If you frequent this picks column, then you know I'm never opposed to poking fun at myself for some misguided predictions from the previous week. I call them, ever-originally, Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week's Picks. Well, last week, I wrote this:
[I won't be] posting Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week's Picks, because I was on fire last week and kept the ridiculousness to a minimum.
As soon as I hit "publish," I knew I was doomed. Hubris is not looked upon kindly by the football gods, and I was consequently punished with a 4-12 record. It was the worst week I've ever had in my three years of writing this column, with only my 4-11-1 record in Week 1 this year even coming close. I've had weeks in the postseason, when there were just four total games, with the same number of wins that I had this week. It was an utterly embarrassing display.
What it did, in addition to putting a minor damper on my Christmas Eve, was take a season's worth of time and effort put into making picks and flushed it down the toilet. A record 12 games above .500 can become 4 games above .500 in a matter of hours. The NFL can be cruel.
But I won't stay down, and I'm looking to end the season with the perfect 16-0 week that's eluded me for far too long. Granted, it's probably not the most intelligent move to make such a proclamation heading into a week where you don't even know if the starters are going to play, but it's often the unconventional moves that bring about the most success. I completely made that up and base it on nothing, but it sounds nice.
And fortunately, I'll be saved from at least a little effort, because it won't be difficult to find some Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week's Picks.
(Home team in caps.)
Washington (+9) over PHILADELPHIA
I'm rather impressed with the way the Eagles went out and played a meaningless game like it was the Super Bowl, but after watching them dog their way to a 4-8 record earlier this year, I fully expect them to take this week off. Washington's also been playing decent enough football to warrant more respect than nine points.
RQFLWP: "Recent mirages aside, [the Eagles] are not very good, and the Cowboys are better. Through 14 games, you know this, and you just need to trust it."
Note: In my defense, a man allegedly named Stephen McGee was playing the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. What was that all about?
Tampa Bay (+14) over ATLANTA
The Buccaneers have absolutely killed me this year, and I can't help but worry about picking them in any game where the spread is less than 50 points. But provided Atlanta rests its starters in advance of a playoff game, I'd like to think the Bucs can at least keep things within two touchdowns. I'd like to.
Atlanta being in full-on crybaby mode after Monday night doesn't help me to believe in them much, either.
San Francisco (-11) over ST. LOUIS
It's a similar situation in St. Louis, with the only difference being that the Rams are even worse than the Bucks and couldn't even handle a Charlie Batch-led team last week. That's unforgiveable in my book.
Did you know that a Rams quarterback has been held under 200 passing yards in 10 of their 15 games thus far? That's pathetic, and even if the Niners are sleepwalking through this game, they're going to probably shut out the Rams.
Chicago (-1) over MINNESOTA
No Adrian Peterson is a bad thing. No Christian Ponder is not so much of a bad thing, really, but it doesn't help. Add in that the Bears moved on from Caleb Hanie (how he was retained after that NFC Championship Game fiasco is beyond me), and this is as comfortable as you can realistically feel picking either one of these teams.
Detroit (-1) over GREEN BAY
Only because I expect the Packers to take it easy. Aaron Rodgers said Tom Brady's 50-touchdown record is "probably safe," meaning Rodgers might not play much … or might feel mercy on the Lions and prevent him from throwing five more touchdowns.
On top of that, the Lions are a team that plays nasty and plays emotionally (poor San Diego caught the brunt of that), and a chance to head into Lambeau and knock off the best team in the NFL is exactly how they want to head into the postseason.
I just think the Packers should find a guy named Darren Rodgers and let him play quarterback for the second half, just for entertainment's sake. Look! I already found one on LinkedIn!
Carolina (+8) over NEW ORLEANS
A part of this pick (we'll say 50 percent) is made for the hope that the Saints take it easy in Week 17 and maybe play a half or three-quarters of a football game. There's really no way the Niners lose to the Rams, thereby ensuring the Saints can't earn a first-round bye no matter what. The other parts are, in order:
RQFLWP: "[The Panthers] are not nearly at the level where you trust them to beat anybody by more than a touchdown."
Note: This was just a mistake. As I saw the Panthers jump out to a 41-10 third-quarter lead, I looked at my notes and actually couldn't believe that I picked the Bucs. Just no excuse for that one. None whatsoever. I immediately went outside and ran a lap.
Tennessee (-3) over HOUSTON
Houston worries me. All Houston has is a running game. And against Tennessee's 24th-ranked run defense, the Texans should be OK. But the Texans should have been OK against Indianapolis last week. And they should have been OK against Carolina the week before. But they weren't.
Since the T.J. Yates era was thrust upon us, the Texans have done this:
Is there anything on that list that is impressive? Is there any reason to believe the Texans can compete with anyone? They haven't won since they clinched the playoffs, and I don't see why that would change in Week 17.
(You just witnessed my own personal record for most use of italics in one pick. It's kind of like Brees passing Dan Marino, no?)
RQFLWP: "Thanks for letting me start 1-0 thanks to the easiest pick of the weekend [with the Texans (-6) over the Colts]."
Note: By Friday morning last week, I knew I was in trouble.
Baltimore (-2.5) over CINCINNATI
This one's sneakily tougher than it should be, but there's no team I trust less on the road than the Baltimore Ravens, who have the same number of road wins as the Chiefs, Panthers, Seahawks and Redskins. And they're playing in Cincinnati, where the Bengals are 4-3 but have lost those games by an average of just 4.3333 points.
Those losses, though, were to playoff teams, and Baltimore is certainly a playoff team, one that is hoping to win and secure a first-round bye. I'm thinking the Ravens can win by 4.33333 points.
