One week is all that separates us from playoff football.
For some teams, the Week 17 slate is important, for one reason or another. For others, it’s simply the last hurrah on the gridiron before going home for the offseason.
In any event, the 2016 regular season will wrap up Sunday, and NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian are looking to finish strong with their predictions after a hard-fought few months.
Here’s how they fared last week and where they stand as the New Year approaches.
Mike Cole: 12-4 (112-119-8 overall). He’s been killing it lately. If this was actually the NFL, you wouldn’t want to face him in the opening round. That’s for sure.
Ricky Doyle: 11-5 (117-114-8). The model of consistency finally eclipsed the .500 mark with a strong showing in Week 16. It’s an impressive feat given the early-season holes these guys dug themselves.
Andre Khatchaturian: 6-10 (108-123-8). Looks like he ran out of gas, folks. It’s time to turn the page, end on a high note and start game planning for a playoff resurgence.
Now, here are our Week 17 picks, with lines courtesy of our good friends over at OddsShark.
SUNDAY, JAN. 1
Dallas Cowboys at (-4) Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. That’s not enough points to scare me away, even if Dallas opts to rest some guys. But the Cowboys might not be as willing to do that given their first-round bye.
Ricky: Eagles. Unlike the Patriots, who still haven’t locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Cowboys have absolutely nothing at stake in this game as the NFC’s top team. The Eagles burned me last week by taking down the Giants when I didn’t expect it, so I’m not going to let that happen again.
Andre: Cowboys. You don’t go 13-2 without being a deep team. That’s what Dallas is, so I’ll take the points, even if the Cowboys do rest their starters.
Cleveland Browns at (-7) Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. The Steelers are locked into the No. 3 seed no matter what happens this week, and it’s expected they’ll rest Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. And maybe the Browns are feeling good after winning last week? I don’t know, Week 17 sucks.
Ricky: Browns. Speaking of nothing to play for… Let’s roll with the Browns and the points here based on the assumption they’ll let it all hang out a little bit more than the Steelers, who have the playoffs to worry about beyond this meaningless game.
Andre: Browns. With RGIII out, Cody Kessler gets the starting nod, and he’ll likely want to play his best football to put himself into consideration for a starting job next season. He has six touchdowns and just two picks in eight games with a 65.6 percent completion percentage on the league’s worst team. Not bad.
(-3.5) Buffalo Bills at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. I thought the most telling reaction to the Rex Ryan firing came from Marcell Dareus, who alluded to the fact the Buffalo defense was a little complicated under the Brothers Ryan. With them gone and one more game to make an impact, I expect the Bills to come out flying against the Jets.
Ricky: Bills. The Jets’ decision to kick a field goal down 41-0 last week against the Patriots tells me they’re just happy to score whatever points they can. They’re in a bad place right now, while the Bills at least have a coaching/quarterback shake-up to motivate them for the final week.
Andre: Bills. New coach, new vigor, and E.J. Manuel is going to want to prove his worth. It helps that they’re going up against a really bad team.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-4.5) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Colts. With nothing more than pride on the line, let’s go with Andrew Luck over Blake Bortles. Pretty simple, right?
Ricky: Jaguars. The Jags finally showed some fight last week, particularly on offense, under interim head coach Doug Marrone. Perhaps that’ll carry over into this week, at least enough for Jacksonville to keep things tight.
Andre: Jaguars. The Jaguars have allowed 4.9 yards per play this season — the second-best mark in the league. I’ll take that stingy defense and the points against Luck, who probably should sit out this meaningless game given how injury-prone he’s been over the years.
(-10) New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. The Patriots are the far better team, but that’s a lot of points in a game where both teams are playing for something, especially in a place like Miami, where the Patriots have struggled in past seasons.
Ricky: Dolphins. The Patriots haven’t won in Miami since 2012, so it’s asking a lot for them to cover a spread this big, especially since this Dolphins team is far better than any of the ones New England lost to over the last three years. Also, not only have the ‘Fins won nine of their last 10 games, but they’ve also gone 8-1-1 against the spread in that span.
Andre: Dolphins. The Patriots have home-field advantage to play for, so they’ll bring their A-game and probably win. But don’t think the Dolphins aren’t using this as a litmus test for themselves as they head into the playoffs. They’ll keep this one close thanks to Jay Ajayi, who will chew up the Patriots’ rush defense.
Chicago Bears at (-5) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bears. Chicago gets after the quarterback, as it proved in Week 8, sacking Sam Bradford five times on the way to winning. That was the game we all realized the Vikings couldn’t protect the quarterback, so another leaky performance would be a fitting end to this disappointing season.
Ricky: Bears. Times are tough when players start ignoring the head coach’s game plan and go completely off script, which apparently is what Minnesota’s cornerbacks did last week as the Vikings lost their eighth game in 10 tries since starting the season 5-0.
Andre: Vikings. Watch out for the Bears next season. They were near the top in terms of yards per play differential all season long and did a few things well defensively toward the end of the season. But they love to turn the ball over (minus-nine turnover differential in the last two games), and if there’s one thing the Vikings did well this season, it was force turnovers.
Houston Texans at (-3) Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. So, Tom Savage vs. Matt Cassel is a thing that’s happening, huh?
Ricky: Texans. Houston, like several other teams this week, has nothing to play for, yet I can’t help but view the Texans’ situation a little differently because they have a quarterback (Savage) who’s still trying to prove he’s the right man for the job going into the postseason. And Cassel? Well, you can have him.
