Week 17 Matchup Predictions
Buccaneers (6-9) @ Falcons (13-2): Falcons' head coach Mike Smith says that his team will be playing to win the game, but it's hard to imagine him rolling with his starters for the full four quarters when his team already has the top seed in the NFC locked up. With their most important skill position players - Julio Jones and Roddy White - both banged up this season, it would be wise not to risk further injury, and any injury to Matt Ryan would squander their Super Bowl aspirations. The Bucs have lost five straight, but I think they'll want to go out on a positive note and be ready to take on an acquiescent Falcons team.
Buccaneers win 24-20.
Jets (6-9) @ Bills (5-10): Well, McElroy, you had a good run, but now Mark Sanchez is back under center! Head coach Rex Ryan is playing musical chairs around Tim Tebow, bringing McElroy from third string quarterback to starter last week, and Sanchez from third string to starter this week, all while Tebow sits still as the backup. Rex claims he's rolling with Sanchez because he knows the Bills better than Tebow, but that's a giant heap of garbage - Rex just doesn't want to risk Tebow winning the game and having the media all over him asking, "Why not sooner?" Anyway, Sanchez is terrible, and he's now been demoralized and taken out of his usual starting quarterback routine. I think he'll struggle to move the ball on the Bills, despite their 31st ranked scoring defense.
Bills win 24-17.
Ravens (10-5) @ Bengals (9-6): The Bengals are locked into the second wild card spot, so they're essentially playing for nothing. However, with a young team, head coach Marvin Lewis stressed that he wants to build up momentum going into the playoffs. The Ravens, on the other hand, can only get the 3rd or 4th seed, meaning they will not have a first round bye and will have one week of home field advantage, regardless of what happens on Sunday. I don't think the Ravens will be as keen on winning this game as the Bengals will be, and with the Ravens struggling on the road this year, I like the Bengals to get their desired momentum going into the playoffs.
Bengals win 27-20.
Bears (9-6) @ Lions (4-11): The Bears have everything on the line in this one. Their playoff scenario is simple (I'm ignoring tie scenarios) - they have to win and the Vikings have to lose. With the Vikings facing the Packers, the Bears have to feel pretty good about their win-and-in outlook (can you guess who I'm picking in the Packers game?). The Lions have been a monumental disappointment this season, their biggest issue probably being their turnovers. The Bears, who force the most turnovers in the NFL, will give them fits as they play their hearts out on Sunday.
Bears win 24-19.