We’re previewing the Week 17 NFL slate with score predictions for each game from our Nation reporters, what’s at stake in the playoff picture and potential draft order from Kevin Seifert, Football Power Index projections from ESPN Stats & Information and much more.
Point spread: BUF -4.5 | Matchup quality: 16.9 (of 100)
Cameron Wolfe’s pick: Adam Gase’s message this week has been “8-8 sounds a lot better than 7-9.” We’ll see if his team buys it and shows up in a rather meaningless game in wintry Buffalo. The Dolphins are 1-5 over their past six contests in Buffalo. Josh Allen chewed up the Dolphins’ defense on the ground in the first meeting of the season, and it’s tough to expect much different this time. Bills 23, Dolphins 17
Mike Rodak’s pick: The Dolphins are 1-6 on the road this season and have been outscored by 98 points away from Hard Rock Stadium, second worst in the NFL behind only the Cardinals. The Bills are 3-2 when Josh Allen has started at New Era Field. Advantage, Buffalo. Bills 24, Dolphins 21
What’s at stake: Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: BUF, 67.3 percent. Though Josh Allen is looking to become the first player in Bills history to lead the team in both passing and rushing yards in a season, it hasn’t been reflected in his Total QBR or the Bills’ offensive efficiency. Allen ranks 28th among qualified QBs in Total QBR, and the Bills rank second worst in offensive efficiency this season, according to FPI.
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Point spread: GB -7.5 | Matchup quality: 47.2 (of 100)
Mike Rothstein’s pick: Detroit has nothing but pride — and a few performance and playing-time incentives for some players — to play for. Green Bay is in a similar situation, but at least publicly some of the Packers’ biggest stars are campaigning for their interim coach, Joe Philbin, to be hired full time. In a game like this, that could be enough of a difference to pick one team over another. Plus, Green Bay still has Aaron Rodgers, and the Lions’ offense hasn’t scored more than 20 points since Nov. 11. Packers 28, Lions 13
Rob Demovsky’s pick: The Packers showed plenty of fight last week against the Jets; they could have packed it in when they were down 15 points in the second half. So why wouldn’t they show similar resolve in their season finale? They seem to have bought into Joe Philbin’s message of “Five years from now you’re not probably going to remember the score of the Jets game, but you’ll remember the feelings you had in the locker room.” Philbin should end up 3-1 as the interim coach. Packers 30, Lions 12
What’s at stake: Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: GB, 80.6 percent. Both teams are eliminated from playoff contention, but the Lions have a lot on the line when it comes to next season’s draft. Detroit is currently in the No. 5 spot in the draft order but could go as high as No. 2 or as low as No. 10 depending on results around the league. FPI currently gives the Lions an 81 percent chance of a top-five pick next season.
Point spread: NE -13.5 | Matchup quality: 48.6 (of 100)
Rich Cimini’s pick: Can the Jets give coach Todd Bowles a winning send-off? Don’t bet on it. Bowles, who likely will be fired Monday, is getting a lot of effort out of his players, but effort won’t be enough to upset a motivated Patriots team. Rookie QB Sam Darnold has the NFL’s highest QBR over the past three games, but he probably won’t have receivers Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse. That means WR Robby Anderson will draw extra coverage, causing the offense to bog down. Patriots 34, Jets 17
Mike Reiss’ pick: The Patriots are the NFL’s only undefeated team at home this season (7-0), and they have talked this week about approaching the finale as a playoff-type game because of what is at stake: With a victory, they will earn a first-round bye for the ninth consecutive season. As Tom Brady said in one interview, a bye is essentially the same as winning in the playoffs, which is hard to do. They figure to work hard to change up their looks on Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. Patriots 31, Jets 17
What’s at stake: The Patriots still have a chance at the AFC’s No. 1 overall seed. They would need to win and for the Chiefs and Chargers to lose. Otherwise, they can clinch a first-round bye with a victory or losses by the Ravens, Texans and Titans. The Jets are eliminated from the playoffs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: NE, 88.9 percent. The Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with a win or with help from others around the AFC, and FPI puts their odds at 90 percent. The Patriots also have a slim shot at the No. 1 overall seed with a win and losses by the Chiefs and Chargers, but the odds of that are just 3 percent, according to FPI.
