Gregg Rosenthal went 10-6 on his predictions for Week 16 of the 2020 NFL season, bringing his total record to 151-87-1. How will he fare in Week 17? His picks are below.
Sunday, Jan. 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30, Atlanta Falcons 26
The Falcons are one of the best 4-11 teams in recent NFL history, victims of the second-hardest schedule in football and a ridiculous 2-8 record in one-score games, including four straight losses. One of those close defeats came two weeks ago against the Bucs. Even though Tampa's offense is peaking, these Falcons always find a way to keep it interesting.
New York Giants 23, Dallas Cowboys 22
The last time these teams met, Dak Prescott was lost for the season as the Giants fell to 0-5. Who would have guessed they'd both be alive for the NFC East title 12 weeks later? Andy Dalton's quick decision making has made the Cowboys' offensive line look better and Dallas' defense is amazingly now ranked ahead of the slumping Big Blue group in DVOA. Despite all that, I stubbornly believe this Giants squad is made of tougher material than the Cowboys, an organization that's made a habit of coming up short down the stretch.
New England Patriots 20, New York Jets 17
The Jets are 2-13 and basically a coin flip to win in Week 17 against the Patriots. Normally, that would mean New England is resting starters. Now it's a sign the Pats are one of the worst teams in football. As the final Christmas present to my son, Walker, I let him pick this score.
Minnesota Vikings 33, Detroit Lions 23
Cleveland Browns 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 17
The Steelers are resting Ben Roethlisberger and are expected to sit other key veterans. It's not like Pittsburgh was firing on many cylinders before the second half of its crucial comeback win over the Colts, either. Then again, the Browns' COVID-related issues raise questions about their players' availability that might not be answered until Sunday. This shapes up as an anticlimactic end to Cleveland's playoff drought, but the Fighting Stefanskis have earned their way to the Wild Card Round.
Baltimore Ravens 35, Cincinnati Bengals 21
Brandon Allen is a sneaky competent backup quarterback and the Bengals are competing hard. But there's little reason to believe a defense that just gave up 488 yards to the Texans will be able to slow down the Ravens' reformed spread running attack. Lamar Jackson found his mojo just in time to make the AFC playoffs way more interesting.
Miami Dolphins 27, Buffalo Bills 21
Picking games in Week 17 adds an added layer of confusion, with strategy about resting starters more important than any other factor. After Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced Ben Roethlisberger will sit out on Sunday, perhaps the pressure is off Buffalo to play Josh Allen to clinch the No. 2 seed. Cole Beasley's fourth-quarter injury in a 38-9 game Monday night was also a reminder of the stakes for the Bills. (In short: I expect to see plenty of Matt Barkley.)
Seattle Seahawks 33, San Francisco 49ers 14
Pete Carroll confirmed that the Seahawks, with a small chance to clinch the first-round bye, are playing their starters. The 49ers, meanwhile, will be missing their starters for the 16th straight game, with left tackle Trent Williams and wideout Brandon Aiyuk recently added to the list of players ruled out for Sunday. Russell Wilson might get rest after all because the Seahawks are ahead by so much.
Los Angeles Rams 21, Arizona Cardinals 17
Without Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp, a win this week would be one of Sean McVay's finest hours. (That's especially true if McVay is getting credit for hiring breakout defensive coordinator Brandon Staley.) I don't trust this narcoleptic Cardinals offense against the best defense in the league. Rams fill-in starting quarterback John Wolford showed more friskiness in the 2019 preseason and 2019 AAF season than people realize. QB Gofftroversy ahoy?!
Indianapolis Colts 33, Jacksonville Jaguars 20
This matchup sets up well for the Colts, despite their Week 1 loss to the Jaguars. However, the Week 17 slate does not set up well for Indy. With the Bills and Steelers having little to play for, it's easy to imagine five AFC teams finishing 11-5 with only four playoff spots to go around. The Colts would then be left out in the cold.
Tennessee Titans 44, Houston Texans 30
Las Vegas Raiders 28, Denver Broncos 24
Finishing 8-8 would constitute a small dose of progress for the beleaguered Raiders, while Drew Lock's propensity for throwing passes up for grabs could make this his final start in a Broncos uniform.
Los Angeles Chargers 27, Kansas City Chiefs 21
Green Bay Packers 31, Chicago Bears 20
Riding a three-game win streak, Chicago's back in the playoff picture. But I'm not convinced Mitchell Trubisky played particularly well in two of the Bears' last four games (vs. Detroit in Week 13 and Jacksonville in Week 16) against some of the NFL's worst defenses. Sunday represents a step up in class, especially if Chicago's playing from behind against a Packers team hungry to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC. The Bears will be scoreboard-watching, rooting for the Rams to beat the Cardinals, because backing into the playoffs (an Arizona loss would allow Chicago to clinch a spot even if Green Bay wins) is their best route to getting there.
New Orleans Saints 27, Carolina Panthers 17
Matt Rhule has helped four offensive players top 900 yards from scrimmage this season, and none of them are named Christian McCaffrey. That's a sign this Panthers offense has overachieved, but it hasn't looked as crisp down the stretch. The Saints' lines on both sides of the ball should be able to control this game, even if Drew Brees doesn't play all four quarters.
Washington Football Team 23, Philadelphia Eagles 20
The Eagles are nearly out of cornerbacks and running out of linemen on both sides of the ball. Washington, which recently said goodbye to Dwayne Haskins, is possibly out of quarterbacks, with recent practice-squader Taylor Heinicke taking first-team reps on Wednesday while Alex Smith tries to recover from a calf injury that has kept him out since Week 14. Heinicke looked capable in spot duty last week, but this pick is mostly about the Washington defense. This has been the best unit in the NFC East all season, and that should be just enough to take the Football Team over the finish line, no matter who is throwing the ball.