NFL Picks Week 17: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Predictions
The NFL landscape changed forever when the league decided to backload the schedule with divisional games. Because of that, Week 17 means much more than it used to, and fewer teams will be sitting their starters in an action-packed final slate of games.
The NFC East is still up for grabs, and the NFL flexed the final game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys to Sunday night. The game will decide who goes to the playoffs. Adding to the intrigue, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that quarterback Tony Romo will be out for Dallas with a back injury.
The NFC North is still to be decided as well following a historic collapse by the Detroit Lions. The winner between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears heads to the playoffs.
The Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins are both trying to sneak in the back door of the AFC playoffs, and they face off with the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets, respectively. The Arizona Cardinals are trying to get in, but they have to knock off the San Francisco 49ers while hoping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers best the New Orleans Saints.
We'll cover all these games and more—just a few clicks ahead. Don't like our picks? Give us yours in the comments below!
Name: Last Week; Overall
Consensus: 9-6; 135-80 (63 Percent)
Andrea Hangst: 9-7; 154-85
Brad Gagnon: 7-9; 151-88
Tyson Langland: 7-9; 149-90
Ty Schalter: 10-6; 149-90
Matt Bowen: 9-7; 148-91
Chris Hansen: 10-6; 148-91
Zach Kruse: 9-7; 147-92
Matt Miller: 10-6; 147-92
Erik Frenz: 9-7; 143-96
Mike Freeman: 9-7; 138-101
Michael Schottey: 10-6; 138-101
Knox Bardeen: 8-8; 135-104
To see how Bleacher Report's experts are faring against the best at other media outlets, check out Pickwatch.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
B/R Consensus Pick: Patriots (11-1)
Bowen: Patriots, 30-17
I loved the way the Bills played defensive football in their win over the Dolphins, but they won't slow down Tom Brady in Week 17.
Schalter: Bills, 28-24
The Bills are playing better and better for head coach Doug Marrone. I believe the Bills pull out all the stops to repay New England for the heartbreaker earlier in the season.
Frenz: Patriots, 34-31
Shootouts. That’s going to be the name of the game when the Patriots play from here on out. Scoring more than 30 points will be a necessity against any and every opponent the Patriots might face in the playoffs.
With EJ Manuel playing at less than 100 percent and the Patriots secondary in similar condition, that matchup could go either way. If the Patriots can maintain a reasonable ground game, though, they should be able to keep the Bills off balance and pick up a win.
Hansen: Patriots, 31-24
The Bills have the kind of pass rush that could bother Tom Brady, but they probably don’t have enough on offense to beat the Patriots at home. If the Patriots win and the Broncos lose to the Raiders (however unlikely), New England would earn the No. 1 seed.
Other Picks: Patriots (Schottey, Freeman, Miller, Hangst, Gagnon, Bardeen, Langland, Kruse)
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
B/R Consensus Pick: Bengals (12-0)
Schottey: Bengals, 28-17
Bengals don't lose at home, and Ravens don't go to the playoffs.
Miller: Bengals, 20-17
The Ravens can keep this one close, but the Bengals have too much riding on this game to let it slip away.
Hangst: Bengals, 28-13
The Bengals are undefeated at home, and there's no reason to think that will change. They have the deepest, most complete team in the league, while the Ravens—especially on offense—are shells of their former selves. Another blowout loss for Baltimore could be coming.
Gagnon: Bengals, 24-20
The Ravens might be out of gas, and they're in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cincy is cruising right now, and the Bengals are very tough to beat at home.
Other Picks: Bengals (Unanimous)
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
B/R Consensus Pick: Steelers (12-0)
Freeman: Steelers, 27-14
Unreal how the Steelers are still alive for the playoffs. Even if only remotely. That minor bit of hope pushes them past a sorry Browns team.
Hangst: Steelers, 27-13
It will take a lot of help for the Steelers to make the playoffs (Baltimore, Miami and San Diego losses), but the Browns at least give them a chance to win.
The wheels have seemingly fallen off Cleveland's offense, while the defense is struggling on third downs, in the red zone and in the fourth quarter. That should be enough for Pittsburgh to reach 8-8 for a second straight year.
Bardeen: Steelers, 27-17
The Browns were never really good this season, but at least at 4-5, Cleveland’s defense was somewhat formidable. That’s just not the case anymore as the Browns have lost six in a row and are leaking points like a sieve. Ben Roethlisberger should have a field day.
Kruse: Steelers, 28-14
A win and some help can still get the Steelers into the big dance. First things first: Pittsburgh needs to take care of its own business.
