The NFL Playoff Picture is starting to take shape and there are nine teams that have punched their ticket for the 2017 NFL Playoffs. The New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles all clinched first round byes with the Eagles actually clinching the top-seed in the NFC with a win over the Oakland Raiders on Monday. The Minnesota Vikings are still the favorite to be the other team with a first round bye if they can beat a bad Chicago Bears team at home this week. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs all clinched their division titles. The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers clinched playoff spots with the Saints in the drivers seat to win the NFC South.  They need to win on the road against a bad Tampa Bay team to secure the NFC South.

There are still some seeding issues to sort out and three teams will clinch Wild Card berths in Week 17 while three teams will be eliminated. In the AFC, there are four teams fighting for two spots. The Baltimore Ravens are the best-situated team, they can earn a playoff spot with a win or a Tennessee Titans loss or a Buffalo Bills loss. The Titans are also in if they beat the Jaguars or if both the Bills and Chargers lose. The Chargers and Bills are alive, but they need help. The Chargers need to do their part and beat the Raiders and hope that the Titans lose and the Ravens win. The Bills need to beat the Miami Dolphins and hope that the Chargers and Titans lose. They could also make the playoffs if they win and the Ravens lose.

The NFC is more straightforward. There are only two teams fighting for one playoff spot and because the Atlanta Falcons beat the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year, they are in the drivers seat. If Atlanta wins or Seattle loses, Atlanta makes the playoffs. Seattle needs help, they need to beat the Arizona Cardinals and the Falcons would need to lose to the Carolina Panthers. It figures to be a wild Week 17 in the NFL with many of the games having playoff consequences in terms of seeding or qualification.

Without further delay, here are my picks for Week 17. Each game I assign a number 1-16. The game I assign a 16 is the game that I most confident in the winner. The game I assign a one is the game that I am least confident in that week. At the end of the article, I will give you my recommendations for an eliminator pick and select a team to use this week. The next week I will give you the score that I compiled in the confidence picks. I will also keep a running tally of my record in both the eliminator pick and all of the games combined. I also will not pick the same team twice for the eliminator pick.

My record last week was (13-3) and I scored 112 points in the confidence numbers. I am (160-80) on the season and I am (11-5) with my eliminator picks. So far this season, I have picked the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers as my eliminator pick. I do not pick games against the spread or project over and under totals.

Our site is not a gambling site and we do not pretend to be a gambling site. I have had people who need to pick scores of games for their confidence picks, which I am happy to do. If the confidence numbers or picks do not help you enough, leave your questions in the comment section and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Top 5 Games

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton needs to lead his team to victory if he wants any chance of the Panthers winning the NFC South. I think they beat an inconsistent Atlanta team this week to improve to (12-4).

1) Carolina Panthers (11-4) at Atlanta Falcons (9-6) – The Panthers did not win in dominating fashion and they needed QB Cam Newton to pick up a botched snap and use his athletic ability to score the game-winning touchdown.  By beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22-19, they kept their NFC South playoff hopes alive. They will not be able to rest their starters in this game, because if they win and the New Orleans Saints, lose, they would win the NFC South. In the event the Chicago Bears shocked the world and won in Minnesota, they could even go as high as the second seed.

I do not think they earn the second or third seed, because I think Minnesota and New Orleans take care of business against bad competition, but the Panthers will be playing their starters and I think they win this game and eliminate the Falcons from playoff contention. The Falcons are not playing like a playoff team, they have scored 9, 20, 24 and 13 points in their last four games and they are just (2-2) in their last four games. They lost 20-17 in Carolina earlier this year and I think an offense that has failed them all season will fail them in this important game. QB Matt Ryan has not looked like a MVP winner this year and WR Julio Jones has not looked like the best receiver in football. They need those guys to play that way if they want to beat Carolina and I am just not seeing it this week. Winner: Carolina (6)

2) Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) at Tennessee Titans (8-7) – I think the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers were the big losers of Monday Night Football. They really needed the Houston Texans to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to give Jacksonville something to play for this Sunday. Now that the Steelers have won, Jacksonville is locked into the third seed. They can no longer catch the Steelers or New England Patriots nor can the Kansas City Chiefs catch them. It is very possible they rest key players on both sides of the ball for the Wild Card Round.

