NFL Game Picks: Week 17 and Playoff Predictions

Story posted January 2, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Jonathan Draeger

The regular season ends this week, but many teams are still fighting for division championships, seeding and playoff spots.

As some teams are still competing for certain accolades, others will rest their starters to save them for the playoffs. The Sunday slate will be filled with nonstop action, so it’s time to take a dive into the final week of the NFL season.

Miami Dolphins (10-5) vs. Buffalo Bills (12-3)

The Dolphins are coming off a very emotional win after a miracle toss from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brian Flores’ team is looking for the final spot in the AFC Wild Card, but they have many ways to enter the playoffs, including a simple win-and-in.

The Buffalo Bills do not have much to play for, considering they won their first division championship since 1995. They only have to play for seeding, but considering their circumstances, they may rest their starters.

Miami wins to clinch a playoff spot.

Prediction: Dolphins 27, Bills 17

Baltimore Ravens (10-5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1)

Baltimore is getting hot at the right time. The Ravens are in great position to clinch a playoff spot. They can have two teams lose to get in, but the simplest way to enter the postseason is to beat the Bengals.

Cincinnati has won its last two games with two different quarterbacks at the helm, looking very impressive. The future seems to be bright for the Bengals, but a few new picks in the draft will help them out, especially higher up in the draft lottery.

Baltimore takes this easily and looks for revenge in the playoffs.

Prediction: Ravens 38, Bengals 17

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) vs. Cleveland Browns (10-5)

Mike Tomlin’s team had an impressive comeback win against the Colts last week, which ended their three-game skid. However, the Steelers are resting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the playoffs, leaving Mason Rudolph to start, and he is no stranger to playing in the Dawg Pound.

The Brown’s miraculous season took a big hit when they lost to the New York Jets, but half of their receiving corps was ruled out due to COVID-19. This game is a must win to end their playoff drought that started back in 2002.

The Browns finally get back to the postseason due to their win against Pittsburgh.

Prediction: Browns 24, Steelers 17

Minnesota Vikings (6-9) vs. Detroit Lions (5-10)

Minnesota has nothing to play for since the Vikings have been eliminated from playoff contention. However, since head coach Mike Zimmer recently told the press about how awful their defense is this season, this may spark a flame into their hearts.

The Vikings need to win to conclude the season somewhat successfully, but a loss wouldn’t hurt the team as much due to draft picks and a possible liquidation sale for the faculty.

Detroit’s season has been lost since the firing of Matt Patricia, and now the Lions may not have their franchise quarterback because of injury. The Buccaneers game last week was a testament to Detroit’s season, and it may get worse.

The Vikings pull out the win and claim bragging rights.

Prediction: Vikings 27, Lions 10

New York Jets (2-13) vs. New England Patriots (6-9)

The Jets have won their last two games, which took people by surprise. Due to their win streak, they lost the chance to get the number one pick, who will most likely be Trevor Lawrence, and some fans are not happy with that.

The Patriots will have nothing to play for, which is a rarity for a generation of fans who only knew success. The quarterback situation that Bill Belichick has failed to reach expectations, and that truly was their downfall this season, along with injuries.

The Jets end their season with three wins, and a lower spot in the draft lottery.

Prediction: Jets 21, Patriots 14

Dallas Cowboys (6-9) vs. New York Giants (5-10)

Dallas looked down and out a few weeks back, but the Cowboys rallied together thanks to quarterback Andy Dalton and a few smashed watermelons from head coach Mike McCarthy.

This three-game win streak the Cowboys are on right now can help them clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Washington loss.

The Giants have struggled as of late, but they faced quality competition compared to the Cowboys, considering their last three games were all against playoff-caliber teams. In order to keep the dream alive, they have the same scenario as the Cowboys: a win and a Washington loss.

The Cowboys keep riding the wave and win this game.

Prediction: Cowboys 24, Giants 16

Atlanta Falcons (4-11) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5)

Atlanta is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Falcons have nothing to play for, but they want the identity of still being a competent team with an interim head coach fighting for the head coaching job.

Tom Brady’s Buccaneers clinched their first playoff spot since 2007. They cannot win the NFC South, but they can get the better NFC Wild Card seed, and that is what keeps Tom Brady out on the field this Sunday.

Tampa Bay takes this game from Atlanta.

Prediction: Buccaneers 34, Falcons 23

Green Bay Packers (12-3) vs. Chicago Bears (8-7)

Green Bay may have a playoff spot locked up, but they are fighting for something more important: a first-round bye. The simplest way to claim that is just by winning this game, which means every weapon will be utilized.

Chicago is currently fighting for a playoff spot, and they currently control their own destiny. A simple win gives them a spot in the postseason, but if they lose, they need some help from the Los Angeles Rams to stay alive.

Green Bay’s offense dismantles the Bears’ defense.

