Thursday, December 29, 2011

NFL Week 17 Picks

Last week of regular season picks. I will do a preview for each round of the Playoffs as well, then more than likely an off-season preview in March and April, along with a Draft preview as well.

Last Week's Record: 10-6
Year to Date Record: 153-87

Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints
This is a match-up of two offenses that are fun to watch for different reasons. For Carolina, they have the always entertaining Cam Newton for them at QB. Newton's big arm and play making abilities on the ground make him a duel threat under center. Along with Johnathan Stewart and DeAngleo Williams, the Panthers have one of the best running attacks in the league. The Panthers are going to be a popular playoff pick next year, and this match-up could be a bigger game next year for both teams. The Panthers need to get healthy on defense and if they do that, watch out. The Saints offense is fun to watch because they have Drew Brees at QB. Brees has one of the best football minds in the game. He finds his open WR every play. It doesn't matter if it is his first option or fourth option, Brees finds him. Brees just broke Dan Marino's single season passing record, so he doesn't have that to play for this game. But the Saints are still fighting for a 1st round bye, but that seems unlikely with the 49ers easy match-up. But the Saints will play hard here. The Panthers almost knocked off the Saints earlier in the season, but a late Saints TD drive stopped that. I think the Saints pull out a close one here. Brees will pick apart a weak Panthers secondary.

New Orleans 35  Carolina 24

Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots
After Week 3, I'm sure many people thought this match-up could be for the AFC East Title. My have the times changed. Since beating the Patriots in Week 3, the Bills have gone 3-9, including a seven game losing streak that was snapped last week with a home win against Denver. The Bills defense shut down Tim Tebow. The offense still sputtered, but the big play of C.J. Spiller helped it out. If the Bills can integrate Spiller and Fred Jackson into the offense next year, they could be the team we saw the first month of the season again. A healthy defense and offensive line could help that as well. The Patriots may have put together the quietest 12-3 season ever. They are closing in on the #1 seed in the AFC, but are barely being talked about. Everyone talks about Tim Tebow, the Jets, and the AFC North in the AFC while gushing over the Packers, Saints, and Giants/Cowboys match-up in the NFC. The Patriots offense is just as good as ever, and they are trying to develop a run game in time for the Playoffs. The problem is the defense. They gave up 17 points early against Miami. The offense bailed the team out in the second half. If the Patriots run into the Ravens or Steelers in the playoffs, that could cause problems. I think the Patriots defense does enough here to stop Ryan Fitzpatrick and give the Pats a win.

New England 31  Buffalo 21

Chicago Bears vs Minnesota Vikings
The Bears looked like a Playoff team a month ago. Then they lost Jay Cutler, and Matt Forte a week after that. Now the Bears have been on a 5 game losing streak and face many questions in the off-season. The defense is aging, and they have to re-sign Matt Forte to a long term contract or he will walk. The Vikings, in a meaningless game, lost Adrian Peterson to a torn ACL, and reportedly a torn MCL as well. They hope Peterson can be back for Week 1, but even if he is back, will he be the same RB he was before? That's a big question. Joe Webb has looked decent as Vikings QB and there might actually be a competition in camp next year between him and Ponder. I think the Bears are completely deflated, so the Vikings sneak in one more win to end the year on a high note.

Minnesota 24  Chicago 23

New York Jets vs Miami Dolphins
The wheels are falling off for Rex Ryan in New York. He lost the Battle of the Big Apple against the Giants last week and now the Jets need some help to get into the Playoffs. Mark Sanchez threw 59 passes last week. No that isn't a typo. Why would you ever have Mark Sanchez throw that much. He isn't that kind of QB. The Jets have Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, yet they try to rely on Sanchez to win the game for them. Then Rex Ryan ran his mouth all week and Brandon Jacobs pretty much told him to shove it last week. About time. The Jets are pretty much all talk, and this year they  can't back it up. Now people are questioning if Mark Sanchez truly is the Sanchize that people thought he could be. The Dolphins have been fighting hard the last two months of the season. They went up 17-0 on the Patriots last week but couldn't hold on late. Reggie Bush has been a surprise as the Dolphins every down back, and Matt Moore has at least warranted a chance to start in Miami next year. He did the same thing with the Panthers and it ended up backfiring on them. The Dolphins will aim for a high profile coach, and I think in the end they get Jeff Fisher. Just a gut feeling. But the Dolphins get one more win here for interim coach Todd Bowles. The Jets are a mess and the Dolphins are playing some good football.

