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It only took 16 weeks for the NFL to get back on its axis. That's right, Blake Bortles threw a pick-six. It was his first of the season and 12th since 2014, most in the NFL.

We also saw more teams eliminated and watched the AFC South continue to leave a horrid stench and make us wonder how that division may get two teams in the playoffs.

Let's take a look at the playoff picture.

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Playoff Picture

AFC

1. Patriots 2. Steelers
Both teams have clinched byes. Pittsburgh needs a win and a New England loss to clinch home-field.

3. Jaguars 4. Chiefs
Both teams clinched their divisions and are locked into their seeds.

5. Ravens 6. Titans 7. Chargers 8. Bills
If the Ravens or Titans win they're in. Chargers and Bills both need help.

NFC

1. Eagles 2. Vikings
Eagles have clinched home-field. Vikings win and they clinch the bye.

3. Rams 4. Saints 5. Panthers
The Rams are the only team of these three to clinch their division. If New Orleans wins, they clinch the NFC South. If they lose and Carolina wins, then the Panthers win the division. If the Panthers win and the Vikings, Rams, and Saints ALL lose, they get a bye.

6. Falcons 7. Seahawks
If Atlanta beats Carolina, they're in. If they lose and Seattle wins, the Seahawks get in. Simple enough.

 

Rant of the Week

I could rant about some dumb coaching decisions this week, but I'm going to shift my focus towards the NFL. I  understand not having a Sunday night game on Christmas Eve, especially with a Monday doubleheader. But to not have one this coming Sunday in Week 17 is unheard of. The NFL claims, "We felt that both from a competitive standpoint and from a fan perspective, the most fair thing to do is to schedule all Week 17 games in either the 1 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET windows. This ensures that we do not have a matchup on Sunday Night Football on New Year's Eve that because of earlier results has no playoff implications for one or both of the competing teams."

Well here's a thought; why not put the Panthers at Falcons game that Sunday night? Let's assume the Seahawks beat the Drew Stanton-led Cardinals. That sets the stage for a do-or-die game Sunday night. Carolina may not have a chance to win the division, but at least it determines the final playoff team. There have been many instances where the Sunday night game in Week 17 only had one team playing for the playoffs. Foe example, the Titans beat the Colts in 2007, or when the Jets beat the Bengals in 2010.

 

Survivor League Strategy

If you are still in a survivor pool, don't fret. The order of the games I pick are from my top plays to worst.

These lines are from sportsbook.ag on Thursday.

Last week my top picks were 0-1-1, my secondary picks were 4-1 and the rest of the bunch were 5-4.

Favorites are continuing to kill it. They were 13-3 straight-up last week. There still hasn't been that shocking double-digit upset since maybe the Bills beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead several weeks ago.

Here is one stat to keep in mind, courtesy of John Ewing of the The Action Network, "Since 2003, teams in must-win games during Week 17 have gone 56-68-4 (45.2%) ATS. Teams playing at home in must-win Week 17 games have gone 31-42-2 (42.5%) ATS since 2003."

Not what you expected, right?

 

Top Picks for Week 17

These are my best bets in order of confidence:

DOLPHINS +2.5 vs. Bills

Last week I predicted the Bills would lose their two remaining games against New England and Miami so I'm sticking with it. The Bills have been known to lose this game since the year 2000. Watch them do it again.

Prediction: Dolphins 24 - Bills 20 

Panthers +4 @ FALCONS

You're getting a free point if you take the Panthers. With all of the Falcons weapons from Devonta Freeman to Tevin Coleman to Julio Jones to Mohamed Sanu, to Austin Hooper, they are 15th in scoring. And yes, I purposely didn't include Matt Ryan. The memory of the Panthers winning 34-3 two years ago in Atlanta in Week 17 for the division crown still is vivid in my mind.

Prediction: Panthers 31 - Falcons 23

Saints -7 @ BUCS

The Saints need to win to clinch the NFC South. The Bucs gave it their all the past two weeks narrowly losing in games they should have won. The Bucs defense will not be able to slow down Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Their rush defense is T-24 and 31st in DVOA.

Prediction: Saints 35 - Bucs 14

Redskins -3 @ GIANTS

This game means zero. But the Redskins should roll. Kirk Cousins is real good and should have no problem slicing up a depleted secondary. Cousins is going to become a free agent so he could make $28-$34 million under the franchise tag or get a guaranteed deal exceeding Matthew Stafford's record $92 million guaranteed. This is Cousins's last audition to play well and he will go out with a bang.

Prediction: Redskins 30 - Giants 17

 

Secondary Picks for Week 17

These are plays I like, a level below my best bets in order of confidence:

PATRIOTS -15.5 vs. Jets

This is the most simple and logical way to look at this game. How many points can the Bryce Petty-led Jets score? I'd say 14 tops. New England averages 29.

