Nostrathomas Predicts: NFL Week 17 Launches the Final Postseason Push in the AFC and NFC

It’s Week 17 in the NFL. Normally this would be the finish to the season and we’d be preparing for Wild Card games next weekend but we’re sailing in uncharted waters now as we finish this 2021 season with a Week 18.

Still, you could say the unofficial postseason gets started today. Approximately two-thirds of the teams in the league still have postseason aspirations that will be dashed by the end of Week 17 action on Monday night.

Nostrathomas took a Christmas vacation last week but went 10-4 straight-up and 7-7 against the spread. That puts me at 138-76-1 straight-up and 111-103-2 against the spread heading into today’s action.

Here’s how it should all play out.

Game of the Week

Kansas City Chiefs -5 vs Cincinnati Bengals (1PM ET; Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH)

This is not the point of the season where any team wants to be playing the Kansas City Chiefs. Even one whose offense tore the Baltimore Ravens defense a new one in Week 16.

As good as the Cincinnati Bengals have been this season, they haven’t been able to put together more than a two-game winning streak. Stretching their current streak to three and keeping a hold on first place in the AFC North will be their goal this week.

This should be a high-scoring game but Kansas City has improved on both offense and defense as the season has gone on while the Bengals have been struggling to find consistency. That’s going to hurt them against a team that knows how to step up their game for the postseason.

Take Kansas City to win and cover in what should be a competitive, fun game.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 Cincinnati Bengals 23

Best Bets

Philadelphia Eagles -4.5 vs Washington Football Team (1PM ET; FedEx Field, Washington, D.C.)

The Philadelphia Eagles have won three straight and five of their last six games to push their record to 8-7 and slide into the seventh and last NFC playoff spot. One of those victories was two weeks ago, a 27-17 win at home against the Washington Football Team.

Philadelphia won’t have running back Miles Sanders available to them this week but Jordan Howard and Boston Scott should be more than capable of taking up the slack. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has also performed well for the Eagles in the passing game the past two weeks.

Washington has been on a slide with two losses to the Dallas Cowboys wrapped around their Week 15 loss to Philadelphia.

Taylor Heinicke has been fading fast since he put together a 101.5 passer rating in the Football Team’s Week 13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. His supporting cast has also been failing him lately. Antonio Gibson has fallen just short of 70 rushing yards over the last two games while wide receiver Terry McLaurin has only five catches for 91 yards over that stretch.

Washington’s season is slipping away while the Eagles are attempting to earn their first playoff berth since 2019. Philadelphia moves one step closer to that accomplishment this week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Washington Football Team 17

Miami Dolphins vs Tennessee Titans -3.5 (1PM ET; Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN)

The Tennessee Titans are only one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC while the Miami Dolphins are clinging by their fingernails to the final Wild Card spot in the conference.

Miami is on a seven-game win streak but most of those victories are against NFL also-rans like the New York Jets (twice), Carolina Panthers, New York Giants and a New Orleans Saints team quarterbacked by Ian Book.

Tennessee is still reeling from the loss of Derrick Henry to their offense but D’Onta Foreman has been able to step in and continue to carry the rushing game. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will also have receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown on the field at the same time.

The Titans have a 6-2 record against teams currently over .500. That’s why they’re still hot on the heels of Kansas City for the top seed in the conference. I expect them to keep the heat on the Chiefs for another week.

Tennessee Titans 23 Miami Dolphins 16

Los Angeles Rams -4.5 vs Baltimore Ravens (4:25PM ET; M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD)

The Baltimore Ravens lost their fourth straight game last week, a 41-21 drubbing by the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Joe Burrow shredded the Baltimore defense, completing 37 passes in 46 attempts for 525 yards and one touchdown. This week, the Ravens face another team that knows how to take care of business through the air, the Los Angeles Rams.

