20 Teams' Seasons End
Happy Undefeated New Year from Pats Pulpit
Now that New England's regular season is over, it's like a bye-week already. Sit back and enjoy today's games!
I hate picking Week 17 almost as much as picking Week 1. You never know how teams with nothing to gain will play. Otherwise, I'm still amazed how teams with something to gain play terribly in games against less teams in the last quarter of the season. Last week it was Cleveland (losing at 5-9 Cincinnati), New Orleans (losing at home to 6-8 Philadelphia) and Minnesota (losing at home to 7-7 Washington). Minnesota had won six straight, and winning would have put them in the playoffs and eliminated Washington. And they were playing at home.
Five teams still have a shot at the final two Wild Card berths. It's Tennessee with the inside edge in the AFC. The Titans are in Indianapolis. Cleveland is in if Tennessee loses, regardless how their own game ends. The Browns host San Francisco.
In the NFC, Washington is in if they win at home against Dallas. Minnesota, who is at Denver, is in if they win and Washington loses. New Orleans, who is at Chicago, is in if they win and both Washington and Minnesota lose. And if they all lose, Washington is in. New Orleans has an early game, but the other two are at 4:15 p.m.
There are a few more interesting games. Jacksonville has the No. 5 seed in the AFC. They'll be traveling to either Pittsburgh or San Diego, who are both 10-5 and who are both playing against the last-place 4-11 team in their own divisions. Nice symmetry. Do you think Pittsburgh or San Diego would rather play Jacksonville or either Tennesse or Cleveland?
Here are the picks:
Sunday, Dec. 30
Seattle Seahawks (10-5) at Atlanta Falcons (3-12), 1 p.m.
Seattle is locked into the NFC's No. 3 seed. Atlanta only loses draft position by winning. Neither team has any real impetus to put forth their best effort. Seattle has a bit more reason to simply stay in tune, but the outcome is irrelevant. Atlanta has lost six straight. Why ruin a good thing?
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-17.
New Orleans Saints (7-8) at Chicago Bears (6-9), 1 p.m.
While it will be an utterly disappointing season regardless of today's outcome -- and no NFC team ever again will want Dr. Z to pick them to reach the Super Bowl -- I think Sean Payton and New Orleans would like to win this game and finish .500. Oh, right, Chicago becomes another in the long list of Super Bowl losers that has a terrible ensuing season. Wow, this could have been a great game.
Prediction: Saints, 34-10.
San Francisco 49ers (5-10) at Cleveland Browns (9-6), 1 p.m.
Cleveland doesn't need to win, but I don't think they want to back into the playoffs, especially not in front of the home crowd. The Patriots first-round draft pick screwed up things the last couple weeks with Shaun Hill playing quarterback. He's out this week, so things should return to normal.
Prediction: Browns, 31-16.
Detroit Lions (7-8) at Green Bay Packers (12-3), 1 p.m.
Like New England and a couple other teams, Green Bay has nothing to gain, lots to lose, but with a first-round bye they do need to stay sharp. It's unclear whether a .500 season would restore Jon Kitna's faith in God, who denied Detroit their 10 wins. Again, I don't think the home crowd would appreciate Green Bay lying down, and it's not Brett Favre's style either -- oh wait, he laid down for Michael Strahan so Strahan could get the single-season sack record.
Prediction: Packers, 24-20.
Jacksonville Jaguars (11-4) at Houston Texans (7-8), 1 p.m.
Jacksonville is locked into the AFC No. 5 seed. They don't care where they're going and they have no power over it. Houston is playing for next year, and there are probably some players that want to make a final impression before the draft and free agency. A Houston win would give every team in the AFC North a .500 record or better -- contrast to the last couple years when the NFC had divisions that every team was .500 or worse.
Prediction: Texans, 17-14.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Miami Dolphins (1-14), 1 p.m.
I'm sure someone cares about this game. Trying to think .. Oh, right. Bill Parcells. That's it. No, wait. It might be Marvin Lewis's job, so he might care too. Then again, maybe he doesn't.
Prediction: Bengals, 26-9.
Buffalo Bills (7-8) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-8), 1 p.m.
Will it be Donovan McNabb's last home game in Philadelphia? Nope. For all their injuries, Buffalo finishing with even seven wins is an accomplishment, and they came so close to the playoffs. It would be nice to see them finish .500. A Philly win would have all the NFC East finishing .500 or better too.
Prediction: Eagles, 20-17.
Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6), 1 p.m.
Vinny Testaverde's career comes to a close. He's still as good as at least a third of the league's starters. There was another reason I was interested in this game, but I can't remember why. Meh, I'm losing interest in picking these games as fast as the Ravens lost in their season after losing to New England.
Prediction: Panthers, 14-13.
St. Louis Rams (3-12) at Arizona Cardinals (7-8), 4:15 p.m.
If Arizona finishes .500, are they still a surprise team? With all St. Louis's early-season injuries, Scott Linehan's job is safe, so best to play for the draft pick.
Prediction: Cardinals, 24-17.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) at Baltimore Ravens (4-11), 4:15 p.m.
A loss means Pittsburgh could play Jacksonville next weekend. Baltimore has already wasted too much of my time.
Prediction: Steelers, 38-3.
Minnesota Vikings (8-7) at Denver Broncos (6-9), 4:15 p.m.
Minnesota is next in line if Washington loses with both games being played simultaneously. The fans will have their eyes on the scoreboard, which undoubtedly will provide updates if Washington is losing. The players will need to concentrate on the game. Denver has four out of five, and they haven't even been close against teams with something to play for.
Prediction: Vikings, 30-14.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-11) at New York Jets (3-12), 4:15 p.m.
I'll be rooting for the Rats if only because it will damage their odds of landing Darren McFadden. Otherwise, seeing Benedict Mangini finish 3-13 would be suitable. The man of integrity that he is, I'm sure he'll throw the game for the draft pick, and it will be obvious.
Prediction: Chiefs, 42-0.
San Diego Chargers (10-5) at Oakland Raiders (4-11), 4:15 p.m.
Like Pittsburgh, San Diego wants the No. 3 seed to avoid Jacksonville in the first round. Oakland would probably like to finish third in the division, but they're going to need help from the Rats. Oakland has been last every year since they got crushed in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Prediction: Chargers, XX-XX.
Dallas Cowboys (13-2) at Washington Redskins (8-7), 4:15 p.m.
If Washington wins, they're in the playoffs. Washington also gets in if they, Minnesota and New Orleans all lose. Dallas has nothing riding on the game, but they have a first-round bye. Do they follow New England's plan or Indy's?
Prediction: Redskins, 21-17.
Tennessee Titans (9-6) at Indianapolis Colts (13-2), 8:15 p.m.
Even with Jim Sorgi playing quarterback for Indy, I don't know if Tennessee is good enough to win. I'm sure most of the Colts fans have sold their tickets to Titans fans. No broadcast pleas from Poster Boy.
Prediction: Colts, 24-20.
No Monday night game. End of season.
Open Date: None.
Last week: 11 - 5 (68.8 percent).
Season: 156 - 84 (65.0 percent).
Last season: 138-102 (57.5 percent).