20 Teams' Seasons End
Happy New Year from New England Patriots Pulpit
This has not be a stellar season for me picking games. Since midseason when I was just under 67 percent, I've gone just over .500 for the rest of the season. That's very unusual.
And I'm still not buying the "parity" thing. Parity didn't make Tennessee win six straight after starting 2-7 or the New York Giants lose six of seven after a 6-2 start. Parity would have you expect to win one or two, lose one or two, win one or two and end up between 7-9 and 9-7.
When you have 2-8 teams beating 8-2 teams and have them at 6-8 and 8-6 four weeks later, that's not parity. That's pathetic.
So here we are in Week 17. For 20 teams, the season is over. Four more have another week left. There are at least 10 teams that still have a shot at the playoffs. Several of them should have sealed their bids several weeks ago. I'm incredulous that so many teams considered good have play so poorly in the last month-plus with so much on the line. It makes me wonder how they will play this weekend. It's fascinating the way watching the video of the Hindenburg is fascinating.
My season is nothing to brag about. The teams that have nothing left to prepare for tomorrow night will feel much worse.
Here are the picks:
Saturday, Dec. 30
N.Y. Giants (7-8) at Washington (5-10), 8 p.m.
It's mesmerizing that New York still has a shot at the Wild Card. You could still end up with three teams in the NFC East in the playoffs. It's mind-boggling. It's fantastic. It's a real indication that the NFC is more pathetic than the 1990's AFC. Washington, not to be outdone, is 2-5 in their last seven ,3-11 in last 14. I can't believe New York will lose, but I can't believe they've lost six of seven either.
Prediction: Giants, 24-17.
Sunday, Dec. 31
Carolina (7-8) at New Orleans (10-5), 1 p.m.
New Orleans is solid in the No. 2 seed and has no reason to risk anything against a team that can still grab a Wild Card if New York and Green Bay (at Chicago) lose. Nawlins head coach Sean Payton (a shoe-in for coach of the year) has shown no propensity to play it safe, but this may be an exception. The only reason to make an effort in this game would be to eliminate a division rival. Carolina beat New Orleans in Week 4, 21-18.
Prediction: Panthers, 31-14.
Cleveland (4-11) at Houston (5-10), 1 p.m.
Neither team has anything at stake, other than draft choice position. Cleveland is just pretty bad. Houston is unfulfilled potential that occasionally shows flashes of future promise.
Prediction: Texans, 20-13.
Detroit (2-13) at Dallas (9-6), 1 p.m.
Dallas is still playing for the division title, so they won't be holding back. Detroit is playing for an early vacation. The last thing any of Detroit's players want is to get injured before taking their first golf swing of the offseason.
Prediction: Cowboys, 31-6.
Jacksonville (8-7) at Kansas City (8-7), 1 p.m.
Both teams can make the playoffs if they win and all the other 8-7 and 9-6 teams lose. And since those games won't be decided before this one, these teams will submit earnest efforts to win. That, at least, should make it interesting. Kansas City is 5-2 at home. Jacksonville is 2-5 on the road. But two of Kansas City's last three wins are against Oakland and they're just 1-4 besides.
Prediction: Jaguars, 27-20.
New England (11-4) at Tennessee (8-7), 1 p.m.
Please see separately posted game preview.
Prediction: Happy New Year.
Oakland (2-13) at N.Y. Jets (9-6), 1 p.m.
New York is still playing to seal a Wild Card and Oakland is one of the worst teams in the NFL in years.
Prediction: Jets, 38-10.
Pittsburgh (7-8) at Cincinnati (8-7), 1 p.m.
.Cincinnati can still make the playoffs with a loss by the New York Jets or a loss by Denver and K.C. beating Jacksonville. Pittsburgh is playing for "pride." Pittsburgh's demise as an elite team can rest squarely on the place where there should have been a helmet in late summer and on Bill Cowher's decision not to stick with Charlie Batch longer.
Prediction: Bengals, 31-17.
Seattle (8-7) at Tampa Bay (4-11), 1 p.m.
Neither team has much to play for this week. Seattle is cemented into the No. 4 seed in the NFC. Tampa is among the bottom four teams in the league and possibly have the third pick in the draft. It's in their best interest not to show up, but Jon Gruden will be hoping a win will save his job.
Prediction: Buccaneers, 16-13.
St. Louis (7-8) at Minnesota (6-9), 1 p.m.
St. Louis would need a miracle to make the playoffs, but stranger things have happened, especially this year. Minnesota looked like a lock until they played New England. Maybe they can make an argument to get Mike Tice back.
Prediction: Rams, 33-24.
Arizona (5-10) at San Diego (13-2), 4:15 p.m.
I don't think San Diego is contend with a first-round bye. They would prefer to secure that No. 1 seed without hoping Baltimore loses to Buffalo. Arizona won four of six, but against all NFC teams.
Prediction: Chargers, 34-14.
Atlanta (7-8) at Philadelphia (9-6), 4:15 p.m.
If the New York Giants tonight or the Carolina Panthers win in the early game, Atlanta is out and will have nothing left to play for. Philadelphia will win the division if Dallas loses to Detroit at 1 p.m., but they'll likely be playing for home field in the Wild Card game.
Prediction: Eagles, 27-14.
Buffalo (7-8) at Baltimore (12-3), 4:15 p.m.
Baltimore still has a first-round bye at stake, so don't expect they'll go easy on Buffalo, who has zero to play for.
Prediction: Ravens, 24-10.
Miami (6-9) at Indianapolis (11-4), 4:15 p.m.
Indianapolis can capture a first-round bye with a win here and a Baltimore loss. Miami was coming on strong with a chance at the playoffs a few weeks ago, but now they're out. Do they have any interest in playing a spoiler role? Will Indy limp into the playoffs again?
Prediction: Colts, 38-13.
San Francisco (6-9) at Denver (9-6), 4:15 p.m.
Denver still needs to win. San Francisco does not.
Prediction: Broncos, 21-16.
Green Bay (7-8) at Chicago (13-2), 8:15 p.m.
I don't get why the league picked this game for the Sunday Night game. Oh, right. They love Brett Favre almost as much as Peyton Manning, and whether the game means anything, they will be talking about nothing but Favre. Chicago already has the No. 1 seed and won't care much. Green Bay will need to know if they have a shot, but regardless, I think they'll want to win, being that it's possibly (again) Favre's last game.
Prediction: Packers, 21-16.
Last week: 6 - 10, including 2 losses for the Thursday and Saturday games I forgot to pick before game time.
Season: 138 - 102. Now down to 57.5 percent.