NFL: Week 12 Picks

Thanksgiving Day Games

  • Vikings @ Lions: After 5 weeks of the season, I never thought this game would be a fight for sole possession of the first place in the NFC North. But thanks to the Lions winning five of their last six while the Vikings lost 4 straight, we have this scenario.  Minnesota has been carried by their defense all season, while Detroit has done a good job of winning close games of late. Neither team’s running game has been impressive.  Detroit is used to playing on a short week during Thanksgiving, and with the edge at quarterback, I’m taking the home team in a close game this week. DETROIT WINS
  • Redskins @ Cowboys: Dallas enters as the league’s best team, but don’t look past Washington. The NFC East is the only divisions in the football with all 4 teams over .500, so this will be a battle.  The Redskins put up 42 on the Packers on Sunday Night, and haven’t lost a game in three weeks. The Cowboys have won 9 straight, but have had close calls the past two weeks.  So this could be the game that ends the Cowboys streak no question, I just don’t think it will be. Look for another big game from Ezekiel Elliot. DALLAS WINS
  • Steelers @ Colts: Both AFC teams enter off wins and at 5-5 on the season.  The Steelers are tied for the AFC North lead, while the Colts are a game back in the AFC South. Le’Veon Bell had a huge game last week in Pittsburgh’s easy win over the Browns. Indianapolis played their best defensive game of the year, holding a red-hot Titans team under 20 points, which was the lowest point total the Colts have allowed this year. So while the Colts are playing better of late, the Steelers defense is better and not to mention their ability to control the clock on the ground will get them above .500 this week. PITTSBURGH WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Titans @ Bears: Tennessee saw their hot streak stopped by Indianapolis last week. That being said, they still played well, coming back from 21-0 to make the Colts sweat late.  Chicago lost their 8th of the season despite scoring more points in the first half against the Giants than they average for a full game.  But they lost another lineman, and Jay Cutler got hurt adding to the loss of their best offensive weapon in Alshon Jeffery. It’s not definite that Cutler is out for the season yet, but even if he was healthy, Marcus Mariota has been so good lately that they have the edge there. TENNESSEE WINS
  • Jaguars @ Bills: The Bills are currently out of a playoff spot, but still very much in the conversation at 5-5.  Jacksonville on the other hand, is facing another top 5 draft pick. Their offense hasn’t been what I thought it could be coming into the season, with disappointing decisions from Blake Bortles in the air, and not enough from T.J. Yeldon on the ground.  Buffalo hasn’t put enough complete games together for a team with a very good defense and an offense featuring an explosive running back, hence the .500 record.  But they’re the better team, and can shut down a mistake prone Bortles. BUFFALO WINS
  • Bengals @ Ravens: As if Cincinnati’s season hasn’t been disappointing enough, they face the rest of the season without their starting running back, and at least this week without their best weapon in AJ Green. If you’re the Bengals, you have to hope the absence of Green means Andy Dalton spreads the ball more, and it means opposing defenses can’t game plan for just one guy.  Baltimore wasn’t going to be scared this week either way, as they come into action as the second ranked total defense in the league.  They are coming off a loss to Dallas, but at 5-5 are very much in the AFC North race, while the Bengals find themselves in third place at 3-6-1.  Give me the home team to get above .500 fairly easily. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Cardinals @ Falcons: Arizona has been disappointing this season after a strong 2015-16 season.  They’ve been up-and-down on defense, and injuries on offense have slowed them down.  Their best chance this weekend is for David Johnson to have a big game, and control the clock.  Even if the Cardinals can do that, Atlanta knows how to score quickly.  The Falcons are coming off their worst offensive game of the season, only scoring 15 points after scoring at least 23 in their previous 9 games. So which bird flies higher this weekend? Give me the home team to rebound offensively in what could be a very high scoring affair. ATLANTA WINS
  • Giants @ Browns: New York comes in winners of five straight, sitting in a Wild Card spot in the NFC. Their opponents are still win-less at 0-11 and after some fight early in the season, have been blown out in their last three games, scoring just a total of 26 points over that span.  This spells trouble for Cleveland, as the Giants defense has been very good during their winning streak.  If the Browns want to get their first win of the year, they’ll have to force New York’s offense into turnovers, and avoid turning over the ball themselves. Even if they play clean, I don’t see them coming away with a victory this week. NEW YORK WINS
  • Rams @ Saints: Both teams enter with identical 4-6 records, and both find themselves in third place in their respective divisions.  But that’s where the similarities end.  New Orleans continues to be carried by their offense, Los Angeles by their defense.  The Rams have made a change at quarterback to help their offense that hasn’t scored more than 10 points in four straight games. The Saints defense isn’t anything to write home about, but they have gotten better as the season has gone by, so while the Rams should score more than 10 this week, they won’t be able to keep Drew Brees down enough to win. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • 49ers @ Dolphins: Tied with the Giants for the second longest win streak in the NFL heading into week 12, the Dolphins have taken down 4 AFC opponents, and have figured out how to win the close games they were losing early. San Francisco is on a nine-game losing streak, and despite some better offensive performances of late, they’re just lacking talent on both sides of the ball. I still think Miami has been disappointing this season, despite the winning streak, but they are by far the better team and will make it six wins in a row. MIAMI WINS
  • Chargers @ Texans: Despite being one of the more confusing teams in the league this season, Houston is two games above .500 and have a one game lead over the Colts for the AFC South title. The Texans running game has been a strength this season, but the Chargers are one of the best at stopping the run.  So if Houston wants to get their seventh win of the season, they’ll need Brock Osweiler to play smart in the passing game.  Philip Rivers will have a similar challenge in the passing game, as the Texans defense is one of the best there.  So who wins on Sunday? I’m taking the upset, San Diego gets the win on the road. SAN DIEGO WINS

