Really? We’re at the end of the regular season already? And 252 days before we get another Sunday with a full slate of games. That’s kind of depressing. Of course, it also means 252 days before we get a game no one could conceivably want to watch, and longer still before we get the next game that’s undeniably meaningless. So there’s that. And here’s what not to expect in week seventeen.
Carolina (-6) at Atlanta
The Pass Interferences, who are playing to secure a division title and a bye and with the (rather outside) hope of capturing the NFC one seed, bring way too much defense to the field for the Falcons to overcome. The game’s in Atlanta, so the Falcons may be able to keep it close through the first half, or even the first three quarters, but the Pass Interferences will pull away at some point and come out ahead by at least 10.
Houston (+7.5) at Tennessee
I wonder what the Texans will do with the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Titans by two touchdowns.
Cleveland (+7) at Pittsburgh
The good news is that after today we won’t have to hear any more about how dangerous the Steelers would be if they qualified for the playoffs. The Steelers. Who can get to 8-8 with a win here. Would be dangerous. Because, you know, they’re still called the Steelers. And all they need to get into the post-season is to win and have every other contending team lose. So, yeah, that’s pretty dangerous. I’d love to see the Browns put an end to all of this silliness, for everyone’s sake. But that’s not gonna happen. Pittsburgh by seven.
Washington (+3.5) at NY Giants
It doesn’t look like Eli Manning is going to be able to push past his brother to become the active quarterback with the highest single-season interception total. Eli comes into this game with 26 picks, which means he needs two here to tie Peyton’s 1998 total, three to beat it. Only, the Racists DBs wouldn’t know what to do with a ball if it hit them in the hands. So Eli’s just going to have to remain content with leading the Manning family in Super Bowl wins. Too bad for him, eh? Giants by six.
Baltimore (+6.5) at Cincinnati
Baltimore’s title defense came to a close last Sunday. The Ravens can still grab the six seed (and the win they’d need to get it likely would mean a wild card matchup with the Colts rather than a rematch of this game), but they need help that they’re not gonna get from the Jets or the Chiefs. The Bengals are playing with the hope of gaining the two seed if the Patriots stumble. More important, even if New England holds on to the bye, a win here would ensure Cincinnati a wild card game against Miami or San Diego (or, you know, maybe Pittsburgh), rather than Kansas City. This season, there’s a world of difference between the five and six seeds in the AFC; you want to host the six seed. So that’s all nice, but what about the actual matchup? Ah, you know, the Bengals are the better team (if not by nearly so much as one might think). And they’re at home. The Ravens will play it tough, not so much because of the playoff implications, but because that’s how divisional games between fairly evenly matched teams work. But the Bengals will come out on top. Probably by four-ish.
Jacksonville (+10.5) at Indianapolis
I don’t really feel like I should have to say anything about this game. I don’t know, maybe Indy will build a big lead then pull back a bit to try to keep guys healthy for next week’s battle with Kansas City. So maybe Jacksonville finds a way to make the final score look sort of oddly respectable. Like maybe the Jags only lose by 13.
NY Jets (+5.5) at Miami
A win (and a Ravens loss or a Chargers win, at least one of which is going to happen) gets the Dolphins into the post-season for the first time since 2008. A win or a loss gets the Jets a chance to start working toward a 2014 season in which they are destined to a) win the Super Bowl (if you’re a cement-headed Jets fan), or b) struggle to a .500-ish finish and miss the playoffs yet again. Miami by 10.
Detroit (+2.5) at Minnesota
The Lions started this weird season with a win over the Vikings. With Adrian Peterson out, Detroit will add the second bookend. Lions by four.
Buffalo (+7.5) at New England
A win gets the Patriots a week off to heal and prepare for a chance to avenge their regular season loss to the Bengals. (The one seed thing isn’t happening, folks.) The Bills have one thing going for them: They pick off a lot of balls. The Bills have 22 picks on the season, second only to the Seahawks’ 26. Assuming Tom Brady can avoid foolish mistakes, and assuming the Patriots can take advantage of the Bills’ weak run D, New England should be able to get the job done. Patriots by a touchdown.
Tampa Bay (+12) at New Orleans
The Saints need a win to keep their post-season hopes alive. They’ll get it. But not by 12. New Orleans by a touchdown.
Denver (-11) at Oakland
With a win here, the Broncos will earn a week off to feel all warm about their single-season records and individual accolades before the Chiefs come to Denver in the divisional round and bounce them from the playoffs. Denver by 23.
San Francisco (-1) at Arizona
In which the Niners sew up the five seed with a narrow loss. Cardinals by a field goal.
Green Bay (-3) at Chicago
Finally, someone has to win the NFC North. That will mean something for a week, two at the outside. I’m pretty sure the over/under on punts in this game has to be something like three. If I were betting, I’d be betting the under. At the end of the shootout, Green Bay is the team left standing. It’s a push with the points.
Kansas City (+10) at San Diego
With a win, the Chiefs will be the AFC five seed and earn a trip to Indianapolis (probably) next week. With a loss, the Chiefs will be the AFC five seed and earn a trip to Indianapolis (probably) next week. So, right, Chargers by six.
St. Louis (+11.5) at Seattle
If the Rams turn in a good effort, we’ll all get to hear nine months of talk about how the NFC West is going to be football’s best division in 2014. And probably we’ll get that even if the Rams get clobbered, which is what I expect to happen. The Seahawks put the clamps on the division title and the conference one seed with a 17-point win.
Philadelphia (-6.5) at Dallas
I’m not accustomed in any way to rooting for the Cowboys, but how can I not in this game? A Dallas with with Kyle Orton behind center would throw both teams into a state of disarray. What could possibly be a more fun way to end the regular season? Of course, wanting something and thinking it’s going to happen are two different things. The Cowboys aren’t winning this game no matter who they have at QB. They’re just not good enough. Eagles by nine.