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Point spread: NO -7.5 | Matchup quality: 52.2 (of 100)
David Newton’s pick: Let’s see. QB Kyle Allen will make his first start for the Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater might get the start for New Orleans if Drew Brees is rested. The Panthers might have more interest in evaluating Bridgewater with the uncertainty surrounding Cam Newton‘s future because of a sore shoulder. Bridgewater will be a free agent in the offseason and has experience in Norv Turner’s offense from their time together at Minnesota. Advantage, Bridgewater. Saints 28, Panthers 13
Mike Triplett’s pick: The Saints have not officially revealed whether Drew Brees and other starters will be rested. But if Brees does play, it should be minimal — which means we could see Bridgewater in his first significant action since 2015. The Saints are 0-3 when Brees has missed a game or barely played. And ironically, all three of those games came against Carolina (when the Saints rested starters in Week 17 in 2006 and 2009 and when Brees was injured in 2015). But this time, the Panthers are also down to third-string QB Kyle Allen. Saints 23, Panthers 20
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What’s at stake: The Saints have clinched NFC home-field advantage. The Panthers are eliminated from the playoffs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: NO, 88.9 percent. The Saints have home field in the NFC wrapped up, so we don’t know how much Brees and the rest of the starters will play. As it stands now, Brees has an 81.2 Total QBR this season, which would be the seventh-highest since ESPN began tracking in 2006 but only the third highest in a season by Brees (82.3 in 2011, 81.9 in 2009).
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Point spread: NYG -6 | Matchup quality: 48.4 (of 100)
Todd Archer’s pick: The Cowboys are preparing for the Giants as if it is a normal week, but that does not mean they will play it like a normal game, considering a win would not improve their playoff seeding and an injury could ruin their playoff chances. The Giants have been out of it essentially since the midway point of the season but have played better down the stretch, and this could be Eli Manning‘s final home game. Saquon Barkley was held to a season-low 28 yards when these teams met in September and has been held to 31 and 43 yards the past two weeks. He should have more than 28 yards in the first quarter Sunday, Manning gets the proper send-off and the Cowboys come home healthy for the playoffs. Giants 23, Cowboys 16
Jordan Raanan’s pick: The Giants are likely to be the more motivated of the two teams, which is why they’re close to a touchdown favorite. But even against the Cowboys’ backup defense, that is too much to cover, but not to win. The Giants have averaged 17 points in five games against top-10 defenses this season, but they squeak past the Cowboys in a low-scoring game decided late. Giants 20, Cowboys 16
What’s at stake: The Cowboys have won the NFC East and can’t move up from their No. 4 seed. The Giants are eliminated from the playoffs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: NYG, 52.7 percent. The Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 seed, but the Giants still have their spot in the 2019 draft up in the air. Through eight weeks, the Giants were 1-7 and had a 65 percent chance at a top-five pick, according to FPI. Now they have just a 5.5 percent chance at a top-five pick.
Point spread: TB -1.5 | Matchup quality: 50.8 (of 100)
Vaughn McClure’s pick: The Falcons are trying to get some good feelings going into next season, and finishing on a three-game winning streak would help. Some of the players with expiring contracts certainly would like to make one lasting impression. And this possibly being the last game for the coordinators might be even more motivation for an inspired effort. But the Falcons’ defense will have to slow down the Bucs’ explosive-play ability. Falcons 28, Buccaneers 24
Jenna Laine’s pick: The Bucs haven’t lost a season finale under Dirk Koetter the past two years. They pulled out a last-second 31-24 win over the Saints last year with Koetter’s job on the line. Some players might get the same type of jolt again, believing they can save his job. For others, it’s about going out on a high note in an otherwise disappointing 5-10 season and protecting their jobs for next year. And for as much as the Bucs’ defense has struggled this year, it has given up only 18.6 points per game at home (versus 35.1 on the road). Bucs 24, Falcons 23
What’s at stake: Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: ATL, 52.1 percent. This game has no playoff implications, but it could have fantasy playoff implications for any leagues still playing in Week 17. There could be plenty of offense, as the Falcons rank third worst in defensive efficiency this season (35.1 on a 0-to-100 scale), with the Buccaneers just one spot ahead of them (35.2).
