We’ve come to the end of the line.
Incredibly, Week 17 and the end of the NFL regular season is upon us, and like every team outside of the 12 NFL teams that are playoff bound, there’s so much I would have done differently, especially last week.
But, in the words of Mr. Sinatra, “regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.”
Overall, it’s been a good year, and hopefully with a solid Week 17 showing we can finish with a record above .500 and start 2017 off right.
First, of course, let’s check out last week’s picks
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 6-10 (Season Record – 117-116-5)
Straight Up – 10-6 (Season Record – 137-100-2)
Locks of the Week – 1-4 (Season Record – 45-39-2)
By far my worst week in the ‘Locks of the Week’ section. Sorry if I ruined anyone’s Christmas.
As always, here’s how we’ll break all of the games down this week.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or Tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
All spreads courtesy of CBS
No Way We Can Lose — Locks Of The Week
(3-12) Jacksonville Jaguars @ (7-8) Indianapolis Colts (-4.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Colts
If the Colts are to stay true to their Jekyll and Hyde season, they’ll have to beat the Jaguars this week after falling victim to the Raiders last weekend. As I wrote last week, I’ve only taken the Colts to beat the spread twice all year, but I’m betting the third time’s a charm against a Jaguars squad that’s disappointed all year.
(6-9) Carolina Panthers @ (8-7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have a slight chance at a playoff berth, while the Carolina Panthers’ disappointing season is mercifully coming to an end on Sunday afternoon.
One team will show up here, and I don’t think it’ll be Cam Newton and Co.
Doug Martin’s absence will hurt the Bucs, but not enough to change the outcome of this one.
(7-8) Buffalo Bills @ (4-11) New York Jets (+6) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Bills
Fare thee well, Rex.
This game is an audition for Bills interim coach Anthony Lynn and for backup quarterback and former Bills first round pick E.J. Manuel, which means these two have a lot at stake.
That, combined with the fact that the Jets are awful and have quit on their lame duck (hopefully) coach could make this a rout in favor of the visitors.
(6-8-1) Arizona Cardinals @ (4-11) Los Angeles Rams (+6) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Cardinals
Heading into 2017, we now have more questions than answers when it comes to the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards were seemingly positioned to be an NFC powerhouse for quite a while with a stout defense, solid head coach, and an aging but effective quarterback in Carson Palmer, but all of that is now in flux after an awful 2016.
All that being said, the Rams are still a much hotter mess than the Cards and I don’t think they have much of a shot in this game.
Cardinals win big.
(6-9) New Orleans Saints @ (10-5) Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Falcons
I just don’t see any way the Saints’ defense can stop Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense here. The Falcons can lock up a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win and I think they’ll do just that on the back of another offensive explosion.
Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense will certainly get theirs, but I’m counting on this one to be a blowout in the end for a far superior Falcons team.
(9-5-1) Seattle Seahawks @ (2-13) San Francisco 49ers (+9.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Seahawks
The Seahawks still have an outside shot at the No. 2 seed in the NFC and it’s all predicated on beating the San Francisco 49ers.
Needless to say, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.
Seahawks win big.
Feeling Pretty… Pretty Good
(13-2) New England Patriots @ (10-5) Miami Dolphins (+9.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Patriots
The Dolphins sure aren’t getting a lot of respect from oddsmakers here. The reason I’m taking the Pats here isn’t even because of the fact that it’s Matt Moore against Tom Brady — not that it doesn’t play into my decision ever so slightly.
The last time these two teams met was in Week 2 (Pats won, 31-24), when the Patriots were without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, so don’t factor the absence of Gronk into the equation here.
That day, Jimmy Garoppolo torched the Dolphins in the first half and cruised to a 24-0 lead before leaving the game with an injury. Ryan Tannehill, to his credit, returned the favor in the second half and put up 387 yards and 2 TDs on the afternoon when all was said and done.
Without Tannehill, there’s no chance the Dolphins can match that production through the air and keep pace with the Patriots.
They’ll rely on Jay Ajayi an awful lot in the early going to try to keep Tom Brady off the field, but I don’t think they’ll find much success against a Patriots defense that ranks third in yards allowed on the ground.
Note: Please direct all ‘but you took the Jets over the Pats on a smaller spread last week’ mail, here.
(1-14) Cleveland Browns @ (10-5) Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Browns
Straight Up – Steelers
No Big Ben, no Antonio Brown, no Le’Veon Bell plus no motivation for the Steelers to win means this one will stay tight until the end.
