LOS ANGELES, December 30, 2016 — As Christians and Jews celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, leatherheads are prepared for an intense holy week of professional football. There will be no staying out late on New Year’s Eve. 2017 starts with a bang. There are no games on any other night. All 16 NFL games are played on New Year’s Day.
For now, we play football. December football. January football. Win-or-go-home, do-or-die football.
For one last time, we repeat the battle cry of Minnesota Vikings Hall-of-Famer John Randall.
THIS. IS. WHEN. THE. BIG. DOGS. COME. OUT!
Super Bowl LI (51) is played on Sunday, February 5, 2017. The countdown to the game begins now. With everything on the line, here is the NFL 2016 Week 17 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern. The term NPI stands for games having no playoff implications.
Sunday, January 1, 2017, 1:00 p.m.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-1) — NPI. Marvin Lewis may be coaching his last game as rumors swirl of his firing. The players may try and rally around him, but the Ravens are the better team. Upset special, Ravens win outright.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-4.5) — NPI. Gus Bradley was fired, and Chuck Pagano may join him on the unemployment line. Despite a big win last week, the Jaguars are not going to go on the road and beat the Colts. Andrew Luck will tear them apart. Colts cover.
New England Patriots (-9.5) at Miami Dolphins — Last year the Patriots blew the top seed by losing at a Miami team that was not that good. This year the 13-2 Patriots could blow the top seed again because Miami is 10-5 with a very good defense. Adam Gase will send the house at Brady and try and knock him down often. Miami has already clinched a Wildcard, but a chance to move from the 6 seed to the 5 seed would give them an easier opening round game. Matt Moore is better than your average backup. Upset special, Dolphins win outright.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-6.5) — NPI. Both teams are reeling in what could be the final game for John Fox. Defenders are disobeying Mike Zimmer’s destruction. This could be a hideous game. Vikings win but fail to cover.
Buffalo Bills (-3.5) at New York Jets — NPI. Rex Ryan was just fired, and Todd Bowles may join him. Tyrod Taylor is being benched for EJ Manuel. Upset special, Jets win outright.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) — NPI. 13-2 Dallas has locked up home field, so Jason Garrett may barely play the starters if at all. The Eagles showed heart last week against the Giants starters, so they should win against the Cowboys’s backups. Eagles cover.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6) — NPI. The 10-5 Steelers are locked into the three seed and Mike Tomlin may rest the starters. Cleveland finally got a win for Hue Jackson, but consecutive wins is too much to ask. Steelers cover.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5) — NPI. The 8-7 Buccaneers are mathematically alive but realistically eliminated. A win would get the Buccaneers to 9-7, while the Panthers are a shell of their 15-1 team from last year. Buccaneers win but fail to cover.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-3) — NPI. A missed field goal is the difference between a division showdown and a meaningless game. 9-6 Houston is locked into the four seed and Bill O’Brien may wish to rest everyone. 8-7 Tennessee’s loss to previously 2-12 Jacksonville knocked them out of the playoff race. Marcus Mariota is out with a broken leg. Titans win but fail to cover.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (-7) — The 10-5 Falcons with a win will clinch a first round bye. A loss could force them to play a Wildcard game. The Saints are out, but Drew Brees could reach 5,000 yards passing for the fifth time. No other quarterback has done this more than once. Brees and Ryan could put on a shootout for the ages that could go down to the final play. At home in the dome, trust kicker Matt Bryant. Falcons win but fail to cover.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-1.5) — The 12-3 Raiders could get home field throughout the playoffs or drop all the way to the Wildcard. A win guarantees them a first round bye. However, Derek Carr is out with a broken leg and Matt McGloin is in. 8-7 Denver is out of the playoff race. The Broncos will see Wade Phillips unleash Von Miller and the defense. Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch will both play, and nothing motivates the Broncos like ruining things for the Raiders. Broncos cover.
Arizona Cardinals (-6) at Los Angeles Rams — NPI. Jeff Fisher is gone, while the Cardinals have finally seen their offense revived too late in the year. Bruce Arians still has more than enough firepower to beat the Rams. Cardinals win but fail to cover.
Kansas City Chiefs (-6) at San Diego Chargers — The Chiefs right now are a Wildcard but have a shot at winning the AFC West and a first round bye. The Chargers look impressive but find ways to lose. The Chiefs look boring but find ways to win. The Chiefs force turnovers. The Chargers commit them. Tyreeq Hill is a special teams gamebreaker for the Chiefs. Chiefs win but fail to cover.
Seattle Seahawks (-9.5) at San Francisco 49ers — The 9-6-1 Seahawks lost at home last week to move them half a game out of the first round bye. Right now they are the three seed but with a win and help could get the bye back. The 2-13 49ers may fire Chip Kelly. They can only beat the Rams, and the Seahawks are not the Rams. Seahawks cover.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (-7.5) — The Giants are locked in as the five seed Wildcard so Ben McAdoo may just give all of his players clipboards. The Redskins are in with a win and out with a loss. They are desperate, and could win against starters. They will win playing against backups. Redskins win but fail to cover.
Green Bay Packers (-3.5) at Detroit Lions — Both teams are 9-6. This one if for all the marbles. The winner takes the NFC North. The Lions could even vault up to the two seed and a first round bye with help. The loser could be a Wildcard but could miss the playoffs altogether depending on what Washington does earlier in the day. The Packers have won five straight. The Lions have lost two straight. Aaron Rodgers is clicking. The heard says take the Packers, but the heart says take the Lions. They have not won their division in 23 years, and Jim Caldwell’s team will show that sometimes nice guys finish first. Having home field helps. Upset special, Lions win outright.