KC Joyner's Week 17 NFL pick'em selections

KC Joyner, one of the most accurate pick'em experts in the business over the past six years, details his winners for all of the Week 17 matchups.

KC Joyner

29 Dec, 2020

My Week 16 picks went 8-8, bringing my 2020 season mark to 160-79, or a 66.9 percent win rate that is tied for 13th highest among the more than 100 analysts tracked by Pickwatch.com.

 

Here are my Week 17 picks. Each section details which team is predicted to win and provides a quick summary of why that selection was made. The picks also contain a confidence value for each selection, based on a 1-10 scale with “10” being the most confident and “1” being the least confident.

 

Now on to the picks!

 

Sunday, January 3

 

Miami at Buffalo

 

KC’s pick: Miami

 

Confidence level: 4

 

This is the first of many games that could be impacted by if coaches decide to rest their starters for the postseason. Buffalo may decide to do that since Pittsburgh, the other contender for the No. 2 seed in the AFC, is resting its starters, but the Bills may also be fired up to earn a fifth straight win over the Dolphins for the first time since 1989. Miami’s offense has faltered some during Tua Tagovailoa’s recent slump, but the Dolphins have still posted 22+ points and 360+ offensive yards in three straight games. Add that to Miami having Fitzmagic available if Tua continues to struggle and the Dolphins needing this game to clinch an AFC Wild Card spot and the Fins are the selection in this one.

 

New Orleans at Carolina

 

KC’s pick: New Orleans

 

Confidence level: 8

 

Any concern about the Saints offense that came up during their relative slump in Weeks 14-15 were more than allayed with the 583 offensive yards and 52 points scored in a Week 16 destruction of Minnesota. Alvin Kamara’s six touchdowns were the most highlighted element of that contest, but the Saints also tallied a season high 319 net passing yards. The Panthers deserve credit for a feisty win over Washington last week, but it can’t be overlooked that Carolina allowed 386 offensive yards to a Football Team that might have fielded the worst 1-2 quarterback combination in the league this season. Combine that with the Saints having a legitimate chance at earning a first-round bye and this pick lands in their column.

 

Green Bay at Chicago

 

KC’s pick: Green Bay

 

Confidence level: 6

 

This is a de facto playoff game, as the Packers can earn a first-round bye with a win and the Bears will land a playoff berth if they are victorious. It should also be a very high scoring contest, as Chicago has posted 30+ points in each of the past four games and the Packers have racked up 30+ points in five of their past six matchups. Green Bay is also doing a fantastic job of protecting the football, as the Green and Gold have tallied only one giveaway since Week 11. Chicago counters that with a recent surge in takeaways, having generated six in the past four weeks. The Bears have home-field advantage, but the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, whose phenomenal 44-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio almost assures he will be the 2020 NFL MVP, so Green Bay is the go-to option here.

 

Baltimore at Cincinnati

 

KC’s pick: Baltimore

 

Confidence level: 8

 

The Ravens are once again proving that elite power rushing can win games, as Baltimore has won its last four contests in large part due to gaining 933 yards on the ground in that span. That rushing dominance has also helped the Ravens defense to return to its top 10 form, as Baltimore has allowed only 420 passing yards and 116 rushing yards in the past two games combined. Cincinnati deserves a ton of credit for tallying 64 points in back-to-back wins over the Steelers and Texans but allowing 166 rushing yards to Houston is a bad omen for the Bengals. Add that to Baltimore needing this game to land an AFC Wild Card berth and the Ravens are the easy selection in this one.

 

Pittsburgh at Cleveland

 

KC’s pick: Cleveland

 

Confidence level: 3

 

To get an idea of just how overwhelming Pittsburgh has been in this series, note that the Browns have posted only six wins over the Steelers in this millennium. That element and the fact that Pittsburgh’s only other motivation to win this game is an outside shot of moving from the No. 3 to the No. 2 seed in the AFC may be why the Steelers have decided to rest Ben Roethlisberger and could give other starters limited playing time. Cleveland also has an even greater motivation than pride, as the Browns will clinch their first playoff berth since 2002 with a win, so they are the preferred choice here.

