Monday, December 22, 2008

NFL picks week last.

The best game of the year always occurs in Week 17. This year, that game will be Denver-San Diego. I have been hoping against hope that the Broncos will get their comeuppance this season, and that they will be exposed for the frauds they are. And here it comes. They couldn't win any games that they ought, by all rights, to have won. And yet there they were, in first place in their division. Well, no more. The Chargers have sucked their way to the middle all season, and they will defeat the Broncos this week to suck their way into the playoffs at 8-8.

Also sucking their way into the playoffs will be the Cardinals, who have nothing to play for now for the fifth week in a row. And they will lose. And fall to 8-8. And make the playoffs because their division is abysmal. Week 17 is also the week that involves the worst game of the year, between teams that no longer care. That game, this week, involves Cincinnati and Kansas City. But frankly, I think that will be a more exciting game than Arizona-Seattle, which could well be a total snoozefest. Without getting into the permutations and combinations of what needs to happen for teams to get a playoff spot, here are my final, terrible, predictions for the year. I went 8-8 straight up, and 8-8 against the spread last week. Which sucked. I am now 147-93-1 straight-up, and 137-102-2 against the spread this year.

Arizona - Seattle: Arizona has totally packed it in for the regular season. They locked up their division win, thanks to the Niners, Seahawks and Rams, all of whom suck, and then coasted. They have won one of their past five. They looked absolutely dreadful last week against the Patriots. And the Seahawks are playing for pride, with their big win last week against the Jets to show for it. Seattle will take this game in an upset (Zona is favoured by 5), and end the season with a respectable 3-game winning streak. And Arizona will get killed by whatever team they host in the wild-card round.

Cardinals, 34-21. I didn't watch this game. Mostly because I did not care at all. Looks as though the Cardinals did not want to back into the playoffs, after all, and were looking to finish with an actual winning record. They covered, and I was wrong. They won, and I was wrong. But I will not be wrong next week, when they get hammered into the ground in the first wild card game.

Atlanta - St. Louis: This is NOT a nothing game. The Falcons are in the playoffs thanks to their big wins the past two weeks, and that is amazing, coming off their horrible season last year. I suppose there is still something for them in this one - if Carolina loses and they win, Atlanta will win their division. And get the first-round bye. And homefield up until the point where they face the Giants. That's big, St. Louis is small, Falcons will cover the 15 point spread and then some. And then they will rest and check the scoreboard. The Panthers are in much tougher against the Saints.

Atlanta, 31-27. Well, they sure didn't cover the 15 points. But a win is a win, and the Falcons will be a wild card team. Too bad, with the great season they've had, that they don't get a home playoff game. But look for them to destroy the Cardinals in the first round.

Baltimore - Jacksonville: Baltimore is favoured by 13 points in what will be a big game for the Ravens. They need to win to make the playoffs, and they will. By 13 or more - look for them to cover this spread. They win and they're in, because they hold the tiebreaker over the Patriots. Good thing, they have had a terrific season.

Ravens, 27-7. The Ravens covered the spread. And they won the game. And they are in the playoffs, knocking out - believe it or not - the Patriots, who are out of the playoffs a year after finishing the regular season 16-0. Monster game for the Ravens, they played like they wanted it and they will be a serious force in the playoffs.

Cincinnati - Kansas City: The worst matchup of the week might turn out to be the best actual football game. Kansas City showed no signs of going gentle into that good night this past week, and they will play tough at home. The Bengals want to close out their season with a promising three-game win streak. Cincinnati is a better team. They will win this one and cover the three point spread.

Bengals, 16-6. Bengals won, Bengals covered, Bengals look pretty decent heading into 2009. A modest three-game winning streak to finish a season can make a poor team look forward to next year. The Chiefs will continue to be dreadful. Unless there's some of that Dolphins-Falcons magic left over for the upcoming season.

Green Bay - Detroit: I hate to pick the Lions to go 0-16. I really believed, a few games ago, that they would not. But after they laid that huge egg against the Saints last week, I have given up hope for this team. History will be made in Green Bay, and you know the Packers don't want to be the one team that gets surprised by the Lions during their last game in an already-very-disappointing season. Remember that QB they used to have? Packers to win, covering whatever spread there may be, whenever one comes up.

Packers, 31-21. As a Packers fan, I am glad they made history the right way here. It would have been decidedly embarassing to lose to the Lions and give them their only victory of the season, in the last game. Lions set a new record for futility, going 0-16, but I still think they are better than the Chiefs. They were game in this one, tying the score in the third quarter and fighting to the end.

