Cook’s NFL Picks: Week 17!

Hi, hello and welcome to Week 17 of the National Football League! Every single one of these games takes place on Sunday, so you don’t need to worry about randomness on Thursday, Saturday or Monday. What you do need to worry about: Teams that don’t care. A lot of these teams aren’t going to be running out their best players this week due to injury, resting for the playoffs, avoiding bonus compensation, or any number of other factors. So keep an eye on the injury report, take note of all the big names on IR, and look at the standings and see who has something to play for and who doesn’t.

In the AFC, all of the playoff teams have been determined: New England, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Kansas City & Miami. The Chiefs can still get the #2 seed if they win & the Raiders lose. The Patriots haven’t quite clinched homefield advantage yet, if they lose & the Raiders win this week, Oakland will get the top seed. The Dolphins can move up to #5 if they win & the Chiefs lose. The Steelers & Texans are set in their spots, and everybody not mentioned here is going home after this week.

The NFC is a little bit more interesting. Dallas has clinched the top seed. The second seed will be settled between Atlanta, Seattle & Detroit. If the Falcons win they get it, if they lose the Seahawks can take it with a win in their game. If they both lose, the Lions can get it with a win in their game. The Giants already have the #5 seed locked up. The #6 seed will go to Washington, the loser of Packers/Lions, or Tampa Bay depending on how the game results pan out.

So that’s fun. Let’s see what Week 17 holds for us!

Sunday, January 1

Houston at Tennessee (-3)

There was a pretty good chance of this game deciding the AFC South. The Titans had an easy enough matchup last week, but they came out flat in Jacksonville and the loss of Marcus Mariota until next season relegates this game to the bin of insignificance. The Texans took care of business in a Saturday night pillow fight with the Bengals…all I can really say about that one is it lived down to the Thursday Night Football branding.

Speaking of which, when is NFL Network going to stop insisting on using the Thursday Night Football name for games that aren’t on Thursday night? It’s not like TNF is a brand that carries a tremendous amount of fan loyalty with it. I wonder if whoever carries the Premier League in England calls the Wednesday night matches “Sunday Afternoon Football: Wednesday Night Edition”.

I don’t really care for either of these teams so I’ll take the home team. Titans salvage a little pride to end their season while the Texans move on to their likely first round defeat.

Buffalo (-3.5) at NY Jets

A team that just fired their head coach and announced that E.J. Manuel will be the quarterback for this week’s game is the favorite. I have no idea what to make of that, other than the Jets are the drizzling shits. I guess the theory is that the Bills have a better roster and they’ll be more motivated now that the Ryan brothers are gone. I’ll go with it only because the Jets are so so so bad.

Baltimore at Cincinnati 

The Bengals will not have A.J. Green or Tyler Eifert at their disposal this week, meaning I have no idea who Andy Dalton will throw the ball to. It might be Brandon LaFell, it might be Cody Core, it might be the popcorn guy. Who knows? Neither team has anything to play for here, but I expect the Ravens to come in stronger since Steve Smith Sr. has announced this will probably be his last game. If they make him look bad, he won’t be contractually obligated to not kick their asses.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-4.5)

Andrew Luck is playing this week, at least as far as we know at this moment. He & the Colts have had a disappointing season, but they have enough pride to not let the Jags beat them in Indianapolis. Now, if the Jags injure Luck like they injured Mariota, then we might have some problems here.

Dallas at Philadelphia (-3.5)

The Cowboys have already clinched homefield advantage and outside of Zeke Elliott trying to break the rookie rushing record, there’s nothing for them to play for. Expect the Eagles to get the win and make their fans believe in next season.

Chicago at Minnesota (-6.5)

dontcare

Bears? Sure. I ran out of things to say about either of these teams weeks ago.

Carolina at Tampa Bay (-5)

I’m not even going to try to explain how the Buccaneers can make the playoffs. They need to win, Washington needs to lose, and then they need a lot of other teams to win to help their “strength of victory”. The fact they’re this close is a credit to the team, as nobody in their right mind had Tampa Bay as playoff contenders before the season started. I like the Buccaneers in this game, but I don’t see enough of their previous opponents helping them out. I think. Who knows?

