Week 17 will be more exciting than usual.
There are still four playoff spots up for grabs, with just one team locked into a playoff position and likely resting its regulars. The end result will be one day, 16 games, and a lot of drama.
This week’s Against the Spread edition features many of the players and highlights of the 2013 season.
WEEK 16: 4-11
WEEK 16: 0-3
Carolina Panthers (11-4) -6.5 at Atlanta Falcons (4-11)
Luke Kuechly was in on 24 tackles and picked off a pass against the Saints in Week 16. Any more questions on him being the Panthers MVP? Tony Gonzalez didn’t just have a good year for being 37, he had a good year period. With 79 catches, 803 yards and eight touchdowns, his 2013 numbers are in line with the rest of his 17-year career. ATS PICK: Panthers (LOCK)
Baltimore Ravens (8-7) +6 at Cincinnati Bengals (10-5)
The Ravens need a win and a Chargers or Dolphins loss to make the playoffs, or are automatically in with Ravens, Chargers and Steelers losses. The Bengals can land anywhere between the second and fourth seed. By default, Torrey Smith (1,101 receiving yards) is the Ravens MVP. Remember how the paperwork snafu involving Elvis Dumervil was supposed to haunt the Broncos? It might yet. Both A.J. Green (1,365 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns) and rookie Giovani Bernard (1,136 yards from scrimmage) met expectations, put Bernard as a mid-second rounder in fantasy drafts next August. ATS PICK: Bengals
Houston Texans (2-13) +7 at Tennessee Titans (6-9)
He frustrates fantasy owners by never scoring a lot of touchdowns, but Andre Johnson is now one of only two players in history to record 100 catches in a season five times. Titans receiver Kendall Wright (89 catches, 1,029 yards) has quietly broken out in his second year. ATS PICK: Titans
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) +11.5 at Indianapolis Colts (10-5)
The Jaguars finish the year being an underdog in all 16 games. Paul Posluszny is the Jags MVP, he gets enough chances to make tackles on this team. Honorable mention to tight end Marcedes Lewis, who is a plus blocker and has scored in four straight games. The team may even keep him next year even though he will count $8.25 million towards the cap.
In his 11th year, Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis blew away his previous statistical high with 17.5 sacks. ATS PICK: Jaguars.
New York Jets (7-8) +6 at Miami Dolphins (8-7)
Miami is in the playoffs with a win and a Ravens loss or a Chargers win, but are done with a loss. A third-round draft pick in his second year, Olivier Vernon broke out with 11.5 sacks this year. The Jets named DE Muhaammad Wilkerson (10.5 sacks) as their team MVP. ATS PICK: Jets
Detroit Lions (7-8) +3 at Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1)
So this is how it ends for the Metrodome: two teams going nowhere and two coaches likely getting pink slips on the way out the door into the Minnesota cold. Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson let their fantasy owners down by being nicked up towards the end of the year, but are still the MVPs of their respective teams. ATS PICK: Vikings (LOCK)
Washington (3-12) +3.5 at New York Giants (6-9)
Trent Williams is an MVP candidate on Mike Shanahan’s squad, through Week 15 he had only missed two snaps all season, but conceded nine and a half sacks. I am going to go with receiver Pierre Garcon, who has somehow caught 107 passes mostly from RG-Third String. With 90 tackles and six interceptions, the Giants’ Antrel Rolle is deserving of a Pro Bowl berth. ATS PICK: Giants (LOCK)
Cleveland Browns (4-11) +7 at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)
We can’t argue the Browns MVP. At one point Josh Gordon racked up 774 receiving yards and five touchdowns in a four-game period. He is a late-first round fantasy pick next year. Antonio Brown justified his team’s decision to jettison Mike Wallace with a 101 catch/1,412 yard/eight touchdowns season. ATS PICK: Browns
We have a point spread! You could be excused for sleeping in and missing the early slate of games on Sunday. It is the late games where most of the playoff seeds will be decided. Whatever happens Sunday, the culture of Packers football changed this year with the punishing running of Eddie Lacy. It will take a lot of pressure off Aaron Rodgers going forward. Lacy is a mid first-round pick next year.
