Tampa Bay (+8) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Thanks to five TD tosses by Josh Freeman, the Bucs won easily last week, and they enter Sunday still alive in the playoff race, although their chances are remote. Although his YPA (7.1) is pedestrian, Freeman has an impressive 23:6 TD:INT ratio on the season, but the team's recent string of injuries continued as they lost Arrelious Benn to a season-ending knee injury. The Saints have allowed an NFL-low 11 scores through the air, so expect Tampa Bay to make LeGarrette Blount a big part of the game plan in Week 17. Blount leads the league with 3.8 YPC after contact this year... New Orleans had a big win in Atlanta on Monday night, and they still have a chance at the No. 1 seed. Although it's unlikely the Falcons lose at home to the Panthers, expect the Saints to play their starters fully Sunday. Drew Brees has been uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball of late, but he should pick apart the Bucs, although he'll be without Marques Colston, who recently underwent knee surgery. Expect a focused effort from New Orleans, who finishes the season on an 8-1 run.
Predictions: Josh Freeman throws for 225 yards with a touchdown to Mike Williams, while LeGarrette Blount adds 90 rushing yards and a score. Pierre Thomas answers with 75 total yards and a TD run, while Drew Brees adds 260 passing yards with scoring strikes to Robert Meacham and Jimmy Graham, as the home team prevails.
Cincinnati (+10) at Baltimore, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: After losing 10 straight, the Bengals enter winners of back-to-back games, including an upset over the heavily favored Chargers last week. Carson Palmer had by far his best game of the season, getting 12.8 YPA with four TD passes and zero interceptions against a strong San Diego defense, and it's unclear if the results were despite of or because of the absences of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Expect an entirely new starting WR corps for Cincinnati next season. Palmer will have a tough time repeating such a performance Sunday against a Ravens' secondary that has yielded an NFL-low 6.3 YPA this season, but the Bengals have won each of the last three matchups against Baltimore... With a chance at the No. 2 seed and a first round bye, the Ravens will play to win Sunday, and the team is 6-1 at home this year, where Joe Flacco has gotten 8.4 YPA with a 13:1 TD:INT ratio. Anquan Boldin has 17 receiving yards over the past two games and has topped 50 yards just once over the past seven contests, as he's become an afterthought in the offense.
Predictions: Carson Palmer throws for 225 yards with a touchdown to Jordan Shipley, while Cedric Benson manages 60 rushing yards and reaches the end zone. Ray Rice counters with 100 yards from scrimmage and scores, while Joe Flacco adds 250 passing yards with TD strikes to Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, as Baltimore wins it. Ravens 24-17.
Carolina (+14.5) at Atlanta, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Carolina enters Week 17 at 2-13, having already clinched the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. They will attempt not to become just the second team in NFL history to score two touchdowns or fewer in every game Sunday, but they enter as big underdogs to an Atlanta team trying to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Jonathan Stewart (foot) and Steve Smith (calf) are both questionable, but at least the team has one small advantage - they enter with extra days of preparation having last played the previous Thursday, whereas the Falcons just played Monday night. Jimmy Clausen has been downright brutal, and his only hope of entering next season as a starter is if Andrew Luck decides to stay in school... Atlanta's eight-game winning streak came to an end last week, but they are still in good shape, needing only a win in a game in which they are more than two touchdown favorites in order to be the NFC's No. 1 seed. The Falcons are hardly dominant and would be pretty weak as far as No. 1 seeds go, but they are tough at home, so they would be set up nicely to make a Super Bowl run. Michael Turner should have a big game Sunday against a Panthers' front seven that has allowed 19 rushing scores this season, which is the second highest total in the NFL.
Predictions: Jimmy Clausen throws for 170 yards with no touchdowns, while Jonathan Stewart suits up and runs for 75 yards and hits paydirt. Michael Turner answers with 120 rushing yards and a TD run of his own, while Matt Ryan adds 250 passing yards with scoring strikes to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, as Atlanta secures home-field advantage. Falcons 27-13.
