Coaches in the NFL have some big decisions to make in Week 17. Some have to weigh the benefits of resting players versus the chance of gaining a higher seed or first-round bye. For others who are locked into their seeds, it’s an issue of rest versus trying to stay sharp.
One of the coaches in the latter group is Sean McDermott. His Bills are 10-5 and will be the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Sunday’s game against the Jets in Orchard Park means nothing. At midweek, McDermott still was planning to play Josh Allen and the starters, at least for a while.
One thing to consider, though, is that if the Bills end up playing the Texans in the wild-card game, it figures to be Saturday afternoon, making it a short week. The alternative would be the Chiefs. Either way, McDermott would want to have a well-rested core to give the Bills the best shot to advance.
This isn’t to say the Buffalo backups couldn’t beat the Jets, but the situation is favorable for Adam Gase and the Jets to finish the season with their seventh win.
The pick: Jets, +1¹/₂.
NEW YORK GIANTS (+4¹/₂) over Philadelphia Eagles: Philadelphia can achieve its goal of an NFC East title with a victory here, but even so, there’s a little wiggle room with the spread. The Giants covered as 9¹/₂-point underdogs on Dec. 9 in a 23-17 OT loss in Philly, but that was with Eli Manning. This will be the Eagles’ first time dealing with Daniel Jones, who has some confidence after beating the Dolphins and Redskins.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (+2¹/₂) over Cleveland Browns: Cincinnati has clinched the top pick in the draft so there would be no negative consequences for winning here. But the Bengals are 1-14. It’s not as if they can snap their fingers and win a game. But I’m afraid to back the Browns, who could be in a mail-it-in spot.
Chicago Bears (PK) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Minnesota is locked into the No. 6 slot in the NFC. This is one team that really needs to rest its stars to have a chance to beat an elite team on the road in the wild-card round. Getting to 8-8 should matter to the Bears.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (PK) over Atlanta Falcons: Bucs are 4-1 straight up and 4-0-1 ATS in their past five, and the Falcons 5-2 SU and ATS in their past seven. Riding with Jameis Winston as he becomes the eighth man to reach 5,000 yards passing in a season.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (+13) over New Orleans Saints: New Orleans could earn the No. 1 or No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win here and some help. This is a heavy price to pay, though, considering Drew Brees (knee) and Michael Thomas (hand) appeared on the injury list midweek.
Miami Dolphins (+15¹/₂) over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: New England has incentive to play this one full-out to claim a first-round AFC bye. However, the Pats don’t have to win by more than two touchdowns to accomplish that goal. Temperatures in the mid-40s shouldn’t discourage Miami much.
DETROIT LIONS (+12¹/₂) over Green Bay Packers: Green Bay clinches an NFC bye with a win and could get to the top seed if the 49ers also lose. A Saints fan offered David Blough a new truck if the Lions quarterback beats Green Bay, but the key number here is the Packers are averaging fewer than 20 ppg in their last seven. It would be tough to cover this number with that output.
Los Angeles Chargers (+9) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: KC’s motivation for a bye would dim if the Patriots start pulling away from the Dolphins. Would Andy Reid pull Patrick Mahomes, who has limped off the field so many times this season?
Tennessee Titans (-3¹/₂) over HOUSTON TEXANS: Titans clinch a playoff berth with a win. Texans will know by kickoff if they are locked into the No. 4 seed or can move up to No. 3 (if KC loses). As mentioned above, the Texans are likely to play next Saturday afternoon so they might opt to rest some key players.
Indianapolis Colts (-3¹/₂) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: These two eliminated teams couldn’t be more different. The Colts are a professional outfit that can still crush bad teams (33-13 over Jaguars, 38-6 over Panthers). Jacksonville has lost six of its last seven games by double digits.
Washington Redskins (+11) over DALLAS COWBOYS: We could get the juicy outcome that defines and ends the Jason Garrett era if the Eagles lose to open the NFC East title door for Dallas, but the Cowboys lose, too. Glad to take double digits with Case Keenum versus all that pressure and karma.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-2) over BALTIMORE RAVENS: John Harbaugh is resting Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and a few others. Though that presents opportunities for players who have been on the bench, it also signals to the team that the real Ravens will return in two weeks for a run at the Super Bowl. Steelers need a win and a lot of help they probably won’t get.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (-4) over Arizona Cardinals: Line was off the board at many books due to uncertainty about Kyler Murray’s hamstring. He said he expects to play but could be hindered. Cardinals had a shocking 27-13 win in Seattle last week. Rams have been very erratic, but did win 34-7 in Arizona on Dec. 1.
Oakland Raiders (+3) over DENVER BRONCOS: Oakland must win and have a laundry list of results come through to win an AFC wild card. Josh Jacobs is hoping to play just a few days after having shoulder surgery. Jon Gruden can use that to rile up the other Raiders.
San Francisco 49ers (-3¹/₂) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Winner takes the NFC West and loser is a wild card. The 49ers would clinch the No. 1 seed with a win, and Seattle could move up the ladder with help. Problem is the Seahawks are so banged up, Pete Carroll had to call in Marshawn Lynch. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers are in good shape for this showdown.
Best bets: Colts, Bears, Redskins.
Lock of the week: Redskins (Locks 6-10 in 2019).
Last week: 9-6-1 overall, 2-1 Best Bets.
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