Bleacher Report’s Expert Consensus Week 17 NFL Picks

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The penultimate week of the 2018 NFL regular season might have been the weirdest yet. Only two home teams covered the spread on a weekend that included plenty of wacky outcomes. 

    That didn’t work out particularly well for Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski. The consensus lost with three of those home teams (Philadelphia, Cleveland and New England) by a combined 2.5 points, while Gagnon also lost with the 49ers at home by a one-point margin. And the gang also suffered a brutal beat in the Packers-Jets game when the home side blew a big fourth-quarter lead in an ATS loss that required a two-point conversion, an improbable late field goal, a specific overtime coin-toss result and a first-possession Green Bay overtime touchdown.

    After a tough-luck Week 16, the experts are a combined 348-351-21 against the spread with one batch of games remaining. 

    Individually and as a crew, here’s where our predictors stand through 16 weeks (last week’s records in parentheses):

    1. Gary Davenport: 123-110-7 (8-7-1)

    2. Brent Sobleski: 113-120-7 (8-7-1)

    3. Brad Gagnon: 112-121-7 (6-9-1)

    Consensus picks: 114-119-7 (7-8-1)

    Here are 16 final shots at redemption. 

                                

    Lines based on consensuses at OddsShark as of Wednesday.

1 of 16

    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers look as though they’re toast. Ordinarily a strong home team, the Cam Newton-less Panthers lost in Charlotte to the eliminated Atlanta Falcons by 14 points in Week 16. They’re now without Newton and backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke, and they could rest star running back Christian McCaffrey in their Week 17 road matchup with the New Orleans Saints. 

    Even though the Saints have nothing to play for and are expected to rest quarterback Drew Brees, our crew figures they can still handle Carolina by a double-digit margin in their home finale. 

    “The Saints offense might not be as explosive with Teddy Bridgewater in the lineup rather than Brees,” Sobleski said, “but they’re still good enough to trounce a hampered rival to finish the regular season.”

    Bridgewater is considered one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. He’s attempted only one pass this season, but the 26-year-old has a Pro Bowl nod on his resume. He’ll be looking to put together a good showing in what amounts to an audition, while his opponent has lost nine of its last 10 road games. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: New Orleans (-9)
    Gagnon: New Orleans (-9)
    Sobleski: New Orleans (-9)
    Consensus: New Orleans (-9)

    Score Prediction: New Orleans 28, Carolina 13

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Houston Texans will go all out in their home finale since they’ll likely need a victory to lock up the AFC South title. And while the Jacksonville Jaguars have plenty of talent and nothing to lose in a divisional game, our analysts still feel comfortable supporting the Texans with less than a touchdown on the line. 

    But that doesn’t mean you should put all of your Week 17 eggs in Houston’s basket. 

    “This is a risky pick either way,” Gagnon admitted. “Jacksonville suddenly found life last week in Miami and could put up a fight with Blake Bortles back at quarterback in a road matchup with a team that isn’t much better off in terms of talent. Meanwhile, Houston has lost two of its last three games. That’s why I had the Jags covering when this spread was above a touchdown, but at 6.5, you have to go with the team that has something to play for at home.”

    While the Jaguars did indeed play surprisingly well against the Dolphins last week, they were generally lifeless in their previous two games against the Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins. That sample is twice as large, and there’s a good chance the Jags—who haven’t scored more than 17 points in any of their last four games—phone it in again here. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Houston (-6.5)
    Gagnon: Houston (-6.5)
    Sobleski: Houston (-6.5)
    Consensus: Houston (-6.5)

    Score Prediction: Houston 24, Jacksonville 13

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Dating back to Week 8, the Detroit Lions have averaged a paltry 15.1 points per game, ahead of only the lowly Arizona Cardinals. Detroit went 2-7 during that stretch, and one of those wins came against the Cards. 

    Will the Lions suddenly find life Sunday at Lambeau Field against a Green Bay Packers team that hasn’t given up based on last week’s thrilling overtime victory over the New York Jets? 

    Two of our three panelists aren’t counting on it, with picks leader Davenport joining Gagnon on the Packers minus eight.

    “The Packers will miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Aaron Rodgers era,” Davenport noted. “But as bad as it’s been in Titletown, things have been exponentially worse in Detroit. The Lions have fielded a craptastic offense of late, averaging only 14.2 points per contest over their last five games. In front of the home crowd at Lambeau, look for Rodgers and the Pack to take out some frustration over their lost season on the Lie-downs.”

