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Week Seventeen Picks

December 27th, 2014

Wow. What happened to the 2014 season? Seems like I just finished counting down to the opener. And now I’m down to my last chance to embarrass myself before the playoffs. Here’s the deal so far: After my hopelessly uneven finish in week sixteen — 9-7 straight up, 6-9-1 against the spread — my season records stand at at 159-81 (.663) straight up and 109-127-4 (.462) against the spread. Let’s see how badly I can mess things up in just a single week, shall we? Here’s what not to expect.

Jacksonville (+9.5) at Houston
The Texans are never going to get all the help they need to land the final spot in the AFC playoffs. But they’ll certainly do their part. And Houston is simply a far better team than Jacksonville. Texans by ten.

Indianapolis (-7) at Tennessee
The Colts aren’t going much of anywhere in the postseason. They might yet win their wild card round game, particularly if they get the Bengals, but that should just about do it. But the Titans aren’t the Bengals. Indy by nine.

Cleveland (+13.5) at Baltimore
The Ravens are shooting for the AFC six seed. The Browns are preparing for 2015 (not well, mind you; they’re still the Browns). Baltimore by 17.

Buffalo (+5) at New England
I don’t know. The Patriots have nothing to play for, and every reason to focus mainly on not getting anyone hurt. That should translate to a loss. But the Bills are in enough of a state of disarray that maybe the Patriots backups will be able to beat them. I just really have no idea what to expect. I’ll go with New England, but only by a field goal (followed by two weeks of Boston sports radio talk about how the inability of the second string to put this game away spells trouble for the Patriots in the postseason).

NY Jets (+6) at Miami
Something tells me the Jets spent everything they had left last week. Dolphins by a touchdown.

Chicago (+6) at Minnesota
Neither of these teams is going anywhere in 2014. But the Vikings at least are pointed in the right direction for 2015. That’s gotta be good for something, right? Minnesota by a field goal.

San Diego (pick ’em) at Kansas City
I’m not sure Alex Smith’s absence from this game punches the Chargers’ ticket to the postseason. The Chiefs losing Smith simply doesn’t change the fundamental dynamic of the matchup, which is this: San Diego’s offense isn’t equipped to overcome the Kansas City defense; and San Diego’s defense isn’t structured to limit Kansas City’s run-focused ball control offense. If the Chargers are going to win, they’re going to need to come out ahead in the turnover battle by +2, and I simply don’t see that happening. Chiefs by a field goal.

Philadelphia (+2.5) at NY Giants
Yeah, um, Giants, I guess. Because why not? One of these teams has to win. Or not lose. Whatever. Let’s say by four.

Dallas (-4.5) at Washington
The Cowboys are the NFC three seed no matter how this game turns out (because they’re just not getting the silly help they would need to move up). But they should still beat the living bejesus out of the Racists, even if it’s just to flex their muscles some as they head into the postseason. Dallas by 14.

New Orleans (-4) at Tampa Bay
The Bucs secure the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. It will be interesting to see how they squander it. Saints by six.

St. Louis (+12.5) at Seattle
Well, sure, I think we’d all love to see the Cardinals get another chance by way of a Seahawks loss to the visiting Rams. That’s pretty enough to think about, I suppose. But it’s not exactly in tune with reality. Seattle by 17.

Arizona (+6.5) at San Francisco
I don’t care who Arizona’s starting quarterback is or where this game is being played, the Cardinals are just a better team than the 49ers. Arizona by a point.

Oakland (+14) at Denver
Watch the media fall in love with Peyton Manning all over again. For two weeks. Denver by 10.

Carolina (+3.5) at Atlanta
What a rare treat it will be next week to watch a seven-win team hosting a postseason game. The Falcons are at home, so let’s figure they carry the day. Atlanta by three.

Detroit (+7.5) at Green Bay
Things have changed considerably for the Packers since their week three loss in Detroit. Considerably. Green Bay sews up the division and the conference two seed with a six-point victory.

Cincinnati (+3.5) at Pittsburgh
The Bengals inability to stop the run translates to an inability to hold onto the NFC North title. Steelers by seven.

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