N.F.L. Week 17 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread

Packers at Lions, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Packers -12.5 | Total: 43

The expectation when Green Bay fired Mike McCarthy and replaced him with Matt LaFleur was that the Packers (12-3) would run an offense that better utilizes the remainder of Aaron Rodgers’s prime. With one game left this season, the Packers have clearly improved, but Rodgers has attempted 83 fewer passes than he did last season, and has thrown for 763 fewer yards. He has barely more than half as many touchdowns (24) as he had three years ago (40).

It is not that Rodgers has played worse — his rate statistics are in line with those of the past few years — he has just ceded much of the offensive production to a running game led by Aaron Jones. Jones’s 16 rushing touchdowns not only lead the N.F.L. this season, but also have him just three short of Green Bay’s franchise record, which was set by Jim Taylor in 1962.

Rodgers has seemed fine with that division of labor, and the Packers should clinch a first-round bye with a win over the lowly Lions (3-11-1). A dream scenario exists in which San Francisco also loses, which would keep Green Bay at Lambeau Field throughout the playoffs. But first things first, the Packers just need to win. They are absolutely capable of winning by multiple touchdowns, but it would be wiser to build up a healthy lead and then remove their starters, so covering a large point spread is unlikely. Pick: Lions +12.5

Saints at Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Saints -13 | Total: 46

New Orleans (12-3) weathered a storm earlier this year when quarterback Drew Brees missed five games, and in recent weeks the Saints have seemed every bit as good as they were last season, when the only thing separating them from a Super Bowl appearance was a non-call on a play that was clearly pass interference. After all their hard work they enter the season’s final weekend tied for the best record in the N.F.C., yet will most likely end up being the hosts of a wild-card game rather than earning a first-round bye.

There are certainly paths to the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, but expecting Green Bay to lose in Detroit is a bit ridiculous, and San Francisco is favored to win in Seattle as well. That leaves the Saints with enough motivation to beat the Panthers (5-10), but not enough to keep their key players in long enough to deliver a blowout.