The pressure is on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, whose running back corps is thinned by injuries. In Week 17 on Sunday night, Seattle plays host to the 49ers in a game that will decide the NFC West title. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Yardbarker's Week 17 NFL picks, game previews

The Steelers, Titans, and even the Raiders are still alive for the AFC's final playoff spot, and the Eagles must beat the Giants to win the NFC East. San Francisco and the depleted Seahawks will duel in prime time with the NFC West at stake. Yardbarker previews each game with a pick against the spread. Weekly point spreads are from They are current as of 10 p.m. ET Monday.  For the latest spreads, check

1 of 16


David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS  LINE: New England -15.5

What you need to know: Miami is 4-4 since an 0-7 start, knocking the "tanking" Dolphins from a top-three draft spot for the time being. Miami's biggest question for next season is at QB. It has three first-round picks; will the Dolphins use one on a QB? New England can’t afford to rest its starters because a loss and a Chiefs win would cost the Patriots their first-round bye. New England has never made it to a Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era when playing on wild-card weekend. One major positive in the Pats’ win over Buffalo in Week 16 was Tom Brady’s play. He posted a 111.0 passer rating (current league average 90.9) and played mistake-free football against one of the league’s best pass defenses.

On the spot: Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki. He has shown promise for 2020 with his performance the past six games. In that span, he has four touchdowns, including two in Week 16, when he was targeted a season-high 12 times against the Bengals.

Patriots WR N’Keal Harry: He has yet to catch more than three passes in a game this season, and has not topped 21 yards in a game. Brady could use another wide receiver besides Julian Edelman -- but can the rookie rise to the occasion?

The pick: Patriots 27 Dolphins 14

2 of 16


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS  LINE: Kansas City -8

What you need to know: QB Philip Rivers’ play has slipped dramatically, to the point where he will enter the offseason as a free agent. He almost certainly will not be back with the Chargers. The question with Rivers is where he’ll end up, or if he’ll land anywhere at all. Los Angeles must explore quarterbacking options either in free agency or near the top of the draft, because the rest of the roster is still talent-rich. Kansas City appears to be peaking at the right time, and most of that has to do with Patrick Mahomes. He has posted passer ratings of 115.7 and 112.1 in his past two games (current league average 90.9), the first of which was in a snowy mess against Denver. If he is finding his 2018 MVP form, the Chiefs might be the biggest threat to the Ravens, a team they’ve already beaten this season.

On the spot: Chargers QB Philip Rivers. He is one of the most statistically accomplished quarterbacks in league history, but Rivers’ time in Los Angeles appears over. He still wants to play, and a sharp game to end the season might help his cause with prospective suitors.

Chiefs DT Chris Jones: He leads a resurgent defense with eight sacks; Kansas City has the league’s seventh-best scoring defense after finishing 24th last season. The offense is a known commodity; will Jones and the defense roll into the playoffs on a hot streak?

The pick: Chiefs 34 Chargers 20

3 of 16


David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS  LINE: Buffalo -1.5

What you need to know: The Jets helped Tennessee with their Week 16 win over the Steelers, who somehow still could claim the No. 6 seed in the AFC. Sam Darnold flashed some of his potential on New York’s opening drive, keeping Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense off-balance and throwing a perfect pass to Robby Anderson for the Jets’ only touchdown. Darnold faces an even better defense this week, and if he manages to get New York another win, he'll give the Jets reason to be optimistic for 2020. Buffalo had New England on the ropes in Week 16 but was unable to deliver a knockout punch. The Bills can hang with anyone in the AFC. QB Josh Allen hasn’t been accurate the past three weeks, but he did make big plays and take care of the ball against New England. Allen is still the clear X-factor for the Bills in the postseason. If he gets hot, Buffalo can beat anyone.

On the spot: Jets QB Sam Darnold. New York is 6-6 in Darnold’s starts this season, but while he has a chance for a winning record, his overall numbers aren’t great (passer rating 85.1; league average 90.9).. He needs help, particularly on the offensive line and at the skill positions.

Bills RB Devin Singletary: He was silenced by New England, finishing with just 48 yards from scrimmage. Singletary has emerged as Buffalo’s most consistent offensive option; the rookie can't have “off” games. 

The pick: Bills 17 Jets 9

4 of 16

GREEN BAY (12-3) AT DETROIT (3-11-1), SUNDAY, 1 ET

GREEN BAY (12-3) AT DETROIT (3-11-1), SUNDAY, 1 ET
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports


What you need to know: The Packers clinched the NFC North with a workmanlike road win over the Vikings, holding Minnesota to 139 yards in Week 16. Green Bay has a chance at the NFC’s top seed, but it must beat Detroit and Seattle must beat San Francisco for that to happen. Even if the Packers don’t end up as top seed, Green Bay’s combination of Aaron Rodgers and a solid supporting cast make it a frightening opponent. Detroit says head coach Matt Patricia will be back, but the Lions continue to play ugly football, particularly on the defense. Next year could be Patricia's last in Detroit unless he engineers a massive turnaround on defense.

