Tuesday, December 27, 2011

week 17 picks

Despite a blistering 13-3 week straight-up, I managed to go just 6-9-1 against the spread.

Finished the regular season 131-125-10 ATS and 173-83 straight-up.

Some of these games are for all the marbles; others are for no marbles at all. Week 17 is usually the toughest week to pick. For many players, it's a glorified scrimmage. But for many other players (and coaches), it's a last-ditch effort to keep a job.

No Thursday games, no Monday games. Let's start with the worthless games and get to the good stuff last.

Redskins (5-10) @ Eagles (7-8)
Predicted Line: PHI by 7
Actual Line: PHI by 9

Last week was vintage Mike Shanahan. Trying once again to prove that he can squeeze productivity out of any random running back, Shanny gave 21 touches to never-before-heard-of rookie Evan Royster, who previously had just 20 total touches on the season. Ryan Torain was healthy, but like I've said before, Shanahan thinks he's coaching fantasy football, so he just plays whoever he wants.

Royster predictably did great (132 yards), but the Redskins lost at home to a 2-12 Vikings team that was without Adrian Peterson. Soo ... I guess we should congratulate Shanahan on getting what he wanted (100 yards for a guy named Royster), despite losing a game he definitely should have won. And somehow, I seem to be the only one who thinks Shanahan should be fired...?

The Eagles will probably win, but 9 points is a lot to ask for. I'll go Philly 27-20.

Bears (7-8) @ Vikings (3-12)
Predicted Line: MIN by 2
Actual Line: Pick Em

Even before the Bears were officially eliminated, this game was going to be Josh McCown against Joe Webb, with AP and Forte out. Yikes.

The Bears are 0-4 since losing Cutler and Forte, while the Vikings have had a chance to win in three of their last four. A Minnesota win combined with losses by Tampa, Cleveland and/or Jacksonville could move the Vikings draft position from 3rd to 5th or 6th. That would be sweet!

I guess I'll take the home team. No idea what to expect in this battle for worthlessness. Vikings by 3.

Seahawks (7-8) @ Cardinals (7-8)
Predicted Line: ARZ by 2
Actual Line: ARZ by 3

Of all the meaningless games, this is the worst. Both teams were statistically alive last week; both teams are dead now. Nothing matters in this game - not draft order, not coach's futures, nothing. So assuming everybody plays relatively hard, I think the better team is probably Arizona by a hair, so I'll take them 24-20.

Lions (10-5) @ Packers (14-1)
Predicted Line: GB by 3
Actual Line: DET by 1

This game is technically meaningless, as both teams are playoff-bound. Green Bay has locked up the #1 seed, and will probably sit Rodgers on the bench for at least the second half. Detroit is playing for a shot at the 5th seed (and a game against the NFC East winner, which I'm not convinced is better than playing San Fran), but more importantly, we're playing for momentum going into the playoffs. Granted, beating up on Matt Flynn might not be too extraordinary, but 11-5 would sound better than 10-6. I think Detroit probably wins by 4ish.

I am retarted. I just realized that the 6 seed in the NFC will be playing New Orleans, not San Francisco. Both teams are 12-3 and San Fran has the tiebreaker. The only way San Fran loses the bye is if they lose to St. Louis, which is simply not happening. So in other words, Detroit desperately NEEDS to win this game, to avoid playing the red hot Saints and Drew Freaking Brees. Holy crap, why didn't I realize that earlier?

Colts (2-13) @ Jaguars (4-11)
Predicted Line: JAC by 4
Actual Line: JAC by 4

All that 'Suck for Luck' stuff actually lived up to the hype. This game is huge. If Indy wins, they'll be picking #2, assuming the Rams lose to San Francisco, which they will. That means Indy gets USC left tackle Matt Kalil to protect Peyton Manning next year (and a great building block for the future), and it means the Rams get the #1 pick and will auction it off to the highest bidder, which could be any of 10 or 15 teams. This game is huge.

If I'm a Colts player, I'd be going all out, because I'd rather pick #2 and avoid the media circus. If I'm a Jags player, I'm tanking, going for a top 4 pick. No clue how it might play out, with a horrendous quarterback matchup and two absymal coaches, but I guess I'll take the points and say Jags by 3.

Bucs (4-11) @ Falcons (9-6)
Predicted Line: ATL by 10.5
Actual Line: ATL by 14

Atlanta clinched the playoffs with losses by Seattle, Arizona and Chicago, but a win here combined with a Detroit loss would give them the 5 seed, so they'll be trying like crazy. The last thing they want is a rematch against Brees in the first round of the playoffs. For Tampa, not so much trying. They still have a shot at a top 5 pick in the Draft. So I will take Atlanta to cover the gigantic spread, 27-10.

49ers (12-3) @ Rams (2-13)
Predicted Line: SF by 9
Actual Line: SF by 10.5

With the Saints winning on Monday night and moving to 12-3, the Niners will be forced to actually play this game in order to clinch a bye. The 49ers will win, of course, but it might be hard for them to fully focus on this game knowing that the playoffs are right around the corner. Besides, they know they can beat the Rams giving only half an effort. Heck, the Rams are torn between starting Kellen Clemens and Tom Bradstater. But winning big on the road isn't always easy, and the Rams might be compelled to try to save some pride or maybe to avoid having the #1 pick circus. Either way, I'll take the points. I'll say Niners by 10.

