Sunday, December 30, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 17

Week 16 Results (10-5) – Overall (135-72-1)

Well, 10-5 is better than 9-6 but not worth bragging about.  Here’s to closing out the regular season on a high note.  All but two playoff spots have been filled, but there will be several games with playoff implications to keep an eye on this Sunday.  On to the next one…

Bucs @ Falcons
With the NFC’s #1 seed in their back pocket, there’s really nothing but divisional pride on the line in this one for the Falcons.  I don’t expect Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez to play much, if at all, in the second half which should be a benefit to the struggling Bucs.  Tampa Bay has lost five straight after winning four in a row and must be able to trade punches with the Falcons long enough to exploit the advantage late, when I’m guessing Luke McCown sees a good bit of action.  Mike Smith won’t want to lose a division game, and he won’t want to give his stars too much off-time with a bye coming next week.  Falcons do enough early on to beat the Bucs.

Jets @ Bills
Mark Sanchez gets yet another chance to add to the blooper reels.  I like CJ Spiller to replicate his week 1 outburst for 194 total yards against the Jets as New York’s season comes to a fitting, ugly win. 

Ravens @ Bengals
Andy Dalton finally beat the Steelers last week.  This week he finally beats the Ravens.  Cincinnati is a late letdown against Dallas from riding a seven game winning streak.  Their defense is one of the best in the game of late, and I like that to continue in a matchup where I’m sure John Harbaugh is trying to escape without injuries as he prepares for next week’s showdown with Andrew Luck and the Colts.  Spoiler alert – the Dolphins aren’t beating the Patriots, so this one will be for division pride rather than playoff seeding.  I think this one means more to the home team who needs to maintain that high heading into next week’s showdown in Foxborough. 

Bears @ Lions
The motivation factor in this one is squarely with the Bears.  If they win, and the Packers beat the Vikings, they clinch the 6th seed.  Chicago has won six of the last seven in this series, and the Lions have nothing to play for other than getting Calvin Johnson 2,000 receiving yards a week after breaking Jerry Rice’s single season yardage record.  I’m calling for the upset here as the Lions don’t end the season on an eight game losing streak. Stefan Logan won’t be returning kicks, so that’s one plus for Detroit.  Johnson gets 176 yards to finish a spectacular year with 2,068 total yards.  Matt Forte’s ankle proves to be a factor as he’s unable to get unleashed.  Detroit does just enough to play spoiler to rival Chicago.

Jaguars @ Titans
Jacksonville is the more competitive of the two teams at the end of the year, as the Jaguars nearly knocked off the Patriots last week, losing by seven.  Meanwhile, the Titans we busy getting their asses handed to them by the Packers 55-7.  I like how the combination of Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon have looked the last few weeks and think week 17 is a fine time for the rookie receiver to post his biggest game and get Jaguar fans excited about next year’s possibilities.  Sad folks those Jags fans. 

Texans @ Colts
Houston needs to win this one to clinch the #1 seed, so expect to see the pedal to the floor early with an aggressive offensive approach by the Texans.  They’ll also want to bounce back from last week’s embarrassing loss at home to the Vikings.  I have serious questions about this Texans team, and if they lose this one, I’ll have a tough time considering them serious contenders for the title.  Great teams step up in big situations.  Here’s Houston’s.  I love Andrew Luck and the Chuck Pagano story, but I think the Colts (and specifically Luck) are getting a little tired.  I really like Houston here.

Panthers @ Saints
This one looked a lot better on the schedule in September.  Two of football’s biggest disappointments square off in a season both would rather forget.  As bad as this year has gone for Carolina and New Orleans, they’re both playing good football of late.  I’m going with the Saints because I think they’re, to a man, going to want to finish this Bountygate season on a positive note.  Drew Brees is going to lay it all on the line.  Expect a lot of points and a Saints victory. 

Eagles @ Giants
There’s a whole lotta ugly heading into this one.  The Giants were on top of the mountain in the NFC East, controlling their own destiny with a month to go.  They proceeded to lose three of their next four games, including the last two in embarrassing fashion.  New York lost at Atlanta and Baltimore by a combined 67-14 score, and all 14 of their points came last week at Baltimore.  Still, the Giants make it into the playoffs with a win at Philly and losses by the Bears, Vikings, and Cowboys.  I don’t see these guys flipping a switch this week as they face off against a Philly team that will have Andy Reid and probably Michael Vick as Eagles for the last time.  Vick gets the start for an injured Nick Foles and was under center when the Eagles beat the Giants in week 4.  They’ve only won once since then, but I’m calling for the nice sendoff and ultimate chokejob.  Philly spoils New York’s season as the champs fail to even make the playoffs. 

