Here we are at the end of the NFL regular season and we’re faced with the toughest week to make picks. Despite the NFL’s best efforts to dissuade teams from resting players in the final week, a number of teams already have their seeding locked in and therefore have nothing to play for. Even teams that might have something to play for now, might not by the time their game time comes up. You really have to try and decipher what coaches say and decide whether you think they’ll rest guys. Unfortunately, there’s probably nothing less worthwhile than what an NFL coach says to the media.
So, with that in mind we take a shot deciphering the week 17 NFL lines.
Carolina Panthers At Atlanta Falcons (-14.5) – This is a huge line, but you’d have to say it’s well deserved. Atlanta is the top team in the NFC and Carolina is probably the worst. Atlanta needs a win to ensure the No. 1 seed and a first round bye. Since the game is at one, they won’t know the outcome of the Bears or Saints games so they’ll have everything to play for. It’s a scary big number, but Atlanta should blow them out here. Pick: Falcons
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-9.5) – The Ravens are still playing for a shot at the AFC North and a first round bye. They play at the same time as Pittsburgh so they’ll have to go all out. Cincy played well last week in an upset against the Chargers, but it’s not likely that they have that same effort in them again. The Ravens should feast on Carson Palmer. Pick: Ravens
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-4) - The Chiefs would lock up the No. 3 seed if they win this weekend but could only fall to the No. 4 seed if they lose. It would mean the difference between facing the Jets or the Ravens/Steelers. Probably not a great matchup either way for KC, but you would think they’d much prefer the Jets. This should be a solid game, but I think KC takes care of business. Pick: Chiefs
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-2.5) - The line obviously tells you that Vegas thinks that the Pats will rest starters since they have nothing to play for in week 17. However, Belichick hasn’t sounded like he’s going to rest guys and the Patriots starters are all saying they plan to play. If they get a good lead at the half, I would bet that a few guys would come out… but it’ll probably be good enough to beat the Dolphins by a FG. Pick: Patriots
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-8) - Finally a game where both teams have something to play for. New Orleans still has a shot at the NFC South and Tampa needs a win to give themselves a shot at a wild card. Still, you have to think the Saints are going to take care of the Bucs in a big way in New Orleans. The Bucs aren’t ready to compete in game like this. Pick: Saints
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-1) – Rex Ryan already admitted this week that he plans to rest starters against the Bills this week. So even in New Jersey, you have to like the scrappy Bills team. Pick: Bills
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-11) - Obviously the line here says that Vegas thinks Chicago will rest starters. It’s very likely that by gametime they’ll have nothing to play for. They’ve already clinched a bye and if Atlanta beats Carolina, they’ll be locked into the #2 seed. Will they want to play Cutler against a ferocious Packers pass rush? Lovie Smith swears they will play their starters and try to win this game. If they go all out you would have to think they can keep it within two TDs. Pick: Bears
Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5) at Houston Texans – Jags still have a shot at the AFC South, but they won’t have their starting QB. David Garrard won’t play this week and couldn’t even play in the playoffs if they got there. That means Trent Edwards gets the start against the NFL’s worst defense, but I don’t suspect that will be enough to get the Jags a road win here. Pick: Texans
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-8.5) - Indy will win this game but I’d be wary of the line getting really high. I’m ok with Indy at around 8, but it’s jumped to 11 in some places. I’d stay away from the Colts in that case. Pick: Colts
New York Giants (-3) at Washington Redskins - Giants have to win to keep their playoff hopes alive and I think their defense will end Rex Grossman’s mini hot streak. This one might be my lock of the week. Pick: Giants
San Diego Chargers (3.5) at Denver Broncos – Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs so it’s all about pride. I don’t think Tim Tebow can beat the Chargers defense throwing screens and running bootlegs like he did against Texans and their worst defense in football. Plus, what Phillip Rivers could do to this awful Broncos defense could be ugly. Pick: Chargers
St. Louis Rams (-1.5) at Seattle Seahawks – This is a game for all the NFC Worst marbles. Winner gets the division title and a playoff spot. Both teams are pretty bad and won’t even have a winning record. Matt Hasselbeck won’t play, but does that really matter? They’ve lost seven of their last nine games. How can you trust either team in this spot? Pick: Rams