Twas the final day of 2015, and with it the final picks for the 2015 NFL season. Week 17 will feature games with plenty of significance as the playoffs are about to begin in little over a week. Seeding is still up for grabs in both conferences, NFC North, AFC West and AFC South titles are up for grabs, and there remains one wild card slot that has not yet been filled.
A lot will go down this week, how will it play out? Here are my predictions.
NY Jets @ Bills - 1 p.m. CBS. The Jets must win this game or their season is over. The Jets (10-5) right now are the potential number six seed in the NFL playoffs, and could rise as high as the number five seed if they get a little more help on Sunday. This is the most fascinating game of the week, considering the stakes for the Jets, and who they'll be up against: their former coach, Rex Ryan. While the Bills say that Ryan will be back for 2016, he would like nothing better than to destroy the Jets playoff chances in the final week of the season.
The Bills beat the Jets in November 22-17 with Ryan prancing around the field like he won the Super Bowl. The Jets remember that, and they come into this game healthier than they were in the first match-up. Expect the Jets to use the last match-up against Buffalo as added motivation for this one, and look for the Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker Show to continue for another week against the inconsistent Bills secondary. This is not just for the playoffs, it's personal for the Jets. PREDICTION: JETS 34, BILLS 17.
Eagles @ NY Giants - 1 p.m. FOX. Call it the loser goes to London Bowl. No I am not kidding. The loser of this game will have to go to London next year to face the Rams as part of the NFL's obscene continuation of the International Series. That aside, this means a lot to both teams. While neither is going to the playoffs, jobs are on the line on both sides. For Philadelphia they already fired Chip Kelly, but the players are left auditioning for whomever the next coach will be. Perhaps the exit of Kelly will open things up for the Eagles in Week 17.
However, for the Giants this game is personal. This is likely Tom Couhglin's final game as head coach, as many expect him to get fired on Monday. Coughlin doesn't deserve to go out this way, but the team has not had a winning season in four years, and became the first team in the Super Bowl era to miss the playoffs in the first four years following a Super Bowl championship. Bye Tom, it's been fun. Look for Big Blue to send him out right. PREDICTION: GIANTS 27, EAGLES 24.
Jaguars @ Texans - 1 p.m. CBS. There are currently nine scenarios that have to happen on Sunday for the Texans to NOT win the AFC South. All of them are highly unlikely to happen, including this one against the Jaguars. The Texans want to celebrate in front of their home fans, and this is a great opportunity to do just that. No team has won a division title with four different quarterbacks, so the Texans are going to make some history here.
The Jaguars on the other hand are a scary bunch. They have only five wins, but had the ball the bounced their way a couple times, they could have been playing for the division title on Sunday as well. The Jaguars are good. They have a young quarterback in Blake Bortles who is getting better, and young receiving corps that is scary good. But Sunday is the Texans day to celebrate: PREDICTION: TEXANS 23, JAGUARS 20.
Steelers @ Browns - 1 p.m. CBS. The Steelers are in need of some major help in order to get to the playoffs. Not only do they have to beat the Browns on Sunday. They need the Jets to lose to Buffalo. Both of those scenarios could easily play out, but the Steelers put themselves in this spot by overlooking the Ravens a week ago. Ben Roethlisburger and Co. won't overlook the bumbling Browns this week. PREDICTION: STEELERS 34, BROWNS 17.
Raiders @ Chiefs - 4:25 p.m. CBS. The Chiefs have a lot to play for in Week 17. They come in riding a nine game winning streak, and know that if they win and the Broncos lose they can win the AFC West. A loss could drop the Chiefs to as low as the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs. This is a tricky spot for KC. Not only are they hot, but the Raiders have been pesky good all season.
The Raiders have won two games on the road in the division already this year, and would love to make it three. Oakland's opportunistic defense led by Kahlil Mack and retiring Hall of Fame cornerback Charles Woodson could create problems for the Chiefs run first offense. Keep in mind, Chiefs QB, Alex Smith has only five interceptions all year. This is a scary matchup, especially with Kansas City getting 7.5 points in a divisional matchup. I'm taking Derek Carr and the Raiders in an upset. UPSET SPECIAL: RAIDERS 26, CHIEFS 23.
Chargers @ Broncos - 4:25 p.m. CBS. The Broncos outlasted the Bengals last week in overtime 20-17, and enter week 17 needing a win to capture both the AFC West and the number two seed. A loss could leave Denver in one of the two wild card slots. The Broncos are beaten up and tired, just look at the quarterback situation with Peyton Manning now out again with the foot injury, and Brock Osweiler walking around with a bum shoulder. That being said, the Chargers have nothing left, and don't look like the San Diego Chargers we knew in the past. The Broncos D will carry the day. PREDICTION: BRONCOS 17, CHARGERS 9.
Seahawks @ Cardinals - 4:25 FOX. Could these two teams see each other down the line in a potential playoff matchup? Perhaps. Nobody would be surprised either. Although I am a little worried about the Seahawks staying power after another wild loss to the Rams, this time in Seattle of all places. The Cardinals meanwhile look like the juggernaut Seattle used to be. The Cardinals destroyed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week, and know that with a win and a Panthers loss, then the Cardinals would be the NFC's number one seed. PREDICTION: CARDINALS 31, SEAHAWKS 24.
Vikings @ Packers - 8:30 NBC. NBC chose to have this one over Jets-Bills because it will determine who wins the NFC North. And thanks to the Seahawks loss last week, these two teams likely won't see each other the following week in the wild card game. The winner of the game, gets a home game against the Seahawks. The loser heads to Washington as a wild card. The Packers have had an up and down season, but there is reason to believe that at home, with the Lambeau crowd behind them they should win this. Then again, if the Vikings control the game on the ground with Adrian Peterson, and a stifling defense, it could be a long night. Who are the quarterbacks? Oh that's right Aaron Rodgers vs. Teddy Bridgewater. PREDICTION: PACKERS 31, VIKINGS 17.
PLAYOFF SEEDINGS AND MATCHUP PREDICTIONS!
1) NEW ENGLAND 14-2
2) DENVER 12-4
3) CINCINNATI 12-4
4) HOUSTON 9-7
5) NY JETS 11-5
6) KANSAS CITY 10-6
Wild Card: NY Jets @ Houston; Kansas City @ Cincinnati
1) CAROLINA 15-1
2) ARIZONA 14-2
3) GREEN BAY 11-5
4) WASHINGTON 8-8
5) MINNESOTA 10-6
6) SEATTLE 9-7
Wild Card: Seattle @ Green Bay; Minnesota @ Washington