Ramblin’ Fan’s NFL Picks and Predictions: Week 17


With the final week of the regular season upon us, we now have several teams with their tickets booked to the postseason. However, several critical ‘win-and-your-in’ games are set to make Week 17 one of the most exciting in recent memory.

What is the spread? In the gambling world, a “spread’ is a term used to handicap games by allowing a team to lose or win by a certain number of points while still winning for a bettor. If the Rams are +3 against the Seahawks, that means that the Rams could win outright or they could lose by two points and still be a victory for a bettor. In the same situation as above, the spread could also read as the Seahawks -3 which again would mean they have to win by three or more points to cover the spread.


Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-4)

Despite a combined 12-17-1, the Panthers and Falcons face off for a spot in the playoffs. The Panthers managed to barely squeak out a win against a banged up Browns team last week. Carolina did dominate time of possession thanks to a weak offensive attack they faced and an amazing rushing effort from Jonathan Stewart. Atlanta comes into this game with a lot of confidence, as they are undefeated within the NFC South with five of their six wins coming from the division. Atlanta’s defense turned out five sacks on a Saints team that is normally good at keeping Drew Brees off the ground. It’s hard to deny that the Falcons are not very good, but they are better than their NFC South counterparts this season. Falcons win 24-21 (Panthers cover)

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-8.5)

The Cleveland Browns started the season with a bang, but are ending it with a whimper. They team will be without Johnny Manziel and likely Brian Hoyer, turning to Connor Shaw. Cleveland has managed to keep their defense strong, but the team has completely fallen apart with the ball in their hands. The Ravens offensive line was completely decimated by the Texans last week, leading to Joe Flacco throwing three interceptions and getting sacked twice. Baltimore also couldn’t get a running game going with the team amounting 33 yards on 16 rushes. The Browns have imploded and are playing for nothing at this point. Ravens win 35-17 (Ravens cover)

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (+6)

No offense in the NFL has been as strong as the Dallas Cowboys as they have been near unstoppable lately. Since their bye in week 11, the Cowboys are averaging 32.5 points per game. Jay Gruden and RGIII put aside their differences long enough to torture Bradley Fletcher last week. The offense was still far from spectacular; it was really the Redskins defense that won the game for Washington. There is no doubt that the Cowboys should win this game, but the health of Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray need to take precedent so this could be closer than expected.  Cowboys win 42-20 (Cowboys cover)

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (+7.5)

The Colts got completely destroyed by the Cowboys last week and has seriously casted doubt on this team. Indy’s offense was terrible, especially the running game that averaged 0.1 rushing yards, while the defense allowed the Cowboys to complete 19 of 21 passes. The Titan season has been a complete wreck and almost unwatchable. Ken Whisenhunt will get to remold the offense with the quarterback they land at the top of the draft this season. The Colts are clearly going to bounce back by demolishing an inferior Tennessee team that is hoping to land the top pick in the offseason. Colts win 35-13 (Colts cover)

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-10)

More and more people have come around to where this Jaguars team is going. The offense looked promising, despite the offensive line looking feeble, and the defense has some pieces that could make them solid. The most exciting thing about the Texans this year has been seeing how Bill O’Brien schemes for the opposition. He managed to make Case Keenum looked serviceable and the defense made Joe Flacco look quite pedestrian. Houston is a team on the rise and if Ryan Mallett turns out to be the future at quarterback, this team can be real contenders next season. Texans win 24-17 (Jaguars cover)

San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5)

Perseverance was the only way to describe the Chargers efforts in week 16. San Diego was down by 21 at half only to squeak out a win in overtime. The Chargers need to tighten up defensively if they expect to slip into the playoffs next week, after allowing 350 rushing yards last week. If the Chiefs are going to slip into the playoffs they will need better play from their secondary. The cornerbacks are too short to provide a threat for bigger, more physical receivers. Kansas City’s offense does what it needs to, but the dependence on a flawed defense could spell an early offseason. The Chargers boast large receivers that can capitalize on the matchup outside. Chargers win 31-30 (Chiefs cover)

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-6)

The Jets showed what they can be this week by out-punching their weight class. New York played well defensively, and much more shockingly, offensively. Geno Smith completed 63 percent and tossing a touchdown while, arguably, outdueling Tom Brady. Though some may question Joe Philbin’s ability to lead a team, but there is no doubt that he has been a huge asset for Ryan Tannehill. The quarterback threw for a league high 396 yards and four touchdowns last week to guarantee a .500 record this season. The Jets organization is ready for turnover and the ‘Fins are playing to prove they are prepared to take the next step. The Dolphins defense will bring too much heat on Smith for the Jets’ offense to mount anything positive. Dolphins win 31-16 (Dolphins cover)

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-6)

