Week 17 and it's the final round of games before the playoffs. Strap in because everything gets settled this weekend...
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
It doesn't get much trickier in terms of how to call a game. The Bengals have developed a pretty useful habit of winning games even when they haven't played that well. Up until last week you would have said that the Ravens had hit the wall. That was before they put the Giants to the sword and reignited their belief that they do have the personnel to be a championship winning side. There is chance that the Bengals will not be at the top of their game with little to really aspire to other than getting another W on the board. This should be tight and low scoring but with little to choose between them we must edge towards the value of the Ravens.
Recommended Bet: Baltimore +3.0
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
This match up fits a pattern of games with nothing to play for but at least this one promises to be a real shootout. Expect Newton and Brees to show just how deadly they can be when the pressure is off. For the neutral wanting to see a points fest then they should get themselves involved at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. You would be surprised if the Saints didn't come out on top but at the same time Cam Newton is a real talent and he will fancy racking up a serious amount of yardage against a shoddy Saints defensive unit.
Recommended Bet: New Orleans -5.5
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
The Bears have one last shot at the playoffs but to keep those slim hopes alive they must win. Even that might not be sufficient for them but they must try to end the season on a high note. They are in the last chance saloon and have one final game to look half decent on offence and I think they will just about have enough to see off the challenge from the Lions. It is hard to think that the Lions could pull off a win given their woeful enterprise in the last two games and when you throw in to the mix the desperation of the Bears, there can really only be one outcome. Chicago's defence was back to its best last weekend and were putting together turnovers and points. Jay Cutler will operate against the over hyped Detroit defence, bringing his Bears to 10 wins. The spotlight in this game will be shinning on Calvin Johnson and his chase for 2,000 yards. He sits on 1,892 receiving yards, which puts him at just 108 yards away from reaching the landmark. Can he pull it off?
Recommended Bet: Chicago -3.0
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
This season has been little short of calamitous for the Steelers. The last minute interception thrown by Big Ben last week pretty much summed up their campaign in one play. They have missed their main man when he was injured and Mike Tomlin has not been able to paper over the cracks. There is little to say about the Browns other than that they have shown glimpses of what they can do and Browns fans can take some solace from that. The Steelers are too professional an outfit for them to lose this but even a win will not impress Steelers fans that are used to so much more.
Recommended Bet: Pittsburgh to win
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Now this is the kind of match up I want to see at the back end of a season. In reality I should really change the title of this to Packers v Peterson. Vikings would have had no season at all if it wasn't for the phenomenon that is Adrian Peterson. He has almost single handed hauled the Vikings to withing touching distance of a play-off berth. It is however their misfortune that they are up against a red hot Packers team. This will be a tightly fought contest and I can't envisage an awful lot of points being racked up. Rodgers will put big yards up but the Vikings will stay on the field for plenty of time if Peterson can find his usual running lanes. Don't miss this one.
Recommended Bet: Green Bay -3.0
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts
There are plenty of things to draw you into this fixture. Both sides will be seriously fired up to get the W. Do not underestimate a Colts unit that will be buoyed by the return of cancer suffering coach Chuck Pagano. They have defied the odds for much of the season and they really do believe. You have to put all this aside though when it comes to selecting the winner. The Texans are a class unit all the way through and I can't see anything other than messrs Schaub, Foster and Johnson cutting the Colts to ribbons.
Recommended Bet: Houston -6.5
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans
Unfortunately for these two teams, this game has zero significance in the playoff scene. It is does however have NFL Draft implications. The Jaguars will want to lock down the No.1 pick but for that to happen they need to lose and Kansas City need to beat Denver. If both teams lose then it is likely that the Chiefs will get the No.1 pick. Last week the Jags put up a fight against the Patriots and made them work hard for the win. The same can not be said for the Titans who gave the Packers an early Christmas present. I don't think that the Jags will purposely go out of their way to lose this game and but I do think that they deserve the No.1 pick. It would also be very Jags-like to win this game- ensuring that they hold the No.2 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Look for Chad Henne and co to finish of 2012 on a high note.
Recommended Bet: Jacksonville +3.5
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
The Dolphins haven't had the worse season considering what they have got to work with. The Patriots however are a different class. This is a total mismatch...but so was their contest last week against the Jaguars and they did their best to blow that. I do not think they will be so profligate this time around and it will be a heavy price to pay for the visitors. Brady will be able to pick his receivers with a little more time than last week. Back the Patriots to pick up the win and compound the poor season that Miami have had.
Recommended Bet: New England -10.5
NY Jets @ Buffalo Bills
This one is a real test of the real hardened fan. There is nothing to play for and no good reason to watch...but maybe there are a couple of good reasons to have a punt. The Tim Tebow saga has clearly had an adverse reaction in New York and the sooner this season end the better for Tebow and the Jets both. The Bills have had an equally disappointing campaign and in many ways will be the more down heartened of the two camps. They have the personnel to do better and on their day can mix it up. It isn't the safest bet in the world but I would be surprised if this one didn't go the way of the home team.