Point spread: HOU -6.5 | Matchup quality: 48.4 (of 100)
Michael DiRocco’s pick: Blake Bortles is back as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback, but the biggest lineup change involves right tackle. Josh Wells is likely out with a concussion, which means the Jaguars will be starting fourth-string options at right and left tackle against J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. RB Leonard Fournette (foot/ankle) might not play, either, so the Jaguars might rely on the read-option more than they have at any point since Bortles joined the team in 2014. Texans 16, Jaguars 10
Turron Davenport’s pick: The Texans need the win to capture the AFC South division title. They anticipate having running back Lamar Miller back after missing last week’s game. Miller adds balance to the offense, which still scored plenty of points against the Eagles without him. Deshaun Watson continues to find ways to extend plays and make things happen down the field; this week will be no different. Expect Watson and wideout DeAndre Hopkins to connect for at least one touchdown against the Jaguars, who have nothing to play for from a playoff perspective. Texans 27, Jaguars 14
What’s at stake: The Texans can clinch the AFC South with a win or a tie between the Colts and Titans. They would secure a first-round bye with a win and a Patriots loss, or a win combined with losses by the Chiefs and Chargers and a tie in the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Chiefs. They also have an outside chance at AFC home-field advantage. They would need a win and losses by the Patriots, Chiefs and Chargers. — Seifert
FPI win projection: HOU, 76.7 percent. The Texans are in the postseason, but their seeding is still very much up in the air. The Texans can still be the No.1 seed (0.3 percent chance, per FPI), No. 2 seed (10 percent), No. 3 seed (67 percent) or No. 6 seed (23 percent).
Point spread: LAC -6.5 | Matchup quality: 73.9 (of 100)
Eric D. Williams’ pick: Anthony Lynn quoted Herm Edwards this week, saying his team will play to win the game against the short-handed Broncos. So even though the Bolts have clinched a playoff berth, expect dinged-up players like running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to play. Philip Rivers threw for 401 yards in a loss to the Broncos earlier this year; expect the veteran quarterback to attack a depleted Denver secondary. Chargers 24, Broncos 19
Jeff Legwold’s pick: Rookie RB Phillip Lindsay, who will miss Sunday’s game with a right wrist injury, will be the Broncos’ eighth multigame starter on offense who will not be playing against the Chargers. So it is difficult to believe the Broncos can leave behind the slow starts and three-and-outs that have plagued them against a Chargers team playing for the possibility of home-field advantage in the playoffs. Chargers 27, Broncos 17
What’s at stake: The Chargers can leap to the top of the AFC playoff race with a win and a Chiefs loss. That would give them the AFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Otherwise, they will be the No. 5 seed. — Seifert
FPI win projection: LAC, 60.8 percent. The Chargers can be the No. 1 seed in the AFC but more likely will be the No. 5 seed. FPI gives Los Angeles a 5 percent chance to be the top seed and a 95 percent chance to be the No. 5 seed.
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Point spread: KC -13.5 | Matchup quality: 50.0 (of 100)
Paul Gutierrez’s pick: The Raiders are coming off an emotional high, a Christmas Eve win over the Broncos in what might have been their final game in Oakland, and will be playing for pride in Kansas City. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are playing not only for a division title but also for playoff seeding and potential home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The Chiefs have Travis Kelce, who torched Oakland for 168 yards and two TDs on 12 catches on Dec. 2, and the Raiders have trouble covering tight ends. Chiefs 31, Raiders 23
Adam Teicher’s pick: The Chiefs are 9-0 against teams that will not make the playoffs, like the Raiders. They are four seconds shy and a botched coverage on a Chargers two-point conversion attempt from being similarly undefeated at Arrowhead Stadium. The Raiders aren’t strong enough to buck either of these trends. Chiefs 34, Raiders 24
Derek Carr tells Scott Van Pelt just how impressed he is with Raider nation and appreciative he is of the fan base in Oakland.
What’s at stake: A victory will clinch the AFC West and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Chiefs lose, they would need losses from the Chargers, Patriots and Texans to remain the No. 1 seed, and losses by the Chargers and either the Patriots or Texans would secure the No. 2 seed for the Chiefs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: KC, 91.7 percent. The Chiefs need only to win a game against Oakland in which they are huge favorites to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but they could do it with a loss and some help. Thanks to that, FPI gives the Chiefs a 92 percent chance to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Point spread: LAR -10 | Matchup quality: 50.2 (of 100)
Nick Wagoner’s pick: The 49ers have won four consecutive Week 17 games against the Rams, but there hasn’t been much at stake in most of those matchups. This time, the Rams might need a win to sew up a first-round bye, depending on what the Bears do in their finale. Unlike last year, Los Angeles likely will play its starters the whole game, which means the Rams should have a clear advantage. Rams 30, 49ers 20
Lindsey Thiry’s pick: The Rams are motivated in Week 17 to secure a first-round bye, to continue to tune up their offense and to help defensive tackle Aaron Donald break the single-season sack record. Donald tallied a career-best four sacks earlier this season against the 49ers and needs three sacks to tie and four sacks to break Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5. Rams 32, 49ers 17
What’s at stake: The Rams will clinch a first-round bye with a win or a Bears loss. The 49ers have been eliminated. — Seifert
FPI win projection: LAR, 89.5 percent. The Rams can clinch a first-round bye with a win, but they would still have a 56 percent chance at a bye even with a loss, according to FPI. The 49ers still have a slim chance at the No. 1 overall pick, but the odds of that are just 3 percent, according to FPI.