Sunday 4/425 Games

  • Seahawks @ Buccaneers: The Seahawks are rounding into form after a tie with the Cardinals and a road loss to the Saints, they’ve won three games in a row are scoring at will.  Tampa is trending up as well, winners of two straight and just a game back in the NFC South.  The Buccaneers offense has been pretty good all season, but their defense is stepping up of late.  So while Seattle has been playing well on both sides of the ball, this game won’t be an easy game to win, especially on the road. But I still think they get the job done and move to 8-2-1. SEATTLE WINS
  • Patriots @ Jets: Before the season started, I thought this game would be the game that ultimately determined the AFC East winner. But now it’s just a chance for the Patriots to maintain their AFC best record and further bury the Jets.  New York’s offense is in shambles, and their defense isn’t much better. Tom Brady missed a couple of days of practice this week, but we know even if he missed a game New England would be in good hands at quarterback. Note to mention how good their run game has been this season. This should be a pretty easy Patriots win on the road. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Panthers @ Raiders: Carolina is still very much alive in the NFC South, but they have a lot of work to do at 4-6 on the season.  Unfortunately for them, they’re playing one of the best and hottest teams in the league this week.  Derek Carr is an MVP candidate, and the Raiders defense is very good. For the Panthers to win this game, their defense needs to play their best game. This game has the potential to be a 10-7 game, and a 35-33 game. Either way, I like Oakland to get to 9-2 this weekend. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Broncos: It’s a HUGE AFC West match-up on Sunday night. Both teams enter with 7-3 records, tied for second behind the Raiders in the AFC West.  Both are also wild card teams right now, so a loss means falling to third in the division and moving closer to missing the playoffs altogether. Kansas City’s offense hasn’t been great of late, while the Broncos have found a way to survive without CJ Anderson. This could be a defensive struggle, but I feel better about the Broncos at home, where they don’t lose often. DENVER WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Packers @ Eagles: Green Bay continues to disappoint, coming off an embarrassing performance on Sunday night against Washington. Now they face another NFC East opponent in the last place, despite their 5-5 record, Philadelphia Eagles.  The Packers have the edge at quarterback but that’s about it. And even Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been himself this season. The Eagles defense has been pretty good all season and that’s why they’ll win this week.  PHILADELPHIA WINS
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NFL: Week 5 Picks

We’re through a fourth of the NFL season, and 3 undefeated teams remain: the Eagles, Vikings and Broncos.  These are three teams who’s defenses have been smothering, and who are starting different quarterbacks then they ended their season’s with last year.