Houston - Chicago: The Bears still have a lot to play for, but they will be in tough against a Houston team that is good at home and wants to finish at 8-8 after being stunned by the Raiders last week. There is no line on this game at this time, for some reason. But I will take Chicago to squeak by here by less than three. And still not make the playoffs.

Texans, 31-24. Houston finishes at 8-8, meaning they have not lost a step since last year. And next year, they have a real chance to be real good. The Bears looked pretty bad, with their season on the line. It turned out to be a moot game anyway, but I would have hoped the Bears would have put in a better effort. At least Houston covered the spread.

Minnesota - New York Giants: The Bears have got to be praying that the Giants take this one a little bit seriously. That they put in their starters for the first half, and that they run up the score enough that the Vikings can't come back...but it isn't likely going to happen. The only hope for the Bears is that the Giants will try to win the Super Bowl this year the way they did last year - scrapping in every last game into and through the playoffs. I don't think it will happen. Minnesota will take this one. There is no line right now.

Vikings, 20-19. Squeaker! Last second field goals! 50 yards! As it turned out, the Vikings did not HAVE to win this one, as Chicago was losing to Houston. But they needed it for their confidence, and they win the NFC south with a barely eked out victory over second-string Giants players. Look for Minnesota to get spanked by the Eagles in the first round.

New England - Buffalo: The Patriots still have everything to play for. The Bills have nothing to play for. Read nothing into their win over the Broncos this week. The Broncos are terrible. The Patriots will absolutely steamroll this team in Buffalo. Point spread 6 1/2? May as well be 20.

Patriots, 13-0. And...it doesn't matter, because New England, amazingly, is out of the playoffs! Who would have believed it? Especially with an 11-5 record. Bet they wish they were in the Broncos division now, eh? Pretty cool game though, with the crazy wind and the field goals that were blown wide from 24 yards out. Bills were tougher than I expected, but the Patriots needed the game and we all knew they'd get it. And cover the spread.

New Orleans - Carolina: The Panthers still need a win to lock up the first round bye for sure. And they will get that win over the Saints, who have been playing very well of late. Or, is that "playing very well, too late"? The Saints have lost only once at home so far this year, but this will be the second one. And there is no way Drew Brees will break Marino's record, as a sidebar - he would have to throw for 400 yards. Against the Panthers defense? Not a chance. Panthers are favoured by three, they will cover.

Panthers, 33-31. Well, they did not cover the spread. Close, but...it still took a last-second field goal to win this one, but Carolina ought to feel pretty good about that first-round bye and the prospect of facing a weaker team. They need to fear the Eagles right now. And that's about it. Oh, and amazingly - Drew Brees came very, very close to setting the single season passing yards mark, falling 16 yards short. Still the second player ever to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season. Which would be nicer if it hadn't happened for an 8-8 team! You think the Saints will be shopping for some defense in the off season?

New York Jets - Miami: The Jets are still technically alive in the playoff hunt, but they won't make it. In fact, they won't even win this game, against the determined Dolphins, winners of eight of their last nine. Miami has the playoffs in their sights after a jaw-dropping Chad Pennington-led turnaround this year, and they're not going to let it go. Dolphins to win in the "upset" (Jets are favoured by 2 1/2).

Dolphins, 24-17. Well, I would never have guessed that Brett Favre would throw so many picks, but then I shouldn't be suprised I suppose. Is this the greatest turnaround in NFL history? I would say so. Last year, there was a lot of talk about the Fish going 0-16, and they almost did. This year, they won their division, and they are going to the playoffs! Hats off to Miami and the wildcat offense! So long, faded and fading Jets!

Philadelphia - Dallas: The Cowboys returned to December form in their loss to the Ravens. (Cowboys December form: Terrible.) Philadelphia laid an absolute egg in their loss to the Skins. That one took me totally by surprise. So I am up in the air about this game. So are the bettors, it appears, as the Eagles are favoured by just one point. I will take them to cover that spread, since I think the Cowboys are done. Either way, it'll be a great game. I think. And neither team will make the playoffs, because Tampa Bay is playing an awful team in Oakland.

Eagles, 44-6. Well, I'm mostly right. The Eagles did win, and win big, and cover the spread and everything. In point of fact, they covered the spread 38 times over. But this game was more about the Cowboys being absolutely dreadful than anything else. Just the same, I think the Eagles are now the most dangerous sleeper team in the playoffs, the way the Giants were last year.

