Christmas Day has come and gone, but our NFL picks column is the gift that keeps on giving.
Week 17 in the NFL often can be a crapshoot, as some teams have nothing to play for and therefore rest their starters. NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian are prepared to embrace the unpredictability, though, for the final week of the 2019 regular season features a full slate of Sunday games and could be entertaining nevertheless.
Here’s how the trio fared last week with their against-the-spread picks:
Mike Cole: 5-10-1 (113-120-7)
Ricky Doyle: 6-9-1 (124-109-7)
Andre Khatchaturian: 8-7-1 (114-119-7)
And here are their ATS picks for Week 17:
SUNDAY, DEC. 29
Atlanta Falcons at (-1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. Has any quarterback ever thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions in one game? The Bucs should let Jameis Winston throw the ball 70 times Sunday and see if that happens.
Ricky: Bucs. For a meaningless game, this actually could be fun. Winston probably will throw a few picks in addition to racking up a bunch of yards, but the Bucs will do enough to squeak out a victory thanks to their advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Andre: Bucs. Atlanta struggles to run the ball (3.8 yards per carry) and Tampa has the best rush defense in the league, allowing 3.3 yards per carry. Winston is close to becoming the first quarterback since Vinny Testaverde in 1988 to throw 30 interceptions in a season and also the first QB ever to throw at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in one season, but Atlanta’s defense has the seventh-fewest interceptions.
Chicago Bears at (-7) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bears. This is going to be a recurring theme this week, but there’s nothing at stake here for the Vikings, who know where they’ll be in the playoff field already. Meanwhile, you’ve got plenty of Bears players who want to put one more good game on tape to end an otherwise disappointing season.
Ricky: Bears. The Vikings are locked into the No. 6 seed, whereas Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has a lot of financial incentive to take this game seriously based on his rollercoaster season and Chicago’s looming decision on how to approach his fifth-year contract option. Minnesota’s secondary also has been vulnerable at times.
Andre: Bears. Chicago is getting a ton of points and has the fourth-best rush defense in the league in terms of yards allowed per carry. Dalvin Cook’s status is uncertain and the Vikings are locked into their seed, so there’s a good chance he won’t play at all. The Vikings’ offense looked anemic without Cook and the team is 1-4 when they don’t amass 100 rushing yards in a game.
(-2.5) Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. The Browns already know they’re getting the first pick, so why not let it hang loose here and add one more bit of misery to the Browns’ awful season?
Ricky: Bengals. Why wouldn’t the Browns end the season with an awful loss?
Andre: Bengals. Joe Mixon goes off on a weak Browns’ rush defense that’s probably also not really motivated after entering the season with high expectations.
(-10) Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Green Bay has something to play for, so the Pack won’t totally mail it in, at least not early. If the Packers can build an early lead, it’s hard to see the hapless Lions climbing back into it, even if the backdoor is left open.
Ricky: Packers. Feels like a lot of points given Green Bay’s offensive inconsistency, but you really can’t go wrong with fading Detroit nowadays. The Lions are 1-9 ATS in their last 10 games, and with key injuries on both sides of the ball — most notably at the quarterback position — it’s hard to imagine things getting any better for Detroit this week as the Packers set their sights on the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
Andre: Packers. Green Bay is still fighting for positioning in the NFC playoff picture, while the Lions are just trying to end a forgettable season marred with injuries and bleh play from David Blough. Eleven of the Lions’ first 12 games were decided by one possession. Their last three have been losses by an average margin of 14.7 points.
Los Angeles Chargers at (-8) Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. Just trying to fade the public here with about 2/3 of the bets coming in on the Chiefs. I know teams probably don’t think like this, but is it really worth keeping the foot on the gas when Kansas City looks up in the third quarter and the Patriots are beating the Dolphins, and the Chiefs realize they can’t improve their seed? Just win and get ready for the playoffs.
Ricky: Chiefs. Kansas City’s defensive turnaround has Andy Reid’s team looking even more dangerous than last season’s squad that lost to New England in the AFC Championship Game, especially since there isn’t quite as much buzz surrounding the Chiefs right now. Philip Rivers likely will cough up the football a few times this week in K.C., where the Chiefs will roll again just before the playoffs.