Through four weeks, I have a 34- 30 record picking games.  Here are my thoughts on week 5.

Bye Week: New Orleans, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Kansas City

Thursday Night Football

  • Cardinals @ 49ers: Arizona has gotten off to an p-and-down start to the season, and it continued Sunday against LA. The Cardinals out-gained the Rams 420-288 yards, but committed five turnovers, including fourth quarter interceptions by backup Drew Stanton after Carson Palmer left with a possible concussion. They find themselves with a 1-3 record, and tied with their week 5 opponents at the bottom of the NFC West. San Francisco got off a great start in week 4, putting up 14 points quickly on the Dallas Cowboys, but struggled the rest of the game.  So who can get back on track this week and pull themselves out of the cellar? I’m taking the birds, even with them having to start Stanton under center Thursday. ARIZONA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Texans @ Vikings: Houston is the only team in the AFC South with a winning record, and other than a 27-0 drubbing in week 3, have looked pretty good.  They got their first win without JJ Watt, thanks to breakout performance from Will Fuller, the first player in franchise history to have a TD reception and a punt return for a score in the same game Minnesota’s defense is really, really good and the biggest reason they remain undefeated. Sam Bradford has been pretty good in purple and they’re succeeding without Adrian Peterson. They’ll lose soon, but it won’t be in week 5. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Bears @ Colts: Chicago picked up their first win of the season this weekend, snapping a six-game losing streak. Brian Hoyer was great in his second start for injured starter Jay Cutler, finishing 28-36 for 302 yards and two touchdowns.  The run game got going as well, while the defense picked off Matt Stafford twice in a three-point win.  Indianapolis has to rebound from a loss, in London, to the Jaguars.  Andrew Luck continues to be a no-show in the first half of games, as he threw all three of his touchdowns in the 4th quarter.  The Colts offense was plagued with dropped balls and a costly Luck interception that led to Jacksonville’s first touchdown. And their defense didn’t help, drawing costly penalties to extend a number of Jacksonville’s drives. I want to pick the Colts, who can still rebound from this slow start, but if the Bears can get another game on the ground like they did last week, they’ll get a second straight win. CHICAGO WINS
  • Jets @ Steelers: Two bad weeks in a row for the Jets have them at 1-3 heading into a game with a Steelers team coming off a drubbing of the Chiefs. The same Chiefs who had a field day on defense two weeks ago against New York.  Pittsburgh got Le’Veon Bell back, and it looked like he hadn’t missed any time.  It was another bad week for Ryan Fitpatrick and the New York offense.  The Jets defense let a supposedly hobbled Russell Wilson off the hook, and while they are capable of stopping good teams, I like the home team in this one. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Titans @ Dolphins: Miami continues to struggle, and you have to ask when changes will be made.  They spent all this money last off-season on the defense, yet they’re bottom five there, with an 0-4 record.  Sure they played Cincinnati a week ago, but they’ve been pretty bad on both sides of the ball all year. AJ Green nearly had more receiving yards (173) than Ryan Tannehill did passing (189). Meanwhile, the Titans haven’t been much better in year two of Marcus Mariota.  They’re middle of the pack on both sides of the ball.  This is a good game for both to get things going and get some confidence, so who gets the win? Tennessee has been in every game this season, so I’ll take them to get the road victory this week. TENNESSEE WINS
  • Eagles @ Lions: Philadelphia is alone atop the NFC East, thanks to a great start from rookie Carson Wentz, and a very good defense.  Detroit has lost its last three games after barely holding on to a week 1 win in Indianapolis. Matt Stafford hasn’t been crisp, and they’re not getting much out of the running game. The Lions have been in every game, win or lose, while the Eagles have had an easy time of it early.  They’ll be well rested coming off their bye week and it will show in another victory.  PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Patriots @ Browns: New England gets  Tom Brady back from suspension after suffering a rare loss at home, a very rare shutout loss, and their first of the season.  That being said, the Pats are in a good place at 3-1 as they welcome back their starter.  Cleveland remains the lone win-less team in the league, despite being right there at the end the of each game the past two weeks. Brady missing 4-games at his age could mean great things for New England, meaning he’ll be fresh, or it’ll mean he’s a bit rusty this week.  Or both.  Cleveland has looked better on offense the past two weeks, particularly on the ground.  But they couldn’t stop the Skins in the red-zone, where Brady thrives.  It’ll be close, but I’ll take the road team here. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Redskins @ Ravens: Washington comes in winners of two straight; Baltimore; off their first loss of the season.  The Skins were great in the red-zone of the second week in a row, and Kirk Cousins continues to be very accurate.  The Ravens lost a one point game to Oakland at home where they both out-gained and held the ball longer.  A successful two-point conversion on a fourth quarter touchdown for Baltimore was immediately followed by a foolish taunting penalty, and then a game winning drive from Derek Carr. Can Washington make it three-straight wins, or will the Ravens pick up their fourth win of the season? It’ll come down to red-zone defense and the run game.  We know both of these quarterbacks in Cousins and Joe Flacco can air it out.  I like the Ravens run game, and trust their defense at home more. BALTIMORE WINS

