NFL Week 17 Picks

We have reached the final week of the 2008 NFL Season so don’t miss on betting the final regular season action. Our team of handicappers and writers hand out four free picks for Week 17.

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Oakland Raiders (4-11) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5), 1:00 PM ET

Ever since Oakland lost the Super Bowl to Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2002 season, the Raiders have been one of the NFL's worst teams.

That didn't change in 2008, but they can close the year by making sure Gruden's club will be home for January, too.

Three straight losses at the most inopportune time have left the Buccaneers' playoff chances in peril, and they'll need help to earn a second consecutive berth even if they beat Oakland in the regular-season finale at home on Sunday.

Tampa Bay (9-6) was 9-3 three weeks ago, and despite having a pair of tough divisional road games on its schedule, the team still seemed in good position to get back to the playoffs.

While defeats at Carolina and Atlanta earlier this month were somewhat more palatable, last Sunday's 41-24 home loss to San Diego left a bad taste in the Bucs' mouths as they turned the ball over three times and allowed 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

It was the first home loss this season for Tampa Bay, which fell into third place in the NFC South after winning the division last year. The team is tied with Dallas and Chicago for the NFC's final wild-card spot, but the Cowboys hold the tiebreaker, meaning the Bucs need to win and have Dallas lose at Philadelphia later on Sunday to make the playoffs.

Aside from the Super Bowl, the Raiders have won five of six all-time against the Bucs, but they've only visited Tampa once, losing 20-17 in overtime in 1996.

Pick: Oakland View Game Matchup | Best Line: +13

New York Giants (12-3) at Minnesota Vikings (9-6), 1:00 PM ET

Last week, the Minnesota Vikings missed a chance to render its regular-season finale virtually meaningless. This game could be a bit easier, however, because the New York Giants did just that.

With the Giants having clinched the NFC's No. 1 seed, that could turn out to be a big break for the Vikings as they again try to wrap up a division title on Sunday at the Metrodome.

As was the case going into last weekend, Minnesota (9-6) can clinch the NFC North with either a victory or a loss by Chicago. The Vikings had a four-game winning streak snapped with a 24-17 home loss to Atlanta last Sunday, and the following night, the Bears beat Green Bay 20-17 in overtime.

Minnesota fell into a tie atop the division with Chicago, which visits Houston on Sunday afternoon, but owns the tiebreaker. The Vikings haven't won a division crown since taking the NFC Central in 2000.

In his last meeting with the Giants, Jackson went 10-for-12 for 129 yards and a touchdown as the Vikings won easily despite playing without an injured Peterson.

However, New York has won three in a row at the Metrodome.

Pick: Minnesota View Game Matchup | Best Line: -7

St. Louis Rams (2-13) at Atlanta Falcons (10-5), 1:00PM ET

The St. Louis Rams will be banking on a new regime to bounce back from yet another terrible season.

That approach has certainly worked for the Atlanta Falcons.

With a first-year general manager, coach and quarterback, the Falcons have a chance to win the NFC South on Sunday as they conclude the regular season against a Rams team that is already looking to next year.

Jay Zygmunt, St. Louis' president of football operations, resigned Monday in the fallout from another terrible season. It's the first of many changes the Rams (2-13) are expected to make over the next few months.

At this same point last season, Atlanta (10-5) won its final regular-season game to finish 4-12. No one thought the Falcons would become a playoff contender one year after quarterback Michael Vick was sent to federal prison, convicted of funding a dogfighting operation.

But new general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith cleaned house, releasing a number of veterans. They drafted quarterback Matt Ryan in the first round, and he has led Atlanta to its first playoff appearance since 2004.

The Falcons clinched a postseason spot with a 24-17 win over Minnesota on Sunday.

Atlanta can win the NFC South and earn a first-round bye with a win over St. Louis and if Carolina loses at New Orleans. If that scenario occurs, the Falcons and Panthers would each finish 11-5, with Atlanta winning the tiebreakers based on its 8-4 conference record.

Pick: Atlanta View Game Matchup | Best Line: -14

Carolina Panthers (11-4) at New Orleans Saints (8-7), 1:00PM ET

After squandering an opportunity to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Carolina Panthers want to make sure they at least finish No. 1 in their division.

Either getting to rest during the first week of the playoffs or having to spend it playing on the road is what's at stake Sunday for the Panthers, who seek their first NFC South title in four years as they visit Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

Carolina (11-4) entered its Week 16 matchup with the New York Giants having won seven of eight games, and was assured a postseason berth with Dallas' loss to Baltimore last Saturday night.

It was poised to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs last Sunday, leading for most of its game with the defending Super Bowl champions, but lost 34-28 in overtime to hand the conference's No. 1 seed to the Giants.

Pick: New Orleans View Game Matchup | Best Line: +3

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Posted: 12/27/08 9:00PM ET

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