Guys, this is the first time ever that my picks column has come out on Christmas Eve, so it only makes sense to start things off this week with a poem.
We’ll call it, “‘Twas the night before Christmas (Week 17 edition),” by John Breech.
“‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land, not a creature was stirring, not even Raiders fans. Just two weeks ago, they had left their favorite team for dead, ‘they can’t make the playoffs’ is what most Raiders fans said. But all of a sudden, the Raiders got hot, and now they have a real chance at a wild-card spot.
The Titans could spoil things, but let’s be real, they’ve lost two in row with Ryan Tannehill. As for the Steelers, they seem to be running out of luck, you know things are bad when you’re starting a quarterback named Duck.
On the NFC’s side, there aren’t really any playoff races, which means we’re going to see a lot of familiar faces. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and the Seahawks from Seattle, but probably not the Cowboys, because they choked in every big battle.
If you look at the Seahawks, they have no players left on their bench, so they’ve done the crazy thing and signed Marshawn Lynch. Four NFC teams are still fighting for the number one seed, which is probably the one thing the Eagles don’t need. For some crazy reason that has me in a fog, Philly seems to play better when they’re the underdog.
One thing is for sure, this week won’t be a bore, and by Sunday night we’ll know the 12 teams fighting to win Super Bowl 54. Now let’s get to my picks, hopefully they’ll all be right, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
Thank you, and just so you know, I also write birthday poems.
Also, we’re not getting to the picks just yet. Before we get to those, here’s a quick reminder that you can check out the weekly picks from every CBSSports.com NFL expert by clicking here. The reason you should click over and check out the other experts this week is because it’s the final week of the regular season and if you don’t do it now, you’ll regret it for the rest of the year. Sure, there’s technically only a couple days left in the year, but you don’t want to take regret like that into 2020. Believe me, I know a lot about regret, I picked a 1-13 team to win a game last week.
Speaking of 2020, if your New Year’s resolution is to listen to more podcasts featuring me, then you’re definitely going to want to click here and subscribe to the Pick Six Podcast.
From now until the Super Bowl, I’ll be joining Pick Six host Will Brinson on the podcast multiple days per week to talk football and anything else we can think of. On Tuesday’s episode, which you can listen to below, we spent 20 solid minutes talking about how bad the Vikings looked on Monday against the Packers, and we also spent some time debating whether or not Marshawn Lynch will be able to single-handedly lead the Seahawks to a victory over the 49ers this week.
Alright that’s enough stalling, let’s get to the picks, and just to warn you, we have a slightly different setup this week.
NFL Week 17 Picks
Picks where one team could be resting their starters
Pittsburgh (8-7) at Baltimore (13-2)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Steelers, -1.5 points
The Ravens have already clinched the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which means they literally have nothing to play for in this game. I know that, you know that, and John Harbaugh knows that, which is why he has already announced that he’ll be resting his starters on Sunday. As a matter of fact, I won’t be surprised if the Ravens defense this week is made up entirely of fans who won a pregame raffle. Sure, letting fans play would probably break every rule in the collective bargaining agreement, but I’m pretty sure the Steelers are starting someone at quarterback who won a fan raffle, so this would just even things out.
Speaking of quarterbacks, with Lamar Jackson on the bench, that means Robert Griffin III will be making the start for Baltimore, and although he hasn’t started a game since 2016, you could make a strong argument that he’ll be the best quarterback on the field for either team in this game.
This pick really comes down to whether or not I think the Steelers starters can beat Baltimore’s backups, and it’s probably not a good thing for Pittsburgh that I actually had to think long and hard about that. I’m going with the Steelers, but only because there’s no coach I trust more in Week 17 than Mike Tomlin. Since 2008, Tomlin has gone 11-0 in regular season finales. That’s good enough for me.
The pick: Steelers 20-17 over Ravens
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Tennessee (8-7) at Houston (10-5)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Titans, -5.5 points
If you asked me to make a list of the five best coaches in the NFL, I would almost certainly include John Harbaugh, which I’m only mentioning here, because Texans coach Bill O’Brien has apparently decided not to go the same route as Harbaugh this week. Although the Texans likely won’t have anything to play for on Sunday, O’Brien has decided that he’s going to play his starters against Tennessee.
I could make a list of about 75 reasons why this is a horrible idea, but I won’t, because I don’t have time to write something like that around the holidays and you don’t have time to read it. However, I will say two things here: If the Chiefs win their game at 1 p.m. ET, then the Texans will know for sure that this game means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. If O’Brien trots his starters out, that would be pure insanity. For one, he has a receiver (Will Fuller) who I don’t think has ever been fully healthy in his entire life, and he has a quarterback who basically spent the second half of Saturday’s game limping around on one leg due to an injured ankle. If Watson plays on Sunday and gets hurt, O’Brien should be fired on the spot.
