Here we go! Every game matters (well, to most teams) this week. I haven't seen a playoff race this close in both conferences in a while. Last week had some surprises and not so many surprises. My picks were iffy, but I got some things right. We're truly in the unpredictable part of the season as we get closer to the playoffs. Onward to week 17!

Arizona Cardinals (10-3) at St. Louis Rams (6-7)
Edward Jones Dome, Thursday 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

The Cardinals got away from the Chiefs last week, but just barely. The Rams have been playing spoiler all year long and are looking to get to 7-7 on the year with a Thursday night divisional win. Arizona won the last meeting between the two teams, but St. Louis has outscored their last two opponents 76-0. The Rams defense is playing on another level right now. It’ll be nice to have a Thursday night game that means something (especially to Seattle fans).

Jan’s pick: Rams

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (5-8)
Georgia Dome, 1:00 PM ET – CBS

Julio Jones has been a BEAST for Atlanta the past few weeks, but injured his hip in the fourth quarter in the loss against Green Bay. Jones didn’t practice Thursday, so whether or not he’ll play is still up in the air. If he doesn’t play, that’ll be a huge hit for Atlanta, as he’s breathed new life into that offense as of late. As for the Steelers, they moved within a half game of first place in the AFC North after beating the Bengals last week. Le’Veon Bell has been seemingly unstoppable this season and only getting better. Bell against a shaky Falcons defense will be the deciding factor on Sunday.

Jan's pick: Steelers

Washington Redskins (3-10) at New York Giants (4-9)
MetLife Stadium, 1:00 PM ET – FOX

The Washington Redskins are a mess of an organization. They were shut out by the Rams 24-0 last week and probably can’t wait for the season to be over. Washington has yet to announce who is going to start at quarterback against the Giants, but I’m not sure that it really matters.

Jan’s pick: Giants

Miami Dolphins (7-6) at New England Patriots (10-3)
Gillette Stadium, 1:00 PM ET – CBS

The Dolphins are still in the running for a playoff spot and the Patriots are one win away from winning the AFC East – again. Patriots could also clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with help from other teams, but they’ll have to stop the Ryan Tannehill first. Might not be such a hard feat, especially in Foxboro.

Jan’s pick: Patriots

Oakland Raiders (2-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-6)
Arrowhead Stadium, 1:00 PM ET – CBS

The last time the Chiefs and Raiders played each other, the Raiders had their best game of the year and Derek Carr led them to their first victory. The Chiefs are fighting for their playoff lives, so I don’t think they’ll let that happen again – especially in Arrowhead. The Chiefs have lost three in a row and will definitely need Jamaal Charles to keep from making it a fourth. Charles sprained his ankle last week, but should be okay to go on Sunday. The Raiders are playing for pride, and are making the race for the 2015 draft order interesting.

Jan’s pick: Chiefs

Houston Texans (7-6) at Indianapolis Colts (9-4)
Lucas Oil Stadium, 1:00 PM ET – CBS

The Colts can lock up the AFC South if they don’t turn it over to Houston. Get it, turn it over? Because the Colts have turned the ball over about fifty thousand times in the last few games and everyone keeps ignoring it and going off about how great Andrew Luck is? But really, the Colts turned the ball over four times last week against the Browns – two interceptions and two fumbles. In the last three weeks, Indy has lost seven of 13 fumbles and three interceptions. Needless to say, Houston can keep themselves in the playoff hunt if they can get to Luck and force him to turn the ball over. JJ Swatt knows this (I’ve heard he also knows the future) and will be doing everything he can to rattle ol’ Neck Beard. However, the Colts are undefeated at home and I’m not sure Houston’s offense (who could be without Andre Johnson) is equipped to win in the House That Peyton Built.

Jan’s pick: Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) at Baltimore Ravens (8-5)
M&T Bank Stadium, 1:00 PM ET – CBS

The Ravens can secure a playoff spot if they win out against Jacksonville, Houston, and Cleveland. They control their own destiny and who better to start out this run than against the Jaguars? I’m sorry Jag fans, your team is not very good. But you have a cool logo and cool colors and pool in your stadium. Maybe next year.

