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Week 17 Picks: Redskins, Bears should earn playoff berths

Shutdown Corner

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins

In his first game against the Cowboys, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin completed 19-of-27 pass attempts for 304 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-31 win on Thanksgiving. Griffin is not 100 percent, but neither are key members of the Cowboys' defense. Jay Ratliff is out with a groin injury and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is dealing with elbow and shoulder injuries.

Pick: Redskins 28, Cowboys 24

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have won seven of their last eight against the Buccaneers, including a 24-23 win in Raymond James Stadium that started Tampa Bay's current five-game losing streak. The Falcons have little to play for, having already sewn up the NFC South and the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs. A loss to the Buccaneers would, however, mean the Falcons went 3-3 within their own division. Matt Ryan has built a solid case for NFL MVP this season and can make his final argument against the Buccaneers.

Pick: Falcons 30, Buccaneers 21

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

The Jets' circus continued in Week 17 as being sacked 11 times resulted in quarterback Greg McElroy experiencing concussion symptoms that has him unavailable to face the Bills on Sunday. Head coach Rex Ryan again bypassed Tim Tebow and re-inserted Mark Sanchez into the starting lineup. If you're worried about the Jets becoming less of a circus in 2013, fret not. The organization will likely be looking for a new general manager, who will be tasked with trying to get something of value for Tebow, and possibly Sanchez, in the offseason.

Pick: Bills 17, Jets 16

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

With the Ravens clinching the AFC North and the Bengals clinching a Wild Card spot, vanilla looks on both sides of the ball are expected as these two teams could meet again next weekend in Baltimore.

Pick: Bengals 17, Ravens 14

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

The Lions are attempting to avoid an eight-game losing streak to close out a miserable 2012 season, while the Bears need to win and need a Vikings' loss (to the Packers) to make the playoffs. Since arriving in Chicago, quarterback Jay Cutler has lit up the Lions, passing for 1,545 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception in seven starts. Cutler has completed only 50 percent of his attempts for 273 yards and one touchdown in his last two starts against the Lions, whose pass defensed allowed 271 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday night's loss to the Falcons.

Pick: Bears 24, Lions 21

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

Whether or not to rest players was a hot-button topic of the Bill Polian Era of the Indianapolis Colts. As Chuck Pagano returns from treatment for leukemia, the first-year head coach has put that issue to rest by planning to play most, if not all, key players in Sunday's regular season finale against the Texans. The Colts have never lost to the Texans in Indianapolis and we do not expect that to happen in Pagano's first game back on the sidelines.

Pick: Colts 27, Texans 23

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

Both Drew Brees and Cam Newton are finishing the 2012 season on high notes. Brees is 63-of-92 for 743 yards and seven touchdowns over the last two weeks, while Newton has 11 touchdowns and just one interception in his last six games. Neither team will make the playoffs, but with a few tweaks in the offseason, both could challenge the Falcons for the NFC South in 2013.

Pick: Saints 31, Panthers 27

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

Needing a win (and help) to make the playoffs, the Giants get to face an Eagles team that has lost 10 of their last 11 games and are moving back to Michael Vick at quarterback after Nick Foles suffered a broken bone in his hand in last week's 27-20 loss to the Redskins. Vick is not expected back in Philadelphia next season, and the Eagles front office will be holding their breath whenever No. 7 exits the pocket as he has a $3 million injury guarantee on his $15.5 million base salary in 2012. As long as Vick is healthy after the season, the Eagles can avoid that payment. Fortunately for GM Howie Roseman, the Giants defense has just two sacks over the four weeks and no sacks in three of their last six games.

Pick: Eagles 24, Giants 23

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have dominated the series lately, winning 21 of the last 24 meetings. Cleveland won the first game of the 2012 series though, a 20-14 win on Nov. 25 where the Steelers turned the ball over eight times. Completing the season sweep will be tough for the Browns, who may have to start first-year quarterback Thaddeus Lewis as both Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy are battling right shoulder injuries and first round running back back Trent Richardson, who is 50 yards away from a 1,000-yard season, could miss the game with an ankle injury.