Pittsburgh - Cleveland: What a mismatch. The chances of the Browns even caring about being a spoiler are slim. They are hurt, they are beaten, they are done. The Steelers are going to finish with a first-round bye when all is said and done. And this game is said and done before it begins. The Steelers are favoured by 10 1/2, which is too much considering they are going to be sitting starters pretty fast in this game. Browns cover, Steelers win.

Steelers, 31-0. They ought to have sat their starters even faster, eh? Their marquee QB goes down in the second quarter, carted off on a stretcher, and oops - what about those playoff games now? Looks like he'll be OK, but what a scare! The Browns had just given up anyway, and the second-string Steelers are still too powerful for Cleveland, who just don't care. So I was wrong about the spread, but the victory (if you can call it that in such a meaningless game) remained.

San Francisco - Washington: Another useless matchup. The Skins showed some life against the Eagles this week, but for all intents and purposes their season is done. The Niners have won three of five, and played pretty well for the past few weeks. The Niners are favoured at home, but I think Washington wants this game more. I'm taking the Skins to upset, covering the three-point Niners spread.

Niners, 27-24. Nope. Spread was dead-on, and the Skins did NOT want this more. The Skins are sad-sack at the moment, and had better snap out of it next year. Speaking of next year, it's looking brighter and brighter for the Niners as they continue to beat pretty good teams.

Tampa Bay - Oakland: The Raiders have been, in the past few weeks, a very up-and-down team. Especially this past weekend, when they stunned the Texans. (And me, by the way.) Now, we wonder which Raiders team will show up against Tampa Bay. I am guessing it will be the terrible one. Besides, Tampa still has an outside shot at the playoffs. Probably. Ah, who knows any more? Tampa is favoured by 13. That is too much. Bucs to win, Raiders to cover.

Raiders, 31-24. No, it was the good Raiders team. And it was the terrible Tampa team that has shown up oh so often these past few weeks. The Raiders certainly covered, and Tampa certainly did not win this one. The Bucs might want, despite a winning season, to consider blowing this thing up and starting over.

Tennessee - Indianapolis: The Titans are favoured by 3 right now. Why, is beyond me. First of all, the game is in Indy, who have won eight straight and look like they might actually, once again, be the best team in the AFC. Secondly, the Titans have wrapped up...everything. They have a first-round bye. They have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have football's best record. Not only that, they are banged up, and can't afford any more injuries, so you would imagine they will rest almost all of their starters for almost the entire game. Meanwhile, the Colts may well want to rest a few people themselves, but not enough to lose the game. Colts cover, winning in the "upset".

Colts, 23-0. Indianapolis was never going to lose this game. Manning was out, and rested, but the rest of the team was on fire. Because of what Manning has done in the last nine games, all wins, of the season. That man deserves the MVP award, and I really hope he gets it. The Colts are the most dangerous team playing in the wild card round next weekend, without a doubt. And they could well be the best team in the AFC, overall.

San Diego - Denver: And the schedule makers do us all a huge favour! The showcase game, the best game of the week, is the Sunday night national game! The Broncos finally get exposed for the terrible team they truly are, and the Chargers manage to sneak into the playoffs thanks to a terrible division and their ability to remain mediocre just long enough. Both these teams are terribly disappointing, but this game is the one to watch. Winner take all - the playoffs start early in the AFC West! The Chargers are favoured by an unbelievable 8 1/2 points here. That is too much. But San Diego will win, while the Broncos will cover.

Chargers, 52-21. Yes!

Well, that does it for the season. I finished 159-97-1 straight up, 148-106-3 against the spread. I am sour my Packers didn't make the playoffs, and fell off so drastically from last year. I am also sour (a little) that Brett Favre didn't quite manage to lead the Jets into the playoffs as well. But that one is OK, because the Dophins DID make it, and I just love that story. Same goes for the Falcons - what a couple of turnarounds! I am thrilled that the Cowboys are out and the Eagles are in - I hate the Cowboys, and I like what the Eagles are doing this year. Same goes for the Broncos. I hate the Broncos this year, and they did NOT deserve to make the playoffs. Then again, neither did the Chargers. But I'll take them over Denver any day. And on one more positive note, I am very pleased that the Patriots are out. I would have been so sick of the announcers and their "you never know with this team..." Bring on the playoffs!

No comments:

Post a Comment