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In looking ahead to Week 17, here are three things that stand out to me…
1. Do-or-Die Games – The playoffs don’t technically start until next week, but there are several ‘playoff’ games happening already. Cowboys-Giants will determine the winner of the NFC East, while the loser will miss the playoffs altogether and be subjected to an offseason of criticism and second-guessing. Other teams facing do-or-die scenarios include the Jets, Titans, and Raiders; while the Broncos and Bengals could find themselves on the outside looking in should they lose and certain other teams win. Should make for an exciting week!
2. Andrew Luck Sweepstakes – This thing was presumed to be long over, but the Colts have apparently decided they would much rather not have the most incredible package of picks since the Herschel Walker trade. Their meeting with Jacksonville looks incredibly winnable at this point, while the Rams might as well just forfeit their game against the 49ers. If that scenario unfolds, then Colts fans may live to rue the day they cheered for their team to eke out a meaningless win in 2011.
3. Resting Starters – We already know that Green Bay will be resting their guys, but who else might be willing to punt Week 17. The Pats could choose to give Tom Brady some rest, considering his current injury situation. Likewise, the Steelers might limit what Ben Roethlisberger will do against Cleveland. Houston has nothing to play for, so I would expect limited work for Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. Other than that, the Saints, 49ers, Lions, Falcons, and Ravens are still battling for positioning, so I doubt we’ll see a mass exodus of starters this week.
As for the Week 16 picks…I FINALLY WON A WEEK!
(Remember, Prince and I are going head to head with our picks. No prize has been determined yet, but ideas are happily accepted.)
Week 16 Results (point spread in parentheses)
Landrum: 12-4 (11-5)
Prince: 10-6 (9-7)
Week 15 Winner: Landrum +4
Results through Week 16 (point spread in parentheses)
Landrum: 152-88 (121-99)
Prince: 160-80 (122-98)
Overall Leader: Prince +9
What can I say? I’m a late bloomer! Moving on to the Week 17 picks…
Detroit at Green Bay (GB -1.5)
Jon: Detroit (DET +1.5)
Prince: Detroit (DET +1.5)
In normal circumstances, I would obviously pick Green Bay in this game. In Week 17, after Green Bay has already locked up home field throughout the playoffs, Detroit seems to be the clear choice. Mike McCarthy has already indicated that he’ll rest his starters at some point, and it seems unreasonable to expect them to play more than one half. Even in that one half, I doubt they’ll be too terribly focused on the game, and I doubt even more that Green Bay will want to show anything other than the most vanilla stuff possible. On the other hand, Detroit has everything to play for. A #5 seed guarantees them a first round game against either Dallas or New York, a game the Lions could easily win. While their playoff run would likely end there, getting a playoff win this early in the process would mean a lot to an emerging Lions team. Expect Stafford and Megatron to blow up in this one.
San Francisco at St. Louis (SF -10.5)
Jon: San Francisco (SF -10.5)
Prince: San Francisco (SF -10.5)
One team badly needs a win to clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. One team badly needs a loss to potentially secure the #1 overall pick. You tell me how this one’s gonna turn out…
New York Jets at Miami (MIA -1)
Jon: New York (NYJ +1)
Prince: Miami (MIA -1)
I have absolutely no logic to defend my pick. Miami is a better football team and it makes absolutely no sense for them to have just five wins this season. Meanwhile, the Jets are an absolute mess. Their QB sucks, their defense has allowed 23 more points than the Pats defense, and their coach is finally wallowing in the crap that is constantly spewing from his mouth. Trust me, I don’t feel bad for them. In fact, I’ve been anxiously awaiting this moment for two years…except that we’ve been at this exact moment for two years, and the Jets have miraculously pulled through to ruin my hopes and dreams. I can’t shake the sad, sad feeling that its somehow going to happen again.
Chicago at Minnesota (MIN -1)
Jon: Minnesota (MIN -1)
Prince: Chicago (CHI +1)
Last week’s victory over Washington might have been the costliest victory in Minnesota Vikings history. Even if the Colts lose this week, thus making the Andrew Luck dream irrelevant for the Vikings anyways, their victory deprives them of a much needed asset. Matt Kalil, the LT from USC, is one of the best LT prospects in some time. In fact, many are giving him favorable comparisons to Jake Long…who just so happens to be the best LT in football. Of course, we’ve seen enough guys bust to know that nobody is a truly “can’t miss” prospect, but a pretty high percentage of top 5 offensive linemen turn out to be pretty darn good. Since the Vikings are currently starting ‘Turnstile’ Charlie Johnson at LT, I’m guessing they could probably use a franchise type guy like Kalil. Unfortunately for them, so could the Rams…you know, the team that inherited the #2 pick after the Vikings stupidly won last week. (What exactly do they call the consolation prize to the consolation prize?) It would only be fitting for Minnesota to win this week so they can potentially screw themselves out of getting LSU CB Morris Claiborne, the only franchise type player at the other position they badly need.