Miami 23  NY Jets 17

San Francisco 49ers vs St. Louis Rams
The 49ers have been the biggest surprise this year. New coach Jim Harbaugh took the same guys that finished under .500 last year to a NFC West Title and potential first round bye. The defense is playing lights out and will be a challenge to score on come playoff time. The offense is average, but Alex Smith is playing the best football of his career. You could essentially say the 49ers took the Rams spot this year. The Rams had high hopes coming into the year, but a brutal schedule and injuries now have the Rams looking at the #1 overall pick. They won't draft Andrew Luck with Sam Bradford there, but they could get a boatload in return for the pick which could help them next year. But as for this Sunday, the 49ers shut down the pedestrian Rams offense and lock up a 1st round bye.

San Francisco 20  St. Louis 3

Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers
This is an interesting match-up for both teams. The Lions currently sit at the #5 seed, and you can bet they want to stay there. Going to #6 means a likely match-up against the Saints, who no one wants to face. Now normally beating the Packers is tough, especially in Lambeau, but the Packers may rest some starters since they they already have the #1 seed locked up. If anything, you might see Aaron Rodgers for a quarter, if that. Losing to Detroit won't effect anything for them. The Lions have come alive in the last two weeks on offense. They have even found ways to get Calvin Johnson back into the offense. The Packers defense has continued to struggle, and they have to be worried about a potential match-up with New Orleans down the line. But the Lions offense has come alive at the right time, and I think they beat the Packers who will be resting their players. Lions lock up the #5 seed, and avoid New Orleans in the first round.

Detroit 24  Green Bay 20

Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles
If only someone would have told the Eagles that you have to win in September and October to make the playoffs. The Eagles have played great football the last few eeks. Mike Vick looks like the Vick of last year. Too bad they probably won't have DeSean Jackson next year for him. But they will have LeSean McCoy, who has emerged as a star and possible #1 Fantasy Pick next year. The Eagles defense has also looked better, and they will get better with a proper defensive coordinator next year. The Redskins continue to sputter under Mike Shanahan, but they need a long term starter in there next year. They can't rely on Rex Grossman for an entire year. But the Redskins offense can't hang with the Eagles in this one. Eagles close out the season winning four in a row.

Philadelphia 30  Washington 17

Indianapolis Colts vs Jacksonville Jaguars
There is lots of strategic planning that goes into this game. If the Colts win, by my predictions, they lose out on Andrew Luck. If they lose they are guaranteed to get Luck. Then there is the Jaguars point of view. If they let the Colts win, they don't have to worry about Andrew Luck being in their division for the next 10+ years. Now neither team is going to lay down, but it is fun to think about. The Colts have won two in a row to put themselves in this predicament. The Jaguars have played just awful football all season and a blow up of the franchise is in order. I like the Colts here, guaranteeing them the #2 pick and no shot at Andrew Luck.

Indianapolis 24  Jacksonville 21

Tennessee Titans vs Houston Texans
There is more on the line for the Titans in this game then the Texans. Houston has lost two in a row and the offense has especially looked shaky in the process. It doesn't look like T.J. Yates can lead them anywhere. Its a question, depending on the opponent, whether or not the Texans can even get out of the first round right now. Getting Andre Johnson back will help, as well as getting Wade Phillips back for the Texans defense. The defense seems to have been a bit lost without their defensive coordinator. The Texans are also locked into the #3 seed, so they have almost nothing to play for. The Titans need to win here and get some help. A Bengals loss is the most important. Then other scenarios kick into place. Its really complicated. The Titans rebounded last week after losing to Indianapolis with a win over Jacksonville. The Texans will look to shut down Chris Johnson, so this one is on Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck played alright last week, but he needs to be completely on his game here if the Texans play their starters. But my guess is that the Texans pack this one in, and the Titans squeak out a win in Houston.