I like the Titans in this game. It is at home and the Titans usually play well there and they will have every incentive to win this game against a team that is locked into it’s seeding. Even if the Jaguars play their starters for a quarter, it is unlikely they finish the game and the Titans starters at home are going to beat up on the Jaguars backups. Look for Titans RB Derrick Henry to have a big game, as he will no longer have to split carries with RB DeMarco Murray, who suffered a knee injury in Week 16 and he will likely not play with a third-degree MCL tear. Winner: Tennessee (7)

3) San Francisco 49ers (5-10) at Los Angeles Rams (11-4) – The 49ers have been one of the best stories of the last month. When QB Jimmy Garoppolo stepped in under center, this team was just (1-10) and looked to be in contention for the top pick in the NFL Draft. He has led them to four consecutive victories. At first, it looked like a product of the schedule, wins on the road against the bad Chicago Bears and Houston Texans. However, they have beaten the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars the last two weeks and Garoppolo had 242 yards passing, two touchdowns, one pick and a QB rating of 102.4 against the best defense in the NFL. The 49ers also scored 44 points in this game, the Jaguars had only given up more than 30 points one time prior to that game.

I like the 49ers to pull the upset in this game. They actually played the Rams competitive with Brian Hoyer behind center back in Week 3, losing 41-39 and their team is playing much better at this point. The Rams really do not have much to play for in this game, they have already indicated they will be resting some of their key players. The only advantage would be avoiding the loser of the NFC South division in the first round, but the alternative is playing the Atlanta Falcons or Seattle Seahawks, two teams that have Super Bowl experience in recent years. I think the 49ers upset guarantees the Rams will host either the Falcons or the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. Winner: San Francisco 49ers (8)

4) Oakland Raiders (6-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (8-7) -The Raiders can only play spoiler at this point and they just are not likely to spoil the Chargers season. The Chargers have cooled off in recent weeks, losing a must-win game against the Kansas City Chiefs and only beating the New York Jets 14-7. They still are playing good enough football to beat a Raiders team that has struggled to play with any consistency.

I like the Chargers this week. They beat the Raiders 17-16 earlier in the year, but that was when the Raiders were still in contention and the Chargers were in the process of digging themselves out of a (1-4) hole. QB Philip Rivers has everything to play for this week and I think their offense should dominate a bad Raiders D. Winner: Los Angeles Chargers (10)

5) Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6) – The Ravens have a simple task, just win on Sunday and they are the fifth seed and travel to the Kansas City Chiefs. If they lose, they still have a lot of ways to make the playoffs, but could end up on the short end of the stick. I have thought all along that the Ravens would make the playoffs, because the end of the season set up well for them. It became obvious early on that the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals would not offer much resistance and that has proven to be true in Week 15 and Week 16; the Ravens won both those games 27-10 and 23-16.

I think the Ravens win again this week. The Ravens beat the Bengals 20-0 in the season opener and nothing has gone right for the Bengals since the opening kickoff. The Bengals have never been .500 this year and the closest they came to being .500 was when they had a 17-0 lead at home against Pittsburgh. A win in that game would have put them back at .500 and in the playoff race, but they blew the lead and any chance to make the playoffs. It is ironic that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis will end his Bengals career at a place that helped him secure his first head-coaching job. Lewis was a defensive coordinator in Baltimore from 1996 to 2001, helping that team win a Super Bowl in 2000. They will try to play spoiler against his former team, but I think the Ravens take care of business and secure a playoff spot. Winner: Baltimore (9)

The Rest

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford will be looking to lead the first Lions season sweep of the Green Bay Packers since 1991.

6) Green Bay Packers (7-8) at Detroit Lions (8-7) – This game does not mean much, but could determine draft position once all the games have concluded. The Lions will finish second in the division no matter what, because even if Green Bay wins, they will have split the season series and Detroit will be (4-2) in the division and Green Bay will be (3-3) in the division. The Packers actually have a better chance of winning this game in Detroit than Green Bay. QB Brett Hundley has a QB rating of 97.6 on the road versus 50.6 on the road. At the end of the day, the only teams the Packers have beaten with Hundley behind center are Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Chicago, all teams with 5 wins or less. I will take the Lions to win at home. Winner: Detroit (11)

7) Houston Texans (4-11) at Indianapolis Colts (3-12) – These are two teams looking to move on to the 2018 season when they may be able to compete with better quarterback situations. The Colts season ended when QB Andrew Luck was not able to take a single snap under center. There is still speculation he made need a second surgery to fix his shoulder, which is not great news. The Texans season ended when QB Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in early November. The Colts were able to beat the Texans without Watson in Houston the last time they played and I will take the Colts to win at home this week. Winner: Indianapolis (1)

8) Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (12-3) – The Vikings need to win this game if they want to guarantee they have home field advantage for the playoffs. If they lose, the trick is which NFC South team emerges as the division champion. If it is New Orleans, the Vikings beat them back in Week 1 and they would have the tiebreaker. If it is the Carolina Panthers, the Vikings lost to them back in Week 14 and the Panthers would win the tiebreaker. I think the Viking take care of business on Sunday. They are (10-3) with QB Case Keenum under center and their losses are to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers. The losses to Pittsburgh and Detroit were early in the season; they have won 10 of their last 11 games. Given how well they have played, I cannot see them dropping a game at home to a terrible Chicago team. Look for Minnesota to win easily this week. Winner: Minnesota (15)