 

Minnesota at Detroit

 

KC’s pick: Minnesota

 

Confidence level: 6

 

These teams seem to both be competing for the title of worst defense in the NFL. Last week, the Vikings allowed 50+ points for only the third time in team history while allowing Alvin Kamara to become only the second player in league history to score six rushing touchdowns in a single game. The Lions have given up 40+ points on five occasions this year and have a very good chance of setting a new team record for most yards allowed in a single season. The difference maker here is that Matthew Stafford is battling thumb and ankle injuries and might end up missing this game, so the Vikings are the selection here by a comfortable margin.

 

Tennessee at Houston

 

KC’s pick: Tennessee

 

Confidence level: 7

 

A lot of attention has been paid to how easily Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense controlled last week’s game against the Titans, but it should also be noted that Tennessee set season lows in passing yards and points scored in the embarrassing loss at Lambeau Field. The Texans defense is exactly the kind of remedy the Titans need to bounce back, as Houston just allowed a season high in passing yards to a Cincinnati team playing a backup quarterback who hadn’t thrown for more than 217 yards in three previous starts this year. Mash those elements with the Titans needing this game to win the AFC South and Tennessee is the pick here.

 

Jacksonville at Indianapolis

 

KC’s pick: Indianapolis

 

Confidence level: 8

 

The Colts were just about ready to lock down an AFC playoff berth last week when they allowed the Steelers to come back from a 17-point second half deficit for the first time in the Mike Tomlin era. That defeat now means that Indianapolis needs a win in this contest plus some help to qualify for the postseason. As usual, the Colts success will rely on not giving the ball away, as they are 8-1 when posting zero or one giveaways and 2-4 when they have two or more giveaways. Since Jacksonville has tallied only four games with 2+ takeaways and hasn’t scored more than 17 points in a game since Week 13, this pick leans heavily in the Colts direction.

 

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City

 

KC’s pick: Los Angeles

 

Confidence level: 3

 

Were these teams both playing at full strength, this would be an easy selection for a Chiefs squad that has the best record in the league and has won 12 of the last 13 against the Chargers. That won’t be the case in this contest, as Andy Reid has already announced that Kansas City will be resting many of its key starters in a game that has no bearing on the Chiefs since they have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Chargers haven’t had anything to play for since just after midseason, but Anthony Lynn has pushed this club to play to win in its current three-game winning streak, so the Bolts will be the selection here.

 

New York Jets at New England

 

KC’s pick: New York

 

Confidence level: 3

 

New York head coach Adam Gase is all but certain to get fired soon after the 2020 season is over, but he deserves big-time kudos for keeping his team motivated under less than stellar circumstances. The Jets have won two straight and were it not for one terrible play call by Gregg Williams, they would have won three of the past four. The Patriots look to be on the flip side of this equation, as following a 45-0 destruction of the Chargers in Week 13 the Patriots have lost three straight and have looked almost disinterested a good portion of the time. Bill Belichick will do all he can to extend the nine-game win streak the Patriots currently have over the Jets, but Gase’s squad will be just as fired up to end that trend, so the Jets are the pick.

 

Dallas at New York Giants

 

KC’s pick: Dallas

 

Confidence level: 7

 

It’s amazing that the Cowboys and Giants, teams that both had 2-7 marks at one point this season, are in a battle where the winner might potentially be the NFC East champion. The main factor that has vaulted Dallas here is a defense that racked up 10 turnovers in its current three-game win streak, but the offense also deserves more than its share of credit for the Cowboys having scored 30+ points in each of those contests. The Giants are moving in the opposite direction, as they have lost three straight and have tallied only one takeaway and a meager 26 points in that span. It’s tough to imagine many scenarios where these divergent trends both switch, so Dallas is the choice.

