Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints Point Spread Pick: The Buccos set out to get 10 wins, and despite the Saints’ hopes to win big and watch the Falcons lose so they could walk away with a bye, those chances are slim and none and slim just ate an entire pizza, a cheese steak sandwich, and a power bar – morphing him into fat chance. Bad? Yeah, I thought so. But hey, sometimes you just have to go with it. Fat chance being considered, I actually think the Bucs have more to play for here. They could actually walk away with a playoff spot if Green Bay lost to Chicago (possible) and the New York Giants lost to Washington (NY losing to anybody, possible) – so we’re not just talking about 10 wins here, we’re talking about a possible playoff spot. Big.
The Bucs have played so many close games this season I don’t know how anybody could see value in giving them 9.5 points. The Saints still haven’t played all that well, which just reinforces my value assessment.
Josh Freeman gets better and better, and the more the Bucs give the ball to LeGarrette Blount, the better their offense becomes. He’s a beast, and I know he’ll be looking to blow up some linebackers on his way to the end-zone. If the Falcons/Panthers game gets out of hand, the Saints could very possibly pull a good chunk of their starting unit, making the Bucs an even better bet to cover.
I just don’t get the 9.5 – I know the last time these two teams went at it, the Saints destroyed the Bucs, but that was 10 games ago, and the Bucs have become a much more complete team since then. Tampa has one loss by double digits this season – one. I don’t see them doubling that this week.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns Week 17 2010 Free Pick: This game is taking place at 1pm ET which means the Steelers will still be playing for a possible bye in Round 1 of the playoffs. A bye is huge, especially this season with so many teams that are so even. It’s a free pass to Round 2 and a big week off for all your key players trying to get healthy. The Steelers could really use that. All they have to do is beat the Browns, because they hold the tie-breaker over Baltimore and nobody else in the AFC can win 12 games (outside of 13-2 New England of course). Because of this, there’s no way the Steelers rest their players for next week. If they get by the Browns, they get to rest EVERYONE next week.
Now, that doesn’t mean this is a gimmie by any means. The Browns have played tough all year, beaten good teams (like New Orleans and New England), and they run the ball with success. The key there is that last one, and it’s key because I don’t think they can pull that off against the Steelers run defense.
Pittsburgh gave up just 74 yards rushing last week to a bad Carolina team, but a bad Panther team that had been running the ball pretty well down the stretch. Like the Panthers, the Browns don’t pose much of a threat through the air.
Because they can give all their attention to stop Peyton Hillis, they should be able to do so without much trouble. That means I like the Steelers to win by at least 10 in Week 17.
NFL Week 17 Predictions Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs: I don’t know what the Chiefs are playing for here. They will have a home game in Week 1 of the playoffs, and if they win they won’t have a home game in Week 2. It doesn’t matter what happens on Sunday (maybe it does, but I don’t seen any conceivable scenario that moves them up past the 3rd spot).
The Raiders, on the other hand, do have something to play for, and while it’s not a playoff spot, ending the season with a win and at .500 is a big goal for them. I think they end up getting it done. This team has gone through a huge losing culture over the last handful of years (or two handfuls) and finishing the season out of the negative is a big deal. They might be without Richard Seymour and Darren McFadden, but they have a solid back-up for McFadden in Michael Bush, but Seymour’s absence would be huge, as they gave up a ton of rushing yards to a poor rush-offense from Indy last week.
Still, I have to side with the Raiders here – the Chiefs have a future next week, one that will be at home, and one that won’t change much regardless of what they do this weekend. The Raiders have one more game then the off-season. They’ve played very hard all season long, I don’t know how this one would be any different.
South Carolina Gamecocks @ Florida State Seminoles Chick-fil-A Bowl Pick: I hear that Christian Ponder will likely play on Friday, which definitely ups the Seminoles’ chances of upsetting (slightly) the South Carolina Gamecocks. But, it’s not enough for me to give them the nod, as I truly believe the Gamecocks are one of the better teams in college football.
It’s hard to say they’re great when they got beat 17-56 in their final game of the year against Auburn, but they really are a good football team. Even with that 56 point mishap, the Gamecocks gave up just 23 points per game. They beat Alabama, smacked Florida around, lost to Auburn earlier in the season by just a touchdown, and walked through a tough defensive team in Clemson. The Gamecocks did it many ways this year, using elite talent at RB and WR (and a solid all around year by QB, Stephen Garcia) to put points on the board against good defenses. Speaking of good defenses, the Gamecocks were very good. As a team, SC out-rushed their opponents in 7 of their last 9 games. They are as healthy as they’ve been since the beginning of the season, and they have a good coach leading the way.
