Playoff Spots Hang In Balance As New Year Arrives
A brand new 12 months is upon us, however there’s nonetheless loads of unfinished enterprise as Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season begins.
The playoff image is slowly coming into focus, however the early returns on the primary season of the 18-week schedule should be checked out as successful in league places of work. Playoff spots in each conferences are nonetheless very a lot up within the air, and there’s no clear-cut favourite to win Tremendous Bowl LVI.
Granted, a few of that’s due to the relative uncertainty going through the whole league (primarily COVID-19), however it’s apparent parity is without doubt one of the largest tenets of the present marketing campaign.
That continues to make predicting what occurs in these video games subsequent to not possible. Nonetheless, that’s a process NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle are completely happy to sort out on a weekly foundation with their against-the-spread picks for each recreation.
Earlier than they reveal their Week 17 choices, right here’s how they fared final week.
Now, listed here are their Week 17 picks, with strains from DraftKings Sportsbook.
SUNDAY, JAN. 2
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-16) New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jaguars. It’s bodily uncomfortable to take the Jaguars towards the Patriots, however that’s so many factors for a New England crew that’s beginning to present some cracks to cowl.
Ricky: Jaguars. Will I be shocked if the Patriots destroy an terrible crew, very like they did throughout their seven-game successful streak, and get the practice again on the tracks forward of a doubtlessly essential Week 18 matchup with the Dolphins? Nope. However New England’s offense has been too inconsistent of late.
(-5) Kansas Metropolis Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Chiefs. It’s nonetheless somewhat too early to purchase all the way in which in on Cincinnati. As good as Joe Burrow has been, he leads the NFL in fourth-quarter interception charge and red-zone interception charge. Towards a surging Chiefs crew, you’ll be able to’t have these types of back-breaking errors.
Ricky: Chiefs. As Soccer Outsiders identified this week, Burrow has confronted the softest pass defenses of any quarterback in 2021. That features final week, when the Bengals took benefit of a depleted Ravens protection that entered the sport ranked thirtieth in go DVOA, permitting 8.2 yards per try and 13 yards per completion (each final within the NFL). The Chiefs will current a a lot more durable problem.
(-12.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. I really like Tampa extra if Bruce Arians isn’t again from COVID-19 for this one, as a result of I feel Tom Brady may actually lower it free — even and not using a full secure of weapons — to ship some form of message with out his head coach. Dealing with a putrid Jets protection helps, too.
Ricky: Bucs. Brady made a behavior of beating up on the Jets throughout his time with the Patriots. No purpose to suppose that development ends this week towards a New York protection ranked dead-last in complete DVOA.
Atlanta Falcons at (-14) Buffalo Payments, 1 p.m.
Mike: Payments. That is both a traditional letdown spot or Buffalo proves it has regained its mojo and lays down the hammer. I’m leaning towards the latter, particularly given the Falcons’ issues defending Matt Ryan.
Ricky: Payments. Have stated this a number of weeks in a row: The Falcons barely beat unhealthy groups and get demolished by good groups. There’s actually no in-between, and the Payments fall beneath the latter class.
(-3.5) Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. Robust little scheduling spot right here for the Rams, who had been in Minnesota final week and now should journey to Baltimore. Baltimore might need Lamar Jackson again in a restricted function, and John Harbaugh will seemingly be wanting to show final week’s blowout in Cincinnati was an aberration.
Ricky: Ravens. Jackson is limping round, prolonging Baltimore’s QB uncertainty, and the Ravens’ secondary principally is nonexistent at this level. But, I nonetheless can’t shake the Ravens in a house underdog function.
Miami Dolphins at (-3) Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. It’s going to be chilly in Nashville on Sunday with an opportunity for rain and snow — on a grass area, thoughts you, that may host a university recreation Thursday. Tua Tagovailoa has performed within the “chilly” (45 levels or cooler) twice in his NFL profession, and he’s performed poorly in two losses. Miami’s run of fine fortune appears to be like to be over.
Ricky: Titans. Simply undecided Miami’s offense will do sufficient. Additionally, contemplate the quarterbacks the Dolphins have crushed throughout their seven-game successful streak: Lamar Jackson, Tyrod Taylor, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton, Mike Glennon, Zach Wilson and Ian Guide. The primary title on that checklist, clearly, is the lone spectacular victory. And whereas Ryan Tannehill isn’t precisely a world-beater, Tennessee’s offense obtained an enormous increase final week with the return of A.J. Brown, who’s able to transferring the sticks.
(-3.5) Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Soccer Crew, 1 p.m.
Mike: Soccer Crew. Identical to Monday night time’s Dolphins-Saints line smelled fishy in Week 16, this one doesn’t appear proper. It appears like Philly needs to be a a lot larger favourite, so I’m gonna blindly go the opposite method for causes I can’t totally clarify.
