NFL picks, predictions for Week 17: Browns edge Steelers; Packers dash Bears’ playoff hopes; Washington wins NFC East

Six playoff spots are still open heading into the final week of the NFL regular season.  

The AFC wild-card race and NFC home-field advantage race are among the big storylines heading into the final week.  

There are four games between teams with winning records, and those are some of the more-interesting pieces of the puzzle. Pittsburgh and Cleveland meet at 1 p.m. with the Browns looking to clinch their first playoff berth since 2002. Miami also is looking to make the AFC playoffs with rookie Tua Tagovailoa, but they need to beat rival Buffalo to get there.  

In the NFC, Arizona and Los Angeles meet in a huge NFC West showdown; one Jared Goff could miss with a thumb injury. Chicago is trying to sneak into the NFC playoffs too, but Green Bay is looking for home-field advantage with MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers.  

Week 17 should be fantastic as a result, and it’s one last chance to improve our straight-up picks record:  

  • Last Week: 11-5  
  • Season: 116-72

With that as the mind, below are our picks and predictions for Week 17:  

NFL POWER RANKINGS:
Cowboys, Ravens, Bears rising at right time; Browns, Washington slip

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NFL picks, predictions Week 17

  • Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6)   

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX   

Tom Brady averages 311.3 passing yards with eight TDs and no interceptions in his last three games. He’s warming up in time for the playoff run, and Tampa Bay hands Atlanta its 10th one-score loss of the season.  

Pick: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24  

  • Dallas Cowboys (-2.5) at New York Giants   

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX   

The winner in the NFC East clash will put pressure on Washington to win in the prime-time spot. The Cowboys have averaged 36 points per game the last three weeks. The Giants have struggled to score. Andy Dalton puts Dallas on the cusp of a playoff berth. Will they get a little help?  

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Pick: Cowboys 30, Giants 20  

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  • New York Jets at New England Patriots (-4.5)  

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS  

The opening line has dropped 5.5 points; a nod to the improvement from the Jets the last two weeks. The Patriots offense has slumped down the stretch, and Bill Belichick has an interesting offseason coming. New England closes with a victory.  

Pick: Patriots 23, Jets 13 

  • Minnesota Vikings (-6.5) at Detroit Lions   

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX  

Detroit has little incentive to play Matthew Stafford here. Dalvin Cook will not play, but it’s another chance for Kirk Cousins to connect with Justin Jefferson. The Vikings finish it off in the fourth quarter. 

Pick: Vikings 30, Lions 23  

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  • Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (-7.5)   

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS  

The line has jumped up 3.5 points, which is a little eye-popping considering the Steelers won the first meeting 38-7. Which Cleveland players will be out because of COVID-19? Will the Steelers sit their starters or try to eliminate their AFC North rivals? This is a game we would stay away from because of those variables, but there is no better time for the Browns to break through than now.  

Pick: Browns 26, Steelers 23  

  • Baltimore Ravens (-11) at Cincinnati Bengals   

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS  

The Ravens need this one to keep their playoff hopes alive, and rookie J.K. Dobbins has offered a spark in the running game to compliment Lamar Jackson. Cincinnati has not folded the last two weeks and is capable of being a spoiler. Jackson just won’t let it happen.  

Pick: Ravens 34, Bengals 21  

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  • Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-4)   

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS  

Miami needs a win to get in the playoffs, and this could be every bit the thriller the 31-28 shootout in Week 2 was between the teams. The Dolphins pull the first real upset of the day, and Tua Tagovailoa enjoys his first signature victory.  

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Pick: Dolphins 28, Bills 24  

  • Seattle Seahawks (-3.5) at San Francisco 49ers   

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX 

The Seahawks won the first meeting 37-27, but they must be careful here. C.J. Beathard threw three TD passes last week, and Jeff Wilson and George Kittle can give Seattle’s defense problems. Russell Wilson delivers a clutch drive, however, and that puts the pressure on the Packers and Saints in the afternoon window.  

Pick: Seahawks 28, 49ers 25 

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  • Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-5)  

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS 

The Rams are favored now, but this line could shift dramatically if Jared Goff (thumb) is unable to play. John Wolford is the Rams’ backup, and Los Angeles faces the task of keeping up with Kyler Murray. The Cardinals have their own issues, but Murray does enough to scratch out a victory.  

Pick: Cardinals 24, Rams 19 

  • Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-13.5)   

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS 

The Colts are in a must-win situation, and they will rely on rookie Jonathan Taylor against a shaky Jaguars’ run defense. Jacksonville has the No. 1 pick locked up, so the future of this AFC South rivalry is much brighter. Philip Rivers plays a clean game.  

Pick: Colts 31, Jaguars 20  

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  • Tennessee Titans (-4.5) at Houston Texans  

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS 

The Titans still control their playoff destiny, and they will need a win against the rival Texans to get there. Houston ranks 31st in run defense, and Derrick Henry needs 223 yards to get to 2,000 rushing yards for the season. It’s not impossible.  

Pick: Tennessee 31, Houston 23  

  • Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos (-3)  
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Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS 

The Broncos have won one of their last five games, and the Raiders have lost three straight games. Derek Carr leads Las Vegas to a .500 record in Jon Gruden’s third season, and that will increase expectations for 2021.  

Pick: Raiders 28, Broncos 21  

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  • Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Kansas City Chiefs  

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX 

The Chiefs have little incentive to play starters in this game, and that makes it tough to go against the Chargers and rookie quarterback Justin Herbert – who completes a record-setting season in style with a fourth straight victory.  

Pick: Chargers 29, Chiefs 24  

  • Green Bay Packers (-4.5) at Chicago Bears   

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX  

In the first meeting on Nov. 29, the Packers jumped out to a 27-3 lead in the first half, but Mitchell Trubisky found something in the second half of a 41-25 loss. He’s been hot ever since and the offense is clicking. The problem? Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are clicking too, and they need this win for home-field advantage. Trubisky is 1-5 against Green Bay. The Packers pull through in the fourth quarter, but it will be close.  

Pick: Packers 33, Bears 26  

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  • New Orleans Saints (-4) at Carolina Panthers  

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX 

The Saints still have a shot at home-field advantage with a little help. Alvin Kamara had 148 total yards in the first meeting, and he will be the difference on the road in yet another one-score loss for the Panthers.  

Pick: Saints 30, Panthers 23  

  • Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles (-1)    

Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC  

Washington needs a road victory here, but the question remains whether Alex Smith will be healthy enough to start at quarterback in a must-win situation. Jalen Hurts has a chance to play spoiler, and with the Cowboys watching closely, it will be close. Washington, however, comes up with a late turnover to clinch the division.  

Pick: Washington 24, Philadelphia 21