Sunday 4PM/425PM Games

  • Falcons @ Broncos: This is a match-up of two of the hottest teams in the NFL.  Atlanta is on a three-game winning streak, scoring at least 45 in the last two.  They’re the only team above .500 in the NFC South and coming off a game where Matt Ryan threw for over 500 yards against the Panthers.  Denver meanwhile, hasn’t lost since a week 15 road loss last year to the Steelers; and their last home loss came in week 10 last year to the Chiefs.  The Broncos defense hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this season, so this will be a test of an extremely hot defense, versus an extremely hot offense. Which wins out? I’m going with the old adage that defense wins championships; the reigning champs will remain undefeated. DENVER WINS
  • Bengals @ Cowboys: Dallas hasn’t lost since week 1, and even that should have probably been a win.  They’re getting huge production from their rookies with no sign of slowing down.  The Bengals got back on track and evened their record up in week 4 against the Dolphins.  Both teams have defenses capable of making the stops down the stretch when necessary, but with no Dez Bryant, the Bengals have the biggest play threat on the field in A.J. Green, and that’s why I like them to snap the Cowboys win streak. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Chargers @ Raiders: San Diego’s problem this season hasn’t been scoring, it has been their inability to finish games this season, losing by less than a score each time. Oakland is starting to figure things out on offense, winners of two straight including handing the Ravens their first loss of the season. The Raiders defense is actually allowing the most yards per game, and the 11th most points per game, so there’s work to do there.  They’re going to beat the Chargers this weekend, on the strength of their offense. OAKLAND WINS
  • Bills @ Rams: In week 4, the Bills did something most teams in the Belichick era, shut out the Pats in New England. The deefnse, as well as LeSean McCoy had big gmaes for Buffalo.  The LA Rams are playing up to their competition this season, and finishing the job.  They took advantage of the Cardinals losing Carson Palmer last week, and find themselves 3-1.  Considering they havent had a winnning season 2003, this is a huge thing in itself.  Their offense is inconsistent, which is where Buffalo  will take advantage. BUFFALO WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Giants @ Packers: After starting the season 2-0, the Giants have sputtered in all areas of the game the past two weeks.  They’ve allowed big play after big play on defense, while not getting any of their own on offense.  Turnovers on special teams and offense aren’t being nullified with forcing opponents to do the same.  Green Bay hasn’t been as sharp as they’ve been in the past, but will be rested after their bye week.  The Giants have won the last three match-ups in this series, but I’m taking Aaron Rogers in this one. GREEN BAY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Buccaneers @ Panthers: Carolina should be worried. They looked lost against Atlanta this past week, never having an answer on how to cover Julio Jones, a guy you should always game plan for as a top priority.  Tampa Bay is in the bottom third scoring wise in the league, despite putting 30-plus points on the board in two of their first four games.  Their defense has allowed at least 24 in each game as well.  So this is a good game for the Panthers to figure some stuff out on both sides of the ball before they fall any further in the standings. CAROLINA WINS

NFL PLAYOFFS: Wildcard Weekend

It was an interesting week 17 that saw teams like the New York Jets lose their spot in the playoffs, the Patriots lose their number 1 seed and Peyton Manning’s return to claim that spot in the AFC.  And it wasn’t any less dramatic over in the NFC, where the Vikings held off a late charge from the Packers on the road to claim the North, while the Seahawks made a huge statement on the road against Arizona.