As for the Titans, they’re the only team fighting for the sixth seed in the AFC that controls their own fate this week. If they beat the Texans, they’re in, and I think they’re going to get in.
The pick: Titans 27-20 over Texans
Playoff implications for both teams
San Francisco (12-3) at Seattle (11-4)
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Point spread: 49ers, -3 points
If you would have asked me at the beginning of December who was going to win this game, I probably would have picked the Seahawks, but I’ve had a change of heart, because I’m pretty sure the Seahawks don’t have a single healthy player on their roster besides Russell Wilson.
During their Week 16 loss to the Cardinals, the Seahawks didn’t have their top corner (Shaquill Griffin), their top safety (Quandre Diggs) and they were also missing Jadeveon Clowney, and there’s no guarantee that any of those guys will be on the field this week. As if that’s not bad enough, the Seahawks also lost two players to suspension (defensive tackle Al Woods and Josh Gordon), and wait, I’m not done here.
The Seahawks also didn’t have their left tackle (Duane Brown) against Arizona, and as if things weren’t bad enough, they suffered even more injuries against the Cardinals, and two of those were at the running back position with Chris Carson and CJ Procise both now out for Sunday.
The Seahawks are now so desperate for running backs that they called someone who hasn’t played football since October 2018: Marshawn Lynch. On one hand, I actually like the idea of adding him, because he knows the offense and could contribute instantly. He’s also carried the ball 68 times for 317 yards and two touchdown in his past three games against the 49ers. On the other hand, are we sure he’ll even be eligible to play?
I mean, the last time we saw him on the football field, he was using the Al Davis eternal flame to light what may or may not have been a blunt.
Even if Beast Mode is on the field and goes Beast Mode, I think the 49ers walk away with the win and clinch the top seed in the NFC. However, I am not comfortable with this pick at all, because I could see Beast Mode somehow sparking the Seahawks to an upset win.
The pick: 49ers 24-16 over Seahawks
Playoff implications for one team
Washington (3-12) at Dallas (7-8)
4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Cowboys, -11 points
The Cowboys have only been good at one thing this year and that’s beating bad teams. The Redskins are a bad team.
The pick: Cowboys 31-23 over Redskins
Note: That pick only got two sentences from me because I decided to put as much effort into it as the Cowboys did against the Eagles.
Note II: If the Cowboys beat the Redskins, they can actually get to the playoffs, but only if the Eagles also lose. So do I think the Eagles will lose? Let’s move on and find out.
Philadelphia (8-7) at N.Y Giants (4-11)
4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Eagles, -5 points
With how bad the NFC East has been this season, it would definitely be the cherry on top of a trash sundae if the Eagles were to lose this game and then let the Cowboys steal the division title, and it’s not that crazy to see that happening. Even though Dak Prescott made the Eagles secondary look like a group of Hall of Famers in Week 16, the fact of the matter is that they’re still Philly’s biggest weakness on defense. The reason that could be a problem is because the Giants have suddenly gotten hot. Not only are they averaging 38.5 points over the past two weeks, but Daniel Jones is also on a roll, and I’m not just talking about at the flip cup table.
During the final week of every NFL season, there’s almost always at least one upset that’s completely inexplicable. If you read this far Cowboys fans, I’m sorry to tell you, but I don’t think this will be that upset. The Eaglesand I can’t pick against them now, even though I picked against them last week.
The pick: Eagles 27-24 over Giants
Oakland (7-8) at Denver (6-9)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Broncos, -3.5 points
For the Raiders to make the playoffs, not only do they have to win this game, but three other things have to happen: The Colts have to beat the Jaguars, the Texans have to beat the Titans, and the Ravens, who will be resting their starters on Sunday, have to beat the Steelers. And then, even if all that happens, the Raiders would still need either the Bears (vs. Vikings), Lions (vs. Packers), Chargers (vs. Chiefs) or Patriots (vs. Dolphins) to win so that they could clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Steelers.
Now, I’m not good at math, but I have to say, the odds don’t really seem to be in Oakland’s favor here. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t pull this off. The odds also said that a movie about a small dog from southern California would never work, but that didn’t stop “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” from being made. Also, no one thought Brad Johnson would win more Super Bowl rings than Jim Kelly and Dan Marino combined, but that happened. And let’s also not forget that the odds — along with every law of physics — have said for years that one man delivering toys to every child in the world over the course of one night is impossible, but Santa is going to do that very thing this week.
