LOS ANGELES, Jan. 2, 2016 — With everything on the line, the final week of the 2015 NFL regular season is upon us. Sixteen weeks of brutal competition have seen injuries devastate some stars and create stars out of new players.
Sunday brings football. Then comes Black Monday, where as many as half of the 32 NFL head coaches could be fired. Some teams already started the process.
There will be plenty of time to talk about the road to Super Bowl 50, but it starts with making the playoffs. As retired Minnesota Vikings Hall of fame defensive standout John Randle reminds football fans everywhere, “This is when the big dogs come out.”
With that, here is the NFL 2015 Week 17 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (-5.5) — Neither team is going to the playoffs. This may be the very last game in New Orleans for Sean Payton and Drew Brees after a decade of football excellence. The 6-9 Saints will play with emotion. The 8-7 Falcons want to end the season with a winning record, but Coach Payton will pull out all the stops. Upset special, Saints win outright.
New York Jets (-2.5) at Buffalo Bills — The 10-5 Jets will be gift-wrapped a chance to make the playoffs and they will mess it up. Rex Ryan badly wants to eliminate his former team and also to get to 8-8. Terry Pegula announced that Ryan will be back next year. The Bills beat the Jets in New York and will beat them again at home in Buffalo. Upset special, Bills win outright.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (Pick) — This game has no playoff implications, and Jim Caldwell could be fired after the game. The Lions have gone 5-2 since their 1-7 start, but the Bears at home should close the season with a win. Bears win.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-9.5) — The Bengals have not played well in recent weeks, but they finish at home against a terrible Baltimore team. Baltimore beat Pittsburgh last week, but that was in Baltimore. The Bengals still have a shot at a first round bye. Even with A.J. McCarron filling in for Andy Dalton, the 11-4 Bengals will win at home easily. Bengals cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-10.5) at Cleveland Browns — The 9-6 Steelers (9-6) are desperate. If they win and the Jets lose, the Steelers are in the playoffs as the six seed Wild Card. Any chance of a Browns win went out the window with the announcement that Johnny Manziel is out with a concussion. Austin Davis will start and Mike Pettine may be fired after the game. Steelers win but fail to cover.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys (-4) — At 8-7, Washington won the NFC East and are locked into the four seed. They are only facing the 4-11 Cowboys, but there are three factors. The game is in Dallas. Washington may rest everyone. The Cowboys will play like Jerry Jones is preparing to fire anyone and everyone. He is, and they will respond. Cowboys win but fail to cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-6.5) — The Jaguars are done and the 8-7 Texans have clinched the AFC South and the four seed. Technically they are only 99.97 percent guaranteed to go to the playoffs, but that is enough. Gus Bradley got the word from Shad Khan that he will be back next year despite a 5-10 record. The Texans may rest, everybody. Texans win but fail to cover.
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-6) — The Colts are 99.97 percent eliminated from the playoffs at 7-8. Chuck Pagano will almost certainly be fired after the game. The Titans with a loss will own the top pick in the draft next year. They will also have a new coach. Marcus Mariota and Andrew Luck both end the year out injured. Colts cover.
New England Patriots (-10) at Miami Dolphins — Tom Brady even during his Super Bowl years has played some of his worst football games against the Dolphins. In 2004 the 12-1 Patriots lost at the 2-11 Dolphins. Now for the reality check. The 12-3 Patriots are angry and will lock up the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs with the win. The Dolphins have quit and will have a new coach next year. Patriots win but fail to cover.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (-3.5) — Both 6-9 teams are out of the playoffs. The Eagles already fired Chip Kelly while Tom Coughlin may be out after one year as Giants coach and two Super Bowl rings. The Eagles are a mess, while Eli Manning and the rest of the team will do everything they can to save Coughlin. Giants cover.
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5) — The 13-2 Cardinals have already clinched a first round bye. They have a shot at stealing home field throughout the playoffs. The 9-6 Seahawks are in the playoffs as a wild card and will have only road playoff games. Seattle is heading into a buzzsaw. The Cardinals beat the Seahawks in Seattle and will beat them again at home unless Bruce Arians rests his starters. Cardinals win but fail to cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-10.5) — The Panthers saw their unbeaten season end and at 14-1 still have not locked up home field throughout the playoffs. Angry and at home, they will destroy 6-9 Tampa Bay to pieces. Panthers cover.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-9) — At this moment the 11-4 Broncos are the two seed with a first round bye. They lead the AFC West by one game but have not clinched their division. They could get home field throughout the playoffs or fall as far as a wild card playing only road games. San Diego is a mess, but Denver is winning with defense. Brock Osweiler is not Peyton Manning, and Denver has won ugly all year. Mike McCoy may be coaching his final game. Broncos win but fail to cover.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-7) — In 1999, the 7-8 Oakland Raiders went into Kansas City and knocked the 9-6 Chiefs out of the playoffs. This is not 1999. This year the 10-5 Chiefs beat the 7-8 Raiders in Oakland. Neither offense is playing well, but the Chiefs’ defense will get the job done at home. The Chiefs have won nine straight games and still have a shot at winning their division to get a home playoff game. Chiefs win but fail to cover.
St. Louis Rams (-3) at San Francisco 49ers — Both Jeff Fisher and Jim Tomsula could be fired after this game for different reasons, but both will most likely survive. The 49ers are a dumpster fire. The Rams are 7-8 and have won three straight down the stretch. They will get to .500 and respectability. Rams cover.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-3) — Both teams are 10-5 and the winner of this game takes the NFC North. Green Bay went into Minnesota and smacked them around a few weeks ago. Going into Green Bay and getting a win is too much to ask of the Vikings for a Week 17 showdown. Packers cover.