It's the most wonderful time of the year. I'm not talking about Christmas. I'm talking about the final two weeks of the NFL regular season, when teams' playoff fates are set and they begin managing workloads like they're Dirk Diggler. It makes survivor pools a bit easier to navigate for those who remain and have saved teams who are still fighting for postseason positioning.
Survivor pools will see 35% fewer entries this week, thanks mainly to the Tennessee Titans, who knocked out the 20.43% that locked them in for Week 16.
Before we dig into Week 17's Oops All Best Bets, let's take stock of how we fared last week:
Week 16 picks
Best Bets: 3-0 (YTD: 22-11)
Leans: 1-0 (YTD: 15-5)
Traps to avoid: 2 eliminations avoided (YTD: 18)
On to the Week 17 picks!
New York Giants (-6) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Indy's quarterback room is so dreadful, it's tough to tell whether the organization is tanking by starting Nick Foles again, or whether they think he gives them the best chance at winning. Losing out would ensure a top five pick — possibly in the top two or three — which would come in handy, considering the QB talent expected to come off the board early in the 2023 draft.
One thing we can be fairly certain of is that Foles is not a good quarterback. The Super Bowl MVP trophy sitting on his shelf was either the result of a glitch in the matrix or a collective fever dream. Whatever the case, he's no longer under the tutelage of quarterback whisperer Doug Pederson. His coach is Jeff Saturday, a man who barely eked out a winning record as a high school coach, and whose NFL team has been outscored 90-9 in the fourth quarter since he took over.
Foles performed terribly when pressured by the Chargers in his Week 16 start, posting a -1.20 EPA per attempt and a 25% success rate versus the blitz. New York blitzes at the league's highest rate (40.1%) and is tied with New England for the highest pressure rate (24.7%). This is an awful matchup for Foles, who's working behind an offensive line that ranks 32nd in ESPN's Pass Block Win Rate. The Giants are going to eat him up like Kirby.
Saquon Barkley is in a favorable position to feast on the offensive side of the ball, versus a Colts defense that's 28th in rushing success rate. New York can clinch a playoff berth with a win, so Brian Daboll will have extra motivation to reach deep into his offensive bag for this game.
The Giants are the third-most popular play this week, at 15.45%.
Dallas Cowboys (-11) at Tennessee Titans
Danny Ocean could assemble a heist crew with all the players Tennessee has ruled out for Thursday night's game. Six starters are already a no-go: quarterback Ryan Tannehill, offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, safety Amani Hooker, and linebackers Bud Dupree and Zach Cunningham. Running back Derrick Henry, linebacker Denico Autry, and cornerback Kristian Fulton are listed as doubtful to suit up in their starting roles. Nothing the Titans do in Week 17 will affect their playoff picture. Their only path to the postseason is by beating the Jaguars in Jacksonville next week.
Dallas, meanwhile, still has an outside shot at the NFC's top seed and a first-round bye if they defeat the Titans. Tennessee's offense scores the sixth-fewest points per drive, and that's with 12 games of Tannehill and 15 games of Henry. Once we dip down to QB Malik Willis and RB Hassan Haskins versus a Cowboys defense that ranks second in DVOA and is actually playing for something, we're en route to blowout city.
Jerry's team is the eighth-most popular survivor pick this week, at 3.19%.
Kansas City Chiefs (-12.5) vs. Denver Broncos
The Chiefs sport the same record as the Bills, but Buffalo owns the tiebreaker and currently holds the AFC's top seed. Denver has lost 10 of their last 12 games, leading to the axe dropping on rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett after an embarrassing 51-14 Christmas Day loss to the Rams that was broadcast to the world on Nickelodeon. You know things are bad when Patrick Star is clowning your starting quarterback.
We often see teams rally around new head coaches after a firing, but that's usually done earlier in the season when teams still have hope. There's no rallying and no saving these Broncos. They hitched their wagon to an anchor and find themselves at the bottom of the league in points per game (15.5). Denver gets dunked on by a Patrick in back-to-back weeks here.
At 7.15%, Kansas City is the sixth-most popular play.
San Francisco 49ers (-10) at Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas went from 6-point underdogs to 10-point underdogs on Wednesday after news broke that the Raiders are benching Derek Carr for the last two games of the season. Jarrett Stidham will be making his first NFL start in place of Carr, and it couldn't come at a worse time. San Francisco has one of the best defenses the NFL has seen in years, allowing just 15.3 points per game. Stidham is 32-for-61 passing in his career, with two touchdowns, four interceptions, and a 52.8 QB rating.
If the Bucs, Seahawks, and Commanders defenses couldn't stop Brock Purdy and the Niners offense, a Las Vegas unit that ranks 31st in DVOA won't be able to, either. San Francisco is striving for at least the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which would ensure them a minimum of two home games in the playoffs.
The Niners are the seventh-most popular option this week, at 6.13%.
TRAPS TO AVOID
Jacksonville Jaguars (-4.5) at Houston Texans
There's a very small chance the Jags could win this week, lose to the Titans in Week 18, and still end up making the playoffs. A lot of things would have to break their way for that scenario. It pretty much all comes down to their season finale versus Tennessee. They'll try to win this game, but 31.23% of the field is on them and they're only a 4.5-point favorite. Game theory dictates fading them unless a smaller percentage of your pool has them available to use.
Detroit Lions (-6) vs. Chicago Bears
Chicago isn't a good team, but they're good at running the ball. The Bears lead the NFL in rushing yards per game (179.7), which could be a problem for a Lions defense that was just gashed by the Panthers for 320 yards on the ground.
Detroit is the second-most popular survivor play this week, at 20.6%.
Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Chargers clinched a playoff spot last week and have no chance at securing a home game in the postseason. Safety Derwin James remains in concussion protocol, while running back Austin Ekeler is questionable to play with a knee injury. I'd rather ride with a team that has more to play for than take the Chargers on a short week.
The Bolts are the fourth-most popular pick, at 14.21%.
Stats provided by Pro Football Reference, teamrankings.com, Football Outsiders, SharpFootball, and rbsdm.com (garbage time removed).