Final week of the NFL regular season. Wow. Really does feel like that Steelers-Patriots Thursday night season opener was about two days ago. I will be previewing most of the opening-round playoff games, so this will be my final Opening Line Report story of the season.
Because of some upsets in Week 16, we might not see the top teams resting guys like they would have liked to this Sunday. Unbeaten Carolina was stunned at Atlanta and thus wasn't able to wrap the top seed in the NFC. Arizona would steal that with a win at home over Seattle and a Carolina loss at home vs. Tampa Bay in Week 17. The Cardinals will know whether their game matters at kickoff as they play at 4:25 p.m. ET and the Panthers at 1 p.m. ET. I'd bet big on Seattle right now (+4) because I'm assuming the Panthers win (-10.5). If they do, I'd be shocked if Carson Palmer takes the field for the Cards. The NFC field is set, however. The only other drama left is the NFC North title.
New England's loss at the Jets means the Patriots will have to care about their Week 17 game in Miami. Either the Bengals or Broncos, who played Monday night, could steal the AFC's top seed with two wins and another New England loss. The AFC field remains totally wide open with only the Patriots, Bengals and Chiefs having clinched playoff spots entering Monday's game.
Here are some Week 17 games and opening lines that caught my eye. I expect to preview Jets-Bills, Steelers-Browns and Vikings-Packers, so I won't touch on those here. No Thursday or Monday games this week.
Raiders at Chiefs (-6.5, 43): Kansas City beat Cleveland 17-13 on Sunday to clinch a playoff berth. It was the Chiefs' ninth straight win as they joined the 1986 New York Jets as the only teams in NFL history with a nine-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak in the same season. Those K.C. victories have been by an average of 16 points, with just two coming by seven points or fewer. Since the start of Week 5, the Kansas City defense has allowed a total of just 145 points, an average of 13.2 points over 11 games. No other team is within even three points of that. Kansas City would clinch the AFC West with one victory and one Denver loss in its final two games. The NFL smartly moved kickoff for this one to 4:25 p.m. ET so it's opposite the Chargers-Broncos game. Kansas City won in Oakland 34-20 in Week 13. That's the second-most points the Chiefs have allowed during the winning streak. They were down 20-14 entering the fourth and finished with only 232 yards. Kansas City did pick off Derek Carr three times. Key trend: Kansas City is 3-7 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series. The pick: Chiefs.
Eagles at Giants (-3.5, 52): Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs. Odell Beckham Jr. will return from his one-game suspension for New York. It surely wouldn't have mattered if he was in there Sunday as New York was blasted 49-17 at Minnesota. But you could see that coming after the Giants were officially eliminated from the postseason on Saturday night. It's New York's fourth straight year sitting out the playoffs, so I'd almost guarantee this is Tom Coughlin's final game as the team's head coach. Might this be the final game for Chip Kelly as Eagles' coach? I rather doubt it because there are no top college jobs open right now, although there's usually a surprise or two at that level after the bowl season. And there's always the chance the Eagles trade Kelly somewhere like to the Tennessee Titans. The team has clearly regressed under him this season. Might also be the finale for Philly QB Sam Bradford as he can become a free agent after the season. Not clear if his future is in the City of Brotherly Love. Think of how good Robert Griffin III might be in a Kelly offense. The Eagles beat the visiting Giants 27-7 on a Monday night in Week 6. The Eagles had three takeaways, sacked Eli Manning three times and forced two intentional-grounding penalties. Key trend: New York is 4-6 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series. The pick: Giants.
Saints at Falcons (-4, 52): Atlanta was eliminated from the playoffs despite Sunday's upset of Carolina. So now really the only thing to watch here is how many times Matt Ryan targets Julio Jones. My guess is a lot. Jones has 127 catches for 1,722 yards. So with a huge day he could set the NFL single-season receptions and yardage record. The record for catches is 143 by the Colts' Marvin Harrison in 2002. The yardage mark is 1,964 by Detroit's Calvin Johnson in 2012. Atlanta lost in New Orleans on a Thursday in Week 6, 31-21. Jones had six catches for 93 yards. Could this be the finale for Drew Brees and Coach Sean Payton with the Saints? I'd say the latter is likely. Brees is going to have to take pay cut to stay in the Big Easy, though. Brees, who turns 37 next month, will be in the final year of a contract with a $30 million hit against the salary cap, the most of any player in the league as of now. Key trend: Atlanta 6-4 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series. The pick: Falcons.
Redskins at Cowboys (-3, TBA): This total is TBA because it's not clear if Washington will play many starters. There's no reason for Coach Jay Gruden to do so. The Skins won the NFC East with Saturday's victory in Philadelphia, and they can't improve their playoff seeding no matter what happens here. They will be the No. 4 seed and host Minnesota, Green Bay or Seattle in the wild-card round. Losing would benefit Dallas as it could get as high as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft should it do so. I guarantee the Skins won't play Robert Griffin III here because if he gets hurt, his salary is guaranteed for next year. This will be his final regular-season game in a Washington uniform. Dallas won at the Redskins 19-16 in Week 13 on a Monday night. Dan Bailey hit a 54-yard field goal with nine seconds left to cap a wild final two minutes or so. Key trend: Dallas 2-8 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series. The pick: Tough to call this one as it's essentially the Tanking Bowl. Guess I'll go with Colt McCoy (likely Washington starter or at least plays a lot) over Kellen Moore.
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