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2022 NFL Game Picks: Week 17

Last week: 13-3

Season: 151-87-2


DAL (11-4) @ TEN (7-8)

Thursday, December 29 | 8:15 PM ET | Prime Video


The Titans resting Derrick Henry (hip) and other key players ahead of the de facto AFC South championship game in Week 18 is not what Amazon wanted for the final Thursday Night Football game of the season—but you can’t really fault Mike Vrabel for the decision. Tennessee will at least still play extremely hard, and perhaps Joshua Dobbs surprisingly starting over rookie Malik Willis will get the offense back on track. Still, an upset tonight is difficult to imagine if Dallas comes out focused, and I’d be trying to hit the Titans with doubles moves from CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup with All-Pro safety Kevin Byard maybe notching up the aggressiveness to make a game-changing play as the lone star in the lineup for Tennessee.


Winner: Dallas Cowboys


ARI (4-11) @ ATL (5-10)

Sunday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Arizona continuing to battle has been impressive, and Hard Knocks gave us a great look inside the building last night with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph highlighting the soon-to-be-retired J.J. Watt and Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker as examples for the rest of the defense to look up to. This week, the Cardinals will need to be ready to stop the run with Atlanta trying to bully opponents on the ground, and fans should enjoy watching Watt for just two more games before he hangs up his cleats and awaits a spot in Canton; the Falcons have been strong on the offensive line this season, but I believe the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year will be up for the challenge versus the improved right side of guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary. At quarterback, Colt McCoy will have the advantage over Desmond Ridder both in terms of experience and supporting cast, so Arizona gets the edge on the road.


Winner: Arizona Cardinals


CHI (3-12) @ DET (7-8)

Sunday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Detroit’s disappointing loss to the Panthers last week creates fewer paths to the playoffs for them, but all Dan Campbell’s squad can do is focus on taking care of business this week before a possible win-and-in game against Green Bay in the season finale. The Bears certainly won’t be an easy out despite their record based on how Justin Fields played in the first meeting—particularly as a runner with 13 carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-30 loss for Chicago. Basically, if the Lions continue to play defense without a quarterback spy for when Fields breaks the pocket, Detroit may need to win another shootout, and it’s asking a lot of Jared Goff to continue playing mistake-free football (zero interceptions since Week 9). On the other hand, the Bears just lost top cornerback Jaylon Johnson (finger) for the remainder of the season, and I’m confident in Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson knowing how to attack the young secondary.


Winner: Detroit Lions


JAX (7-8) @ HOU (2-12-1)

Sunday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Doug Pederson saying that Jacksonville won’t rest their starters this week was very interesting because of how his tenure in Philadelphia ended with Jalen Hurts being benched for Nate Sudfeld in what turned out to be a loss that got Washington into the playoffs—and I’d say the emphatic comments were his way of making it known that the Hurts’ decision was above his pay grade with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman wanting to improve the team’s draft slot. Either way, the Jags would have a slim playoff chance with a Week 18 loss if they are able to beat Houston this weekend, and the culture Pederson is trying to establish should result in Trevor Lawrence and the offense keeping their foot on the gas. Although the Texans have improved on both sides of the ball down the stretch, those hoping for the No. 1 overall pick might be able to breathe easy for another week if Lawrence continues playing at a high level.


Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars


DEN (4-11) @ KC (12-3)

Sunday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


It would be very interesting to hear the conversations between Broncos ownership and general manager George Paton over the past few days, but CEO Greg Penner in particular has seemed to take over the football operations by leading the search for a new head coach—and Paton notably wasn’t hired by Penner, Rob Walton, and the new ownership group. As stated a few weeks ago, UCLA head coach Chip Kelly would be a tremendous candidate to “fix” Russell Wilson and get the Broncos back into contention in my opinion, but would he even be interested in the job after the Bruins signed one of the top quarterbacks in the country? No matter who the head coach is, Patrick Mahomes (10-0 against Denver in his career) and Justin Herbert aren’t going anywhere, so it’s crucial that the Broncos routinely hits home-runs in the draft if they want to compete in the AFC West. For this week, I just hope we see more fight from the road team after the Rams seemed to never go down on first or second contact against them on Christmas.


Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


MIA (8-7) @ NE (7-8)

Sunday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The Patriots have gone 1-4 since Thanksgiving, but everything is still in their control by winning over the next two weeks to sneak into the postseason. Miami not having quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (concussion) will make Mike McDaniel’s offense easier to defend—and it should be pointed out that Tagovailoa has quietly gone 4-0 against Bill Belichick in his career. Of course, Teddy Bridgewater is a very capable backup that won’t lack for firepower with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, so we’ll see how New England’s speed in the secondary with Jonathan Jones and Marcus Jones (if he can clear the concussion protocol) matches up with them. Overall, Mac Jones and the offense need to be better, though, and maybe Kendrick Bourne finally being featured with a 6/100/1 line last week and Damien Harris (thigh) returning will get them playing to their full potential. In a must-win game, it’s tough to pick against Belichick.


Winner: New England Patriots


IND (4-10-1) @ NYG (8-6-1)

Sunday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The Giants would have loved to get a victory over Minnesota on Christmas Eve to at least have the option to rest or limit the workload for Saquon Barkley over the final two weeks—but now they will almost certainly feature their best player again following a game in which he had season-highs in targets (ten), receptions (eight), and receiving yards (49). Indianapolis struggling on offense should make this a game that New York can win rather decisively, but the Giants aren’t really built to blow teams out without Barkley breaking multiple long runs, and the Colts have at least played hard on defense. That said, unless Indy commits to the running game (12 carries for Zack Moss last week, compared to 29 pass attempts for Nick Foles), they are playing right into New York’s hands with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale allowing his guys to tee off as pass rushers and blitzers.


Winner: New York Giants


NO (6-9) @ PHI (13-2)

Sunday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


The Saints picking up a big win over the Browns last week to remain in playoff contention makes this a dangerous spot for the Eagles, and Dallas winning to open Week 17 (as expected) would put more pressure on Philadelphia to clinch the No. 1 seed and NFC East crown on Sunday. If not, they could be forced to start Jalen Hurts (shoulder) at less than 100% in the season finale, and the offensive line needing to shuffle around with star right tackle Lane Johnson (abdomen) out and former first-rounder Andre Dillard only being at option at left tackle is a definite concern versus a New Orleans front that might be due for a turn-back-the-clock game from Cameron Jordan. Also, Gardner Minshew II completed just 14-of-29 passes for 163 yards and an interception in his lone matchup against the Saints (2019), and Philly’s secondary has shown some vulnerability recently. All that said, the Eagles have more talent, and homefield advantage should be locked up in front of the home crowd this weekend.


Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


CAR (6-9) @ TB (7-8)

Sunday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Tom Brady did not look like Tom Brady for the first three quarters of the Christmas Night win over Arizona, but a flip was switched when the fourth quarter—and a ten-point deficit—hit, and TB12 reminded everyone that he’s the greatest, most clutch quarterback of all-time. A full game of “crunch time” because of the NFC South being on the line for Tampa Bay might result in 60 minutes of a pinpoint Brady, and the Bucs would be wise to accelerate the tempo by going with a no-huddle attack before it’s needed. On the other side of the ball, stopping the run game of the Panthers is key, but D.J. Moore has typically played well versus Tampa Bay with 84.1 receiving yards per game over the past seven meetings, and he’s showed a stronger connection with Sam Darnold than any other quarterback since the start of 2021. Assuming the offense for the Bucs can get something going early, I like their chances of claiming a home playoff game despite all the struggles this year.


Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers


CLE (6-9) @ WAS (7-7-1)

Sunday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Carson Wentz is back under center for the Commanders with Taylor Heinicke losing three in a row being the “excuse” needed to get back to a guy that Washington acquired in the offseason, and the weapons are there for him to have success throwing to Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel. However, the Browns—after being eliminated from playoff contention—sound determined to finish the season strong, and David Njoku’s comments caught my attention:


This is a big test to see who loves this game as much as they say they do, number one.


Additionally, Nick Chubb saying they need to “play for the city” sounds like his Batman persona coming out, and he’s been far too quiet with zero touchdowns since Deshaun Watson entered the starting lineup. I was originally going with the Commanders here, but teams are 0-13 this season the week after facing the 49ers, and Cleveland having focus from their top players might allow them to get an upset win.


Winner: Cleveland Browns


SF (11-4) @ LV (6-9)

Sunday, January 1 | 4:05 PM ET | FOX


Derek Carr getting benched with Las Vegas still being mathematically alive for the playoffs is not a good message to send to the locker room at all, and San Francisco looking like a powerhouse could result in things getting out of hand on New Year’s Day. For the Niners, it’s logical to expect Brock Purdy to have a sub-par outing at some point because he’s a seventh-round rookie, but he’s continued to be sensational, and San Francisco being a team that others don’t want to run into in January says a lot about both Purdy and the roster as a whole. Davante Adams completely taking over while catching passes from Jarrett Stidham is probably the only shot for the Raiders.


