David John picks out his best bet for the final week of the NFL regular season on New Year's Eve.
The final week of the regular season provides the usual heady mix for punters to ponder as a handful of teams get ready for the post-season, some take a desperate last shot to get in while the majority play out their final 60 minutes hoping to be in a better position in 12 months’ time.
It is all a bit of a minefield with good teams like New England and Minnesota expected to cover huge handicaps against considerably lesser rivals while big names Atlanta and Seattle have their own futures inexorably entwined with one or the other set to miss out.
Organisations with nothing on the agenda suddenly rise to the challenge of playing spoiler so the New York Jets and Cincinnati will certainly have an influence on proceedings moving forward if able to come up with a shock victory against the Patriots and Baltimore respectively – both divisional rivals.
Tennessee, Buffalo and the Los Angeles Chargers are also in the shake-up for what has turned out to be a very messy finish in the AFC with some sort of degree in advanced mathematics required to unravel all the potential combinations when it comes to who is in and who is out.
I am not even going to begin on that quest so will instead head to Ford Field and a bet on Detroit in a game that has nothing riding on it when they host NFC North rivals Green Bay.
Both managed to reach the post-season last year but will be emptying out their lockers on New Year’s Day and heading home having underwhelmed in 2017 for one reason or another.
The Lions still had a fighting chance to keep their dreams alive as recently as last week but a Christmas Eve defeat on the road at the Bengals left them on the outside looking in once and for all.
Ask any long-suffering Detroit fan about that game and you will get the same answer – this is a talented team who once again were unable to deliver the goods when it really mattered.
Green Bay’s situation was all but resolved in week six after quarterback Aaron Rodgers damaged a collar-bone and left him sidelined until the middle of December with the team immediately forced to rely on an untested Brett Hundley under centre.
The latter managed to win just enough games to keep them in the hunt for a place in the play-offs but a defeat in week 15 at Carolina finally extinguished any hope and Rodgers was packed back off to Injured Reserve following the most fleeting of comebacks.
They were subsequently shut out by Minnesota and now head into the season finale battered and bruised as top wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams plus running back Aaron Jones are all dinged up and unlikely to play.
Hundley is a competitor with real ability judged on his earlier performance against Pittsburgh but he is seriously undermanned for this fixture and could well struggle to keep up with the Lions offense.
I fancy them – in classic Detroit fashion – to come out firing on all cylinders with nothing now on the line and put on a show for the home fans in what could well be head coach Jim Caldwell’s last game.
Caldwell is hugely popular with the players but his four-year stint at the helm has seen them at best get no further than the first hurdle in the play-offs on two occasions with the front office now under plenty of pressure to make a change.
Detroit have the highest-paid player in the league on their roster in quarterback Matthew Stafford and another January sat at home is not acceptable but can at least ensure any send-off for Caldwell is relatively exciting – back them to score over 24.5 points.
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Posted at 1125 GMT on 30/12/17.