Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

Sunday's Essentials - Week 17

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Browns (-3/43) at Bengals, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Cincinnati has already clinched the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, so it is free to win this game. Andy Dalton is back under center and threw for four touchdowns and 396 yards last week against the Dolphins, so between him and RB Joe Mixon, the Bengals should be able to move the ball against Cleveland’s 20th-ranked defense. The Bengals’ defense is ranked 30th and will be hard-pressed to shut down Baker Mayfield the way they did in Week 14, where they picked him off twice in holding him to 11-for-24 passing and two picks in a 27-19 loss. Odell Beckham, Jr. is listed as questionable in a game that could wind up being Freddie Kitchens’ last as Browns head coach. I’d fire him. He’s looked incompetent. Rain will add to the fun here since it should fall throughout the contest. Wind gusts won’t be too big an issue, but it will be wet out there.

Bears (-3.5/36) at Vikings, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Coming off an embarrassing Monday night loss to the Packers, Mike Zimmer could choose to play his starters at least a quarter to get that bad taste out of their mouths entering next week’s playoffs, where they’ll open as the No. 6 seed. That’s unlikely to happen given the opponent since the Bears are very capable of frustrating an offense that just got Adam Thielen back and will be missing RBs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. QB Sean Mannion, who has one career start with the Rams under his belt and no TD passes as a pro, is likely to play all of this one in place of Kirk Cousins. Since Minnesota blew its shot and a perfect season at home last week, this won’t mean much. Chicago is expected to play its regulars, though backups will likely get their shot come second half. A first-half bet might be the way to go here.

Falcons (PK/47) at Bucs, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Jameis Winston’s rollercoaster ride of a season will culminate at home, where he’ll look to pair with Breshad Perriman to lead the Bucs to a .500 record. The Falcons are hoping to split the season series with Tampa and would tie them at 7-9 for second place in the NFC South with a victory, which would be their fourth straight and sixth over the final eight games. Head coach Dan Quinn did enough to save his job and has already been told he’d be retained, so the pressure is off here. Rain is in the forecast.

Saints (-13.5/45) at Panthers, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: New Orleans is still going for a first-round bye and will not rest starters, but there’s certainly a chance that head coach Sean Payton will pull players if the result is in hand come second-half. Michael Thomas has already set the single-season record for receptions and should tack on a few more but we could end up seeing backup QB Teddy Bridgewater and other reserves down the stretch here. Carolina has dropped seven straight games and has lost two of the last three in blowout fashion. Rookie QB Will Grier struggled in his debut and will be making his first home start. He’ll at least have Christian McCaffrey to work with as the star back has already become the first RB with 100 receptions in two seasons and needs 67 yards through the air to join the 1,000-1,000 club in yards rushing and receiving, something only two other players, Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig, have ever done. Although rain could factor in here, the forecast calls for most of the heavy stuff to start after the game’s conclusion.




Jets at Bills (-1/36.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: It’s going to be rainy and gross in Buffalo, so this one should be really ugly. The Bills are already in as the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs and the Jets are looking to avoid a 10-loss season under first-year head coach Adam Gase, so it may be the visitors who are more motivated here. Le’Veon Bell looked sharp against his former team in last week’s upset of the Steelers, so we’ll see if he can sustain that momentum. Bills QB Josh Allen and the starters will play, but it remains to be seen how long head coach Sean McDermott exposes them in a meaningless contest. Look for Matt Barkley to see the bulk of the action here.

Dolphins at Patriots (-16.5/45), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: New England is looking to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the AFC and the bye that comes with it, so there’s no question it will be motivated to continue its dominance over another divisional opponent as Week 17’s heaviest favorite. RB Sony Michel appeared on the injury report with an illness but should play, while Rex Burkhead should continue to have a strong impact. Tom Brady will look to continue building chemistry with his receiving corps against Miami’s inexperienced secondary. Meanwhile, a New England defense that has allowed an NFL-low 13.2 points per game will look to frustrate Ryan Fitzpatrick and turn the 50-50 balls he’s made a living on into major mistakes. It’s set to be a beautiful day at Gillette Stadium, so inclement weather won’t factor in.

Packers (-12.5/43.5) at Lions, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: This is another game where we could see Aaron Rodgers and the starters for only a half or so depending on how effective they are in putting this game away. After wrapping up the NFC North with Monday night’s romp in Minnesota, the Packers now set their sights on a 13-3 finish. Green Bay will be without backup RB Jamaal Williams, so once it is ready to give NFL rushing TD leader Aaron Jones a break, it is expected to lean on rookie Dexter Williams out of Notre Dame. Detroit starting QB David Blough has some incentive to pull off this upset since a car dealership in New Orleans has offered to hook him up with a new truck if he’s able to pull off this upset and help out the Saints.

