The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that playoff berths will soon be there. The time is running out on some teams to lock down playoff berths though to date only the Patriots and Steelers in the AFC and the Bears and Falcons in the NFC have netted berths. Submitted for your perusal and review are my picks for this weeks games. Where applicable games with immediate playoff implications are duly noted. Ill repost the Steelers-Panthers pick just in case you missed its early entry.
Odds are provided by bodog.com via ESPN and are for entertainment and comparison purposes only. Don’t call me if you blow the good champagne money for New Years betting these lines and have to buy Ripple to sip at Midnight next Friday instead.
NFL SCHEDULE – WEEK 16
Thursday, December 23
Panthers (2-12) @ Steelers (10-4)
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh 8:20 (NFLN)
Favorite Steelers by 15
Fast Fact The Steelers have given up the fewest points in the NFL, while the Panthers have scored the fewest.
One would expect that one team would be coming into this game off a solid win while the other would be coming in off a dispiritnig loss. No one expected that it would be the Panthers coming in off a win, albeit a rare one against a weak Cards team while the Steelers took a puzzling loss to the Jets. The Steelers are in their usual pitched fight with the Ravens for control of the AFC North. The Steelers have already clinched a playoff berth and have the tiebreaker edge but need no slipups. The Panthers are getting ready to figure out who their #1 draft pick will be and should provide little resistance on the road.
Pick-Pittsburgh (Lock of The Week)
Saturday, December 25 (Merry Christmas!!!)
Cowboys (5-9) @ Cardinals (4-10)
University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, AZ 7:30 (NFLN)
Favorite Cowboys by 7
Fast Fact Jason Witten and Larry Fitzgerald have both crossed the 600 catch threshold, Witten becoming the 4thTE and Fitzgerald the youngest player to reach that mark.
Both teams are going nowhere, but the Pokes have given their fans a little to be happy about as they have rebounded smartly after their disastrous 1-8 start. The Cards have fallen on hard times and are realizing how much Kurt Warner meant to their psyche and swagger. Everyone knows that Jon Kitna is not the Pokes long term answer but he will keep the Pokes playing fairly respectable to seasons end. He will have little problem picking apart the Cards laughably weak defense.
Sunday, December 26
Ravens (10-4) @ Browns (5-9)
Browns Stadium, Cleveland 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Ravens by 4
Fast Fact Ravens QB Joe Flacco has won all five meetings against the Browns
The Ravens are trying to stay hard on the Steelers heels to steal the AFC North title and a coveted first round bye. Winning a tense shootout with the Saints may now be in the best position to get it with a home date with the downtrodden Bengals. The Browns are looking forward to try to wreck someone’s playoff plans and are decent enough to give teams trouble, last weeks puzzling loss to the Bengals notwithstanding. Im just not seeing the Ravens getting snuck up on again by Peyton Hillis again.
Lions (4-10) @ Dolphins (7-7)
SunLife Stadium, Miami 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Dolphins by 3½
Fast Fact The Lions have never won in Miami
The Lions pulled one of the more shocking wins of the year, stunning the Bucs in Tampa for their first road win in more than 3 years. Meanwhile the Fins slim playoffs hopes took a massive hit with a damning loss to the lowly Bills at home. Playing hard to end the season, Im looking at the Lions to give the Dolphins a whole mess of trouble and with the Dolphins well documented difficulties at home, this smells a whole like an upset waiting to happen. That’s the reason why it wont
Patriots (12-2) @ Bills (4-10)
Ralph Wilson Stadium; Orchard Park, NY 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Patriots by 9
Fast Fact The Pats have won in their last six trips to Buffalo
Playoff Implications The Patriots can clinch home field advantage with a win
The Pats got a whole lot more fight from the Pack than they were expecting but pulled out the win. The Bills were rude guests down in South Beach and won a tight game. The Bills have been playing respectable after their horrid start but they are light years away from playing at the Pats crisp focused level. Tom Brady is playing like its 2007 but without the big names at WR. The Pats will not get snuck up on like they were in week 3, The Pats are one of the few teams that are not worried about a shootout.
NY Jets (10-4) @ Bears (10-4)
Soldier Field, Chicago 1:00 (CBS)
Fast Fact Bears RB Matt Forte joined hall of famer Gale Sayers as the only Bears RB with 1000 yards from scrimmage in each of their first three seasons.