As a Jets fan it is absurd that Christian Hackenberg hasn't thrown an NFL pass yet. Here's my hot take; if Hackenberg is as bad as everyone says, then the media will erupt and say, 'how could you draft this guy as a second-round pick? The scouts and coaching staff deserves to be fired!' However if you don't play Hackenberg, he is still a second-round prospect who we know nothing about. You can hang your hat on a potential prospect easier than a second-round bust.

Prediction: Patriots 38 - Jets 14

Chiefs +3.5 @ BRONCOS

We get to see Patrick Mahomes for the first time this Sunday. I can't wait. The Broncos are starting Paxton Lynch. Mahomes will play with nothing to lose and throw for over 300 yards. Gut feeling.

Prediction: Chiefs 27 - Broncos 10

49ers -4.5 @ RAMS

This line opened as touchdown favorites and it swung 11 points in the Niner's direction. That's because the Rams will be benching their starters. I've taken the Niners every week since Jimmy G took over and he's come through so why would that stop me now?

Prediction: 49ers 24 - Rams 17

Raiders +8 @ CHARGERS

The Chargers are just a weird team. I'm not sure how they only put up 14 points on Sunday against a Jets defense that isn't very good. The Raiders played shockingly well in Philadelphia Christmas night.

I'll follow the stat I listed above and go against the home dog that needs to win even though it makes no sense.

Prediction: Chargers 24 - Raiders 17 

Bengals +9.5 @ RAVENS

Andy Dalton is 2-4 in Baltimore however the outcome in five of those games has been by one possession. The Bengals had nothing to play for last week and knocked the Lions out of the playoffs. They will want to do the same to a division rival who is vastly overrated.

DFS ALERT: A.J. Green will have a monster game. In his career against the Ravens (nine games), he's averaged five receptions, 88 yards and has six touchdowns in those games.

The Ravens have nine wins. Those came against the Bengals, Browns twice, Raiders, Dolphins, Packers, Texans, Lions, and Colts. Name me one of those teams that is good. I'm waiting. None of those teams are playoff teams. And by the way, their five losses have been to the Jaguars, Steelers twice, Bears, Vikings, Titans. Oh, what do you know, three of those teams are in the playoffs and the Titans need to win and they're in. To put the final touches on my case for how bad the Ravens are, they are 31st in yards per play.

The Bengals play the Ravens tough so often in Baltimore  I'm going out on a limb and taking the Bengals to win outright and carry Marvin Lewis off the field.

Prediction: Bengals 24 - Ravens 20

 

The Rest of the Bunch

These are games that I am not certain about. In order of importance:

TITANS -3.5 vs. Jaguars

As much as the Titans stink, the Jaguars have nothing to play for. The Titans will win this game and make the playoffs as one of the worst playoff teams in recent memory.

Prediction: Titans 19 - Jaguars 14

Cardinals +9 @ SEAHAWKS

Since 2012, the Cards are 3-2 in Seattle. To put that in perspective, the Seahawks have been beaten nine times at home in that span, no team more than once. After the fake news report that Bruce Arians was leaving, I expect he will have his team ready to go and ruin Seattle's season. This will be much closer than expected.

Prediction: Seahawks 23 - Cardinals 19 

Browns +11 @ STEELERS

I've really been pulling for the Browns to win one game this year. You gotta feel for a team that goes 0-16. The only team to ever accomplish that were the '08 Lions. I  also had the Browns in an underdog pool and I've been taking them every week. Besides for my selfish reasons, it's really sad what the Browns have become. They were once the premiere team of the NFL. They won four NFL championships from 1950 through 1964, three of those in five seasons under legendary coach Paul Brown. Jim Brown, inarguably the greatest football (and lacrosse) player of all time played for the Browns. Since I started watching football when I was five-years-old in the year 2000, the Browns have been good twice. They were so close to beating the Steelers in the 2003 Wild Card playoffs and in 2007 when Derek Anderson led a fun team to a 10-6 record narrowly missing out on the playoffs. That's it. It's really sad what they've become.

Prediction: Steelers 38 - Browns 16

Beats +11.5 @ VIKINGS

The Vikings defense is going to throttle Mitchell Trubisky. This may get violent. Minnesota also needs to win to clinch a first-round bye so they will go all out in this one. The Bears anemic offense stands zero chance.

Prediction: Vikings 34 - Bears 10

 

These games don't matter. 

EAGLES +3 vs. Cowboys

I think Nick Foles will play to build some confidence before the playoffs. The Cowboys are eliminated so you have to wonder if they will even show up.

Prediction: Eagles 24 - Cowboys 23

Packers +6.5 @ LIONS

The Lions just were eliminated by a team who was outscored 87-17 the prior 10 quarters. I think they come out flat and play like zombies, similar to their head coach.

Prediction: Packers 23 - Lions 20 

COLTS -4 vs. Texans

This game is awful. I'll just take the four points.

Prediction: Colts 23 - Texans 21

 

Any questions? Feel free to ask me on Twitter @Seth_Fink. Thanks for reading my article this entire season. Best of luck and happy new year!

 

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