberger
Starting Running Backs: Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Alex Collins, Marshawn Lynch
Sitting Running Backs: Jay Ajayi, Leonard Fournette, Tevin Coleman
Starting Receivers: T.Y. Hilton, Marquise Goodwin, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones
Sitting Receivers: Amari Cooper, Tyreek Hill, Robert Woods, Alshon Jeffery
Starting Tight Ends: Jack Doyle, Antonio Gates, Charles Clay, Vernon Davis
Sitting Tight Ends: Jared Cook, Cameron Brate, Austin Hooper, Tyler Kroft
Starting Defenses: Patriots, Ravens, Steelers
Sitting Defenses: Panthers, Rams, Bears
Packers vs. Lions: With both teams out of the playoff hunt, only pride will be on the line. Mike McCarthy has done his best with the hand he’s been dealt, but I have to side with the home team for this one. With the defense and running games both below average, this comes down to which quarterback you trust more. I’ll take Stafford over Hundley and the Lions over the Packers.
Bears vs. Vikings: With a first-round bye to claim, the Bears shouldn’t expect much mercy from the Vikings. The Bears will try to keep things close with their front seven and gradually improving rookie quarterback. However, Minnesota is clearly the better team by a wide margin. The Vikings defense is big, fast, and physical at every position. They’ll have no trouble shutting down the Bears running game and forcing them to win via the pass. Meanwhile, Case Keenum is a step above game manager and should put his team in a position to win. Look for the Vikings to win this game.
Texans vs. Colts: Both teams will limp into the offseason. As far as this game goes, the Colts are the healthier team and will probably win the game. Also, this could be Chuck Pagano’s final game as the Colts head coach.
Browns vs. Steelers: I wrote last week was the final chance for the Browns to win a game. I may have spoken prematurely. It’s hard to tell how many Steelers will suit up for this game. While Pittsburgh has guaranteed themselves a first-round bye, they’re still technically in the mix for the AFC’s top seed. So I’d expect them to at least play a strong half of football. And if they see the Patriots are pulling away from the Jets, they’ll likely pull their starters at some point. So the question is if the Browns can survive long enough and then beat the Steelers backups. The answer is no. They will achieve perfect imperfection and complete the third winless season in NFL history.
Jets vs. Patriots: Since the Patriots need this game to secure the AFC’s top seed, they’ll likely attack the Jets with all they have. The Jets have put in a valiant effort all season, but they won’t beat the Patriots on Sunday.
Redskins vs. Giants: Washington is one of the most beaten up teams in the league, but at least they’re not falling apart and leaking locker room business to the public. With a .500 record on the line, that at least gives them a goal to shoot for. With the recent Giants drama, I wouldn’t be surprised if some players mentally have one foot on a beach somewhere. In a close game, I expect a few Giants mental blunders to give the Redskins a win.
Cowboys vs. Eagles: With the Eagles secured as the NFC’s top seed and the Cowboys locked into an early vacation, neither team has anything to play for. I do expect the Eagles to play their starters for at least a half after their lackluster performance against Oakland on Christmas. They struggled against a mediocre team. The offense needs some positive momentum entering the postseason. In the end, I expect the Cowboys to play their starters the whole way. And that should be enough to eventually win by attrition alone.
Jaguars vs. Titans: It’s really simple for Tennessee. If they can defeat the Jaguars, they’ll be going to the postseason Jacksonville, on the other hand, have already secured their spot and their seeding. Unfortunately for the Titans, I expect the Jaguars to go all in for this game. They were embarrassed by the 49ers last week and likely don’t want to enter the postseason on back to back losses. Furthermore, there’s a good chance the Jags will see the Titans in the wildcard should they lose to them. Anyways, the Titans’ best asset is their running game. All the way back in Week 2, the Titans ran the Jags over in a blowout victory. The Jags cannot allow that to happen again. They must force an inconsistent Marcus Mariota to beat them. And since Mariota is good for a turnover or two, I’m picking Jacksonville to win.
