Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Week 17 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 31, 2009

Things are rapidly unraveling for the Denver Broncos, who are now in serious danger of becoming the second team in NFL history to start 6-0 and miss the playoffs (the 2003 Vikings are the other).  While there are 10 scenarios that would allow the Broncos to make the playoffs, all of them involve either a loss by the Jets or Ravens.  As you’ll see in the picks below, I don’t think either will happen.  It is safe to say that the Broncos have missed countless opportunities this season (especially in losses to the Redskins and Raiders) so it is their own fault that they are stuck in this position in the first place.  Had the Broncos won either of those two games, they would have clinched a spot already.  Now, they are on the wrong end of tiebreakers and need help to back into the playoffs.  Perhaps the most disappointing thing is I thought the Broncos played maybe their best half of the season Sunday in the second half against the Eagles.  Denver erased a 27-10 deficit, had the Eagles on the ropes, but couldn’t quite close the deal.  If Denver had played like that the week before against the Raiders, they would have blown them out.  Denver has been plagued by inconsistency all year, playing well against good competition most of the time but folding on several occasions against inferior opponents.

The bottom line for the Broncos is there have been too many times this season where they failed to capitalize in the red zone, and too many games in which they simply did not score enough points offensively.  I think the foundation is there for a good defense, for the unit has been much improved over last year.  On offense, the Broncos have got to figure out how to get more production next season, particularly out of guys like Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler.  While they have a chance to finish with an improved record over last year, it appears probable in any case that the Broncos will once again be on the outside looking in.  That is unless a few major upsets take place.  We’ll have a more detailed breakdown of the season after it is all over, but for now the Broncos have to wonder about what could have been in a season where they had such a great start. 

Now on to the picks, while trying to navigate the minefield that is week 17, especially the part about trying to determine who will play to win and who will concede games by benching starters.

Last week: 9-7 Season: 157-81

– Bills over Colts: Obviously this is not a pick that would be made in normal circumstances.  If this was a meaningful game the Colts would win big every time, but this is clearly not a meaningful game.  The Colts I believe made a colossal error of epic proportions last week when they basically handed the Jets a free victory by benching their starters in the second half last week.  The Colts led 15-10 in the third quarter at the time, which clearly means that the game was not yet out of hand.  I believe especially at that point, when the starters had already played into the second half, with the Colts just six quarters away from an undefeated regular season and potential history, they pulled the plug.  I believe this is dead wrong for several reasons, not the least of which is they’ve now put themselves in a position where they will not play hard this week, will then have a bye week, and then will have turn the switch back on against a hot team coming off a playoff win.  History in the NFL has proven that teams that do this NEVER EVER win the Super Bowl.  The Colts themselves have stumbled numerous times by resting players in the final weeks of the regular season, only to fall flat on their faces in the first round of the playoffs.  The one year the Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006, they played their starters all the way through because they needed to, and lo and behold their momentum carried them all the way to the Super Bowl win!  I think in this case especially, when the Colts voluntarily torched their perfect season and shot and history, it will really come back to bite them.  The Colts players were clearly not happy with the decision, and I think it is just too difficult to turn the switch back on after weeks of inactivity.  No matter what anyone says you can’t simulate game intensity in practice nor can you expect to keep your timing and rhythm.  Factor that the Colts could well have a tough matchup in their first playoff game (possibilities include the Patriots, Bengals and several other teams) and I think the Colts are cooked.  In fact book it right now: Indianapolis WILL NOT play in the Super Bowl, largely because of this idiotic boneheaded decision to basically ignore the last two weeks of the season instead of going for 16-0 as they should have.  As for this game, I know the Bills have been awful, but I refuse to pick a team led by Chris Painter at quarterback to win on the road.  Besides, we know the Colts are basically not even attempting to win this game, thus I take the Bills at home. 

– Falcons over Buccaneers: A meaningless game in terms of the standings.  For the Falcons, they have a chance to finish 9-7 if they win.  Tampa Bay has won two straight, including last week’s stunner in New Orleans (for the record I will point out that I did pick the Bucs to win the first meeting in Tampa, only to see that blow up in my face, and then I took the safe route last and missed the pick again.  Go figure that I would pick the Tampa upset in the wrong meeting).  In this game, I think both teams want to end the season on a positive note, but I’ll take the Falcons on a hunch. 