    The Lions are 2-5 on the road, while the Packers are 5-1-1 at home, with three of those victories coming by at least 14 points. And Detroit appears to be out of gas, while Rodgers looks as though he’s trying to make a point. 

    That seemingly makes Green Bay a safe pick, but this is a tall eight-point spread in a divisional matchup between two teams with nothing on the line. That makes it somewhat tricky, and in Sobleski’s defense, those among this group who pick against the majority as lone wolves are 62-57-1 on the year.

    Predictions
    Davenport: Green Bay (-8)
    Gagnon: Green Bay (-8)
    Sobleski: Detroit (+8)
    Consensus: Green Bay (-8)

    Score Prediction: Green Bay 28, Detroit 17

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    While they’re the home team in a Week 17 matchup between eliminated division rivals, there’s still some shock among the panel that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are laying points (even if it’s only 1.5) against the Atlanta Falcons. 

    “I’d expect this to be a pick’em at the least,” Gagnon said, “because the Falcons are clearly the better team and have shown signs of life the last few weeks. Tampa Bay has lost three in a row, while the Falcons just recorded seven defensive takeaways in back-to-back one-sided victories over the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers. This game might be closer because the Bucs are better than the Cardinals and healthier than the Panthers, but Matt Ryan is back in a groove and the Atlanta defense has been performing well. The Falcons will win this by at least a field goal.”

    In the victories over Arizona and Carolina, Ryan threw five touchdown passes to zero interceptions while posting a 110.3 passer rating. And Takkarist McKinley, Grady Jarrett, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Sharrod Neasman and Damontae Kazee have been killing it for a defense that has nothing on the line. 

    That doesn’t that bode well for a Bucs pass defense that has the NFL’s third-worst DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) at Football Outsiders, or a Bucs offense that leads the NFL with 34 turnovers.

    Look for Atlanta to cover and deliver on the moneyline in its season finale. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Atlanta (+1.5)
    Gagnon: Atlanta (+1.5)
    Sobleski: Atlanta (+1.5)
    Consensus: Atlanta (+1.5)

    Score Prediction: Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 23

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Although his team has nothing to play for on the road in Week 17, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has made it clear that head coach Jason Garrett won’t bench starters against the New York Giants. 

    “We’re all-out,” Jones said earlier this week, per Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams. “We’ve got work to do. We’ve got some work to do out here, I think we’ll all agree. We don’t want to, if we can, go into the playoffs with dangling participles—loose ends.”

    “Anybody who is healthy and ready to play is going to play in the ball game,” Garrett added Wednesday, according to Williams

    With that in mind, our analysts unanimously think Dallas can afford to spot the Giants a six-point spread Sunday at MetLife Stadium. 

    After all, a loss would benefit the Giants, who have nothing on the line at 5-10 and could wind up with another top-five draft pick with a Week 17 loss. And their top offensive weapon, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., continues to be sidelined with a quad injury. There’s no telling how effective he’d be if he suits up, and there’s a good chance the three-time Pro Bowler misses a third consecutive game. 

    The Cowboys defense limited Beckham through the air and shut down Saquon Barkley on the ground when these teams met in Week 2, and that unit has only improved since then.

    Look for Dallas to make a statement against a rival that may already be thinking about the offseason following its Week 16 meltdown in Indianapolis. 

    “Keep in mind,” Gagnon said, “that the Cowboys have won four of their last six games straight-up against the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Those long-term historical head-to-head numbers are often useless, but not when we’re talking about two teams that share a division and haven’t gone through a lot of major changes in recent years.”

    Predictions
    Davenport: Dallas (+6)
    Gagnon: Dallas (+6)
    Sobleski: Dallas (+6)
    Consensus: Dallas (+6)

    Score Prediction: Dallas 23, New York 20

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    The New England Patriots beat the New York Jets by 14 points in New Jersey five weeks ago. The Patriots should therefore easily cover a 13.5-point spread in a home matchup with the Jets to wrap up the regular season, right? 

    Wrong, at least according to our analysts, who are unanimously on Gang Green’s side following a string of strong performances from rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who did not play in that Week 12 loss to the Pats.

    “Don’t look now, but Darnold is rounding into a franchise quarterback,” Sobleski said. “In fact, only Andrew Luck has performed better since Week 10, according to Pro Football Focus, and the rookie outdueled Aaron Rodgers in an overtime loss last week. The Jets may not be good enough to upset the Patriots, but New York has been playing better as of late and can keep this game close, especially with standout quarterback play.”

