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BOSTON (CBS) — Well, it’s finally here — the saddest weekend of the calendar year.
Oh, sure, it’s great that there will be a full slate of 16 NFL games on Sunday, and the fact that so many have a lot of meaning in terms of the playoff picture will make them all the more fun to watch. The final Sunday of the season, however, is always the most bittersweet of days, because it’s the last time we’ll all get to enjoy wall-to-wall football action until … September! That is such a long time, the thought of it makes me nauseous.
I love playoff football, don’t get me wrong, but when the Texans are blowing out the Bengals, or the Giants are dominating the Falcons, or Tom Brady is throwing six touchdowns against the Broncos (all of which happened last postseason) and there’s no alternative game to switch to and no RedZone to keep us entertained or no fantasy implications for all you fantasy nerds … it’s sad.
Together, I know, we’ll get through this long, cold winter and warm, temperate spring and hot, sweaty summer without the glorious experience that is a full slate of NFL games. For now, let’s do our best to try to soak in this last one of the 2012 regular season.
(Home team in caps; Thursday lines)
BUFFALO (-3.5) over New York Jets
This is just the worst football game ever. It should be flexed to 3 a.m. so nobody has to watch it.
As for the pick, both of these teams are just the worst, so no matter who was favored, I’d probably want to pick against them. I’ll believe in Buffalo, though, because Greg McElroy was sacked 11 times last week. And with Tim Tebow apparently pulling a selfish (but understandable) move for maybe the first time in his life by refusing to be a part of the Wildcat in an offense that doesn’t want him, the Jets are officially without a pulse heading into Week 17.
NEW ORLEANS (-5.5) over Carolina
The Saints are well out of the picture, but they still now how to fight. That win on Sunday in Dallas, with the Cowboys desperately needing to win and the Saints merely playing for pride, should tell you all you need to know about how Drew Brees and Co. will come out this week as they look to finish the season 8-8.
(By the way, Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions on Sunday, but I feel like it went mostly overlooked. Dan Marino threw for 440 or more yards with no interceptions zero times in his whole career, and now it’s a commonplace feat. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the NFL is crazy, man.)
Chicago (-3) over DETROIT
I love Lions games because I just get to write the same thing every week, and it only gets stronger. Detroit is 4-10-1 against the spread this year and 6-16-2 against the spread since their bye week last season. Picking against Detroit is the safest bet in football.
In case that wasn’t already abundantly clear, Stefan Logan went ahead and took a knee for you on his own 4-yard line on the free kick following a safety. He either thought he was in his own end zone or he just realized he was on the Lions and they’re terrible so who cares really?
NEW YORK GIANTS (-7) over Philadelphia
The Giants look pretty terrible lately, but they can’t roll over against an awful Philly team with a to-be-fired-immediately-after-the-game head coach in Week 17. They can’t. They won’t.
Michael Vick may be playing for his next contract, but he may be the only Eagle actually trying to win on Sunday.
Ridiculous Quote From Last Week’s Picks: “I think [the Giants] win this game because they’re good enough to get back into the playoffs and the Ravens are bad enough to back into the postseason with five straight losses.”
Note: Sometimes when you say things, you end up being wrong.
Cleveland (NO LINE) over PITTSBURGH
Ben Roethlisberger questioned the play-calling rather than accept blame for throwing a game-losing interception in Week 15, and he got exactly what he deserved last week, throwing a pick-six early and then losing the game again with an interception late in the fourth quarter. I expect Pittsburgh to just go through the motions on Sunday before jetting somewhere warm to golf and go to the beach for the next week.
Tampa Bay (NO LINE) over ATLANTA
Unpredictable Week 17 nonsense. So I flipped a coin. Tampa won. Deal with it.
TENNESSEE (-4) over Jacksonville
Because this game doesn’t deserve to be discussed, I’m going to instead talk only about myself. This week is very important, you see, because with a 113-120-7 record, I need to go 12-4 in my picks in order to finish the season above .500. It may seem insignificant, but I pride myself on being at least mediocre at this thing. In 2009, I went 141-123-3, in 2010 I went 135-127-5 and last year I went 127-131-9. I’d like to buck the trend of getting worse every year, if you don’t mind, but sadly, I’ll be sweating out the Titans-Jaguars game to get there. It’s my own fault for putting myself in this position.
I also have pride on the line, as for fun I decided to see if my wife could pick games better than me this season. She’s got me beat by one game heading into Week 17. Being so close is already a loss for me but maybe, just maybe I can squeak out a victory there.
RQFLWP: “The Patriots are very good; the Jaguars are perhaps the very worst.”
Note: The Jaguars proved they are not the very worst. They’re maybe like the second-worst.