Andre: Chargers. Nine of L.A.’s 10 losses have come by one possession, so naturally, I’ll pick the Chargers if they’re getting eight points.
Miami Dolphins at (-15.5) New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. I’m certainly not one to tell Bill Belichick how to do his job, but it definitely feels like the No. 1 priority here should be getting (and staying) healthy for the playoffs. Ryan Fitzpatrick is good enough (I guess?) to get the Fins a late cover.
Ricky: Dolphins. Would I be surprised if the Patriots score a couple of touchdowns on defense and special teams en route to blowing out the Dolphins? Absolutely not. But I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Miami sneak in the back door with a late score once the Patriots start resting guys.
Andre: Patriots. Miami’s leading rusher this year is Ryan Fitzpatrick with a whopping 228 yards. Kalen Ballage leads the team in carries and is averaging a horrifying 1.8 yards per carry. How the hell does this team expect to move the chains against the Patriots? If this was a spread for 15.5 first downs, I’d still take the Patriots.
New York Jets at (-1) Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jets. Looks like Matt Barkley is gonna get plenty of run this week for the Bills, who can’t improve their standing regardless. The Jets’ defense should have itself a nice little day.
Ricky: Jets. The Bills are locked into the No. 5 seed, and the Jets’ defense is capable of slowing mediocre offenses. Buffalo’s offense, for the most part, is rather pedestrian — even more so if Sean McDermott approaches this like the meaningless game that it is.
Andre: Jets. The Jets boast one of the league’s best rush defenses, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry. They’ve also won five of their last seven games and you could make a case that this team could’ve been fighting for a playoff spot if Sam Darnold hadn’t contracted mono.
(-13) New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Saints. As I mentioned in my power rankings this week, the Panthers’ run defense has reached depths rarely seen in the last two decades. Only one team in the last 16 years has allowed as many yards per rush over a season than they have. New Orleans also has motivation here.
Ricky: Saints. Really can’t find an argument for backing the Panthers here. Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray will roll right through Carolina’s run defense, which can’t stop a nose bleed, while the Panthers’ offense will struggle to find a rhythm with rookie QB Will Grier making his second career start.
Andre: Saints. As Ricky highlighted, the Panthers allow a league-high 5.3 yards per carry. The Saints, who have a lot to play for, should exploit that and cause problems for Grier.
Arizona Cardinals at (-7) Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. Neither team has anything to really play for, so I’ll grab the points and hope Kyler Murray is at least somewhat serviceable despite the hamstring injury.
Ricky: Rams. Arizona has been excellent when catching points this season, going 9-4-1 ATS as an underdog. But the fear of Brett Hundley playing if Murray’s hamstring doesn’t heal is too much to gloss over.
Andre: Rams. The Rams have beaten the Cardinals in five straight games with scores of 33-0, 32-16, 34-0, 31-0 and most recently, 34-7.
(-3.5) Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Colts. This is pure, baseless speculation, but it’s Week 17, so what the hell: To me, it just feels like the Colts are going to be more prepared, better-coached and generally more invested in this game that means absolutely nothing.
Ricky: Colts. Jacksonville’s defense has been awful since trading away Jalen Ramsey, and the offense has struggled to score points regardless of who’s playing quarterback. Gut feeling says the Colts, who are better coached, show more fight with nothing on the line.
Andre: Jaguars. Give me the Jags, getting points at home in a meaningless divisional game. There’s a good chance that many of the Colts players will be raging at some random Jacksonville dive bar the night before this game anyway.
Oakland Raiders at (-3.5) Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. I’m a sucker for the hook here, but the Broncos might not even need the half-point; Denver could win this game outright, as one could argue the Broncos — who have a point differential 70 points better than Oakland for the season — is the better team.
Ricky: Raiders. Crazy to think the Raiders have an outside shot at making the playoffs. Probably not gonna happen, but it’s enough reason for them to show up and make life difficult for rookie quarterback Drew Lock.