Think about this for a second — the Browns could actually end the NFL season on a winning streak.
I don’t think they will, but hey, ya never know.
(10-5) New York Giants @ (8-6-1) Washington Redskins (-7.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS – Giants
Straight Up – Redskins
The Giants will be playing their starters on Sunday, which makes the 7.5-point spread seem a little high for this game. Sure, the Redskins have their season/postseason hopes riding on a ‘W’, but does that mean they’ll blow out a division foe that’s playoff bound?
I think the G-Men keep things close but the Redskins get the win and secure their playoff berth later in the evening.
(11-4) Kansas City Chiefs @ (5-10) San Diego Chargers (+4.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS – Chargers
Straight Up – Chiefs
This one will be tougher on the Chiefs than many expect. I think that the Chargers will play their division rivals tough here and keep the game close.
Kansas City isn’t a team that can put you away offensively, so if Rivers and the rest of the offense can avoid turnovers they should be in it late with a chance to put the division out of reach for the Chiefs.
Heads or Tails
(3-12) Chicago Bears @ (7-8) Minnesota Vikings (-5.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Vikings
Has the Matt Barkley magic already worn off?
I think Barkley has already done enough to warrant a look as the Bears’ starter heading into training camp next year, but I think he struggles against the Vikings’ defense on the road here.
After a surprising 5-0 start to the year, it appears that the injuries to Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater were actually too much for this squad to overcome. 2017 should be a better year for the Vikes and they’ll head into it with a win over the Bears.
(8-7) Baltimore Ravens @ (5-9-1) Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Bengals
It’s been a disappointing year for the Bengals and it’s been a limp to the finish line for the Baltimore Ravens, who squandered their postseason chances with a brutal Christmas Day loss to the Steelers last weekend.
So, the question is, who wants it more in Week 17 with nothing to play for but pride?
I think the Bengals — in what could very well be Marvin Lewis’ last game coaching the team — find a way to get it done and send their season, and quite possibly their coach, out in style.
(9-6) Houston Texans @ (8-7) Tennessee Titans (-3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Titans
There’s a theme here, of teams having nothing to play for and this game falls right in line. The Texans are locked into the No. 4 seed and just need to stay healthy heading into the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Titans, without quarterback Marcus Mariota, are eliminated from playoff contention and also have nothing but pride on the line.
I like the Titans’ running game to push around a Texans team that’s probably looking ahead to a first round matchup with either the Chiefs or the Dolphins a Sunday from now.
(13-2) Dallas Cowboys @ (6-9) Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Eagles
Sure, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will start, but the question is, will they finish this game? I’m guessing they won’t, because there’s no point in risking an injury to their two best players and franchise cornerstones in a meaningless game against a division rival.
I think the Eagles get the best of the Cowboys and roll into the offseason on a high note.
(12-3) Oakland Raiders @ (8-7) Denver Broncos (-2.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Raiders
The Raiders have to assume that the Chiefs will beat the Chargers and that they’ll need to win this game to lock up their division. They’ll be looking at a date against the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos as their final major preparedness test before the playoffs begin and I think it’s one they’ll pass.
Matt McGloin won’t throw the ball more than 20 times and the Raiders will stifle an ineffective Broncos offense enough to grind out a low-scoring victory and secure their first AFC West title since 2002.
(9-6) Green Bay Packers @ (9-6) Detroit Lions (+3.5) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Lions
Here it is, folks; the game of the week and arguably the game of the season.
It’s hard not to look at the Lions’ results against teams that are over .500 (just one win this year against the Redskins) and say they’re simply not as good as their 9-6 record suggests; especially when you take into account the fact that they’ve had to beat a lot of mediocre teams with come-from-behind victories.
Still, outside of their extremely impressive win over the Seahawks in Week 14, the Packers have feasted on relatively mediocre opposition to get back into the playoff hunt as well.
Obviously the Packers are coming into this game on a six-game winning streak, but the Lions have home-field advantage, which is huge in this game that’s really the first playoff game of the year.
I think the Lions use that to their advantage and find a way to get past the Packers and win their first division title since 1993, when the NFC North was known as the NFC Central.
Yeah, it’s been that long. Going to be quite a party in the Motor City.
Speaking of parties, this season-long picks party has now officially come to an end. Sincere thanks to all who have read these pieces and stuck with my picks all year long.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.