Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Week 17 NFL Picks: The Silly Season

For those of you that don't follow pro golf -- and really, in the After Tiger age, who does? -- there's a portion of the season that no one really pays all that much attention to. Events are mostly for fun and money, you get lots of weird formats and pro-ams, and players freely miss events because, well, it's the holidays, you could play 52 weeks a year if you wanted to, and life's too short to just chase every dollar. Or so I imagine. They call it the Silly Season.

With so much of the NFL playoff picture already wrapped up, and with the teams that are already out staring down the barrel of a meaningless Adrian Peterson knee injury to failing to contend in 2012 as well, we're going to get a lot of silly this weekend. But hey, no one ever asked us to pick all of the games, right? So... on to the picks!

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DETROIT at Green Bay (+3.5)

The Packers have nothing to play for, and a mean defensive line to fear. The Lions are in, but trying very hard to be the road team that knocks off the NFC East winner, rather than the road kill that the Saints will treat like a pinball game. So, let's just say they've got the edge in motivation, and be done with it. Besides, Matthew Stafford, assuming he can remain upright through four quarters, might just be good enough to cover the line on his own, seeing how Green Bay's defense really isn't very good. (And if you are conspiracy minded, you can also assume that the Pack will throw the game to make the playoffs actually seem not so inevitable.)

Lions 24, Packers 20

SAN FRANCISCO at St. Louis (+10.5)

The Niners harbor #2 seed dreams; the Rams are operating with their 3rd QB and a probable lame duck coach. Let's just say this looks like a bargain, in that I expect the Niners to score more than 10.5 points.

Niners 20, Rams 6

NY Jets at MIAMI (-1)

The touts say that the Jets still have a realistic chance at the playoffs and something to play for... but these clowns couldn't get up for a home game and the battle of New York last week, so expecting them to come up big in a road game against a team that might be better than them anyway (in that Matt Moore has more big play potential than Mark Sanchez, which is to say, any) just isn't in my wheelhouse. Of course, this is usually when Rex Ryan is at his best. So flip a coin, then smack yourself, then bet this game. That's kind of how it works.

Dolphins 23, Jets 20

CHICAGO at Minnesota (NL)

One of those who knows games against two teams working with contingency QBs. Normally you'd go with the home team in this situation, particularly when Devin Hester is gimpy, but the Bear defense has a way of making mobile quasi-QBs like Joe Webb come back to earth with a quickness. Besides, the Vikings have more to lose for, if you catch my drift.

Bears 20, Vikings 13

Buffalo at NEW ENGLAND (-11.5)

The Patriots have a possible #1 seed and Tom Brady usurping Drew Brees on their mind, while the Bills are just trying to avoid embarrassment. Considering that they beat the Pats earlier this year, I'm not expecting Belisatan to take the foot off the gas pedal anytime soon. He's also got a habit of playing starters in meaningless games, a la the Wes Welker injury a few years ago; don't look for him to learn a lesson, since he's so smart and all.

Patriots 38, Bills 20

Carolina at NEW ORLEANS (-9)

Lots of people getting on the Panther Bandwagon for 2012, when QB Cam Newton will completely vault over any chance of a sophomore / turnover machine jinx and lead a club with few quality defenders to a double-digit win season. Or, well, not. The Saints are peaking, and seem interested in increasing their point differential for the BCS. Or something like that.

Saints 34, Panthers 20

Washington at PHILADELPHIA (-9)

Oh, count your blessings, Eagles Fan! For one of the very few times ever, your laundry is going to win its last game of the season. You have the bestus coach in the history of the franchise, the bestus owner, the bestus stadium, maybe even the bestus running back. So what if the year was a maddening collection of hubris, gutlessness, carelessness and quit, wrapped in the warm gauze of cotton candy easy wins against teams with no good QB play? We'll get to do it all again next year, with almost the entirely same cast! Also, you could root for the Redskins. Woof.

Eagles 27, Redskins 13

INDIANAPOLIS at Jacksonville (-4)

Oh, you poor Colts fans; if you didn't have a decade of Hall of Fame QB play and a Sexy Rexy giftwrapped Super Bowl in your recent past, I'd have actual sympathy to go with this fake stuff. After a year of dodging the winless bullet, QB Dan Orlovsky has dragged you up from the depths of history to just the depths of the league, and put your #1 pick at peril. And he's going to keep doing that, if only because (a) the Jaguars actually suck worse, (b) if he wins this game, he gets a #2 job backing up Pained Peyton next year, and (c) his coach wants to win the game, too, to make his feeble case at continued employment. If you watch, or bet, this game, you have a problem.

