Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- A penalty flag flies as Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) and New Orleans Saints free safety Pierre Warren (42) tussle during the first quarter Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. White was called for a personal foul following a play in which Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan's fumble was recovered by Atlanta.

THIS WEEK’S STORYLINE: Saints fans hoping to maximize the team’s draft position need to root for the Bears and those darn Falcons ... if you can

There are teams around the league that have things to play for this week.

Some of those who have made the playoffs will be looking to use this week as a tuneup before the games that matter begin. Others, such as the Falcons and Panthers, are still fighting to get into the playoffs.

But for the Saints, there’s nothing play for. As a fan, it’s even worse: You want your team to lose this week. It may sound weird, but that’s the way it is.

A loss gives this team a better draft position. A win gives this team a worse draft position. The math, however awkward, is simple.

If you’re a fan of the Saints, you want this team to lose, and you should also be hoping for the Bears (5-10) to beat the Vikings (6-9), and for Atlanta (6-9) to beat the Carolina (6-8-1). Those outcomes should help the Saints move up in the draft order.

So, as sacrilegious as it might seem, if you’re interested in the long-term health of this franchise, there might be something to hoping for the home team to lose and the hated Falcons to make the playoffs.

Nick Underhill

NICK’S PICKS: Underhill’s top five teams in the NFL (Week 17 edition)

1. Patriots (12-3)

New England locked up home-field with a narrow win over the Jets last week. Having to go to Foxborough should be a scary proposition for the rest of the AFC.

2. Seahawks (11-4)

Remember when the Cardinals looked like a somewhat scary opponent? The Seahawks took care of that by thumping Arizona last week.

3. Packers (11-4)

The Packers might be flawed in some areas, but are any of those weaknesses too much for Aaron Rodgers to overcome? That’s what we’ll find out in the playoffs.

4. Cowboys (11-4)

Once the whipping boy of the NFL, Tony Romo is now a dark-horse MVP candidate. That’s what happens when your offense becomes balanced.

5. Broncos (11-4)

Peyton Manning doesn’t look like himself. And the other issue this team is facing is that its defense suddenly looks vulnerable.

This Week’s Games

BUFFALO (8-7) at NEW ENGLAND (12-3)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Patriots by 5

Briefly: Patriots clinched top seed and home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs after winning 11th division title in 12 years. Bills missed playoffs for 15th straight season, longest active playoff drought. ... Patriots have 13-game home winning streak against Bills.

NICK’S PICK: Patriots 30, Bills 21


WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Ravens by 131/2

Briefly: Ravens 12-1 against Browns under John Harbaugh. ... Baltimore QB Joe Flacco has won 12 of 13 vs. Browns, throwing 16 TDs and only seven INTs. ... In first meeting between teams this year, Justin Tucker’s 32-yard field goal on final play won it for Baltimore.

NICK’S PICK: Ravens 24, Browns 13

CHICAGO (5-10) at MINNESOTA (6-9)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Vikings by 61/2

Briefly: Bears will miss playoffs for seventh time in eight years. ... Bears loss puts them alone in last place in NFC North. Win would tie them with Vikings. ... Jay Cutler, benched last week, will start for injured Jimmy Clausen (concussion) at QB.

NICK’S PICK: Vikings 20, Bears 17

DALLAS (11-4) at WASHINGTON (4-11)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Cowboys by 51/2

Briefly: Cowboys have won three straight to clinch 18th NFC East title and first since 2009. Would earn first-round bye with losses by Seahawks and Cardinals. Other bye scenarios would require one or more games to end in a tie. ... Cowboys have chance to go 8-0 on road for first time in franchise history. ... Dallas RB DeMarco Murray leads NFL with 1,745 yards, needs 29 to break Emmitt Smith’s franchise record of 1,773 in 1995. ... Redskins clinched last place in NFC East for sixth time in seven seasons.

NICK’S PICK: Cowboys 24, Redskins 20


WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Houston by 91/2

Briefly: Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has 2,791 yards passing and needs 29 to pass Byron Leftwich for franchise rookie record. ... Texans’ Arian Foster second in NFL at 101.9 yards rushing per game.

NICK’S PICK: Texans 21, Jaguars 16


WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Colts by 7

Briefly: Colts, who have clinched AFC South, have won six straight and 11 of 12 vs. Titans. ... QB Andrew Luck has 12,797 passing yards, most of any QB in Super Bowl era, in first three seasons. ... Titans have shot at top draft pick.

