NFL Week 17 Picks - Early Games

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NFL Week 17 Early Games

All times Eastern

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Week 16: Rick: 8-7-1; Coin: 5-10-1
Cumulative: Rick: 115-119-6; Coin: 111-123-6

Sunday, December 29

1:00 pm Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1, 48) - Neither team is going to the playoffs, so the question here is about motivation. The Buccaneers would seem to have more to prove, since they can get to 8-8 with a victory. James Winston can light it up. So can Falcons' Matt Ryan. This could very well be the high total score of the weekend. The Bucs are just 2-5 at home. Their fans deserve better and should get some love here, as Tampa already beat the Falcons once this season, 35-22, in Atlanta.

Coin Flip: Atlanta

Prediction: Buccaneers 45 Falcons 31

1:00 pm Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-1, 37) - With all the playoff spots already spoken for, there's no reason either team should want to play this game, though the Bears may want to take out some degree of frustration on their division rivals.

Minnesota was a sorry bunch in their 23-10, Monday night loss to the Packers. Most of their receiving corps is injured and their running game is also marginal. Since they need to get healthy in advance of next week's playoff game, don't expect many Minnesota starters in the game. Meanwhile, Chicago QB Mitch Trubisky has next season's contract to think about, so maybe he'll actually play well. Odds seem to be leaning toward a Bears' victory. Chicago won a prior meeting this season, 16-6.

Coin Flip: Chicago

Prediction: Bears 23 Vikings 10

1:00 pm Cleveland Browns (-2 1/2, 44 1/2) at Cincinnati Bengals - Despite the Bengals being 1-14, it's the Browns who were the biggest flop of 2019. Predicted by some to go into the playoffs and maybe even to the AFC championship game, the Browns enter the final week of the season with a dreary 6-9 record, a number in range of previous seasons without the star power of Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Nick Chubb, et. al.

Earlier this month, the Browns took a 27-19 decision over the Bengals in Cleveland. Expect a return date to be more of the same.

Coin Flip: Cleveland

Prediction: Browns 30 Bengals 17

1:00 pm Green Bay Packers (-12 1/2, 43) at Detroit Lions - Because the Packers will have to wait until Sunday night's Seattle - San Francisco game to find out where they'll be seeded in the playoffs and whether or not they get a bye in the opening round, figure on everybody doing what's needed to win this game and put themselves in the best position possible. Besides the 49ers, the Packers and Saints also have 12-3 records

The Packers overcame three first half turnovers in Monday's 23-10 win over Minnesota and looked confident doing so. They were tested by the Lions earlier this season, registering a 23-22 win at home on October 14, but the Lions are 3-11-1 and have lost eight in a row. Taking the points here would be a wild proposition, so don't do it.

Coin Flip: Green Bay

Prediction: Packers 30 Lions 12

1:00 pm Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-8 1/2, 44 1/2) - Will the 11-4 Chiefs be watching the scoreboard as Miami plays at New England? Because the Chiefs won, 23-16, on December 8 at Foxboro, if the Patriots lose to the Dolphins and the Chiefs win, they'll get the second seed and a bye next week.

However, what are the chances of 4-11 Miami topping 12-3 New England. Slim to none, likely. So, the situation could deflate KC enough to keep the Chargers - who have nothing to gain nor lose - in the game. The Chiefs slipped past the Chargers, 24-17, back in November. Different venue this time, but maybe a similar result.

Coin Flip: Los Angeles Chargers

Prediction: Chiefs 24 Chargers 19

1:00 pm Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-15 1/2, 45) - Seriously, the Patriots may not be as good as previous seasons, but they are certainly good enough to win this game. In week two, the Pats demolished the Dolphins, treating them like canned tuna in a 43-0 squish of the fish.

However, that was when Josh Rosen was quarterbacking Miami and they were in the process of losing the first seven games of the season. Since week nine, the Dolphins have been nearly respectable, going 4-4, including wins over Philadelphia and Indianapolis. Can they keep this to within two touchdowns? Since Ryan Fitzpatrick took the QB job, Miami has lost by 15 or less in four of six games. And, during that time, they won four times, so, OK, they might.

Coin Flip: New England

Prediction: Patriots 31 Dolphins 20

1:00 pm New Orleans Saints (-13, 46) at Carolina Panthers - The Saints can take either the #1 or #2 seed with a win, depending on what Green Bay and San Francisco do this week. All three are 12-3 and already in the playoffs, so it's just a matter of determining position at this juncture.

A month ago, the Saints hosted Carolina and escaped with a 34-31 win, a score much tighter than many anticipated. Being a division rival, the Panthers are unlikely to just lay down here, and the Saints may come in a bit overconfident. Problem is, Carolina is starting Will Grier at QB. Last week against the Colts, Grier was picked off three times and sacked five times in a horrifying, 38-6 loss, the Panthers' seventh straight. Um, no, don't take the points.

Coin Flip: Carolina

Prediction: Saints 34 Panthers 13

1:00 pm New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-1 1/2, 36 1/2) - This game reminds one of that old commercial, "your mind on drugs" because of al the questions surrounding players and motivation. The Bills are unlikely to start Josh Allen, so Matt Barkley will get the nod at QB and he's maybe good enough to win this contest. How will the rest of the Bills respond, and which of them will start?

For the Jets, are they good enough to avenge a 17-16 week one loss, now that Sam Darnold is playing well? Are the 6-9 Jets even concerned about winning or losing? How about the Bills? There are just too many conflicting signs, though one thing is certain. Bills' fans would love to see their guy go out on a winning note and onto the playoffs. Will it happen? Who knows? But, judging by the usual standards of Buffalo fortune, the Jets are likely to show up with a solid game plan. They have won five of their last seven.

Coin Flip: Buffalo

Prediction: NY Jets 23 Bills 16

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