Playoff Implications: The Bears clinch a first round bye with a win and losses by Eagles and Giants
The minute I am chortling with glee with the Jets apparent demise, they rise up and slap the Steelers…in Pittsburgh no less! They played a rockem sockem game against the Steelers and are still very much in playoff contention. The Bears spotted the Vikings a touchdown and then roared back with a fury that was downright scary. As long as Jay Cutler doesn’t do try to do too much the Bears are a tough team to deal with. I know folks think I hate the Jets but I don’t think much of their chances and doubt that they can match their over the head play versus the Steelers.
49ers (5-9) @ Rams (6-8)
Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Rams by 2
Fast Fact The Niners have not allowed a 100 yard rusher in 20 straight games
This is a matchup that makes the purists retch, both teams below .500 but still fighting over a playoff spot. Both teams took losses to in state rivals last week, the Niners getting housed by the Chargers while the Rams dropped a tight game to the Chiefs. The Rams are the more balanced team but are really starting to learn how to win big games. Im liking the play of Sam Bradford’s play a lot more than Alex Smith’s as of lately. Im thinking that the Rams are ready to pull the big win out.
Titans (6-8) @ Chiefs (9-5)
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Chiefs by 5
Fast Fact The Titans have allowed 58.5 yards rushing per game in its past two after allowing 123.4 in its first 12
Playoff Implications Chiefs will clinch AFC West with win & Chargers loss
Taking a huge step toward nailing down a playoff berth and possibly a division title, the Chiefs slugged out a win over their in-state brethren. The Titans can at least hold their heads high after getting a modicum of revenge over the Texans. Matt Cassel wasn’t the steadiest last week but he gave the Chiefs strong leadership to get the win. The Titans are a dangerous team to face this time of year as they have the tools and talent to play the spoiler role to the hilt, but the Chiefs are just about money at home.
Redskins (5-9) @ Jaguars (8-6)
EverBank Field, Jacksonville 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Jaguars by 7
Fast Fact Jags QB David Garrard has thrown a franchise record 22 touchdown passes this year
The Redskins have more or less gone on vapor lock though they played and lost an entertaining shootout with their hated rivals last week. The Jags took an untimely beating at Indy and are trying to hang tough in the AFC South and playoff pictures. Needing this win badly the Jags aren’t going to fiddle with the Redskins though I keep getting the feeling that they will let Wreck (Rex) Grossman shine in his return to his North Florida stomping grounds.
Texans (5-9) @ Broncos (3-11)
Invesco Field @ Mile High Stadium, Denver 4:05 (CBS)
Fast Fact Broncos QB Tim Tebow’s 40 yard touchdown was the longest run by a Broncos quarterback in team history.
Speaking of Florida QB’s Broncos would be wunderkind Tim Tebow got his NFL baptism and played respectably against the Raiders. The Texans are infighting and imploding which means that Texans coach Gary Kubiak isn’t long for the head man job. That said the Broncos are trying new things and new looks and have shown a proclivity to put up points. This has the makings of a shootout, but for some reason. I like the Texans to pull one out late.
Colts (8-6) @ Raiders (7-7)
Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland 4:05 (CBS)
Favorite Colts by 3
Fast Fact The Raiders are 5-0 in their division but winless against all other AFC teams
When the schedule was drawn up this game looked like a walkover for the Colts, now it has the making of high stakes matchup for both teams. The Colts are trying to hold off the Jags whom they slapped around at home last week. The Raiders finished a rather satisfying sweep of the Broncos and need the win to possibly set up a winner take all showdown with the Chiefs, though they do need outside help to make that happen. The Colts can be ragged one minute ruthless the next having found some semblance of a running game last week, something the Raiders have had in spades as of late. The Colts have trouble with ball control teams. Are the Raiders ready to make that next step?
Pick-Oakland (Upset of The Week)
Chargers (8-6) @ Bengals (3-11)
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati 4:05 (CBS)
Favorite Chargers by 7½
Fast Fact The Chargers have in their last three trips to Cincinnati
What was looked at preseason as a possible rematch of an entertaining 2009 shootout on Sunday Night football has been flexed out to a late afternoon yawner. The Chargers are trying to keep pace with the Chiefs and hold off the Raiders to garner a playoff spot and possibly the AFC West title. Philip Rivers has been on a blistering tear as of late and should find the young weak Bengals secondary easy to digest. The Bengals though coming off a badly needed win over the Browns just want it all to be over as painful memories of the horrid 90’s and 2002 season are being replayed. The Chargers should make quick work here and keep their tepid playoff chances alive.