Alshon Jeffery (1,341 receiving yards) joins Josh Gordon as the fantasy late-round steals amongst receivers this year. One last betting angle, the over is 11-4 in games involving the Bears this year. ATS PICK: Packers
Denver Broncos (12-3) +12.5 at Oakland Raiders (4-11)
Peyton Manning may be Sportsman of the Year, but my vote for team MVP is going to Julius Thomas, the NFL’s best tight end not named Jimmy Graham.
Finding standouts on the Raiders is hard, I’m going to go with running back Rashad Jennings, who became one of fantasy football’s better running back options for part of the year. ATS PICK: Raiders
Buffalo Bills (6-9) +9.5 at New England Patriots (11-4)
Mario Williams is still in the league, he has 13 sacks playing in the anonymity of Buffalo. Lineman Nate Solder is a candidate for Pats MVP, but has dealt with a pair of recent concussions. You still cannot go wrong with Tom Brady as a default pick, I could settle for a projected 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns as a “down year.” ATS PICK: Bills
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) +12.5 at New Orleans Saints (10-5)
Vincent Jackson (1,189 receiving yards) would be a worthy selection, but second year linebacker Lavonte David has one of the better stat lines of any defensive player in the NFL: 101 tackles, six sacks, five picks, and 10 passes defended. He is another stud not noticed playing on a team that gets no attention.
Drew Brees is always a strong pick and Cameron Jordan (12.5 sacks) has emerged this year. But I have to go with Jimmy Graham and his 15 touchdowns while not being at 100 percent much of the year. He remains paranormal at the tight end position. ATS PICK: Bucs
San Francisco 49ers (11-4) at Arizona Cardinals (10-5) (PICK)
NaVorro Bowman brought a whole new meaning to bringing down the house on Monday night. His game-clinching interception return for a touchdown punctuated a stellear season (135 tackles) for the fourth-year player. The NFC West Group of Death will likely deny the Cardinals a playoff berth, which is a shame. There are several candidates for team MVP, which is a good thing. I will go with Karlos Dansby (109 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four interceptions). ATS PICK: Cardinals
Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) +9.5 at San Diego Chargers (8-7)
If Malcolm Floyd had not been hurt way back in Week 2, it is possible that Keenan Allen might be in a recording studio instead of on the field. It is a scary thought, but something to think about if things don’t go Allen’s way in the future. The Chargers are prohibitive favorites this week since Andy Reid has basically announced he will be resting his regulars with the Chiefs already locked in as a No. 5 seed. Jamaal Charles can show up in a sweat suit this week, his Week 15 performance at Oakland remains fantasy legend. ATS PICK: Chargers
St. Louis Rams (6-9) +10.5 at Seattle Seahawks (12-3)
Despite 18 sacks and a possible Defensive Player of the Year Award, Robert Quinn barely registers on the radar of casual football fans. And he no longer exists as a former football player at the University of North Carolina. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has put up the quietest 25 touchdown passes in history against just nine interceptions, a carbon copy of last year’s rookie numbers. Inside ‘backer Bobby Wagner also gets a mention. ATS PICK: Seahawks
Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) +6.5 at Dallas Cowboys (8-7)
Nick Foles proves why drafting a quarterback in the first two rounds is not always a good idea in fantasy football. But it’s not every year a QB1 suddenly emerges from the waiver wire. His numbers in 12 games are near-historic and the Eagles will be a tough out in the playoffs if they win Sunday night.
Tony Romo will not be part of the festivities, but I’m still naming him Cowboys MVP. Ding him all you want, but he led his team from behind with the season on the line on the road with a herniated disc in his back. Enough said. ATS PICK: Cowboys