Week 17 NFL
Holy Crap-oly Batman, are we at the end of the line already??? Yup this is the last roundup for the 2011 regular season. For 20 teams this will be where the 2011 story ends. For many the ax fell on their playoff chances weeks ago, for some it was just last week that their playoff dreams died. For some, plans have been made for the postseason for sometime while a handful of teams are still trying to scramble for the last places at the postseason dinner table. Snicker at a 6 seed at your own risk, for last year a #6 seed was the last standing at the end holding the Lombardi trophy. In review, this pick season has not been the best for your humble scribe; I’ll need a 12-4 week to match last years total which was a career season win low of 160. For the season finale and continuing through the playoffs, enjoy fast facts for both teams. Playoff implications are listed where applicable, odds provided by bodog.net for comparison and entertainment purposes only so if you get took on the lines its on you for starting the new year in the red.
Sunday January 1 (Happy New Year!)
Bears (7-8) @ Vikings (3-12)
Mall of America Field @ HHH Metrodome 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite No Line Listed
Last Week Bears lost to Packers 35-21, Vikings beat Redskins 33-26
Fast Facts MIN: The Vikings are trying to avoid tying their worst season in 27 years. CHI: The Bears six game is their longest since 2002
The Bears went from possible foil for the Packers to also-ran in six weeks. No Cutler, No Forte, No Chance. Meanwhile, the Vikings nightmare season took an even more ghastly turn with the season ending injury to Adrian Peterson. This injury could have ramifications into 2012. Meanwhile two teams going nowhere face off in a basic who-cares game. I think that the Vikes will be playing for pride and the Bears QB mess has destroyed their season.
Pick-Minnesota (Upset of the Week)
Jets (8-7) @ Dolphins (5-10)
Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens FL 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Dolphins by 1½
Last Week Jets lost to Giants 29-14, Dolphins lost to Patriots 27-24
Playoff Implications Jets need to win and losses by Bengals, Titans and either Raiders or Broncos to make playoffs.
Fast Facts NYJ: Haven’t swept the series since 2007, MIA: This is the first time that the Dolphins have had a 1000 rusher (Reggie Bush) and a 1000 receiver (Brandon Marshall) in the same season.
Suddenly the grinning jeering Rex Ryan looks more like the buffoon as he watched his team get poleaxed by a fired up G-Men squad and have put their playoff hopes on life support. The Dolphins played a strong second half and have real hope for the future as Reggie Bush is looking more and more like a back that can be a featured part of an offense. Ryan’s distrust of QB Mark Sanchez is undermining this teams harmony and its happening at the worst of times. I think the Jets finish a collapse of Gotham proportions and give away a playoff berth that they were nearly assured of three weeks ago.
Redskins (5-10) @ Eagles (7-8)
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Eagles by 9
Last Week Redskins lost to Vikings 33-26, Eagles beat Cowboys 20-7
Fast Facts PHI: RB LeSean McCoy needs 123 yards to break the club rushing record of 1512 set by Wilbert Montgomery in 1979 WAS:
The Eagles closing rush came too late to make the playoffs but may have saved Andy Reid’s job for the moment. The Redskins are meandering to another ho-hum finish and have little to play for. I'm thinking that the Eagles end a disappointing season on an up note.
Colts (2-13) @ Jaguars (4-11)
EverBank Field, Jacksonville 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Jaguars by 4
Last Week Colts beat Texans 19-16. Jaguars lost to Titans 23-17
Fast Facts IND: WR Reggie Wayne needs 113 receiving yards to pass 1000 for the eighth straight season. JAX: RB Maurice Jones-Drew has accounted for 46.5% of the Jags offense
The Colts death march is just about over and will begin an offseason of speculation about if they are going to draft Andrew Luck is Peyton Manning and/or Colts coach Jim Caldwell coming back just to start. The Jags are not that much better and aside from Maurice Jones-Drew have little hope for the future. I don’t think that the Colts will play as inspired on the road as they have the past couple weeks. This game will be a boring affair and thankfully few people outside of Indiana will have to watch it.
