We’re all set to get going with the Week 17 odds for NFL this week at Bang the Book, as there are a plethora of games that we are going to be focusing in on that are going to have some huge impacts on the entire season.
Amazingly, there are a slew of games which still mean a whole heck of a lot over the course of the whole 2013 NFL season, and as we play our last pro football for 2013, we have a lot to break down.
We’ll start with the games that mean absolutely squat, and there aren’t many of them. The Houston Texans are taking on the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South. If Houston loses (or if Washington wins this week), it will be on the clock with the #1 pick in the NFL Draft. Houston is a seven-point underdog, and it is threatening to lose a whopping 14 games in a row on the campaign, extending what has already been a team record for nearly a month. The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, both of which could be on their way to firing their head coaches on Monday, are fighting it out in a meaningless game at the Metrodome, where Minnesota is giving a field goal.
Every other game on the docket is going to mean at least something to someone, which should make for great football.
The biggest favorites of the bunch are the Denver Broncos, who are -13 on the road against the hated Oakland Raiders. The implication here is that Denver would be favored by three touchdowns if this game was played at Mile High. QB Peyton Manning, who broke the record last week for the most touchdowns in NFL history, can write even more history in this one. He’s a lot more concerned with getting the ‘W’ in this one though, which would lock up the #1 seed in the AFC and guarantee for the second straight season that the road to the Super Bowl goes through the Rockies.
The New England Patriots are the next team in line. They have what should be another easy game as well, as they are giving 10 to the Buffalo Bills at home. Assuming that Denver wins, New England is just playing to keep its first round bye. A win would accomplish that. We will say though, that the Bills have been stingy all season long. Remember that when these two teams met way back in Week 1, Buffalo forced the Pats down to the wire, and QB Tom Brady had to generate a game-winning field goal drive with less than a minute left in the game. On top of that, the Bills are coming off of their best game of the season, a 19-0 shutout of Miami in their home finale at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Cincinnati Bengals have already won the AFC North, but they aren’t content with just that. They’re going to have to play this game against the Baltimore Ravens out to the fullest if they want a shot at getting a first round bye in the playoffs. Losing this game could set these two teams up to play next week right back here in Cincinnati for the first round of the playoffs. If New England wins, Cincinnati will be the #3 seed with a win. With a loss, it will be scoreboard watching to see if it is the #4. We’ll discuss the Wild Card ramifications for the Ravens in just a bit. The hosts are six-point favorites.
The Indianapolis Colts are the next team in line, as they have already won the AFC South and are likely to be the fourth seed. They’ll hop up to #2 with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and losses by both New England and Cincinnati, and they’ll get up to three with a win and a loss by one of those teams. If not, this is a meaningless game. The Jags have played very well in the second half of the year, going 4-2-1 ATS in its seven games. That’s why this point spread is even remotely close, as the Colts are -11.5.
Now off to the wild, wild, Wild Cards in the AFC. We mentioned Baltimore already, and it is the only one of the teams in the mix who can take that last available playoff seed. However, the Ravens don’t control their own destiny, and neither does anyone else. They need either losses by the Dolphins, Chargers, and Steelers to get into the playoffs or a loss by either San Diego or Miami to get into the second season.
As far as those Miami Dolphins go, they would be the next team in line to get into that last slot. They had control of their own destiny last week, only to punt it away in that awful display against Buffalo. The Fins are back at home, where they are going to be facing the hated New York Jets. The Jets, likely playing for the last time for Head Coach Rex Ryan before he is dismissed, are +6.5, and they would love nothing more than to eliminate Miami from the second season on its home turf. The Fins might be the favorites to get into the playoffs, needing a win and either a San Diego win or a Baltimore loss to get in, but they don’t have the easiest game of the bunch by any stretch of the imagination.
That title goes to the San Diego Chargers, who are playing against the Kansas City Chiefs at home. We have already seen San Diego take a game from Denver this year on the road, and it also beat KC at Arrowhead Stadium a few weeks back as well. The Bolts are playing great football, and they are playing against a Kansas City team which knows it is going on the road, most likely to Indianapolis next week for the first round of the playoffs. The Chargers are -9.5, but they need a win and losses by both Miami and Baltimore to get in.