 

Washington at Philadelphia

 

KC’s pick: Washington

 

Confidence level: 5

 

Washington was on track to win the NFC East title, but they have now lost two straight due primarily to abysmal quarterback play that has led to six giveaways and only 28 points scored in those contests. It is possible that this issue will be resolved with the return of Alex Smith to the lineup, but even if Smith is able to play through his calf injury, he could face constant pressure from an Eagles defense that has excelled in that area for most of this season. Washington’s pass defense has played at a shutdown level of late, but the Football Team has allowed 294 rushing yards over the past two games. That is an unfortunate weakness against an Eagles offense that has racked up 514 rushing yards in the three games that Jalen Hurts has started, so this one lands in Philadelphia’s column. 1/1/2021 UPDATE: With Miles Sanders, Fletcher Cox, Dallas Goedert, DeSean Jackson, Jalen Mills, Derek Barnett, Jordan Mailata, Duke Riley, and Richard Rodgers all out for Philadelphia, the Football Team now gets this pick by a solid margin.

 

Atlanta at Tampa Bay

 

KC’s pick: Tampa Bay

 

Confidence level: 6

 

The Buccaneers are hitting their stride at the right time, as Tampa Bay has now posted three straight victories following their Week 13 bye, the latest of which was a 47-7 obliteration of Detroit. Some of that win occurred due to the Lions secondary injuries, but no team ever has to justify their success after posting 477 passing yards and 588 total yards. Tampa Bay also looks to have solved its giveaway issues, as they have tallied zero of those during the win streak. Atlanta found a short-term energy source when Raheem Morris took over and won four out of six at one point, but they have since lost four straight and scored 17 or fewer points in three of those games. Add all of this to Bruce Arians saying the Buccaneers aren’t going to rest starters and will play to win and this being a home contest for Tampa Bay and they end up as the pick.

 

Las Vegas at Denver

 

KC’s pick: Las Vegas

 

Confidence level: 4

 

Had it not been for an inability to close out a goal to go overtime drive against the Chargers in Week 15 and facing both Fitzmagic and an incredibly foolish facemask grab by Arden Key in Week 16, the Raiders could very well be in AFC Wild Card contention. The Silver and Black offense has certainly held its own of late, as Las Vegas has gained 420+ offensive yards in four straight games and 300+ passing yards in three of the past four. A big issue for the Raiders is they haven’t tallied a single takeaway since Week 13, but that trend should end against a Denver offense that has generated at least one giveaway in every contest this year and 2+ giveaways on ten occasions. Converge those factors with the Broncos having scored fewer than 20 points in four of the past five games and the Raiders are the selection.

 

Arizona at Los Angeles Rams

 

KC’s pick: Arizona

 

Confidence level: 3

 

Injuries could not have come at a worse time for the Rams, as Los Angeles will be without Jared Goff, Cam Akers, and Darrell Henderson in this matchup and could be without Cooper Kupp depending on his COVID-19 testing status. The Rams passing game was already in terrible shape even with those players in the lineup, as Los Angeles had tallied fewer than 220 net passing yards in four of the past five games. The saving grace for the Rams is a defense that has allowed more than 300 yards only once since Week 10, but even that didn’t keep opponents from scoring 20+ points in five of those six contests. There is an outside chance Arizona will be without Kyler Murray, but even if that is the case the Cardinals still have more offensive weapons than the Rams and thus earn this pick.

 

Seattle at San Francisco

 

KC’s pick: Seattle

 

Confidence level: 6

 

The midseason switch to the power-centric approach was just what the Seahawks needed to turn things around, as they have now won five of the past six and have allowed 17 or fewer points in five of those contests. Seattle has also benefitted from improved health at running back that has helped the Seahawks post 160+ rushing yards three times since Week 11. Kyle Shanahan has worked wonders in dealing with the 49ers myriad injuries and can lean on a ground game that generated 377 yards over the past two weeks, but the 49ers still have an inconsistent backup quarterback and have tallied 2+ giveaways in eight of the past nine games, so Seattle is the selection.