Recommended Bet: NY Jets +3.5
Philadelphia Eagles @ NY Giants
When the NFL schedule makers put this game in Week 17, I imagine they thought that it would be a win-and-you're-in game. But as with most sports, there can be some unpredictable things that happen over the course of a season which has been the case here. The Eagles have been abominable this year and the Giants have lost their last two. For the current reigning, defending Super Bowl champions to get back to the playoffs, they will have to get a win in Week 17 and hope for some help with Dallas beating Washington. It would be fitting if Michael Vick, in what is likely his last game as an Eagle produced the goods and soar with a big game showing but I still think that the Giants will have enough to deliver the goods their end. Back Manning, Cruz and the rest of the gang to pick up the win.
Recommended Bet: NY Giants -7.0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
Strictly on the form book this is a no contest. The Falcons are flying high and wouldn't break sweat to dispose of a mediocre Bucs. We do however have to take a view that the Falcons may either take their foot off the pedal with nothing much to gain or quite possibly rest some starters. The Bucs are pretty inconsistent and Josh Freeman is not my idea of a superstar quarterback but they have a habit of pulling out some monster plays during any game. With so much doubt surrounding the make up of this fixture it is best not to get too involved until all team information is available.
Recommended Bet: Atlanta to win
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers
After the beat down that San Francisco took at the hands of Seattle on last weeks Sunday Night Football, they will be out to prove doubters wrong and beat up Arizona. They are in a must win situation if they want to pick up the NFC West crown for a second straight year. At the start of the season, the Cards were 4-0 and leading the division. The 49ers were 3-1 and looking like one of the best teams that the NFL had to offer. Funny how things can change and change they did. The Cards decided to throw it all away and went on a nine game losing streak. The 49ers are still hoping for a first round bye so there is still something to play for. They have struggled most of this season against teams with big physical defences, which was highlighted after the pasting they got last week. Arizona aren't pushovers in the defence department but their offence is so incompetent that San Francisco should wrap this up by half time.
Recommended Bet: San Francisco -16.5
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
You could argue that this is the best team in the NFL going up against the worst. When these two last met the Chiefs actually hung around with the Broncos losing by only eight points. This time round Denver will not be as courteous. Peyton Manning and Von Miller are too much for a Kansas City team that has a strong ground game but not much else. Kansas will need to score more than one touchdown to beat The Broncos who still have a slight chance at picking up the No.1 seed, while the Chiefs can guarantee No.1 overall pick with a loss. Denver are the hottest team around and should blaze through Kansas and make it 12 straight wins. Who would want to play Denver in the postseason?
Recommended Bet: Kansas City +16.5
Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers
Shield your eyes as this game won't be pretty or much fun to look at. Even the fans of these teams must be dreading it. Neither team will actually want to win this one as a win will hurt their draft position. In Week 1 San Diego beat Oakland due to a few botched long snaps by the backup long snapper. They are both playing out the string but someone has to win and I think the team with the talented but erratic QB wins over the team without a competent QB. In classic Norv Turner fashion, he will win his last game as head coach and manage to disappoint and infuriate fans who are hoping for a loss in order to improve their standing in the draft.
Recommended Bet: San Diego to win
St Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
The Rams will have to play the perfect game in Week 17 if they want to seal their first winning season since 2003. That is a long wait and sadly the wait will continue. The Seahawks are averaging 50 points a game over their last three outings. They have one of the most devastating home field advangtages that I have ever seen. They never lose at home. Ever. St. Louis beat Seattle earlier in the season and some might say that they have the defensive tools to do it again. However, this is a Seattle team who are firing on all fronts, and their offence has done a complete U-turn from that match. Along with the Broncos, the Seahawks are one of those teams that sit in the category of 'teams no one wants to play' after putting up a shed load of points over the last three weeks while playing with a water tight defence. CenturyLink is the place that teams go to get beat. Big win here for Seahawks.
Recommended Bet: Seattle -10.5
Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
Well this is a belated Christmas gift from the NFL. The Sunday Night Football game should be a beauty. It really will be a fantastic game to watch. As unbelievable as it may seem now, Washington were at one point this season sitting at 3-6. They have now won six on the bounce and are impressing in every game. I think their dream season will continue and RGIII will get his chance to shine in the playoffs. Robert Griffin III has had an amazing start to life in the NFL and contributed to the rise of the Redskins. I think they have proved that they are excellent under pressure, and Dallas are not. The Cowboys have done better than expected after all the injuries that they have picked up on the defensive side of the ball. RGIII lit up Dallas on Thanksgiving and I think they can expect more of the same this Sunday.
Recommended Bet: Washington -3.5