You can generally count on NFL teams to play hard all season, although there are varying degrees of motivation.
It's human nature. If you're out of the playoffs, or have a spot wrapped up, you're not going to be as engaged as the team fighting for its playoff life.
So if there's a spot for someone to make Seattle look even a little vulnerable at home, it's Arizona this week.
The Cardinals are 9-5 but face a tough road to the playoffs if they lose this week. They could be eliminated this week, but only if they lose. A win at Seattle means they'll be alive going into Week 17 no matter what else happens.
Seattle still needs to clinch the division and the first seed in the NFC playoffs, but the Seahawks have a two-game cushion for both. They'd probably like to take care of that this week, but it isn't necessary. If they let down at all, it's going to come against a Cardinals team that isn't that bad, and will have to treat this like a playoff game. The Cardinals are 10.5-point underdogs, but they're going to give the Seahawks a tough game. It should be close, at very least.
Here are the rest of this week's picks:
Buffalo (+3) over Miami: I think Thad Lewis at quarterback might give Buffalo a better chance to win. And I think the Dolphins' high-stress season, on and off the field, has to affect them at some point.
Minnesota (+7.5) at Cincinnati: Cincinnati fans have to be getting nervous. Baltimore is a real threat to win the division now. Then again, with two more wins and one Patriots loss, the Bengals can get a bye.
Kansas City (-6.5) over Indianapolis: Maybe the Colts have it all figured out, but I'm not convinced of that. Interesting question: Knowing that they're likely to meet again in the first round of the playoffs, how much do these teams hold back this week?
Tampa Bay (+5.5) over St. Louis: Two of the most unpredictable teams in the NFL. Who knows. (Certainly not me, who has no chance of picking winners this season.)
N.Y. Jets (-2.5) over Cleveland: So, once home-field advantage for the Jets is factored in, Vegas is saying that on a neutral field, the 4-10 Browns are the better team? Interesting.
Carolina (-3) over New Orleans: If I picked Carolina to win the NFC South before the season I have to pick them to win this week, right?
Jacksonville (+5) over Tennessee: The Jaguars already won at Tennessee. They're not playing that bad, and no reason they can't at least keep it close.
Denver (-10.5) over Houston: The Texans didn't look too feisty rolling over at Indianapolis last week. The Broncos have had extra rest, are motivated coming off a loss and are going after the No. 1 seed.
Detroit (-9) over N.Y. Giants: So Detroit is embarrassed and wants to save its season too. And here come the absolutely horrid Giants, a team that's a lot worse than everyone realizes.
Pittsburgh (off) over Green Bay: Vegas opened up this game at Green Bay as 2.5-point favorites after it was announced that Matt Flynn would start. Doesn't matter, I don't think the Packers will win.
Oakland (+10) over San Diego: The Dolphins and Ravens comeback wins last week took a lot of wind out the Chargers' sails.
New England (+2.5) over Baltimore: Let's not forget the Ravens offense didn't score a touchdown last week, and Joe Flacco is a bit banged up. The Patriots won't lose the No. 2 seed.
Chicago (+3) over Philadelphia: Since I don't think the Redskins upset the Cowboys, I think that by the time this game kicks off the Eagles will know they're playing for the NFC East title in Week 17 no matter what happens here. And Eagles coach Chip Kelly would be foolish to not rest his starters if that's the case.
San Francisco (-13) over Atlanta: The 49ers play well against bad teams, and the final game at Candlestick Park provides a little more motivation.
Last week: 5-11
Season to date: 91-129-6
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