Well, some strange results in the penultimate week. I didn’t see the Steelers getting beaten by the Ravens again. Big Ben had an awful day and the loss leaves the Steelers needing help to make the playoffs thanks to the Patriots opting to kick to the Jets in overtime and Fitzpatrick leading the Jets down to field for a game ending touchdown. The Steelers need to win this week against the Browns and hope that the Bills manage to beat the Jets. That was one upset but the big one had to be the Panthers finally dropping a game to the Falcons – a team they had beaten 38-0 just 2 weeks ago. The Seahawks also fell to the Rams again which was a bit of a shock as well. Most of the rest of the games played out as expected. Washington easily beat the Eagles to take the NFC East and the 4th seed in the NFC. The Chiefs won their ninth straight game, as did the Cardinals with their whitewash of the Packers. Green Bay fell apart against the Arizona defence who got 8 sacks on the way to a 38-8 victory. The Vikings kept even with Green Bay with a whitewash of their own over the Giants. Their week 17 matchup will decide to NFC North and then probably face the Seahawks, the loser will probably have a trip to Washington. The Texans thrashed the Titans 34-6 and pretty much sewed up a playoff place for them. The Colts are still technically part of the picture but would need 9 things to happen for them to top Houston.
1: Colts beat Titans
2: Jags beat Texans
3: Ravens beat Bengals
4: Bills beat Jets
5: Falcons beat Saints
6: Broncos beat Chargers
7: Dolphins beat Patriots
8: Steelers beat Browns
9: Raiders beat Chiefs
Anyone want to take a punt on all of that happening?
All the games this week are on Sunday and all are divisional matchups. Only a couple really mean anything, the first is one of them.
New York are going to the playoffs if they beat ex-coach Rex Ryan and the Bills in Buffalo. Buffalo are beat up with injury and have nothing to play for except to try and spoil it for New York. Buffalo will give everything to upset the Jets here and hope Pittsburgh can take that final wild card spot but I think New York are on a roll right now, Fitzpatrick is in the zone with his receivers and can get a comfortable road win to close out the regular season and leave Buffalo with a losing record. The Jets are -3 and I think that is more that do-able against a Buffalo side without a lot of key players.
Alright, that was an upset last week for New England and that call by Belichick is overshadowing a tremendous final drive by the Jets but this is still the defending champions against the Dolphins. I am a little surprised to see the spread at 10.5 I must admit but Miami have been terrible this year. They have lost 7 of the last 9 and even the wins were scrappy wins over the Eagles and the Ravens. I’m not sure New England are likely to go for broke here as they already have a bye next week and just need a win for the number 1 seed, I think Miami might take this on the handicap. But you never know with New England. Interesting stat for New England this year – Tom Brady is the only offensive player to have started every game this year in the same position. That is unbelievable and shows just how badly the Patriots have been hit by injury this year.
Still no Andy Dalton for the Bengals but McCarron has been solid as backup. Baltimore stole the march on Pittsburgh last week and would have had a bigger win had an end zone interception returned for a touchdown not been negated by a holding call. The Ravens have not been generating turnovers this year but they got some important ones last time out so McCarron will need to be careful not to force throws. The Cincy defence is also stronger than the Steelers so they should be able to keep Baltimore off the score sheet a little easier. I’m still tempted to take Baltimore on the handicap here as it’s up to 9.
Another 9 pointer, favouring Pittsburgh – obviously. I think Pittsburgh will bounce back with a vengeance against Cleveland with Big Ben more than making up for his off day last time out. Cleveland won’t be able to cope with this offence and I think we’ll see Pittsburgh putting up near 40 points in this one. Manziel has been fairly impressive in his last few games with some good throws and keeping drives alive with his legs. He can certainly get a few scoring drives up against Pittsburgh but probably not enough to cover the 9 points.
Houston are basically in the playoffs already but a win here confirms it. They had a great week against the Titans last week under Weeden but will be welcoming back Brian Hoyer this week to help them ensure playoff football. Jacksonville have been terrible on the road this year, winning 1 of 7 so far and with the Texans defence playing as it is now can be stifled a little. Bortles will need to get rid of the ball quickly or be mobile. No spread yet but I think I’d take the Texans up to about 5 barring any big changes on the lineup.
The Colts know they need a lot to get the AFC South title again this year and should hold up their end of the bargain against Tennessee. The main problem for Indy is who exactly will start at quarterback for them? Luck won’t be back this year, Hasselbeck has about 65 injuries and Whitehurst is on injured reserve. The Titans of course are without Mariota so this one could be a real nightmare of a game to sit through. I’d back Indianapolis to get the win they need but fall short in at least one of the other 8 things they need to happen.
