NFL Week 17 Preview: Last Playoff Spots Up for Grabs5 min read
The final weekend of games in the NFL is always a minefield. A lot of teams are already either eliminated from the playoff picture or have secured their spot for January football. They begin testing out developing players, or resting stars for the big games ahead. However, for a select few there is still all to play for and seeding up in the air.
With entire seasons on the line, we’ve broken down the weekend’s biggest games and dive into the best action before the playoff action begins.
New York Jets @ New England Patriots (Sun 31st Dec: 6pm Sky Sports Action)
As per usual, the Patriots are overwhelming favourites to win at home. But wouldn’t it sum up the 2017 season perfectly if the down and out Jets pulled off the upset, booting their rivals out of the AFC’s number one seed?
The Jets have far surpassed expectations and have been a competitive side down the stretch. They have covered the spread in seven of their last nine games and, with a +14.5 point handicap, only have to stay marginally close on Sunday keep bettors happy.
However, the Patriots have also been a good bet with a nice streak of their own. When favoured by 14 or more points at home, they have covered the spread seven straight times. With home field advantage to play for, Bill Belichick will take no chances and you can expect the Patriots to make no mistakes.
I expect a real tour de force from the reigning champions. They are getting slightly healthier and won’t leave any doubt about them being the team to beat. Bilal Powell’s impressive form might prevent the Jets from being embarrassed, but this is too big an environment for either of their developing quarterbacks to play well in.
Patriots win a high scoring game, doing most of the legwork themselves.
New England Patriots -14.5 point handicap
Total points over 43.5
New York Jets under 14.5 total points
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons (Sun 31st Dec: 9.25pm Sky Sports Action)
The Panthers have already booked their ticket to the post-season, but need a win to have a chance of playing a home game in January. They can finish as high as the NFC’s number two seed, and as low as the number five seed.
The Falcons, on the other hand, are fighting for their lives. They can sneak in to the playoff picture as sixth seed with a win (or a Seahawks loss); and won’t back down to the Panthers who scraped a 20-17 win over them in November.
The Falcons are home favourites with a -3.5 point handicap, but this (as with most NFC South matchups this year) is a real coin flip.
Personally, I like the Falcons to get the job done and stay alive a while longer. The Panthers are the better team, and Atlanta has had rotten luck this year; but the Falcons are 5-2 at home this year and have fared well against divisional opponents. It is a true knockout game for them and they will pull out all the stops.
I have no doubt this game will go down to the wire, so still like the Panthers +3.5 point handicap, but definitely watch out for fireworks in the season finale.
Carolina Panthers +3.5 point handicap
Atlanta Falcons total points under 24
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New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars all to win