There are many things not to like about the NFL and perhaps the two items that have been at the top of the list this season are officiating and video replay, especially as to what constitutes a catch.
It seems as though the issue arises in several games each week and the inconsistency from officiating crew to officiating crew and from replay booth to replay booth have more and more of the audience becoming frustrated and disgusted.
But there are some things the NFL gets right and of them is the Week 17 schedule that has all 32 teams playing Division games. This season is a bit unusual in that all but one of the eight Division winners have been determined as have 9 of the 12 Wild Cards.
In the AFC Jacksonville, Kansas City, New England and Pittsburgh have clinched their Division Titles while in the NFC the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota and Philadelphia have won their Divisions. Carolina and New Orleans, each 11-4, are tied for the lead in the NFC North with New Orleans earning the Division title if both win or lose next week as a result of having swept the Panthers in their season series.
Both have already clinched at least a Wild Card. The other NFC Wild Card will go to either Atlanta or Seattle. Both are 9-6 but the Falcons have the edge by defeating the Seahawks in November.
The two AFC Wild Cards will be decided this week. Baltimore is 9-6 and can get the top Wild Card simply by winning. Tennessee, 8-7, also claims a Wild Card with a win at Jacksonville. The LA Chargers and Buffalo are also 8-7 but need wins and help. Thus heading into the final week of the season 9 of the 12 Playoff teams have been determined.
The seeding for the eight Division winners will be determined this week as will the matchups for the four Wild Card games, and paths to the Super Bowl for all 12 Playoff teams will be plotted. All 16 games will be played on Sunday afternoon.
Often, the best wagers that can be made in week 17 are the in-game, which have become more popular and widespread in recent seasons.
Here are some thoughts on the 16 games that will bring down the curtain on the 2017 regular season.
Cincinnati +9.5 at Baltimore (40.5): Despite playing out the string Cincinnati showed some pride in their final home game, perhaps in coach Marvin Lewis’s career as well, by knocking Detroit out of the Playoffs with a 27-16 win. Of Baltimore’s 9 wins, 7 have been by at least 13 points. Prior to their win over the Lions, the Bengals had lost by 27 at Minnesota and by 26 at home to Chicago. BALTIMORE
Green Bay +7.5 at Detroit (43): Green Bay had made eight straight trips to the Playoffs before missing out this season and whereas the game has little meaning, the Packers might have some motivation to avoid a losing record and avoid ending the season with a pair of poor offensive efforts. GREEN BAY
Buffalo -2.5 at Miami (42.5): Last week’s loss at New England by Buffalo was marked by some controversial replay reviews but also by some very questionable calls made by Buffalo coach Sean McDermott in the fourth quarter; he was also criticized earlier this season for replacing QB Tyrod Taylor for their game in San Diego. Coaches can’t keep making crucial mistakes that cost their teams game. Those mistakes usually come back to bite them. MIAMI
Carolina +4 at Atlanta (46): The teams are very close statistically in most basic categories although Atlanta has a significant edge in yards per play differential and in both offensive and defensive passing yards per completion, averaging a yard more per completion on offense and allowing a yard less per completion on defense. ATLANTA
New Orleans -7.5 at Tampa Bay (50.5): The Saints have a newly found running game that’s averaged 4.7 yards per rush and a defense that has improved from among the NFL’s worst in recent seasons to middle of the pack. The offense leads the NFL, averaging 6.3 yards per play. Their last two efforts, both at home, were rather ordinary so there will be impetus for an improved effort against a team they defeated earlier this season at home, 30-10, in which they outyarded the Buccs 407-200. NEW ORLEANS
Jacksonville NL at Tennessee: Tennessee has been outscored by 27 points and has lost three in a row. Yet a win and they are in the playoffs. With Jacksonville likely to rest players the Titans become the artificial favorites and are likely to be aggressive and take chances they ordinarily might not in their desperate attempt to make the Playoffs. TENNESSEE
NY Jets NL at New England: It’s hard to ignore New England’s 10-5 ATS record this season given how often they are sizeable favorites. They actually started 2-4 ATS before covering six in row prior to their upset loss at Miami in Week 14, which was followed by wins and covers at Pittsburgh and over Buffalo. This game could resemble the Pats’ game last week against Buffalo that was a competitive game at the half before the Patriots took control after recess, wearing down and frustrating the Bills. The same may play out here. NEW ENGLAND
Houston NL at Indianapolis: Both teams have long been out of the Playoffs discussion for many of the same reasons, the primary one being the loss of an outstanding QB. The Colts have lost six straight and 9 of 10 while Houston has lost five straight and 8 of 9. Neither defense has much to recommend a stout effort in this season-ender, which could result in a wide open contest between a pair of offenses that have had little to get excited about all season. OVER
Cleveland NL at Pittsburgh: This is Cleveland’s last chance to avoid only the second 0-16 season in NFL history (Detroit, 2008). And with Pittsburgh still having a shot for the top AFC seed with a win and a Patriots loss at home to the Jets the Steelers starters are likely to see at least some action until the result of one or both games become clear. Especially with next week off. At the same time, the approach taken by the Steelers offers too much uncertainty to back them. UNDER
Washington -3.5 at NY Giants (38.5): It’s hard to make a convincing case to lay a FG or more with Washington but it is almost impossible to make a case for the Giants. Often in games when teams are pretty much just going through the motions the defenses usually play hard, taking out their frustrations for lost seasons. It’s up to the offenses to execute and both have struggled to find a consistent rhythm all season. UNDER
Chicago +12.5 at Minnesota (40): Although it is expected Bears coach John Fox will be gone after the season a strong effort here might buy him one more season, considering the offense has been run by a rookie QB and the defense, Fox’s strength, showed solid improvement this season allowing just 5.1 yards per play (No. 11 in the league). CHICAGO
Dallas NL at Philadelphia: Dallas might be inclined to emphasize the run over the pass and starting QB Dak Prescott might see only partial action after taking a beating for a good part of the second half of the season when RB Ezekiel Elliot was suspended. This lends itself to a limited number of possessions, which would deflate scoring. UNDER
Oakland +7 at LA Chargers (47.5): The Chargers need a win and some help to make the Playoffs as a Wild Card but their 8-3 run following an 0-4 start is to be commended. Oakland did not enjoy that same good fortune this season and have been eliminated from the Playoffs. After starting 0-3 both SU and ATS in their temporary home, the Chargers have won and covered the next four at home, winning by margins of 21, 30, 9 and 17 points. LA CHARGERS
Arizona +8 at Seattle (39.5): To earn a Wild Card, Seattle needs a win here and a loss by Atlanta, who hosts Carolina and will be playing at the same time as this game. Despite being out of the Playoffs race for some time, Arizona has continued to play hard. Seattle’s defense still has injury concerns and all they need is a win, but without knowing how much intensity Arizona will bring the preferred play will be on the Total. UNDER
Kansas City +3.5 at Denver (39): Kansas City’s defense has been a weakness all season although they’ve held five of their last six opponents to 16 points or less. Denver ranks No. 3 in allowing just 4.8 yards per play. The Chiefs also run the ball very well and figure to prefer the rush to the pass here to make this game end quickly with as few plays from scrimmage as possible. UNDER
San Francisco +4.5 at LA Rams (43.5): The current play of the 49ers explains the drop in this line from an opener of 6.5. What better way to end the season than with a five-game winning streak. The Rams may start their two most valuable offensive players, QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley, but with a game next week and this game’s result having no bearing other than the 3 or 4 seed they might (perhaps should) be pulled after limited action. SAN FRANCISCO
Last week: 8-7-1