Panthers (6-9) @ Saints (12-3)
Predicted Line: NO by 9.5
Actual Line: NO by 9.5

Brees broke the single-season passing yards record last night. Newton broke the rookie passing yards record last week. Newton has the most rushing TDs ever for a quarterback, and Brees is a few games away from the record for most consecutive games with a TD pass. Newton will win ROY, and Brees actually created an amazingly close MVP battle with Rodgers.

Sucks to be Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman in that division.

Both of these teams are extremely hot right now, and I've been picking (and winning) with the Saints for a few weeks in a row. But I'm taking the Panthers here for two reasons:
1. Cam is the backdoor master;
2. But mainly, because the Saints will be scoreboard-watching, and if the SF-STL game is totally out of hand early, the Saints will have nothing to play for. I expect that'll happen, and Brees might sit out the 4th, allowing Newton to stage a comeback and possibly win outright.

I'll say Saints by a score of 30-27.

Titans (8-7) @ Texans (10-5)
Predicted Line: TEN by 3
Actual Line: TEN by 3

Houston is locked in to the 3 seed and can sit their starters if they choose, while the Titans are playing for a chance at the playoffs (if the Jets and Bengals lose). Sure would make sense to take Tennessee. I guess I won't overthink it. Titans 21-13.

Jets (8-7) @ Dolphins (5-10)
Predicted Line: MIA by 3
Actual Line: MIA by 1.5

The Jets need to win to stay alive, and they also need the Bengals and Titans to lose. Miami continues to play hard, but they'll be without Jake Long in this contest. I'll take New York by 3.

Bills (6-9) @ Pats (12-3)
Predicted Line: NE by 12.5
Actual Line: NE by 11.5

New England simply needs a win and they've secured the #1 pick. Pretty amazing for a team with horrendous defense. I'm taking New England here because the Bills beat the Pats back in week 3, and Brady has made a career out of avenging losses. Plus, Brady needs 200ish yards to co-break Marino's record, and he probably wants 4 touchdowns to get him to the 40 plateau. This just seems like a classic 'run up the score' game. Pats 48-20.

Steelers (11-4) @ Browns (4-11)
Predicted Line: PIT by 6.5
Actual Line: PIT by 7

Roethlisberger is questionable but should play, at least for the first half. The Steelers will be scoreboard-watching, because the Ravens also play at 4:15 and if they go up big early on the Bengals, the Steelers won't have any reason to play. But if Baltimore is in a close game, Pittsburgh will demolish the Browns, and that's what I expect to happen. Stellers 27-6.

Ravens (11-4) @ Bengals (9-6)
Predicted Line: BAL by 4.5
Actual Line: BAL by 2.5

Huge game #1.

If Cincy wins, they play Houston in the playoffs and Baltimore gets the dreaded 5 seed and has to travel to either Denver or Oakland, while Pittsburgh gets a bye, a home game, and a really, really good chance at the Super Bowl. Yuck.

If Baltimore wins, Cincy still has a chance at the playoffs if they get losses from the Jets, Titans, and either Raiders or Broncos.

This is a really tough call. I'm taking Baltimore, 23-21.

Chargers (7-8) @ Raiders (8-7)
Predicted Line: OAK by 4
Actual Line: OAK by 3

Chargers' season is over; Raiders make the playoffs with a win and a Denver loss, or a win and losses by the Bengals and Titans. Gonna take the Chargers, 22-16.

Chiefs (6-9) @ Tebows (8-7)
Predicted Line: DEN by 6.5
Actual Line: DEN by 3

Chiefs 23-20 in OT.

So to recap the AFC,
Broncos AND Raiders lose, Denver takes the division at 8-8 and will host the Steelers in the playoffs, while Tennessee gets the other Wildcard spot and will play at Houston in a week 17 rematch.

Then in round 2 of the AFC playoffs, New England gets an easy win against either Houston or Tennessee, while Pittsburgh plays at Baltimore in the annual Ravens-Steelers playoff matchup.

So just like I said a month ago, the AFC is a three-team conference.

Cowboys (8-7) @ Giants (8-7)
Predicted Line: NYG by 3
Actual Line: NYG by 3

Assuming Detroit beats the Packers' backups, this Sunday night matchup will determine who Detroit plays in the first round. Both fan bases are completely unconfident in their underperforming and mistake-prone teams.

Romo is starting with a bad finger, Felix is starting with a bad hamstring, while the Giants will be without Umenyiora, Manningham, and Ballard. It's very likely that the losing coach will be fired and the losing quarterback will be berated, while the winners of this game will see their demise postponed at least 2 weeks, and then the firing and berating will commence. These are two of the most unclutch franchises in sports.

I see this game coming down to the final possession, and that usually means it's a coin flip. But if I have to pick which quarterback is more likely to lead his team to a 4th quarter win, I've gotta say Eli. Giants 31-27.

Go Lions.

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