NFL picks, predictions against spread Week 17: Eagles help Cowboys clinch playoffs over Washington; Bills dump Dolphins

Week 17 brings the final slate of regular-season games for the 2020 NFL season to ring in the new year. That’s one more chance to dive into a complete group of picks and predictions against the spread before the playoffs.

Last week was pretty good in getting back on track above .500 ATS with some solid results straight up, too. That should make us feel more confident about our latest fearless forecast.

Without further ado and keeping in mind the final week is weird with teams resting and playing for different things, here’s the final salvo of 16 selections:

MORE: Week 17 NFL power rankings | Picks straight up

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NFL picks against the spread for Week 17

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

There’s a good chance Alex Smith returns at quarterback to start over Taylor Heinicke, but Washington will likely be without Terry McLaurin. The Eagles came down to earth offensively with Jalen Hurts in Dallas and their defense fell apart, too. Philadelphia needs a strong all-around showing at home for the sake of coach Doug Pederson. Washington will keep playing hard defensively for Ron Rivera but the offensive shortcomings keep hurting it as Philly plays spoiler in prime time.

Pick: Eagles win 23-20.

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Before Washington plays, the Cowboys and Giants will battle to see who would be in position to steal the NFC East should Washington actually lose. The Cowboys have finally found their offensive groove with Andy Dalton as the play-calling of Kellen Moore has been on fire the past two weeks. The defense is bending more without breaking again. The Giants’ offense is in the tank regardless of quarterback play. In the most shocking development of the season, the Cowboys, through all their troubles without Dak Prescott and with Mike McCarthy, somehow get into the playoffs.

Pick: Cowboys win 24-17 and cover the spread.

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Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Saints will be playing for the No. 1 seed, hoping the Packers stumble and Seahawks win at the same time to create a three-way tie. Their running game is rolling with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. The Panthers remain weak in run defense. Teddy Bridgewater will see his weapons limited again without the help of Christian McCaffrey. New Orleans wants to march into the playoffs with some momentum, whether or not it has a bye.

Pick: Saints win 34-17 and cover the spread.

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Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

Let’s jump on this early line while the quarterback questions exist. Jared Goff will be out for the Rams with his broken thumb, with John Wolford starting. Meanwhile, Kyler Murray is expected to play with his leg injury with a wild-card spot on the line. The Rams also will be down young running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, so they can’t bail out Wolford on the ground. Murray finds enough holes in the Rams’ defense with his running and short-to-intermediate passing to make his first NFL playoffs.

Pick: Cardinals win 20-17 and cover the spread.

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Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Bills could choose to rest players coming off a short week knowing they can’t get the No. 1 seed. But for a young playoff team yet to get a postseason win with Josh Allen, it’s important they keep playing with that mentality against the Dolphins, who will be fighting hard to join them in the playoffs. The Bills have really stepped up defensively and will continue to deliver for Sean McDermott. The Dolphins were fortunate to beat the Raiders and they won’t have the same luck or Fitzmagic this week.

Pick: Bills win 24-20 and cover the spread.

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Ravens are back to “normal” with Lamar Jackson and the running game, with more pop in the passing game to boot. The Bengals worked hard to get their wins over the Steelers and Texans, but Baltimore is laser-focused on keeping a playoff berth after its division disappointment. The Ravens roost while the Bengals are tamed, thinking more about how they can help Joe Burrow in the 2021 draft.

Pick: Ravens win 30-14 and cover the spread.

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Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Steelers are hard to read in knowing what they’ll do regarding chasing the No. 2 seed over the Bills. They will lean toward wanting to rest players, given how many veterans they have on their team and the considerable injury issues they have had over the course of the season. The Browns will welcome that, after their wide receiver COVID-19 outbreak proved to be very costly against the Jets.

Pick: Browns win 22-17 but fail to cover the spread.

  • Vikings (-6.5, 44.5 o/u) at Lions 

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Vikings’ offense keeps doing its best to light up the scoreboard with Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook. The defense, because of inexperience and injuries, has hit new lows with Mike Zimmer. But that doesn’t compare to how bad the Lions are defensively post firing Matt Patricia. The Vikings will move the ball at will with Cook, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. The Lions cannot match that with D’Andre Swift and the rest of their skill players.