Pick: Steelers 30, Browns 9

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans

The Jaguars have won three of their last four against the Titans, the latest via a 24-19 affair where Chad Henne passed for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Since then, the Jaguars have placed nine players on injured reserve, including running backs (Jalen Parmele, Jordan Todman and Rashad Jennings). Oddly enough, none of the Jaguars running backs on injured reserve are Maurice Jones-Drew, who has not played since injuring his foot on Oct. 21. Titans running back Chris Johnson should be in for a big game against a Jaguars defense that ranks 31st against the run.

Pick: Titans 23, Jaguars 16

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

Despite a 2-13 record and ranking 28th in Football Outsiders' DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric, three Chiefs defensive players made the AFC Pro Bowl roster, including two – outside linebacker Tamba Hali and safety Eric Berry – who earned starting nods. On the other hand, the Chiefs defense was able to limit the Broncos, who have the NFL's No. 2 scoring offense, to just 17 points on Nov. 25, the only time the Broncos failed to score at least 21 points this season. The Broncos are still playing for something – home-field advantage throughout the playoffs – and should atone for their low point total the first time they met this season.

Pick: Broncos 38, Chiefs 14

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings need a win to make the playoffs, but they shouldn't expect the NFC North champion Packers to roll over. Green Bay can clinch a first-round bye with a win, a surprising development for a team that opened the season with a 2-3 record before withstanding a multitude of injuries to win nine of their last 10 games. The Packers can expect a steady dose of Adrian Peterson, who is zeroing in on 2,000 yards and is within striking distance of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing yardage mark (2,105). AP won't have an easy time of it as the Packers defense ranks 12th in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA and has allowed an average of 81 rushing yards per game over the last two weeks.

Pick: Packers 24, Vikings 20

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

The Patriots have won their last five meetings with the Dolphins, but the last two have been closer than expected. The Dolphins opened up a 17-0 first-half lead in Gillette Stadium last Dec. 24 and played the Patriots tough in a 23-16 loss at Sun Life Stadium earlier this month. After a 41-34 loss to the 49ers in Week 15, the Patriots' expected beat down of the Jaguars last week never happened, which means Tom Brady & Co. will be looking to get back on track against a Dolphins' secondary that is banged up entering the regular season finale. Dolphins cornerbacks Sean Smith and Nolan Carroll, and safeties Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons, have either missed or been limited in practice this week.

Pick: Patriots 28, Dolphins 17

Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers

The Chargers have owned their series with the Raiders lately, winning 15 of their last 18 and nine of the 13 meeting in the Norv Turner. A win over the Raiders, who will start either Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor, would send Turner back into his old career as a very good NFL offensive coordinator with a 7-9 record.

Pick: Chargers 26, Raiders 19

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers

The last six quarters haven't been great for the 49ers, who have been outscored 73-37, nearly blowing a 28-point lead to the Patriots before losing by 29 points to the Seahawks. The 49ers have an excellent to right the ship, at least on defense. The Cardinals brings the NFL's worst offense into Candlestick Park and will be starting Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Hoyer joined the Cardinals on Nov. 20, the day after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made his first NFL start.

Pick: 49ers 27, Cardinals 10

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

In the first season of the Les Snead/Jeff Fisher Era, the Rams have an opportunity to finish over .500 and, with a win over the Seahawks, could go undefeated in the NFC West, which is arguably the league's toughest division. The Rams got four field goals from rookie Greg Zuerlein and scored their only touchdown when rookie punter/holder Johnny Hekker hit Danny Amendola for a two-yard touchdown on a fake field goal. It will take much more than that to beat the Seahawks, who have scored 150 points over the last three weeks, scoring touchdowns on the ground (9), through the air (6) and via returns (4) as they've used a four-game winning streak to secure a spot in the NFC Playoffs. With a win over the Rams, and a loss by the 49ers (to the Cardinals), the Seahawks could host a playoff game in January.

Pick: Seahawks 38, Rams 17

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