    Darnold’s numbers have improved dramatically each game since he returned from a foot injury in early December, and he wasn’t overwhelmed by a strong Texans defense in prime time or the legend of Rodgers in Week 16. 

    Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots present an entirely different, significantly more menacing hazard at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, but the Jets merely need to lose by 13 or fewer points there. 

    New England failed to cover a similar spread in that same spot last week against the Buffalo Bills. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: New York (+13.5)
    Gagnon: New York (+13.5)
    Sobleski: New York (+13.5)
    Consensus: New York (+13.5)

    Score Prediction: New England 27, New York 21

7 of 16

    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    The Buffalo Bills have yet to win at home by more than a field goal this season, but the majority of our panel expects that happen just before their disappointing 2018 season concludes. That’s at least partially because their Week 17 opponent looks like it has run out of gas.

    “Prior to Sunday’s 24-12 loss to the New England Patriots, the Bills’ previous four contests were decided by a total of 12 points,” Sobleski said. “So, a 3.5-point spread in the Bills’ favor is right on par with the team’s level of play as of late. The Miami Dolphins, on the other hand, have lost each of their last two contests by two or more scores, and they scored only 24 total points in those outings. The Bills’ second-ranked defense is the best Miami faces all season. With Josh Allen making plays, Buffalo should hold a distinct advantage, especially at home.”

    Miami is coming off a pair of dreadful losses and now has nothing on the line. The Dolphins have also lost six consecutive road games by an average margin of 17.7 points. With the Bills potentially inspired to finish strong in Orchard Park, this might feel like a no-brainer. 

    However, Buffalo hasn’t been consistent or reliable, and that pesky hook on the spread is a nuisance that our lone dissenting voice/2018 picks leader isn’t comfortable with considering the terrible play we’ve seen from both teams this season. 

    “If there was any justice in the universe,” Davenport said, “this game would just be cancelled—sparing the beleaguered fans of these lousy teams the three-hour trauma that is watching this turkey. Seriously, watching grass grow would probably be more entertaining than spending an afternoon watching these clown-car offenses bumble around the field in Buffalo. I feel dirty for even having to make a pick here. But I have to, so give me the points—and a bar of soap.”

    Predictions
    Davenport: Miami (+3.5)
    Gagnon: Buffalo (-3.5)
    Sobleski: Buffalo (-3.5)
    Consensus: Buffalo (-3.5)

    Score Prediction: Buffalo 20, Miami 14

8 of 16

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings are desperate for a win Sunday at home. Their opponent technically has reason to try to win as well, but it’d be a stretch to call the NFC North champion Chicago Bears desperate right now. 

    That’s why two of our three experts are siding with a Minnesota team that has put together back-to-back impressive performances since replacing offensive coordinator John DeFilippo with Kevin Stefanski.

    “I was back and forth on this call,” Davenport confessed, “as the Bears still have an outside shot at the No. 2 seed in the NFC if the San Francisco 49ers can beat the Los Angeles Rams. In related news, if frogs had wings, they wouldn’t bump their butts when they hop—which is my way of saying the Rams aren’t losing. Bears head coach Matt Nagy knows that, which leads me to wonder if we’ll see a vanilla game plan since the Bears may face these same Vikings in the Wild Card Round. Since a Vikings win at home puts them in the playoffs and they’re playing some of their best football of the season, I’ll begrudgingly lay the points.”

    That decision wasn’t even a begrudging one for Gagnon, who noted that the finally grooving Minnesota defense has flat-out embarrassed opposing quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Matthew Stafford over the last three weeks. 

    “The Vikes have surrendered two touchdowns on defense in their last three games,” Gagnon said, “and they’ve held Wilson, Tannehill and Stafford to a 51.3 completion percentage, a 3.9 yards-per-attempt average and a 55.6 passer rating during that stretch. The offense has also turned a corner under Stefanski. The Vikings have won four of their past five at home, and they’ve won impressively in each of their last five matinees that weren’t on national television.”

    Minnesota’s prime-time issues could be a problem in January, but the team’s strong track record in regular Sunday afternoon games could work to its advantage in Week 17 against a Bears team that may not be playing for much.

    Predictions
    Davenport: Minnesota (-4.5)
    Gagnon: Minnesota (-4.5)
    Sobleski: Chicago (+4.5)
    Consensus: Minnesota (-4.5)

    Score Prediction: Minnesota 24, Chicago 17

9 of 16

    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs have major incentive to win their Week 17 matchup with the Oakland Raiders. A win ensures they’ll be the AFC’s top seed, while a loss could relegate them to the Wild Card Game. 

