Week Sixteen, The Rest
Here’s your chance to guarantee yourself a Merry Christmas. Bet against these picks. Or, put another way, here’s what not to expect.
Miami (+9.5) at New England
You know, I’ve long had the feeling that we wouldn’t see one of the Patriots’ units start truly firing on all cylinders until near the end of the regular season. I just never thought that unit would turn out to be the offense. Yes, the Dolphins are much better now than they were when back in week one when they were dismantled by New England in Miami, but so are the Patriots. The outcome is the same: New England wins by 14 (and sews up a first-round bye thanks to Houston’s inability to finish off the Colts on Thursday night).
Jacksonville (+7.5) at Tennessee
At 7-7, the Titans are no longer legitimate playoff contenders. But they haven’t been mathematically eliminated yet, which should give them reason to play just well enough to hold off the Jags at home. Tennessee by a field goal.
NY Giants (+3) vs. NY Jets
This game shouldn’t have mattered to the Giants. If they had managed to top Washington last week, all New Jersey blue would need to do is beat the Dallas in week seventeen and the NFC East title would be theirs. Of course, they didn’t beat the Native Americans, so now the Giants face this reality: Win here and they have a shot at the division and the playoffs; lose and chances are all they’ll be able to accomplish next weekend will be to help the Eagles become division champs. Is that likely to make a difference? No, not really. The reality of the Giants is that there’s just no telling what you’re going to get. They’re a better team than the Frat Boys. And they should be able to win this “road” game, regardless of whose fans are in the building. But the Giants keep not winning games they ought to win and I can’t see this one turning out any differently. New Jersey green comes out ahead by a touchdown.
Tampa Bay (+7.5) at Carolina
You know what’s almost interesting about this game? The fact that while both of these teams are going exactly nowhere, they are, at the same time, headed in completely different directions. Carolina by six.
St. Louis (+14) at Pittsburgh
What does it say about you when you’re visiting a team that’s locked in a battle for first place in its division, but that team resolves nonetheless to rest its ailing quarterback. Hint: It doesn’t say that your opponent takes you very seriously. The oddsmakers clearly don’t, either. The Steelers win, 10-0.
Cleveland (+12.5) at Baltimore
The Browns don’t score. The Ravens don’t allow opponents to score. I don’t care about division rivalries, this game is only going one way. Ravens by 14.
Arizona (+4) at Cincinnati
If the Cardinals had any ability to hold on to the damned ball, they’d be a serious threat to the Bengals’ post-season hopes. They aren’t, so they’re not. Cincinnati by six.
Minnesota (+6.5) at Washington
I’m still trying to get my head around how the Native Americans beat the Giants last weekend. Because, really, Washington has no business beating much of anyone. Except for the really awful teams. You know, like Minnesota. And even then, I’m not giving six and a half. Washington by a field goal.
Denver (-3) at Buffalo
Last week, we learned what happens when the Broncos have to face a real football team. That’s almost certainly gonna prove problematic if the Broncos make the post-season. Hell, Denver may have some difficulty in their week 17 matchup with Kansas City. And here, traveling on a short week … ah, never mind, the Bills clearly have packed it in for the season. The Broncos can go right back to that thing where they don’t even bother to field an offense until the last two minutes of the game and still fall ass-backward into a win. Denver by a point.
Oakland (+2.5) at Kansas City
Hey, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but the Chiefs accomplished something last week that no one had been able to pull off all season. Pretty impressive, but I’m not sure it indicates that interim head coach Romeo Crennel truly has the team turned around. What I do know is that the Raiders are in full-on collapse. This is Oakland completes the fall and all but officially falls out of the playoff chase. Kansas City by four.
San Diego (+2.5) at Detroit
There’s no room for error left in the Chargers’ schedule. If they’re going to fight their way up the AFC West standings and into the playoffs, they’re going to need to perform here and next week against Oakland the way they did Sunday night versus Baltimore. (And even that might not be enough. The Chargers will need help from the Bills and/or the Chiefs in order to catch up with the Broncos.) The Lions have room for a loss, but they have to consider the strong possibility that there’s a loss coming next week in Green Bay. At the very least, they have to figure that their odds of winning and clinching a playoff spot are better here at home than they will be facing the league’s best team on the road. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. The Packers, with an undefeated season no longer a possibility and the one seed about to be wrapped up, may well choose to rest starters in week 17. But you can’t go counting those chickens.) And that’s not to mention the fact that the difference between the five and six seeds in the NFC will be that five gets a wildcard weekend trip to face whichever squad bumbles its way to the NFC East title while six has to take on San Francisco or New Orleans. Of course, none of this stuff really matters. What matters, I think, is that the Chargers probably don’t have two straight great games against playoff teams in them. That and the fact that the Lions know how to hold on to the ball, while the Chargers just don’t. Detroit by a field goal.
Philadelphia (+1.5) at Dallas
Jerry Jones should be scared. The Eagles have figured out how to play football at a high level. Jones’ team has not. And it’s going to make the difference in which team goes to the playoffs. Philadelphia by a touchdown.
San Francisco (+2.5) at Seattle
The Seahawks have a chance here to make life difficult for a division rival and to ensure that they’ll finish with .500 record at worst. That’s not the playoffs, but it’s something, right? Thing is, I’m not sure it happens. Seattle thrives on forcing turnovers. That’s a great approach. Trouble here is, the Niners do it better. San Francisco by two.
Chicago (+12) at Green Bay
In which the Packers sew up the NFC one seed and eliminate the Bears from playoff contention. Angry Green Bay by three touchdowns.
Atlanta (+6.5) at New Orleans
I just don’t think the Falcons’ offense can keep up here. Maybe if they get back to New Orleans in two or three weeks, they’ll … actually, no, they’ll lose then, too. New Orleans by