Tennessee 20  Houston 17

Seattle Seahawks vs Arizona Cardinals
Both of these teams were on some hot streaks before losing last weekend. Seattle had won three in a row, Arizona four in a row. Arizona is winning with John Skelton as QB, which makes the Kevin Kolb trade over the off-season look bad. Will it be a true QB competition next year? That's up for debate. Beanie Wells has emerged as a true featured back for the Cardinals, just like Marshawn Lynch has for the Seahawks. Lynch scored the first rushing touchdown of the year against the 49ers defense last week. Lynch has just been a beast the last ten games of the season, with a TD in each of them. I don't know if anybody saw that coming. Seattle needs to address their QB situation in the off-season, because a QB that is better than Tavaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst will get this team over the .500 mark. As for this game, I expect a high scoring affair because both defenses are just average. I will give Arizona the nod because they are at home. They also have Larry Fitzgerald.

Arizona 34  Seattle 29

Kansas City Chiefs vs Denver Broncos
Can Tim Tebow get back some of the luster that he has lot in the last two weeks? While the Broncos loss against New England was all Tebow's fault, the loss against Buffalo can be placed heavily on his shoulders. Tebow looked horrible, throwing four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Tebow overthrew and under-threw receivers. It is quite simple, when Tebow doesn't make plays the Broncos will not win. The defense also hasn't played its best football in recent weeks. The Broncos defense has also been burned the last few weeks. Two weeks ago it was through the air by Tom Brady, last week it was on the ground by C.J. Spiller. The Broncos looked like the Broncos of early in the season the last two weeks, and now they get to face the man who was their QB early in the season this week. You know there is nothing more that Kyle Orton would like to do than beat the Broncos and keep them from making the playoffs. Orton hasn't done great since taking over in Kansas City, but he is doing enough to keep them in games. The key for a Chiefs win will be the defense. They need to shut down Tebow and the Broncos running attack and make the Broncos beat them through the air, which is a difficult task for them. I expect a low scoring affair, but somehow, TEBOWMANIA reigns supreme in the end and the Broncos win the AFC West.

Denver 20  Kansas City 16

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Atlanta Falcons
Nothing new again to talk about with Tampa Bay here. For their fans sake, I hope the Glazer family doesn't go cheap and opt to retain Raheem Morris again next year. After the promise this team showed last year, a blow-up is needed after the disappointment this year. The Falcons will also be in an easy spot here. With the Lions playing before them at 1, their result will dictate how the Falcons play. If the Lions win, the Falcons will be locked into the #6 seed. If the Lions lose, the Falcons have a chance to win and get the #5 seed. That #5 seed allows them to avoid a potential match-up against New Orleans. I expect the Falcons starters to play at least a half even if the Lions win after their embarrassing performance last week. They will need the confidence heading into the Playoffs. And Tampa Bay is the perfect team to boost your confidence against. Atlanta wins rather easily.

Atlanta 31  Tampa Bay 13

Baltimore Ravens vs Cincinnati Bengals
Congratulations to the Bengals, who begged their fans enough with discounts to get their stadium sold out for Sunday. It is pretty pathetic that a team one win away from the Playoffs can't even sell out their stadium. I don't care if you hate the owner. When your team is winning you support them no matter what. The Bengals have exceeded EVERYONE'S expectations this year. I pegged them as a Bottom 5 team in the NFL, but rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have played exceptionally well, and the defense has been a top unit the entire season. But can they handle the pressure that comes with this game? That's the question that needs to be answered. The Bengals face a Ravens team that is playing for just as much as they are. A win by the Ravens gives them the AFC North Title and a first round playoff bye. The Bengals will need to focus on shutting down Ray Rice and making Joe Flacco beat them. Flacco has been terrible on the road all year. That's also why the bye is important to Baltimore. The Bengals were in position to tie the Ravens in Baltimore late, but a couple of penalties pushed the Bengals back and made a TD hard to come by. I expect a very tight, low scoring affair in this one. But I have to give the edge to the Ravens because they know what it is like to play in the big game with the pressure on before, whereas a lot of these young Bengals don't. Ravens win and clinch a first round bye.