Florida State played well down the stretch, even giving the Hokies all they could handle without Christian Ponder in the ACC-Title Game. They lost 33-44, but it was a good performance from a FSU team playing without their QB and leader.
But I think the Seminoles inability to stop the run, and their constant struggle with producing on the ground; will end up being their downfall against the Gamecocks. They’ve lost the rushing battle in 6 of their last 7 games, and that will certainly continue on Friday.
#20 South Carolina Gamecocks (-3) @ Florida State Seminoles
Georgia Bulldogs @ #25 Central Florida Knights AutoZone Liberty Bowl Pick: I know the Bulldogs have their doghouse located firmly in the middle of the SEC, but does that make them better than the Knights? I’m sorry, but I’m not much of a believer in that conference power BS – especially in bowl games. The public seems to be, however, as they like the 6-6 Bulldogs to easily cover the touchdown-spread to the tune of 73% of them betting Georgia. In another book, the Bulldogs are 89% favorites to cover the spread. I feel pretty good about being the minority in this one!
The Knights had a nice stroll down the stretch, winning three straight to end the year and 8 of their last 9 games overall. They gave up fewer than 17 points in 7 of their last 10 games, and it’s that defensive consistency that makes me think they have a shot to upset the Bulldogs.
Georgia obviously gets the talent-nod here. Aaron Murray is the much more hyped quarterback prospect, as opposed to CF’s Jeff Godfrey. AJ Green might very well be the best prospect in the game, and maybe the best WR in college football. Georgia’s always loaded with talented kids.
But The Knights know how to win. I’m usually a fan of betting on the unranked favorite over the ranked underdog, but I just see a solid performance coming out of the Knights. They should use their rushing game to stay close in this one. They’ve out-rushed 9 of the last 10 teams they’ve faced, and that’s because they can run the ball well (25th) and stop the run even better (6th).
Georgia Bulldogs @ #25 Central Florida Knights (+7)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Miami Hurricanes Hyundai Sun Bowl Pick: I like what Notre Dame did down the stretch a lot more than I like what Miami did to end their season. Neither team met expectations as Miami stumbled from a solid pre-season ranking to finish 7-5 and unranked in the Top 25. Notre Dame finished strong, but losses to Tulsa and Navy (they got killed by Navy) weren’t very impressive. They also finished out of the Top 25.
But both teams have plenty of talent, that’s for sure. And both teams are in the midst of a culture change. Sure, Notre Dame has been working with a new coach all season long, but they’re still learning their way with the new HC. Miami’s head coach got the axe and it all starts new in Miami.
The Hurricanes didn’t really end the season terribly, but two straight losses didn’t help their coach’s cause, as Virginia Tech and South Florida both came into Miami and beat the ‘Canes. Miami really had disappointments all season long, losing a game to Virginia and never really beating a “good” team. Jacory Harris had some pre-season Heisman hype, but he really had a disappointing season as he nearly matched his touchdowns (14) with interceptions (12). He was injured a bit, but his inconsistency was obvious. He’s expected to be healthy enough to play in this game, which should give the Canes a boost, but I don’t think it will be enough.
Notre Dame played the Michigan State Spartans really tough, losing by a field goal in overtime in mid-September. But it wasn’t until November 11th, against Utah, that the Irish got a good win. They easily out-played the Utes, winning 28-3, and they haven’t looked back since. They beat Army 27-3 then went to USC to oust the Trojans 20-16 to end their season on a high note. They have some key injuries (RB, Armando Allen – QB, Dayne Crist – TE, Kyle Rudolph among others) but it’s nothing like Miami’s long list of health problems.
I just see the Irish building on their solid end to the season while Miami continues to struggle with consistency.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+3) @ Miami Hurricanes
South Florida Bulls @ Clemson Tigers Meineke Car Care Bowl Pick: B.J. Daniels didn’t have a good season throwing the football for the Bulls. He threw it for just under 1500 yards with 9 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Those are hardly mediocre numbers. He only rushed for 237 yards on 101 carries, with 4 touchdowns. So his 2.3 yards per carry weren’t exciting either. But he was still the starting quarterback in South Florida, and losing him will hurt their squad, because back-up Bobby Eveld wasn’t all that impressive either.