Jan’s pick: Ravens


I know he probably killed a guy but this dance is so cool

Green Bay Packers (10-3) at Buffalo Bills (7-6)
Ralph Wilson Stadium, 1:00 PM ET - FOX

The Packers have won five in a row and are really freaking good. However, they were a little exposed last week against Atlanta, allowing them to score 20 points in the fourth quarter. Green Bay has only gone 3-3 on the road this season, and is facing a tough Buffalo defense. The Bills are one game out of the wildcard race and will be playing for their lives. Green Bay’s defense gave up 374 passing yards last week to Atlanta and ol’ Kyle Orton had a season-high 355 yards against Denver. This is my sneaky good game for the week.

Jan’s pick: Bills

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) at Carolina Panthers (4-8-1)
Bank of America Stadium, 1:00 PM ET – FOX

Cam Newton and the Panthers went into New Orleans and played their best game of the season, but that momentum was halted a bit after Newton was in a car accident on Tuesday. Newton suffered two fractures in his back, but he won’t need surgery and is actually lucky to be alive. Derek Anderson will start this week as Newton continues to heal. Luckily, Tampa Bay isn’t good.

Jan’s pick: Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) at Cleveland Browns (7-6)
FirstEnergy Stadium, 1:00 PM ET – FOX

IT’S JOHNNY FF MANZIEL TIME IN CLEVELAND!

Manziel will get his first pro start in Part Two of the Battle of Ohio, a game that is a must-win if the Browns want to grab a playoff spot for the first time in like 12 years or something. Bengals’ Coach Marvin Lewis called Manziel a “midget” in a radio interview, something he later apologized for. Cincy lost Pro Bowl LB Vontaze Burfict to injury last week, something a defense already ridden with injuries couldn’t afford. This will be a good game and you know all eyes are going to be on Johnny Football.

Jan’s pick: Browns (money hands)

New York Jets (2-11) at Tennessee Titans (2-11)
LP Field, 4:05 PM ET - CBS

Here we have the least relevant game of the year. I guess you could call it a battle for draft position. This game isn’t going to be good.

Jan’s pick: Jets?

Denver Broncos (10-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-5)
Qualcomm Stadium, 4:05 PM ET – CBS

Denver can win their fourth AFC West title with a win this week and could get a first round bye with help from other teams. The Broncos seem to have been playing down to their opponents level lately, something they’ll need to not do this week in San Diego. Running back C.J. Anderson has been a beast for the Broncos, ultimately being the missing piece to their slump earlier this season. Peyton Manning didn’t throw a touchdown last week, snapping a 50-something game streak of games with a touchdown pass. Tight end Julius Thomas should be able to return this week, a weapon that’ll be much needed against the Chargers.

Jan’s pick: Broncos

San Francisco (7-6) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4)
CenturyLink Field, 4:25 PM ET - FOX

San Francisco lost to Oakland last week. Seattle dominated a Philadelphia offense that no one could slow down. This is not good for San Francisco coming into CenturyLink. Seattle controls their own destiny as far as playoffs go and an Arizona loss to St. Louis Thursday night could add even more fuel to their fire. San Francisco doesn’t want this noise. They don’t want these troubles. LOB is coming for you.

Jan’s pick: Seahawks

Minnesota Vikings (6-7) at Detroit Lions (9-4)
Ford Field, 4:25 PM ET – FOX

The Vikings have been HOT lately, coming off their second win in a row. The Lions are looking to avoid that late-season implosion, something they’ve been able to do so far. They’re one game behind Green Bay in the division and can keep their playoff hopes alive with a win. Detroit’s offense has been outstanding lately and is looking to keep that going against a young Vikings team that can spoil playoff hopes.

Jan’s pick: Vikings

Dallas Cowboys (9-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)
Lincoln Financial Field, 8:30 PM ET – NBC

The Eagles were just totally and completely exposed against Seattle last week and face a tough stretch of divisional games to try to keep their playoff hopes (and NFC East title hopes) alive. Last time these two teams met, Philly dominated Dallas 33-10 on Thanksgiving. Dallas has avoided the December destruction so far and had a heck of a game against Chicago last Thursday. Their offense seems to just get better, but for some reason Dallas has a terrible time against divisional opponents.

Jan’s pick: Eagles

New Orleans Saints (5-8) at Chicago Bears (5-8)
Soldier Field, Monday 8:30 PM ET – ESPN

This was a really great Monday Night Football idea before the season started. The Saints and Bears were both pre-season contenders that have had less than exciting seasons. I’m kind of glad I have somewhere to be when this game kicks off because I do not want to watch this train wreck. The Saints aren’t good outside the dome (and this season, inside the dome for that matter).

Jan’s pick: Bears

Until next week!

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