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-6)

No Big Ben? No Bell? No Brown? I can hear Terry Bradshaw firing up another hot take on the quality of the Steelers’ head coach. I’ll be honest, I don’t know whether players rested at the end of the season back in Terry’s day or not, but it sounds like something that the old-school football diehards would be firmly against. I don’t blame the Steelers at all though, this game means nothing to them. They’ll be the #3 seed and hosting a playoff game next week. No reason to risk anything in this game.

(And let’s be real clear: Anybody questioning the quality of Mike Tomlin as a head coach doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t like his team, their style of play or his propensity to cheat, but I won’t deny that he’s one of the best coaches in the game. Boy, would I like to.)

Can the Browns make it two in a row? You can criticize a lot of things about Cleveland’s football team but you can’t knock their effort. They’ll give it their all to end the season on a good note against the team their fans hate more than any other. Steelers fans will stress out if their second-string can’t beat the Browns, but they’ve got nothing to worry about.

New England (-9.5) at Miami

The Patriots won’t be messing around this week. They can clinch homefield advantage with a win and they’ll do just that.

NY Giants at Washington (-7.5)

The Giants are already in and Washington needs to win or they’ll be going home. I’d expect the New York coaching staff to rest their regulars for next week’s playoff game and not try anything risky.

New Orleans at Atlanta (-7)

This should be a pretty good one between two teams that don’t like each other. The Falcons need to win to get a bye. The Saints got nothing on the line except pride, and the chance to force their rivals to play an extra playoff game. I expect a close one so the Saints are the pick here.

Arizona (-6.5) at Los Angeles

It’s certainly been a disappointing season for an Arizona team that many had pegged as Super Bowl contenders in the off-season. They won’t be going there, but they haven’t given up in the final weeks of the season. The Cardinals were impressive in a win last week in Seattle, and I expect them to close out the season with another road win. They have an aging quarterback & WR1 & their depth at WR has taken a hit this season, but as long as that offense has David Johnson they’ve got a chance. Keep an eye on them next season.

My mom once told me if you don’t have anything nice to say about somebody, don’t say anything at all. (I wish she would have taken her own advice, she wouldn’t shut up about Hillary Clinton all year.) Anywho, I will take her advice here and not say anything about the Rams.

Kansas City (-5.5) at San Diego

The Chargers did a good deed for the people of Cleveland last week and rolled over for the Browns. Hopefully they’ll do a good deed for the people of San Diego in the off-season and leave town. The Chiefs need to win this game to have a chance of winning the AFC West and getting the #2 seed, and I expect them to do just that. Tyreek Hill might not be a good person but he’s the fastest person in the NFL. More importantly than that, we got my boy Dontari Poe throwing touchdown passes now. How long until he takes that job from Alex Smith?

Seattle (-9.5) at San Francisco

The 49ers have a lot to play for this week. Namely, the top pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Seahawks should be in top form this week, at least for the first half or however long it takes to get enough of a lead. They still have a chance at a first round bye and there’s no reason to screw that up by losing to the sorry, no-account 49ers.

Oakland at Denver (-1.5)

The Broncos haven’t gotten anything going on offense in weeks, but I like their defense against Matt McGloin.

Green Bay (-3) at Detroit

Our primetime game will certainly decide the winner of the NFC North, but it could also determine which team gets in the playoffs at all. The Lions could be anywhere from #2 to not in the dance depending on how this week goes. They’ve lost once at home this season while the Packers have been 3-4 on the road. Green Bay has been a different team as of late, winning their last five games & looking like their usual dangerous selves.

Based on what we’ve seen out of both teams lately, it’s tough not to pick the Packers. It could be a close one, but these are two teams seemingly heading in opposite directions. I don’t think the Packers’ luck has run out just yet.

bluto-chug-o

Week 16 Results: 10-6

2016 Results: 126-105-9

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