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Predictions for Week 17 in the NFL

If you’re a fan of the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns or the Oakland Raiders, then you have been use to your team not having anything to play for in Week 17. For other fans, the last week of the regular season will not just determine seeding for their favorite team, but in some cases, if their team will even be playing in January.

Here is the playoff picture right now in the NFL:

AFC Playoff teams NFC Playoff teams
1.     New England Patriots* (12-3) 1.    Seattle Seahawks (x)  (11-4)
2.    Denver Broncos (y)  (11-4) 2.    Detroit Lions (x)  (11-4)
3.    Cincinnati Bengals (x) (10-4-1) 3.    Dallas Cowboys (y) (11-4)
4.    Indianapolis Colts  (x) (10-5) 4.    Carolina Panthers (6-8-1)
5.    Pittsburgh Steelers  (x) (10-5) 5.    Green Bay Packers (x) (11-4)
6.    San Diego Chargers (9-6) 6.    Arizona Cardinals (x) (11-4)

 

* Means Home field throughout the playoffs

(y) Means Division Title

(x) Clinch Playoff Berth

 

These are the teams still alive in the playoff race

 AFC NFC
7. Baltimore Ravens  (9-6) 9. Atlanta Falcons (6-10)
8. Houston Texans    (8-7)
9. Kansas City Chiefs (8-7)

 

In the AFC, the Patriots clinched home field advantage throughout the AFC because of the Denver’s loss last week against the Bengals. While Denver currently has the number two seed in the AFC, they could slip to the third seed if they were to somehow to lose to the Raiders on Sunday. If Broncos fall to the number three seed in the AFC, that would mean they would open up at home on wild-card weekend.

The winner of the Bengals/Steelers will win the AFC North. If the Steelers win, they would be the three seed in the AFC. The Bengals have a chance to be the two seed with a win Sunday night, but would need a Denver loss. The loser will be the fifth seed and will have to travel to Indianapolis on Wild-Card Weekend.

The most compiling thing to keep an eye on in Week 17 is the race for last wild-card spot in the AFC. If the Chargers defeat the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, they will clinch the sixth seed. If San Diego loses and the Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns, then Baltimore will claim the sixth seed.

The Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs can also get the sixth seed. Houston would need to beat Jacksonville and hope the Ravens and Chargers to both lose. Kansas City would need to defeat the Chargers and have both the Texans and Ravens lose.

In the NFC, the two biggest games are Detroit/Green Bay and Carolina/Atlanta. The winner of both games will claim their divisional title. In the case of the NFC South, the loser would miss the postseason entirely.

Now that you know everything there is to know about Week 17, let’s preview the games.

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers, 4:25 P.M. EST.

The Lions have a chance to claim their first division title in 21 years on Sunday, but will have to defeat the Packers in Lambeau Field for the first time since George H. W. Bush was in office (Dec. 15, 1991). Detroit will have to end the long road losing streak against the Packers without their starting center, Dominic Raiola.

The NFL suspended Raiola after he stomped on the back leg of Chicago Bears rookie defensive tackle Ego Ferguson last week.  Some fans may not think it is a big deal the Lions will be without him, but it is.

Raiola is a 14-year veteran that has chemistry with quarterback Matthew Stafford. The center position is the second most important position on offense next to the quarterback. What could make the absence of Raiola even worse is the Lions are starting rookie Travis Swanson.

While Swanson has had experience at center from his days at Arkansas, but he is being thrown into a baptism by fire because this is the Lions’ biggest game in recent memory. Stafford has never taken an NFL snap from anyone other than Raiola, so botched snaps and fumbles could be possible on Sunday because of the lack of chemistry Swanson and Stafford have.

The Lions defeated the Packers in Week 3 and they have they blueprint to do it once again. But it is hard to go against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Lambeau with the division on the line. I will say this, if the Lions go on the road and defeat the Packers, they turn into instant Super Bowl contenders.

Prediction: Packers 31-20

 

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 P.M. EST

Both the Bengals and the Steelers have been two of best teams in the NFL since Week 8. Each team have gone 7-2 in their last nine games, which is tied for the league’s second-most wins during that span.