Winner: San Francisco 49ers


NYJ (7-8) @ SEA (7-8)

Sunday, January 1 | 4:05 PM ET | FOX


Jets-Seahawks is one of the games of the week with each side trying to get the final wild card spot in their respective conference, and the matchup also includes some interesting recent history between the teams—with New York being praised for “fleecing” Seattle in the Jamal Adams trade, and the Seahawks having former Jets starter Geno Smith leading them in 2022. The return of Mike White (ribs) puts the career of Zach Wilson in complete limbo, but he can look across the field at Geno to see that hope shouldn’t be lost (and it helps that he’s still just 23). There is little doubt that White gives New York the best chance to win right now, though, and I expect him to accurately distribute the ball to open targets at all three levels of the field. The Seahawks also getting an important part of the offense back (Tyler Lockett) and not having to worry about Sauce Gardner following DK Metcalf—at least based on how the Jets have used him so far—could be the difference.


Winner: Seattle Seahawks


MIN (12-3) @ GB (7-8)

Sunday, January 1 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


Aaron Rodgers stating after the Christmas Day victory that Green Bay will have two dome teams traveling to Lambeau Field over the final two weeks was a humorous but factual comment, and the Packers playing better with their backs against the wall should make Sunday an awesome game versus a divisional foe that has played with fire (and usually won) all season. The memorable dropped pass by Christian Watson in his first career game—and the first play of the season for Green Bay’s offense—is now a thing of the past with the young playmakers emerging, but the freakish rookie could miss Week 17 with a hip injury, so the Packers need to give a heavier workload to Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon to create more space for Allen Lazard, Romeo Doubs, and Randall Cobb. In general, the absolute No. 1 priority for the Packers needs to be finding a way to stop Justin Jefferson, and perhaps Kirk Cousins being slightly off would be enough for Jaire Alexander and the defense to capitalize with a takeaway.


Winner: Green Bay Packers


LAR (5-10) @ LAC (9-6)

Sunday, January 1 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


The first Battle for Los Angeles was a fun one back in 2018 when Jared Goff (354 yards and three touchdowns), Todd Gurley (156 total yard and a touchdown), and the trio of Robert Woods (10/104/2), Brandin Cooks (7/90), and Cooper Kupp (4/71/1) all went off—leading the Rams to a 35-23 victory. Round 2 doesn’t have major playoff implications with the NFC squad long eliminated and the Chargers punching their ticket last week, but the Rams have shown a ton of fight with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, and Jalen Ramsey going head-to-head with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen is exciting. Still, the advantage in terms of firepower for Justin Herbert will be tough to match by a run-heavy offense led by Cam Akers, and Joey Bosa’s potential return from a groin injury that’s kept him out since Week 3 makes it the rare year where injuries haven’t yet doomed the Chargers.


Winner: Los Angeles Chargers


PIT (7-8) @ BAL (10-5)

Sunday, January 1 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


I was extremely impressed by the play of Diontae Johnson and George Pickens—both of whom can show some immaturity at times—in frigid conditions on Christmas Eve, and the Steelers getting them motivated and being in very good position to make the playoffs if they can win the next two games is a testament to the job Mike Tomlin has done. In a game that celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, Pittsburgh playing stingy run defense, making opportunistic defensive plays, and getting clutch contributions from Najee Harris was a fitting way to honor the memory of Franco Harris; ultimately, it was typical Steelers football, and I believe it’s what we will again see on Sunday night with Lamar Jackson (knee) looking at another missed game and Cameron Heyward leading the resurgent Steel Curtain front to slow down J.K. Dobbins.


Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


BUF (12-3) @ CIN (11-4)

Monday, January 2 | 8:15 PM ET | ESPN/ABC


Since the schedule was first released in the spring, Bills-Bengals felt like a matchup with game-of-the-year potential to close out Week 17—and I’m curious to see whether it leans more towards respectful competitiveness (like Bills-Chiefs) or competitive animosity (like Bengals-Chiefs). One thing we do know is that the quarterback play should be phenomenal, and Josh Allen throwing a couple of interceptions last week might end up being a positive if it reels him back in some with Buffalo trying to finally clinch homefield advantage in the playoffs by winning the final two games. For the Bengals, Joe Burrow has shown he will take what the defense gives him, and Tre’Davious White not quite yet being himself combined with the Bills not having a solidified No. 2 perimeter cornerback is reason to attack with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins downfield if Buffalo ever drops a safety down towards the line of scrimmage. But with the importance of the No. 1 seed and Kansas City being unlikely to fall over the final two weeks, I like the Bills to take a big step towards January football in the AFC running through Buffalo.


Winner: Buffalo Bills