Early Thoughts for Week 17
The 2012 NFL regular season is finally wrapping up this weekend and that means only one more week with a full card of 16 games. To protect against teams resting the majority of their starters, Commissioner Roger Goodell has been back loading the schedule with divisional rivalries and this season is no different. Every single game in Week 17 is a divisional game and some mean quite a lot more than others. The biggest of them all this week starts and ends with the Dallas-Washington matchup as the winner claims the NFC East. But there are some other games that have significant meaning to the playoffs and also provide some valuable betting opportunities.
AFC Playoff Picture
All six teams have been determined for the second season in the AFC, but only Indianapolis (at 5) and Cincinnati (at 6) are locked into their seeds. The top 4 spots are all up for grabs this weekend and that means both crucial byes are up for grabs.
Houston and Denver currently hold the 1-2 spots respectively but it is Houston (-7) that has the tougher task this weekend at Indy. Denver (-16) gets to host the lowly Kansas City Chiefs in a game that guarantees Denver a 1st round bye and KC the 1st overall draft choice with a Broncos win. If Houston was to lose SU they would fall to the 2-seed for the time being because if New England (-10) beats Miami as a big home favorite and Denver somehow loses, the Patriots would slide past the Texans as well. That means you should expect A+ efforts from all three teams, especially Houston, who could fall from the penthouse to the outhouse with a loss and miss out on a first-round bye.
NFC Playoff Picture
I already touched on the game that will decide the NFC East winner but with a loss Washington can still back-in to the final wildcard spot if they get help in the form of a Bears loss (-3.5) at Detroit and a Vikings loss (+3.5) at home vs. Green Bay. At first glance in those three games (Washington, Chicago, Minnesota) it’s near impossible not to like taking the points with the home-dog Vikings, simply for the fact they are the ones getting points.
However, when you factor in that the Packers clinch the 2nd seed and a 1st round bye with a win, it’s not likely Green Bay will simply lie down. The Packers ended up doing that in Week 17 a season ago as the #1 seed and saw them come out as flat as can be vs. NYG in the playoff loss. Green Bay will look to remain on a roll and avoid last year embarrassment, so when you dig a little deeper, Minnesota actually becomes the most likely team of the three to avoid.
Dallas (+3) vs. Washington (-3)
This is the game that has been flexed into the final SNF game of the year and for good reason. Thanks to the Giants loss last week, Dallas didn’t exactly harm themselves with their own loss to New Orleans as they still control their own destiny. Tony Romo and this offense has been on a roll for the better part of two months now and with revenge on their minds, it’s impossible not to think the Cowboys don’t show up and play their best game of the year. Dallas was embarrassed in the 1st half of that Thanksgiving Day loss to Washington and will be looking to correct all those mistakes.
Despite how hot Dallas has been, the Redskins have been better, winning six straight and have a home-game in the final week to determine their fate. But RGIII is still hobbled a bit and if he’s not a legit threat to run the Cowboys secondary and linebackers can focus more on eliminating his downfield receivers. The Cowboys have seen too many opportunities like this in the Romo era to let another one slip by them.
Take the Cowboys.