And in case you missed it, the top 20 in the NFL Draft looks like this:

  1. Tennessee (picked 2nd last season)
  2. Cleveland
  3. San Diego
  4. Dallas (won the NFC East a year ago)
  5. Jacksonville
  6. Baltimore (1st losing season since 2007)
  7. San Francisco
  8. Miami
  9. Tampa
  10. NY Giants
  11. Chicago (finished 4th in the NFC North for a second straight season)
  12. New Orleans
  13. Philadelphia
  14. Oakland (most wins since 2011)
  15. St. Louis
  16. Detroit (was a wild card team a season ago)
  17. Atlanta
  18. Indianapolis (finished 11-5 prior 3 seasons)
  19. Buffalo
  20. NY Jets (only 10 win team not in the playoffs)

But now the regular season is over.  And the fun is just getting started.  12 teams are left vying for the Lombardi Trophy and it all starts Saturday as Wildcard weekend kicks off with the AFC.

NFC Byes: Carolina (1) and Arizona (2)

AFC Byes: Denver (1) and New England (2)

AFC Wildcard game 1 – Saturday

  • Chiefs (5) @ Texans (4): The hottest team in the league heading into the playoffs are the Kansas City Chiefs.  10-straight wins after starting 1-5, and they allowed just 20+ points once from week four on.  Houston won the South thanks to a 6-2 second half and a very good defense.  So we’ve got two top 10 defenses kicking off the playoffs.  Who comes out on top? I like the Chiefs to keep the winning going.  KANSAS CITY WINS

AFC Wildcard game 2 – Saturday

  • Steelers (6) @ Bengals (3): Pittsburgh has overcome so many injuries this season to make the playoffs, and they enter without another piece after DeAngelo Williams went down in a must win week 17.  Cincinnati had a shot all season at a bye week, but the loss of Andy Dalton late in the season, along with a week 16 loss to Denver, has them playing a first round game again. AJ McCaron has looked pretty good in place of Dalton, and while the Steelers are riding a lucky streak, I think it ends this week, whether Dalton is back or not.  It’s the year the Bengals make it out of the first round. CINCINNATI WINS

NFC Wildcard game 1 – Sunday

  • Seahawks (6) @ Vikings (3) : It’s going to be an extremely cold one in Minnesota. This was always going to be a ground-and-pound type of game, but with kick-off possibly at 0 degrees, it rings even truer.  Seattle and Minnesota enter as the third and fourth best rushing teams in the league respectfully, so this is going to come down to who can at least make the other defense think pass.  Russell Wilson is on fire throwing the football, and with his team knowing how to win in the playoffs, I like them to control time of possession and the air game. SEATTLE WINS

NFC Wildcard game 2 – Sunday

  • Packers (5) @ Redskins (4): The Packers have backed into the playoffs, while the Redskins are flying high.  Kirk Cousins did work at home once named the starter, so this is going to be a tough game for Green Bay. The Packers defense needs to carry the team, and I think they will.  While Washington did a decent job keeping opponents off the board during the season, they gave up the fifth most yards per game.  It’s the type of defense Aaron Rodgers needs to get their offense going. GREEN BAY WINS

 

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Round Picks

The second season is here. We have the match-ups, we have the times. The NFL Playoffs are here.  It was an interesting regular season, that saw one division finish under .500, while another sent 3 teams to the playoffs. The rookie wide-receiving class was one of the best we’ve ever seen.  Two of the teams with the longest playoff droughts (Buffalo and Cleveland) both had chances for much of the season to snap said postseason ruts, but neither could. Tom Brady proved he wasn’t done, Aaron Rodgers continues to climb up the ladder and JJ Watt can do no wrong.  How about the defending champs with a chance to repeat? Not to mention all the off-the-field issues. The regular season was full of intrigue, and the playoffs promise to be just as entertaining.