Kyle Parker wasn’t amazing for Clemson either, but he was decent. He threw more touchdowns (12) than interceptions (10) and generally led the Clemson to some solid outcomes down the stretch. The only game they got beat up in was against South Carolina in the last game of the season, and South Florida is no Carolina.
Clemson almost beat Auburn back in September, losing by a field goal in overtime. They beat Maryland, Georgia Tech, and NC State (all bowl teams) this season, while losing to North Carolina and Florida State by 5 and 3 respectively. And that Auburn game, of course.
South Florida beat Miami late in the year, but other wins over the likes of Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Florida Atlantic, and Western Kentucky don’t do much for me.
In the end I think the Clemson Tigers defensive front is too much for the offensively challenged Bulls. That should give Clemson the win, and cover, in the Meineke Bowl.
South Florida Bulls @ Clemson Tigers (-5.5)
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens Point Spread Free Picks: This game is always close, and I don’t see why, with everything for the Ravens to gain (possibly a 1st round Bye if things go right) and nothing for the Bengals to lose (they’re playing better of late, but have had a terrible year) that this game won’t be tight from start to finish.
Carson Palmer looked like the old (or young, I guess) Carson before the knee injury that set him back the last few years. He looked to many different targets and relied on the run game more- it worked as the Bengals ousted the Chargers and kept San Diego out of the playoffs for the first time in a while. They can’t keep the Ravens out, but a talented secondary and a solid offense could keep the Ravens from getting a free pass to Round 2, and I think the Bengals have that kind of game in them.
The Bengals have won 3 straight games in this division rivalry. They beat the Ravens 15-10 for one of their 4 wins this season. It was a defensive game, and while that might be to the advantage of the Ravens, it’s not to the advantage of covering a double digit spread.
In fact, the Bengals have only lost by double digits 4 times this season. They’ve won two straight games, and they’re playing solid on both sides of the ball. Yes, I’m willing to say they have a chance, and I’m taking them on the road getting 10 and change.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots NFL Week 17 Free Picks: You never know what the Patriots are going to do, especially after watching Wes Welker go down to a season ending knee surgery late last year in a meaningful game before the playoffs. But Bill Belichick isn’t the type of guy to second guess himself, even when a tough injury got to his squad in a similar situation, so I think he plays his guys, at least most of them, for the better part of this game. If we’ve learned anything from the coaching of the master, it’s that his young defense needed seasoning to become a solid unit – and I don’t see why they wouldn’t come out playing tough against the Dolphins this Sunday morning.
I would think that Tom might get a half game off or so, but the Patriots do a lot of things right, and they will be well coached. With Miami’s head coach in danger of being ousted – and their quarterback questions looming, the pending free agency of both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, it’s hard to expect much out of those Dolphins.
Despite being favored in all but 1 of their last 10 games, the Patriots are 7-3 ATS with wins of 29+ points against two of the best defenses in football, the Jets and Bears.
I know Brady has a ton to do with his teams’ success, and nobody knows if he’ll play or not – but either way the best team will be at home on Sunday, and giving just 3 points makes them a solid enough bet for me.
Washington Huskies @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl Pick: Let me tell you a little story… Once Upon A Time, earlier this season, the Cornhuskers went on the road (or through the air) to visit Seattle to battle the Washington Huskies. The Huskies were supposed to be a tougher out this season, so Nebraska came in with a battle on their minds. It didn’t start well for the Dawgs as freshman quarterback sensation, Taylor Martinez, threw a 24 yard touchdown pass and ran a short TD in to make it a 14-0 game early in the 1st quarter. But Washington got back in it, and with 5 minutes left in the 2nd, the game was 21-14, everything the fans had hoped for!
But while the Huskies were just about done, the Cornhuskers had just started. They ran down the field for one more touchdown before half, and walked into the locker room doubling up the Huskies.
It was all Nebraska in the 2nd half as the Huskies sieved-like defense couldn’t do anything to slow the Huskers elite rushing attack. IN fact, three Huskers broke the 100+ yard barrier. As a team they rushed for 385 yards and 6 touchdowns and the Huskies just couldn’t keep up.
The game was a laugher, in the end, as Nebraska won 56-21, scoring 21 unanswered points to end the game.
I know the Huskies won 3 straight games to get into a Bowl, and all three were Pac-10 wins, which are always tough – but they really stand no chance against Nebraska, and I expect this to be a lot like the first fairy tale.
Washington Huskies @ #18 Nebraska Cornhuskers (-14)