– Panthers over Saints: This game has been rendered meaningless since the Saints have now clinched home field throughout the NFC playoffs.  While I’m not ready to write off New Orleans yet, they are in a sudden free fall that really extends back to their near loss in Washington.  I’m not sure if the Saints will bench Brees and company for this scrimmage of if they’ll actually try to win, but I’m leaning toward Sean Payton resting people (again a mistake, I think they need to get a win and get momentum).  In any case, the Panthers are suddenly red hot (blowout wins over the Vikings and Giants) and are getting good enough play from Matt Moore at quarterback that he may actually win the job for 2010.  Since the Panthers are on fire and playing at home, I like them to win, figuring that the Saints are likely to sit people and not risk injury.  In the end I think the Saints peaked too early, and are in real danger against several quick strike teams in the playoffs.

– 49ers over Rams: This is probably the dud game of the week with several contenders.  St. Louis can clinch the first pick in the draft with a loss, and chances are they’ll get it with plenty of empty seats at the Edward Jones Dome.  The 49ers have a chance to really finish out on a positive note (three wins in their final four games) with a win and carry momentum into next season.  The 49ers should win this without much difficulty. 

– Bears over Lions: Jay Cutler came out of nowhere and really had an outstanding game Monday night against Minnesota, leading the Bears to 36 points and an overtime victory.  That is the Jay Cutler the Bears thought they were trading for in the offseason.  Of course it is only one game and he performed that way when the pressure was completely off and the Bears were long eliminated from postseason contention.  It remains to be seen if Cutler will be able to do that on a consistent basis in 2010.  In any case the Bears have a lot of rebuilding to do at a number of positions and not a lot of draft choices to do it with.  For the Lions, they are limping into another disappointing offseason and will once again look to regroup.  I like the Bears to win this ugly affair even though it’s on the road. 

– Titans over Seahawks: The only suspense here is whether Chris Johnson will achieve 2,000 yards rushing on the season.  He needs 128 yards to get it done, certainly very doable against a Seahawks team with nothing to play for and is just playing out the string of a very disappointing season.   I think Johnson has vaulted over Adrian Peterson this season for the honor of best running back in the league and will be a star for years to come in Tennessee.  The Titans still have a chance to finish 8-8 even after an 0-6 start, and that would be a tremendous achievement even though they’re out of the playoff hunt.  As for the Seahawks, expect big changes next year especially after the way they have practically given up in December.  Titans roll in this one. 

– Jaguars over Browns: Jacksonville’s playoff are hanging by a thread, and they will need a ton of help.  They looked awful in every way last week against the Patriots, which is probably an indicator that they wouldn’t be much of a threat in the playoffs if they were able to sneak in.  The Jaguars have nevertheless exceeded expectations this season, but you have to wonder if they’re wasting the prime of Maurice Jones-Drew’s career.  The Browns have very quietly won three in a row, but questions continue to hover about Eric Mangini’s future in the wake of Mike Holmgren taking over the organization.  I expect the Jaguars to win this game if nothing else to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

– Vikings over Giants: Minnesota is in real trouble.  They have lost three of their past four games and now are in real danger of losing their first round bye if the Eagles win in Dallas.  I do think the Vikings woke up offensively in the second half in Chicago, and they will need that kind of offensive attack going forward.  The real problem there now is that Adrian Peterson needs to hold on to the football.  The defensive front seven is still among the best in the NFL, but it was evident Monday night that they couldn’t get pressure, and it was also clear that cornerback Antonie Winfield was not near 100 percent.  If he continues to allow receivers to get that wide open, it won’t matter what kind of pressure the front seven generates.  I do still have a feeling though that this team is not dead yet, because I still think they are the most talented team in the league on both sides of the ball if they are clicking.  I think it will start with a momentum building win in this one, especially against a Giants team that is officially cooked after last week’s embarrassment against Carolina.  The Vikings know the bye is on the line, and I expect a spirited effort from Favre and company.  As for the G-men, it will interesting to see what changes await in the offseason after they blew a 5-0 start. 