Andre: Broncos. Lock against a Raiders defense that allows a league-high 8.4 yards per pass attempt? Give me the Broncos.
(-4.5) Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. Looks like Philly figured things out offensively, averaging 27 points per game over the last four weeks, thanks in large part to the improved play of Carson Wentz, who has a 101.7 passer rating over that time with nine touchdowns and just one pick. He should keep it rolling against the No. 31 pass defense by DVOA.
Ricky: Giants. The Eagles overcame their litany of injuries on offense last week against the Cowboys. Maybe they’ll do the same this week. But don’t expect Philadelphia to coast. Saquon Barkley just showed why he’s one of the most electric players in the NFL, and Daniel Jones could carry some momentum into this matchup with a mediocre Eagles secondary.
Andre: Giants. Barkley has terrorized defenses over the last two weeks. He’ll do it again against a meh Eagles rush defense.
(-2) Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. The Ravens are resting everyone, and the Steelers absolutely need this game to have a shot at the playoffs. Seems too obvious, but I’ll ride with Duck.
Ricky: Steelers. Actually kinda curious to see what Baltimore’s offense looks like with Robert Griffin III running the show. That said, the unpredictability that comes with the Ravens resting their starters is enough to lean toward the Steelers, who desperately need a win as they look to sneak into the playoffs.
Andre: Ravens. Baltimore is going with its backup, who is probably better than both of Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks at this point (Paxton Lynch is now Duck Hodges’ backup with Mason Rudolph landing on the IR). RGIII has completed 12 of 17 passes with a touchdown and a pick this season.
(-4) Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Titans. Bill O’Brien says the Texans are going to play to win, and you know what? I don’t believe him, especially given the injuries (Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, Laremy Tunsil and on and on). Not only that, if the Chiefs win early — which they should — Houston will have nothing to play for in the late game.
Ricky: Titans. Derrick Henry is expected to play Sunday after missing Tennessee’s Week 16 game against New Orleans. That’s huge for a Titans offense that’s far more dangerous when he’s wearing down the opposing defense, in turn setting up Ryan Tannehill for play-action shots down the field.
Andre: Titans. Everything Ricky said just makes a ton of sense, especially since the Titans are fighting for something, too.
Washington Redskins at (-10.5) Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Redskins. Bill Callahan seems like the kind of guy who would revel in ruining the Cowboys’ season. That being said, I don’t think they’ll win this game, but they’ll be just enough of a pain in the rear end to be within the number.
Ricky: Redskins. The Cowboys should steamroll the Redskins without a problem. Which means they probably won’t. Not only is it hard to trust Dallas in pressure-packed spots. It also seems foolish to lay this many points given Dak Prescott’s shoulder injury.
Andre: Cowboys. Washington has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game this season. Ezekiel Elliott wakes up and runs over the Skins and leads the Cowboys to an NFC East title.
(-3) San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: 49ers. The 49ers’ defense hasn’t looked as stout recently as it did earlier this season, in large part due to injuries. But if you haven’t heard, Seattle’s running back corps is so banged up, it’s bringing back Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. Without a real threat of a run game to stop, San Fran’s pass rush should be able to pin its ears back and have a lot of backfield meetings with Russell Wilson.
Ricky: Seahawks. It feels like a lot of people are writing off the Seahawks, which is understandable given their depleted running back situation and the loss of left tackle Duane Brown ahead of a matchup against a fearsome 49ers pass rush. But few teams thrive with their backs against the wall quite like Seattle, and getting points at home feels like good value, especially since San Francisco also hasn’t looked totally right over the past couple of weeks.
Andre: Seahawks. The once-lethal 49ers defense has allowed 35.3 points per game over the last three. They are tired and a bit banged up after having a Week 4 bye. Seattle is also a little banged, but they’ve always been more of a one-man show led by Wilson. This isn’t new territory for Wilson, who has thrived despite being sacked more than any other quarterback this season. With so many injuries on both teams, I think this one will come down to the better quarterback. Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over, he’s at home and his team is getting points.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images