In the spirit of the holidays, I want to open up by saying thank you to everyone who’s been keeping up and reading with these weekly picks — you’ve been witness to three of the finest weeks I’ve ever had in picking games over the last 12 years. Twice I went undefeated and last week I was 14-2 straight up. For the season, I went 148-75 straight up picking winners and losers; and against the spread, I won us money — 110-104-10.
Why am I talking in the past tense, like it’s all over? Well, let’s face it, it is. Unless you’re a complete degenerate, you’re not risky your well-earned money on Week 17 games that will likely feature myriad back-ups and coaches changing their gameplans on the fly as other scores and results become clearer. For instance, the Bears will likely bench players mid-game and turn their focus to keeping guys healthy for Wildcard Weekend, if they look up at the scoreboard and see that the Rams are burying the 49ers. Same with the Chargers, if the Chiefs appear to have wrapped up their game against the Raiders.
So why would I try and pick these games? It’s plenty hard enough when normal factors are at play, let alone all these wild implications from games that are happening in real time and at the same time. What I’d rather spend a few minutes doing would be predicting who’s in and who’s out of the playoffs in each conference.
- Kansas City (12-4) — A win at home over the Raiders is all that stands in between Chiefs and home filed throughout the playoffs. Not leaving Arrowhead gives the Chiefs as good a shot at making to the Super Bowl with Andy Reid as they’ll ever have. This one’s easy.
- New England (11-5) — A win at Foxboro over the Jets would clinch a much needed bye for the Pats, who’ve looked older and more “un-Patriot” like than in over a decade. The players know how important that bye is.
- Houston (11-5) — Yes, the Texans have definitely come back down to earth after reeling off 9 straight wins after an 0-3 start. But a loss in Week 17 to the Jaguars means Houston will wind up the 6th seed and having to go on the road in order to reach the Super Bowl. Talk about limping into the postseason.
- Pittsburgh (9-6-1) — If you listen to my podcast, you know how much this kills me. But listen, this is typical 2018 Steelers: inconsistent, unpredictable, and in the end, still pretty good. Honestly, this has more to do with the Ravens and their Week 17 opponent — the Steelers just happen to be the beneficiaries, assuming they roll the Bengals like they should.
- Los Angeles (11-5) — The Chargers have nothing to play for as long as the Chiefs beat the Raiders. I imagine head coach Anthony Lynn has a quick hook for his starters once he’s told the score at Arrowhead.
- Indianapolis (10-6) — This is the underrated story of the year. Andrew Luck has returned to the form we grew accustomed to seeing when he was healthy, and the Colts have a really good offensive line and defense to match. They’ll dispatch Blaine Gabbert (or Marcus Mariota) to get in. And once they’re in, they’re dangerous.
- Baltimore (9-7) — Last year’s Week 17 ending was a nightmare for John Harbaugh’s team, as they gave up a final minute touchdown bomb from Andy Dalton, as the Bengals — with nothing to play for themselves — enabled the Buffalo Bills to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 1999. The scenario this year is quite similar: a “win-and-you’re-in” game against the Browns, who’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. Each year a team in a situation like this inexplicably lays an egg. You can be sure Baker Mayfield will not be giving this game up easily — the Browns have a chance to finish with a winning record a year after going 0-16. Don’t tell this team this game is meaningless for them.
- New Orleans (14-2) — The road the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through the Superdome. That’s already been determined.
- Los Angeles (12-4) — The 2-seed is their’s with a win over the 49ers. Sean McVay has a bit of a history of preferring to rest his players than play for playoff positioning — he rested Todd Gurley last week and rested everyone in Week 17 last season, which led to the Rams getting the 4-seed and not the 3. I think he knows the importance of earning the bye, though.
- Chicago (11-5) — Once the Rams have demonstrated that they want the 2-seed, it’d be logical to see Matt Nagy sit some starters, which would in turn give the Vikings the advantage and a great shot at securing the 6th seed — and a return trip to Soldier Field next weekend.
- Dallas (9-7) — The division has been locked up and Dallas is firmly entrenched in that 4-seed, no matter the result against the Giants.
- Seattle (10-6) — A loss could theoretically push Seattle down to the 6th seed. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they play the Cardinals, who you’d have to figure are in a rush for this season to come to an end.
- Minnesota (9-6-1) — I’m not picking Kirk Cousins to win a must-win game against the Bears. But considering the circumstances and what I mentioned above with the Rams, the bears probably let Cousins off the hook. If he can’t win then, we’ve got some major problems brewing in Minnesota.
- Philadelphia (9-7) — All the defending champs can do at this point is go out and try to win a game against the Redskins. Take care of their business and let the chips fall where they may. If the Bears decide they want to play all-out for a full 60 minutes, the Eagles will get in.
Thanks again to everyone for sticking around this year and humoring me by reading all my picks and predictions. It’s fun and I hope you found some levity in reading it. We’ll be back next week with predictions for Wildcard Weekend.
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