On the spot: Packers RB Aaron Jones. He had a huge game against Minnesota, rushing for 154 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He'll make the Packers a tough out in the playoffs. 

Lions head coach Matt Patricia: The Lions will have QB Matthew Stafford back next season, and the onus is squarely on Patricia to figure how to fix an abominable defense.

The pick: Packers 30 Lions 10

5 of 16


Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports


What you need to know: Chicago won’t be going anywhere this season, primarily because QB Mitchell Trubisky was inconsistent. He's not a bust, but he’s also not close to a franchise quarterback. The Vikings are locked into the NFC’s sixth seed, so they have nothing to play for, but Trubisky still must end the season on a positive note. In Week 16, Minnesota delivered an anemic offensive performance against Green Bay (139 yards). As far as Minnesota’s playoff fortunes are concerned, it’s simple: If QB Kirk Cousins plays well, it could win the NFC title; if he plays poorly, the Vikings will lose. 

On the spot: Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky. Head coach Matt Nagy must figure what went right for Trubisky in his productive starts and bottle that. His passer rating is 82.9, well below the league average.

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook: He will almost certainly not play in this game, but if he is ready to go for the wild-card round, his presence will make Cousins’ life much easier, and the Vikings’ offense considerably more dangerous.

The pick: Bears 23 Vikings 13

6 of 16


Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX  LINE: New Orleans -13

What you need to know: To snag one of the top two NFC seeds, the Saints must win and hope that either the Seahawks beat the Niners or Lions shock the Packers in Week 17. If the Packers, 49ers and Saints win their final game, New Orleans will be the third seed. It might not matter either way, because the Saints have served notice they’re a force against anyone. Carolina must figure out its coaching situation (Mike McCarthy?) and quarterback situation for 2020, and neither picture is clear at this point. Will Grier was bad in his debut in Week 16, Kyle Allen isn’t the answer, and Cam Newton’s health is in question. Owner David Tepper has plenty of big decisions to make. 

On the spot: Saints WR Michael Thomas. In Week 16, he set the season receptions record (144) with one game to spare. With another big performance, he could put it out of reach.

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey: Carolina’s season is a disaster, but with 67 yards receiving, McCaffrey can join Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the only players in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

The pick: Saints 38 Panthers 10

7 of 16


Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX  LINE: Tampa Bay -1

What you need to know: Dan Quinn’s Falcons -- who have won five of their past seven -- saved his job. The Saints announced Friday he'll be back for 2020. Atlanta’s defense was 25th in scoring last season and is 22nd in 2019. Defense is Quinn’s calling card. Tampa Bay and free-agent-to-be QB Jameis Winston appear headed for at least another year together, but the Bucs must figure how they want to extend their relationship with their up-and-down quarterback. Winston is one of the league’s most vexing players; he clearly has big-play ability, but he has unparalleled recklessness with the football (28 interceptions this season). An 8-8 record would be perfect for a Winston-quarterbacked team.

On the spot: Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Quinn’s players love him, and have played hard down the stretch for him. Did the owner make the right call to bring him back?

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston: Winston tied Peyton Manning’s season record with his sixth pick-six of the season, so while it would be an inauspicious record to have, it feels almost fitting that he has a chance to have it all to himself.

The pick: Buccaneers 34 Falcons 30

8 of 16


Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX  LINE: Cleveland -2.5

What you need to know: The Browns are massively disappointing. When asked about head coach Freddie Kitchens’ future with the team, Baker Mayfield didn’t deliver a ringing endorsement. Established candidates are available for the Browns if they want to make a switch (Mike McCarthy and Ron Rivera). Cincinnati won the Joe Burrow sweepstakes by losing to the Dolphins in Week 16, though in true Bengals fashion, they nearly screwed it up by mounting a furious rally to force overtime. Will owner Mike Brown pick Burrow, the LSU QB and Ohio native, with the No. 1 overall selection? Or will the Bengals screw that up, too? 

On the spot: Browns QB Baker Mayfield. The Browns’ fortunes for next year rest largely on whether Mayfield can bounce back from a massive sophomore slump.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton: Is this his final game as a Bengal? He ripped fans who were hoping for a loss against the Dolphins, so the reception he receives should be interesting.