As for my regular season picks record, I ended at 165-90 after a 10-6 week 17, which is pretty good if I do say so myself.

Before we get to my first round playoff picks, let’s see how my preseason predictions for playoff teams went.

NFC Playoff Teams

  • Eagles, Packers, Seahawks, Saints, Panthers, 49ers

(I got the NFC North and West winners right, but I had Carolina in as a wildcard. Not bad, not great.)

AFC Playoff Teams

  • Broncos, Patriots, Colts, Bengals, Ravens, Chiefs

(I was a lot better here, missing on the Steelers and where the Bengals would end up).

Saturday Games

  • Cardinals @ Panthers: It’s the NFC 4-5 match-up that pits an 11-5 West team versus the 7-8-1 South Champions, and the first meeting between the two teams since October 2013. Arizona was the class of the NFC for much of the season following a 9-1 start, but the loss of starting QB Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton saw them close the regular season losers of 4 of their last 6.  They lost possible home-field, a bye and the division they were running away with and now they have to open up on the road, where they were .500 in the regular season.  Carolina is hot and holds the momentum of a 4-game win streak into the playoffs.  Cam Newton seems revitalized after early season injuries and escaping a car accident. The Panthers run game is better than the Cardinals.  Arizona’s defense has been huge all season, while the Panthers has come on of late.  The biggest difference is at QB with Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals 4th stringer, vs Newton.  Midway through the season there was a chance of seeing the Superbowl host city’s team playing the big game, now I see a 1st round knock out. CAROLINA WINS
  • Ravens @ Steelers: AFC North foes meet for the 3rd time this season in a 3-6 match-up.  These two teams split the season series, each winning in blowout fashion.  Pittsburgh reeled off 4-straight wins en-route to the division title, whereas the Ravens needed everything to fall right in week 17 for them to make it in.  The Steelers boast the 2nd ranked offense in the league, who will be up against the Ravens 8th ranked defense.  With rain in the forecast, the ground game becomes even more important.  Pittsburgh could be without their great back Le’Veon Bell, who finished the season 2nd only to DeMarco Murray in rush yards with 1,361.  Baltimore has the 5th leading rusher in Justin Forsett, so this one is going to be fun to watch in the trenches.  If the rain isn’t too bad, Ben Roethlisberger holds the advantage in the air over Joe Flacco. Both teams have won a Superbowl in the past 6 years, so neither will be scared off by the bright lights. I think this will be a close one, but give me the home team to take this one.  PITTSBURGH WINS

Sunday Games

  • Bengals @ Colts: The AFC 4-5 game starts things off early on Sunday with two teams that were in the playoffs a year ago.  Cincinnati lost their chance to host a game in week 17, and now look to snap their 3-straight one-and-done playoff streak on the road.  Indianapolis had been struggling despite locking up back-to-back South titles, but got back on track last week with a big game against Tennessee.  Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton both have something to prove in this game, as both had way too many turnovers in the regular season. That being said, I like Luck better than Dalton in every facet of the game.  Cincinnati’s only real the edge is on the ground with the emergence of Jeremy Hill.  I picked the Bengals to finally advance to the 2nd round, and if they control time of possession they very well could get the road victory.  But I think Andrew Luck is poised to make a run, and because I had them losing to Denver in the AFC Championship game before the season, I’ll stick to that now. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Lions @ Cowboys: The game of the weekend in the NFL pits an 11-5 Detroit team against a 12-4 Dallas team most didn’t see coming.  The Lions finally put all their talent together, but offensive struggles in the 2nd half allowed the Packers to sneak in and steal the division, forcing them to open up on the road.  Most thought the Cowboys defense would be historically bad once again, and while it was still bottom half in the league, they made the stops they needed to.  What really carried Dallas was the three headed monster on offense of Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo, who all broke Cowboy records for yards at their respective positions. Good thing Detroit has the 2nd ranked defense to try and combat Dallas’ 7th ranked offense. Both teams have been regarded as two of the most talented teams over the past 6 years or so, but neither have done much to earn too much praise. So who moves on? Both QBs have been known to commit turnovers in key situations, but Romo hasn’t in a while now. I think the Lions defense finally forces a mistake, while slowing down Murray in the process. It’s going to be close, but I think Detroit finds a way, with Calvin Johnson looking like his old self, to win on the road.  DETROIT WINS