Lions (10-5) @ Packers (14-1)
Lambeau Field, Green Bay 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite No Line Listed
Last Week Lions beat Chargers 38-10, Packers beat Bears 35-21
Fast Fact DET In the 12 years since the Lions last made the playoffs, Detroit other 3 sports teams have all played for their respective sports championships with the Red Wings and Pistons winning titles. GB: Have not lost to Lions at home since 1991.
This game is just as meaningless but for other reasons. The Pack locked down the #1 seed in the NFC and are just hoping to get through the game with relatively few if any injuries and get the week off to get ready for the divisional round. The Lions are in the unexpected place of really having nothing to play for and will either head to Dallas or New York next week, they like the Packers are just trying to get through this game with as few bumps and bruises as possible.
The Pack will not be beaten at home this year and I don’t see why the Lions should be able to beat them.
Bills (6-9) @ Patriots (12-3)
Gillette Stadium; Foxboro, MA 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Patriots by 11
Last Week Bills defeated Broncos 40-14, Patriots defeated Dolphins 27-24
Playoff Implications Patriots clinch #1 AFC seed with win
Fast Facts BUF: The Bills have never won in Gillette Stadium, going 0-9. NE: Pats defense has given up an average of 412.1 a game the most since the ’81 Baltimore Colts gave up 424.6 a game. That team went 2-14
What started as a promising season at 5-1 disintergrated into an eight game skid that locked them into 3rd place. They stopped Tebow time with a flourish last week, destroying the Broncos in their home finale. The Pats rallied smartly to beat the Dolphins and remain in the top slot in the AFC. I see no reason why Tom Brady wont shred the Bills defense in much the same manner he did in their first meeting but this time the Bills not being able to keep up.
Pick- New England
49ers (12-3) @ Rams (2-13)
Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite 49ers by 11
Last Week 49ers beat Seahawks 19-17, Rams lost to Steelers 27-0
Playoff Implications 49ers clinch NFC #2 seed and first round bye with win
Fast Facts: SF: The Niners gave up their first rushing touchdown and first 100 yard rusher all season last week. STL: The Rams have the leagues worst rushing defense giving up an average of 154.5 yards a game.
Steaming down the stretch after a two game lull the Niners are looking like they will be a tough out in the playoffs. They need only to beat the Rams who are looking like that they packed it in weeks ago. The Niners super stingy run defense will force the Rams to try to throw and that will be tough as it is. The Niners will find the rushing easy and the passing decent, that combo makes for about as sure thing as you could think of. The Niners are better on both sides of the ball and will not squander the golden opportunity to get the #2 seed and the first round bye.
Pick-San Francisco (Lock of the Week)
Panthers (6-9) @ Saints (12-3)
Merecdes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Saints by 8
Last Week Panthers beat Buccaneers 48-16, Saints beat Falcons 45-16
Playoff Implications Saints can clinch #2 seed and first round bye with win AND 49ers loss
Fast Facts CAR: QB Cam Newton needs 107 passing yards to be the first rookie QB to pass for 4000 yards in a season. NO: Saints are looking to go unbeaten at home for the first time in team history.
The Panthers continue to steadily improve and though a winning ledger is not in the cards, a new sense of respect around the league is. The problem is, they finish off their season against the surging Saints who look frighteningly efficient in dismantling a good Falcons team. Drew Brees may very well be the first to pass Dan Marino’s mark of 5084 yards in a season but watch Tom Brady overtake him in the end, as he may sit the game out. The high powered offense that Brees piloted may be resting key components ahead of the wild card round which they will likely have to host next weekend. This game is extremely tough to call, if the untested Chase Daniel gets the start the game slants to the improving Panthers, if Brees starts and plays the whole game it’s a Saints roll. I’ll flip a coin and say that Brees wears the ball cap and to the chagrin of Saints fans is the first to break the passing record but won’t be the record holder.
