Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NFL Weekend Preview: Week 17

Last week of the regular season, and most everything is wrapped up. Only a few spots are still up in the air with the Jags and Colts both alive for the AFC South, the Packers, Giants, and Buccaneers all alive for a wildcard spot, and of course the NFC Worst championship game in Seattle on Sunday night. Other than that, most of this week is about positioning. This is a tough week to pick, as unlike most every week of the NFL season, not every team is playing with the same motivation, and this disparate effort level combined with having virtually zero idea of who is going to try until the games get started makes this week a minefield. Surely within three minutes of the games starting, I'll feel silly about six or seven of my picks at least. Combine that with me hurtling back to earth with a 9-7 effort last week, and my confidence is shaky. However, the silver lining to this is that I picked my third perfect score of the season last week, nailing the Ravens 20-10 win over Cleveland. So, here goes my best guesses for the Week 17 slate. Enjoy it, folks, after this weekend we only have 11 more meaningful games before the curtain sets on NFL football, and with a lockout looming, I can't guarantee when it'll be back.

Panthers at Falcons – The Falcons have something to play for, they are playing at home where they hardly ever lose, and they are just coming off one of those rare home losses. Add in they are playing against the team that just wrapped up officially being the worst team in the NFL last week. I foresee an Atlanta victory rather easily. Falcons 30 Panthers 13

Steelers at Browns
– The Browns would love to play spoiler here, but after a brief surge mid season that saw them mystically defeat the Saints and Patriots, they have fallen back to Browns level football. Meanwhile, the Steelers can wrap up the division and a first round bye with a win. Avoiding having to play during Wildcard Weekend, and getting to play in front of their own fans at home the following weekend is a pretty big carrot, I expect that they take care of business as for the second straight week the Browns will fall at home to a bitter rival. Steelers 27 Browns 17

Vikings at Lions
– Who is this Joe Webb character? How did he manage to go into Philly and smack down the Eagles? Why were they playing NFL football on a Tuesday? So many questions, but the important thing to remember is that the Brett Favre era is almost assuredly nearing it's conclusion. I'd feel melancholy about it, but I'm too busy smiling. As for the Lions, those crazy kids are on a three game winning streak. To put that in perspective, the Lions have won more games in the past three weeks than they won combined in calendar years 2008 and 2009 combined. I'm going to say the wrap things up on a four game streak, which will lead everyone to overrate them this offseason as the "it" team for 2011. Lions 23 Vikings 17

Raiders at Chiefs
– The Chiefs have wrapped up the AFC West, and the only real thing they are playing for is to determine if they'll play the Jets or Ravens in the first round. I'd much rather take my chances with the Jets if I'm KC, which would likely mean they need to win on Sunday. The Raiders only motivation is to notch their first non-losing season since the year they lost in the Super Bowl. It's hard to gauge who will be more motivated to win in a situation like this, but I'm going to take the Silver and Black here, as this is their last chance to shine in 2010, and they seem like a pretty solid team to me, whereas the Chiefs may be looking ahead to bigger things in a game that doesn't matter all that much to them. Raiders 24 Chiefs 21

Dolphins at Patriots
– The Pats officially have zero to play for. They have the top AFC seed all wrapped up, and the smart thing to do would be to rest and prepare for a meaningful game in two weeks. However, the Pats don't do resting their starters all that easily, and they tend to play hard even when it doesn't matter just out of habit. However, the Dolphins routinely give the Patriots trouble and a 7-1 road record vs. a 1-7 home record is in play. Here is another one of those games that is hard to figure because we just don't know who will go all out and who won't. Just for the novelty factor, I'll take Miami to wrap up the weirdest home/road split in football history. Dolphins 29 Patriots 26

Buccaneers at Saints
– This would be the game of the week were it not for the random NFC West de facto playoff game between losing teams. When this game kicks off both teams will have a reason to win. (No matter how remote the chances for either team.) If the Saints win and somehow the Carolina Panthers manage to knock off the Falcons, the Saints could move into the number 1 overall spot. Unlikely, seeing as how the Panthers have managed to win only two games all year, but it is in play. Chances are even more remote for Tampa, as they will need to go into the Superdome and take care of the World Champs, and then they need the Bears to beat the Packers and the Giants to fall to the Redskins later that afternoon. If all that happens, Josh Freeman and company can sneak in. I bring up all of that playoff possibility talk to say that both teams will likely be giving it their all. As much as I'd enjoy seeing the Bucs in the playoffs, I think the Saints are just much better and the Buccaneers are just a shell of their former selves due to a massive plague of injuries. The Bucs are fun, and this season can already be categorized as a success for them, but they aren't sneaking into the playoffs. Saints 30 Buccaneers 20

Bills at Jets
– If you need to get kinks worked out and make sure everything is running correctly for the playoffs, it's hard to have a better opponent than Buffalo. The Jets are nearly locked into the final AFC spot, although they could move up to the 5 spot with a win, a Steeler loss, and Ravens win. Not a whole lot of motivation, but I feel like Rex Ryan really wants the Jets to get their footing back. (Hee Hee) I'll take the Jets with zero conviction, as I doubt the motivation of wanting to move up so that they can play the Colts, when the six seed most likely will be a date with the Chiefs. I'd rather play KC, although those spots are subject to change, as the AFC seeding is all up in the air. (And technically, the Jags could get in over the Colts, but that would require the dog butt Titans to go in and beat a motivated Colts team in Indianapolis AND the Jags winning a crucial game…which I don't see happening.) I'll take the Jets in this one, because it's hard to ever feel good about taking the Bills. Jets 17 Bills 14

