Alas, the final week of the NFL regular season is here. Several teams are fighting for their playoff lives, perhaps none more surprising than the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, both of whom have endured Jekyll and Hyde seasons. Postseason seeding is also on line, and don’t sleep on Patrick Mahomes making his first career start for Kansas City.
With that in mind, here are your five bold predictions for Week 17.
Blake Bortles ends the Tennessee Titans’ season
Bortles has quietly led Jacksonville to the NFL’s sixth-ranked offense, while tossing 21 touchdowns and reducing his interceptions from 16 last season to a career-low 11 this season. The Titans boast the seventh-worst passing defense in pro football, which will help Bortles bounce back from a three-interception game last week in San Francisco. The bouncing back part is hardly a surprise to first-year offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. “You see Blake not only running the show, but commanding it,” Hackett tells Yahoo Sports. “I have been more aggressive [as a play-caller] because Blake has allowed me to be. It’s so much more fun.”
2. Patrick Mahomes goes wild during his first career start in Denver
Mahomes may not have supplanted Alex Smith under center quite yet, but the rookie first-round draft choice has all of the tools. Denver’s defense meanwhile, ranks second overall and fourth against the pass. Mahomes will likely make a mistake or two, but his massive arm and athleticism outside of the pocket will lead to plenty of big plays. Plus, it helps that the 5-10 Broncos are already out of the playoff race.
3. Doug Baldwin garners 10 targets from Russell Wilson
Get “Angry Doug” the ball!
#Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin is a scary dude.
"I'm a team player, I don't want to be an a**hole BUT I NEED THE F**KING BALl!!" pic.twitter.com/ptSZRxOjPj
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 28, 2017
Baldwin has been a little up and down this season, but he’s as reliable as they come when Wilson looks his way, consistently posting elite catch rates every year. And, after Baldwin’s 35-yard, one touchdown performance versus Dallas, expect Wilson to find him early and often in Seattle’s must-win home tilt with Arizona. Should Baldwin amass 99 yards, the former undrafted free agent will eclipse the 1k-mark for the third straight season.
4. Marcus Mariota goes in the tank at home versus Jacksonville
Few players have been more disappointing than Tennessee’s third-year quarterback. Mariota and the Titans have to beat Jacksonville for a potential wild-card bid, but that also means you have to trust Mariota, which nobody should at this point. His 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions is a brutal clip, and even though he’s much better at home, facing the league’s third-ranked defense (and leader in sacks) translates to another huge dud for the former second overall pick.
5. Green Bay Packers upset the Detroit Lions
The Lions come off an inexcusable 26-17 loss to Cincinnati in which their defense allowed 116 yard to Giovani Bernard. While the Packers have hardly lit the world on fire, quarterback Brett Hundley has a lot to play for. Prove he can command an NFL offense and he can make himself some serious coin moving forward. Expect a strong performance from Hundley and a few Matthew Stafford turnovers along the way in what should have been a massive NFC North game to close the season.
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Follow Jordan Schultz on Twitter @Schultz_Report
Jordan Schultz is an NFL, NBA and NCAAB insider/analyst for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at Jordan.Schultz@Oath.com.
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