The final week of the NFL regular season is here, and the whacky season has left room for even more chaos as teams vie for playoff spots. Since some squads have already secured their spot in the postseason and are resting their starters, some of these games are really difficult to pick. While it makes sense to pick a team like the Browns (-9.5 vs. the Steelers) or the Chargers (-3.5 at the Chiefs), I don't really feel comfortably that those games will play out exactly as expected. Because of the parity surrounding a majority of the league's contests, I'm only going to be providing six picks to cap off the 2020 regular season. After a disheartening 3-4 week 16, our season record sits at 56-52-4. It looks like we'll finish above .500 barring a terrible end to the year. I'm not going to mention the status of the Lock of the Week, which failed to hit last week when the Colts let off the gas and blew a 17-point second half lead.
New York Jets at New England Patriots Under 40
These are two teams with the inability to score points on a consistent basis. While the Jets are coming in on a two game win streak, no one is more capable of stifling a young quarterback than Bill Belichick, who had Jets quarterback Sam Darnold "seeing ghosts" in one of their clashes last season. Belichick would lose his mind if his team lost to the lowly Jets to end the season, so there's no way he's going to let that happen. His only problem is that he has, virtually, no quarterback and his team has combined to score only 24 points in their last three games. So how will he guarantee a victory heading into the offseason? By throwing everything he can defensively at New York and shortening the game by running early and often. To be honest, I'm more worried about the Jets scoring a bunch of points than the Patriots, but I feel strongly that this will be something like a 17-13 final score.
Houston Texans +7.5 vs. Tennessee Titans
Honestly, the sole reason I'm making this bet is because of JJ Watt's postgame speech after Houston's loss to the Bengals last week. Watt will almost assuredly single-handedly keep his team in this game, especially going up against a backup tackle for the Titans. Tennessee's defense is so bad that Deshaun Watson, who has struggled for much of the year, will be able to find success with his arm and his legs. Keep in mind that Houston lost by only six in overtime in their first meeting with the Titans. I'm not saying the Texans will win, as the Titans know they need a victory or they could very well miss the playoffs, but I am very confident that this game will be decided by a touchdown or less.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts Under 49.5
The Colts must win this game to have a shot at the playoffs, and they'll lean on their two strengths, the run game and defense, to make that happen. Jacksonville will be without James Robinson, likely their best offensive player, and they will struggle to get anything going against a Colts team with revenge on its mind and something to play for. As evidence that Indianapolis won't score 50 points and reach the over themselves lies with the absence of stud left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Philip Rivers will have less time to throw the ball and could be under some pressure for part of the day, limiting Indy's success through the air. I think the Colts win big, maybe something like 30-13, but the under hits with a touchdown or so to spare.
New Orleans Saints -6.5 at Carolina Panthers
The Saints are one of the few teams, along with the Packers, who have secured their playoff spot but are refusing to rest their starters. This is a move I like, by the way, as players can sometimes develop a little rust if they sit out when they are capable of playing. New Orleans lost two in a row before running the Vikings out of the stadium in a game where Alvin Kamara rushed for SIX touchdowns. More of the same will take place in week 17 against a below average Panthers team that will still be missing its best offensive player. The Saints will probably eventually pull their starters in the third or fourth quarter, but only because they are up by three or more touchdowns and in a position to cover with ease.
Washington Football at Philadelphia Eagles Under 43.5
I have loved betting the under in Washington's games lately, and this one is no different. Washington is playing for a chance to go to the playoffs (assuming Dallas also wins) and they'll be fired up to play against a division rival on Sunday night primetime. Unfortunately for them, Alex Smith and Antonio Gibson are questionable, and Terry McLaurin is doubtful. Those are their three best offensive players, and without them, they don't have much of a chance at even sniffing the end zone. They just released Dwayne Haskins, so Taylor Heinicke will be the starter is Smith can't go. While the Eagles have seen an offensive improvement since Jalen Hurts has taken over at quarterback, they've still only exceeded 20 points twice in their last seven games. This game could end up being 6-3 in all honesty. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but the important thing is that the under is nearly guaranteed to hit.
Lock of the Week: Arizona Cardinals -3.0 at Los Angeles Rams
While the previous pick is high on my confidence list, I'm rolling with this pick as my final Lock of the Week. Arizona is playing for a playoff berth. It's win or go home for the Cardinals. The Rams, who lost to Jets two weeks ago before falling to the Seahawks last week, are going to be without quarterback Jared Goff and one of his top targets, Cooper Kupp. There's no telling where points are going to come from on LA's side, but I'm positive they will be very hard to come by. Arizona lost by ten a few weeks ago when these teams faced off, but it's an entirely new game when an NFL team is without its starting quarterback. Especially when the team with a backup quarterback is going up against a team with a do or die attitude. The Cardinals will win this game decisively and will become the third NFC West team to clinch the playoffs this season after the Bears lose to the Packers.
Written by Nick Swatson