Baltimore (+3) over CINCINNATI
This is the prime example of a crazy Week 17 game that you can’t predict. The Ravens need a miraculous Miami victory over New England to happen in order to move up from their No. 4 spot, so they’re nit playing for a whole lot. The Bengals are locked into the No. 6 spot as well, so they have almost nothing to play for but remaining healthy for their playoff trip to either Denver, New England or Houston the following week. (It is interesting that the Bengals, by beating the Ravens, could guarantee they won’t face them in the first round, but that’s hardly a highly motivating factor to go all-out for victory.)
I’m thinking we’ll see some Tyrod Taylor vs. Bruce Gradkowski action! You might want to go ahead and put a hat on your head, then hold on to it, because things could get wild in the ‘Nati.
With an unpredictable scenario, I’ll take the better team getting some points and hope for the best. It’s all you can do.
INDIANAPOLIS (+7) over Houston
The Colts are going to win this game. I’m telling you.
There are stats and there is history from just two weeks ago and there is the fact that the Texans have something to play for while the Colts are locked into the No. 5 spot, but there is simply no accounting for the inspiration that will come from Chuck Pagano returning to the sidelines. Not to go too far over the cliche threshold, but football is still a highly emotional sport, and Pagano’s fight with leukemia has united the Colts all year. I’m just not going to pick against them on the week Pagano returns to the sideline.
(The fact that the Texans dumped Gatorade tubs on their head coach after they clinched the division helps make this pick a whole lot easier. The Texans seem strongly convinced they’ve won something already, which leads to losses against Minnesota and, I think, Indy.)
Green Bay (-3) over MINNESOTA
Both of these teams need to win — Green Bay for a bye, Minnesota for a spot in the postseason — so I think we should see both teams’ best. It’s pretty clear, though, that even with Adrian Peterson gunning for the rushing record, Green Bay’s best is far superior to Minnesota’s.
DENVER (-16) over Kansas City
Whoa, Nelly, that is one tremendous point spread. But I don’t think it’ll be a problem for Denver, because they know they need to win to secure a first-round bye. Just as big a factor: Peyton Manning will be gunning for a four-touchdown, 400-yard game so he can pad those MVP stats. Forget the small fact that the Broncos have beaten just two teams with winning records; people love stats. You know this will be in Peyton’s mind on Sunday afternoon as he stands in the pocket, up 31-3 in the fourth quarter.
(I know the Broncos only beat the Chiefs by eight points in Week 12, but I’m choosing to consider that a freak occurrence.)
SAN DIEGO (NO LINE) over Oakland
As sad as I am to see the regular season end, I do find comfort knowing I won’t have to involve myself in games such as this one for nine months.
NEW ENGLAND (-10) over Miami
This pick is, of course, dependent upon the earlier pick of the Colts winning, which would open the door for a Patriots first-round bye and, thus, a thorough beatdown of the Dolphins at Gillette. If the Texans win, then I think I’ll lose both of these picks. A lesser man would hedge his bets by splitting the picks, but not me. I’m gunning for 12-4 here, people, and nobody ever went 12-4 by being timid.
I just hope that after the Dolphins lose, some of the players complain that the Patriots were disrespectful for handing the ball off too many times. That’s hilarious stuff and I encourage more of it.
Arizona (+16.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
The 49ers are going to have trouble scoring points without Vernon Davis (if he does play after getting concussed last week, I doubt he’ll be very effective) and Mario Manningham. Add in one of the best passing defenses in the NFL, and I don’t see San Franicsco pulling off the blowout victory here. Frank Gore should have a day, but I think Arizona can squeak out a 14-point loss, which might be the nicest thing I’ve said about the Cardinals in at least two months.
St. Louis (+10.5) over SEATTLE
The Rams are 6-1 as road underdogs, so I’ll happily take them getting big points, even if it makes little sense. I’m not going to try to explain it any way other than saying it’s football and football is weird.
RQFLWP: “The 49ers get the edge because the Seahawks can’t pass the football. Even while winning 108-17 over the past two weeks, the Seahawks amassed just 405 passing yards.”
Note: This proved to be majorly flawed logic. You can now make it a 3-0 stretch when they’ve outscored opponents 150-30, and they’ve thrown for just 575 yards, which is the equivalent of five quarters for Drew Brees.
WASHINGTON (-3) over Dallas
The Cowboys essentially have themselves a virtual playoff game in Maryland on Sunday night. The good news for Tony Romo is that when he throws a crushing interception in the fourth quarter, it won’t go down as a postseason failure.
I kid because I love. But I don’t see the Redskins losing this game. They’ve come too far to lose this one, and with the Cowboys proving unable in Week 16 to beat a Saints team with nothing to play for, I fear they’ll struggle in Week 17 against a team looking to win the division.
The only thing I’m really hoping for in this game is that it stretches 14:59 into overtime, just so the final Sunday of the regular season can last a little bit longer. I don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye.
Last week: 10-5-1