No Thursday game doesn’t make the pickings any easier

December 31, 2021 GMT
1 of 3
Graphic shows NFL team matchups and predicts the winners in Week 17 action; 4c x 3/8 inches
1 of 3
Graphic shows NFL team matchups and predicts the winners in Week 17 action; 4c x 3/8 inches

Playoff scenarios will dominate Week 17, which used to be the finale for the regular season. Now, with a 17th game added to the schedule, there are postseason implications nearly everywhere.

Among the most intriguing matchups involving two clubs not into the Super Bowl parade but on the fringes will take place in Indianapolis on the only Sunday with 15 NFL matches all year. The Raiders (8-7) and Colts (9-6) go at it.

Indy can actually clinch with a victory; there also are machinations that get the Colts in with a tie. Pro Picks ignores ties.

“We understand that and we know what’s at stake,” Colts two-time All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard says. “We know we have to come out and play our best ball against these guys. We have to come in and we’ve got to play four great quarters of football if we want to make a playoff push.”

The Raiders will advance if they win out.


“We have two games left against two really good football teams and we need to win them,” quarterback Derek Carr says. “If we do and we get in, I think that would be pretty remarkable. I think that would be pretty amazing. But it falls in line with what our plans were at the beginning of the year and despite all the adversity, to be able to still stare your goals in the face and have an opportunity to obtain them, it’s pretty cool.

“But none of it matters unless we take care of business on the road here against the Colts.”

Las Vegas, No. 17 in the AP Pro32, is a 6 1/2-point underdog at No. 8 Indianapolis. It should be close, with the Colts clinching.

COLTS, 22-17

KNOCKOUT POOL: Philadelphia kept the ball rolling, and for the penultimate week of any such pools, we’d suggest SAN FRANCISCO if even without Jimmy G at QB.

No. 30 New York Giants (plus 6) at No. 25 Chicago

Two coaches on hot seats. A win for Chicago might not help Matt Nagy.


No. 18 Cleveland (minus 3) at No. 19 (tie) Pittsburgh, Monday night

There’s no upset Pro Picks feels strongly about, but we have to pick one — and our record has been pretty special.


No. 19 (tie) Minnesota (plus 6 1/2) at No. 1 Green Bay

The Packers have had issues holding bigger leads late in games. That ends Sunday night.

PACKERS, 29-20

No. 2 Kansas City (minus 5 1/2) at No. 9 Cincinnati

Two wins on the road will give the Chiefs AFC home-field advantage.

CHIEFS, 30-26

No. 11 Arizona (plus 5 1/2) at No. 3 Dallas

Arizona’s offense has stagnated. Dallas had the same issue, but has awakened.

COWBOYS, 26-16

No. 5 Los Angeles Rams (minus 3 1/2) at No. 15 (tie) Baltimore

Injury-ravaged Baltimore’s plummet will dump it out of the playoffs.

RAMS, 24-16

No. 23 Atlanta (plus 14 1/2) at No. 7 Buffalo

Buffalo’s road to the AFC East crown includes home games with the Falcons and Jets.

BILLS, 23-13


No. 32 Jacksonville (plus 15 1/2) at No. 10 New England

New England likes to pour it on against weak teams.


No. 4 Tampa Bay (minus 13) at No. 29 New York Jets

Tom Brady loves to pour it on against the Jets.


No. 12 Miami (plus 3 1/2) at No. 6 Tennessee

Tennessee has a shot at AFC home-field advantage, but the Dolphins are a resilient bunch.

TITANS, 20-19

No. 14 Philadelphia (minus 3 1/2) at No. 24 Washington

Philly’s surge toward the playoffs could pay off with a victory here.

EAGLES, 24-20

No. 22 Denver (plus 6) at No. 15 (tie) Los Angeles Chargers

Looks like a Lock that Denver QB Drew will be gone for 2022.


No. 28 Houston (plus 12 1/2) at No. 13 San Francisco

Rookie QBs Troy Lance for the Niners vs. Davis Mills for the Texans?

49ERS, 24-16

No. 31 Detroit (plus 7) at No. 26 Seattle

The Seahawks are the league’s most disappointing team.


No. 27 Carolina (plus 6 1/2) at No. 21 New Orleans

An impossible game to pick, but New Orleans is a bit healthier than last week.

SAINTS, 20-10



Last Week: Straight up: 11-5. Against spread: 9-7.

Season: Straight up: 157-82-1. Against spread: 134-103-2.

Best Bet: Straight up: 9-6-1. Against spread: 10-6.

Upset Special: Straight up: 13-2. Against spread: 13-2.


More AP NFL coverage: and