Titans (8-7) @ Texans (10-5)
Reliant Stadium, Houston 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Titans by 3
Last Week Titans beat Jaguars 23-17, Texans lost to Colts 19-16
Playoff Implications Titans clinch #2 wild card with win; Jets win plus losses by Bengals AND Raiders. Texans are locked into #3 seed and will play #6 seed
Fast Facts TEN: RB Chris Johnson needs 14 rushing yards to pass 1000 for the fourth consecutive season. HOU: The Texans have won four of the last six meetings but have not swept the season series since 2004
Sleepwalking through the last three weeks after winning the AFC South, the Texans need to get their collective minds right ahead of their first ever playoff game. The Titans are hanging on to the slim hope that they will catch all the breaks and slip into the playoffs, where they could be coming right back to the same place the very next week. The Titans have been playing better and had they not swooned hard down the stretch, this game would be for the AFC South title. The Texans are playing like they could care less until the money is on the table and it may come back to bite them when they have to turn it on. For now, they will fall victim to the hard charge of a desperate team.
Ravens (11-4) @ Bengals (9-6)
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati 4:15 (CBS,)
Favorite Ravens by 3
Last Week Ravens beat Browns 20-14, Bengals beat Cardinals 23-16
Playoff Implications Ravens win AFC North with win, clinch #1 seed with win and Patriots Loss. Bengals clinch #2 wild card with win.
Fast Facts: BAL: Have lost 5 of their last 6 in Cincinnati. CIN: WR AJ Green became the first Bengal rookie since Cris Collinsworth in 1981 to make the Pro Bowl and needs five catches to break Collinsworth’s rookie catch total, he has already broken Collinsworth’s receiving yardage total.
The Bengals did what they needed to do to ensure a full house for this critical matchup against a tough divisional foe. The Bengals are in the rare position of not needing to watch the scoreboard other than their own score. They just need to win and they will be on their way to Houston for what they think could be a winnable playoff date. The Ravens are in no mood to play charitable knowing that they could be relegated to a trip out west as a wild card should they lose. In what looks to be a repeat of the tough brawling game, the Bengals gave the Ravens their toughest game of their perfect home ledger back in November. Though I know I will regret this pick, I think the Bengals play the game of their lives and steal a tight game from the Ravens and claim the last playoff spot for themselves.
Chiefs (6-9) @ Broncos (8-7)
Sports Authority Field @ Mile High, Denver 4:15 (CBS)
Favorite Broncos by 3½
Last Week Chiefs lost to Raiders 16-13, Broncos lost to Bills 40-14
Fast Facts KC: The Chiefs have the AFC’s lowest scoring offense at 13.4 a game. DEN: RB Willis McGahee became the 2nd RB (Ricky Watters) to rush for a 1000 yards for 3 different teams (BUF, BAL, DEN)
Staggering down the stretch, the Broncos still have control of their own destiny. Tebow has picked a bad time to play two of his poorest games of the season when the Broncos need him the most. The Chiefs already weak playoff hopes died when Sebastian Janikowski split the uprights in OT last week, but have been playing more competitive under interim coach Romeo Crennel. Kyle Orton would like nothing more than to send the team and the QB that took his starting job home early. I think that the Broncos are getting figured out and I wonder if the Chiefs might just play way over their heads in an effort to knock their despised rival out of the playoff picture.
Steelers (11-4) @ Browns (4-11)
Browns Stadium, Cleveland 4:15 (CBS)
Favorite No Line Listed
Last Week Steelers lost to Rams 27-0, Browns lost to Ravens 20-14
Playoff Implications Steelers clinch AFC North with win and Ravens loss, can clinch #1 seed with win and losses by Ravens AND Patriots
Fast Facts PIT: QB Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 7 TDs and no interceptions in his last four visits to Cleveland. CLE: The Browns have the NFL’s 2nd ranked pass defense…primarily because opposing teams don’t need to pass since they have the 30th ranked run defense.
The Steelers seem to get all the breaks at the best times, two lollipop games down the stretch when they need wins. If things break perfect they will have the #1 seed in the playoffs. The Browns have been figuring every which way they can to lose and despite playing the Steelers fairly tough in their first meeting a few weeks back seem intimidated by the Steelers and don’t look to put much of a fight. Im hoping that Mike Tomlin sends Marvin Lewis a nice fruit basket or some token of his esteem for opening the door for the Steelers to win the AFC North.