Andre: Texans. I’m a Cowboys fan, so I saw firsthand last season what Cassel can do. He can’t do much.
Baltimore Ravens at (-1) Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. For whatever reason, it just feels like Baltimore will play hard this week despite having nothing to play for.
Ricky: Ravens. Sure, Baltimore is coming off a devastating loss to Pittsburgh. But Cincinnati has been dealing with defeat all season. Why should the Bengals suddenly change their ways in Week 17? This one’s for Steve Smith, who likely is playing his final game Sunday.
Andre: Ravens. I think John Harbaugh will do a better job preparing his team for a meaningless game than Marvin Lewis will.
Carolina Panthers at (-6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. Just a few too many points, especially given the whirlwind around the Bucs right now.
Ricky: Panthers. The Bucs, who are 0-5 SU and ATS in their last five games in which they’ve been favored by four points or more, have proved several times that we shouldn’t get too high on them. Not yet, at least. This is all about taking the points, even though Tampa Bay still is mathematically alive in the NFC.
Andre: Panthers. Carolina is 5-4 in its last nine games, and its four losses have come against Atlanta, Seattle, Oakland and Kansas City. The Panthers can’t beat the cream of the crop, but they’ve shown they can take care of everyone else.
New York Giants at (-8) Washington Redskins, 4:25
Mike: Giants. Maybe I’m the idiot, but I actually believe Ben McAdoo when he says the Giants will play the starters — at least long enough to keep them in the game and cover an otherwise large 8-point spread.
Ricky: Redskins. For the Giants, this is all about getting in and getting out without anyone getting dinged up. The Redskins, meanwhile, are fighting for their playoff lives.
Andre: Giants. The Redskins are 6-1-1 when they rush for 100 yards or more. Too bad they’re going up against the Giants, who allow 3.6 yards per carry.
New Orleans Saints at (-7) Atlanta Falcons, 4:25
Mike: Saints. New Orleans has just two losses of less than a touchdown this season — and, yes, I’m just going to ignore the fact that one of those came against Atlanta… at home.
Ricky: Saints. A few trends to consider here, courtesy of our friends at OddsShark: The Falcons are 3-7 SU in their last 10 games as home favorites, and they are 5-13 ATS in their last 18 games as favorites by seven points or less. The Saints, meanwhile, are 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 games against divisional opponents. Give me the points, even though there should be plenty scored in this matchup between two high-powered offenses.
Andre: Falcons. The Falcons are fighting for a bye week, so they’ll come out guns blazing against a team that allows 7.8 yards per pass attempt.
(-6) Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25
Mike: Cardinals. Because they’re better?
Ricky: Cardinals. Arizona scored 75 points over its last two games. Have the Rams even scored that many points all season?
Andre: Rams. New Years’ Eve in Los Angeles is pretty fun and I’m just going to irresponsibly assume that a few Cardinals players will probably go out the night before the game with their team having nothing to play for.
Oakland Raiders at (-2.5) Denver Broncos, 4:25
Mike: Broncos. Not crazy about this pick, especially given the ineptitude of Denver’s offense. But will Matt McGloin do much more for the Raiders?
Ricky: Broncos. Denver’s defense isn’t quite as daunting as it was just a few weeks ago and the Broncos’ offense has been terrible. But I need to see something — anything — from Matt McGloin before I go taking him on the road in a notoriously tough environment against a divisional team that potentially could be looking to spoil Oakland’s quest for the AFC’s top seed.
Andre: Raiders. I still have faith in Oakland this season because of its ability to protect the quarterback and force turnovers. Derek Carr was sacked just 16 times this year and Oakland has an NFL-leading plus-18 turnover differential. I expect McGloin to have time to make plays to his elite receivers and backs and for Oakland’s D to force Trevor Siemian to make some mistakes.
(-10) Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25
Mike: Seahawks. Seattle still has something to play for — the No. 2 seed is in play if Atlanta loses — so the Seahawks should come to play. Like, they definitely should be able to win this game 23-10, right?
Ricky: 49ers. Maybe I’m naive to think Seattle’s injuries will have an impact on this game, but whatever, I’ve rolled the dice on less before.
Andre: Seahawks. When the 49ers aren’t playing the Rams, their margin of defeat this season is 15.2 points per game.
(-5.5) Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers, 4:25
Mike: Chiefs. Kansas City needs to take care of business, as the Chiefs could finish the season as high as No. 2 in the AFC but also could fall all the way to the sixth seed. The Chargers, meanwhile, are ready for vacation.
Ricky: Chiefs. After losing to the Browns, Philip Rivers and Co. probably want this season to end now more than ever.
Andre: Chargers. Last ever football game in San Diego? It very well could be. I think the Chiefs ultimately win, but Rivers will be very happy to be play spoiler and keep this one tight.
(-3) Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions, 8:30
Mike: Packers. They’ve come too far not to run the table and win this game. They’re the better team, they’re healthier, they have the better quarterback and they’re playing better. The only concern is whether a Redskins loss earlier in the day changes things.
Ricky: Packers. A red-hot Aaron Rodgers versus a banged-up Matthew Stafford? You do the math.
Andre: Packers. Green Bay has won five in a row because its defense has come alive and Rodgers isn’t making any mistakes. The Packers have a plus-13 turnover differential in their last five games, and Rodgers has 14 touchdowns and no picks in their last six. I don’t see the Lions doing anything to slow him down.
Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images