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NFL Week 17 game picks: 49ers win NFC West; Packers earn bye

Gregg Rosenthal went 10-6 on his predictions for Week 16, bringing his season record to 148-91-1. How will he fare in Week 17? His picks are below.


1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)

This strangely feels like a huge game for the Browns. Lose to the Bengals, and it's hard to imagine coach Freddie Kitchens returns for a second season. Perhaps a seventh win could push general manager John Dorsey and owner Jimmy Haslam to give Kitchens a reprieve. After 133 regular-season starts and four playoff letdowns, don't be shocked if Andy Dalton goes out in style while spreading the misery around the AFC North.

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)

Any former Patriots assistant is a dangerous matchup for Bill Belichick, but Dolphins coach Brian Flores simply doesn't have the horses up front to rush the passer. Tom Brady excelled against the Bills last week in large part because he was protected well, a luxury that should be afforded for a second straight week. Ryan Fitzpatrick is likely to go down swinging, but Belichick has done a great job over the years using Fitz's aggressiveness against him, including during a 43-0 victory back in Week 2. A win here would clinch a streak of playoff byes for the Patriots that has lasted the entire decade.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)

The Vikings are locked into the No. 6 seed and want to get healthy for the playoffs. Then again, has this offense earned the right to take a week off after essentially no-showing against the Packers? The Bears' offense, both limited and predictable, is one group I'm excited to stop watching each week. I'll take Mitchell Trubisky, who could possibly be ending his Bears tenure with a win, on the hunch that Vikings backup quarterback Sean Mannion will play most of this game.

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City)

No team has looked readier for the season to end than the Chargers over the last two weeks. No team is peaking with the playoffs approaching to a higher degree than the Chiefs over the last month. That should result in a blowout Sunday, although I'd never count Philip Rivers out when it comes to creating one last "What the ..." result in what could be his final game as a Charger. The Chiefs will be aiming to earn a playoff bye, but Patrick Mahomes might not finish the game out if they see that the Patriots are up big early.

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | New Era Field (Orchard Park, N.Y.)

Can Bills backup quarterback Matt Barkley beat the Jets, the worst team with six wins this side of Oakland? We'll find out after Bills coach Sean McDermott confirmed that Barkley will likely play despite also announcing that a "majority of the guys," including quarterback Josh Allen, will start in Week 17. The Bills are locked into the No. 5 seed no matter what happens Sunday. Although Buffalo's defense is coached well enough to win with some backups playing, Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' underrated unit should hold Barkley down enough to get win No. 7 after a 1-7 start.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Ford Field (Detroit)

Winning ugly, especially against poor teams, was the Packers' raison d'etre ... until Monday night. Whether the team's humiliation of the Vikings is a sign of playoff wins to come or not, Aaron Rodgers is well aware that this week acts as the easiest playoff game possible. The Packers skip the Wild Card Round entirely with a win, possibly earning home-field advantage. The Lions' habit of keeping losses close, meanwhile, has mostly ended since David Blough took over. Za'Darius Smith doesn't have letdown plays, much less letdown weeks. Why would that start now? The Packers pass rush could all but clinch their bye before halftime.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte)

There was nothing in Will Grier's first start that is likely to make the next Panthers coach want to see more. The Saints, meanwhile, play more like a Super Bowl team every week, even if they stay unlucky with their playoff seeding. They could end up as a 13-3 No. 3 seed if the Packers and 49ers both win Sunday, so New Orleans could be scoreboard-watching in Carolina. It's possible Sean Payton pulls his starters if the Packers are leading big early, because then the result of this game doesn't impact the Saints' seeding. (They'll be rooting for a Seahawks win on Sunday night to earn the Saints a bye regardless.) Teddy Bridgewater has already proven he can pilot the ship with flair, so it might not matter who closes out this game.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Fla.)

The Buccaneers are expected to bring Jameis Winston back in 2020 with a tag, partly because they might not be able to afford him on the open market. The NFL is a strange place. Winston's second-half turnaround mirrors that of the Falcons' defense, once again closing strong on the way to a 7-9 record for Dan Quinn. I still expect ownership in Atlanta to judge Quinn on his final record, rather than the unique route in which he got there. This roster should have done better than back-to-back losing seasons. (UPDATE: The Falcons announced Friday that head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff will return in 2020.)

