Friday, December 26, 2008

NFL Week 17

We enter the final Sunday of the NFL season with only seven of the 12 playoffs spots clinched. Right now in the AFC, Tennessee (No. 1) and Pittsburgh have the byes and the Colts are locked in with the No. 5 seed. At this point all we know is the Colts will be traveling to either Denver or San Diego next weekend for a wildcard game. No doubt you'll hear a lot of howling if a 12-4 Colts team has to go to San Diego to face an 8-8 division winner.

In the NFC, the Giants clinched home field advantage with their pulsating victory over the Panthers last Sunday night. Carolina and Atlanta are definitely in, but as to who is the No. 2 with a bye depends on Sunday's results. Imagine Carolina missed locking up the top seed on a 50-yard field goal that went barely left and can wind up as the fifth seed. In an absolute embarrassment to the NFL, the sorry, no-account Arizona Cardinals will be hosting a playoff game next weekend, likely against either the Panthers or Falcons.

How significant was that win for the Giants? Here's a fun fact for you. Consider that the only other times they held home field advantage they outscored their opponents a combined 127-13. That's right. Following the 1986 season they castrated the 49ers to the tune of 49-3 and then beat Washington 17-0. Following the 2000 season they beat Philadelphia 20-10 before destroying Minnesota 41-0. Zero points given up in two NFC title games. Expect the TV blowhards to discover that stat in a few weeks. Racking up 302 yards rushing on the Panthers must have sent a chilling message to the rest of the contenders as to what they have to face at Giants Stadium in January.

We went a dreary 5-11 in Week 16 and stand at 122-112-7 for the 2008 season. Next week we'll review our preseason predictions, have a playoff forecast and pick the wildcard games. Having gone 19-3 overall in the playoffs the past two seasons, you'll want to pay attention.

Giants +6.5 VIKINGS: Sure, the Giants have nothing to play for, but that was the popular wisdom going into the New England game last year and look what happened. Though it'll be tuned down a notch this year and they'd be crazy to play Brandon Jacobs more than a couple of series and will obviously rest anyone with serious physical concerns. Vikings fumbled away a playoff spot last year, put the ball on the floor seven times last week and we're to believe they can win by a touchdown? Not buying it. Giants 27-17

BILLS +6.5 Patriots: Getting a firm handle on the Bills is like juggling with jello. I don't think I've picked them accurately the entire second half of the season. The Patriots have owned them this decade and are playing for a playoff spot, although they may likely be only the second 11-5 team to ever miss the postseason. It really has to suck seeing the Cardinals, a team they absolutely disemboweled last week, locked in while they're not. Patriots 27-24

Raiders +13 BUCS: Bucs were once 9-3, have coughed up three straight and no longer control their destiny. Chuckie must be very upset. Bucs 21-17

Lions +9.5 PACKERS: While the Packers have unraveled the second half of the season, they should still take out their frustrations on the winless Lions. Fear of losing to a winless team should be a great motivator. By the same token, being the only 0-16 team ever should be motivation enough for the Lions to fight, if only for their manhood. Packers 31-27

Bears +2.5 TEXANS: Bears have been on one of those magical rides now where every possible bit of luck is coming through for them. I'd normally go with a Texans team that's tough at home, but they got waxed by the Raiders last week and the Bears have more than enough to play for: The NFC North title if they win and the Vikings lose to the Giants. Bears 24-23

SAINTS +3 Panthers: Panthers coughed up an 11-point lead last week when they were on the edge of sealing the top seed and are now staring at playing a road game next weekend. Drew Brees, meanwhile, is 402 yards from passing Dan Marino for most yards ever in a season. This should be entertaining. Panthers 31-30

FALCONS -14.5 Rams: Having locked up a playoff spot already, Atlanta can now taste the No. 2 seed. They'll waste little time dispatching the dreadful Rams. Falcons 38-3

BENGALS -3 Chiefs: Two awful teams closing awful seasons. Patrons attending this affair will receive $50 off their next psychiatric evaluation. Bengals 27-14

COLTS +3 Titans: Since this game has no bearing on playoff seeding, expect the Colts to play a little harder for a couple of reasons. In the past when they mailed it in this time of year they crashed and burned in the playoffs. That and they'd like to send a little message in case these two teams meet again in a couple of weeks, a distinct possibility. All bets are off, however, if the Colts trot out Jim Sorgi and sit Peyton Manning. Colts 24-21

STEELERS -10.5 Browns: Steelers never need any motivation to beat up the Browns, now working with someone named Bruce Gradkowski at QB. Good luck, Bruce. Steelers 41-0

Dolphins +3 JETS: The worst nightmare of every Jets fan is upon us. Chad Pennington leading a team that was last year 1-15 to the AFC East title. Major caveat here: If the Patriots win their game, the Jets will kick off knowing any hope of winning the division is gone, meaning it could get ugly at Giants Stadium. If the Bills upset the Pats, this could get wild. Still, the Jets just look like a team going through the motions. Dolphins 24-16

EAGLES -1.5 Cowboys: Nothing sweeter than the two teams I hate most in a death struggle just to make the playoffs. Eagles have remote chance of making playoffs while Cowboys are in with a win. It's like choosing between the Bloods and the Crips. Eagles 26-24

RAVENS-12.5 Jaguars: Baltimore is in as a wildcard with a victory and I have little reason to believe the lifeless Jags, a league worst 4-11 against the number, aren't putting up much resistance. The Ravens, by the way are 11-3-1, best in the NFL. Ravens 34-7

Cardinals -6 SEAHAWKS: Seahawks made their dredful season beating Jets last week. Cardinals need to do something to build a little momentum before hosting playoff game next weekend, NBC should be thrilled saddled with that game. Cardinals 38-13

49ERS -3 Redskins: Mike Singletary officially in as coach of the Niners while Redskins shot their load against the Eagles last week and have nothing to play for. Unless they're playing for Jim Zorn, which I'm wondering about. 49ers 21-17

Broncos -8 CHARGERS: Should be a great game and I'm glad it wound up this way considering the Ed Hochuli fiasco from Week 2. Still,with the erratic nature of the two teams this year, expect nothing if not the unpredictable. Spread way too high considering the stakes. As alwys, The Olbermann Rule is in effect. Chargers 27-24 OT

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