OK, so Week 17. Who’s playing? Who’s sitting? Who knows? Good luck picking winners in games when you don’t know who’s playing and what their motivation is. There are four or five games that have actual playoff implications Sunday, but there’s plenty for the players to compete for, a lot of coaches needing good showings and a draft order to be set.
Week 16 record: 7-9
2016 record: 140-98-2
Week 17 Cheat Sheet trivia question
Tom Bradyneeds three-plus passing touchdowns and zero interceptions to post the best single-season TD-INT ratio in NFL history. He currently has 25 TD and two interceptions, trailing only whose performance from the 2013 season as the best of all-time? (Answer below the picks.)
Sunday: Ravens at Bengals
There are few coaches in the league I respect more than John Harbaugh, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Ravens took a while to get into this one Sunday. Losing the way they did a week ago, with everything on the line, it might be a bit slow out of the gates for the Ravens in Cincinnati. I’ll take the Bengals at home.
The pick: Bengals 23, Ravens 17
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Sunday: Texans at Titans
The good news in Tennessee is this is a team that fought hard and showed real signs of a franchise trending upward. The bad news is that it will be another four to six months before Marcus Mariota is fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered last weekend. Houston is locked into the No. 4 playoff seed, has absolutely nothing to play for and should not show anything it hopes to reveal in its opening-round playoff contest. I wouldn’t even play Tom Savage. Give me Tennessee and Matt Cassel at home.
The pick: Titans 31, Texans 16
Sunday: Panthers at Buccaneers
I’ll be on the sideline for FOX on this one and have to assume Raymond James Stadium will have an entirely different vibe than when I was there three weeks ago for the Bucs’ game against the Saints. Tampa Bay had won four straight, was riding high and all was good. The past two weeks couldn’t have gone much worse. The Bucs are without both Doug Martin and Charles Sims for this one. Tampa Bay could come out and end the season on a high note, but I think the Panthers get them best of them.
The pick: Panthers 27, Buccaneers 23
Sunday: Browns at Steelers
The Browns are playing for just about everything and the Steelers are playing for quite literally nothing. I loved the way Hue Jackson got his boys to fight last week, when just about everyone penciled them in for 0-16. They’ll get win No. 2 on Sunday. Break up the Browns!
The pick: Browns 26, Steelers 21
Sunday: Cowboys at Eagles
Same deal as the game above. Jason Garrett may go with Dak Prescott the whole way or get Mark Sanchez in there for the second drive. Either way, I like the fight I saw in the Eagles a week ago and don’t see them letting the Dallas backups serve them an L in their building. Carson Wentz led by 10 points in Dallas in the second half two months ago. He gets the job done — albeit against the Dallas second units —Sunday.
The pick: Eagles 34, Cowboys 13
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.AP
Sunday: Bills at Jets
The Jets haven’t exactly risen to the occasion and rallied for their head coach the past few weeks. Buffalo lost a bad one Saturday, but all eyes — front office, ownership, interim coach and potential incoming coaches, included — will be on them in this one. Whether it’s EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor, J.P. Losman or Frank Reich under center for Buffalo, I don’t see the Jets team I’ve seen the past four weeks (49ers victory, included) winning Sunday.
The pick: Bills 20, Jets 10
Sunday: Bears at Vikings
It’s been a trying year for the Vikings, and I’m sure no head coach can use a vacation more than Mike Zimmer at this point. But this squad is made up of some veterans with a whole lot of pride. They’re not going out as losers. Not at home, anyway. Vikings rally and win.
The last time Jacksonville won in Indianapolis was Week 3 of the 2012 season, but the Jags are already 1-0 over the Colts this year. Could they sweep Indy for the first time since Peyton Manning missed the 2011 season with a neck injury? Why not? Jacksonville showed me a whole lot last Saturday, playing inspired football for interim coach Doug Marrone. And by the way, though Jags fans might not want to hear this, Marrone is a heck of a football coach. Very respected in NFL circles. Sexier, shinier objects are indeed out there on the coaching market, but the guy you’ve got coaching Sunday isn’t a bad option.
