St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks Sunday Night Football Pick: The NFC West!!! Hooray! Listen, the AFC South hasn’t been all that much better. I know that any team form the AFC South would be a huge favorite in the NFC West, but the winning team from the South could be 9-7, and there’s really been nothing but disappointment from the division all year long – sounds like the NFC West to me! But nobody would talk junk about Peyton Manning’s division, oh no, that’s blasphemy. And since this is the only “winner in, loser out” game on the schedule this week, lets talk about this one instead of how bad the AFC South has been.
First off, the Rams are going to beat the Hawks in Seattle to go to the playoffs. Secondly, it will probably be more of the Hawks beating themselves than the Rams winning it outright. See, Matt Hasselbeck had some good games earlier in the season, and all of a sudden this is a pass-happy-Seahawks team that “doesn’t beat themselves” – whelp, now that’s all they’re doing because they don’t run the ball for junk, and they pass way too much for an old guy with a tired arm, and there’s no way that’s a recipe for success. But the Rams are just better. They are better on both sides of the ball, and if it weren’t for Olindo Mare and Leon Washington having awesome seasons, they’d be better on special teams as well.
The Hawks definitely have some experienced leadership on their side, but you know they’ve been dealing with a lot of this “a losing team could make the playoffs” crap, and that should be playing tricks on them mentally. It’s tough to win if you think you’re losers, and I don’t know how the Hawks can come in thinking anything different this Sunday Night.
The Rams have Sam Bradford, and they are happy about it. Against one of the league’s worst secondaries (a CB tandem of Trufant and Jennings leaves quarterbacks wondering which side they should throw to, because neither one is good enough to stay away from) Sam should have a consistent day throwing the football. Many Hawk fans are trying to talk up his youth, and how that gives the Hawks a huge advantage on Sunday – but let’s be honest, they’d all rather have Sam than Matt in this game.
The Rams are the better team, and they should get that NFC West playoff spot.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans NFL Week 17 2011 Pick: The Jaguars are in a world of hurt – they will be without their best player, running back Maurice Jones Drew, without their quarterback, David Garrard, and without much of a hope in getting to the playoffs anyway, because they lost last week to the Washington Redskins a week after losing to the Indianapolis Colts – but I’m telling you there’s a chance!
That chance, and the fact that Houston is awesome at losing, makes the Jaguars a small favorite to win this game – very, very small. In fact, I made this pick earlier in the week when I didn’t know that Jones-Drew would be out again for sure, and I didn’t know that Garrard would be sitting out the season finale. If I had known that, I would have probably gone in a different direction, because despite the Texans choking all season long, and sucking it up, they are keeping Gary Kubiak in tow, and that shows a commitment to this team and these players in a situation they all know. There’s something there for them.
So, the short of it is this. This one is close, and since I made my pick early in the week before the injury report made it that much tougher on the Jags, I thought Jacksonville was the right pick. And because of that, I’m stuck with that pick. I wouldn’t advise anyone to put much on this game, especially with Trent Edwards on one side, and the Texans on the other – but I’ll stick with my pick and bank on the Jags showing up with a chance at post-season play in the distance.
Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts Free Pick & Preview: Oh how great would it be if the Titans could go into Indy with absolutely nothing to win and stop the Colts from getting into the playoffs? Oh it would be so glorious. Now, chances are that even if this did happen, the Jags would blow it and lose anyway, putting the Colts in for sure. But, it doesn’t matter much, because I don’t expect either to happen, quite honestly. The Titans aren’t very good, Peyton Manning is, and I don’t see Manning losing to a bad team when the playoffs are on the line.
But I do like the Titans to keep it close. Why? The Colts aren’t very good either. They don’t stop the run, they don’t run the ball with any success unless they are playing against a terrible run-defense, and because of this they don’t break away in games. That sounds like a resume for a team not real interested in covering double digit spreads.
The Titans are about as healthy as they’ve been since the middle of the season. Kerry Collins is manning the quarterback position and Kenny Britt is back to terrorize corners. Chris Johnson fell way short of his goal to break the rushing record, but he still has some long runs to bust – and I know Jeff Fisher would love to keep the Colts on the outside of this year’s post season – even if it meant watching the Jags get the top spot.