It has become clear that it was not all Jay Cutler’s fault in the Windy City. The receivers dropped several passes and routinely ran sloppy routes which made Jimmy Clausen look worse than he was playing. The Bears have now lost four straight and there will be serious talk about who will lead this team moving forward. The Vikings are not the pushover that many expected them to be this season and that became obvious against Miami last week. Despite a 6-9 record, Minny has become stronger and stronger as the season progresses and tough they lack talent, Mike Zimmer has these guys playing well. The Vikings are not going to rollover in this game and with Cutler back in the starting lineup the Bears won’t protect the ball against the aggressive Vikes secondary. Vikings win 24-20 (Bears cover)

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-10.5)

A loss to the Raiders last week ended the Bills playoff aspirations, but this team is better off because they need to find more talent in the draft for their team. It’s also time for the Bills to determine what they have in E.J. Manuel and if he is their quarterback of the future. Though they were almost caught by the Jets in a trap game, this is one of the more balanced Patriots teams we’ve seen in some time. Tom Brady is spreading the ball as good as he ever has, the running game has become great at converting in the red zone and the defense has been solid. They deserve the top spot in the AFC they clinched this week. The Patriots will roll with Belichick likely resting players in the second half; this game will appear closer than it really is. Patriots win 35-28 (Bills cover)

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (-3)

It has become increasingly apparent that the Eagles flaws are catching up to them. Bradley Fletcher was exposed in the secondary and the erratic quarterback play caused the playoff-bound Philadelphia to lose to the lowly Redskins. It was certainly a chippy affair between the Giants and Rams last week, but it was the Odell Beckham Jr. show once again. OBJ tallied 148 yards with two touchdowns and has scored seven touchdowns in the four games that the Giants have won. The Eagles will need to think of something to shutdown OBJ, but it will be hard to hide their porous secondary against the top rookie in the league. Giants win 35-31 (Giants cover)

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4)

The Saints have been leaning on their offense for years, but with Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham struggling this season the defense was expected to help. The constantly bad defense has caused the Saints to miss the playoffs and go 3-5 at home this season. We all knew that the Buccaneers were bad, but the team tallied 109 offensive yards last week. To put that into perspective, five players rushed for more yards than the Bucs amassed last week. This team is lacking talent at almost every position. As bad as the Saints defense is, the Bucs offense is not going to scare anybody. Saints win 38-13 (Saints cover)

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-14)

The Raiders are putting the pieces together, going 3-2 in their last five games. Derek Carr has been learning on the job, but has looked like the best rookie quarterback in a talented class. Carr has thrown seven touchdowns and two interceptions during those past five games. Once again, the Broncos flaws have been exposed. The Bengals defense kept pressure on Manning causing his velocity issues to become apparent. The Broncos receivers also could not handle the physicality of the Bengals secondary, which is concerning considering the teams they will face in the playoffs. Denver will steamroll the Raiders, but the Broncos will not get an opportunity to fix their areas of concerns. Broncos win 48-24 (Broncos cover)

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-6)

Ryan Lindley is not a starting quarterback. That much is obvious after the Seahawks decimated the pivot, only allowing him to complete 40 percent of his passes. Arizona will make the playoffs, but they are doomed unless something changes. The running game was on point for the 49ers, but Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback not a running back. Until this team decides what their future is, Harbaugh and Kaepernick specifically, they are a boat without a direction. Don’t expect a pretty game when these two clash, but the 49ers defense should take advantage of Lindley. 49ers win 17-13 (Cardinals cover)

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-13)

The Rams need to be able to pressure the quarterback quickly because the aggressive secondary can be picked apart by an offense with time to work. That is what happened to the Rams against the Giants. New York’s offensive line kept Eli Manning safe and caused the defense to look paper thin. Offensively St. Louis was okay, but far from the quality the team will need to be a playoff contender. The Seahawks have looked unbeatable over the past five games and all roads through the NFC West now run through Qwest Field. This is far from a pretty way for the Rams to end their season, but they are always competitive within the division. Seahawks win 24-17 (Rams cover)

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-7.5)

The battle for the NFC North title will be the game of the week. The Lions defense has caught up with the offense and proves to be the worst matchup for the Packers this week. The Packers offense picked apart a lowly Bucs team last week, but they were non-existent when these teams met in Week 3. Both of these teams are playoff bound, but the NFC North title means more to the Packers. Making the postseason without that distinction will be a blemish on their season and they are playing at Lambeau, where they have been dominating all season. Packers win 35-31 (Lions cover)

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)

The Bengals schemed perfectly to defeat the Broncos last week, proving this team can beat anyone in the league if they keep their head on straight. Andy Dalton was not force to throw downfield, instead relying on the short game which allowed his receivers power their way through defenders. Once again the Steelers proved to be a great team when playing at home. This is especially true for Ben Roethlisberger who has 21 touchdowns and only three interceptions at Heinz Field this year. This AFC North battle is huge, but the Steelers have been amazing at home this season. Steelers win 28-27 (Bengals cover)