NFL picks, predictions against spread Week 17: Cowboys clip Cardinals; Patriots, 49ers roll; Steelers stop Browns

Week 16, with all the COVID-19 situations and late-season injury attrition, made Sporting News’ weekly NFL game picks and predictions against the spread difficult. Although there was a decent level of success to inspire, Week 17 will only present more challenges.

Some teams are playing with playoff implications on the line. Some teams are playing for next season. The level of motivation reflects the numbers small and big.

There are a couple weeks left of the regular season to finish strong. Without further ado, here’s getting into our latest fearless forecast of pro pigskin prognostications:

(Game odds reflect opening odds for Week 17, courtesy of FanDuel)

NFL POWER RANKINGS:
Cowboys, Bills, Eagles rise; Patriots, Steelers, Browns fall for Week 17

NFL picks against the spread for Week 17

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Cowboys are feeling it everywhere again with Dak Prescott and their passing offense going back to exploding and their defense dominating in every which way. The Cardinals have lost their big-play juice on both sides of the ball, from Kyler Murray to their once swarming defense. Dallas can handle this limited version of Arizona’s attack and this is also a chance to get its running game rolling again with Ezekiel Elliott.

Pick: Cowboys win 27-20 and cover the spread.

  • AFC Game of the Week: Chiefs (-4.5, 49 o/u) at Bengals

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Chiefs’ defense has been getting the job done in the second half but the Bengals’ offense is too multiple and versatile to contain everywhere. Joe Mixon can run well and Joe Burrow will keep liking his wide receiver matchups. Patrick Mahomes should be prepared for a shootout and the Bengals do struggle with quick receivers and tight ends, such as Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The AFC West champions will get an exciting battle from the AFC North leaders, but Kansas City just has a little more experience to pull through in a game like this than Cincinnati.

Pick: Chiefs win win 34-31 but fail to cover the spread.

  • Lock of the Week: Patriots (-15.5, 41.5 o/u) over Jaguars

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Patriots are well coached by Bill Belichick. The Jaguars were poorly coached by Urban Meyer and some of the residual effects of his philosophy are being felt to drag down Trevor Lawrence and the defense. Belichick will befuddle Lawrence and his team’s strengths of the defense and the running game are further boosted by Jacksonville’s glaring weaknesses. Lawrence loses vs. Zach Wilson and Mac Jones in consecutive weeks and wishes his situation could get a lot better in 2022.

Pick: Patriots win 34-10 and cover the spread.

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  • Upset of the Week: Steelers (+3, 41 o/u) over Browns

Monday 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Steelers and Browns still have a shot at winning the AFC North, especially with the two teams in front of them, the Bengals and the Ravens, having their hands full in home games against NFC powerhouses. This will mark the likely last home game for Ben Roethlisberger in prime time, facing the team against which he has a 25-2-1 career record. Pittsburgh is still capable of grinding out games vs. other teams with limited offenses. That was the case in the first meeting in Cleveland, a 15-10 win. With plenty of emotions, the Steelers overcome their night underdog status to win straight up.

Pick: Steelers win 20-17.

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Raiders cannot spot the run usually. They also struggle with containing the downfield passing game when they can’t get to the quarterback. Those elements play right into the hands of Jonathan Taylor and Carson Wentz behind their strong offensive lien. Indianapolis’ defense also stops the run and protects against stretching the field. That’s also bad for Josh Jacobs and Derek Carr.

Pick: Colts win 27-20 and cover the spread

  • Giants at Bears (-6, 39.5 o/u)

Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET, NFL Network

The Bears are showing some final life for the Matt Nagy era, as they can consistently run the ball with David Montgomery and keep finding new diverse weapons in the passing game, no matter who’s at quarterback. They also will want to rough up the Giants to show some pride defensively, which they can do after giving up some chunks to Saquon Barkley. The Mike Glennon potential revenge game is more about the Bears wanting to destroy their former brief starter.

Pick: Bears win 24-14 and cover the spread.

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  • Buccaneers (-13.5, 45.5 o/u) at Jets

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Tom Brady is having Tampa Bay adjust to being more of a running team to close out the schedule and reset for the playoffs. It makes sense given the wide receiver injuries to go in that direction. Brady has had fun many times before against the Jets playing in the AFC East, and he can complete a sweep of his former division foes with his new team. The Bucs’ defense remains on point with some key players missing, so the complementary rushing approach makes sense. The Jets have no chance to keep up even with Zach Wilson playing loose.

Pick: Buccaneers win 33-14 and cover the spread.