Pittsburgh (-6) at Cleveland, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Cleveland has made plenty of progress this season, no longer a doormat while quite possibly discovering a franchise quarterback and running back. Still, if they fall to the Steelers on Sunday, they'll end the year on a four-game losing streak, and they have had to deal with an extremely tough schedule all season. Eric Mangini's status moving forward is in question, and after carrying fantasy owners as possibly the best waiver wire add of 2010, Peyton Hillis has struggled mightily over the past two weeks, the most crucial time of the fantasy year. He's unlikely to get back on track against a Pittsburgh defense that has allowed an NFL-low 3.0 YPC and just five rushing scores this season... The Steelers lock up the No. 2 seed if they win, so they have plenty of incentive to bring their A game in Week 17. Although he's thrown only three touchdowns over the past five games, Ben Roethlisberger has enjoyed a fine season, and Mike Wallace has developed into a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. The offensive line is a major weakness, but Cleveland struggles to pressure the passer. While the Steelers are rightfully favorites, they are on the road against a team much better than their record indicates, so don't be surprised by a competitive contest Sunday.
Predictions: Colt McCoy throws for 180 yards with a touchdown to Brian Robiskie, while Peyton Hillis is held in check. Rashard Mendenhall counters with 80 total yards and a touchdown run, while Ben Roethlisberger adds 250 passing yards and a TD toss to Mike Wallace, as Pittsburgh clinches the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Steelers 17-13.
Minnesota (+3) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Vikings pulled off a shocking upset last week in Philadelphia, beating an Eagles team that needed a win by 10 points while entering as 14.5-point underdogs. The defense dialed up the blitzes and overwhelmed the Eagles' offensive line, and in fact, it was just Minnesota's second road win all season. Joe Webb looks likely to get another start in the season finale, and he remains a must-start in all fantasy leagues in which he's WR eligible. Sidney Rice (concussion) is doubtful, and it's worth noting the Vikings are in a tough spot, traveling for the second straight week after playing a rare game on a Tuesday night... After going 26 games without a road victory, the Lions have now won back-to-back contests away from home, and the team's winning streak sits at three. We'll see how they react as favorites, a notion Detroit is unaccustomed to. Shaun Hill played well during his return to the lineup last week, but he'll have to worry about a Minnesota defensive line that came to life in Week 16 and may be without Calvin Johnson (ankle), who is a game-time decision.
Predictions: Joe Webb throws for 175 yards with a touchdown to Percy Harvin, and the QB also adds 40 rushing yards. Adrian Peterson adds 90 yards on the ground and reaches the end zone, while the Lions' RBBC produces 75 yards and a TD run. Shaun Hill adds 230 yards through the air with scoring strikes to Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, as Detroit ends its season on a high note. Lions 24-20.
Oakland (+3.5) at Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Raiders enter Week 17 attempting to become the first team in NFL history to go undefeated in their division and not make the playoffs. They have a tough task, however, as Kansas City is a perfect 7-0 at home this season. That said, the Chiefs have some, but not a ton of incentive to win Sunday, which is probably why the point spread is relatively low. Darren McFadden is questionable with a turf toe injury... The Chiefs are 5-1 over their past six games, with the lone loss coming when Matt Cassel was forced to sit out after an appendectomy. After throwing just 16 touchdowns with 16 picks last season, Cassel is currently sporting a 27:5 TD:INT ratio over 14 games in 2010. He's also cut his sack percentage in half and fumbled 11 fewer times this year compared to last. Cassel has had the benefit of a terrific rushing attack on his side and an easy schedule, but he might be the most improved player in the NFL. Jamaal Charles enters Week 17 second in the NFL with 1,380 rushing yards, just 56 yards behind leader Arian Foster, despite seeing 80 fewer carries.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 220 yards and a touchdown to Zach Miller, while Michael Bush adds 70 rushing yards and a TD run. Jamaal Charles responds with 120 total yards and a touchdown, while Matt Cassel adds 240 passing yards and two touchdowns, with Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki the recipients, as Kansas City comes out on top. Chiefs 24-17.
