It feels like just yesterday I was writing “Labor Day is the ultimate Catch-22” to start my Week 1 Picks column, the summer was coming to a close and there was still hope the New York Football Giants would be playing a home game for Super Bowl XLVIII. Now here we are with Christmas over and Week 17 and 2014 upon us. (Excuse me while I grab some tissues.)
There are just 27 games left to pick this season and after last week’s 3-13 disaster, a .500-or-better season has become the pipe dream I said it would be back in Week 13. I entered Week 16 needing to finish 28-15 to finish over .500 season, but that huge setback gives me a 104-126-9 record and means I will have to finish at least 25-2 to finish over .500. So if I am to finish over .500, it means I will endure an historical run ever and if you’re actually putting money on the picks, you will win a silly amount of money between now and the Super Bowl. (Or I will continue to crawl through this mediocre season.) I have said over and over how my picks season has mirrored this Giants season and with the Giants just playing to save face and salvage a win once again this week, it looks like I will be doing the same in Week 17.
This week 13 of the 16 games have playoff implications as of now. I say as of now because by 4:00 on Sunday there will be some late afternoon games that mean as much as Giants-Redskins or Vikings-Lions or Titans-Texans do. Right now, there isn’t one playoff team that has locked up their seed. The problem with those 13 playoff implication games is that in eight of them, one of the teams has absolutely nothing at stake. And with 60 minutes of football separating those eight teams from their playoff-less season and the offseason and putting the lost year behind them, it’s hard to gauge what type of effort you might get in those games. One game stands between 14 of the league’s 32 teams and eight months until their next game.
Carolina -6.5 over ATLANTA
The Panthers are going to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and Jake Delhomme’s five-pick game when the Panthers were 10-point favorites against the Cardinals. But the Panthers will have to win this Sunday to win the NFC South and get a bye because the Saints are home against the Buccaneers and that’s a guaranteed win for the Saints, and if the Saints are to win and the Panthers lose then the Saints win the South and get the bye.
TENNESSEE -7 over Houston
There it is! It’s that Game of the Week …
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Titans or Texans fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.
(Actually this isn’t the only one. There are two more.)
PITTSBURGH -7 over Cleveland
The Steelers are in if they win and the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers lose. It seems unlikely and insane, but if you go back to 2006, here’s were the two scenarios the Giants needed to happen to reach the playoffs:
1. Win + Minnesota loss or tie + Atlanta loss + Philadelphia win or tie + Seattle win or tie.
2. Win + Minnesota loss or tie + Atlanta loss + Philadelphia win or tie + San Francisco loss or tie.
The Giants lost 30-7 to the Saints, but the Vikings, Falcons, Seahawks and 49ers all lost too, and the Giants basically hit the biggest parlay ever.
I don’t like the Steelers and I never thought I would want them to succeed, but I’m pulling for them to pull this off.
NEW YORK -3.5 over Washington
There it is! It’s that Game of the Week …
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Giants or Redskins fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.
(It’s the second of these games.)
There will be plenty of Giants’ non-postseason postseason stuff coming on Monday.
Baltimore +6.5 over CINCINNATI
The Ravens have two ways to get into the playoffs: 1.) Win and have the Dolphins or Chargers lose or 2.) Have the Dolphins, Chargers and Steelers lose. Eleven of the Ravens’ 15 games have been decided by eight points or less, so while I don’t think they will win in Cincinnati, it will likely be a close game.
INDIANAPOLIS -11 over Jacksonville
The 2013 season has been a tale of two seasons for the Jaguars: the pre-bye Jaguars and the post-bye Jaguars. From Weeks 1-8, the Jaguars were 0-8 and lost by 26, 10, 28, 34, 14, 16, 18 and 32 points. But then came their bye and since their bye, they are 4-3. Unfortunately, this week we will see a glimpse of the 0-8 Jaguars with the Colts still playing for a first-round bye even if they won’t get it.
MIAMI -5.5 over New York Jets
This could be Rex Ryan’s last game as head coach of the Jets. I don’t think this should be the end for Rex with the Jets when you consider the team is at worst going to finish 7-9 and could be 8-8 in a year in which their quarterback was Geno Smith and their best receiver was Jeremy Kerley. They had wins over the Patriots and Saints and won in Atlanta back in Week 5 when people thought being the 2012 NFC 1-seed on the road was still a big deal. If Rex deserved to be fired, he deserved to be fired after the 2011 or 2012 season, but Woody Johnson let him hang around for 2013 and he has earned at least another year. But the Jets get things right as often as the Mets do and I fully expect Rex to be fired.
