The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (14-1) are the only team in the NFL that has clinched a specific seed in this year’s playoffs, leaving the door open for several others to move up, down, in or out of the postseason picture in a pivotal Week 17. That is why the Chiefs are 3.5-point home underdogs on the NFL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com against the Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) for Sunday, and why bettors will need to pay extra close attention to which teams are motivated to win.
For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) have already announced they will rest starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and give backup Mason Rudolph the nod for Sunday’s AFC North matchup with the Cleveland Browns (10-5). The Steelers may also decide to rest more starters despite the fact that they could end up with the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a win over the Browns and a loss by the Buffalo Bills (12-3) to the Miami Dolphins (10-5) as small home favorites. The Bills could choose to rest some players too, so stay tuned for news there.
Cleveland is listed as a 10-point home favorite at online betting sites against Pittsburgh and needs to win or see the Indianapolis Colts (10-5) lose in order to make its first playoff appearance since 2002. Indianapolis hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) later Sunday as 14-point home chalk but lost to them 27-20 as a 7-point road favorite back in Week 1.
The Baltimore Ravens (10-5) are in the mix for a Wild Card spot in the AFC as well, and they are in with a victory against the Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1) as 13-point road chalk. The Ravens could finish as high as the No. 5 seed if the Dolphins lose to the Bills or not make the postseason at all with a loss to the Bengals or tie and win by the Colts.
Indianapolis needs a victory or tie and loss or tie by Baltimore, Cleveland or Miami to get in, or can clinch the AFC South title with a win and loss by the Tennessee Titans (10-5), who are in with a win or loss by the Ravens or Dolphins. The Titans remain in the driver’s seat atop the AFC South and visit the Houston Texans (4-11) in the season finale for the second year in a row as 7.5-point road favorites.
If you think that is confusing, then the NFC playoff race could hurt your head even more. The Green Bay Packers (12-3) can lock up the No. 1 seed in the conference with a victory against the Chicago Bears (8-7) or loss by the Seattle Seahawks (11-4) to the San Francisco 49ers (6-9). The Packers and Seahawks are coincidentally both 5.5-point road favorites. The Bears need a win or loss by the Arizona Cardinals (8-7) to the Los Angeles Rams (9-6) to make the postseason. The Cardinals and Rams are each dealing with injuries to their starting quarterbacks, with Los Angeles signal-caller Jared Goff already ruled out after thumb surgery.
The New Orleans Saints (11-4) can lock up the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a victory against the Carolina Panthers (5-10) as 6.5-point road chalk. Then finally in the NFC East, the Washington Football Team (6-9) controls its own destiny for the division title and No. 4 seed.
A win for Washington as a 2-point road favorite over the Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) on Sunday night is all that is needed for the team to get in. Otherwise, the winner of an earlier divisional matchup between the Dallas Cowboys (6-9) and New York Giants (5-10) would claim the NFC East title if Washington loses. The Cowboys are listed as 3-point road chalk and riding a three-game winning streak overall, also taking each of the past seven meetings with the Giants (going 6-1 against the spread), according to the OddsShark NFL Database.