Chargers at Chiefs (-9.5/45), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: While Andy Reid can’t be counting on the Dolphins helping his team out as they look to move up to No. 2 in the AFC, a victory here regardless of what the Patriots do will at least keep Kansas City in third place in the conference, earning them a date with a No. 6 seed likely to be weaker than the Bills. It also means the Chiefs wouldn’t fall behind the Texans and into Baltimore’s path, so even though the Patriots are the alternative, the expectation is that we’ll see the home team go all out at Arrowhead. Philip Rivers’ tenure as Chargers’ QB could be coming to an end and he’ll look to improve on a four-interception effort last time he saw Kansas City. The Chiefs’ defense has surrendered just 9.6 points over their current five-game win streak. Wind gusts should aid their cause against Rivers since we’ll see those in excess of 20 miles per hour throughout this contest.

Steelers (-1.5/37) at Ravens, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: John Harbaugh has already ruled out most of his regulars for this one with the AFC wrapped up, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens won’t go all out to try and ensure a 14-2 finish while making sure their arch nemesis doesn’t make the playoffs. It’s just going to be on Robert Griffin III, not Lamar Jackson, to try and get the job done. Pittsburgh will need the Titans to lose in order to advance to the postseason with a win here but has a great track record in Week 17 games, carrying an 11-game win streak into this one. Mike Tomlin has only lost one season finale in his head coaching career – his first. He’ll once again turn to rookie backup QB Duck Hodges, who has been disappointing of late. Paxton Lynch, the team’s newly-signed backup, could see action if Hodges struggles since Mason Rudolph was placed on IR with a shoulder injury. Rain is expected to add to the ugly factor here.

Titans at Texans (-6/44.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: If the Chiefs handle their business against L.A., Tennessee will likely not have to deal with QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins in addition to numerous other regulars. Derrick Henry is back for the Titans after sitting last week out to rest his ailing hamstring. His team is 5-0 when he tops the century mark and his presence obviously makes Ryan Tannehill a much more effective quarterback. Houston won the first meeting between these teams 23-20 in a game head coach Mike Vrabel cost his team due to stupid decisions so he needs to be on point in this one. The Texans have won 12 of 17 in the series but if they don’t need it, don’t expect to see their starters out there.

Colts (-6/41.5) at Jaguars, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: Leonard Fournette is sitting this one out with the flu. I just had the flu. So did Joe Burrow. Both of us worked this weekend. That Fournette won’t tells you were the Jaguars are right now. ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported that Jags head coach Doug Marrone had been notified he’d be relieved of his duties after the conclusion of this one, which ownership has denied. I don’t expect him to keep the gig and don’t think a win would save him. Jacksonville has a ghastly 1-6 SU/ATS mark over its last seven. Gardner Minshew will top the 3,000-yard mark with 25 yards but comes in nursing a shoulder injury. The Colts are hoping to finish at .500 and would have a positive points differential for the season if they can knock out a win. Jacksonville’s defense is banged up and the Colts ran all over the place in last month’s 33-13 win. Rain will co-star.

Redskins at Cowboys (-12.5/46), 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX: The Cowboys will have Dak Prescott under center despite a lingering shoulder issue and will face a Redskins team that is playing out the string. Washington won’t be starting rookie QB Dwayne Haskins due to an ankle injury, giving Case Keenum a chance to close out the Bruce Allen era. Top WR Terry McLaurin is also sitting this one out, so it will be on running back Adrian Peterson to move the offense. Scoreboard watching will be the theme here. All eyes will be on what’s up at Met Life Stadium in the game previewed below.

Eagles (-3.5/45) at Giants, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX: Rain is going to be an issue in East Rutherford, where Carson Wentz will look to overcome the absence of top target Zach Ertz. Greg Ward, Jr. and Miles Sanders will continue to play large roles and the return of Jordan Howard supplies another weapon. New York saw rookie Daniel Jones return to the lineup with a great game against Washington last week and have a healthy Saquon Barkley to unleash. If the weather cooperates, we could see a shootout. The organization could make changes after this one, so New York won’t want to be embarrassed. The Eagles need the win to wrap up the NFC East.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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