Prediction: Packers 31, Bears 17

Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) vs. Denver Broncos (5-10)

Jon Gruden and his Raiders now have nothing to play for since they got eliminated after Ryan Fitzpatrick’s miracle completion. The team looks to retain the season and stay .500 on the year, and maybe show resemblance of a future playoff team.

Denver looks to get back on track and end their season with a win. The injuries on defense and offense took a toll on the team this season, but this may be the sophomore slump of Drew Lock.

Las Vegas finishes at .500 with a win in Mile High.

Prediction: Raiders 33, Broncos 21

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) vs. Indianapolis Colts (10-5)

Jacksonville is on the clock for the first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. The team can keep the 15-game losing streak going, but they face the only opponent they have beaten this season.

The Colts must win this game in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. After the devastating loss to Pittsburgh last week, they need the win to either get a wild card spot or the division title, depending on how Tennessee does.

The Colts walk out of Lucas Oil Stadium with the win.

Prediction: Colts 38, Jaguars 10

Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (14-1)

Justin Herbert and company look to keep the momentum going on their three-game win streak. Herbert recently broke the record for most passing yards and touchdowns for a rookie quarterback, so the streak may continue for the Chargers, making the future bright for Los Angeles.

Kansas City clinched the first seed, but its past performances have looked shaky as of late. The Falcons game was too close for comfort for all of the fans, and their downfall may be their arrogance and cockiness.

Kansas City wins, no matter if the starters are rested or not.

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Chargers 14

Arizona Cardinals (8-7) vs. Los Angeles Rams (9-6)

In a game with major playoff implications, the Cardinals need to win this to have a chance at a playoff berth, along with a Bears loss. The loss of Kyler Murray may have a major impact on the team, considering their backup quarterback, Chris Streveler, has never thrown an NFL pass.

Los Angeles is in a similar situation as Arizona, and they also have their starting quarterback out with injury. John Wolford will take the helm if Jared Goff is not available, leaving this a game to follow this Sunday.

In the “Backup Quarterback Bowl,” the Rams will take this game.

Prediction: Rams 17, Cardinals 10

Seattle Seahawks (11-4) vs. San Francisco 49ers (6-9)

Seattle clinched its division title, but the Seahawks are looking for that first-round bye. The defense may be shaky, but Russell Wilson has played at an elite level this season, making them disguised as a team to make a deep Super Bowl run.

The 49ers have struggled to stay healthy all year, but since gaining tight end George Kittle back into the starting lineup, they’ve gotten some of their mojo back from last season. This may be defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s last ride before he interviews for a head coaching position.

The Seahawks get the win and prepare for the next playoff game.

Prediction: Seahawks 31, 49ers 21

New Orleans Saints (11-4) vs. Carolina Panthers (5-10)

New Orleans needs to win to take back the first seed in the NFC playoff race. The team is starting to pick things back up since Drew Brees returned from injury, all thanks to a six-touchdown performance from running back Alvin Kamara.

Carolina has looked shaky in some games, but the Panthers’ record does not reflect their performance in games. Matt Rhule has taken this team down a good path in his first year, but injuries to Christian McCaffrey really put a damper on their season.

New Orleans takes the win in Charlotte.

Prediction: Saints 27, Panthers 16

Tennessee Titans (10-5) vs. Houston Texans (4-11)

The Titans are trying to lock up the division and a playoff spot. A simple win locks up the AFC South for Tennessee due to the tiebreaker, which makes them a threat in the AFC.

Houston had their season lost from the start, considering the Texans started off the season 0-4 and fired their head coach. They turned the tables slightly, but the loss of a few wide receivers due to PED’s caused the downfall of Deshaun Watson’s team, making them lose four straight.

Tennessee clinches the division with a blowout win.

Prediction: Titans 35, Texans 7

Washington Football Team (6-9) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1)

Washington has a chance to clinch the division in one simple way: win. The quarterback situation seems to be a big question mark for the team. Will Alex Smith be available, or will Taylor Heinicke have to step up to the challenge?

The Eagles have nothing to lose and can affect the outcome of the NFC East champion. Jalen Hurts looked bad in the second half last week, but nothing like some growing pains will help for the future.

Washington takes the division thanks to its defense.

Prediction: Washington 24, Eagles 13

 

Final AFC Playoff Picture Predictions:

1). Kansas City Chiefs (15-1)
2). Buffalo Bills (12-4)
3). Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
4). Tennessee Titans (11-5)
5). Miami Dolphins (11-5)
6). Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
7). Cleveland Browns (11-5)


Final NFC Playoff Picture Predictions:

1). Green Bay Packers (13-3)
2). New Orleans Saints (12-4)
3). Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
4). Washington Football Team (7-9)
5). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
6). Los Angeles Rams (10-6)
7). Chicago Bears (9-7)

 

Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at jrd6052@psu.edu.

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