2017 NFL Picks Week 17: The Browns Can (and Will!) Make History
A strong Week 16 has us in position to surpass the break-even point of 52.5% with a comparable performance in Week 17. Of course, the final week of the NFL season is usually one of the hardest to pick, as teams with nothing to gain rest stars and teams with nothing to lose either no-show or turn in their best performance of the season to play spoiler. Besides, who doesn't love the intrigue of the Browns matching the 2008 Lions 0-16 record? Happy holidays, everyone; here are some picks!
Minnesota Vikings -11.5 vs. Chicago Bears
The Vikings need to win this game to secure the 2-seed in the NFC playoffs, and the Bears simply aren't in their league. Minnesota ranks 5th in total DVOA (7th on offense, 3rd on defense) compared to Chicago's 25th (27th on offense, 14th on defense), and the Bears have nothing to play for. The Vikings have won their last two home games against the Bears by scores of 38-10 and 38-17. Barring a truly bizarre turn of events, Mitch Trubisky will struggle and the Vikings will win convincingly. If I'm lucky, it will mean the end of the John Fox era!
Jacksonville Jaguars +3 at Tennessee Titans
Jacksonville is a hard team to evaluate heading into Week 17. They don't have anything to play for, but head coach Doug Marrone has suggested they won't be resting anyone. I don't blame him; I wouldn't want to head into the playoffs with consecutive losses to the 49ers and Titans, either. Tennessee is fighting to secure a Wild Card spot, but they simply aren't very good. They're currently ranked 19th in total DVOA and 22nd in weighted DVOA coming off of three consecutive losses. I can't believe I'm picking Blake Bortles two weeks in a row, but what can I say? This is 2017.
Houston Texans +6 at Indianapolis Colts
I don't really understand this line at all. Both teams are bad, but the Texans rate better in total DVOA (27th to 31st), offensive DVOA (25th to 29th) and defensive DVOA (20th to 27th). A three-point line for a game in Indianapolis would make sense, but 6? The Colts have only won one game by 6 points this year, and while it came against this Texans team, I'm willing to make an adjustment considering they'd just lost their Rookie of the Year candidate Deshaun Watson. I don't feel great picking Tom Savage, but no one should feel great picking the Colts.
New England Patriots -15 vs. New York Jets
New England has historically played well in Week 17 when there are playoff implications on the line, and there are some here as a loss coupled with a Pittsburgh win would drop them to the 2-seed. The Jets are considering trying out inexperienced quarterbacks, and while they've played better than most expected this season, they have no reason to go all out in this game. The only risk I see is the Patriots jumping out to a huge lead in the first half and letting the Jets cover on the back end, but I have faith in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to keep the game out of reach.
Carolina Panthers +3.5 at Atlanta Falcons
The NFC playoff picture is murky, but I think the Panthers still have an outside chance at securing the 2-seed. They'll definitely have some motivation to play hard this week, and the Falcons will need to put it together on offense to come away with a win. They've shown flashes all year, but haven't been able to consistently score points against competent defenses. Carolina certainly qualifies, with the 8th-ranked defense by DVOA and top-ranked pass rush. The Panthers have won ugly much of this year, but they've won 11 games. Cam Newton should be able to get them to 12 against the Falcons' 23rd-ranked defense.
New Orleans Saints -6.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I think Tampa Bay is terrible, and the stats back me up. The Buccaneers rank 22nd in total DVOA and a putrid 31st in defensive DVOA heading into this matchup with the Saints. New Orleans has also won 3 of the past 4 matchups with Tampa by a touchdown or more, including this year's 30-10 Week 8 beatdown. New Orleans needs to win to secure the NFC North title, so we can expect them to play their starters. Let's see what Drew Brees and Sean Payton can do to tie a bow on a bounceback 2017 season.
Washington Snyders -3 at New York Giants
I'm not terribly excited to be picking this game because neither team has anything to play for. Still, Washington is ranked 13th in total DVOA while the Giants are ranked 30th, and New York is talking about getting reps for their backups. The Giants simply aren't equipped to take advantage of Washington's weaknesses; their 29th-ranked rushing offense won't bludgeon Washington's 26th-ranked rushing defense, their 24th-ranked rushing defense won't stonewall Washington's 28th-ranked rushing offense, and their 29th-ranked pass rush won't harry Washington's 22nd-ranked pass protection. The Giants even have more to gain with a loss in terms of draft positioning. I expect the Snyders to win handily and face an offseason of Kirk Cousins' contract questions.
Pittsburgh Steelers -6 vs. Cleveland Browns
As I mentioned in the New England pick above, the Steelers still have a chance at the 1-seed in the AFC. They might fold up shop early if they see the Patriots out to a big lead, but do we have any reason to believe that will let Cleveland make the game close? The Browns are playing to avoid the ignominy of being the second-ever 0-16 team and nothing else. They rank dead last in total DVOA and offensive DVOA, and the game is being played in Pittsburgh. Even with Antonio Brown sitting out, the Steelers should win by a landslide. Granted, they've underwhelmed against bad teams in the past, but they have a bye week to look forward to after this game.
Los Angeles Rams +4.5 vs. San Francisco 49ers
The Jimmy G hype train is ready to jump its tracks, and this week could be a perfect opportunity. The Rams are resting their best players, but they're also playing at home with good line play on both sides of the ball. Sometimes a team just has things rolling, and I can see the Rams coming away with a meaningless win here against a San Francisco team that has shown some encouraging flashes but still ranks 21st in weighted DVOA. One win over Blake Bortles isn't enough to make me think they've arrived as a team.
That's all for this week! Kick back, grab a drink, and feel free to blame me if you put money on these picks and come out behind. I won't compensate you, but maybe your significant others will send their wrath in my direction instead of yours.