The pick: Jaguars 33, Colts 24
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Sunday: Patriots at Dolphins
The Dolphins beat the Patriots last year in Week 17, ultimately costing New England home-field advantage in the AFC and hurting it in the conference-championship round. The Patriots can’t let that happen again, but Miami is rarely kind to the Pats. Win, and they host every conference playoff game. Lose, and they need to rely on the Broncos — the hated Broncos — to beat the Oakland Raiders. Just go finish the job yourself. They will.
The pick: Patriots 26, Dolphins 17
Winslow TownsonUSA TODAY Sports
Sunday: Chiefs at Chargers
If Melvin Gordon doesn’t play, the Chargers are now down to what feels like their 56th running back of the season. Ronnie Harmon available? The injury bug stung a lot of teams this year, but maybe none quite like Mike McCoy’s Chargers. But that quarterback. He loves to play the role of spoiler. Always does in these matchups. Always will. Upset of the week. Give me Philip Rivers and the Chargers! Josh Lambo gets his redemption with a game-winner as time expires.
The pick: Chargers 24, Chiefs 23
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Sunday: Cardinals at Rams
Both these teams are finishing the string on what’s been disappointing 2016 campaigns. Arizona had Super Bowl hopes, and the Rams wanted to avoid another 7-9 campaign. Neither team will achieve its goals, but both should fight hard Sunday. The Rams have too much pride to let David Johnson run all over them. But can they stop him? Not sure about that.
The pick: Cardinals 24, Rams 20
Sunday: Raiders at Broncos
How far can the Raiders go with Matt McGloin under center? Speaking with sources within the Raiders organization throughout the week, it’s not all doom and gloom. If anything, they’re ready to go to battle with their backup quarterback. McGloin, remember, pre-dates Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Jack Del Rio. The guys in that building know McGloin. And the guys in that building like McGloin. Good test on Sunday in what is a must win on the road. With a victory, the Raiders get a bye and a home game in the playoffs. McGloin! I think he gets it done.
The pick: Raiders 20, Broncos 14
Sunday: Giants at Redskins
The Redskins have everything to play for Sunday. If they don’t win, they didn’t deserve to make the playoffs — Packers-Lions outcome, unrelated. Washington has to win, and it will.
The pick: Redskins 27, Giants 17
Sunday: Seahawks at 49ers
For as many notable veterans who dot the Seahawks roster, it’s the rookies and unknown players they need to step up come January. The Seahawks — unlike any team in the league — have relied on first-year players to step up. Seventeen — yes, 17 — rookies have gotten on the field for Seattle this year. The Seahawks need to win to keep any shot of a first-round bye alive. They should take care of the 49ers.
The pick: Seahawks 16, 49ers 10
Sunday: Saints at Falcons
The Saints would love nothing more than to spoil Atlanta’s opportunity to host a playoff game and get a first-round bye. I just don’t see it. Atlanta is clicking on all cylinders, functioning well on all three units, and Matt Ryan is my pick for league MVP. League MVPs shut the door. The Falcons will do it Sunday.
The pick: Falcons 34, Saints 23
Sunday night: Packers at Lions
I’m already envisioning a graphic of 100 experts being polled and just one picking the Lions on Sunday night. That one guy, naturally, will be … me. Look, if Detroit’s season could be put in a microcosm, it’s this. Remember, this is a team that’s trailed in the fourth quarter in 15 of its 16 games this season. Back against the wall, trail late, find a way to win when no one else sees it as possible? That’s been the Lions season. And all season, Matthew Stafford has found a way. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I don’t know who will be the X-factor. But I’m riding with Detroit. At home. Division champs for the first time since 1993. Matt Prater at the buzzer.
The pick: Lions 23, Packers 20
Week 17 Cheat Sheet trivia answer
Nick Foles’ 2013 season stands as the best single-season TD-INT ratio in NFL history (27 TD, 2 INTs).