Baltimore 21  Cincinnati 19

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns
This is another game where I don't think it is necessary that Ben Roethlisberger plays but he apparently will. I would make sure he is fully rested for the Playoffs, but the Steelers are still playing for a division title so that line of thinking is out of the question. What the Steelers need to watch out for is the Cleveland Browns head hunting Ben or LB James Harrison. Harrison delivered a crushing helmet to helmet hit on Browns QB Colt McCoy which made him miss the rest of the season. The Browns said they aren't thinking revenge, but you know it is in the back of their mind. As for the actual game, there is no reason the Steelers shouldn't shut down the inept Browns offense, which will more than likely have a new QB under center next year. Steelers win a very low scoring affair.

Pittsburgh 17  Cleveland 6

San Diego Chargers vs Oakland Raiders
The Chargers hot run in December finally ended and it probably cost Norv Turner his job. The Chargers just didn't show up to play last week against Detroit. Now this game means almost nothing to them, other than one last chance to play for Norv Turner. The Chargers offense should still be good in this one, with Phillip Rivers likely to pick apart the Raiders secondary. If the Chargers show up to play they can hang with and beat the Raiders. But you know the Raiders will bring their A game to this one with so much riding on it. But can defense shut down the Chargers high powered offense? The Raiders defense shut down the Chiefs last week, but the Chiefs don't have as many weapons as the Chargers. Rivers can spread the ball around and stretch the Raiders secondary. If Oakland wants to win, they will need to take advantage of the Chargers secondary just like Detroit did. Carson Palmer can't become a statue in the pocket and needs to find his options quickly. Despite the Raiders best efforts, I like the Chargers to win this one here. I think the offense shows up and beat the Raiders.

San Diego 28  Oakland 23

Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants
Winner. Take. All. It doesn't get any simpler than that. Both of these teams have taken a rocky road to get here, but that doesn't matter too much if they make it to the Playoffs. The Cowboys are in a precarious situation. Tony Romo's hand is bruised and swollen and he may not be able to throw the ball the right way. The Cowboys offense looked lost without Romo under center. But they need Romo to be on his A game and he may not be close to that with his hand injury. The Giants won the Battle of the Big Apple last week and they needed it. The Giants offense comes and goes, never putting together good back to back games. But Brandon Jacobs looked good last week running over the Jets defense, and Victor Cruz continues to put together a spectacular year. The last time these two teams plays both defenses gave up big plays in the passing game. Those mistakes need to be corrected in this one. Both of these teams play so up and down that the winner will be who makes the least amount of mistakes on defense. Both teams can throw the ball, but the Giants are a little better at the running game. Both teams have a healthy pass rush and if either team can put enough pressure on the quarterback that it causes mistakes, that will be the key to victory. Expect another high scoring affair, but I like the Giants in this one. I think another Romopocalypse is behind us, and Romo is prone to more mistakes when facing pressure than Eli Manning is.

NY Giants 34  Dallas 30

My Vegas $$$ Picks
Last Week's Record: 3-1
Year to Date Record: 37-26-1

Lets see if I can finally nail a four win trifecta to close the season.

Pittsburgh -7 at Cleveland: Browns might not score a TD against Pittsburgh.

Indianapolis +3.5 at Jacksonville: Who the hell made Jacksonville a favorite in this one?

Atlanta -11.5 vs Tampa Bay: Bucs are already dreaming about the off-season.

San Francisco -10.5 at St. Louis: Rams can't score at all.

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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