Buffalo (+1) at New York Jets, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Ryan Fitzpatrick proved to be an upgrade over Trent Edwards and impressed throwing 11 touchdowns over his first four starts this year, but he's since thrown multiple scores in just two of nine games. He plays in a tough division and often in poor weather conditions, but he's committed 20 turnovers over 13 games, and both his 57.8 completion percentage and 6.8 YPA mark are pedestrian, so Buffalo needs to aim higher at the quarterback position. That said, if he's unable to go Sunday due to general soreness and a knee injury, the downgrade to Brian Brohm would be significant... Locked in as the No. 6 seed, expect the Jets to play conservatively Sunday, with many starters resting. A 40-year-old Mark Brunell will no doubt be a downgrade, but all that is of course priced into the line, as the Jets are favored by just one point, and they are at home, and Buffalo might have to turn to Brohm at quarterback. Any fantasy owners relying on the Jets this week should look elsewhere.
Predictions: Brian Brohm gets the start, resulting in an ugly passing game, although he does find Steve Johnson for a score against the Jets' backups. Fred Jackson adds 80 total yards and a touchdown run, while Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight combine for 120 yards from scrimmage and a TD run by the latter. Mark Brunell adds 170 passing yards with a touchdown toss to Dustin Keller, as the home team prevails.
Miami (+3.5) at New England, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Miami is somehow 6-1 on the road and finished 1-7 at home this season, and Chad Henne has proven not to be the answer at quarterback. The Dolphins may have the best offensive lineman in football in Jake Long, but Ronnie Brown did the unthinkable in 2010, saying healthy and yet unproductive when on the field. Brandon Marshall improved the team, but his 11.3 yards per catch mark was nothing special, and he has just three touchdowns on the season... The Patriots enter winners of seven straight and are 12-1 over their past 13 games. New England has committed just nine turnovers this season, and the NFL record for fewest in a year is 13. Thanks to a modest 209 rushing attempts (16 running backs have more), BenJarvus Green-Ellis has yet to reach 1,000 yards on the ground this season, but his 12 touchdowns are tied for the second most in the NFL. He doesn't offer much as a receiver, and he's been given 20 carries in just two games all year (season-high is 21 rushing attempts), so he'll present an interesting dilemma at draft tables in 2011. Green-Ellis still hasn't fumbled once during his career. It's unclear how much the Pats' starters play with the No. 1 seed locked up, which is why the point spread is just 3.5 points and not much higher.
Predictions: Chad Henne throws for 220 yards with a touchdown to Davone Bess, while Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combine for 100 total yards and a touchdown. The Pats employ a RBBC, featuring multiple backs, resulting in a similar line. Tom Brady adds 200 passing yards with a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski, as New England wins it. Patriots 23-17.
New York Giants (-4) at Washington, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Redskins ended a four-game losing streak with a win in Jacksonville last week, but the victory had nothing to do with the new quarterback, as Rex Grossman was unable to carry over his performance from Week 15, somehow getting just 4.7 YPA against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. Chris Cooley's four drops before halftime, including one when wide open in the end zone from short range, certainly didn't help. Ryan Torain has averaged the second highest YPC after contact in the league this season... The Giants have allowed a whopping 73 points over the past five quarters, but getting beat badly in Green Bay last week isn't exactly something to be ashamed of. New York still has an outside chance of making the postseason, so they'll be playing full tilt Sunday. The loss of Hakeem Nicks (toe) is significant, and Eli Manning has committed more turnovers than anyone in football this season, but the Giants are the superior team who should rebound after coming off two disappointing performances.
Predictions: Rex Grossman throws for 180 yards and a touchdown to Santana Moss, while Ryan Torain adds 80 yards and a TD run. Ahmad Bradshaw produces a similar line, while Eli Manning adds 260 passing yards with scoring strikes to Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss, as the road team prevails. Giants 27-20.
Dallas (+7) at Philadelphia, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: Despite a plus matchup, Jon Kitna got only 5.8 YPA and somehow managed to throw two pick-sixes against the Cardinals in Week 16. He later left with a hip injury, after which an unknown Stephen McGee came in and played better. Kitna actually played reasonably well after Tony Romo was lost for the season this year, but he killed a lot of fantasy owners relying on him during the championship week, and he'll be 39 years old next season, so his run even as a backup may be finished. McGee, meanwhile, will face an Eagles team this week likely resting many of its starters... With the No. 2 seed now out of reach and coming off playing a game Tuesday, Philadelphia is playing it smart, already ruling out Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson. The team effectively gets a bye, and we all know just how impressive Andy Reid is coming off that. Kevin Kolb is a perfectly capable backup, and he'll be playing in a terrific system, so he's a fine start in fantasy leagues still playing in Week 17 against a Dallas defense that has been shredded for 7.9 YPA and an NFL-high 32 passing touchdowns this season.