NICK’S PICK: Colts 27, Titans 20

SAN DIEGO (9-6) at KANSAS CITY (8-7)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Chiefs by 1

Briefly: Chargers must win to reach playoffs. Chiefs must win and hope Baltimore and Houston lose. ... Chargers beat Chiefs 27-24 in overtime in last year’s regular-season finale to clinch playoff berth. ... Chiefs have not swept season series since 2003. ... QB Philip Rivers is 34-8 as San Diego’s starter in regular-season games in December and January. ... Chiefs QB Alex Smith will miss game because of lacerated spleen. Ex-Saints backup Chase Daniel will start in his place.

NICK’S PICK: Chargers 23, Chiefs 20

N.Y. JETS (3-12) at MIAMI (8-7)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Dolphins by 6

Briefly: When teams met four weeks ago, Jets netted only 49 yards passing, and Geno Smith had just 13 attempts. ... With victory, Dolphins would clinch first winning season since 2008.

NICK’S PICK: Dolphins 24, Jets 17


WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Giants by 2½

Briefly: After beating Dallas on Thanksgiving to take lead, defending NFC East champion Eagles lost three straight to miss playoffs. ... QB Mark Sanchez returns to MetLife Stadium for first time since being released by Jets. ... Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. has 79 catches, most by any player in first 11 games. He leads rookies with 1,120 receiving yards and is tied for lead with 11 TD catches.

NICK’S PICK: Eagles 31, Giants 24

CAROLINA (6-8-1) at ATLANTA (6-9)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Falcons by 3

Briefly: Game will determine NFC South champion. Panthers claim division with win or tie. ... Panthers trying to become first repeat NFC South champion. ... Panthers are 14-3 in December games since coach Ron Rivera was hired in 2011. Only New England (15-2) has better record. ... Falcons had season-high five sacks against Saints last week. ... WR Julio Jones’ seven receptions against Saints gave him 100 for season, tops in NFC. He also leads NFC with 1,535 receiving yards.

NICK’S PICK: Falcons 27, Panthers 20

OAKLAND (3-12) at DENVER (11-4)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Broncos by 14

Briefly: Broncos, who have clinched AFC West, winners of six straight in series. ... Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano 1-3 vs. Broncos and John Fox is 7-2 against Oakland. ... Raiders QB Derek Carr leads NFL rookies in passing yards (3,112).

NICK’S PICK: Broncos 24, Raiders 17

DETROIT (11-4) at GREEN BAY (11-4)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Packers by 7½

Briefly: Both teams guaranteed playoff berths. Winner claims NFC North and first-round bye; loser gets in as a wild card. ... Lions have lost 23 straight in Wisconsin to Packers, including 1994 wild-card game. ... Lions have reached 11 wins for first time since 1991. ... Packers 7-0 at Lambeau Field this season, joining Denver and New England as only unbeaten teams at home. ... RB Eddie Lacy has 2,217 yards rushing in first two years of career, passing John Brockington for most by Packers running back in his first two seasons.

NICK’S PICK: Packers 31, Lions 24


WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: 49ers by 61/2

Briefly: Arizona goes into finale tied with Seahawks (11-4) for first in NFC West, but Seattle holds tiebreaker with two wins over Cardinals. ... Arizona will go with QB Ryan Lindley as Drew Stanton recovers from sprained right knee.

NICK’S PICK: Cardinals 17, 49ers 13

ST. LOUIS (6-9) at SEATTLE (11-4)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Seahawks by 131/2

Briefly: Rams to finish with losing record for eighth straight season. ... Seahawks averaging 175.3 rushing yards per game and could finish season with second-highest total of any NFL team in past 30 seasons. Falcons rushed for 183.7 in 2006.

NICK’S PICK: Seahawks 24, Rams 13

CINCINNATI (10-4-1) at PITTSBURGH (10-5)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Line: Steelers by 31/2

Briefly: Both teams are already in playoffs. Winner claims AFC North and home playoff game. ... Bengals have won two straight since Pittsburgh scored 25 points in fourth quarter to win first meeting. ... Steelers have won three in a row. They last won four straight in 2012. ... Bengals RB Jeremy Hill’s four games of at least 140 rushing yards are tied for second most by rookie in league history.

NICK’S PICK: Steelers 20, Bengals 17