9) New York Jets (5-10) at New England Patriots (12-3) – The Patriots will still need to play their starters, because they are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I like QB Tom Brady to close the season on a high note and win an important game. It just does not seem possible that they will overlook a bad Jets team. Winner: New England (14)

10) Washington (7-8) at New York Giants (2-13) – Washington had looked like they had given up on their season after losing in blowout fashion at Dallas and at home to the Chargers, but they have bounced back with back-to-back wins at home against Arizona and Denver. The Giants just cannot compete most weeks and they have lost three straight games after firing their GM and head coach. They were shutout last week in Arizona by a Cardinals team that had allowed double-digit points in all but one game this year. I will take Washington to win, look for QB Kirk Cousins to have a big game in what may be his final game for Washington. Winner: Washington (5)

11) Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-2) – The Eagles are in as good of a spot as they could be after QB Carson Wentz suffered a torn ACL. They held on to that LA Rams game to secure a victory and by beating the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders, they have secured the top-seed in the NFC. QB Nick Foles was not great this week, but he did have 163 yards passing and one passing touchdown against one pick, which was enough to beat the Oakland Raiders. They have nothing to play for this week, so I think they rest key people. Look for the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Eagles, as they will probably be playing with most of their starters. Winner: Dallas (4)

12) Cleveland Browns (0-15) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) – I think the Browns are out of luck to win a game in 2017, because the Steelers need to play their starters to have any chance of catching the New England Patriots. That means that they are not going to be facing the backups and there is no way this team has enough talent to take out the Steelers starters. I think the Browns become the first team since the 2008 Detroit Lions to go winless in a regular season. Winner: Pittsburgh (16)

13) Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) at Denver Broncos (5-10) – The Chiefs do not have a lot to play for this week. If they beat Denver, they will be the fourth seed and hosting the fifth seed. If they lose, the same fate awaits them. The reason for that is they lose the tiebreaker to Jacksonville, even if Kansas City wins this week and Jacksonville loses this week. I would expect the Chiefs to treat Week 17 like a bye week and rest their key players. Even though Denver is bad this year, I do not think the Chiefs backups in a meaningless game have enough going for them to win in Denver: Winner: Denver (2)

14) Buffalo Bills (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (6-9) – The Bills still have a chance to end their playoff drought that goes back to 1999, but they need a lot of help. They need to win to have any chance to make the playoffs. I do not think they make it to all the tiebreaker possibilities, because this team is just (2-5) on the road and Miami is (4-3) at home. Even though the Dolphins have nothing to play for, I think they win at home and end the Bills season. Winner: Miami (3)

15) Arizona Cardinals (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (9-6) – The Seahawks came up big on Sunday, although it was not pretty. They won a must-win game in Dallas 21-12 to save their season. In doing so, they became the first team since the 1966 Philadelphia Eagles to win a game where they had more penalty yards (142) than yards gained (136). I give Arizona a lot of credit for winning seven games without their best offensive player (RB David Johnson) and their starting quarterback (QB Carson Palmer) for most of the season. I think with nothing to play for and Seattle needing this game to make the playoffs, the Seahawks take care of business at home. Winner: Seattle (12)

16) New Orleans Saints (11-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) – The Saints need to play their starters and they should figure out a way to win this game and earn the third seed in the NFC. The last time these teams played in Week 9, the Saints won 30-10 and the Buccaneers have not had much go right this year. They just lost their third consecutive game by a field goal, so even if they keep the game competitive, I think the Buccaneers figure out a way to lose the game. Winner: New Orleans (13)

Eliminator Pick: There are a few good options this week. New Orleans seems like a good bet to win in Tampa Bay and if you are down to no good options, you could always pick Denver to win at home against the Kansas City backups or Tennessee to win at home against Jacksonville backups.

A good team I would stay clear of this week is the LA Rams hosting a red-hot 49ers team that has won four straight games, including wins over the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Rams cannot catch the Eagles or the Vikings, no matter what those teams do on Sunday and even though they have the tiebreaker against the Saints, that might not be enough of an incentive for them to play at 110% percent, which they will need to do to beat a red hot 49ers team.  They are also talking about resting a number of key players, which makes them a dangerous team to use this week.

I think the team with the best chance to win is the Minnesota Vikings. They need to win to hold onto that first round bye, they are at home and they play a Chicago Bears team that is just (2-5) on the road with those wins coming at Baltimore and at Cincinnati. They could put up a fight, but I think the Vikings run defense will shut down that Bears offense and rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky is not going to do much on the road against that defense. Even if the Vikings win ugly this week, they should win. Eliminator Pick: Minnesota

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