Ricky: Soccer Crew. I’ll die on that hill with you, Mike. The Eagles are coming off three straight double-digit wins, whereas Washington has suffered three consecutive losses, together with a 42-point defeat in Week 16. So, let’s zig when everybody else zags. Why not? In any case, WFT nonetheless is a divisional opponent catching greater than a area purpose at house.
New York Giants at (-6.5) Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bears. Chicago appears to be like intent on taking part in exhausting for Matt Nagy in what needs to be his remaining few weeks as boss. The Bears have performed unhealthy groups exhausting all season, and the Giants actually qualify right here.
Ricky: Giants. The G-Males have misplaced 4 straight, by a median margin of 16.5 factors, largely as a result of their offense is brutal. However these losses got here towards some first rate competitors (Dolphins, Chargers, Cowboys and Eagles). And the Bears misplaced eight of 9 earlier than beating the Seahawks 25-24 final week, with their lone win being a two-point victory over the Lions. This needs to be an unpleasant recreation with little scoring.
Houston Texans at (-13) San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Texans. Houston coach David Culley deserves a ton of credit score for successful 4 video games with this roster. The Texans even have a middle-of-the-pack protection (18th, DVOA), and that is likely to be sufficient to maintain it throughout the quantity towards Trey Lance in his second profession begin.
Ricky: Texans. Lance is likely to be good. However I have to see it first. Plus, the Texans are feisty. And don’t you suppose Davis Mills can be motivated to show he deserves extra recognition among the many rookie QBs?
Denver Broncos at (-5) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. If Denver simply runs all day, it needs to be in a great spot towards a horrific Chargers rush protection that has the NFL’s fifth-worst sort out charge whereas permitting a league-worst 5.4 yards per keep on second down, which makes getting off the sphere on third down extraordinarily troublesome. Not solely that, however the Broncos rank sixth as a crew in yards after contact per rush.
Ricky: Chargers. All indicators level to Drew Lock beginning once more at quarterback for the Broncos, who managed simply 158 complete yards final week towards the Raiders. That, coupled with the Chargers returning just a few key gamers, together with working again Austin Ekeler, is sufficient to financial institution on an LA cowl.
Arizona Cardinals at (-5.5) Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. The entire world goes to be on the Cowboys, however no matter. Arizona is a multitude amid one other Kliff Kingsbury late-season fade, and Dallas’ balanced offensive assault is a significant drawback for a Cardinals protection that regarded OK final week largely as a result of the Colts had been so banged up.
Ricky: Cardinals. Arizona is preventing quicksand proper now, however I’ll roll the cube for 2 causes: 1) There’s nonetheless sufficient expertise on the Cardinals’ roster to hold with most groups, as long as they get out of their very own method. And a pair of) The spot. The Playing cards are 7-1 ATS on the street this season. They’re 5-0 ATS as an underdog.
Detroit Lions at (-7) Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Lions. I believed Seattle was able to placing collectively skilled efforts with nothing to play for, and I used to be mistaken, as evidenced by final week. In the meantime, Detroit retains taking part in exhausting, making this unfold too large.
Ricky: Lions. Good groups win. Nice groups cowl. Unsure that actually applies to the Lions, who’ve simply two straight-up victories via 15 video games, however their 10-5 ATS mark is tied for third-best in the NFL, trailing solely the Cowboys (12-3) and Packers (11-4).
Carolina Panthers at (-6.5) New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Saints. The place precisely does the Carolina offense come from this week? Or any week, actually, come to consider it.
Ricky: Saints. The excellent news for Carolina? Sam Darnold will begin over Cam Newton this week. The unhealthy information? He stinks, too.
Minnesota Vikings at (-6.5) Inexperienced Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. It’s going to be frigid — like, painfully cold — Sunday night time in Inexperienced Bay. Tackling Dalvin Cook dinner is troublesome at room temperature however needs to be much more treacherous on this climate. Minnesota ought to be capable to hold this shut, even when it could’t pull the outright upset.
Ricky: Packers. Aaron Rodgers vs. Kirk Cousins in primetime is kind of a mismatch given their respective observe data. Combine in somewhat Lambeau Area, with single-digit temperatures, and this looks as if a great alternative for Inexperienced Bay to flex its muscle en path to locking up the NFC’s high seed.
MONDAY, JAN. 3
(-3.5) Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. Baker Mayfield has been hilariously bad in late/close situations this season, whereas Ben Roethlisberger has one of many NFL’s high fourth-quarter passer rankings. Final week apart, the Steelers have performed some shut video games lately and needs to be fired as much as win what might be Roethlisberger’s remaining house begin.
Ricky: Browns. Huge Ben’s remaining recreation at Heinz Area, towards a hated divisional rival, on “Monday Evening Soccer,” with (slim) playoff possibilities hanging within the steadiness. The Steelers ought to win. However, Pittsburgh has been slaughtered within the trenches, rating thirtieth in rush protection DVOA and twenty ninth in run cease win charge. Cleveland leans on Nick Chubb and rolls.