Other Picks: Steelers (Unanimous)
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
B/R Consensus Pick: Panthers (12-0)
Bowen: Panthers, 24-16
The Panthers started the season 1-3; now, they have a shot to lock up the NFC South. I'm going with Ron Rivera and Cam Newton to get that done.
Frenz: Panthers, 28-10
The Falcons have saved face with a couple of late-season wins, but beating the Redskins and Bills is a lot different than beating a good Carolina team. If the Panthers can’t light up the struggling Falcons defense, they have some serious concerns headed into the playoffs.
Bardeen: Panthers, 27-23
The Panthers have solidified a playoff spot, but they still need this game to win the division and earn home-field advantage in the playoffs. They’ll have to win this rivalry game without Steve Smith, which will prove harder than expected as emotions run high in this season finale.
Langland: Panthers, 27-21
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons showed the nation that they have plenty of fight left in them on Monday Night Football. Yet it’s going to take more than a fight to beat the red-hot Carolina Panthers. Over the course of the last 11 games, the Panthers have won 10 times. Not to mention, they employ the second-best defense in the league.
Other Picks: Panthers (Unanimous)
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
B/R Consensus Pick: Packers (10-2)
Schottey: Packers, 30-24
Aaron Rodgers has to play, right? RIGHT?!?! The Bears have no business being in the playoffs with a terrible defense and an offense that isn't going to get anywhere, as Jay Cutler invents new ways to let fans down. With Rodgers, the Packers are an actual threat to make a run.
Bowen: Packers, 30-20
If Aaron Rodgers is back on the field, then the Packers are your NFC North champs.
Bardeen: Bears, 20-17
Chicago was embarrassed last week by the Philadelphia Eagles, but it still has a shot at postseason play. Sunday’s matchup with Green Bay is a winner-take-all prize fight with the playoffs as the reward. If Aaron Rodgers returns, Green Bay has the upper hand. If not, the Bears should advance.
Kruse: Packers, 24-20
Any team that can run the football has a chance to beat the Bears. The Packers would be a heavy favorite with Aaron Rodgers, but even Matt Flynn can take care of business if Chicago continues to struggle holding up against the run. Jay Cutler is always good for one big mistake against a Dom Capers defense, too.
Other Picks: Packers (Schalter, Freeman, Frenz, Hangst, Hansen, Langland, Gagnon); Bears (Miller)
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
B/R Consensus Pick: Pick 'Em (6-6)
Schalter: Vikings, 20-14
Calvin Johnson's health and the noise in the Metrodome make the difference here. Both coaches should be gone no matter who wins.
Miller: Lions, 20-14
Jim Schwartz may find a way to lose this one, but on paper, the Lions should dominate the Vikings. The Schwartz Factor keeps it close.
Hangst: Lions, 23-17
This could be Jim Schwartz's swan song, and he'll want to exit Detroit on a high note. The Lions have suffered enough embarrassment this year. They'll go into Minnesota and get things done this week.
Kruse: Vikings, 21-20
The Vikings will give one last Metrodome crowd a winning effort, while the Lions have one last disappointment left under Jim Schwartz. Both teams will be ready for this tumultuous season to be over.
Other Picks: Lions (Schottey, Frenz, Bowen Langland); Vikings (Freeman, Hansen, Gagnon, Bardeen)
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans
B/R Consensus Pick: Titans (12-0)
Freeman: Titans, 21-17
Two sorry-ass teams battle it out for draft position. The Titans are the least sorriest.
Miller: Titans, 20-17
Tip your hats to the Titans defense. It'll put in overtime stopping Houston in a momentum-building win.
Hansen: Titans, 23-13
The Texans are the only team that has lost to the sorry Raiders in the last eight games. The Titans are probably better than their record indicates because they have been trying to get by with a backup quarterback for most of this season.
Gagnon: Titans, 26-23
The Titans have still been giving it. Houston is ready to lock up the No. 1 overall pick. In Tennessee, this seems relatively obvious, but these divisional Week 17 games can be tough.
Other Picks: Titans (Unanimous)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
B/R Consensus Pick: Colts (11-1)
Bowen: Colts, 27-23
Another opportunity for the young talent on the Jags roster to play some football this season, but I like the Colts here to pick up another win as they work toward the playoffs.
Frenz: Colts, 29-26
The Colts need a big win headed into the playoffs, but the Jaguars have played tough, with six of their past seven games decided by one possession or less. It could be closer than the Colts want it to be, but the result will be the same: Andrew Luck comes through in the clutch for a Colts win.
Hansen: Colts, 24-17
The Colts can be anywhere from a No. 2 to a No. 4 seed in the playoffs. If New England and Cincinnati both lose, the Colts will earn a first-round bye with a win. They would get the No. 3 seed with a win and a Bengals loss.