    But a majority of our analysts believe the Chiefs will beat their division rival by two or more touchdowns at Arrowhead for an intangible reason, too.

    “In addition to locking up home-field advantage,” Davenport said, “the Chiefs are going to want to re-establish some positive momentum after those back-to-back setbacks. The best way to do that is by dropping a piano on the Raiders. Look out below.”

    The Raiders may be coming a strong performance in a Week 16 victory over the Denver Broncos, but that was an emotional home finale in what might have been the last-ever game at Oakland Coliseum. Now they head out on the road in Kansas City, where the Chiefs have four double-digit wins this season and the Raiders have lost five consecutive games. 

    Gagnon would caution that the last three of those games were decided by 11 or fewer points and that Oakland hung with Kansas City when the two met earlier this month. But it still isn’t hard to imagine the Chiefs running away with this now that the Raiders have wrapped up their home schedule and may be thinking about their New Year’s Eve plans. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Kansas City (-13.5)
    Gagnon: Oakland (+13.5)
    Sobleski: Kansas City (-13.5)
    Consensus: Kansas City (-13.5)

    Score Prediction: Kansas City 37, Oakland 20

10 of 16

    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers might fall short of the playoffs regardless of what happens in their season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, but oddsmakers still feel Ben Roethlisberger and Co. will be inspired enough to destroy their hurting AFC North rival. 

    Davenport and Gagnon don’t doubt Pittsburgh is still determined to finish strong, but unlike Sobleski, they aren’t laying 14.5 points. 

    “Don’t get me wrong—I think the Steelers will win this game,” Davenport said. “You can’t spike egg nog hard enough for me to pick Cincinnati to win outright over Pittsburgh, which happens approximately never. However, last week’s backdoor cover against the Browns was the Bengals’ third straight. They’re 5-2 ATS on the road this year, and double-digit favorites have failed to cover more often than not this season. This call doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies (more like the cold and nauseousies), but I just can’t wrap my head around laying two touchdownsplus.”

    The Bengals have lost seven straight and 10 of their last 11 matchups with the Steelers, but they’ve lost by more than 14 points in only two of the last 14 meetings. And as Davenport acknowledged, double-digit favorites are 15-18-1 against the spread while teams favored by more than 14 points are just 1-3 ATS this season. 

    The Steelers have dropped four of their last five games overall, and they may be out of gas after an exhilarating victory over the Patriots followed by a deflating loss to the Saints. What will a clearly flawed and mistake-prone team have left against a backdoor-cover-happy rival with nothing to lose? Who knows, but this number might be too high under those circumstances.

    Predictions
    Davenport: Cincinnati (+14.5)
    Gagnon: Cincinnati (+14.5)
    Sobleski: Pittsburgh (-14.5)
    Consensus: Cincinnati (+14.5)

    Score Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 17

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    We have to accept that Cleveland Browns are a good team. Maybe even a great one. 

    Cleveland has lost one game since Nov. 5. Four of its five victories in that six-game span came by at least six points. During that stretch, rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield has been the highest-rated qualified passer in the AFC, while rookie running back Nick Chubb has rushed for more yardage than all but two AFC backs. Oh, and the defense has surrendered more than 20 points only once.

    So this isn’t a fluke, which is why the majority of our experts are giving the Browns a shot to play spoiler by covering a six-point Baltimore Ravens spread Sunday in Maryland. 

    “Mayfield is coming off an AFC Offensive Player of the Week performance against the Bengals,” Sobleski said. “The Ravens’ top-ranked defense is a different animal, but the rookie didn’t back down the last time these two teams faced off. He threw for 342 yards and led his team to an overtime victory in only his second start. Now, Mayfield gets to play spoiler and possibly knock the Ravens out of the playoffs.”

    Cleveland will also be the most dangerous defense rookie Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has faced as a starter. The Browns lead the AFC with 30 takeaways, and they recently shut down mobile quarterbacks Cam Newton and Jeff Driskel on the ground. (Jackson was hardly a factor when the two teams met in October, rushing three times for 10 yards.) 

    But Davenport’s dissenting voice is strong. Let’s hear the picks champion out.

