We’ve reached the finale Sunday of the 2018 NFL regular season, and well, I’m just sitting here stewing in disappointment.
Coming into the season, I had one goal for my picks: to finish at or above the .500 mark. I’ve never been good at predictions — I’m pretty much a walking jinx — and so I would’ve been more than satisfied by correctly picking 50 percent of this year’s games, and then I would try to slightly improve on that in 2019.
Through 14 weeks, I was cruising right along. I was at 101-100-7, doing just well enough to keep pace with my goal. And I’ll be honest, I felt pretty darn good about myself. But then, Week 15 came around and hit me like a freight train. A 3-11-1 performance that week all but sent my season into the dumpster, and a 7-8-1 performance in Week 16 didn’t help me gain any ground.
Now we’re at the final week, I’m at a disappointing 111-119-9, and the only thing that would salvage my 2018 season would be to go a monumental 12-4 in Week 17. On the plus side, I did kick off the season in Week 1 with an 11-4-1 performance. I’ve yet to be able to recapture that kind of magic this year, but maybe I’m pulling a Rocky Balboa and saving my best for the very end. Stay tuned and find out.
Or, don’t waste your time.
And now, for some Week 17 picks…
(Home teams in caps, and lines courtesy of OddsShark.com)
SAINTS (-7.5) over Panthers
Not much to see here. The Saints have already clinched home field advantage, and the Panthers are eliminated from playoff contention. Cam Newton isn’t playing any more this year, and the Saints might be resting a few starters. If they don’t rest any starters, they’ll be treating it like an exhibition game. You can bet neither team will have the “eye of the tiger.”
And yet, the 2018 Panthers have become such a disaster that I believe New Orleans will still cover this spread.
TEXANS (-6.5) over Jaguars
The Texans could’ve already guaranteed themselves the AFC South title weeks ago had they not blown a Week 14 opportunity at home against the Colts. They need a win against the Jags to officially clinch, but since they are going up against Blake Bortles or Cody Kessler — or maybe some weird combination of both — I like Houston’s chances.
(An interesting stat to help you get even more behind the Texans: Jacksonville is 2-13 in their last 15 road games against AFC South opponents.)
PACKERS (-7.5) over Lions
I wrote this last week too, but I don’t get why the Packers are still playing Aaron Rodgers. All they are doing is risking injury. I mean, how many times has that collarbone been broken? Can we even count them all on one hand anymore? The Packers should be extra concerned about that, because without Rodgers, they would be the Cleveland Browns of the NFC.
BUCCANEERS (+1.5) over Falcons
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to watch another game involving the Falcons for like at least two years. Nothing about this team strikes me as even remotely interesting anymore.
GIANTS (-6) over Cowboys
Dallas doesn’t want to rest its starters. I get it. They want to keep them in shape with a tough playoff grind coming up. But the Cowboys should absolutely take it easy in this game. Treat it like a practice game. They have a very underrated Seahawks team coming into Jerry World for the wild card round (a game that I personally can’t wait for, by the way — basically an “old vs. new” type of matchup). Even if it is against the hated Giants, Dallas needs to use this week as a “rest” week.
PATRIOTS (-13.5) over Jets
This doesn’t always happen, but the Patriots have something to play for in Week 17. They need a win or a Houston loss to lock up a first round bye. Additionally with a win, paired with losses by the Chiefs and Chargers, New England can still get the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC — something I thought Kansas City was running away with months ago. I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion.
With that being said, I think Bill Belichick and the Pats are going to go all out crazy in this game, sending Sam Darnold and the Jets home for the offseason with one final hardcore thumping at Gillette Stadium.
BILLS (-6) over Dolphins
There isn’t much to react to in this game, other than this: when Miami and Buffalo get together, the home team is 7-3 against the spread. Additionally, the Dolphins are just 1-6 on the road this season. Seems like a good enough reason to get behind the Bills.
Bears (+4.5) over VIKINGS
The Bears should let the Vikings win this game. Sure, they would eliminate their chances at a first round bye, but odds are they aren’t getting that anyway (unless the Rams completely stink it up at home against the Niners). Let them win on Sunday, and that means Kirk Cousins and the Vikes would travel to cold and possibly snowy Soldier Field for a first round playoff game — an easy victory at home for Chicago.
If the Bears beat Minnesota this week, they run the risk of having to face Nick Foles in the playoffs, and he apparently can’t be beaten this time of year.
Raiders (+14) over CHIEFS
The Chiefs can’t lose this game. The AFC West title, home field advantage and a first round bye is all on the line for them. Losing this game and dropping down to the five-seed in the AFC would be an epic choke. However, Oakland has actually been playing somewhat decent football lately, so they could easily cover this massive spread.
STEELERS (-14.5) over Bengals
The Steelers have been gifted an easy Week 17 game, but more importantly, they need Baker Mayfield to come through against the Ravens. Every Pittsburgh fan will be more interested in the Cleveland-Baltimore game than this one.
RAVENS (-5.5) over Browns
And speaking of the Cleveland-Baltimore game… sorry, Steelers fans. The AFC North crown is going to the Ravens this year. It seems meant to be.
Eagles (-6.5) over REDSKINS
In a normal world, Nick Foles vs. Josh Johnson would be shrugged off as your typical Week 17 garbage game. But in the messed up world we live in, Nick Foles is an unbeatable quarterback in December and January, and he has the Eagles on the verge of yet another playoff run. Bet against the reigning Super Bowl MVP at your own risk.
SEAHAWKS (-13) over Cardinals
Here is an interesting fact: Josh Rosen, Arizona’s rookie quarterback out of UCLA, hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in over a month. I said it before the season started, and I still believe it: the Cardinals shouldn’t have played Rosen at all this year. Nothing good ever comes from rushing a rookie quarterback into action — especially one as shaky as Rosen.
RAMS (-10) over 49ers
Here is all the information you need to get behind the Rams -10 at home: they are supposed to be the best team in the NFL, and yet they are in real danger of missing out on a first round bye unless they win in Week 17. Meanwhile, the Niners are 0-7 on the road this season, are giving up an average of 30.3 points per game, and are losing games by an average of 10.3 points. San Fran shouldn’t stand a chance here, even if the Rams are without Todd Gurley once again.
Chargers (-6) over BRONCOS
The Chargers have been better on the road than at home this year, but that’s not much of a surprise when you have no home fans. In fact, they might be better off just settling for the AFC’s five-seed and staying as far away from the Stubhub Center as possible.
Colts (-3) over TITANS
The winner of this game goes to the playoffs. Even if Marcus Mariota wasn’t banged up, I would still go with Andrew Luck’s team. Considering Mariota isn’t 100 percent, and might possibly even miss the game, this pick seems pretty obvious.
Last week: 7-8-1