NFL: Week 17 Picks

The regular season comes down to this, one playoff spot in each conference remains up for grabs, with plenty of seeding to be set.  Three divisions are still unclaimed, including the NFC South, the final spot left unclaimed and all three of those battles are winner-take-all on top of it.  We couldn’t have asked for a better end to the regular season.

In Week 16, I went 10-6 to bring my season total to 155-84.  Here’s my final regular season set of picks. Comment with your thoughts!

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: A win doesn’t help either team, as the Pats have already clinched home-field throughout the AFC playoffs, while the Bills are out of the playoff picture.  But as Tom Brady said in his press conference this week, with a bye in the 1st round, they need to make this game count so they stay fresh and ready. I don’t expect the starters to play the whole game, maybe just the 1st half, but I think New England gets the win, their 13th of the season. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Ravens: Baltimore needs a win to keep themselves in the conversation, but if the Chargers win, that’s it.  Cleveland is on their 3rd quarterback after Johnny Manziel’s injury and the ineffectiveness of Brian Hoyer.  THey had a good run, but I don’t think the Browns finish with their first non-losing record since 2007, completing a 2nd half collapse.  I’ll take the Ravens to at least give themselves a chance at the final spot in the AFC. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Bears @ Vikings: Jay Cutler is back under center and looking to finish a down year on a high note.  Minnesota has had an okay season for a team that lost it;s starting QB and all-pro running back early.  If the Vikings get the win, the Bears will finish all alone in the NFC North cellar.  And that’s exactly what I think happens.  MINNESOTA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Redskins: The Cowboys are back in the playoffs after 3-straight seasons of finishing at 8-8, and they have a shot at a first round bye.  With a hand injury to DeMarco Murray, and Tony Romo’s back, they could use it.  A lot has to go right, but they have home-field locked up at the very least by virtue of winning the NFC East. DALLAS WINS
  • Colts @ Titans: Andrew Luck is having the worst season of his young career, and yet his Colts are division champs once again. But the turnovers can’t continue, and if you’re Indy, you want to see a crisp game heading into the playoffs. Seeding is still a factor, but they have home field in the first round, so I don’t think a full game will be played by the starters. That being said, I still think the Colts get a much-needed win to make them feel better before the postseason kicks off. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Jaguars @ Texans: Jacksonville has a lot of pieces, especially on defenses, to make the future look bright. Add to that another top 3 pick, and they could make some noise fairly soon.  A loss would help things along, so while I don;t think they’ll go out and throw the season finale, I also don’t think they win. JJ Watt will look to finish the year strong and add to his MVP caliber campaign. HOUSTON WINS
  • Chargers @ Chiefs: When I looked at this match-up earlier in the week, I had the Chargers winning.  Now that Alex Smith is out for the Chiefs with a lacerated spleen, I’m even more sure that San Diego will lock up the final AFC playoff spot. Philip Rivers and company have had an odd season, but they can wipe it all away with a win and playoff berth, and I think that’s exactly what I think they do. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Jets @ Dolphins: New York has been a disappointment all season, while the Dolphins have been disappointing to close out the season.  We know Joe Philbin will be back for 2015 in Miami, but we don’t know the true fate of Rex Ryan for the Jets. Ryan has had more success than Philbin as a head coach, but they coach in competely different markets so who knows.  All I know is I like Ryan Tannehill better than both Geno Smith and Mike Vick combined, and I saw a better defense all season long for Miami than New York.  So for that, I understand another year for Philbin.  That is also why I think the Dolphins end the season with a win. MIAMI WINS
  • Saints @ Buccaneers: This game means nothing to New Orleans but looking to end the season with a little pride. In a bad NFC South, a playoff perennial squad led by Drew Brees couldn’t even make it to week 17 in contention for the playoffs. As for Tampa, it’s been a lost season from the jump, and here they sit with a chance at the number 1 pick, with only Tennessee in the way, entering action with identical 2-13 records. Give me the Saints to finish the season with a win. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Eagles @ Giants: After being in the lead in the NFC East for most of the season, week 17 finds the Eagles out of the playoff picture and just looking to be a 10 win team that doesn’t make it.  The Giants have turned things around in the 2nd half of the season, and are a different team than when the two played the first time around.  Give me the Giants to finish out the season at 7-9 with another good day from Odell Beckham Jr, the probable Offensive Rookie of the Year. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 4:25PM Games

