LOS ANGELES — Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Goodbye, 2019. Hello, 2020. Now back to the religion of football. For leatherheads, everything is on the line. NFL 2019 Week 17 is here, and it’s Happy Football Holidays for us all. This is the time of year when the very biggest of the big dogs come out. The 100th NFL regular season is almost totally in the history books.
Always on a Sunday…
The AFC and NFC playoff possibilities are on the board now that Week 16 is over. All 16 games during NFL 2019 Week 17 are played on Sunday. One game had earlier been on tap for New Year’s Eve. But for various reasons, including the possibility of poor TV ratings that night, they ended up slotting the entire week on Sunday only.
But the 2019 NFL football action won’t quite be complete. After playing mass quantities of games on Sunday, next come the Black Monday coach firings followed by the playoffs. No Happy Football Holidays for these coaches.
But now, back to the football trivia fun.
Quick highlight picks for NFL 2019 Week 17
Hello, Marshawn Lynch. The mercurial running back has come out of retirement and will play for the Seahawks in their winner-take-all NFC showdown with the 49ers.
Goodbye, Oakland. Although the Raiders played their final home game two weeks ago, this game is their final game as the Oakland Raiders. They begin the 2020 regular season as the Las Vegas Raiders.
Hello, bitter rivalries. The NFL leaves nothing to chance, and several years ago the league made a brilliant scheduling move. Every single game in the final week is a division rivalry game.
Goodbye, Monday Night Football. There is no Monday night game in the final week. As duly noted, every game during this week’s Happy Football Holidays fest is on Sunday. Monday Night Football will return with regular season games in a little over eight months from now. Pencil that in on your new 2020 calendars.
More football holidays surprises
Hello, Antonio Brown. The temperamental wide receiver worked out for the Saints this week. It would be his fourth team in 12 months.
Goodbye, Antonio Brown. The Saints did not sign him to a contract. Even if they did, he would probably not be allowed to play since the league is investigating sexual assault allegations against him.
Hello, Rooney Rule interviews. After Black Monday, several teams will immediately begin the search for coaches. For those looking to increase the league’s hiring in diversity and get an established coach, Riverboat Ron Rivera, Jim Caldwell and Marvin Lewis are all available. For those looking for a bold first-time gamble, Winston Moss is a possibility.
Goodbye, NFL package. Those wanting to cancel their DirecTV subscriptions for the next eight months without missing a single NFL game are free to do so. All playoff games are televised. That stretches out this year’s Happy Football Holidays into an Era of Good TV Feelings.
Hello, RGIII. With likely MVP Lamar Jackson getting some rest this week Robert Griffin III will be given a chance to show what he can do. Again.
Speaking of the Methuselah Complex…
Goodbye, quarterback class of 2004? Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger all want to continue playing. They may not have that option. This could be the final week we ever see these signal-callers play. All three of them have a chance of getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but none of them are first ballot locks.
Goodbye, 20 teams. After these games, only 12 teams will remain. The regular season will have ended, and the playoffs will be upon us.
Hello, football! Enough hyperbole. It is time for the most important games of the season to kick off. With that, here is the NFL 2019 Week 17 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
We start this weekend’s Happy Football Holidays promptly on…
Sunday, December 29, 2019, 1:00 p.m.
Cleveland Browns (-2.5) at Cincinnati Bengals —
Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs. No Happy Football Holidays this season for the Ohio Gang. The Bengals have secured the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. For these teams it’s all about Black Monday. Freddie Kitchens and Zac Taylor are both potential coach firings even though they are both in their first year. The Bengals fought hard last week in an overtime loss. The Browns, on the other hand, may lay down just to get Kitchens fired. Upset special, Bengals win outright.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-1) —
Normally the 10-5 Vikings would be heavily favored in this game against the eliminated Bears. However, the Vikings are locked into the six seed wildcard. This spread is based on the Vikings resting their starters. After getting thumped at home last week, it may be tempting to play them. But Mike Zimmer is a cooler head than that. Even with backups, his defense will not lay down at home. Mitchell Trubisky is not Aaron Rodgers. Vikings win.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1) —
Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs. But they are playing much better down the stretch. After starting 1-7, the Falcons went 5-2 down the stretch. The players are fighting to prevent Dan Quinn from becoming a Black Monday casualty. Jameis Winston keeps throwing touchdown passes to both teams. Upset special, Falcons win outright.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys (-11) —
The 7-8 Cowboys need to beat the already-eliminated Redskins and hope Philadelphia loses. In that scenario the Cowboys win the NFC Least. A team with everything to play for at home against a team with nothing to play for makes for a mismatch. Jerry Jones is on the verge of firing everyone. Expect the Cowboys to take their entire frustrating season out on the overmatched Redskins. No Happy Football Holidays this Sunday in The Swamp. Jason Garrett will probably be fired anyway on Black Monday, but Dak Prescott wants a mega-contract. This game could be over by halftime. Cowboys cover.
New Orleans Saints (-13) at Carolina Panthers —
The Panthers are already out. But the Saints are one of three teams who have a shot at home field throughout the playoffs. With everything on the line, they will put up points at a rapid clip against a depleted Carolina team that has fallen apart. However, the spread remains too high for a road team. If the Panthers have pride, a garbage touchdown could prove the difference. Saints win but fail to cover.
