New York Giants @ Washington Redskins Free Pick and Preview: The Giants are 9-6 coming into this road game with the Redskins, and they no longer hold their own destiny in their hands. The Giants come into Sunday’s action rooting hard for the Chicago Bears to play their best players and beat the Green Bay Packers – if they do that, the Giants have a chance. If they don’t, the season is done for, and it’s no more gooey-Eli Manning, angry-Tom Coughlin face for the rest of the season. Sad… sad.
But the Giants have to take care of business, too. And Washington, under Rex Grossman, have played pretty dang good football – at lest passable as competitive. They lost to a good Tampa Bay team by 1 points after a missed extra point did them in. Then they made the QB change and Rex Grossman threw 4 touchdowns passes, nearly leading them to an upset over Dallas. They lost that one by 3. They beat a Jacksonville Jaguars team last week, 20-17, and all the Jaguars had to do was win a couple mediocre games to take the AFC South playoff spot. But Washington is playing pretty good, and they beat the Jags and all-but-knocked them out of the playoffs.
Still, I think New York comes in with a little something to prove here. They won’t know their destiny until the Packers win or lose against Chicago, and since both the games are in the late slot, there will be no reason to get them believing they’re playing for nothing.
New York has had a bit of an up and down season, and it’s likely to end without a playoff spot – but the Giants can run the ball against poor front seven’s – they can rush the passer and push him into mistakes. These two things should give the Giants a road win in Washington.
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons NFL Week 17 Predictions: The Falcons have something big to play for here, something they set out to accomplish, something that would undoubtedly help them to walk away from the crazy NFC with a spot in the Super Bowl – home field advantage throughout. That’s important to them, and that’s why I’m taking the Falcons and a huge spread to cover – and the fact that they’re playing the hapless Panthers doesn’t hurt at all.
The Panthers weren’t very good to start the season, and they’ve been absolutely crushed by injuries all season long. To put it into perspective, the Falcons have 4 players on IR and two guys questionable for this Sunday’s game. The Panthers have 14 guys on IR, 1 starting corner back “out”, one player “doubtful”, their best receiver questionable, and a couple more players listed as probable just for good measure. They have nothing to play for, they are bad, they are hurting and they are really freaking bad.
I normally wouldn’t even consider the Falcons as a huge favorite like this, but I truly can’t go any other way. Atlanta has played and won a lot of close games, but they’ve played against a lot of good teams. They destroyed Carolina earlier in the season, and beat another bad team (Seattle) 34-18 two weeks ago. The Panthers are hopeless, John Fox is getting fired as soon as this thing finishes up – yes, there’s not much to be excited about if someone made you take Carolina in this one.
Wisconsin Badgers @ TCU Horned Frogs Rose Bowl by Vizio Free Pick: I love the Horned Frogs. I’ve said all season long, they are one hell of a team that can be as good as anyone in the Nation. This is a huge game for them, for everyone – bigger than their game last year against Boise State, as big as Boise’s win over Oklahoma years ago – the game that put small schools on the map. I will be rooting long and intense throughout that TCU will show all the idiots out there that a small school can kick some tail as well. But with my mind, I have to give the nod to the Badgers of Wisconsin.
It really comes down to how awesome the Badgers have been playing lately. The beat-downs they are putting on their opponents are epic. TCU has been awesome as well, dominating every single opponent outside of San Diego State (they still won by 5). But the Badgers put up 83 on Indiana and 70 on Northwestern. They are a bad game against Michigan State from an undefeated season – and they are easily playing their best football late in the season.
TCU has even better numbers than the Badgers (though they are both scoring an identical and amazing 43.3 points per game this year). They are giving up just 11.4 points a game, and they sport one of the best defenses in the Nation, giving up a touchdown or less in 6 straight games this season (and that wasn’t against powder-puffs, that was against Air Force, BYU, UNLV, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado State). One team has played close with the Horned Frogs all season long, just a good San Diego State team.
Listen, I think the world of TCU, really I do – I just think Wisconsin is playing better than anyone in the Nation right now, and they do well in Bowls. They get the nod.
#5 Wisconsin Badgers (+3) @ #3 TCU Horned Frogs
Connecticut Huskies @ Oklahoma Sooners Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Pick: Oh the Sooners couldn’t be a bigger public favorite. At a couple big books I know, Oklahoma is rocking public favoritism by over 80%. It looks like they’re about 65% as a whole on most of the sites I recognize. Twice as many people are on the Sooners – and I get it, the Sooners come from the Big bad 12 and UConn took the BCS spot because they won the pathetic Big East with an 8-4 record and a loss to Notre Dame, of all teams. The Huskies should be underdogs, no doubt, but the consistent acknowledgment that they “don’t belong in a BCS Bowl game” or how they “aren’t even ranked” helps raise that spread to where it is today. Give them a little credit.
The Huskies won 5 straight to win the Big East title, including a big 19-16 win over South Florida. They smoked Cincinnati, walked past Syracuse, and beat both Pitt and West Virginia to help win them the title. They ran the ball very well down the stretch, and despite a passing game that rarely accrues impressive numbers, the Huskies have found ways to win football games – a very important part of football, for sure.
The Sooners put up heaps of points and loads of wins, but they also played in a Big 10 that sports absolutely no defense and high scoring games every time out. When they play in anything different, it gets foreign. The Soones barely beat Cincinnati early in the season, and we know Connecticut is better than them. UConn should lose this game, but 17 is way too many – all the value is on the Huskies.
