Steve Believes: Week 17, 2018 NFL Season

  • Miami Dolphins Vs. Buffalo Bills. The past two teams to get the sixth seed in the AFC square off in the first of quite a few Week 17 games that have little to no playoff implications whatsoever, as neither of these teams will be in the postseason this year. The Dolphins squandered a 3-0 start to the season and two-game lead on the New England Patriots in the AFC East, whereas the Bills are two wins over their projected win total of three. Three will be the theme here again, as the Bills will go three games over that projected win total, by winning in the final game of Kyle Williams’ career.
  • Detroit Lions Vs. Green Bay Packers. The Lions regressed this season, as they followed up two consecutive 9-7 regular season finishes with a 5-10 record in year one of the Matt Patricia era. As for the Packers, they went on a 24-3 combined run in the fourth quarter and overtime period to prevent the first 0-8 road record in the Aaron Rodgers era, along with ultimately winning 44-38 against the New York Jets. Rodgers’ home record against the Lions is a stark contrast to the Packers’ road record this season, as the Super Bowl 45 MVP is 7-1 against them in Lambeau Field during his illustrious career. Make it 8-1, as I expect the Packers to finish the season on a high note.
  • New York Jets Vs. New England Patriots. The Jets have looked better the past four weeks, as each of the games in that span have been decided by one possession, despite losing three of those games. Sam Darnold has also played better since his Week 14 return against the Bills, which means bright days could be ahead for Gang Green. But they’ll also endure yet another growing pain, as I see the Patriots seizing the opportunity to get a first-round bye for the ninth consecutive season.
  • Carolina Panthers Vs. New Orleans Saints. In a scheduling oddity, the Panthers play the Saints for the second time in three weeks. And they play them in a game that is meaningless for the home team, as the Saints have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and could very well be resting players during this game. As for the road team, this game is the last one in the career of Ryan Kalil, and could also be the final game in the careers of both Thomas Davis and Julius Peppers. Look for the Panthers to finish the season strong, by exploiting the likelihood of the Saints resting players in this one.
  • Dallas Cowboys Vs. New York Giants. The Cowboys have the NFC’s fourth seed all wrapped up, but I predict that none of their players get rest, as they don’t have a first-round bye and need to be sharp heading into Wild Card Weekend. As for the Giants, they have nothing to play for except pride at this point. They will put forth a valiant effort, but will still fall short against the Cowboys.
  • Atlanta Falcons Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite the fact that their two-year playoff streak has ended, the Falcons have come on strong the past two weeks and could finish their season that way. As for the Buccaneers, they’ve lost their past two games by one possession and saw a 14-3 lead turn into a 28-14 loss against the Saints back in Week 14. Progression toward the mean could favor the Buccaneers, but they are in so much disarray that not even that narrative will salvage what’s left of their season. So with that being said, I like the Falcons in this one.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars Vs. Houston Texans. The Jaguars spoiled one playoff scenario last week, as they beat the Dolphins to eliminate them from contention. And they could do the same this week, by beating a Texans team that very recently lost their prized midseason acquisition, Demaryius Thomas, to a season-ending Achilles injury. However, the Texans won’t be eliminated from contention, as they have already clinched a spot in the AFC playoff bracket. The Jaguars will give the Texans all that they can handle, but it won’t be enough. I like the Texans in this one.
  • Los Angeles Chargers Vs. Denver Broncos. Broncos Stadium at Mile High has been a house of horrors for the Chargers, as they have lost their past five games in that venue. As for the Broncos, the past three weeks have been very discouraging for them, as they have lost their past three games, along with losing both Chris Harris Jr. and Emmanuel Sanders to Injured Reserve. Plus, they will also be missing their fine rookie running back, Phillip Lindsay. The Broncos still have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb playing this week, but they won’t be enough against Anthony Lynn’s bunch. I like the Chargers in this one. 
  • Oakland Raiders Vs. Kansas City Chiefs. Dwayne Harris got Christmas Eve started for the Raiders, as his 99-yard punt return for a touchdown gave them a 7-0 lead that they would never relinquish in a game that they ultimately won, 24-14, against the Broncos. And not only did they win, they also won in what could have been their final game in Oakland. As for the Chiefs, primetime hasn’t been kind to them, as all four of their losses have come in that spot and that includes their past two games. The scenario is simple for Andy Reid’s bunch, which is a win here gets them home-field advantage all throughout the AFC playoffs. And given that circumstance, this game is in the late-afternoon slate, a spot in which the Chiefs are 3-2 in the Andy Reid era. Make it 4-2, because I expect the Chiefs to take their frustration out on the Raiders.