RQFLWP: "The Bengals, meanwhile, are in an absolute tailspin, losers of four of their last six."
Note: Sure, the Bengals won, but they did so by gaining just 301 yards. In the NFL. How is that possible?
Pittsburgh (-7) over CLEVELAND
Way too few points here. The Browns have won twice since October, one of them being a 6-3 slugfest against the Seahawks and the other a 14-10 nail-biter against the Jags. They can't even compete. This will get ugly fast, with or without Ben Roethlisberger.
Before we move on, I'll add a quick entry to the "Stats Are For Losers" category: The Patriots have the best record in the AFC but the 32nd-ranked defense in football. The Browns have the second-worst record in the AFC but the 10th-best defense in the NFL. Stats!
RQFLWP: "[The Steelers] are in no way, shape or form a 17-point favorite at this point in the year — not with One Leg McRoethlisberger hobbling around like a drunk in the pocket."
Note: The Steelers responded to this by throwing football's equivalent of a perfect game … with CHARLIE BATCH at quarterback.
Indianapolis (+4) over JACKSONVILLE
The Colts are bad, but the Jaguars are just too awful to ever take as a favorite. I mean, that's just suicide.
Plus, I've said all along that the players and coaches for Indy don't give two craps about Andrew Luck. Half the players will be on a different team next October, and the coaches won't have their jobs if they get blown out every week. So even though a lot is on the line in terms of draft position, I think the Colts ride that momentum from last week and end the season on a positive, albeit subdued, note.
Oh, and let's add to the "Stats Are For Losers" book here: The Jaguars have the fifth-ranked defense in the NFL. Defense used to win you championships; now it just wins you four games.
MIAMI (-1.5) over New York Jets
Way too much respect for the Jets with this line. The Jets are terrible. The Jets have a terrible attitude. The Jets have a terrible coach. The Jets have a terrible offensive coordinator. The Jets have a terrible quarterback. The Jets have a terrible record. The Jets have a terrible former quarterback who tweets terrible things.
And the Dolphins aren't half bad.
NEW ENGLAND (-12) over Buffalo
All the pieces are in place for a renaissance game from the New England Patriots. They lost to the Bills earlier this season, when Tom Brady threw four picks and the world seemingly started to believe the Bills were a legitimate team. Now Brady has a chance to etch his name into the record books with a historic performance against a pass defense that used up all of its interceptions last week against Tim Tebow.
The Patriots will be somewhat motivated by those two factors, but more so by the opportunity to clinch the No. 1 seed and home field throughout the playoffs.
I generally shy away from the Patriots whenever the spread is more than 8.5 points, but there's no way they don't add the exclamation point on this unlikely season with a blowout win over the Bills.
RQFLWP: "I mean, have you watched the Buffalo Bills play football? … They let the Dolphins fly to Buffalo and win in the snow. They haven't won a game since November started and they've won twice since October started. They're brutal."
Note: I stand by this so much that I'm only including this quote in here to repeat what I said in the first place. Beating Tebow doesn't change anything.
OAKLAND (-3) over San Diego
I'd be all aboard the Chargers train if they were still alive, but alas, they are not. Norv Turner will get his one last lap with the keys to the racecar while an unmotivated and deflated Chargers team will go through the motions.
The Raiders, meanwhile, will be their normal, borderline-insane selves and run a wrecking ball right through the Chargers. They know a Broncos loss to the Chiefs isn't the craziest possibility, and they'll absolutely live up to their end of the bargain. When a team as emotional as the Raiders can sniff the playoffs, you know you're going to see their best.
RQFLWP: "I just love the Chargers right now. Love Philip Rivers … love them getting a couple of points just for good measure. Love them to win outright."
Note: Lions 38, Chargers 10. Rivers had a 60.2 rating. I don't love them anymore.
Kansas City (+3) over DENVER
You can see that these Chiefs really want to play for Romeo Crennel, and they came within one Richard Seymour hand of going 2-0 for their interim coach.
Now, they have the chance to roll into Denver and spoil the story of the national sweetheart and play spoiler. And with Tebow on the ropes after a mind-boggling four-interception performance, the Broncos are ripe for the picking.
Chiefs win, Broncos miss playoffs, Tebow story disappears for playoffs, networks mourn.
Seattle (+3) over ARIZONA
Oh, good. One last NFC West game for me to "enjoy" before the season ends. Thanks, NFC West!
I'll be honest with you, when it comes to both of these teams, I've started just picking against my instinct, because my instinct is almost always wrong when the NFC West is involved. So here you go. Go Seahawks. And good riddance.
Dallas (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS
This is entirely contingent on Tony Romo's hand being as strong as he says it is, because if I have to watch a man named McGee hold my fate — and, to a much lesser extent, the Cowboys' playoff fate — in his hand again, I will be unhappy.
I was happy, however, on Monday night, when Trent Dilfer expertly explained to me (via television) in great detail exactly why a quarterback's throwing hand is important to throwing a football. To say I was enlightened would be a major understatement.
RQFLWP: " … the hopelessness and lack of fight within the Giants' locker room. They might as well bring cardboard boxes to the stadium on Saturday because this season's all over."
Note: So they wanted to postpone the inevitable for one week. Sue me. I still feel the same way about the Giants, because a win over that terrible Jets team doesn't change a thing.
After that game, we'll all be experiencing the bittersweet excitement for the playoffs and lingering sadness that NFL Sundays and 16-game weekends are gone for another year. Just typing the words "Week 17 NFL Picks" into this story made me pause for a moment and let it sink in.
That's mostly because I'm a freak and have an NFL problem, but it helps to know that enough of you do, too. Thanks for enjoying it with me.
Last week: 4-12
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