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Week 17 NFL picks Crown the Bengals Pack
#1
Its the end and the beginning. This is the 17th and final week of regular-season NFL play, and after Sunday nights Bengals-Steelers game, while 12 teams get ready for the playoffs, 20 will be gathering the next day in their locker rooms for Hefty-bag Day, the saddest holiday on the league calendar.Its even sadder since for a handful of teams, that will coincide with Black Monday, the end of the line for head coaches and, maybe, general managers. Two major markets could see double farewell pre s conferences and, po sibly, double sightings of owners coming out of long public hibernations. So, fans in the New York and San Francisco Bay Area, settle in for a long day, or week, depending on how long teams might take to release the trap door.MORE: Week 16 Power Rankings | Coaches on the hot seat | Week 17 opening lines Never mind that, for now. Somehow, 10 of the 16 games have playoff implications, with three face-to-face division title showdowns, including one win-or-go-home game in which, of course, both teams really need to go home. (All times ET)Game of the week Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., NBC). Tune out everybody who says theyre both in the playoffs already, so what difference does this make? Heres what: the Bengals have a chance to get the first-round bye, while the Steelers can enter the playoffs as the No. 3 seed. Both, then, get to avoid the Patriots, who have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, as long as po sible. Lose, of course, and youre a wild card and youre on the road next week.The Bengals have been the least-predictable of these two lately, yet they enter with the AFC North lead and have been Marcus Sherels Jersey there virtually all season, thanks to their 3-0 start. No one thought they had it in them to beat the Broncos Monday, even at home, but Andy Dalton was the better quarterback than Peyton Manning, the defense bamboozled Manning to a surprising degree, and under the circumstances the running game had its best showing of the year.That defense might be able to do the same thing to the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, although LeVeon Bell is a different threat than the one the Broncos presented. Dont automatically a sume the Bengals will habitually gag this one away. Its just a hunch, but they may have turned the corner on Monday night. Prediction: Bengals 26, Steelers 24 Tainted game of the week Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox). The winner is crowned NFC North champ and could earn home-field advantage. The game is in Lambeau (plus for the Packers), but the Lions defense is No. 2 in overall defense, No. 1 Minnesota Vikings Jersey in rushing defense and handled the Packers in their previous meeting (plus for the Lions). The taint? Serial numbskull Dominic Raiola got himself suspended from this game. Looks like all the immaturity hasnt been flushed out of that locker room yet. Packers 27, Lions 20 Coronation of the week St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox). If the Seahawks somehow let a Rams team that caught them off-guard and beat them in midseason, come into their place, stop their roll and ruin their march back to the Super Bowl now, then theyre not the Seahawks we thought we knew, and thought they were back to being. Suggested Marshawn Lynch repeated postgame quote : See you in two weeks. Seahawks 30, Rams 17 Back-in of the week Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS). Because, by league rule, the first-place team in every division has to make the playoffs. The champ who will raise the NFC South flag will have seven wins. Still, both teams had to win down the stretch to inch ahead of the rest of the ineptitude, and they did. A good rule of thumb: dont trust the Panthers offense. Or defense. Falcons 34, Panthers 24 Upset of the week Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS). No, theres no logical reason Baltimore should fall at home to a Browns team that might start Connor Shaw at quarterback, with a win and help needed to get in. But where was the logic of losing to Case Keenum last week? The Ravens offense is still beaten up, and the Browns know they blew a chance to beat them back in September. Browns 19, Ravens 17 | Result: Ravens 20, Browns 10Lock of the week Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS). This game should have meaning for the Bills, but they let the Raiders beat them, and thats that. One of the many teams with offseason coaching and John Randle Jersey management intrigue, because of new ownership. Plus, even if the Patriots rest everybody, they wont rest them enough to lose at home going into the playoffs. Patriots 33, Bills 14 | Result: Bills 17, Patriots 9Rest of the week Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox). Logan Thomas becomes the fourth starting quarterback for a Cardinals team that began the season 9-1, but might end up on the road next week against a losing host. The 49ers, though, will make their final case for Letdown Team of the Year. Cardinals 27, 49ers 14. San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS). Win, and the Chargers are in. Coming from behind late in Baltimore and San Francisco late in the season put them in this position. The Chiefs, especially the offense, has run out of gas. Chargers 24, Chiefs 21 | Result: Chiefs 19, Chargers 7Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox). A mini-campaign for Tony Romo as MVP is building. If he wins, he needs to hand the award to DeMarco Murray, broken bone or not . Cowboys are in the home-field advantage race, and theyd like to rest Romo and Murray and thats all bad news for Washington. Cowboys 30, Redskins 24 | Result: Cowboys 44, Redskins 17Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS). The road has been so bumpy for the Texans, going through all those quarterbacks and getting Jadeveon Clowney for about five minutes all year, that contending for the playoffs after a 2-14 season is actually flying under the radar. They wont get enough help to make it, but theyll get a nice win to close out Bill OBriens debut season. Texans 28, Jaguars 10 | Result: Texans 23, Jags 17Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS). Peyton Manning and Co. would prefer to put this one away fast, get their first-round bye, and send Manning to a spa for two weeks. Congratulations to the Raiders for not lying down under Tony Sparano this last month. Broncos 27, Raiders 16 Indianapolis Colts at Tenne see Titans (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS). The Colts should sit all of their starters, to rest them for the playoffs and to show them film of last weeks fold-up in Dallas so they can figure out what their problem is. Andrew Luck, the golden child who keeps channeling the bad Brett Favre at the wrong time, needs to sit up front. Colts 31, Titans 13 | Result: Colts 27, Titans 10New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox). The Bucs control their own destiny for the No. 1 draft pick next spring . This is no guarantee, though, because theyve played hard against good teams, and the bottom has fallen out of the Saints season. The Bucs keep playing just well enough to lose, though. Saints 24, Bucs 17 | Result: Saints 23, Bucs 20Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox). Philly folks were booking hotel rooms in Phoenix for February back on Thanksgiving, and now theyre out of the playoffs and needing a win over the Giants to avoid a season-ending four-game losing streak. The Giants have won three straight, are probably salty about that 27-0 beatdown in Philadelphia in October and might be playing for Tom Coughlin for the last time. Giants 34, Eagles 30 | Result: Eagles 34, Giants 26New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS). Another likely New York farewell: to the six-year rollercoaster of the Rex Ryan era. A lot of ghosts from rivalries past will haunt this game, and the Dolphins are fully capable of whiffing at home to a three-win team. If nothing else, Rex will have his team ready. Jets 20, Dolphins 19 | Result: Jets 37, Dolphins 24Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox). A team on the declinevs. Riley Reiff Jersey a team on the rise. The Bears probably are saying goodbye to the baffling Marc Trestman tenure, and maybe Jay Cutlers, too . Mike Zimmer, Norv Turner and Teddy Bridgewater are clicking lately, and the best is yet to come. Vikings 37, Bears 20. | Result: Vikings 13, Bears 9Last week: 9-7 Season total: 143-96-1 Upset total: 2-14 Lock total: 13-3


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