  • San Francisco 49ers Vs. Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers’ very disappointing season finally comes to an end, as they take on the Rams in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. However, they can end the season on a high note, along with spoiling the Rams’ chances at a first-round bye. The 49ers have been playing better of late, but I just can’t see them beating a much more superior team with a lot on the line. Especially on the road.
  • Chicago Bears Vs. Minnesota Vikings. A lot is on the line for these two teams, with the Bears needing a win for a first-round bye, while the Vikings simply need a win to claim the last spot in the NFC playoff bracket. The Vikings offense will be the x-factor in this one, as they have averaged 34 points per game in their past two games. Look for them to do just enough against Khalil Mack & Company to get the sixth and final spot in the aforementioned NFC playoff bracket.
  • Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. The 4-1 start for the Bengals seems like ancient history, as losing eight of their past ten games has cemented their status as last place in the AFC North. As for the Steelers, they need a win, coupled with a Ravens loss to win the aforementioned AFC North, or a win plus a tie between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans to get the last spot in the AFC playoff bracket. Dating back to Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season, the Steelers are 24-7 against the Bengals, and that includes a current seven-game winning streak in that span. Make it 25-7 and eight in a row, because the Bengals are just too depleted to hand the Steelers an upset at Heinz Field.
  • Arizona Cardinals Vs. Seattle Seahawks. The long and miserable season for the Cardinals finally comes to a close, as they wrap it up in the Great Northwest. But oddly enough, they have won the past three times that they have played in CenturyLink Field. As for the Seahawks, they stepped up in a huge spot, as they defeated the Chiefs in primetime to clinch a playoff spot for the seventh time in nine seasons under Pete Carroll. Despite having clinched a spot in the NFC playoff bracket, the Seahawks won’t be resting players, as they want to be sharp heading into their Wild Card game against the Cowboys. And because of that, look for them to do as such, along with snapping their three-game home losing streak against the Cardinals.
  • Philadelphia Eagles Vs. Washington Redskins. Given the stakes, the Eagles will be on in the same time slot as the Vikings, as it’s down to those two teams for the last NFC playoff spot. As the Redskins, their 5-2 start seems eons ago, as they have lost six of the past eight to be eliminated from contention. Josh Johnson has given them a spark, as they beat the Jaguars in Week 15 and played the Titans pretty tough in a loss last week. However, they don’t have enough offensively to match the offensively resurgent Eagles. So with that being said, I like the Super Bowl champs in this one.
  • Cleveland Browns Vs. Baltimore Ravens. The Browns will miss the playoffs for the 19th time in 20 seasons, but certainly have a bright future ahead of them. As for the Ravens, they knocked the Chargers back down to Earth with their dominant rushing attack and lockdown defense in their 22-10 Week 16 win at Dignity Health Sports Park. The win was also crucial, as it has them in control of their own destiny for the AFC North title, something that they haven’t won since a certain Number 52 was still playing. The Ravens blew a golden opportunity to get the AFC’s sixth seed last season, by losing at home against the Bengals. However, I expect them to learn from that and use it as a motivation to clinch the aforementioned AFC North title with their 10th win this season.
  • Indianapolis Colts Vs. Tennessee Titans. The 256th and final game of the 2018 NFL regular season ends with, in all likelihood, the sixth and final spot in the AFC playoff bracket. For the Colts, this season has been a feel good story, as their franchise quarterback (Andrew Luck) has returned to his normal self, thanks to first-year head coach Frank Reich. Plus, they’ve also overcome a 1-5 start to get in this position, thus making their story even more of a feel good one. As for the Titans, a current four-game winning streak has them in this position and a win here gets them in the postseason for the second consecutive year. The Titans are 6-1 at Nissan Stadium this season, but that should mean nothing to the Colts, whom have won five of their past six games in that stadium. And because of that, along with how effective Marcus Mariota can be and the fact that Jurrell Casey is out for this game, it’s going to be six of seven in that stadium for the Colts.