At week's end, as many as 11 of the 12 post-season slots can be clinched. Currently, 22 of the 32 NFL teams have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs. The NFL started scheduling a majority of division matchups in Week 16 and 17 to make these last games more meaningful, and boy has it worked! Here's something crazy: the Eagles and Chargers can still win their divisions, as can the Raiders, Chiefs, and Giants.
There is only one game on Sunday - the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Bears and Packers. If Seattle beats the 49ers on Saturday, it will leave the door wide open for the Saints to get a first round playoff bye. Also, it will allow the Packers to clinch the top seed, which leads us to an interesting question: in the event of clinching home-field advantage, does Green Bay sit Aaron Rodgers? And if so, does that affect the MVP race?
I'd rather see Rodgers struggle another week before resting for the post-season, especially since that game is in primetime. I believe Drew Brees has done enough to earn the MVP, but I think it will take an ugly outing by Rodgers in front of a national audience followed by another vintage Drew performance the next night for Brees to actually get a fair shake at the prize. It's about national perception perpetuated by the media after all, and what better way to change that than a stark contrast in the two primetime games almost everyone will be watching?
For Yahoo! fantasy leagues that utilize the confidence point system, my confidence rating is listed after the team names. For Sirius leagues with best bets, my five highest confidence choices are my best bets. Any time I pick the underdog to win, I call it an upset.
Season Total: 152 wins, 72 losses
Last Week: 11 wins, 5 losses
Average: 10 wins, 6 losses
Last Year: 157 wins, 99 losses
Best Year: 170 wins, 86 losses
Yahoo Rank: 1st out of 84
Sirius Rank: 63rd out of 8,680
This Week's Picks
Seahawks over 49ers, 1 - Upset #1 - Do I think Seattle is going to beat the Niners? They have a chance because this game is on Saturday and San Francisco just played on Monday. I'm making this choice because it is the last real chance the Saints have at earning a bye, because I don't believe the Rams can beat San Fran in the finale. I'll say that the Niners are coming off a short week and an emotional victory, so maybe they can get complacent and have a letdown. San Fran will nullify Marshawn Lynch - they still haven't given up a rushing TD all year. That leaves Tarvaris Jackson to carry the load. I think what could swing this game in Seattle's favor is the cornerback situation. It's a divisional game, so it should be much closer.
Giants over Jets, 2 - Upset #2 - This is a tough pick to make. My gut tells me Jets, but my brain tells me Giants. I trust Eli, and I prefer the Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs combo over an injured Shonn Greene. I prefer the pass rush of the Giants. I prefer Tom Coughlin.
Chiefs over Raiders, 3 - I didn't think I'd be picking the Chiefs again this year, but a decent QB to go along with a good defense makes the difference. Oakland is banged up and Carson Palmer looks like a guy who was laying on his couch all year.
Broncos over Bills, 4 - Denver is playing like a team; Buffalo is playing like half of a team. The Bills never recovered from the injury bug. I think Chan Gailey will be a little jealous of the offense the Broncos will be running - it looks like his Georgia Tech offense. Kudos to John Fox for doing what works, and kudos to Gailey for getting the most out of his team before the injuries. He needs another weapon on offense to help Ryan Fitzpatrick become less predictable. Better luck next year.
Bengals over Cardinals, 6 - This game is in Cincinnati, which is why I am picking the Bengals - the only reason why. I think both teams have very good defenses, a top-tier WR, and a good enough RB to move the chains and get the tough yards. I give the advantage to the Bengals because they are used to playing in the elements this late in the year, unlike the team from the desert.
Titans over Jaguars, 7 - I think the Saints deflated Tennessee's playoff delusions. I think the Titans would be better suited playing Jake Locker (I've said so after the first month of this season). I honestly believe he "gets it" and gives them the better chance to win. I have zero faith in Blaine Gabbert, but think the world of Maurice Jones-Drew. I think Jacksonville has a very good defense, yet the Titans can be equally stingy. I think the Titans QB(s) will make more plays and that is the difference.
Eagles over Cowboys, 8 - Upset #3 - Philadelphia is on fire right now, and it looks like they are finally becoming the team everyone thought they were on paper. Dallas is manic - one extreme to the next - and this week marks the depression cycle. Can you believe the Eagles can still win this division? They just need to win out, plus a Jets win vs the Giants, and a Giants win vs the Cowboys.
Chargers over Lions, 9 - Upset #4 - It may be "too little, too late" for Norv Turner, but the Chargers got healthy at their skill positions and are hitting their stride offensively. The defense is starting to respond and complement them. The Lions suffer a blow to their playoff aspirations, because though Matthew Stafford can match Phillip Rivers throw for throw, the Lions can't run with the Chargers.
Saints over Falcons, 10 - Mike Smith did Gregg Williams a favor in Atlanta a month ago. I expect a better effort from Williams' defense as Drew Brees breaks Marino's record in prime time in front of the dome-field advantage and the entire nation on his way to winning the division and the league's MVP award.
Packers over Bears, 11 - If I felt Josh McCown could come in and give the Bears a Kyle Orton-like performance, I'd pick the Packers to lose this one. Green Bay has bad injury problems along the offensive line and at running back, and their defense is shaky. I think Rodgers has another "not MVP" outing, but comes away with the win when Chicago has another "no QB" display. If Green Bay sits Aaron Rodgers in the event of a Seahawks victory, I'm changing this pick.
Ravens over Browns, 12 - I was nervous last week when I found out Seneca Wallace would be the starter. I think he gives them a spark, and coupled with Peyton Hillis finally pulling his head out of his wallet (and a stingy Cleveland defense), makes this game surprisingly close. Yet Baltimore is still playing for a bye and the Browns offense doesn't look like the Chargers.
Patriots over Dolphins, 13 - A loss to Miami wouldn't be surprising, but it would sure make the top seed in the AFC interesting. I think it is very possible, especially considering the Patriots just lost their top pass rusher and think they have things locked up. It's a home game, so I'll hold off on the upset.
Redskins over Vikings, 14 - Rex can look like Drew Brees in this game. The Vikings can look like quitters. Washington's coaching staff will tear apart the Vikings defense, while the Redskins defense will play stout enough to put this game to bed early. I expect Jared Allen to edge closer to the sack record with 3 more.
Panthers over Bucs, 15 - These two teams are going in completely opposite directions. I haven't seen anything out of Tampa to give a counter argument. I think the Panthers will steamroll Tampa with a 40 burger. I think Cam Newton will have a very very big day. I think the Bucs coach gets fired.
Steelers over Rams, 16 - Note to Mike Tomlin: when your QB is a statue playing on one leg, and the other team is getting consistent pressure, go to the back ups - you know, the ones who won three out of four games while Big Ben was suspended last year. Note to Spags - that's tough luck man, I hope you land on your feet. It isn't fair to lose 10 CBs and four OTs in the same season, in addition to the top target for your QB, and having a banged-up QB and RB throughout the year. Call Mickey if you need a job.