Here's the post- Week 11 Playoff Update.
First the NFC.
Two teams have cemented their spot in the playoffs, GB and SF, and six teams are essentially eliminated: SEA, STL, ARZ, CAR, MIN, and WAS. We know a Wildcard won't come from the NFC West, and we know Jay Cutler is lost for 6 weeks. We don't know if Philly (4-6) or Tampa (4-6) can win a few straight and put themselves in the chase, but they both have schedules that make it a possibility. We assume the Giants will lose 2 straight against GB and NO while the Cowboys win 2 straight against MIA and ARZ, and thus we assume the Cowboys will win their division with at least 11 wins, while the Giants finish no better than 10-6. We assume the Packers will beat the Lions, and the Saints will too, but Detroit should win at least 3 of their other games. We assume that Caleb Hanie will be awful, and the Saints will take the NFC South. And lastly, we're downright terrified that Brett Favre will join the Bears.
So who makes the playoffs? Packers, Niners, Saints, Cowboys, Lions and ...... Eagles? Nah, probably Falcons. Still like the Saints over the Pack in the NFC title game.
The AFC is much less clear, thanks to Schaub's injury and San Diego's implosion. New England has a two-game lead over the not-nearly-as-good-as-they-thought-they-were Jets and it-was-fun-while-it-lasted Bills, but if you watched any of the Pats 34-3 drubbing of the Chiefs Monday night, you know they really aren't all that scary anymore, and Belichick has gone from Evil Genius to Mean Ex-Genius. (Brady's still the best player in the AFC though, so let's not freak out). Fortunately New England swept the Jets, so even with a moderate collapse they'll still limp into the playoffs at 11-5. The Steelers and Ravens are the next two best teams in the AFC, and are both going to finish the year 5-1 with super easy schedules. That means they're both 12-4, and Baltimore has the tiebreaker and gets the bye. So who does Pittsburgh get to pummel in the first round? Matt Leinart's Texans? Sanchez's Jets? Jake Locker and the Titans? Which leads to another question: how hurt is Hasselbeck? Did his elbow gradually get worse while Locker carved up the Falcons? What about the AFC West? Tebow?? Palmer?? Surely we can't count out the 4-6 Chargers who have lost 5 straight?
My preseason AFC Playoffs were NE, NYJ, BAL, PIT, HOU and SD. Might be a little boring, but I'm sticking with it. Leinart is going to be terrible, but all he needs to do is win 2 games of the next 6, and he gets a free win against the Colts week 16. Plus he still has Arian Foster who can carry them to wins against bad teams. The Jets should be able to beat out Buffalo and Cincy for the wildcard, although that'll probably come down to tiebreakers. In the AFC West, I'm still of the belief that San Diego will come out on top, but anything could happen as long as Tebow is involved.
Lots of insane games from week 11 that I don't really have time to break down. The Lions were awful for 1.5 quarters and amazing for 2.5 quarters in a weird 49-35 win over the Panthers. It was Detroit's third 17-point comeback this year, it was the best game of Kevin Smith's career (?), and Stafford threw 5 TDs to 5 different players, none of whom were Calvin. The defense really struggled all over the place, but Cam Newton (who by the way is going to be a dang good pro) bailed us out with some ugly picks.
Didn't get a chance to put up the week 12 picks for Thursday ... but I did text a reliable source and say I was taking all the favorites: GB -6, DAL -7 and BAL -3.5. So I went 3-0 straight-up and 2-1 ATS (Dallas won by just 1). Rest of week 12 picks to come ...
Thursday, Jets @ Broncos
Line: Jets by 6
What I thought the line probably was right before kickoff: Jets by 3
What I texted Andy right before kickoff: "I'll take the Jets"
What I woulda texted if I knew the line was 6: "Broncos cover."
Oh well. Tebow strikes again. Fortunately I got to watch the 4th quarter and all the Tebow-mania that ensued, because my baby girl is still nocturnal and has no concept of sleeping except during the day. Here's what I learned:
Tebow really, really, really sucks as a quarterback. I had no idea he was that bad. He literally missed open receivers on every single possession that I watched. Some of his passes were off-target by a good 5 yards. He looked about as sloppy and untalented as if they had pulled a random fan out of the stands and put him under center. And yet, he's 4-1 as a starter. I have no idea what to say.
Chalk this one up to a terrible pick-six by Sanchez, who played every bit as bad as Tebow, and sloppy defense by the Jets in the final five minutes. This was seriously one of the ugliest, most poorly played games I've ever watched, but the ending was somehow spectacular. My heart was telling me to pick the Tebows, but my head said Jets. Shoulda gone with my heart.
Watching John Fox on the sideline and Elway in the pressbox, it's clear that Broncos' management are not rooting for Tebow to succeed. Their applause after his 20-yard TD to win the game was a mixture of shock, forced joy and complete disappointment. Elway's face said "I'm stuck with this idiot for another year. Dammit. Hmm ... maybe I can trade him for Luck if I throw in our 1st round pick ... Nah, probably not. Dammit."