    “Had the Browns not wasted half of the 2018 season on the Hue without a clue (or been robbed by terrible officiating in Oakland), we would be talking about Cleveland as a playoff team, which I’m pretty sure is one of the seven portents of the apocalypse,” he said. “But as good as the Browns have been of late, they aren’t going to be able to cap their amazing turnaround by ruining the former Browns’ season. Baltimore is playing too well, and Cleveland has struggled to stop the run, allowing almost 125 yards per game on the ground. The Ravens will punch their ticket to the postseason with a double-digit win in front of the home crowd. Sorry, Pittsburgh.”

    Baltimore hasn’t lost in regulation since Week 9. Jackson is as unique as they come, and the Ravens defense has given up a league-low 17.5 points per game. Seeing as it’ll only take a touchdown for the Ravens to cover, it’s fair to deem this game to be unworthy of your hard-earned money. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Baltimore (-6)
    Gagnon: Cleveland (+6)
    Sobleski: Cleveland (+6)
    Consensus: Cleveland (+6)

    Score Prediction: Baltimore 21, Cleveland 20

12 of 16

    Harry How/Getty Images

    Against two playoff-bound opponents, the Nick Foles-led Philadelphia Eagles have scored a combined 62 points in back-to-back do-or-die victories. The former came on the road, while the latter came courtesy of a heroic last-minute scoring drive to cap a fourth-quarter comeback. 

    So, do the Eagles have their Super Bowl magic back? While only one of our three panelists thinks a Philly win would give it a shot at the playoffs—Davenport and Gagnon both have Minnesota winning and covering against Chicago, which would eliminate the Eagles regardless of this result—the trio unanimously agrees the Eagles will at least do their part with a victory over the Washington Redskins. 

    “The depleted Redskins have lost their last three home games by a combined 50 points,” Gagnon said, “and they’ll probably be feeling a lack of inspiration Sunday following a season-icing defeat at the hands of the Tennessee Titans in Week 16. They might not get blown out, but I don’t think they have the motivation or the talent in their current shape to hang with a red-hot opponent.”

    Red-hot is right when it comes to Foles, who posted 108.4 passer rating in his first two starts in relief of the once-again-injured Carson Wentz. The man was in a zone last week against a high-quality Texans defense, and he’ll now go up against a defense that surrendered 40 points in its last home game to a Giants offense that was without Odell Beckham Jr. 

    Washington’s D has performed better the last two weeks against Jacksonville and Tennessee, but it now must deal with the streaking and hungry defending champions. 

    Oddsmakers could have at least offered you a full touchdown for the Redskins. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Philadelphia (-6.5)
    Gagnon: Philadelphia (-6.5)
    Sobleski: Philadelphia (-6.5)
    Consensus: Philadelphia (-6.5)

    Score Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Washington 16

13 of 16

    Abbie Parr/Getty Images

    How much do the Seattle Seahawks value playing the fourth-seeded Cowboys rather than the third-seeded Bears or Rams in the Wild Card Round? Well, they don’t plan to rest their starters, which is all our analysts had to hear before jumping on Seattle minus 13.5 points in its season-closing matchup with the last-place Arizona Cardinals. 

    “The Seahawks have reason to want that No. 5 seed almost as much as the Cardinals want the No. 1 pick,” Davenport said.

    “The Cards made the mistake of nearly losing that top pick when they beat the Packers on the road at the start of December,” Gagnon added, “but they won’t screw up like that again. They’ll keep throwing a clearly overwhelmed Josh Rosen to the wolves while getting pummeled, and on Sunday, I’d expect them to fall by 14-plus points for the fourth consecutive week.”

    Arizona has been outscored 88-26 in three consecutive losses, with Rosen throwing zero touchdown passes to three interceptions for a 59.2 passer rating during that stretch. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have won four straight home games by an average margin of 12.8 points, and the Cardinals have lost an NFC-high seven games by 14-plus points this season. 

    The Cards hung with the Seahawks in a 20-17 home loss before Seattle got hot back in September, but these teams have moved in different directions since. Besides, this game is in a different site, and only one team wants to win anyway. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Seattle (-13.5)
    Gagnon: Seattle (-13.5)
    Sobleski: Seattle (-13.5)
    Consensus: Seattle (-13.5)

    Score Prediction: Seattle 28, Arizona 13

14 of 16

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers are the only team in the NFL that has yet to win on the road this season, and that isn’t likely to change Sunday at the Los Angeles Rams. That’s because, like Arizona, San Francisco has no incentive to beat a superior team that has plenty of incentive to play hard. 