– Steelers over Dolphins: Both teams are still mathematically alive, and both need help from multiple teams.  Pittsburgh is in better shape tiebreaker wise than Miami, but both teams will sink everything into this game to try and win it.  I think the Steelers are a sleeping giant that has woken up with two huge wins against Green Bay and Baltimore, and I think they are the team that no one in the AFC wants to see should they get in.  They are suddenly running the ball better, Ben Roethlisberger is throwing the ball well, and the defense is showing a knack for physical play again.  The Dolphins are coming off two straight losses, including one last week in which they allowed Houston way too big a lead in the first half.  I think even though this game is in Miami, the momentum is leaning toward the black and gold.  Pittsburgh wins an exciting game, keeping their playoff hopes alive at least into the late games. 

– Patriots over Texans: This is a hard game to figure because the game really doesn’t mean much to the Patriots unless they have a strong desire to be the three seed instead of the four.  Bill Belichick doesn’t have a history of resting players, although he was very coy about it this week in his press conferences.  The folks in Vegas seem to think the Patriots will basically take this game off, because the line is Texans by seven, which surely wouldn’t occur in ordinary circumstances.  If I were the Patriots I would play this game hard to win simply because I would want the three seed if I could get it (If New England loses and Cincinnati wins, the Bengals get the three).  The reason I would really want the three is just in case fluke circumstances occur in the playoffs that would allow the chance to host the AFC championship game, whereas with the four seed that is much more unlikely.  This paid off for the Colts in 2006 when they actually played hard in the final game to assure themselves the three seed, and ended up hosting the AFC title game, leading to a Super Bowl win.  In any case, I would be really surprised if the Patriots sat people against the Texans because that just doesn’t fit with the Belichick philosophy.  Houston is indeed red hot, and they are alive by a thread for the playoffs, and I do expect them to give a good effort at home, but if the Patriots play to win I like them to prevail on the road.  The caveat is I would take the Texans if I knew the Patriots would play backups, butI going to roll the dice and say that Belichick will play to win.  The reason I say that is Belichick knows the importance of momentum heading into the playoffs, and for this reason I think New England could be a dangerous team in the postseason.   

– Chargers over Redskins:  This is a meaningless game as the Chargers are locked into the two seed and have clinched a first round bye.  The question here is whether they will play to win and keep their winning streak alive (currently at 10 straight wins) or if they will sit everyone and basically take two weeks off.  My views are clear on this matter and I think the Chargers should play to win and keep momentum, but we’ll see what Norv Turner decides to do.  In any case, even if San Diego plays backups, I think the Redskins are so bad right now and in such disarray that I’m not so sure they would even be able to beat the Chargers JV on the road.   Washington has been really embarrassing in two straight prime time home games, and it seems clear that they are now just waiting to see whether or not Mike Shanahan is named head coach next week.  I’ll take the Chargers to win, and assume Rivers and company play at least a half.   

– Cardinals over Packers: This is an interesting deal because the Cardinals still have a slight chance at a first round bye (they would need a Vikings loss and the Cowboys to beat the Eagles).  The other factor here is this could very well be the first round playoff matchup for these teams.  Being that the wild card meeting is not guaranteed,  I think the Cardinals will see how the Vikings game unfolds in the early slot.  If Minnesota loses, I think the Cards go all out to win and go for the bye.  If the Vikings win, Arizona knows they can’t get the bye, and in that case I think they may rest everyone.  In that case I can see their point for doing it because it makes no sense to reveal your game plan against an opponent you’re likely going to play in a much more meaningful game the next week.  For Green Bay, it’s possible they could end up playing Philly or Dallas or maybe even Minnesota, but it seems like the Packers are likely to rest players at least for the second half in any case.  Thus, I pick the Cardinals to win. 

– Broncos over Chiefs: The Broncos woes have already been documented, but they need to win this game and then hope for some help.  The bottom line is they started 6-0 and then proceeded to lose seven of their next nine games, so it is their own fault they are in this position.  Denver let an easy one at home slip away two weeks ago against Oakland, so for that reason alone they should be motivated enough not to let that happen again.  The Broncos also slaughtered Kansas City 44-13 just a few weeks ago at Arrowhead, so this is a team in which they clearly are able to score points against.  The one thing to watch here for KC is that Jamaal Charles has quietly emerged as one of the more exciting backs in the league, so it will be important for the Broncos to contain him.  I think the Broncos win this game, but as you’ll see below I don’t think they’ll get the help they need to make the playoffs.  Still, 9-7 is much better than everyone’s preseason expectations for this team.