Seahawks (7-8) @ Cardinals (7-8)
University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, AZ 4:15 (FOX)
Favorite Cardinals by 3
Last Week Seahawks lost to 49ers 19-17; Cardinals lost to Bengals 23-16
Fast Facts SEA: RB Marshawn Lynch has scored a touchdown in 11 straight games, a team record and last week was the first RB to score against and rush for over 100 yards against SF defense AZ: WR Larry Fitzgerald will be making his 6th straight Pro Bowl on the strength of his career high 17.8 yards per catch
Both teams look to put a capstone on improved season, knocked out last week each team has their flaws but can be explosive at times. The Seahawks lean heavily on the running of Marshawn Lynch while the Cards passing game has solid potential. You have to wonder if either or both teams will be just mailing it in. Im gonna flip a coin and go with the home team.
Buccaneers (4-11) @ Falcons (9-6)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta 4:15 (FOX)
Favorite Falcons by 11½
Last Week Buccaneers lost to Panthers 48-16, Falcons lost to Saints 45-16
Playoff Implications Falcons move to #5 seed with win and Lions loss
Fast Facts: ATL: A win would give the franchises first ever back to back 10+ win seasons. TB: Looking to avoid their longest losing skid since losing their first 26 in 1976-77
Speaking of teams that are fading badly, the Bucs were at one time 4-2 and in the thick of NFC South race then after a rousing win against the Saints crashed badly and have lost nine straight prompting some calls for Raheem Morris’s ouster as coach. Getting the woodshed treatment at once beatable Carolina didn’t help matters nor does facing an annoyed Falcons squad itching for a team to take their beating out on as well as tune up for the playoffs. The points will get put up in a hurry but likely on one side of the scoreboard.
Chargers (7-8) @ Raiders (8-7)
O.co Coliseum, Oakland 4:15 (CBS)
Favorite Raiders by 3
Last Week Chargers lost to Lions 38-10, Raiders beat Chiefs 16-13
Playoff Implications Raiders clinch AFC West with win and Broncos loss, clinch #2 wild card with and losses by Bengals & Titans plus Jets win.
Fast Facts OAK: Are four penalties shy of setting the NFL record for most in a season with 159 SD: Trying to avoid first losing season since 2003.
Needing a win and A Broncos loss to win the AFC West the Raiders will be watching more than one scoreboard Sunday. The Chargers finally came up snake eyes and got housed in Detroit last Saturday and may have sealed the fate of Norv Turner. Both teams will give you a migraine with their inconsistent play but for some reason I just like the Raiders ability to cash in turnovers, something that the Chargers have been doing all too often as of late. To add insult to injury, the Chargers will have to watch their hated in-state rival clinch a division title that was so much their long time property.
Cowboys (8-7) @ Giants (8-7)
MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ 8:20 (NBC)
Favorite Giants by 3
Last Week Cowboys lost to Eagles 20-7, Giants beat Jets 29-14
Playoff Implications Winner of game wins NFC East and #4 seed
Fast Fact DAL: QB Tony Romo has a career best QB rating of 102.2 NY: Eli Manning and Victor Cruz became the 14th QB-WR combo to hook up for a 99 yard score
The regular season finale is a doozy. The G-Men and Pokes go head up for the NFC East title with no playoff safety net. The winner goes to the playoffs as the #4 seed with a home playoff game next week and the loser is out. Both teams have taken turns giving away clear shots at the division title with some puzzling losses but have some rip-roaring wins to bolster their respective noisy fan bases. The status of Tony Romo is for now is a go, though he is still recovering from hitting his hand on a defenders helmet last week. But with a highly suspect running game, the Pokes need Romo to play at top notch form. The G-Men meander from solid to suspect often in the same game, they knocked off their in-house rival but some suspect it was more because they lost it more than they won it. Eli Manning takes more flak than he should and subsequently it seems that Tony Romo gets less though the former is more accomplished. I’m just not sold on Romo in big games and his coach Jason Garrett has gotten a nasty tendency to freeze up in the clutch himself. I’ll bank on the experienced coaching of Tom Coughlin and that the Eli and the G-Men win it in spite of themselves and leave the Pokes holding the heavy bag of unfulfilled expectations.
Pick-New York Giants
Last Week: 11-5 (Lock Correct, Upset Incorrect)