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Pick: Vikings win 34-27 and cover the spread.

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  • Jets at Patriots (-3.5, 43 o/u)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Adam Gase is doing his late-season sudden-winning thing again for the Jets with the massive victories over the Rams and Browns. Bill Belichick’s Patriots have looked terrible since obliterating the Chargers. Those developments meet somewhere in the middle here. Belichick can’t possibly lose to a lame-duck Gase, can he? Gase can’t also outwit Belichick after getting the better of Sean McVay and coach of the year candidate Kevin Stefanski, can he? Let’s get logical here.

Pick: Patriots win 17-14 but fail to cover the spread.

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Falcons blew a 17-0 lead against the Buccaneers just two weeks ago. The Buccaneers have rolled since the second half of that game, also destroying the Lions in Week 16. The Falcons fought hard to scare the Chiefs and it’s good to see Matt Ryan playing better. But Tom Brady looks to be a passer possessed in relation and is loaded with more reliable weapons.

Pick: Buccaneers win 31-20 and cover the spread.

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Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Packers are watching Aaron Rodgers arguably play the best football of his Hall of Fame career with how easy he’s made it look of late. The good news is that their running game and defense are becoming better support for him. The Bears have found their best offense, too, with Mitchell Trubisky, to rally back into playoff contention. Rodgers delivers with the top seed on the line while Trubisky makes one too many mistakes per usual.

Pick: Packers win 28-24 but fail to cover the spread.

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

Derek Carr and Drew Lock are hard to trust from week to week. They can look like franchise QBs at times with their fearless and gritty passing and running. Other times, they force the playmaking that isn’t there. The Broncos will focus on running all over the Raiders, but Carr has more trusty skill players around him. Jon Gruden saves some face with a narrow victory over Vic Fangio.

Pick: Raiders win 27-24 and cover the spread.

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  • Jaguars at Colts (-14, 50 o/u)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

The Jaguars have locked up the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The Colts need a win and hope for some help to make the AFC playoffs after their second-half meltdown against the Steelers. The Colts will keep things simple here with a heavy dose of the running game and timely big plays from Philip Rivers to avenge a Week 1 loss. It’s hard to believe Jacksonville hasn’t won anything since but when you look at its horrible defense and inconsistent offense, then it’s much easier to understand.

Pick: Colts win 31-14 and cover the spread.

  • Chargers (-3.5, 44 o/u) at Chiefs 

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Chiefs are planning to rest key players, and that should include Patrick Mahomes. That’s Andy Reid’s style, not worried about issues with rust for the reigning Super Bowl champs. knowing getting almost two weeks off from action are more important to get everyone as healthy as possible. That said, the Chiefs are still talented enough to win this game against the Chargers, who may be a little shorthanded on both sides of the ball again and tend to lose close games they should win against better opponents in hostile environments.

Pick: Chiefs win 20-17.

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  • Seahawks (-4.5, 46.5 o/u) at 49ers 

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Seahawks are putting it all together with their defense and their offense is slowly fighting through some recent issues for and around Russell Wilson. Getting back to an NFC West title was huge last week. The 49ers have more injuries piling on after their impressive performance against the Cardinals. The Seahawks will use this game as a tuneup and hope they get the breaks elsewhere to steal the No. 1 seed.

Pick: Seahawks win 24-17 and cover the spread.

  • Titans (-7.5, 56 o/u) at Texans 

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

The Titans will rebound from getting ripped in Green Bay but it won’t be easy with Deshaun Watson determined to play. The Texans’ defense is terrible all-around (see the Vikings, Lions and Jaguars) and that will help Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill get back on track big-time. But Watson, David Johnson and Brandin Cooks will bring it again and the defense will respond to J.J. Watt’s call to save some face.

Pick: Titans win 27-20 but fail to cover the spread.

Stats of the Week

Week 16 straight up: 10-6

Week 16 against the spread: 9-6

Season straight up: 152-88

Season against the spread: 125-108