Spoiler is a fun thing to play – there’s nothing on the line, and that’s when a team can be at their scariest. The Colts always get their opponents’ best, and I don’t think this week will be any different. All those points, I guess I’ll take them and see where they get me.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers Free Prediction & Preview: Most people in the know expected these two teams to be battling it out for the chance to represent the NFC West (also know as 4 bad teams in one division) in the NFC Playoffs. I certainly thought the 49ers would be there, but figured the Cardinals for dead as soon as they gave away the only quarterback worth half his weight in kidney beans for absolutely nothing. It’s never good to cut your best quarterback before the season starts, especially when 2nd best is Derek Anderson, 3rd best is an undrafted rookie named Max Hall, and 4th is the guy starting this game, John Skelton. As it turns out, I was right about the Cardinals – not so much about the 49ers – but you win some, you lose some.
Right now, the 49ers are at an interesting spot – they win nothing from this game, they have no idea what the future holds, who will be their head coach next season, next week, who will be their quarterback in the future, which guys will be on the team at all. So many questions. That being said, I think they’re better than Arizona, and they’re playing at home in San Francisco – where they are 3-3 on the season (compared to 1-7 on the road).
The Cardinals are 1-6 on the road and they are bad. They have no run-game, they can’t pass, and they are hoping for another loss that might possibly win them a chance to draft a better player to help take the place of one key leader the lost over the off season. I’m not saying they’re trying to lose, I’m saying they will lose.
This game is gross, and taking the 49ers as a favorite against a gentle pack of guinea pigs seems ridiculous – but betting on the Cardinals to stay close on the road is even more ludicrous, so I’m taking the lesser of two weevils.
Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers NFL Free Picks Week 17: This game obviously means a lot more to the Packers than it does to the Bears, but it’s not like Chicago has the #1 seed, or even a guaranteed bye in the first round. This game not only means a lot to them in that regard (a win gets them a bye) but if they could pull off the road victory, they would keep a very good Green Bay Packers team out of the playoffs altogether.
Those are two big things, but the key part of this game is the huge spread. Green Bay is being treated like the golden team here while Chicago is getting 10 points as if they don’t expect to bother beating Green Bay at all. It’d be hard for me to believe that the Bears won’t be out to get that first round bye, keep the Packers out of the playoffs, and notch another win on their belts.
Green Bay needed to beat the Giants to have a chance, and beat them they did. In fact, the Packers killed the Giants and now they’re the favorite to get into the post season as a wildcard. At the very least, they are the only team fighting for that 6th spot that control their own destiny. Tampa needs the Giants and Packers to lose – and they need to beat the Saints. The Giants need to win and have Green Bay lose. All the Packers have to do is beat the Bears – and I think it has a good chance of happening; I just don’t buy the spread being what it is.
If the Bears had home field locked up, I’d take the Packers as two-touchdown favorites, but both teams are playing for something, and while the Packers are playing for more, it certainly isn’t 10 points more.
Week 17 NFL Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles Free Pick: This is another Week 17 game that poses an interesting set of possibilities. First of all, Mike Vick isn’t going to play, and with a handful of key players sitting this one out in Philadelphia, the Eagles obviously aren’t putting much stock in winning this game, and that definitely is a big help to the Cowboys’ side.
But, the Cowboys, already without Tony Romo, are probably going to be without Jon Kitna as well – meaning that Stephen McGee (rookie and project signal caller) will most likely be the guy throwing passes and handing off footballs in Philadelphia this weekend. So maybe, with that, the advantage goes back to Philadelphia who will be starting a pretty dang good back-up quarterback in Kevin Kolb.
But, it still comes down to who is trying to win, and with interim head coach, Jason Garrett, still looking for his chance to be a full time guy, winning remains important to him, and he’ll prepare his guys accordingly. Talent-wise, both teams will be without key players, and both teams don’t have much (in terms of playoff positioning, record, etc) to play for. But the Cowboys have more to play for because to start the game the Eagles all know that “They aren’t trying as hard as they can to win the game, because it doesn’t matter.”