NY Giants (9-5) @ Green Bay (8-6)
Lambeau Field, Green Bay 4:15 (FOX)
Favorite No Line (Rodgers questionable status affects the line)
Fast Fact The Giants and Packers rank 1-2 in the NFC in sacks
Playoff implications: The Giants clinch a playoff berth with a win
This is an intriguing matchup. The G-Men found another new and exciting way to lose as they gaffed their way to giving up a 31-10 lead to the Eagles losing on the last play. The Pack were underdogs on the road but hung in till the last play themselves. This game has developed into a loser goes home type game. The Giants are still technicially in the NFC East race but lose the tiebreaker with the Eagles. The Pack have no chance of winning the NFC North but are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. If Aaron Rodgers is a go he improves the Pack’s chances immensely. No one can totally blame Eli Manning for the Giants recent troubles (well all those interceptions as of late sure don’t help) and this has the potential of being a last one with the ball wins type game. As much as I loath the Packers its hard to bet against them at home on the so-called frozen tundra
Seahawks (6-8) @ Buccaneers (8-6)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa 4:15 (FOX)
Favorite Buccaneers by 6
Fast Fact Bucs TE Kellen Winslow has caught a pass in 74 consecutive games
At first glance it looks like the Bucs are hanging on to a fringe spot in the NFC playoff race while the Seahawks are playing out the string. But its actually the other way around, the Bucs are playing out the string after a galling OT loss to the usually beatable Lions at home have all but deep-sixed any playoff hopes. Meanwhile the Seahawks are trying to stay afloat and set up a showdown with the Rams next week. Most everyone knows of my well proven theory about west coast teams coming east, but this being a later game the Seahawks may have a better than average chance here. Though its dicey to depend on the Seahawks showing more than marginal interest at times despite the obvious gravity of the game. I think that Seahawks turn it on, in spite of their recent road woes
Vikings (5-9) @ Eagles (10-4)
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia 8:20 (NBC)
Favorite Eagles by 14½
Fast Fact The Vikings have lost six straight to the Eagles and their last five in Philadelphia (Your humble scribe was in attendance at the last Vikings victory over the Eagles…in 1997)
Playoff Implications: Eagles clinch division with win
You can bet cash money that NBC wishes that they could have been able to pry the Jets-Bears from CBS or Giants-Packers from instead of this potential stinker that they flexed into. Michael Vick will be the focus and he will likely shine at home. The Eagles are soaring after their thrilling rally to tie then beat the Giants on an electrifying game ending punt return TD by DeSean Jackson. The Vikings played a lousy game at “home” and looked like a team that has already quit. As a diehard Vikes fan this game will hurt me to watch at any length.
Monday, December 27
Saints (10-4) @ Falcons (12-2)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta 8:30 (ESPN)
Favorite Falcons by 3
Fast Fact Drew Brees is now one of two QB’s to throw for 4,000 or more yards in five consecutive seasons (Peyton Manning has done it 2 separate times 2000-2004, 2006-current)
Playoff Implications Falcons clinch division and homefield advantage with win; Saints clinch playoff berth with win.
ESPN couldn’t have dreamed up a better matchup for its season finale. Two teams that have one of the more underrated rivalry in a high stakes showdown for the NFC South title. The Falcons can clinch outright with a win and have been lights out at home. Coming off a bruising loss to the Ravens the Saints have just about run out of any wiggle room and need this win to stay alive. Two of the NFL’s best QB’s are on the primetime stage as Drew “Cool” Brees and Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan will pilot their high scoring big play offenses. The Falcons have the better running game and should be able to control the clock better. It will be another thriller in Hot-Lanta and I just have the feeling the Saints inability to close the deal in tight games will burn them again.
Last Week: 9-7 (Lock & Upset Correct)
Of course I would be greatly remiss if I didn’t thank you for your continued support and patronage in reading my views on the weekly games. From this side of the keyboard to yours, may you and yours have a Merry Christmas as well as a safe and blessed 2011.