– Ravens over Raiders: The Broncos need their arch rival to do them a big favor and pull off this major upset in order to make the playoffs.  While the Raiders do have several surprising wins under their belt this year, including wins against AFC North foes Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull off this one even though it will be on their home field in the east bay.  Oakland looked lost last week in Cleveland with Charlie Frye at the controls, and it has already been announced that Frye will start again on Sunday.  Besides, it is hard to tell which games the Raiders will play hard in and which ones they won’t.  As for the Ravens, they know they let one get away last week in Pittsburgh, and for them it’s very simple: win and you’re in the playoffs.  Baltimore does not need any help, and they will come out with a playoff effort in this game and win it perhaps in blowout fashion.

– Cowboys over Eagles: This is the clear game of the week without question, and in my mind the one that should have been moved to Sunday night.  I’m not sure if the Cowboys were on too many times during the season, but the choice NBC made is at best questionable and at worst a very dumb one (more on that in a moment).  The winner of this game between the Eagles and Cowboys wins the NFC East.  Both teams have a shot at a first round bye (in the Eagles case they control their own destiny for it), and in spite of all that it is also possible these two teams may square off again in the first round of the playoffs.  That makes it very important for these teams to try and win this game so they can get home field advantage for that potential meeting in the event that they don’t get the bye.  This is also an intriguing game from the standpoint that the Cowboys won the first meeting in Philadelphia, and both teams come into the game red hot, and perhaps at this point the two favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl (no offense to the Saints and Vikings, each of whom look much more vulnerable right now then these two teams).  I think this will be a fantastic game.  Both offenses have the ability to strike quickly, but I think the Cowboys are playing better on the defensive side of the ball right now (they even held San Diego to 20 points, which considering the Chargers’ play of late has to be considered a fantastic effort).  I think the Dallas defense will get one more turnover than Philadelphia, and thus I take the Cowboys to win at home, and to win the NFC East.

– Jets over Bengals: Why this game was selected as the Sunday nighter is absolutely beyond me, other than they must have wanted the New York market.  Now, the Bengals are certainly worthy of a prime time appearance and they don’t have one yet, but here’s my problem with this game being moved to the night slot: depending on how the early games go, it may mean absolutely nothing for the Bengals.  If New England wins, Cincinnati is locked into the four seed with no shot of moving up.  If that happens, a Bengals-Jets wild card matchup could be a strong possibility.  This means the Bengals will not want to reveal anything and would be likely to sit Palmer, Ochocinco and company and basically tank the game.  This is particularly problematic when there are a number of AFC teams (Denver, Pittsburgh and Houston)  that need a Jets loss to make the playoffs.  Is is just me or is there a major problem when the Jets vault to the top of the wild card heap by virtue of two gimmie wins against teams that aren’t trying?  This problem could have been avoided had the NFL left this game in the 11 a.m. early slot, because if the Bengals and Patriots games kicked off simultaneously, it would stand to reason that both teams would play hard and try for the three seed.  Now, Cincinnati can wait and see how everything unfolds, and there is a better than 50-50 chance they will now rest people.  Granted, it is possible that if the Patriots lose, the Bengals will play hard and try for the three seed, but that is no guarantee.  I pick the Jets for the simple reason I think they will play the Bengals JV.  I do not think the Jets will be much of a factor in the playoffs once they play teams that are actually trying hard and giving maximum effort. 

So if my picks are correct, here are what the playoff matchups would look like:

AFC Wild Card: (6) Baltimore at (3) New England, (5) NY Jets at (4) Cincinnati

Top 2 seeds: Indianapolis, San Diego

NFC Wild Card: (6) Green Bay at (3) Arizona, (5) Philadelphia at (4) Dallas

Top 2 seeds: New Orelans, Minnesota

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One Response to “Week 17 Picks”

  1. Doug Baker said

    Well, you sure did well this week considering all the scenarios.

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