That’s too big of an advantage for the Cowboys, and getting three points makes it even better. I’ll take the dogs that have nothing to play for besides their coach’s job.
San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos Free Picks NFL Week 17: Tim Tebow did some good stuff last week for the Broncos, enough to make all those haters question if it’s possible that Tim could be good in the NFL. He was good down the stretch against Houston, that’s for sure. He didn’t just run the ball around the field in some funky version of the wildcat, either – he threw for 308 yards and a touchdown and brought his team back from a 17 point deficit to get his first win as a starter. With all the guys out there expecting him to be terrible, I’ve turned into a fan (that’s kind of how I role, I’m a non-bandwagon fan). But I don’t think he continues his solid play this week at home against San Diego. The Texans have the worst secondary in the league, and the Chargers have a pretty damn good defense that is coming off a very disappointing game last week in Cincinnati. There’s a big difference there, and it’ll show this Sunday afternoon.
Speaking of good young quarterbacks, Philip Rivers is one of the best in the league. Without Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates for big chunks of the season, Rivers has still thrown for 4397 yards, 30 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. The Chargers struggled to run it much of the season, so all the weight went on Rivers’ shoulders. His reward? In Week 17 he gets to air it out against a Denver secondary that is getting killed in the second half of the season. No playoffs for Rivers, but a big game (350+ yards) Rivers could jump into the Top 6 all time passing yardage seasons of all time. Without Mike Tolbert, the Chargers might just air it out on Sunday.
All in all, the Broncos aren’t good. They won last week, but it took nothing short of a miracle to get it done, and back to back miracles are few and far between. Look for San Diego to end on a win, and do so easily.
Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets Free Football Prediction: The Jets have absolutely nothing to play for aside from winning, which does actually have some pull in the swing of things. As far as the playoffs, the Jets are in. They will be a wild card, they will be on the road in Week 1 of the post season, and the outcome of this one will not change either of those facts. So, I am expecting key starters to play less than a half of football and that should be the difference in this game.
It’s always tough this time of year, to figure out who’s going to play their main guys and who’s going to take the week to rest their key players. But with a team like Buffalo, there’s nothing to think about. They are going to play their key guys because they are still trying to figure out a recipe for winning football games, and 5 wins is better than 4, and finding guys that are going to lead this team next year is still an important part of the evaluation process. If I know their coach, and I think I know enough about him to have an opinion, they’ll have heard all week about the importance of ending the season on a positive note, and how nice it would be to slap the HBO-Jets around a little bit.
The Bills have played tough week in and week out (aside form a couple, most recently last week when New England kicked them around) and I expect them to come out and run the ball, and go for big plays with Fitzpatrick throwing the ball. I like them to win this one.
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions Point Spread Pick & Preview: I know the Vikings walked into Philadelphia last Tuesday Night and beat up on a very good Philadelphia Eagles team, but it’s hard for me to buy them coming back on short notice, going on the road, and playing another good game against a solid team. So I’ll be putting my chips on the Lions to cover the field goal spread at home in Week 17.
I like what Joe Webb brings to the table – he’s a solid young player that has freakish athleticism, a strong arm, and a competitive nature that impresses me. But he’s also a rookie that will need time to become a consistently good starting quarterback in this league. Last week he played very well, running the ball with success and completing 65% of his passes without throwing an interception. He managed the game well and didn’t make any mistakes that killed his football team. But consistency is not something that swims around in young project quarterbacks, it is something that gets built over time. He will struggle this week because he doesn’t have the consistency to beat the Lions where they struggle most, in their secondary.
Shaun Hill, the Lions’ starter, continues to be a consistent player for Detroit. He finds his playmakers in the offense, and has really been a strong force in their offense in the games he’s started this season. Detroit gets the advantage at the quarterback position.
Defensively, the Vikings played better last week – but they’ve struggled all season, and I can’t bet on one week over the rest of the season. The Lions are still competing and a win means more to them than it does to Minnesota. I think they win and cover at home.