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-1.5) —
The 10-5 Bills are the much better team. But they are locked into the five seed wildcard and will rest starters. Buffalo has a good defense. The Jets have improved in recent weeks, but lack the talent to go on the road and win this one. Bills cover.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-15.5) —
Tom Brady has had some of his worst games against the Dolphins in December. The Patriots will come in with a 12-3 W-L record and the Dolphins are 4-11, but the Dolphins can somehow win. However, all of those Dolphins miracles happen in Miami. This game is in New England. The Patriots need a win to lock up the first round bye. New England’s offense is not what it was, and Brady is tired of hearing about it. He will take out this entire season’s frustrations on the Dolphins. Likewise, the Patriots will take out all of their past December Miami frustrations on the overmatched Dolphins. This game could get ugly very quickly. Patriots cover.
Green Bay Packers (-12.5) at Detroit Lions —
The Lions are out while the 12-3 Packers are one of three teams with a shot at home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even though the Lions are playing their third string quarterback, the spread is high for a road team coming off an emotional win at Minnesota. A garbage touchdown late is certainly a possibility, and Green Bay’s offense is not explosive enough to justify the spread. Packers win but fail to cover.
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5) —
The 11-4 Chiefs need a home win against the eliminated Chargers and a New England loss to secure a first round bye. Otherwise the Chiefs will be hosting a playoff game on wildcard weekend. This might be the final game for Philip Rivers with the Chargers, or with any team for that matter. The Chiefs have everything to play for and too much offensive firepower to doubt this outcome. Chiefs cover.
NFL 2019 Week 17, The Sunday-Only Edition continues on…
Sunday, December 29, 2019, 4:00 p.m.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) —
Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs, so no Happy Football Holidays for them. But that said, the Rams with a win can earn a winning season. They have more talent than the Cardinals and at home should take care of business. Rams cover.
Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) at New York Giants —
The 8-7 Eagles with a win over the eliminated Giants win the NFC Least. A loss and a Dallas win would knock the Eagles out altogether. Although Daniel Jones is starting, this could be Eli Manning’s final game. Pat Shurmur is a potential Black Monday casualty. The Eagles are playing better in recent weeks and after starting 5-7 have won three straight. The Giants gave the Eagles all they could handle in Philadelphia. Expect an inspired home crowd looking to eliminated hated rival. Eagles win but fail to cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-2) at Baltimore Ravens —
Normally the 13-2 Ravens would be heavy favorites at home, but John Harbaugh is resting the starters. The Ravens have locked up home field throughout the playoffs and are taking no chances. The 8-7 Steelers need to win and have Tennessee lose to make the playoffs. Backup Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph is injured, so third string quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges will have to take on the Baltimore defense. Even with some backups, Baltimore and the home crowd will be motivated to knock out their most hated rival. Upset special, Ravens win outright.
Tennessee Titans (-3.5) at Houston Texans —
8-7 Tennessee controls their own destiny. Win and they are a wildcard. Lose and they are most likely out. The spread is based on the assumption that the 10-5 Texans will rest the starters, but that may not happen. Houston still has an outside shot at moving up from the four seed to the three seed, although that rarely matters. Houston barely survived Tennessee two weeks ago and would rather not face them in the playoffs a third time. Gamble on the Houston starters playing. Upset special, Texans win outright.
Indianapolis Colts (-3.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars —
Both teams are eliminated, but three other AFC teams all care about the results of this game. The Jaguars are a mess. President Tom Coughlin was fired and owner Shad Khan may fire General Manager Dave Caldwell and Coach Doug Marrone as well after the game. Both teams are playing badly but the Colts have the talent edge. A win would get the Colts to 8-8. Colts cover.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-3.5) —
The 7-8 Raiders are actually alive for a playoff spot, barely. They need a win at the eliminated Broncos and losses by Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. The Broncos never need motivation at home to get ready for the Raiders. Putting the final dagger in their season is motivation enough. Also, Drew Lock has played well since he started last month. The Raiders will have to win without injured running back Josh Jacobs. While the logic favors the Broncos, emotion is a big part of football. The Raiders have played badly in big games this season, but in the last game they ever play as the Oakland Raiders, expect Jon Gruden to pull out all the stops. Upset special, Raiders win outright.
Our Happy Football Holidays conclude with one final game on…
Sunday, December 29, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
San Francisco 49ers (-3) at Seattle Seahawks —
This one is for all the marbles as the 12-3 49ers take on the 11-4 Seattle Seahawks. Whoever wins this game wins the NFC West. The loser drops to the five seed wildcard and will have to play all their playoff game son the road. While Seattle can still get a first round bye, their stunning home loss last week to Arizona left the top seed out of reach. The 49ers on the other hand with a win are automatically the top seed with home field advantage throughout the playoffs, regardless of what anyone else does.
The Seahawks went into San Francisco and knocked the 49ers from the unbeaten ranks in an overtime thriller. The Seahawks have the experience in big games. They are not going to lose two straight games at home. The spread may be an overreaction to the Arizona loss. Lastly, Beast Mode is back as Marshawn Lynch rejoins the Seahawks after again ending his retirement. Everyone else is tired from playing all season. As great as the 49ers defense is, a healthy, well-rested Lynch is a major test. Trust Russell Wilson over Jimmy Garoppolo based on experience. Upset special, Seahawks win outright.
The moral to this story: Get ready to enjoy your Happy Football Holidays on this upcoming, Sunday-only, NFL 2019 Week 17 marathon.
— Headline image: NFL 100th Season logo. Image courtesy NFL.com. Fair use in article highlighting 2019 NFL contests.