The pick: Browns 26 Bengals 23

9 of 16


Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS  LINE: Tennessee -4

What you need to know: For the Titans, the mission is simple: win and they are in the playoffs. They might not have to deal with QB Deshaun Watson, who may sit if the Texans can't earn a better seed. They'll know by game time. Tennessee started fast, but it was overwhelmed by Drew Brees and New Orleans in Week 16. Tennessee sat RB Derrick Henry (hamstring) because the Saints game ultimately meant nothing to the Titans. Henry should go in this one, and Tennessee’s offense should be potent once again. The Texans are assured a tough matchup in the wild-card round against Tennessee or Buffalo. Texans WR Will Fuller may be out several weeks with a groin injury, putting more pressure on the rest of Houston’s offense.

On the spot: Titans RB Derrick Henry. His health is the biggest story. If he is feeling better after a week off, it’s reasonable to assume that he will run well, and that the Titans will win.

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins: No Fuller means more attention for Hopkins, who has continually delivered when called upon this season. 

The pick: Titans 33 Texans 21

10 of 16


Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS  LINE: Pittsburgh -2.5

What you need to know: Here's the simple formula for the Steelers to make the playoffs: Win and hope the Titans lose. There is a scenario by which the Steelers lose and still qualify for the postseason, but it would take losses by several other teams for that to happen. QB Mason Rudolph sparked the Steelers when he took over for ineffective Devlin Hodges against the Jets in Week 16, but he was lost with a shoulder injury. The Steelers must go with Hodges, and Pittsburgh’s anemic offense means that even a Ravens team that will rest Lamar Jackson, Earl Thomas, Mark Ingram and Marshal Yanda could beat them. Having already sewn up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Baltimore’s mission is simple: stay healthy. 

On the spot: Steelers QB Devlin Hodges. The only other quarterback on the roster is Paxton Lynch, so Hodges will get the nod. Although he threw two interceptions against the Jets, he nearly saved the Steelers on his final two throws; the first would have been a touchdown but for a great defensive play, and JuJu Smith-Schuster misplayed a catchable ball on the second pass.

Ravens QB Robert Griffin III: He will get his chance to show what he can do in Baltimore’s run-oriented offense. Ravens fans surely would like to see him keep the Steelers out of the playoffs. 

The pick: Ravens 19 Steelers 9

11 of 16

OAKLAND (7-8) AT DENVER (6-9), SUNDAY, 4:25 ET

OAKLAND (7-8) AT DENVER (6-9), SUNDAY, 4:25 ET
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS  LINE: Denver -3.5

What you need to know: Somehow the Raiders aren’t dead in the playoff chase, which came as news to some of their players. Oakland needs losses by the Steelers and Titans, and for the Colts to beat the Jaguars. With their playoff heart still beating, will Oakland suit up banged-up rookie RB Josh Jacobs? Rookie QB Drew Lock has only been so-so for Denver; his only truly ugly game came in horrible conditions against the Chiefs. A command performance against Oakland would give the Broncos a decent body of work on which to judge Lock for 2020. 

On the spot: Raiders QB Derek Carr. Whether Jacobs goes or not, Oakland will need a great game by Carr. Head coach Jon Gruden reportedly is not enamored with him.

Broncos QB Drew Lock: His development is paramount for the Broncos. His passer rating in his four games this season: 89.4, a shade below league average.

The pick: Broncos 24 Raiders 21

12 of 16


Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS  LINE: Indianapolis -3.5

What you need to know: Raiders fans are pulling for the Colts. Wins by Oakland and Indy and losses by Pittsburgh and Tennessee put the Raiders in the playoffs. In Week 16, Indianapolis blew out the Panthers, thanks in large measure to Nyheim Hines’ two punt return touchdowns. He became the 15th player in league history to take two punts back for scores in one game. Jacksonville has major issues. Owner Shad Khan has said he would like head coach Doug Marrone back in 2020, but another terrible performance by the Jaguars might change his mind. Firing VP Tom Coughlin was a positive first step for Jacksonville, but it needs answers at quarterback and a re-tooling of the roster to have a chance at competing in what might be a formidable AFC South in 2020.

On the spot: Colts QB Jacoby Brissett. He was woeful against the Panthers in Week 16. Brissett sizzled at the start of the season, but his production has declined. Is he the man for Indianapolis in 2020? 

Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew: The rookie delivered another undistinguished performance last week, and if he doesn't play well in Week 17, the Jaguars might go with a a fully healthy Nick Foles in 2020.

The pick: Colts 28 Jaguars 16

13 of 16


Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX  LINE: Dallas -10.5

What you need to know: In Week 16, Washington lost an entertaining back-and-forth shootout against the Giants. Now the Redskins have a chance to trash Dallas’ season. Rookie QB Dwayne Haskins (ankle) won't play. Case Keenum will replace him. Could he break out against a suspect Cowboys’ defense? In Week 16, Dallas came up small against the Eagles in its biggest game of the season. If the Eagles lose and Dallas wins, the Cowboys will make the playoffs. But head coach Jason Garrett may be a goner no matter what. 