4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)

Could this new era of good feelings in New York/Hoboken end by spoiling the Eagles' playoff hopes? The Eagles' three-game winning streak started with a dogfight against these Giants in Eli Manning's return to the field, and there are signs both offenses have improved since. Carson Wentz is playing his best football. Miles Sanders has 328 yards from scrimmage over the last two weeks. Greg Ward is an upgrade from Nelson Agholor in the slot. Even if Daniel Jones and the Giants' offense are as healthy as they've been all season, it's hard to imagine the Eagles slipping up now. This organization knows how to finish.

4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | NRG Stadium (Houston)

Bill O'Brien said the Texans will be "playing to win" Sunday because he has to say that. He won't know if the No. 3 seed will be available until kickoff, and he wants his team to get in a good week of preparation. And of course they will be playing to win with whoever is on the field; the Texans can only bench so many players. With that said, the Titans will basically punch their playoff ticket the moment AJ McCarron enters the game for Deshaun Watson. Just the chance of that happening is enough to pick the high-flying Titans in a game that would be a toss-up even if the Texans hadn't already locked up the AFC South.

4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

While the Redskins' defense has fallen apart down the stretch, interim head coach Bill Callahan has the offense playing hard, with the unit producing 62 points over the last two weeks. Rookie wideout Terry McLaurin being in concussion protocol doesn't help, but Case Keenum is plenty capable of throwing three touchdown passes to end Jason Garrett's Dallas run. It will be fascinating to see how Dallas' vaunted passing attack, so erratic over the last six weeks, responds against a slumping defense. Like most Cowboys stories, it will probably get complicated.

4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore)

The top-seeded 2004 Steelers sat their key starters in Week 17, yet still managed to knock a 9-6 Buffalo Bills team out of playoff contention with a road win led by Fast Willie Parker. Don't be surprised at all if these No. 1-seeded Ravens do the same to their rival 8-7 Steelers. I'll take Robert Griffin III over Duck Hodges. I'll take Gus Edwards and Justice Hill over Benny Snell. The Ravens can only sit so many players, and their aggressive blitz package still figures to be too much for Duck to handle.

4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Fla.)

The Jaguars have won more than five games only once in the seven seasons since general manager Dave Caldwell took over. There's a good chance that the Jaguars, stuck at 5-10, could keep Caldwell into 2020, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. After a quietly disappointing second act of Gardner Minshew's rookie season, perhaps one more home loss to another team going nowhere will cause ownership to reconsider. Even if Jacoby Brissett can't shoot straight lately, the Colts are tougher and better coached.

4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | Empower Field at Mile High (Denver)

If the Raiders win this game by fewer than seven points and make the playoffs, they will have the worst point differential of any playoff team in NFL history.Raiders fans will have their scenario well memorized by Sunday, but the hardest part could be winning another road game with this sluggish offense. Jon Gruden has proven he can still coach by scratching out seven wins with this roster, but ranking 28th in point differential (-105) shows this team still has a long way to go. The Broncos have been a slightly better team than the Raiders throughout the season, if less lucky.

4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles)

Kyler Murray's gimpy hamstring makes him uncertain for the season finale. It's possible this game at some stage could include Brett Hundley, the Cardinals backup, against Blake Bortles, the Rams backup, because Rams coach Sean McVay hinted he could be cautious using some key players. Jalen Ramsey is expected to sit, and Todd Gurley could be rested, too. The Rams may also be saying goodbye to some key figures of the McVay era after what is shaping up to be a depressing final NFL game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. If it's clear that Murray is playing, this pick may flip.

8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) | CenturyLink Field (Seattle)

It's amazing these teams are only separated by one game in the standings. The Seahawks have a point differential of +12 on the season, with one win by two scores all year. The 49ers have a point differential of +164, with eight wins by two scores. The 49ers would have the NFC West wrapped up already if not for a Chase McLaughlin missed field-goal try the first time these teams met, which is sort of the point here. Crazy things happen with this Seahawks team, and there's nothing crazier than bringing Marshawn Lynchout of retirement.

Jadeveon Clowney has seemingly been waiting for this moment to return to the lineup, and Russell Wilson is plenty capable of pulling off a home upset despite awful pass protection recently. My pick here follows logic, not magic. This 49ers roster is deeper and allows for more ways to win, but logic often flies out the window in Seattle. Just sit back and enjoy the most compelling Sunday Night Football finale NBC has ever seen.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.


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