Predictions: Stephen McGee throws for 220 yards with a touchdown to Miles Austin, while Dallas' RBBC produces 110 combined yards and a touchdown run. LeSean McCoy yields carries to Jerome Harrison, who totals 75 yards and scores. Kevin Kolb adds 240 passing yards with scoring strikes to Jason Avant and Brent Celek, as Philly wins it. Eagles 24-20.
Tennessee (+10) at Indianapolis, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: Tennessee enters just 1-7 over its past eight games, and there's a good chance Sunday marks Jeff Fisher's final game as the team's head coach, as owner Bud Adams will likely ultimately choose Vince Young over him. Whether Young is the long-term answer is up for debate, but there's no denying Kerry Collins has been a disaster as the starter. Chris Johnson has been considered a bust by some, but while he's disappointed, he's on pace to finish the year with 1,620 yards and 12 touchdowns. If you drafted Johnson and didn't win your fantasy league, it wasn't because of him... The Colts have followed up a three-game losing streak by winning three straight, and they should win their division yet again as a result. Other than Reggie Wayne, only six other receivers in the history of the league have recorded three 100-catch seasons in their career. Donald Brown had six carries in Week 16. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes combined for 29 rushing attempts, so Indy's rushing attack is a full-blown committee until further notice.
Predictions: Kerry Collins throws for 200 yards and a touchdown to Kenny Britt, while Chris Johnson totals 110 yards and reaches the end zone. Joseph Addai adds 75 total yards with a TD run, while Peyton Manning adds 300 passing yards and two touchdowns, with Reggie Wayne and Jacob Tamme the recipients, as the Colts win the AFC South again. Colts 27-20.
Chicago (+10) at Green Bay, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Bears are 7-1 over their past eight games, and after putting up 38 points against the Jets' defense last week, this team absolutely needs to be taken seriously. Jay Cutler has now totaled seven touchdowns over the past two games, helping fantasy owners when it matters most (although many probably had him benched against the Jets). Cutler hasn't put up the gaudy yardage totals we all expected under Mike Martz, but his 7.9 YPA mark and 90.6 QB rating are both career-highs, and he's done so with a middling wide receiver corps in a Chicago environment not conducive for passing. Coach Lovie Smith claims the team will play to win Sunday, but there's reason to believe he's not being totally truthful... Despite being arguably one of the best teams in the NFC (and the NFL), the Packers must win Sunday to ensure a playoff berth, and while they are big favorites, they face a tough Chicago team. Clay Matthews is a candidate for defensive player of the year, and Aaron Rodgers might be the best offensive player in the NFC, which makes his Pro Bowl snub so egregious.
Predictions: Jay Cutler throws for 225 yards with a touchdown to Greg Olsen, while Matt Forte adds 80 total yards and a score. The Packers' RBBC amounts to a similar line, while Aaron Rodgers adds 230 passing yards with a TD toss Greg Jennings. Rodgers also adds a rushing touchdown, as Green Bay makes the playoffs with a victory. Packers 24-17.
Jacksonville (-2.5) at Houston, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Jaguars are now a long shot to make the playoffs after losing at home against the Redskins last week, as the team has fizzled at the worst possible time. Even worse, David Garrard (finger) was placed on IR, and Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) is out for Week 17 as well. Enter Trent Edwards at QB, who is a major downgrade. Despite starting a backup QB and RB and playing on the road, Jacksonville is favored against a fairly even team, which is pretty perplexing... The Texans are just 1-8 over the past nine games, but apparently Gary Kubiak's job is safe as long as the team performs reasonably well in Week 17. Wade Phillip is going to take over as defensive coordinator, and the decision to not give up on Kubiak isn't necessarily unwise. Matt Schaub is likely to be without Andre Johnson (ankle) Sunday, but Arian Foster will be fighting hard to win the NFL's rushing title.
Predictions: Trent Edwards throws for 190 yards with a touchdown to Marcedes Lewis, while Rashad Jennings adds 90 total yards and a touchdown. Arian Foster answers with 130 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, while Matt Schaub adds 275 passing yards and a scoring strike to Owen Daniels, as the home team prevails. Texans 27-23.
