BOSTON (CBS) — It’s here, folks. Don’t let the fact that it comes smack-dab in the middle of two holiday weeks fool you. It’s here. And it’s bad.
“It” is the final Sunday of the NFL season, and it might be the most bittersweet day of the entire year.
Fortunately, this year’s final day includes about three million different playoff scenarios that can play out and keep us entertained all day and night. Still, when the final whistle blows in Dallas near midnight on Sunday, thus will end our Sundays of wall-to-wall, 12-plus-game slates of football for a full eight months. Eight months!
Sure, we’ll have the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong — I love the playoffs. Playoff football is tops. But we only get one game at a time, and if that game is a stinker, we’re stuck with it for many hours in a row. It’s tough being us!
Alas, we shall endure. And for now, we have this glorious Sunday afternoon and evening to serve as our final taste of a full NFL weekend until the end of the summer.
(Home team in caps; Thursday lines)
New York Jets (+5.5) over MIAMI
With Rex Ryan reportedly about to get fired, you just know that his Jets are going to randomly rally around him and pull out a perfect game in Miami. The Jets are weird like that.
TENNESSEE (-7) over Houston
Wade Phillips is so bad. I mean, really bad.
I’m sure the 2-13 Texans and 6-9 Titans will all be extremely enthused to be participating in this game, which gets the title of “Least Bettable Game Of The Week.” Unless you’re a psycho. If that’s the case, then knock yourself out.
Carolina (-6) over ATLANTA
I was just checking out this preseason prediction list, and saw that it called for the Texans to go 10-6 and win the AFC South and for the Falcons to go 11-5 and win the NFC South. “The Falcons are expected to make a serious Super Bowl run,” it said.
I include that not to single out the writer (my picks record at the bottom of this story has stripped me of any such ability) but rather to show what was a pretty common belief about the Falcons. Instead, they’re 4-11, and their near-win on Monday night might have been the highlight of their season. The NFL, man. It’s completely bananas.
PITTSBURGH (-7) over Cleveland
The Steelers are so lukewarm right now. Cleveland better watch out.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-3.5) over Washington
The Redskins haven’t won since Nov. 3.
Jacksonville (+12) over INDIANAPOLIS
It wouldn’t be an NFL weekend without the prototypical “Expect one team to open up a 14-point lead but then make you sweat bullets in the fourth quarter because the team that is obviously going to lose might score a touchdown in the final minutes to cover the huge spread and thereby ruin your day” game. You know that type of game. This is that type of game, so I’m trying to stay ahead of the curve.
Detroit (-3) over MINNESOTA
Let the record show that when I say that I’m going to miss having the full slate of games on Sundays, games like this one are not included. I will not miss these games.
CINCINNATI (-6) over Baltimore
After seeing Baltimore fold last weekend, and with the Bengals still believing they have a chance of earning a first-round bye, I don’t see this one being quite as close as that Baltimore OT win in early November.
Green Bay (-3) over CHICAGO
The Bears are an ugly mess. I would take Green Bay -3 if Aaron Rodgers announced he’d be returning as a lefty. Righty? Easy pick.
Note: We’re now entering the “Will they rest their starters?” portion of the schedule, which is always fun when you’re trying to make picks.
San Francisco (pick ’em) over ARIZONA
I know that the Cardinals won’t be letting off the gas pedal, as they still have a chance to make the playoffs with a win. But I still think the 49ers are a better team. Calais Campbell is just going to have to deal with that.
Kansas City (+10) over SAN DIEGO
This is the wackiest spread of the week, thanks to the unknown factor with how much the Chiefs starters will play. The Chiefs have nothing to play for … except the fact that they’ve lost four out of their last six and likely will want to get some things figured out before the postseason rolls along.
SEATTLE (-11) over St. Louis
Same goes for the Seahawks, who had their long home winning streak surprisingly snapped last week by Arizona. That’s no way to head into January, and they’ll put forth a thorough effort on Sunday to correct as much as possible.
NEW ENGLAND (-9) over Buffalo
I will doff my cap to the Bills if they show up to this game and actually put in an effort. Those guys are three hours away from months of vacation, where they won’t have to smash their heads against anyone else and where they won’t face the constant risk of tearing a ligament. Nothing begs for a player to scream, “Ow, coach! I think I popped my hammy!” quite like a late December road game in New England when your team is 6-9.
OAKLAND (+12.5) over Denver
Peyton Manning looks like he’s about to break into 3 million pieces. The man is running on fumes. With his single-season touchdown record wrapped up, I don’t see him sticking around in this one long enough to complete a blowout victory. It’ll be 17-3 Broncos at halftime, Peyton won’t return, and then we’ll see if the Raiders can win the second half by two points.
NEW ORLEANS (-12) over Tampa Bay
Saints are in “win and you’re in” mode. Bucs are in “lose and go home then fly to Hawaii and play on a jet ski” mode.
Philadelphia (-6) over DALLAS
I don’t know what went wrong during my genetic coding, but somewhere along the line I was never given the “You Must Hate Tony Romo” gene that seemingly everybody else in the world has. And I don’t just mean light hate — I mean real, deep hatred. It’s kind of a bizarre phenomenon, this Romo hating thing, and I’m sure it would tickle these Romo haters to no end to see Kyle Orton lead the Cowboys to the playoffs. And if the Cowboys had to win the Super Bowl, even I admit that it would be kind of funny for it to happen with an injured Romo watching on the sidelines. Poor guy.
Alas, that’s not going to happen. Kyle Orton isn’t going to step in lead the Cowboys to victory. He will lead them to some incompletions and a couple of interceptions. And when he’s done, the Cowboys season will be over, as will ours. Enjoy it while you can.
Last week: 8-8