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Point spread: MIN -4.5| Matchup quality: 72.2 (of 100)
Jeff Dickerson’s pick: Matt Nagy stressed all week that the Bears intend to pull out all the stops to beat Minnesota — even with a playoff spot safely secured. If that line of thinking holds true, the Bears’ defense is likely to — once again — stymie Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense. Chicago enters Week 17 No. 1 in takeaways (36), interceptions (27) and points off takeaways (107). The Bears are also the only team in the NFL to hold a second-half lead in every game. Bears 21, Vikings 20
Courtney Cronin’s pick: It’s do-or-die time for the Vikings, who need a win over the Bears to clinch the final spot in the NFC playoffs. Several things factor into an advantage for the Vikings. No. 1, Minnesota’s defense is lights out at U.S. Bank Stadium, allowing a league-low 75.7 passer rating at home. No. 2, outside of an annihilation at Buffalo, the Bears have not been very good on the road. Minnesota gets it done this week with the very strong possibility that it faces Chicago at Soldier Field during wild-card weekend. Vikings 23, Bears 20
What’s at stake: The Vikings need a win or an Eagles loss (or tie) to clinch a playoff berth. With a win, they would be the No. 5 seed if the Seahawks lose and the No. 6 seed if the Seahawks win. The Bears, who have already clinched the NFC North, have incentive as well. They can clinch a first-round bye with a victory and a Rams loss. — Seifert
FPI win projection: MIN, 57.6 percent. The Vikings can clinch a playoff spot with a win or tie or an Eagles loss or tie. FPI puts the odds of a Vikings playoff berth at 76 percent. The Bears can still get a first-round bye with a win and a Rams loss, but that is far less likely, with just a 5 percent chance, according to FPI.
Point spread: PIT -14.5 | Matchup quality: 49.6 (of 100)
Katherine Terrell’s pick: If the Bengals couldn’t beat the Steelers with a mostly full roster at home early in the season, it’s pretty unlikely they’re going to do it with a depleted roster on the road. The Bengals just don’t have the firepower left on the roster at this point. Steelers 27, Bengals 16
Jeremy Fowler’s pick: Back-to-back performances against New England and New Orleans showed the Steelers can play with anybody. And despite Cincinnati almost always playing Pittsburgh close, with four of the last seven matchups decided by seven or fewer points, the Steelers ride a seven-game winning streak over a seriously depleted Bengals squad. Pittsburgh’s offense should overwhelm here. Steelers 30, Bengals 24
What’s at stake: The Steelers win the AFC North title with a victory and a Ravens loss. If the Ravens win, the only way the Steelers can make the playoffs is if they win and the Colts and Titans tie. The Bengals are eliminated from the playoffs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: PIT, 86.4 percent. The Steelers have an 18.5 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FPI, but their chances this season peaked at 98.1 percent. In the last four seasons, the only team to miss the playoffs that had odds that high at any point of the season was the 2015 Falcons (98.5 percent).
Point spread: SEA -13.5 | Matchup quality: 48.2 (of 100)
Josh Weinfuss’ pick: The Seahawks are trending up, while the Cardinals are trending down. Sunday will also be a battle of Seattle’s No. 1 rushing offense against the Cardinals’ 32nd-ranked rushing defense. The first meeting was close, with the Seahawks winning 20-17, but a lot has changed since Week 4. On top of all that, a loss would give the Cardinals the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Seahawks 31, Cardinals 10
Brady Henderson’s pick: An upset for the Cardinals as 13.5-point underdogs would be plausible if the Seahawks decided to rest some of their starters now that they’ve secured a playoff spot. But Pete Carroll made it clear this week that his team is keeping its foot on the gas, opting to try to maintain the momentum it has built while winning five of the last six games. Seahawks 27, Cardinals 13
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What’s at stake: The Seahawks have clinched a playoff berth. They’ll be the No. 5 seed if they win and the No. 6 seed if they lose. The Cardinals can clinch the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft with a loss. — Seifert
FPI win projection: SEA, 94.3 percent. The Seahawks are the biggest favorite in any game this season and biggest favorite in any game since 2013, according to FPI. A win would clinch the No. 5 seed for Seattle.
