Mike Ivcic’s Week 17 NFL Preview and Free Picks [2013]

By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Bengals by 6
While the Ravens may be the more desperate team, the Bengals are also playing for potentially crucial playoff positioning. A win leaves open the possibility of a first-round bye, while a loss could force Cincinnati down to the fourth seed and a date with the Chiefs in round one. Because of that, I think the Bengals play hard enough to win, but I’m taking Baltimore to cover in case Joe Flacco and company can channel that “intestinal fortitude” one more time and keep their season alive.
Pick: Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 24

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Panthers by 7
Since the Saints would win a potential tiebreaker with the Panthers if both teams were to finish 11-5, you can probably feel safe in assuming Carolina will come out and take care of business in Atlanta. Besides, there may not be a more crushing loss for a 3-12 team than the one the Falcons suffered on Monday night in San Francisco.
Pick: Carolina 30, Atlanta 16

Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Steelers by 7
The Browns have played just about everyone close, even down the stretch when it was clear their playoff chances were nil, but asking them to beat the Steelers in week 17 in Pittsburgh when the home team has all of their postseason hopes riding on this one game is definitely asking way too much of such a flawed Cleveland team. But like the other AFC North game, I do like a cover here.
Pick: Pittsburgh 21, Cleveland 15

Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Vikings by 3
One of the most disappointing seasons of the year will come to an end in Minnesota – but it’s not the Vikings. Sure, the Falcons and Texans were supposed to be good, but their playoff hopes were done by mid-October. Detroit, meanwhile, controlled the NFC North as recently as two weeks ago, but they have now lost five of six and were eliminated completely with the overtime loss to the Giants. No way I’m taking them in this game.
Pick: Minnesota 31, Detroit 24

Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Titans by 7
“With the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select…”
Pick: Tennessee 20, Houston 17

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Colts by 11.5
At this point, I am officially “off” of the Jaguars bandwagon – which means this will probably be a Colts win by a touchdown. That seems to be the way my season has gone with very big lines, but why change now?
Pick: Indianapolis 33, Jacksonville 16

New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Dolphins by 6.5
This game means nothing to the Jets and everything to the Dolphins – there’s no possible scenario in which Miami loses this game and makes the playoffs. I would love to be able to write that the Jets will ruin the Dolphins season, but I do my best to remove the rose-colored glasses and look at every game through a clear lens, and that image is one where the Dolphins score more points than my favorite team – again.
Pick: Miami 21, New York 13

Washington Redskins @ New York Giants
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Giants by 3.5
In the preseason, I wrote that the NFC East would come down to a head-to-head battle in the final week of the regular season. So I got that part right. We’ll just ignore where I said it would be this game and not the one that got flexed to Sunday Night Football…
Pick: New York 23, Washington 17

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Patriots by 9
New England has clinched a first-round bye, but they could finish anywhere from first to fourth in the AFC. Currently, they’re the two-seed, and that’s likely where they’ll finish. Based on my predictions for the early games, though, the Pats will enter this game knowing that a loss would, in fact, drop them to fourth, and something tells me Brady and Belichick won’t let that happen.
Pick: New England 38, Buffalo 14

Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Broncos by 12.5
Denver had homefield throughout the playoffs last year and didn’t win a game. A victory in Oakland would set them up for that exact same position this year, with a game against the likes of Baltimore, Miami, Indianapolis, or San Diego looming in two weeks. I don’t see anyone in that group doing what last year’s Ravens did – including this year’s Ravens – but stranger things have happened in the NFL playoffs.
Pick: Denver 41, Oakland 17

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX
Line: Bears by 4.5
With all due respect to the Cowboys and Eagles, here’s the biggest game of the day. Both teams are severely handicapped by their quarterback play – Green Bay by injury, Chicago by choice. Both teams had the chance to assert themselves last week and suffered difficult losses – the Packers by not converting on their final drive at home to tie the Steelers, the Bears by forgetting to get on the plane to Philadelphia. On the surface, it would appear that the Packers are in better shape because they were competitive last week, but sometimes those losses are more difficult to stomach than a no-show like Chicago’s performance. I ultimately think the Bears will win, in large part to the game’s location, but I think it happens on a late field goal.
Pick: Chicago 31, Green Bay 30

Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Chargers 9.5
This line is predicated upon the Chiefs having nothing on the line and the Chargers still having a shot at a playoff berth. A Dolphins win, though, eliminates San Diego regardless of the Ravens result, so the chances that Philip Rivers and company will still be alive at kickoff are slim. That would make this an entirely meaningless game, and a nearly 10-point line is too high for that situation.
Pick: San Diego 27, Kansas City 20

St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX
Line: Seahawks by 10.5
This is a very simple pick. Seattle just lost their first home game in two years. If they lose this one, they may not even get a bye, let alone home field. If you think they’re winning 15 straight home games and then losing back to back games, you’re nuts.
Pick: Seattle 31, St. Louis 13

San Francisco 49’ers @ Arizona Cardinals
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX
Line: 49’ers by 1
Arizona will have to play this game under the assumption that Tampa will beat New Orleans, since the games will occur simultaneously. San Francisco still has a shot at a first-round bye if Seattle loses, but they also wind up sixth if the Saints win and they lose this game, so the gamut is actually bigger for the Niners than the Cardinals. Based upon Jim Harbaugh’s personality, I think his team will play this game to win and claim the five seed against the most surprising team of the year, for me, in Arizona.
Pick: San Francisco 24, Arizona 21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX
Line: Saints by 12.5
Huge line. Huge stakes. Saints all the way here – they have to come through at home against a weaker opponent. Besides, there isn’t a better possible wild card matchup than “Saints at Eagles.”
Pick: New Orleans 34, Tampa Bay 17

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
Sun, 8:30pm, NBC
Line: Eagles by 6.5
No Tony Romo hurts, but no Shawn Lee is significantly worse. He would have been the one responsible for shutting town on LeSean McCoy, which is the key to stopping the Eagles offense. Just make it three years in a row that the Cowboys will lose a “win-or-go-home” game in week 17.
Pick: Philadelphia 41, Dallas 17

Straight-Up: 150-89-1
Against Spread: 116-118-6