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Close Calls - Week 17
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Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the NFL with several result-changing scores in the final minutes of Week 17 to close the regular season.

Cincinnati (+8) 31, Baltimore Ravens 27 (40): The Bengals had a 24-10 edge halfway through the third quarter looking like a promising underdog aiming to spoil the playoff hopes for the Ravens. Baltimore changed the equation quickly scoring 17 points in about 13 minutes of game clock to lead by three. The Bengals went backwards and punted after three plays as the favorite cover was back in play for the Ravens. Baltimore reached midfield but failed on a key third down play and needed to punt. From its own 10-yard-line Cincinnati was able to move downfield getting two key penalties with a pass interference call for a first down and a defensive hold wiping out an interception. In the final minute the Bengals faced 4th-and-12 and connected for a 49-yard touchdown to score the outright upset.

Detroit Lions (-7) 35, Green Bay Packers 11 (44½): This game was on pace to stay ‘under’ with a 20-3 score late in the third quarter but a 71-yard touchdown pass put the scoring at 30 heading into the final frame. Green Bay scored its first touchdown of the game and successfully went for two, a key play for those on the total with the scoring at 38 instead of 36. Four minutes later Detroit found the end zone again and up by 22 with the total at 44, opted to go for two as well as those on the total faced another decisive play with the Lions succeeding on a trick play pass back to Matthew Stafford to clear the ‘over’.

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Buffalo Bills (-2½) 22, Miami Dolphins (41½): While playoff hopes were slim the Bills took charge in Miami with a 10-0 halftime lead and a 22-3 edge early in the fourth quarter to seemingly seal the game with the ‘under’ in a commanding position. Behind David Fales at quarterback the Dolphins made a late charge with back-to-back touchdown drives to trail by just six just after the two-minute-warning. Miami got the on-side kick to sit in position to flip the spread and total results with a touchdown but after crossing midfield Fales was intercepted in the final minute and then later in the afternoon the Bills got the help they needed to sneak into the playoffs.

Atlanta Falcons (-5) 22, Carolina Panthers 10 (44½): The Falcons settled for three straight field goals in the second half to lead 16-7 but Carolina delivered a field goal to trim the margin to just six points in the fourth quarter on a spread that jumped from -3 to -5. The Falcons responded with another three points as Atlanta fans were looking good for securing a playoff spot up by nine but those laying points with the Falcons still had to sweat. Atlanta added another late field goal to lead by 12 after a Cam Newton interception but the Panthers did get inside the Atlanta 10-yard-line in the final minute to threaten to reach the closing spread before another turnover ended the game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6) 31, New Orleans Saints 24 (49): The underdog Buccaneers made it clear they were not going to hand the Saints the division title with a competitive effort as New Orleans led 17-13 through three quarters, in range for the underdog to cover and on pace for the highest total of Week 17 to stay ‘under’. The Buccaneers managed to score early in the fourth quarter on a big special teams play as a Ted Ginn fumble was scooped up for a touchdown. New Orleans delivered a 13-play, 92-yard touchdown drive later in the fourth quarter to go in front and looking to answer the Buccaneers settled for a field goal with 4:31 to go to cut the deficit to one, leaving the total scoring at 47. The Saints weren’t able to add points and punted at the two-minute warning looking to hold a one-point edge. The Buccaneers converted a big fourth down and then with nine seconds remaining hit a 39-yard touchdown for the win while pushing the total ‘over’ as well.

Tennessee Titans (-2½) 15, Jacksonville Jaguars 10 (40½): Despite being locked into the AFC’s #3 seed the Jaguars said they would play to win in Week 17 against a Titans team trying to snag a wild card spot. That caused line movement from -5 to -6 down to -3 to just -1 by Sunday morning before closing at -2½. The price didn’t appear to matter as the Titans led 15-3 through three quarters with Jacksonville’s offense really struggling. The great Jaguars defense made a play to change the possible outcomes however with a 67-yard fumble return touchdown. The Jaguars had three more possessions but only one more first down as the Titans held on and will be playing next weekend.

Indianapolis Colts (-5½) 22, Houston Texans 13 (42): Not many favorites that post 250 total yards wind up covering and the Colts certainly didn’t appear on pace to do so trailing 13-7 at halftime hosting the Texans. Indianapolis was in front by one with a third quarter touchdown and a safety in the fourth quarter gave Indianapolis a three-point edge. A spread that reached -6 was matched after Adam Vinatieri added a 54-yard field goal and in the final minute the Colts added another three points for a nine-point final margin.

Dallas Cowboys (-4) 6, Philadelphia Eagles 0 (41): Anyone on the ‘under’ deserved applause in this meaningless Week 17 NFC East battle. Both teams were coming off difficult emotional games from Week 16 with contrasting results and with the top NFC seed already locked up the Eagles allowed Nate Sudfeld to take significant action at quarterback. The Dallas starters played and were productive but points were elusive until Dallas completed a 12-play 99-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter. The extra-point missed however but the Eagles didn’t take advantage, failing on a 4th-and-2 play in Dallas territory in a late opportunity.

Los Angeles Chargers (-7) 30, Oakland Raiders 10 (43): The Chargers took care of business looking to slip into the playoffs and the ‘over’ was in great position with 40 points through three quarters. No one scored in the fourth quarter however, even with the Chargers getting handed a fumble at the 16-yard-line or with the Raiders reaching the Los Angeles 5-yard-line in late drives as both teams went for it on 4th down plays and failed as the ‘under’ somehow held in a game with 831 total yards.

  
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