Then come the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are the longshots to get in, as they need a win and losses by Miami, Baltimore, and San Diego to get into the second season. It’s not out of the question, especially knowing that they were a lot farther away last week than they are now, and they do have an easy game against a Cleveland Browns team which looks like it has given up on the season. The Steelers are -7 at Heinz Field, but we’re never counting out Cleveland as a rival in this one, though QB Ben Roethlisberger has one loss in 17 games in his career against the Browns.
Believe it or not, the AFC is the easy conference to sort out.
Things are easy for the Seattle Seahawks, though. They know that they have to win this week against the St. Louis Rams, or they are going to be in a world of hurt. They are -10.5 at home, but all of a sudden, with the Rams playing good football and trying to finish at .500 and the loss last week to Arizona, they definitely look vulnerable. A Seattle loss, and it will be watching the scoreboard closely, as it would need a San Francisco loss to keep the NFC West title and the #1 seed in the NFC. A win or a San Fran loss would ensure that the Seahawks don’t have to leave home for the rest of the year.
As far as those 49ers go, they’re playing in the biggest game of the year against the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards are 10-5, and they still need some help to get into the playoffs. They need a win and a loss by the Saints to get into the second season. A victory, and there is a good likelihood that they would be the second 11-5 team to not get into the playoffs in league history. San Fran is in the second season regardless of what happens in this game, but if the Seahawks lose, all of a sudden, the 49ers can get a first round bye in the playoffs with a win. This game is off the board at all offshore sportsbooks for the time being, but in Las Vegas, we are seeing the Niners favored by anywhere from 1 to 2.5 points.
The other team watching and waiting right now is the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers just need to go on the road and beat the Atlanta Falcons to win the NFC South and a first round bye in the playoffs. They’ll be the #1 seed with a win if the 49ers win the division and the #2 seed with a win and the Seahawks winning the division. A loss though, and it’s probably back on the road into the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Panthers are at least in though, and they are only one of the two teams which can say they have locked up spots in the playoffs. Carolina is favored by 7.5 at the Georgia Dome, and it pummeled Atlanta 34-10 when these two teams met earlier this season.
The reason the Panthers would be in such trouble is because they would be de facto 13-point underdogs to keep the division title. The New Orleans Saints aren’t in the playoffs yet, but they need a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to get that spot. A win or an Arizona loss would do the job, and a win parlayed with a Carolina loss would win the division. The Bucs have had a history of being stingy, and it very well could take a win in this last game of the season to give Head Coach Greg Schiano any chance of keeping his job.
The only other games we have yet to discuss are both de facto division championship games. We’ll start in the Windy City, where the Chicago Bears will take on the Green Bay Packers. All of the teams in this division have done what they can do to blow their chances at the division title, and it is probably going to land Head Coach Mike Schwartz in Detroit on the unemployment lines on Monday. These two teams met back in November at Lambeau Field, and that’s when the season turned upside down on the Pack. They lost QB Aaron Rodgers for what has been the rest of the season to this point in a 27-20 loss. Rodgers hasn’t played since and is questionable, as he has been for the last three weeks, for this game. If Rodgers plays, expect to see Green Bay installed as a favorite of at least a field goal. If he doesn’t, that number will likely be reversed.
Finally, on the last flexed Sunday Night Football game of the season, the Dallas Cowboys will face the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. QB Tony Romo isn’t going to take the heat for this one, knowing that he is out for the season with a herniated disk in his back. That means it’s up to QB Kyle Orton to get the Boys into the second season. The winner gets in. The loser goes home. The Eagles didn’t have to play that hard last week, knowing that the game really meant nothing, but they put up 54 points in a romp of a win over the Bears, who were trying to clinch the division title last week in the City of Brotherly Love. At the start of the week, the Eagles were favored by 2.5, but since the Romo injury, that line has jumped up to seven, and all of the early action is on the Eagles for sure.
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.