The Jaguars have improved steadily under head coach Gus Bradley this season, but winning this game isn’t in their best interests. It will be closer than it should be, but the Jaguars lose and secure a top-five pick next April.
Gagnon: Jaguars, 24-21
The Jaguars are 3-2 in their last five and 4-3 in their last seven. I am predicting an upset in this one.
Other Picks: Colts (Schottey, Schalter, Freeman, Miller, Hangst, Bardeen, Langland, Kruse)
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
B/R Consensus Pick: Dolphins (11-1)
Schottey: Dolphins, 23-17
This game had all the makings of a stinker a few weeks ago, but both teams have trended upward, and this should be a competitive one. As the Dolphins look to gain momentum for a playoff run, I think they beat Rex Ryan, who may not even be able to save his job.
Freeman: Dolphins, 20-17
Jets do make it close, but it's Christmas, and we know Geno Smith likes to hand-deliver gifts.
Frenz: Dolphins, 30-12
The Dolphins handled the Jets easily when they went up to New York, so things shouldn’t be much different down in Miami. New York’s defense, once a calling card for the team, has been burned through the air lately.
Look for Ryan Tannehill to post another big day in what’s been a breakout season for the young quarterback. The Jets lose in what could be Rex Ryan’s last game as head coach.
Kruse: Jets, 20-17
The Dolphins end the season with two straight clunkers, as the Jets give New York management another reason to keep Rex Ryan around next season.
Other Picks: Dolphins (Bowen, Schalter, Miller, Hangst, Hansen, Gagnon, Bardeen, Langland)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
B/R Consensus Pick: Saints (12-0)
Schalter: Saints, 33-10
There's no way the Saints lose a needed game to the Buccaneers, especially in the Superdome.
Hangst: Saints, 35-17
The comforts of home at just the right time—the Saints can save their playoff hopes this week with the Buccaneers coming to town. The many questions about the Saints don't generally apply when they play in their own dome, and four-win Tampa won't give them much of a problem.
Bardeen: Saints, 34-14
The Saints actually must fight for their playoff lives Sunday against the Buccaneers. They need a win to get in (if Arizona wins or ties). That’s amazing considering this team started 9-2. Fortunately, New Orleans is playing at home—where it is nearly unbeatable—and welcoming a floundering Tampa Bay team.
Langland: Saints, 31-17
Tampa Bay’s defense has helped keep it in games during the second half of the season, yet Mike Glennon and the Buccaneers offense won’t be able to keep pace with Drew Brees. Sure, the Saints defense is decimated by injury, but New Orleans will be at its best with a playoff spot on the line.
Other Picks: Saints (Unanimous)
Washington at New York Giants
B/R Consensus Pick: Giants (8-4)
Miller: Giants, 24-17
It's been a disappointing season for the Giants, but Tom Coughlin won't let his team limp into the offseason.
Frenz: Giants, 28-27
The Super Bowl is being played at MetLife Stadium in February, but the "Pride Bowl" takes place in Week 17 as New York and Washington look to save face with late-season wins. In a quarterback duel between Kirk Cousins and Eli Manning, the advantage goes to the veteran passer with the better weapons at his disposal.
Hansen: Washington, 24-21
Washington bungled its rebuild and is paying the price, but it gets the victory just to ensure St. Louis doesn’t get a top-five draft pick out of it. There’s really no logical way to pick a winner in this crud-fest, but the football gods should ensure a team like Cleveland, Jacksonville or Oakland is able to land one of the top players in the upcoming draft.
Gagnon: Washington, 24-21
Somewhat surprisingly, neither team has given up. That said, Washington is probably fighting a little harder right now. Let's give Kirk Cousins and co. a win in a close one, although meaningless NFC East games are tough to predict.
Other Picks: Giants (Schottey, Bowen, Freeman, Hangst, Bardeen, Langland); Washington (Schalter, Kruse)
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
B/R Consensus Pick: Broncos (12-0)
Schottey: Broncos, 28-10
Raiders fans are going to call for Dennis Allen's head after this one, and that would be a huge mistake. The Broncos are a superior team and will look to make one final statement before sitting a few starters and riding into the playoffs on a high note.
Schalter: Broncos, 35-20
Terrelle Pryor will put on a show to keep his bid for the starting job alive, but it won't be enough to bridge the enormous talent gap between these two teams.
Hansen: Broncos, 28-24
Peyton Manning will build a big lead in the first half to make sure the Broncos secure their No. 1 seed, but the Raiders will battle back against Denver’s reserves and get a late touchdown that makes it look like a close game. Terrelle Pryor should be good for a long run or two against Denver’s reserves in the second half.