Point spread: PHI -6.5 | Matchup quality: 30.5 (of 100)
Tim McManus’ pick: The Eagles’ offense has taken off under Nick Foles, scoring 30-plus points in each of the past two games after hitting that mark just once over the previous 13 outings. The Eagles have gotten some injured players back (Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Tim Jernigan) and finally are starting to play like Super Bowl champions. Eagles 30, Washington 20
John Keim’s pick: The Redskins have lost five of their last six games, and while they have played better the past two games, they’re still not equipped to beat a good team because of all their injuries. They now have 23 players on injured reserve. Eagles 28, Redskins 16
What’s at stake: The Eagles need a victory and help, via a Vikings loss, to clinch a playoff spot. The Redskins are eliminated from the playoffs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: PHI, 57.2 percent. Philadelphia’s path to the postseason is simple: The Eagles need a win and a loss by the Vikings. FPI puts the odds of both of those outcomes happening at 24 percent.
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Point spread: BAL -6 | Matchup quality: 46.3 (of 100)
Pat McManamon’s pick: The Browns have won five of six and are pushing to end Gregg Williams’ tenure this season at 6-2. Baker Mayfield is playing at an All-Pro level, and the Browns are playing as well as any team in the league. They would love to ruin Baltimore’s playoff hopes, but they face a buzz saw in Baltimore, which has a unique quarterback in Lamar Jackson and the league’s best defense. This will be quite a game, but the Ravens prevail. Barely. Ravens 23, Browns 20
Jamison Hensley’s pick: The Ravens failed to finish out last year’s finale and missed the playoffs. But there’s a different feeling this year, especially on defense. Baltimore has allowed the fewest fourth-quarter points (48) and has scored a defensive touchdown in three of the past five games. The Ravens won’t let the AFC North title slip out of their grasp. Ravens 20, Browns 9
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What’s at stake: The Ravens can clinch the AFC North title with a win or a Steelers loss. In that scenario, there is an outside chance they could clinch a first-round bye. To do it, they would need a win, losses by the Patriots and Texans, and then either one of two results: a Colts-Titans outcome that doesn’t end in a tie or the Ravens clinching a tie in the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Texans. The Browns are eliminated from the playoffs. — Seifert
FPI win projection: BAL, 79.0 percent. Baltimore needs to just win to clinch the AFC North title. Baltimore is also still alive for a first-round bye with some help, but there’s just a 2 percent chance of that happening, per FPI.
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Point spread: IND -3.0 | Matchup quality: 55.7 (of 100)
Mike Wells’ pick: QB Andrew Luck is a perfect 10-0 in his career against the Titans. He and the Colts could be facing the Titans without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota (stinger), and Tennessee will be without its best defensive player in Jurrell Casey (knee). The Colts aren’t in a position to take the Titans lightly in this win-and-make-the-playoffs game because the last time they faced a backup quarterback, Cody Kessler and the Jacksonville Jaguars blanked them 6-0 earlier this month. There won’t be a slippage by the Colts this time. Colts 24, Titans 17
Turron Davenport’s pick: The Titans’ defense plays with a different swagger at Nissan Stadium, where the team is 6-1. Tennessee needs to find a way to slow down Andrew Luck & Co. without Jurrell Casey. Add in the possibility of not having Marcus Mariota under center and things look bleak for the Titans. However, under Mike Vrabel, Tennessee has taken on a next-man-up mindset, which has put the team in position to secure a postseason berth and 10 wins in his first season as a head coach. Look for Derrick Henry and the Titans’ offense to work on controlling the clock to keep Luck off the field. Titans 24, Colts 21
What’s at stake: The winner of this game will make the playoffs as a wild-card team if the Texans win and as the AFC South champion if the Texans lose. — Seifert
FPI win projection: IND, 51.4 percent. This game provides us with a win-and-you’re-in scenario, and FPI is currently slightly favoring the Colts due to the uncertainty of Marcus Mariota’s status. If Mariota is good to go, the Titans will be slight favorites (54 percent), according to FPI; if it’s Blaine Gabbert, they will be underdogs (42 percent).
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