Washington are in and I would think likely to rest a few starters to give them half a chance next week. Cousins got a few hits last week so it might be likely the RG3 plays the majority of snaps on Sunday. Seems like a win-win situation to me. If he plays badly, who cares? Cousins back in next week. If he plays well and has improved while being benched you’ve got a solid backup next week and a legitimate QB battle for next season. No spread again, probably until we find out what Washington are thinking. I’d think despite having no running game to speak of Washington will get a win over Dallas here no matter who starts.
The Chip Kelly experiment is officially over. Sacked before the final game of the season. It was a matter of time really after he overhauled the team, traded away big name players and found it didn’t work. Philly are a team in trouble and will need a couple of years to rebuild. It won’t start this week and New York will batter them. I would imagine the first thing to change for Philly will be the tempo will drop, which might give them a better chance of keeping the score down but I think New York should be welcoming OBJ back with open arms this week on the way to a big win to close off a disappointing season. They’re -3 favourites and I think it’ll be nearer 10 for NYG.
Chicago come in as 1 point favourites in a pretty meaningless game to decide who finishes bottom in the NFC North. Last week the Lions tore the 49ers apart and the Bears held on against Tampa. I think this will be a close game but I’m tempted to take Detroit here as they’ve been the stronger team as the season draws to a close.
Get them dirty birds! They deserved that win against Carolina but I doubt many saw it coming! It was a great day for both Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and when those two play well, Atlanta are a dangerous team. New Orleans need a big overhaul in the defence but Drew Brees is still a very high quality quarterback and can lead nearly any bunch of players down the field. Atlanta are 4 point favourites and I think that is right on the money. I’m tempted to take the Saints to bring Atlanta back down after that big win last week but if Ryan and Jones have another day it’ll be Atlanta.
Chiefs favoured by 7 after scraping by the Browns by 4? Hmmm… KC are a funny team. They keep getting the wins but the offence seems up and down. Oakland can have a leaky defence but they can also jump on dodgy throws and generate turnovers. If Carr can keep his turnovers down this will be close, and Oakland might edge it. Kansas might take their foot off a little with a playoff place already sealed.
One thing for Carolina fans to note. All the teams that went 6-0 to start the year, when they lost a game they lost the next one too. If you put money on stats like that then back the Bucs here. Carolina are 10.5 point favourites which seems a lot when a lot of their main players missed practice. We know the Panthers are capable of it, they won the reverse fixture 37-23 in week 4 at Tampa but they need to start thinking of the playoffs too. Big spreads are always a bit of a turn off for me, especially as nobody really likes watching a team getting whitewashed do they?
Broncos favoured by 9! Wow. I didn’t see that coming. We all know the Broncos are a strong side and the Chargers have self-destructed, but 9?! Eric Weddle, probably the Chargers best defensive player has been put on IR with a groin injury. More cynical people would say it has something to do with him being fined ten grand for watching his daughter perform at halftime last week. Either way, he is done in San Diego and will be snapped up by someone in the off-season. As to who will win, well, Denver. Can Osweiler put up enough on offence to get them over 9 points for the spread? I’m not entirely convinced but San Diego don’t exactly have a strong defence to try and stop him.
Still no Marshawn for Seattle. They’ll need him ready for the playoffs so it makes sense to keep him rested for another week in what is a pretty meaningless game. Arizona can play for the number 1 seed but I think they’re likely to take Palmer and a few other starters out early to lower the risk of injury. Especially to Palmer. Arizona are 6.5 point favourites and I think for the first time this year I might take Seattle on the handicap.
Ah who cares? Rams by 3.5. Yeah, if you like.
The main question mark around this game as I write this is the availability of Adrian Peterson. If he plays and gets some traction Minnesota will win easily. Without him and being more reliant on Bridgewater this could get ugly. The Vikings passing game has been patchy at best this year and aside from the hail mary in Detroit 4 weeks ago the Packers game hasn’t been much better. Rodgers got torn apart last week by Arizona and Minnesota will look to continue that against a pretty porous offensive line. If Minnesota can force a couple of turnovers from blitzes or forcing Rodgers to make throws rather than take a sack they can run away with this. Personally I saw the Vikings as favourites coming in to this but Green Bay have been made 3.5 point favourites. I’m going with the Vikings to go pillaging in Wisconsin and to take the NFC North this year.
Expect some strange results as teams rest starters and try some different things with nothing on the line. As ever, good luck.
Oh aye. And Happy new year.