Langland: Broncos, 35-20
Peyton Manning or Terrelle Pryor? The Raiders are losers of five straight, and head coach Dennis Allen is doing anything he can to save his job. Unfortunately for him, Manning will embarrass Oakland in front of its home crowd, and Allen will be handed his walking papers by Monday morning.
Other Picks: Broncos (Unanimous)
Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers
B/R Consensus Pick: Chiefs (7-5)
Miller: Chiefs, 20-14
Traveling to San Diego won't be easy, but the Chiefs could use this one to get back on track heading into the playoffs, even though they have the No. 5 seed locked up.
Freeman: Chiefs, 20-17
The Chiefs D will hold Philip Rivers in check, but offensive struggles against Indy's mediocre defense raise a red flag.
Hansen: Chargers, 30-17
This one will be gift-wrapped for the Chargers because the Chiefs would be foolish to put Jamaal Charles on the field in a meaningless game. Tamba Hali and Dwayne Bowe are nursing injuries, which means Andy Reid will probably sit his quarterback as well. The Chargers also need Miami and Baltimore to lose.
Bardeen: Chargers, 27-21
This Chargers team has won four of its last five games and came away with wins in Kansas City and Denver during that span. San Diego can surely beat the Chiefs in Week 17, but it needs losses from Miami and Baltimore to make the playoffs. I’m confident in San Diego’s chances of handling its own business, but that’s a lot of needed help.
Other Picks: Chiefs (Schottey, Bowen, Frenz, Hangst, Kruse); Chargers (Schalter, Gagnon, Langland)
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
B/R Consensus Pick: Pick'Em (6-6)
Schalter: Cardinals, 24-23
Neither of these teams have come anywhere close to meeting preseason expectations, which is great for the Cardinals and horrible for the 49ers. Right now, I trust Carson Palmer to make plays more than I do Colin Kaepernick.
Frenz: 49ers, 24-14
If the Cardinals can get their passing game going against the stingy 49ers pass defense, it’ll be a small Christmas miracle. An efficient day from Colin Kaepernick should be enough to pick up the win.
Gagnon: 49ers, 23-20
The 49ers are once again peaking at that perfect moment. I like Arizona, but no way the Niners slip up in a game that matters against an offense that is still a little shaky. If the 49ers win and Carolina and Seattle both lose, they would earn the No. 1 seed.
Langland: Cardinals, 24-21
The Cardinals have won seven of eight and are looking to punch their first playoff ticket since 2009. They can make the playoffs with a win and a New Orleans loss.
With the way the Cardinals defense is playing, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers offense doing anything through the air. Additionally, they’ve only lost one game in the desert this season, and momentum has been in their favor down the stretch. Arizona wins a hard-fought battle with a last-second field goal.
Other Picks: 49ers (Schottey, Bowen, Miller, Bardeen); Cardinals (Freeman, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse)
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks
B/R Consensus Pick: Seahawks (12-0)
Schalter: Seahawks, 20-10
The Seahawks finally suffered a third loss, but I don't think they'll lose again this season.
Bowen: Seahawks, 24-19
The Seahawks won't drop two in a row at home, but the Rams defense will make this a closer game than we all think.
Bardeen: Seahawks, 27-16
The Seahawks still have work to do to secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed. That’s bad news for St. Louis since it will have to face the best Seattle can bring on Sunday. With something to play for, Seattle will easily thump the Rams.
Langland: Seahawks, 23-16
The Rams played the Seahawks tough earlier in the year, but that game was in St. Louis. Seattle may have lost at home for the first time since 2011 against Arizona, but don’t expect it to lose at home two weeks in a row. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the wide receiver corps will finish the season on a high note.
Other Picks: Seahawks (Unanimous)
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
B/R Consensus Pick: Eagles (12-0)
Schottey: Eagles, 42-20
Chip Kelly's offense against the Cowboys defense is going to be the difference here—even if all the talk is about Romo, Romo and more Romo.
Bowen: Eagles, 37-33
If he's healthy, Tony Romo will make some plays, but can the Dallas defense get enough stops versus Nick Foles and the Eagles?
Hangst: Eagles, 37-13
No Tony Romo this week means Kyle Orton will be under center for the Cowboys. Dallas won't be able to keep pace, not with its Swiss cheese defense. In a win-and-you're-in game, I'm taking Nick Foles and the Eagles.
Gagnon: Eagles, 27-20
The Cowboys are unpredictable regardless of who starts at quarterback, but you'd be crazy to pick them to beat the red-hot Eagles with guys like Tony Romo and Sean Lee dealing with injuries.
Other Picks: Eagles (Unanimous)