The problem in this game for Baltimore is they’re not just facing a team that can throw downfield at will with Matthew Stafford at quarterback. The Rams will also spend most of the afternoon chasing Tyler Huntley, who is being projected to start again in place of Lamar Jackson, all over the backfield.

One of my player predictions for today is that Cooper Kupp breaks the century mark in receiving yards in this game.

Take Los Angeles to win and cover.

Los Angeles Rams 29 Baltimore Ravens 23

Best of the Rest

Atlanta Falcons vs Buffalo Bills -14.5 (1PM ET; Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY)

The Buffalo Bills took control of the AFC East last week with a convincing 33-21 win against the New England Patriots. Now they head into the home stretch of the season with games against the 7-8 Atlanta Falcons and 4-11 New York Jets.

The weather forecast calls for a windy day with an 80 percent chance of snow which should help Atlanta’s stronger ground game. The Falcons are going to have problems passing the ball though with their depleted receiver corps.

Atlanta is 1-6 against teams that are currently over .500 and have an average score of 37-13 in those games. This one is going to be just as ugly.

Buffalo Bills 34 Atlanta Falcons 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers –13.5 vs New York Jets (1PM ET; MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)

Even with Bruce Arians sidelined due to Covid-19, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a Super Bowl contender facing a team that will need to go back to the drawing board in the offseason.

Take Tampa Bay to win and cover the big number.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26 New York Jets 10

Las Vegas Raiders vs Indianapolis Colts -7 (1PM ET; Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN)

The Las Vegas Raiders keep refusing to die this season but they’re stepping up in quality of competition for their final two games of the season.

It is expected that Indianapolis quarterback Carson Wentz will be cleared from Covid-19 protocols in time to start this game. The Colts are peaking at the right time while Las Vegas is struggling to stay relevant.

Indianapolis Colts 30 Las Vegas Raiders 20

Jacksonville Jaguars vs New England Patriots -16.5 (1PM ET; Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA)

Yes, the New England Patriots took one on the chin last week against the Buffalo Bills. This week they’re playing a team that has failed to compete against playoff competition all season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are counting the minutes until they can put this nightmare season behind them. They’ll be 60 minutes closer to that goal after dropping this game to New England.

New England Patriots 32 Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Denver Broncos vs Los Angeles Chargers -6.5 (4:05PM ET; SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA)

The Los Angeles Chargers have only themselves to blame for the situation they’re in with two games left in the season. Their 41-29 loss to the Houston Texans last week left them with an 8-7 record and on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.

The Broncos have lost two games in a row but played each one tough and to the wire. Denver is first in the league on defense, allowing 17.3 points per game.

A big deciding factor in this game is that the Chargers are getting players back from Covid-19 protocol this week while Denver is losing receiver Jerry Jeudy and linebacker Bradley Chubb.

Los Angeles needs this win to stay in the playoff hunt and put the better quarterback on the field in Justin Herbert. Take the Chargers to win and cover at home.

Los Angeles Chargers 20 Denver Broncos 10

Houston Texans +12.5 vs San Francisco 49ers (4:05PM ET; Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA)

Will Jimmy Garoppolo be able to play in this game despite a torn ligament in his thumb? No official announcement has been made yet but he’s been listed as doubtful, even though he’s on record as wanting to play. It’s very likely that rookie Trey Lance will see plenty of snaps in this game. Even if he doesn’t start.

The Houston Texans will be starting Davis Mills, who has actually played well in his last three outings. Mills is taking care of the ball and getting better protection from his offensive line.

As long as the 49ers have Deebo Samuel and George Kittle on the field that should give Lance all the weapons he needs to win the first game of his NFL career. That isn’t going to be enough to cover a massive spread over a mediocre team on a two-game winning streak.

Take San Francisco to win but the Houston Texans cover.