Colts 20, Jaguars 10

Tennessee at HOUSTON (+3)

The Texans don't have as much to play for, but they also have extra rest and the stink of that loss against the Colts to get out of their mouth. Look for a bounce-back against a Titans team that contended without anyone getting excited about them all year. Oh, and RB Arian Foster is going to win someone some money this week.

Texans 24, Titans 16

Tampa Bay at ATLANTA (-12)

How do you think the Bucs management is going to fire Raheem Morris? Me, I think it will be via third-class mail, just to show him that he's worth that little. Or maybe they'll trust one of the current players to do the job. Just don't make it LeGarrette Blount, who will drop the pink slip so many times it will be unrecognizable by the time it gets to him, or Josh Freeman, who's sure to give it to the wrong guy 20 or 30 times. Or any of the other 43 players on the active roster, who will wind up just giving up on the trip to Morris's house. Oh, and bet the Falcons, because they have something to play for, home field, weapons, talent, heart, etc.

Falcons 34, Bucs 14

Baltimore at CINCINNATI (+3)

I'm actually surprised the line is still this low; it started at 1.5. The Ravens should win the game. They have more experience in games that matter, the better defense, the game-changing RB, the veteran QB. But they also stink to high heaven on the road this year, and the Bengals need the game as well. And in a close game on the road, you know what's going to happen, right? Raven penalties on defense, freakouts at the refs, and QB Andy Dalton to WR AJ Green for the win. And Steeler Fan loving every minute of it.

Bengals 24, Ravens 20

PITTSBURGH at Cleveland (NL)

The Steelers will know whether to play hard or not before the game starts, but even on the off chance that this won't matter to them, I like their chances. There's just more weapons here (as in any), and the Browns are just, well, hopeless. As usual.

Steelers 24, Browns 10

KANSAS CITY at Denver (-3.5)

The shorthand of this game is Kyle Orton vs. Tim Tebow, but there's more to it than that. The Denver defense lost its magic when S Brian Dawkins stopped being able to make the call; without him, they are just not sure of themselves. Tebow himself has regressed to the mean on turning the ball over; you can run a ball control offense with 0 to 1 turnovers per game, but you can't get away with it when it's 2 and up. And Kansas City, especially on defense, has been downright stiff in the second half of the season. Had they made a figgie last week against Oakland, they'd still be alive for the postseason in the Wacky West. I think they end the Miracles before the playoffs start.

Chiefs 24, Broncos 16

San Diego at OAKLAND (-3)

Will the Chargers play hard in the Norv Turner swan song? Maybe, but Norvalicious is still going to throw the ball too much and ignore the Raiders' main defensive weakness in his bid to get QB Philip Rivers to 25 INTs for the year, so I don't like the road team's chances. Especially after spitting the bit last week in Detroit, when they still had something to play for. Look for Oakland to run it a lot, dust off RB Darrin McFadden for playoff use just to make his fantasy owners a little more bitter, and win going away. Next stop: a playoff loss, the Bengals getting even more from the Carson Palmer heist, and the highlight of the franchise for the last 10 years. Woo.

Raiders 31, Chargers 24

SEATTLE at Arizona (-3)

There's talk that the Cardinals might want to end the Kevin Kolb Era early, since they have a buyout and he's made of balsa wood and glass... but enough time with John Skelton, and the sad options that are out there in FA Land, should cure them of that delusion pretty quick. As for Seattle, they are clearly a better team than they were a year ago, but the Niners made that hollow consolation indeed when it comes to playoff reservations. There's the seeds of a good division out here, honest.

Seahawks 23, Cardinals 17

Dallas at NY GIANTS (-2.5)

It's for all the Tostitos in New York this week, as the season ends with a winner takes nothing of real consequence game for the NFC East. (Just like last year's epic Rams-Seahawks game.) Dallas comes in with a de facto bye and a banged-up QB with a history of chokery in playoff-esque situations. New York comes in off their biggest win of the year, home field advantage (real, in this case, as it's going to be cold and nasty), and WR weapons that can really stretch the field, assuming they actually, well, catch the damn ball. But the game will come down to the Giants' pass rush against the Cowboys' offensive line, and after watching Big D look like turnstiles against my sad laundry... well, I think this is the game where Jason Pierre-Paul becomes a mainstream superstar. (That little whimper you heard is me thinking about the Eagles taking Brandon Graham instead of him.)

Giants 31, Cowboys 20

Last week: 8-7-1

Year to date: 122-109-7

Career: 527-514-24

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