Buffalo at New England (NE -13)
Jon: New England (BUF +13)
Prince: New England (BUF +13)
This line seems outrageous when you consider how poorly the Patriots played last week against Miami. While Buffalo’s defense isn’t anywhere near the same level, they have a similar offense that could give New England some real problems. C.J. Spiller, specifically, is a Reggie Bush clone of sorts, and has absolutely blown up since Fred Jackson’s injury. Beyond that, there are some serious questions about the state of Tom Brady’s health. Though he’s expected to play, his left shoulder injury has kept him limited in practice all week. It’ll be interesting to see how careful they are with him, especially since they’ve already locked up a first round bye. Honestly, I think there’s a much better chance of New England losing than there is of them covering.
Carolina at New Orleans (NO -10)
Jon: New Orleans (NO -10)
Prince: New Orleans (NO -10)
The Saints have had a single digit margin of victory just once this season when playing at home. That was way back in Week 3 against a really good, and fully healthy, Houston Texans team. Against the Panthers? Against a defense that ranks 26th in scoring defense? I’m thinking not. They could put up 50 and I wouldn’t be surprised.
Washington at Philadelphia (PHI -9.5)
Jon: Philadelphia (PHI -9.5)
Prince: Philadelphia (PHI -9.5)
I have nothing to back me up on this, but I honestly believe the Eagles are playing hard for the sake of Andy Reid’s job. If that truly is the case, I don’t blame them. Reid deserves a ton of criticism for how this season has gone, and he obviously deserves every bit of the ridicule he gets for his clock management/use of timeouts/weird challenges gaffes, but the guy has consistently won a lot of football games in his career, and he deserves better than what happened this season. Even if I’m totally wrong about this, there’s no denying that Philly is playing hard for SOMETHING. Washington, on the other hand, just lost to the Vikings. After Peterson got hurt. And after Ponder got hurt. So no, I don’t think they’ll be competitive. Ever.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville (JAX -5)
Jon: Jacksonville (JAX -5)
Prince: Indianapolis (IND +5)
I don’t care what anyone says, Colts fans and management should be VERY angry if they win this game. The cost of a meaningless third victory in a lost season is so ridiculously high that no rational person could honestly say it’s worth it. What the Colts do with the pick is irrelevant…having the pick, and the options that go with it, are all that matters. Of course, we also kinda have to worry about the Jaguars tanking, don’t we? A fifth win would not only push them out of the top 5, it would hand the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning to a division rival that happens to be the very same team that dominated the division for a decade with…Peyton Manning. Is there an over/under for fumbles in this one?
Tennessee at Houston (HOU -1)
Jon: Houston (HOU -1)
Prince: Tennessee (TEN +1)
There’s really no point in trying to break this game down since we have no clue how seriously the Texans are going to take it. I’m sure they’ll try to get Andre Johnson some work, but I doubt that a game plan involving a bunch of forced passes by T.J. Yates is the best course of action. Then again, Tennessee sucks. So…
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (ATL -10.5)
Jon: Atlanta (ATL -10.5)
Prince: Atlanta (ATL -10.5)
By rule, we are not allowed to pick Tampa Bay under any circumstance.
Baltimore at Cincinnati (BAL -3)
Jon: Baltimore (BAL -3)
Prince: Baltimore (BAL -3)
Here are the Bengals wins this season: Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Seattle, Tennessee, Cleveland, St. Louis, Arizona. Combined record: 44-91. The proper spelling of Cincinnati’s football team is F-R-A-U-D.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland (No Line)
It looks as if Ben Roethlisberger is going to play a bit in this game. Either way, there’s no chance that Cleveland wins. They’re just too awful.
Kansas City at Denver (DEN -3.5)
Jon: Denver (DEN -3.5)
Prince: Denver (DEN -3.5)
TEBOW!!! DON’T LET ME DOWN!!!