Bengals at Ravens
– The Ravens should be motivated for several reasons. One: A victory has the potential to give them a bye. Two: They surely would like to avenge an early season loss to Cincy. Three: How can you not be motivated to play when Ray Lewis might stab you if you give less than full effort? There are just too many things in favor of Baltimore. Ravens 23 Bengals 16

Jaguars at Texans
– The Texans are like an abusive husband. Their fans have so many good things to point to and say, "Look, he's not so bad. He treats me well and he's exciting, sometimes." However, you look up and they are getting battered by crushing loss after crushing loss and you and your friends start sitting around gossiping about Texan fan, and just hope that they find a way to get out of the bad fan relationship. NFL fans are with you, Houston. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. Although, I must say it was an interesting twist by the Texans to blow a giant lead in Denver instead of their usual tactic of falling just short in their own gigantic comeback bid. Way to mix it up, Houston! Meanwhile, let's hope for the playoffs sake that the Colts take care of business against the Titans as expected, because I don't see the Texans beating the Jags, and the playoffs are between 18% and 23% better with the Colts than they would be with the Jaguars. Jaguars 33 Texans 27

Giants at Redskins
– Is it crazy to think that Sexy Rexy can take care of the Giants who were psychologically destroyed by the Eagles two weeks ago? I say crazy, because if you'll remember when these two teams played each other earlier this month the Skins lost 31-7, and yet I fully expect them to win this time. Redskins 24 Giants 14

Cowboys at Eagles
– For the third straight year, these two meet in the regular season finale. This year, the Eagles have nothing to play for. They are the 3 seed, and nothing will change as a result of this game. I picked this game exactly correctly three weeks ago, but I have a much weaker feel for how this will turn out due to the uncertainty of how hard Andy Ried will push his team in a game that is meaningless. If I were Andy, I'd take it easy on them this week. Actually, if I were Andy…first I'd go on a diet and THEN I'd take it easy on them this week. The Cowboys probably want to end the season on a positive note, so I'll take them in a meaningless season finale. Cowboys 30 Eagles 24

Cardinals at 49ers
– The two "bad" teams in a division that could potentially be won by a 7-9 team this week. It's hard to care about this game at all, but since the Niners gave crazy Mike Singletary his walking papers this week, let's give it to the 49ers based on the interim bounce theory. And, although I don't have any desire to watch a single moment of this game, let's take a moment of silence right here in the blog for Mike Singletary. A Hall of Fame crazy coach who gave us some great press conference moments, you will be missed, Mike…

Thanks…Now the pick: 49ers 16 Cardinals 13

Bears at Packers
– Another tremendous and important game in the NFL's oldest rivalry. The Packers get in the playoffs with a win (they can also get in with a loss if they get a whole lot of help.) Meanwhile, the Bears have an outside chance to get the top seed, and I'm sure they'd like nothing more than to knock their biggest rivals out of the picture while doing it. Still, the game means more to Green Bay, as the worst the Bears can do is the 2 seed. I think Green Bay takes care of business at home and gets into the postseason. Packers 24 Bears 20

Titans at Colts
– The Titans slapped a big postage stamp on themselves halfway through the season and mailed the rest of it in. They are 1-7 in their last 8, and the idea that they'll somehow put it together well enough to keep the Colts out of the playoffs seems silly to me. Peyton and company take care of business at home. Colts 34 Titans 10

Chargers at Broncos
– The Chargers are crestfallen, and they should be. All they had to do to have a chance was to beat the Bengals, and they got worked. Now they have the letdown of a final game with nothing to play for. Conversely, the Broncos have had no reason to play for over a month, and yet with Tim Tebow behind center, the team has developed into something of a curiosity. The Tebow good vibes are coursing in Denver, despite the fact that the Broncos aren't all that good. I really want to pick Tim Terrific to lead the Broncos to an emotional victory and take a two game win streak into the offseason, but I just don't see it happening. The Chargers, despite being down in the dumps, are a better football team than Denver. I see this lousy season ending with a fizzle…which would be appropriate, really. Chargers 38 Broncos 20

Rams at Seahawks
– This may be a first in NFL history. Two teams with losing records playing each other and both seasons being on the line. Winner moves on, loser's season is over. THEY BOTH HAVE LOSING RECORDS!!! I could feign anger, but truth is I'm loving this ridiculous battle for the NFC West championship. I am hoping against hope that the Seahawks win, not only so that we can have a team with a losing record make the playoffs and set everyone into full on tizzy mode, but also because Charlie Whitehurst (a.k.a. Quarterback Jesus) would be the one to lead them to the promised land. The only bummer is that the Hawks have been dreadful lately so I don't see it happening. Still, the mere fact that a 6-9 team that has lost seven of it's last nine games is still in the hunt on the last week of the season is glorious. Yeah, that's right, I'm backing the rookie quarterback to win on the road in what is essentially a playoff game. Rams 30 Seahawks 14

Week 16: 9-7
Season to Date: 150-90

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