The final week of regular season NFL games presents plenty of interesting matchups for bettors. See who our experts like for Week 17.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-5)
Sun. 12/30, 4:25 p.m. ET
Pick: Vikings -5
The Bears would need a victory and they would also need to get help elsewhere in order to improve their current No. 3 seeding to the No. 2 spot and secure a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. That help would need to come in the form of a San Francisco road win against the Rams, which is an unlikely scenario given the fact that Los Angeles is favored by more than a touchdown.
Both games kick off at 4:25 p.m. EST, and if the Rams are comfortably ahead at halftime, the possibility exists that Chicago could opt to rest some of its starters in the second half. (Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson will likely sit out the entire game after being held out of this past Sunday’s win in San Francisco with a sprained ankle he suffered the prior week.) It’s also worth noting that the Bears’ most likely first-round playoff opponent would be the Vikings. It’s therefore well within the realm of possibility that Chicago holds back a portion of its gameplan in an effort to avoid exposing to Minnesota some of what it hopes to accomplish in early January once the stakes are significantly higher. —Scott Gramling
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-13)
Sun. 12/30, 1:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Jets +13
The Jets don’t feel like a 4-11 team, perhaps because they’ve had two victories within grasp over the previous eight days. While they suffered two gut-punch defeats—particularly in blowing a 15-point fourth-quarter lead to Green Bay on Sunday—the silver lining has been the play of quarterback Sam Darnold. After a strong effort against Houston, the No. 3 pick backed it up against the Packers, and only a memorable performance from Aaron Rodgers could top it.
The last foe Darnold will face as a rookie is Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, who will be playing to clinch a first-round bye in the postseason. New England will win this game, but the Jets have been a pesky fly for the Patriots to swat away. Since 2013, the Jets are 2-9 against New England straight up, but 7-3-1 against the spread. The Patriots will do enough to secure the victory—the health of Brady and Rob Gronkowski will be their top priority—but not enough cover a 13-point spread against a Jets team that will try to spare soon-to-be-fired coach Todd Bowles further embarrassment. —Ed McGrogan
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-3)
Sun. 12/30, 1:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Bills -3
When the Dolphins hosted the Bills on Dec. 2, Miami ended up winning 21-17 as a 3.5-point home favorite. Now, Buffalo is the one that is favored at home. But unlike Round 1 between these teams, this game could result in a convincing victory for the Bills. Despite playing in only his second game back from a UCL injury, Buffalo rookie quarterback Josh Allen threw for 231 yards with two touchdowns in that loss to the Dolphins. He also added a ridiculous 135 yards on the ground. Allen was a big part of the reason that Buffalo held a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter, and his comfort level should be better this time around with more games under his belt.
The Bills will be facing a deflated Dolphins team when they take the field. Miami was eliminated from playoff contention after losing at home to a pretty terrible Jacksonville team. Dolphins coach Adam Gase is on the hot seat, and the division rivalry isn’t enough to get the team up for this one. Miami has been unsuccessful at New Era Stadium over the years. The Bills have won and covered in five of their last six home games against the Dolphins, and four of those five games were decided by more than seven points. —Zachary Cohen