These teams played each other three weeks ago and it was the Steelers that came out on top 42-21. While the Steelers are playing at home, I wouldn’t exactly give them the edge in this matchup for the AFC North.

Unlike in the past where so much pressure has been on the shoulders of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, the team is has become more of a power team in 2014. Cincinnati ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing thanks to running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.

Hill leads the Bengals with 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Bernard is second on the team in rushing with 672 yards and five touchdowns this season.

The Steelers rank sixth in league in rushing defense, so expect the team to force the Bengals to beat them through the air. Quarterback Andy Dalton has had the propensity to turn the ball over in primetime games.

It is hard to go against the triplets of the Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown at home.) Especially against the 22nd defense of the Bengals.

Prediction: Steelers 35-24

 

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons, 4:25 P.M. EST

This is the second game of the week where the winner wins the division. Unlike the Bengals/Steelers, the loser will miss the playoffs and their head coach could be fired on Black Monday.

As bad as the Falcons record is, they are undefeated in NFC South divisional games (5-0). As always, Atlanta’s offense is led by quarterback Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

Quietly, Ryan is having another fantastic season has he has thrown for 4,434 yards and 28 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. Jones, who returned last week after missing Week 15 with a hip injury has been among the best receivers in the NFL in 2014.

The former Alabama Crimson Tide ranks third in the NFL in catches with 100 and has racked up 1,535 in 14 games.

It is weird to think a team that didn’t win for nearly two months would still have a chance to win a division title, but that’s the case with the Panthers. The play of quarterback Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart has certainly been the difference as of late.

In his last two games, Newton has thrown for 427 yards, four touchdowns and had a completion percentage of 60.9.

What has also helped the Panthers is the return of Stewart. No one has more has more rushing yards (437) than Stewart during the last four weeks.

The Panthers are 14-3 in December since head coach Ron Rivera took over in 2011 and that’s the second-best record in the NFL during that time behind New England (15-2). While the Panthers have been great in December in recent memory, I will take the Falcons at home in the Georgia Dome in a close one.

Prediction: Falcons 24-21

 

San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, 1 P.M. EST

The Chiefs come into their Week 17 game with an outside chance to make the playoffs, but they will have to win the game without they starting quarterback Alex Smith.

On Friday, the team announced that Smith would miss Sunday’s game against the Chargers with a lacerated spleen. In his place, Chase Daniel will make second-career start against San Diego, who can clinch a playoff spot with a win.

The Chargers will also be dealing with some injuries of their own as running back Ryan Mathews is out and wide receiver Keenan Allen listed as doubtful. Mathews will miss his third straight game with a high ankle sprain, while Allen has a broken right collarbone. These injuries will place more of the offensive burden on Philip Rivers.

After having a 109.9 passing rating during in his first eight games of the season, Rivers’ play has sort of dropped off a bit as he has a 81.4 rating in his last seven. The quarterback is reportedly dealing with a bulging disk in his back and has been limited in practices.

Most people are predicting a Chargers victory over the Chiefs on Sunday because of the absence of Smith, but the Chiefs can certainly win this game. Kansas City ranks seventh in the NFL in sacks (39) and they have the playmakers in (Tamba Hali and Justin Houston) on defense to get pressure on Rivers.

The San Diego defense allows 125 yards per game. If Jamaal Charles (listed as questionable) plays on Sunday, he could feast Chargers defense. The running back is rushed for 979 yards this season and has averaged 5.1 yards per carry. This will take pressure off of Daniel and that’s why I like the Chiefs to win.

Prediction: Chiefs 27-23

 

 

 

Other Week 17 Predictions:

Ravens over Browns

Texans over Jags

Seahawks over Rams

Bills over Patriots

Broncos over Raiders

49ers over Cardinals

Giants over Eagles

Dolphins over Jets

Vikings over Bears

Saints over Bucs

Redskins over Cowboys

Colts over Titans

Follow Antwan on Twitter @blackredsoxfan

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