San Diego (-3) at Denver, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Broncos ended a five-game losing streak last week by coming back from a 17-0 deficit against the Texans. It can't be understated just how bad that Houston secondary has been (they are the only team in the NFL to allow a QB rating above 100.0 and their YPA and TD passes yielded are both league-highs), and many of his passes were screens, but Tim Tebow exudes a star like quality. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Drew Brees all didn't have a single 300-yard passing game during their rookie season, something Tebow accomplished during his second start... Despite his teammates struggles, Ryan Mathews totaled 83 yards with a touchdown on just 15 touches in Week 16. It was obviously too little, too late for his fantasy owners, but the key here is Mathews passed the eye test, and if you squint, he resembles a young LaDainian Tomlinson. Of course, Tomlinson has been one of the most durable backs in league history, whereas Mathews has been anything but during his rookie campaign. But it's been the nagging ankle injury that has plagued him mostly, not a plethora of ailments, and because the problem was clearly more serious than originally reported, his final YPC mark should be taken with a grain a salt. Mike Tolbert could remain a factor next season, even if it's only at the goal line, but San Diego traded up to take Mathews at the No. 12 pick, so if he can remain healthy in 2011, he'll likely be the team's workhorse. He'll be the very definition of buy low next year. This year's Chargers team could go down as one of the best not to make the playoffs, so expect them to take out their frustrations against an inferior Denver team Sunday.
Predictions: Tim Tebow throws for 220 yards with a touchdown to Brandon Lloyd, and the QB also scores from the goal-line, while no Denver running back produces fantasy value in Week 17. Ryan Mathews answers with 100 total yards and a touchdown, and Philip Rivers adds 280 passing yards with scoring strikes to Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles, as San Diego gets the victory. Chargers 27-20.
Arizona (+6.5) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Cardinals' Week 17 upset over the Cowboys was even more surprising considering Larry Fitzgerald was held to just one catch for 26 yards, especially considering Dallas lost its starting quarterback midway through the game. Following a seven-game losing streak, the Cardinals are somehow 2-1 over their past three games, but it's not something to believe in, has this team is clearly one of the two worst in the NFL... Starting Troy Smith over Alex Smith was a big mistake last week, but Mike Singletary was going to get fired either way. The 49ers were a huge disappointment this season, but it's worth noting they didn't enter 2010 with an easy schedule. San Francisco has been strong at home this season, especially (Alex) Smith, so they should have no problem with a bad team like Arizona, who is even coming off a win, in Week 17.
Predictions: John Skelton throws for 170 yards with a touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald, but Arizona's rushing attack is shut down. The 49er' RBBC produces 120 yards with a TD run by Anthony Dixon, while Alex Smith throws for 250 yards with scoring strikes to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, as the home team prevails. 49ers 24-13.
St. Louis (-3) at Seattle, Sunday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: The winner of Sunday's matchup between the Rams and Seahawks makes the playoffs, and as a result, the game was flexed to primetime. The winner of the division will either have seven or eight wins, and while unfair, that's the benefit of playing in the NFC West these days. It's like being in the NL East in baseball. Only the opposite. Sam Bradford has a 1:5 TD:INT ratio over the past four games, and Steven Jackson somehow gained just 48 yards on 24 carries last week. Despite all that, the Rams are rightfully viewed as the superior team, but they have to play in a tough environment in Seattle in primetime... Despite a 1-5 record over their past six games (with their one win being at home against the team with the worst record in the NFL), the Seahawks somehow remain in the playoff picture. Matt Hasselbeck is a big question mark after leaving last week's game after hurting his hip/back during a touchdown run even though the outcome was completely meaningless. His ability to play Sunday night is huge, because even though his play has suffered in a big way recently, he's clearly superior to backup Charlie Whitehurst.
Predictions: Sam Bradford throws for 210 yards with a touchdown toss to Danny Amendola, while Steven Jackson adds 90 total yards and hits paydirt. Marshawn Lynch answers with 70 rushing yards and a TD run, while Matt Hasselbeck surprisingly suits up, resulting in 225 passing yards and a TD pass to Mike Williams, as Seattle wins the NFC West. Seahawks 23-20.