But the fans love him, his teammates love him, and I love him too, if for no other reason than he just beat the Jets. Next week Denver goes to San Diego for a HUGE game.
Bills (5-4) @ Dolphins (2-7)
Line: MIA by 2
Huh? I get that Matt Moore is hot right now, but really? Buffalo just has a colossal talent-mismatch in this game, even with all their injuries. Bills 31-17.
Bengals (6-3) @ Ravens (6-3)
Line: BAL by 7
Ravens beat all the good teams and lose to all the bad teams. I'm not sure if Cincy is good or bad. They're probably right in the middle. So I dunno ... but I'll take the points since I'm not a believer in Flacco. Baltimore 24-20.
Jags (3-6) @ Browns (3-6)
Line: Pick Em
Both offenses are rotten, but the Jags have a better D. I guess I'll take the Browns at home, since they've got the two best players in this game (Thomas and Haden) and the better QB (D+ vs. a D-). How about Cleveland 13-9.
Raiders (5-4) @ Vikings (2-7)
Line: OAK by 1
I like this homedog pick. I may be one of the only people in the world who realizes that Minnesota has the better QB in this game. They also have the best player (AP), the next best player (Allen), and probably 7 of the next 10. Huge talent mismatch. Their records don't accurately reflect how good these teams are. Plus, McFadden is still out. Granted, Minnesota's best CB (Winfield) is out for the year, so that sucks. And Michael Bush was dang good last week. But I still like the Vikes. 27-20.
Panthers (2-7) @ Lions (6-3)
Line: DET by 7
I hate to say it, but this line is a few points too high. These teams are actually pretty close talent-wise. Carolina has a great O-line and a QB who is actually pretty even with Stafford. Detroit has zero running game and not much of a secondary. We've seen Cam Newton cover spreads against Green Bay and New Orleans, so this only makes sense. CAR +7, but Detroit straight-up. Too much Detroit offense. Let's say 38-33, Lions.
We freaking NEED to win this game. Otherwise we are 6-5 after Thanksgiving.
Bucs (4-5) @ Packers (9-0)
Line: GB by 97
Actually GB by 14. Taking the Pack and not thinking twice. 75-17.
Let's just hope that somehow the Bucs injure Rodgers ...
Cowboys (5-4) @ Redskins (3-6)
Line: DAL by 7.5
Sorry, that's too many points for a road favorite. You're telling me that Dallas would be favored by 13.5 at home? Then again, Washington has lost 5 straight and they've all been by at least a touchdown. Hmm ... and Washinton's #1 receiver right now is Anthony Armstrong. Yeah, what the heck, let's go Cowboys. 28-13.
Cardinals (3-6) @ 49ers (8-1)
Line: SF by 9.5
That's a lot of points for Alex Smith to cover, but I daresay San Fran has the best defense in the NFL right now (!) with the way Willis and Bowman are playing. Maybe Fitzgerald helps keep it close with a garbage TD, but I don't know, San Fran looks pretty dang good. Let's go 30-13.
Seahawks (3-6) @ Rams (2-7)
Line: STL by 2
Ugh. Rams win 8-4. No offensive scoring, just six safeties in this game.
Titans (5-4) @ Falcons (5-4)
Line: ATL by 6
Hoping for a Tennessee win to keep Detroit in good shape for the Wildcard. But I don't see that happening. I do think it's closer than 6 though. Falcons 27-23.
Note: Even if they fall to 5-5, Tennessee is still in the hunt for the AFC South. Everything changed with Schaub's injury. Houston, currently at 7-3, turns to Matt Leinart at QB and instantly moves behind Oakland and Chicago and KC and Arizona and Miami and Washington and everyone else, and officially has the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. That's a pretty terrible dropoff. They'll be lucky to win another game all season. Fortunately they've got a bye this week, so Leinart gets an extra week to prepare, which won't be nearly enough. Be prepared: we could realistically see Tennessee and Denver winning their divisions at 8-8 each. And that would make for a three-team postseason in the AFC with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and New England. Not fair.
Chargers (4-5) @ Chicago (6-3)
Line: CHI by 3.5
Going with my heart instead of my head. Taking the Chargers, 31-21.
Eagles (3-6) @ Giants (6-3)
Line: NYG by 4.5
Vick is questionable. Whatever. I think the Eagles players have given up. Let's say Giants by 6.
Chiefs (4-5) @ Pats (6-3)
Line: NE by 15
Would've picked New England if the line were NE by 21 and Cassel wasn't out for the season. But Tyler Palko making his first NFL start in Foxboro against a very pissed-off Patriots team? Yes please. NE 41-3 on Monday night.
Last week: 9-7 ATS (9-7 straight up)
Season: 77-64-5 (96-50 straight up)