Connecticut Huskies (+17) @ #7 Oklahoma Sooners
Mississippi State Bulldogs @ Michigan Wolverines Progressive Gator Bowl Pick: Just on principal I can’t pick the Wolverines to beat anybody worth their weight in sun chips, and the Bulldogs are definitely worthy.
What Michigan brings to the table is an awesome college dual threat in Denard Robinson, a defense that can’t stop a runny nose, and a resume that doesn’t have a quality win on it since Week 1 (and that was a win over unranked UConn – but they are in the BCS, somehow, so I have to recognize them a little bit). They lost 5 of their last 7 games after starting the season 5-0. The only teams they beat were Purdue and Illinois (who outplayed the Wolverines in that multiple overtime game, but lost anyway). They’ve lost to everybody good that they’ve played since Week 1, and Mississippi State is good. I’m no math-wiz, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take a graduate of any sort to put 2 and 2 together in this one.
The Bulldogs lost 2 of their last 3, but a loss in Alabama and an overtime loss at the hands of Arkansas don’t look bad on any resume. The Bulldogs aren’t scary, they can run the ball well but they aren’t elite on either side of the ball. Michigan just isn’t very good, and they are terrible defensively – the Bulldogs should run all over them.
#21 Mississippi State Bulldogs (-4) @ Michigan Wolverines
Florida Gators @ Penn State Nittany Lions Outback Bowl Prediction: I just don’t believe in the Nittany Lions. The Gators don’t make me real comfortable – something about losing 5 of their last 8 games, the fact that they didn’t beat any top-division team with a winning record since Week 2 makes me a little uneasy, definitely. (Yeah, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee – all no better than .500). But I’ve seen the Gators play well at times this year, and the threat of Penn State isn’t something that I’m too worried about. I don’t think the spread has much value, but it’s Gators or nothing for me.
Penn State played decent football down the stretch after starting poorly. They were 4-2 in their last 6 games with wins over Northwestern and Michigan among others. They really haven’t beaten a good team yet this year, however, at least not a Top 25 team. Florida isn’t Top 25, but talent-wise they can compete with anyone. It’s that athletic discrepancy that gets me picking Florida.
Florida finally found a running game down the stretch, something to lean on for them – and I think that will help a lot here. Plus, I have to bet on the side of passion and purpose, because I know the Florida Gators love their coach, and this being his last game I know they will come out with a plan to do anything possible to send him out a winner. Passion and purpose is worth 7 points in my book.
Florida Gators (-7) @ Penn State Nittany Lions
Alabama Crimson Tide @ Michigan State Spartans Capital One Bowl Pick: This game follows one of my main rules (one I break from time to time, but mostly follow it), always take the lesser ranked favorite. The Crimson Tide become that team with their #16 overall ranking as a near double digit favorite against 9th ranked Michigan State.
Aside from fitting one of my favorite formulas, the Tide are the much better team. I guess it’s tough to argue with Michigan State’s season, they finished just a bad game away from undefeated (a 6-37 crushing at the hands of Iowa), busting through 11 teams, winning close games and blowouts alike. They beat Penn State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Illinois, Northwestern, and Michigan (as far as bowl teams are concerned), and they did so with a very balanced attack offensively and solid defense. They aren’t great at anything, but they can beat you plenty of ways.
Alabama is a different beast altogether. They had a bit of a disappointing season, but aside from a two-touchdown loss to South Carolina, their three-point loss at LSU and their 1-point loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship game, all they did is win. Everyone knows Alabama wasn’t aiming for a 9-3 season, but they still have a great team. They are a team with so much talent that a bowl-game should really benefit them. They’ve had a lot of time to teach their youth, a lot of time to prepare for Michigan State and become comfortable with them. Talent-wise, this game shouldn’t be close, and I don’t think it will be. Teams that out-rushed the Spartans gave them trouble, Northwestern nearly beat them, Iowa did, and Purdue gave them all they could handle. Look for Alabama to win by 2-3 touchdowns.
#16 Alabama Crimson Tide (-9.5) @ #9 Michigan State Spartans
Northwestern Wildcats @ Texas Tech Red Raiders Ticketcity Bowl Pick: Dan Persa is one hell of a college football player. He is the best player on the Wildcats’ squad, and he would give Northwestern a great chance to win this game… If he wasn’t injured and unable to go in their Bowl game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. But as fate would have it, the Wildcats will be without their leader and best offensive player. Instead of Persa’s 73.5% completion rate, his 15 to 4 TD to INT ratio and his 2581 yards, the Cats will see Evan Watkins running their offense – 302 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions… With Persa, the Wildcats were 7-3 with a win over Iowa and a couple close losses to solid teams. Without him they are 0-2, losing by a combined score of 128-50 against Wisconsin and Illinois.
The Red Raiders will help Evan Watkins look better than his terrible statistics claim, but even the Raiders’ defense can’t make Watkins look good enough to make up for Persa’s loss. Texas Tech gave up 30 points per game this season, and they scored 32. They aren’t really a rushing team, they often get slaughtered on the ground, and they don’t do a very good job of stopping anything – I just don’t think the Wildcats can put up enough points to hang with the Red Raiders.
With a month to prepare for a Northwestern team that can’t run or throw it, and is without their best player – I think the Red Raider defense looks better than it has all season.
Northwestern Wildcats @ Texas Tech Red Raiders (-9.5)