No question you should wait until right before kickoffs on Sunday to place your NFL bets on several games in Week 17 because it's all about which teams still have any motivation in their finale and which don't. Here are three games I would steer clear from.
Absolutely nothing at all for either side to play for here. Houston clinched its second straight AFC South title last week and will be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and host the top wild-card team next weekend no matter what. Thus one would presume that Texans coach Bill O'Brien would rest his starters. Yet O'Brien says resting guys isn't high on his list of priorities and his club will play to win. I call B.S. on that! I understand giving Tom Savage the start at QB for a second straight week because he needs the reps as an inexperienced young guy. But there's no reason to play any other key guy -- top running back Lamar Miller, for example, is dealing with an ankle injury and sat out Week 16. I can see O'Brien leaving his first-team offense in for the first half to help protect Savage but then he pulls the plug on everyone. The Titans had the worst Week 16 of anyone, losing by three touchdowns in Jacksonville, being eliminated from playoff contention and seeing star QB Marcus Mariota break his leg. He might be ready for OTAs late this spring. So it's journeyman Matt Cassel making his first start as a Titan and ideally the last start of his NFL career. Someone named Alex Tanney has been promoted from the practice squad to back him up. I suppose the Titans have the small motivation of finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2011. But I don't trust Savage or especially Cassel.
We stay in the AFC South here with two teams playing out the string. The Colts disappointed for the second year in a row and have missed the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since 1997-98, which was the year before Peyton Manning was drafted and then his rookie season. I'm not sure Coach Chuck Pagano survives this even though he shockingly got a five-year extension after last season when he was reportedly not coming back. Pagano says he won't rest any healthy starters and the Colts have never lost a regular-season finale under him. One of those starters has individual motivation here: receiver T.Y. Hilton. He leads the NFL with 1,353 yards and will try to hold off Odell Beckham (1,323) and Julio Jones (1,313) for that title. The Jaguars looked like the team many expected them to be entering this season in Week 16: that is, a potential AFC South contender. In their first game since firing Coach Gus Bradley and naming Doug Marrone the interim guy the Jags dominated the Titans 38-17. It was the first time that Jacksonville had ever won a game in which Blake Bortles threw for at least 300 yards. That's a crazy stat. The Jags had been 0-10 in his career in that scenario. The Jaguars actually go for the season sweep here after beating Indianapolis in London in Week 4.
If this game meant anything to Pittsburgh, it would likely be a two-touchdown favorite on NFL picks. But the Steelers wrapped up the AFC North title and the conference's third seed last week in a thrilling last-second win over rival Baltimore. Ben Roethlisberger already has spoken out that he believes the key Pittsburgh starters should rest in this game for the wild-card round (probably against Miami). And Coach Mike Tomlin has agreed with Big Ben as he will sit Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. I doubt they are the only starters to sit. So are the Pittsburgh backups better than the Browns' starters? I have honestly no idea. And I'm not really sure why the Browns would want to play hard here as they get the top pick in the 2017 draft with a loss -- although current players don't care about that stuff. It sounds like Cody Kessler will be the quarterback here with Robert Griffin III suffering a concussion in last week's first win of the season, coming against San Diego. I'm not sure why the Browns would risk Kessler as he might have a future with the team and already has suffered two concussions himself this year. Basically, this will be like a JV football game.