A horrible completion percentage is definitely expected. A four INT game, however, is not. Now, after two straight losses, the Broncos are facing a mini-collapse down the stretch. If Tebow didn’t feel any pressure before, he must certainly be feeling it now. Unlike before, there are expectations now. When Tebow took over, the Broncos were WAAAY out of the playoff race, and Tebow was widely expected to fail. What did the guy have to lose at that point? Now, the entire script is flipped. While Sunday’s result should in no way define Tebow (it’s just one game!), it most definitely will give us a glimpse as to what he is really made of.
Of course, I am obligated to also mention the ‘Kyle Orton’s chance at redemption’ aspect of this. There, I mentioned it. Moving right along.
Kansas City has found ways to win ugly this season, and I’m slightly nervous that this is the type of game they are best suited for. It’ll be low scoring, and much of the outcome will depend on special teams and field position. While the Broncos have struggled in those areas, and on defense, the last two weeks, they’ve won enough games that way to make me believe they’ll pull this one out. Let’s just hope it involved another miraculous Tebow comeback!
San Diego at Oakland (OAK -3)
Jon: San Diego (SD +3)
Prince: San Diego (SD +3)
Oakland hasn’t had a quality win Week 5. While they did take down San Diego, at San Diego, in Week 10, the two teams have gone in totally different directions. The Chargers are playing much better football at this stage, while the Raiders have basically collapsed, losing three of their last four. Even though this is a literal do-or-die game for Oakland (they still need Denver to lose), there is no way I’m going with the Raiders defense against Philip Rivers.
Seattle at Arizona (ARI -3)
Jon: Seattle (SEA +3)
Prince: Seattle (SEA+3)
I FINALLY BEAT THE TARVARIS CURSE! ANYTHING IS POSSIBLEEEEEEEE!!!!!!
By the way, the winner of this game will finish 8-8. I feel like the NFL should apologize for this.
Dallas at New York Giants (NYG -2.5)
Jon: Dallas (DAL +2.5)
Prince: New York (NYG -2.5)
I honestly don’t even want to talk about this game, as I know, for a fact, that Dallas will lose in an absolutely soul crushing manner. Why did I pick them, you ask? I have no idea. I opened the season by picking them on the road against a New York team (the Jets), and they repaid me with a heartbreaking loss at the hands of Tony Romo. Thus, I only feel it right that I give them a final show of support in ending the season by picking them on the road against a New York team. And yes, I have every expectation that this game will end in much the same manner. Here’s a brief synopsis of the Cowboys season:
Week 1: Blew a 24-10 fourth quarter lead to the Jets thanks to a Tony Romo fumble on the Jets 1 yard line, a horrifying blocked punt that was returned for a TD, and a predictable Romo INT that led to the game winning FG.
Week 4: Blew a 24-7 third quarter lead to the Lions thanks to two Tony Romo pick-sixes and another INT late in the game that set up the game winning TD.
Week 6: Blew a 16-13 fourth quarter lead to the Patriots with under 3:00 min to play AND possession of the ball. The Cowboys had a golden opportunity to seal up the game, needing just one first down to do so. Instead, Jason Garrett called the most cowardly series of plays I’ve ever seen (until later in the season), running the ball directly into the line three straight times in such a predictable manner that even a 2 year old could have seen it coming. The drive would gain just five yards and elapse less than a minute off the clock. Not surprisingly, Tom Brady took the subsequent drive 80 yards downfield for the game winning TD.
Week 13: Blew a 13-6 fourth quarter lead to the Cardinals. Even still, Dallas had the ball back, tied 13-13 late in the fourth with 2:54 to play, with an opportunity to win the game. Then Jason Garrett struck. Despite having two timeouts, despite having 18 seconds left on the clock, despite having an offense that was clicking on the drive, and despite staring at a lengthy field goal for the win, Jason Garrett decided that the Arizona 31 yard line was more than enough. No more yards were needed. No timeout was called, no chance was given to our giant group of Pro Bowl offensive players, and the clock was allowed to tick down. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Garrett called a timeout just before the field goal, essentially icing his own kicker! The first field goal attempt split the uprights. The second one…not so much. Cowboys lose in overtime.
Week 14: Blew a 34-22 fourth quarter lead to the Giants with just 5:41 remaining thanks to an incredibly horrible defensive effort and a morale killing Tony Romo misfire on third down.
Week 16: In an absolutely meaningless game against the Eagles, in which the only goal should have been to keep everyone healthy, Tony Romo injures his throwing hand. One week before a literal playoff game between us and our bitter rival, our star QB has a hand the size of Michigan.
Look, if you think your team is tortured, then you can feel free to suck it, because I don’t wanna hear about it. Now please excuse me as I jam a letter opener into my eye socket.