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Here’s yet another lopsided NFC South vs. AFC East affair, this time in favor of the home team. The Bills lost to the Buccaneers, but they smashed the Saints and Panthers. The Falcons were ripped by the Patriots and edged by the Dolphins. Buffalo is rolling with Josh Allen and there’s not much the Falcons’ defense can stop when he’s getting good support from the running and intermediate passing games. Matt Ryan steps into a brutal pass rush and coverage situation, one that can take away rookie tight end Kyle Pitts.

Pick: Bills win 34-17 and cover the spread.

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Eagles may have another shakeup in the backfield without Miles Sanders but they will stick to a run-heavy game plan that just worked against Washington less than two weeks ago. But last week, they also gained more confidence in Jalen Hurts throwing downfield when he and his running mates couldn’t produce at will against the Giants. The Eagles open it up again to win, while Washington digs deep to show some needed fight for Ron Rivera.

Pick: Eagles win 23-20 but fail to cover the spread.

Dolphins at Titans (-3.5, 41 o/u)  

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Dolphins will be coming off a tough short week, having played the physical and well-coached Saints on the road. Nashville isn’t far from New Orleans, but it’s still a daunting turnaround, given the Titans played on Thursday night in Week 16 and will be much better rested. That said, Brian Flores’ defense can keep the game close and the offense has enough to receiving punch to stay in the game. The Titans win again with A.J. Brown being the key difference-maker.

Pick: Titans win 20-17 but fail to cover the spread.

  • Rams (-3.5, 46.5 o/u) at Ravens

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Rams should have seen what Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offense did under former offensive coordinator Zac Taylor and follow suit for Sean McVay, because getting Matthew Stafford to aggressively throw downfield to his wide receivers is second nature. Running on the Ravens can be tough, but they’re getting worn down and breaking down everywhere. The Ravens’ offense doesn’t have much working beyond Mark Andrews at the moment and that won’t cut it in a must-win game.

Pick: Rams win 27-20 and cover the spread.

  • Broncos at Chargers (-6, 45.5 o/u)

Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

The Chargers blew a big opportunity against the Texans and are now clinging to their playoff lives. They turned in a sloppy game in Denver not long ago, so it’s on Justin Herbert to settle down, eliminate mistakes and take the short-to-intermediate gains when the big plays aren’t there. Los Angeles sticks with the run a little more to ease the burden on its own run defense and Herbert delivers back loaded with all of his key weapons.

Pick: Chargers win 24-20 but fail to cover the spread.

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  • Texans at 49ers (-15, 45 o/u)

Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

The Texans shocked the Chargers but they won’t catch the 49ers in the same way on a long road trip. Davis Mills returns close to Stanford to throw passes and can have some success vs. San Francisco’s secondary. But Houston cannot stop the 49ers’ running game and the combination of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk all can cause matchup nightmares.

Pick: 49ers win 30-14 and cover the spread.

  • Panthers at Saints (-7, 38.5 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Panthers have gone into the tank at the end of Matt Rhule’s second season. They have wilted against the run, which is bad against Alvin Kamara. They also can’t stop much in the intermediate passing game. The Saints are still playing as hard as they usually do for Sean Payton. The “Home Team” is just put together better everywhere and will have greater motivation with some playoff chances alive.

Pick: Saints win 20-16 but fail to cover the spread.

  • Lions at Seahawks (-6.5, 42.5 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

The Lions already bit the Cardinals from the NFC West and the Seahawks already experienced a rough home upset against another lesser NFC North team in the Bears. Seattle has found something with Rashaad Penny and the running game, and Detroit can’t slow that down much. Russell Wilson also will be made comfortable to keep throwing well downfield. Whoever’s QB for the Lions, the passing game flashes won’t be quite enough again.

Pick: Seahawks win 24-17 and cover the spread.

  • Vikings at Packers (-6.5, 48.5 o/u)

Sunday 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The Vikings cracked against the Rams and didn’t even make it a close game in the end, despite three interceptions in their favor. Minnesota’s offense is predictably sound, based on the running game but also locked with a dominant No. 1 receiver in Justin Jefferson. Kirk Cousins’ passing will keep his team team in it for a while, but the big problem for Minnesota is defense that cannot stop the run or cover much of anything outside downfield. Aaron Rodgers makes sure another playoff-desperate team doesn’t even have a chance to steal one at Lambeau.

Pick: Packers win 31-24 and cover the spread.

Vinnie Iyer’s 2021 picks:

  • Week 16 record against the spread: 10-6
  • Week 16 record straight up: 11-5
  • Season ATS: 133-105
  • Season straight up: 160-79

 

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