MINNESOTA -3 over Detroit
There it is! It’s that Game of the Week …
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Vikings or Lions fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.
(And out third completely meaningless game of the week.)
Green Bay -3 over CHICAGO
What if the Dodgers lost Clayton Kershaw for the final months of the season and stumbled to the finish line, but were lucky enough to have the Giants also stumble down the stretch to have Game 162 be winner-take-all for the NL West and now Kershaw is available and set to start against the Giants? Well, that’s what we have for Bears-Packers with the best quarterback in the league returning for the last game of the season with a chance to not only put his team into the playoffs, but end the franchise’s rival’s season. The Bears had their chance to take care of business in Philadelphia last week and were run out of the building on Sunday Night Football and that loss will cost them their season. Goodnight, Chicago. Last one out of Soldier Field, turn off the lights.
NEW ENGLAND -9 over Buffalo
The Ravens couldn’t deliver for me last week against the Patriots and the Dolphins were shut out by the Bills, so my dream of having the Patriots’ division title being at stake in Week 17 was destroyed. The Patriots have won the AFC East again and will beat the Bills and earn the 2-seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs and end up playing one challenging playoff game in three weeks in Denver for a trip to the Super Bowl. I wish the Giants could play in the AFC East.
NEW ORLEANS -13 over Tampa Bay
Let’s simplify picking and gambling. Whenever you pick a favorite, you need two things to happen: 1.) You need the team to win and 2.) You need the team to cover by a certain amount of points. We know the the Saints are going to win this game. That’s not opinion, that’s fact. So No. 1 is taken care of. That leaves No. 2, which won’t be easy, but when you know the Saints are already going to win, how can you not pick them to cover? I would rather need the Saints to blow out the Buccaneers than need the Buccaneers to keep a game close in the Superdome with the offseason in sight.
Denver -13 over OAKLAND
The last time Peyton Manning took over the single-season touchdown record with 49 in 2004, Tom Brady broke it three years later with 50. Manning has the record again with 51 after throwing four touchdowns against the Texans last week and I would think that he wants to put it out of reach of getting broken soon or ever again. With the Patriots playing the Bills and going to beat the Bills, the Broncos will have to win this game to lock up the 1-seed in the AFC, which they have to get if they want to beat the Patriots in the inevitable AFC Championship Game.
ARIZONA 0 over San Francisco
You know there’s a problem with the way sports put so much stock into division titles when the Cardinals could finish the season with 11 wins and not make the playoffs. And even if the Cardinals do beat the 49ers, they aren’t going to make the playoffs because the 10-5 Saints are going to beat the Buccaneers and end the Cardinals’ season. Meanwhile, the NFC East will be won by either a 10-win team or a nine-win team, the NFC North will be won by a nine-win team or an eight-win team, and both the NFC North and South could be won by 10-win teams. There’s no chance the Saints will lose, so I’m rooting for the Cardinals to win this game, finish 11-5 and give talking heads the chance to talk about changing the NFL playoff format (which is usually fine) for at least a week.
Kansas City +9 over SAN DIEGO
The only way the Chargers can get in is if the Ravens lose to the Bengals and the Dolphins lose to the Jets and then they beat the Chiefs. But by the time this game kicks off, the Chargers will know if they have anything to play for and I don’t think they will because I think the Dolphins beat the Jets.
SEATTLE -11.5 over St. Louis
Everyone has talked about whether or not any team can beat the Seahawks in Seattle and the Cardinals proved that teams can. The Seahawks are going to get their division title and 1-seed by beating the Rams, but that Week 16 loss to the Cardinals seems to have changed the minds of a lot of people who though the Seahawks would walk through their two playoff games to MetLife.
DALLAS +7 over Philadelphia
This isn’t as bad as if the Red Sox and Mets were to meet in the World Series, but it’s in the next tier below that. One team has to win (yes, I do realize they could tie) and one team has to win the NFC East and one team has to go to the playoffs. I have mulled over this decision for the last few weeks when it looked like this matchup and scenario would take place and I couldn’t figure out who to root or, but the Tony Romo situation has made it easy for me to pick for the Cowboys. With Romo undergoing back surgery and out for the season, if the Cowboys can win this game with Kyle Orton and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and just the fifth time since 1999 and possibly win a playoff game then what kind of offseason Cowboys quarterback/future debate/circus are we looking at? An epic one.
Last week: 3-13-0