Browns @ Steelers
The season is over for both of these teams, and while I hate to challenge the professionalism of these athletes, I wonder what kind of effort we’ll see in this one.  Pittsburgh, this season’s biggest disappointment in my opinion, has dropped three straight (two at home) and five of their last six.  What a collapse they’ve had.  You’d like to think a win against the Browns is a given, but they lost in Cleveland a month ago by six.  Can they get it together and avoid a season ending embarrassment?  I sure hope so since Thad Lewis and Montario Hardesty will be replacing Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. 

Chiefs @ Broncos
Chiefs bad.  Broncos good.  Denver loses their #2 seed with a loss.  Ain’t happening. 

Packers @ Vikings
Here’s my favorite matchup of the week.  Aside from the Sunday Night Football finale, you won’t find two teams with more to play for this week.  Green Bay clinches the #2 seed and a bye with a win, and Minnesota clinches the #6 seed with a win.  Minnesota can still get in with a loss if the Cowboys, Giants, and Bears lose, but they surely won’t be relying on that.  Expect to see a lot of Adrian Peterson in this one as he’s their only chance to get the win, and he’s 208 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season record.  Peterson ran for 210 against these Packers just a few weeks ago, but 130 of them came on two carries.  When it comes down to it, there’s no doubt which QB I trust more in this one – Rodgers by a mile.  He knows the importance of this game, and he’s money in a dome.  Randall Cobb’s ailment aside, the Packers are getting healthy.  Clay Matthews is back, and that’s trouble for Christian Ponder.  I see a lot of long yardage situations for Minnesota, and that’s not where they way to be. 

Dolphins @ Patriots
You think New England will be focused for this one?  After nearly losing to the laughingstock Jaguars last week, the Patriots need to win this week to avoid losing the #3 seed in the AFC.  Miami is going to bear the brunt of last week’s crapshow.  Belichick looks to make a statement and get back any of his team’s lost confidence. Patriots big. 

Raiders @ Chargers
Win one for the Norver!  The Norv Turner era will end at roughly 7:45 Sunday, but they’d have to really mail it in to lose to these Raiders.  Terrelle Pryor gets the start after Greg Hardy lit up Carson Palmer last week.  San Diego won their first two games and will win their last two games.  Unfortunately, they went just 3-9 in the rest of them. 

Cardinals @ 49ers
If the 49ers can’t beat Brian Hoyer and the Cardinals at home they should give up their spot in the playoffs.  Aldon Smith is three sacks behind Michael Strahan’s single season record of 22.5 sacks, and he could get that in the first quarter. 

Rams @ Seahawks
Barring losses by both Green Bay and San Francisco, this game is meaningless.  Seattle is putting up insane points of late, outscoring their opponents 150-30 in their last three games.  The Rams have won four of five, but does anyone really see this Seahawks team losing at home right not, let alone to the Rams?   

Cowboys @ Redskins
The most important game of the week gets the SNF timeslot.  If the Redskins win, they clinch the NFC East and the #4 seed.  They can still get the #6 seed if they lose if Chicago and Minnesota lose too.  For the Cowboys it’s simple.  Win and you get the NFC East title and #4 seed.  Lose and you go home.  Washington is riding a remarkable six game winning streak and looks to take down Dallas for the second time this season.  Dallas has been playing good football in the second half of the season, winning five of seven, but they lost last week at home to the Saints and have played six straight close, emotional contests.  Do they have enough to take down the rolling Redskins at RFK?  I believe in Tony Romo.  He has a 13-3 TD to INT ratio over the last five games, and there’s not a hotter receiver in football right now than Dez Bryant.  I think Romo and Bryant do their part, but I think the Redskins defense will end up making more stops than the Cowboys.  Redskins win a high scoring regular season capper.

If these go according to plan (ha ha), here’s how the playoffs shape up –

AFC                                        NFC
1) Texans                                 1) Falcons
2) Broncos                               2) Packers
3) Patriots                                3) 49ers
4) Ravens                                4) Redskins
5) Colts                                    5) Seahawks
6) Bengals                                6) Vikings

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