LOS ANGELES, December 26, 2014 — The entire NFL regular season comes down to this. Week 17 is finally upon us. The AFC and NFC playoff scenarios feature a ton of possibilities. Five teams in the NFC could end up with home field advantage throughout the playoffs or tumble to a wildcard. Four teams in the AFC could get the final wildcard spot. Three of the four NFC divisions are on the line, including an NFC South showdown where the loser misses the playoffs entirely.
The AFC West has a critical showdown where both teams could miss the playoffs. The AFC North is on the line in a division that could send three teams to the playoffs. This week all 16 games are on Sunday during the day, with 13 of those games kicking off at 1:00 p.m. The battle for the top pick in the 2015 Draft is also up for grabs. As Hall o Fame defensive tackle John Randall reminds us, “This is when the big dogs come out!”
Welcome to the NFL 2014 Week 17 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
Sunday, December 28, 2014, 1:00 p.m.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-7.5) — Both 11-4 teams win the NFC North, a first round bye, and a shot at home field throughout the playoffs with a win. The loser tumbles to the wildcard. The Lions have not won in Green Bay since 1991. That streak will continue. Packers cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-9.5) — The Texans need a win and plenty of help to make the playoffs. They will take their frustrations out on the lowly Jaguars. Texans cover.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) — The winner of this game wins the AFC North. Cincinnati with a win has an outside shot at a first round bye. The loser is a wildcard. The Bengals will never get respect until they win games like this. Nothing will change. Steelers cover.
Indianapolis Colts (-7) at Tennessee Titans — Despite playing their worst game of the season last year, the 10-5 Colts are locked into the four seed. Normally a team would rest all their starters, but Chuck Pagano may play them a bit to make up for last week’s debacle. They may not need the starters against woeful Tennessee, who with a loss could get the top pick in the Draft. Colts cover.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-10) — The Browns began 7-4 but four straight losses eliminated them from the playoffs. Now they face an angry Ravens team who missed a chance to clinch last week and now need a win and help to get in. They will do their part. Ravens cover.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-4.5) — The Patriots have locked up home field throughout the playoffs and may rest their starters against a Bills team out of the playoffs and playing only to finish with a winning season. The Patriots are the better team, and the spread is low enough. Patriots cover.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-5.5) — Last year the Jets had nothing to play for, knocked Miami out of the playoffs, and saved Rex Ryan’s job. This year Ryan is a goner and Joe Philbin was told he is definitely coming back despite Miami being out of the playoff race. The Jest fought their guts out last week at home against New England, but the clock has finally run out on Ryan. A win gives Miami a winning season. Dolphins win. but fail to cover.
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-4) — Both teams will finish with a losing record but the winner takes the NFC South while the loser is out of the playoffs. The Falcons went on the road last week and dismantled the Saints. They should take care of business at home. Falcons cover.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-6.5) — The Bears are an absolute mess. Marc Trestman could be fired after the game and Jay Cutler could be done as well. The Vikings are slowly improving and Teddy Bridgewater has proven capable. Vikings cover.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5) — The loser of this game misses the playoffs. The Chargers are automatically in if they win while the Chiefs would still need help. The Chargers are the better team but the home field should be enough for the Chiefs to win, have both teams end up 9-7, and hope for the best. Chiefs cover.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (-2.5) — Three straight losses turned the Eagles from a 9-3 team with a shot at home field throughout the playoffs into a team missing them entirely. The Giants were eliminated ages ago but Tom Coughlin’s players keep fighting hard for him. It looks increasingly likely that Coughlin will not be forced into retirement by a Giants team that is very patient. His players will want to make that a certainty. Giants cover.
Dallas Cowboys (-6) at Washington — The Cowboys are at worst the three seed, and the chances of them getting the first round bye are very slim. They may rest players, especially Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray. Washington is a disaster. Jay Gruden and all three of his quarterbacks may be run out of town. Washington knocked Philadelphia out of the playoffs, but this Cowboys team is hard-nosed and focused. Cowboys win, but fail to cover.
New Orleans Saints (-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Saints lost at home last week to get knocked out of the playoff race. The Buccaneers with a loss could have the top pick in the 2015 Draft. Neither team has anything to play for but an angry Sean Payton may pull out all the stops to avoid a double-digit losing season. Saints win, but fail to cover.
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-12.5) — The Rams have been playing good defense but lapsed last week at home. The Seahawks with a win will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They will take care of business but the Rams defense may be just enough to allow a garbage touchdown to beat the spread. Seahawks win, but fail to cover.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-6) — Consecutive losses after an 11-3 start has most likely cost the Cardinals the NFC West and home field throughout the playoffs. The 49ers are out of the playoffs and Jim Harbaugh is gone after this game. The Cardinals could theoretically still be the top seed, but they do not have a quarterback. On the road, they will face in San Francisco exactly what they did in Seattle. 49ers cover.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-14) — The Broncos blew their chance at home field throughout the playoffs but still get a first round bye with a win here. A loss could force the Broncos to play on wildcard weekend. After a 0-10 start the Raiders have won three of five, but those wins were all at home. The Raiders last road game was a 52-0 loss. Tony Sparano is gone after this game. Last year in this game, the Broncos led 31-0 at halftime. This one may be just as ugly. Broncos cover.