Bills vs. Dolphins: The Bills need a win and a lot of help to secure a postseason berth. Miami won’t be a pushover even if their playoff hopes are lost. The Dolphins defense played well against the Chiefs despite the misleading score. Miami will have the ability to shut down LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor. Also, Jay Cutler has at least one good game left in him. The Dolphins will simply be able to get into scoring position more consistently, so I’ll pick them to win the game.
Bengals vs. Ravens: Cincinnati has already played the spoiler after bringing the Lions season to an end. So the Ravens should tread carefully and not assume this game will be easy. Furthermore, the Bengals have won six of their last eight games against Baltimore. For the Ravens, it’s a simple scenario for the playoffs. They win and they’re in. If the Bills or Titans lose, they’re still in. While Baltimore has a lot of issues, the defense is still one of the top units in the league. Andy Dalton can be forced into making mistakes. While the Bengals defense can make games ugly, I’m actually expecting a good performance from Joe Flacco. He usually ups his play during this time of year. So look for Baltimore to secure their playoff spot with a win.
Raiders vs. Chargers: The Chargers are yet another team that needs to win and gets some help to secure a playoff spot. They’re playing against the most disappointing team of the season in the Raiders. Oakland saw regressions from Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, the offensive line, and got just about nothing from their defense. The one wild card in this game is the fact that this game will be a de facto home game for the Raiders; who will be playing their first game in LA in 23 years. But even if they’re able to feed off of the crowd, the Raiders don’t have the weapons to stop Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense. And given the offensive inconsistencies of the Raiders, I cannot trust them to win this game.
Cardinals vs. Seahawks: The Seahawks need a win and a Falcons loss to make the playoffs. But if we’re being completely honest, this year’s edition of the Seahawks isn’t a playoff team. Offensively, they’re Russell Wilson or bust. Defensively, they’re too beaten up to compete at the playoff level. I expect Arizona to give Seattle a tough game. The Cards still have a stout defense with a front seven that can harass Wilson all day. Meanwhile, their offense isn’t afraid to take shots. I expect it to be a close game, but I still think Seattle escapes to keep their playoff hopes alive.
49ers vs. Rams: The Rams have already announced they’re resting their starters. So expect Jimmy Garoppolo to win another game for the 49ers.
Chiefs vs. Broncos: Rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes will make his NFL debut, and it won’t be easy against the Denver defense. With the Chiefs resting up for the playoffs, Mahomes will be surrounded by backups. He’ll probably show flashes, but the Broncos defense is a tough way to start a career. This all comes down to the Broncos offense. If they don’t ruin the game for their defensive teammates, the Broncos should be able to win the game.
Saints vs. Buccaneers: New Orleans needs to win to clinch the NFC South and the home game that comes with it. The Buccaneers have upped their play, but the same problems constantly plague them. Whether it’s a missed field goal or Jameis Winston turnovers, they always find a way to lose the game. When the Saints are running the ball well and can remain balanced on offense, there are few if any teams that can defend them. And against a Bucs team that lacks playmakers on defense, the Saints should have no trouble moving the ball. New Orleans will win and play at home the following week in the playoffs.
Panthers vs. Falcons: Atlanta needs a win or a Seattle loss to clinch a playoff spot. They haven’t done anything this year to shed the choker label given to them after the Super Bowl, but they have a chance to show they can still win big games. Carolina will be playing for a shot at the NFC South title and will likely play their starters for the entire game. The Falcons have the advantage of playing indoors and at home. Since they’re the faster team, it should favor them. Furthermore, the Panthers are a bit of a rollercoaster. Some weeks they look average while others they look unbeatable. There’s really no telling which team will show up ahead of time. The Falcons have the offensive weapons and the speed on defense to win this game. But in the end, this comes down to intangibles. With all the chips on the table, can the Falcons play a complete game? I believe they cling to a close victory over the Panthers on Sunday to secure a trip to the playoffs.