It’s the final weekend of the regular season, and with 16 divisional games there’s always something riding on each and every one of them, but this year in particular there’s still plenty of play-off puzzles to be solved.
In the NFC, Green Bay have locked down the top seed, bringing with it home field advantage throughout the play-offs and the only bye, while the NFC West division is going down to the wire between the Rams and Cardinals.
The only final play-off spot here is a straight fight between the 49ers and Saints.
Top spot is still up for grabs in the AFC – the Titans will get it with a win but the likes of the Chiefs, Bengals and even Patriots all have a shot through a complex set of scenarios.
In the wildcard play-off race two spots remain with five teams in the hunt. The Colts will get one with a win at the Jags while the Chargers and Raiders will go head-to-head with the winner of their game guaranteed a play-off place.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
The Chiefs have won the last 12 against the Broncos, have already clinched the AFC West while Denver will miss the play-offs for the sixth straight year.
Kansas City are still chasing the AFC top seed and playing Saturday they can put some pressure on the Titans with a victory, and they’ll be an angry team after a last-ditch defeat at Cincinnati last week. This could get ugly.
Had the Titans played first and won, the Chiefs could’ve rested their stars, but they have to go for it here and hope to open up a big lead after three quarters to then pull Patrick Mahomes and company out of the game.
Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase obliterated the Chiefs secondary last week, Denver QB Drew Lock will not be doing that – he’s completed just over 52% of his passes for two TDs and five interceptions in three games against the Chiefs.
Tyreek Hill has been quiet with just 59 receiving yards in his last two outings so expect a bounce back in a comfortable Chiefs win thanks to that extra motivation factor. The only worry with covering a spread of 11.5 points would be some garbage time Denver action against second stringers.
Best bet: Mahomes 2+ passing TDs, Kelce rec TD & Williams rush TD at 5/1 with Bet Builder
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans
Titans coach Mike Vrabel has done a hell of a job to cope with a massive injury list – including superstar running back Derrick Henry – yet still lock-up a second straight divisional title and sit one win away from finishing top of the AFC pile.
They’re 9.5-point favourites to avenge an earlier loss to the Texans, which would give them next week off and home advantage through the play-offs. They’ve beaten the Colts, Chiefs and Bills in Nashville this season so it could be a huge advantage.
With Henry back in training after injury things are really looking healthy and although ‘The King’ isn’t expected to play Sunday, the Titans will still use their punishing run game against a Houston defence allowing the most rushing yards per game in the league (143.3).
D’Onta Foreman will run the ball instead of Henry, and expect a big game from him against his former side having rushed for a career-high 132 yards last week in his third 100-yard game in the last five.
Best bet: Titans -9.5pts at 3/4
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Colts should be in the play-offs, they’re a dangerous team with an MVP candidate at running back in Jonathan Taylor and all they need to make the post-season is to beat the lowly Jaguars in Jacksonville…
And yet, remarkably, Indianapolis have lost their last five visits to Jacksonville – and throw in a defeat as the visiting team in London that’s six straight home wins the Jags have enjoyed against the Colts.
So even as huge 15-point favourites there’ll be at least a hint of nerves around – although with the Jags knowing defeat will give them first pick in the NFL Draft again then motivation to play the spoiler role isn’t at its highest.
And the Colts do have a team built for play-off football riding Taylor, who needs 266 yards to become just the ninth running back to record 2,000 rushing yards in a season.
He may just get them here too, with the Jags allowing a combined 454 rushing yards over the last two weeks and with Taylor running them over to the tune of 253 yards last season. The Colts will give him the ball at every opportunity.
Taylor should get well over 100 yards but in a game with not too much value around given how strongly the Colts are fancied, backing him to find the end zone to double your money looks the way to go.
Best bet: Jonathan Taylor to score a rushing TD at Evens
Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders
There are plenty of big games around on Sunday but the “Play-in” game in the AFC West could well be the pick of them, given the winner goes to the play-offs and the loser likely goes home.
The Chargers can also get in with a tie, while the Raiders could lose and still get in if the Colts and Steelers lose, but both sides here will be going full-throttle for the win-and-in scenario.
The Bolts have looked both incredible and incredibly ordinary at times this season, with Justin Herbert leading the way at QB in what is his first play-off type situation in his second season, but the team’s awful rush defence dragging them back.
For the Raiders, they’ve won three games in a row with their play-off lives at stake each time and delivered nerve-jangling victories of two, four and three points. That recent experience of taking close games could prove the difference even if they go into this as 3.5-point underdogs, this game is much more of a 50-50.
The best way for the Chargers to stop Vegas running on them then is to start fast, get ahead and force Derek Carr to try and throw the Raiders into the play-offs for just the second time in two decades.
There should be points, the Chargers have more playmakers and could run away with it, but they’ve been so hard to trust this season. What we can trust in, though, is we’ll have Herbert throwing the ball around and have a large dose of dual-threat running back Austin Ekeler, who had a rush and receiving TD against the Raiders last time and should find the end zone again.
Best bet: Austin Ekeler receiving TD at 17/5
D’Onta Foreman, Jonathan Taylor & Chase Claypool
Tennessee’s D’Onta Foreman had a big game last week and could have an even bigger one this week against the Houston Texans, who are useless at stopping running backs.
Jonathan Taylor can power the Colts into the play-offs against the frankly rubbish Jags, who also can’t stop teams moving the ball on the ground – and nobody moves it more than MVP candidate Taylor.
As for Chase Claypool, it’s Ben Roethlisberger’s final game as Pittsburgh QB, his top receiver Diontae Johnson is out and the Ravens allow almost 300 passing yards per game. We’re gettiing Chase on the case for this TD treble.