What the NFL covets for the regular-season finale is a pivotal game, a win-or-else matchup.
The league got it with the Raiders hosting the Chargers. Barring a tie – oh, please, not one of those – either Las Vegas or Los Angeles will be heading to the playoffs. Pretty cool for these two AFC West rivals, and for the NFL overall.
“I think we all know what’s at stake here on both sides. It’s a huge game,” Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa says. “These are the kinds of games that you wish you were playing this time of year – and we are this year. It’s just a great opportunity for both sides.
“I think we all grasp that, for sure. I think all of the coaches have a really great sense of urgency along with everybody this week. We definitely understand what’s at stake.”
A tiny bit more might be at stake for the Chargers, because Las Vegas still could get into the post-season if it loses. It would need lots of help elsewhere in that scenario – one the Raiders don’t want to contemplate.
“I think it’s going to be exciting. I think it’ll be loud. It’s basically our playoff game for our fans and all that kind of stuff,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “So, what an exciting time for the last game of the season to mean so much for our city and for our organization.
“To think about where we’ve come from, to see where we’re at today with a chance against a really good football team, it’s exciting. And hopefully it’s a loud atmosphere. Las Vegas, we need you.”
And Pro Picks needs Las Vegas to come through. The Chargers, No. 14 in the AP Pro32, are 3-point favourites at the No. 15 Raiders in the prime-time conclusion to the first 17-game season in league history.
UPSET SPECIAL: RAIDERS, 23-22
KNOCKOUT POOL: The 49ers kept it rolling for folks still surviving. WASHINGTON seems the logical choice to end the regular season.
No. 24 Washington (minus 6½) at No. 30 New York Giants
The question is whether the Giants will find the end zone.
BEST BET: WASHINGTON, 19-6
No. 4 Kansas City (minus 10) at No. 23 Denver, Saturday
The Chiefs need a full performance on both sides of the ball heading into the playoffs.
No. 8 Dallas (minus 4½) at No. 13 Philadelphia, Saturday
Both teams are in the post-season, and it’s impossible to know who will be on the field.
No. 5 Tennessee (minus 10½) at No. 28 Houston
The Titans, despite suiting up everyone but Tim McGraw this season, will earn the top AFC seed.
No. 29 New York Jets (plus 16½) at No. 9 Buffalo
Though we don’t see a long stay in the playoffs, the Bills grab the AFC East.
BILLS 27, JETS 13
No. 1 Green Bay (minus 2½) at No. 31 Detroit
Time for Aaron Rodgers to rest his ailing toe? Could be.
No. 11 Indianapolis (minus 15) at No. 32 Jacksonville
Indy gets a wild-card berth and could be dangerous next weekend.
No. 16 Pittsburgh (plus 5½) at No. 17 Baltimore
Pro Picks’ favourite NFL rivalry. Too bad it has sunk to this.
No. 7 Cincinnati (plus 5½) at No. 20 (tie) Cleveland
The Bengals are the AFC North champs. We repeat, the Bengals are the AFC North champs.
No. 12 San Francisco (plus 4) at No. 3 Los Angeles Rams
Long-time rivals with plenty on the line. The Rams get the NFC West crown.
No. 25 Seattle (plus 6½) at No. 6 Arizona
The Cardinals went from the NFC’s top seed to a wild card.
No. 27 Carolina (plus 8) at No. 2 Tampa Bay
No reason to think Tom Brady will sit out even with little on the line.
No. 19 New Orleans (minus 4) at No. 22 Atlanta
The Saints have used four QBs, yet are still in the playoff race.
No. 26 Chicago (plus 5½) at No. 20 (tie) Minnesota
Are both Matt Nagy and Mike Zimmer working their last game as a head coach?
No. 10 New England (minus 6) at No. 18 Miami
Brian Flores did a terrific job with Miami after a 1-7 start.
Last Week: Straight up: 13-3. Against spread: 10-6.
Season: Straight up: 170-85-1. Against spread: 144-109-2.
Best Bet: Straight up: 10-6-1. Against spread: 11-6.
Upset Special: Straight up: 14-2. Against spread: 14-2.