    And while the 49ers don’t get blown out as often as their three-win division mate, our crew still agrees unanimously that the Rams will come away with a double-digit victory in order to secure a first-round bye. 

    “The Rams just love to beat up on weaklings,” Gagnon said. “In their five games this season against teams that are currently 5-10 or worse, they outscored the competition 167-48, with all five wins coming by at least two touchdowns.”

    That latest blowout came in Week 16, when they trounced the Cards 31-9 despite the absence of star running back Todd Gurley. 

    That may or may not be the case again in Week 17, but the Rams still look like a safe bet laying 10 points at home against a team they crushed 39-10 on the road earlier this season. 

    “You have to establish the run in order to neutralize the Rams’ pass rush, ” Gagnon said, “but the 49ers running game has the second-worst DVOA in the NFL. And you have to find a way to turn over Jared Goff in order to get the Rams flustered on offense, but the 49ers defense ranks dead last in the NFL with seven takeaways. It’s just not a good matchup.”

    Predictions
    Davenport: Los Angeles (-10)
    Gagnon: Los Angeles (-10)
    Sobleski: Los Angeles (-10)
    Consensus: Los Angeles (-10)

    Score Prediction: Los Angeles 31, San Francisco 17

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers are likely locked in as the AFC’s No. 5 seed, but that won’t be a certainty when their Week 17 matchup with the Denver Broncos kicks off. So there’s little reason to expect them to let up against an injury-plagued opponent that appears to be running on fumes.

    “The Chargers are on extra rest,” Gagnon said, “while the Broncos are on short rest. The Chargers need this, while the Broncos would be better off losing it. And the Chargers are healthy, while the Broncos are far from it.”

    That about sums up why the entire gang is willing to lay 6.5 points in support of the Bolts on the road. 

    “Denver may have defeated Los Angeles in Southern California earlier this season,” Gagnon added, “but that Denver team was a contender that featured key players Phillip Lindsay, Emmanuel Sanders and Chris Harris Jr. This is a Denver team that is no longer a contender, and Lindsay, Sanders and Harris are now on injured reserve.”

    Case closed with less than a touchdown on the line, right? 

    Nothing comes easy against the house, but it would be hard to justify riding with a Broncos team that has lost three straight games at the hands of San Francisco, Cleveland (at home) and Oakland. The Broncos might be toast, while the still-hungry, deeply talented Chargers are looking to bounce back from a tough Saturday loss to Baltimore. 

    And don’t forget that the Bolts are perfect in their seven games outside of Los Angeles this season. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Los Angeles (-6.5)
    Gagnon: Los Angeles (-6.5)
    Sobleski: Los Angeles (-6.5)
    Consensus: Los Angeles (-6.5)

    Score Prediction: Los Angeles 27, Denver 13

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    The final game of the 2018 NFL regular season is cloaked in mystery, mainly because Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota had yet to practice midway through the week as a result of a stinger. 

    Mariota’s unpromising status combined with injuries already sidelining key Titans starters Jack Conklin, Jurrell Casey, Logan Ryan, Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith has the panel in agreement that the Colts should win and cover a 3.5-point spread on the road. But Gagnon is still preaching caution. 

    “If you can find a sportsbook to give you Indianapolis -3 or you’re able to buy back a half-point for peace of mind, do it,” Gagnon said, “because this will likely be a low-scoring, tight game regardless of Tennessee’s injury situation. The Titans are at home, where they beat the playoff-bound Texans with Blaine Gabbert as their starter back in September, and where they easily disposed of the still-alive Redskins with Gabbert serving as their highest-rated quarterback in Week 16. Plus, the Tennessee defense has surrendered just 25 points in its last three games.”

    All three of those games were wins for a team that hasn’t lost in December despite that aforementioned attrition. But they had Conklin and Smith for two of those games, Ryan for three of them and Casey and Mariota for three-and-a-half of them. 

    Plus, the Colts defense has also been superb, holding four of their last nine opponents to 10 or fewer points. They’re also the much healthier team, and they’re only six weeks removed from a 28-point victory over these Titans. 

    This almost certainly won’t be that lopsided, but Indy should be able to clear a 3.5-point hurdle Sunday night.

    Predictions
    Davenport: Indianapolis (-3.5)
    Gagnon: Indianapolis (-3.5)
    Sobleski: Indianapolis (-3.5)
    Consensus: Indianapolis (-3.5)

    Score Prediction: Indianapolis 21, Tennessee 16

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