I’ll be honest guys, I was going to pick Oakland, but then I remembered a tweet earlier this season from former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, who basically said Derek Carr is horrible in cold weather.
Not only is Carr now 0-5 in his career when the kickoff temperature is under 40 degrees, but the Raiders are 0-10 in their last 10 games that had a kickoff temperature under 50 degrees. The kickoff temperature for Sunday’s game is expected to be about 37 degrees. As you all know may or may not know, my first rule of making picks is “never pick a California team to win a December game on the road in a Rocky mountain city.”
The pick: Broncos 23-16 over Raiders
Lock of the Week
Green Bay (12-3) at Detroit (3-11-1)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Packers, -10 points
If you haven’t been paying attention to the Lions this season, which I’m pretty sure describes most people, you might not know how bad things have gotten in Detroit. For one, they’re currently on an eight-game losing streak, which is currently the longest in the NFL, and I’m not feeling like that streak is going to be ending this week.
The Lions are down to their third-string quarterback in David Blough, and since he took over as starter in Week 13, things have been kind of ugly. In four games with Blough: The Lions haven’t scored more than two touchdowns in any game, they’re averaging under 300 yards of offense and they’ve lost all four of his starts by an average of 12 points. And just when the Lions probably thought things couldn’t get any worse, now they have to face a Packers team that will be absolutely desperate for a win on Sunday.
A win for the Packers would clinch a first-round bye and at least the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which could potentially turn into the No. 1 seed if the Seahawks were to beat the 49ers. Basically, we have a desperate Packers team going up against a team quarterbacked by David Blough and let me just tell you that I don’t think there is any circumstance that would make me pick the Lions. Well, maybe if they fired Matt Patricia this week, I would at least think about picking Detroit, but the Lions have already made it clear they won’t be firing him this year.
The pick: Packers 27-13 over Lions
Lock of the week record: 15-2 straight up, 7-9-1 against the spread
NFL Week 17 picks: All the rest
Jet 20-13 over Bills
Browns 23-20 over Bengals
Chiefs 30-20 over Chargers
Bears 24-17 over Vikings (Vikings have clinched the sixth seed and having nothing to play for)
Patriots 31-13 over Dolphins
Falcons 34-27 over Buccaneers
Saints 30-17 over Panthers
Rams 34-24 over Cardinals
Colts 27-16 over Jaguars
Best pick: Last week, I Jameis Winston was going to have a total meltdown and throw four interceptions, including a pick-six? Of course I did. Whenever I’m picking Buccaneers games, I generally spot the other team seven points because there’s basically a 99% chance that Jameis is going to throw a pick-six, and even if he doesn’t, there’s a solid chance he’s going to throw multiple interceptions that will lead to at least seven points for the other team.and beat the Buccaneers by three, and GUESS WHAT HAPPENED? The Texans went down to Tampa Bay and beat the Buccaneers by three. Now, did I know that
Jameis throws so many interceptions that’s he on the verge of creating his own version of the NFL’s 30-30 club, but the twist is that it’s not club that anyone actually wants to join. If Winston throws two interceptions against the Falcons this week, which is almost a given at this point, then he’ll become the first QB in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season. I am 100% rooting for this to happen, and if it does happen, I’ll also be rooting for ESPN to make a “30 for 30” on Jameis going for 30 (touchdowns) and 30 (interceptions). They could end the series with that one.
Worst pick: My Week 16 picks were so ugly that I could probably write an entire book on my worst picks from last week. Nothing frustrates me more than when a team loses by one score in a game where I predicted them to win, and that happened to me SIX TIMES in Week 16. I went 7-9 with my picks and six of those misses were teams that lost by one score. I am now officially as bad as the Cowboys are in one-score games, which is saying a lot, because they’ve been horrible.
My New Year’s resolution for 2020 is to not be like the Cowboys. And in case you’re wondering, I blame egg nog for my bad picks.
Finally, if you guys have ever wondered if I actually know what I’m doing with these picks, here’s what my best and worst individual team picks look like heading into Week 17 (All records listed are straight-up).
Teams I’m 13-2 picking this year: Ravens, Lions (12-2-1)
Teams I’m 12-3 picking this year: Patriots, Dolphins, Bills
Team I’m 6-9 picking this year, which is my worst record picking any team: Texans, Chargers
Every other team is somewhere in-between.
Happy Holidays everyone, and I hope your you love your gifts as much as this little girl loved the banana she got for Christmas.
I’ll be back next week with playoff picks, and let’s all hope those don’t go as bad as things went in Week 16.
Straight up in Week 16: 7-9
SU overall: 151-88-1
Against the spread in Week 16: 3-12-1 (Yikes)
ATS overall: 110-124-6