San Francisco 49ers 26 Houston Texans 17

Arizona Cardinals vs Dallas Cowboys -6 (3:25PM ET; AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX)

The Arizona Cardinals opened the season 7-0 which has kept them afloat in the playoff picture despite tough times over the past month. The Dallas Cowboys went through a rough patch in the middle of the season but on riding a four-game winning streak heading into Week 17. The only complaint about that streak, at least from the outside looking is, is that it consists of wins over Washington (twice), the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.

Still, Kyler Murray has seemed lost over the past month without DeAndre Hopkins healthy and other keys to his offense banged up.

Dallas is currently the number one team in my statistical power rankings which means I’m taking them to win and cover against the Cardinals.

Dallas Cowboys 25 Arizona Cardinals 17

Detroit Lions +7.5 vs Seattle Seahawks (4:25PM ET; Lumen Field, Seattle, WA)

The Detroit Lions haven’t given up at any point this season but that trait has only propelled them to a 2-12-1 record. They will also be starting Tim Boyle at quarterback in place of Jared Goff for the second week in a row.

As for the Seattle Seahawks, they are going to finish a season below .500 for the first time since 2011. That was the year before Russell Wilson rode into town.

You would think that with the receiving talent Seattle puts on the field, that they should dominate this game. The problem is, they should have dominated Chicago through the air last week and only ended up with 181 passing yards in 27 attempts.

The current spread is too large to give a team that is currently 5-10 on the season. The Lions have lost eight of their last nine road games but they’ve covered the spread in 10 of their last 15. For this one, I believe it’s too much to ask Detroit to win but take them to cover.

Seattle Seahawks 23 Detroit Lions 17

Minnesota Vikings vs Green Bay Packers -13 (Sunday Night Football; Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI)

This game jumped from the Green Bay Packers -7 to -13 when it was announced that Sean Mannion would be starting at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings in place of Kirk Cousins.

Mannion has been in the NFL for five seasons but this will only be the third start of his career. He hasn’t played an NFL snap since 2019.

The Packers lost to Minnesota in a tight Week 11 battle 34-31. This week, the Vikings are facing a Green Bay team that is riding a four-game winning streak and rounding into playoff form.

The Vikings should be able to run the ball successfully but Green Bay has a strong pass defense that would have given Cousins trouble. Mannion is going to have his hands full considering that he’s had no practice time to prepare for this game.

Green Bay Packers 31 Minnesota Vikings 13

Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers +3 (Monday Night Football; Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA)

Ben Roethlisberger gets the national stage for what is expected to be his final game at Heinz Stadium. Both the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers are also playing for their postseason lives. The loser of this game will be eliminated from playoff contention.

Baker Mayfield threw four interceptions and was sacked five times and Cleveland still came close to pulling off the upset against the Packers last week. If the Browns can stay within one score during this game, they should be able to ride their league-best running game to the win, especially against a Pittsburgh run defense that’s 31st in yards per carry against.

Still, I’ve seen teams step up to the plate and play large in games that carry a lot of sentiment for the home team. Roethlisberger’s home finale is exactly that type of game. Big Ben is 25-3-1 against Cleveland in his career. Considering how much the Browns have struggled in 2021, I think the home team will rise-up to send their future Hall of Fame quarterback out on a high note.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Cleveland Browns 20

Games of the Weak

New York Giants vs Chicago Bears -6 (1PM ET; Soldier Field, Chicago, IL)

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge said that he will be playing both Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm at quarterback in this game. The Chicago Bears will say thank you very much and get enough offense from starting quarterback Andy Dalton to get a meaningless December win.

Chicago Bears 20 New York Giants 10

Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints -6.5 (1PM ET; Caesar’s Superdome; New Orleans, LA)

This is another game this week that Covid-19 will have a say in. New Orleans is getting a number of players back for this one while Carolina’s roster will be depleted. Still, the Carolina Panthers will be starting Sam Darnold in this game.

There won’t be any repeat of Carolina’s dominant Week 2 win over the Saints. Even if they were healthy the Panthers have fallen too far to be competitive against anyone.

New Orleans Saints 20 Carolina Panthers 9

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