  • Panthers @ Falcons: The winner is playoff bound. The loser goes home.  Neither team finishes above .500, but will host a tough 10+ win team in the wildcard round. Cam Newton’s health/ability is questionable after his car accident, while Matt Ryan’s offense is scary good.  Neither team’s defense has been impressive this season, so I’m going to go with the home team in this one. ATLANTA WINS
  • Raiders @ Broncos: The Broncos don’t have to win to ensure a first round bye, but you know they want to go into the playoffs strong and not leave things up to chance.  Peyton Manning is coming off one of his worst games ever in week 16, so you know he’s looking to bounce back.  Oakland has all but knocked themselves out of the top draft spot with 3 wins, but they’re still going to be in prime position.  Derek Carr has shown growth, so all is not lost in Raider Nation.  That being said, this is a home game with a week off at stake, give me the Broncos to get the job done. DENVER WINS
  • Cardinals @ 49ers: San Francisco has been a strange team all season, and they’ll be missing the playoffs after a nice streak of success th past few years under Jim Harbaugh.  With signs pointing to Harbaugh parting ways with the Niners sooner rather than later, I think the team plays hard for him one more time.  I just don’t think it results in a win.  The QB situation for Arizona is less-than ideal heading into the playoffs, but their defense can carry them for a while.  Ryan Lindley gets the start over rookie Logan Thomas, with news that Drew Stanton could be back for the playoffs.  They have a playoff spot no matter what, but they more than anyone else in the NFC, really needed that bye week, but their tailspin has coincided with the Seahawks resurgence.  ARIZONA WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: Winner gets the NFC North crown and home-field in the first round. The loser gets a wildcard spot. A first round bye is also in play for the winner of this one, so it’s the biggest game of the weekend. Detroit has been carried all season by their defense, but their potent offense has started to pick it up of late. The Packers are nearly unbeatable at home, looking to go 8-0 at Lambeau, so you know Green Bay wants to avoid going on the road as long as possible in the playoffs as they can.  Aaron Rodgers has more experience in high pressure games than Matt Stafford, and I think that’s the difference this week. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Rams @ Seahawks: The reigning champs started the season off slowly, but they are peaking at the right time, and a win guarantees a first round bye, and they have a shot at home-field throughout, and in 12-man territory that would be huge.  St. Louis has had a respectable season, their defense is formidable and their wins have come against some of the league’s best.  They will make the tough NFC West tougher next season with a stable QB. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bengals @ Steelers: It’s the battle for the AFC North and home-field advantage in the 1st round. Both teams are already in the playoffs, and both could still, with a lot of help, get a bye.  Cincinnati hasn’t been super impressive for most of the season, but in clinching a playoff spot last week, they sure were.  Andy Dalton outplayed Peyton Manning, and the defense stepped up big time.  Not to mention how great Jeremy Hill was out of the backfield.  But Pittsburgh has been coming on strong of late, and their run game is even more dangerous with Le’veon Bell in the backfield.  Ben Rothelisberger looks like his old self, and with this game in front of the black-and-yellow, I’m taking the Steelers to win the most competitive division in football.  Though as I said last week when I picked against the Bengals, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cincy pulls the upset.  I had them finally breaking their 1-and-done playoff streak this season prior to the start of the year, so a huge road in against their division foe wouldn’t shock me at all. PITTSBURGH WINS