On the spot: Redskins QB Case Keenum: He has shown flashes during his career. An upset win is possible. 

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett: Dallas’ tendency to play poorly in the biggest games is a direct reflection on its head coach. The Cowboys should throttle Washington, but even if they do, it might not matter.

The pick: Cowboys 31 Redskins 14

14 of 16


Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX  LINE: Philadelphia -4.5

What you need to know: The Eagles, shorthanded on offense, earned a potentially decisive win over the Cowboys in Week 16. But they must beat the Giants to win the NFC East. Carson Wentz was at his best when the stakes were highest, passing for 319 yards and a touchdown against Dallas, and Miles Sanders piled up 156 yards from scrimmage. The Eagles managed to win despite having virtually no healthy wide receivers. In Week 16, rookie QB Daniel Jones strafed Washington’s secondary, throwing for five touchdowns and 352 yards. Saquon Barkley was devastating as well, rushing for 189 yards and catching four passes for 90 yards. The Giants, who need help all over the roster, probably did themselves no favors with the victory, as it will likely prevent them from landing Ohio State defensive end Chase Young in the 2020 draft, provided Young leaves school.

On the spot: Eagles TE Dallas Goedert. Philadelphia must go with a makeshift passing game that features few downfield threats, which means Goedert must have another big game, particularly if TE Zach Ertz (ribs) can't go.

Giants QB Daniel Jones: Most Giants fans would likely forfeit better draft position in exchange for ruining the Eagles’ season, so in many ways, this is a big game with big expectations for Jones. If he plays like he did against Philly, he’ll win over more fans, and there will be excitement in New York for 2020.

The pick: Eagles 24 Giants 16

15 of 16

ARIZONA (5-9-1) AT LA RAMS (8-7), SUNDAY, 4:25 ET

ARIZONA (5-9-1) AT LA RAMS (8-7), SUNDAY, 4:25 ET
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports


What you need to know: Rookie QB Kyler Murray might not play because of a hamstring injury, so Brett Hundley could get the nod. With nothing left to play for, it doesn’t make sense for Arizona to risk Murray’s long-term health by playing him. Arizona will get another chance to see what Kenyan Drake can do. The former Dolphins running back has 303 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games. Los Angeles fought valiantly against the 49ers in Week 16 but lost. Sean McVay and his staff are doubtless looking for something positive to build on for 2020, and they might have found it with a game plan that had Jared Goff rolling out and on the move frequently. Goff’s final numbers weren’t all that impressive, and he did throw a crushing pick-six, but for much of the game he was able to move the ball effectively.

On the spot: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald. Is this Fitzgerald’s final NFL game? Is it his final game as a Cardinal? No one knows, because Fitzgerald has been guarded about his plans, but if it is indeed the end, this will be the final chance for fans to see one of the game’s all-time greats.

Rams RB Todd Gurley: No matter what happens against Arizona, Gurley has had a massively disappointing season. His cap hit if he's released is $25.7 million, versus $17.25 million if he’s on the roster, so he’ll likely be a Ram next season. But what can Los Angeles expect?

The pick: Rams 28 Cardinals 13

16 of 16


Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

TV: NBC  LINE: San Francisco -3

What you need to know: San Francisco enters the NFC West Championship Game on the high of a thrilling victory over the Rams, one cemented by a gut-check 46-yard pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Emmanuel Sanders on a third-and-16 late in the game. Garoppolo wasn’t great until that point in the game, but Kyle Shanahan trusted him to deliver. For the season, Garoppolo’s passer rating is 101.0 (90.9 is league average). The Seahawks will be without RBs Rashaad Penny, Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise and OT Duane Brown, all of whom are out for the regular season. QB Russell Wilson and Seattle’s wide receivers are healthy, but the Seahawks will need one of the best games of Wilson’s career if they are to win the division. RB Marshawn Lynch is back to do his best to help. Can he play?

On the spot: 49ers DE Nick Bosa. He has just two sacks in his past eight games, and his Defensive Player of the Year candidacy has evaporated. With Seattle limited offensively due to injury, Bosa should dominate coming off the edge.

Seahawks RB Travis Homer: The rookie sixth-round pick has eight carries in the NFL. He must have a solid game for Seattle to have a chance. Pressure, anyone?

The pick: 49ers 31 Seahawks 23

Chris Mueller is the co-host of The PM Team with Poni & Mueller on Pittsburgh's 93.7 The Fan, Monday-Friday from 2-6 p.m. ET. Owner of a dog with a Napoleon complex, consumer of beer, cooker of chili, closet Cleveland Browns fan. On Twitter at @ChrisMuellerPGH – please laugh.

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