NFL Stat Oddity: Week 17

It’s over. The NFL was able to complete the first – and hopefully last – pandemic regular season on Sunday. Is it asterisk worthy? There are definitely some fishy, eye-popping numbers in a season with historic offensive production, but more on that later this week. As for an asterisk, I guess we’ll see what kind of postseason we get as the virus continues to mutate and increase in spread. However, only a couple of the 256 games this season were a total sham, including a Ravens-Steelers game that might have had much larger implications if it was played at a later date like next week.

Then again, the league greatly weakened the No. 2 seed with the new playoff format, and home-field advantage has never meant less than it does right now.

I am nervous and excited as hell at the same time about where things are headed, which is the perfect summary of how I feel about 2021 in general. But before we move onto the playoffs, let’s recap how things finished around the eight divisions in Week 17.

Previous weeks in Stat Oddity:

AFC South: King Henry Reigns Supreme

The best drama of the day came from the AFC South. Even though the Titans were not in any danger of missing the playoffs after Miami lost, the division title was still up for grabs as Deshaun Watson made the Titans work hard for a win while the Colts teased Jacksonville in a 28-14 final that was stuck on 20-14 for far too long. Seriously, the Colts were up 20-0 and almost blew this one to Mike Glennon. I’m a bit concerned about this team, but it’s not like I expect them to have a huge lead in Buffalo on Saturday. They are going to have to be sharper than the last two weeks. Just getting by a Jacksonville team that lost 15 straight is not going to impress anyone, but crashing the Buffalo parade early sure would.

So basically, the two good teams beat the two shitty teams with Derrick Henry (250 yards) and Jonathan Taylor (253 yards) running wild. Performances of 250 rushing yards are rare, but we had two on the same day from the same division. They are the 13th and 14th such games since 1950. The Titans are the first offense in NFL history to have a 250-yard rusher and a 150-yard receiver (A.J. Brown) in the same game. It was also a historic game in that Brandin Cooks had 166 receiving yards for Houston.

The big-time players showed up in this one, but it was Brown’s 52-yard catch that set up the game-winning field goal with no time left. That is how you get into game-winning field goal range in eight seconds. It was the most fitting way for the Titans to win the division in a season where Ryan Tannehill has led the most fourth-quarter comebacks (five) and game-winning drives (six) in the league.

Henry needed 223 rushing yards to get to 2,000 on the season and he got 250. This offense is absurdly great at times and I cannot wait to see this matchup with Baltimore, a playoff rematch from a year ago that this season definitely needs.

NFC East Total Landscaping Division Champions: The Team with No Name

We did not make history with a 6-10 division winner, but the NFC East sure did try its damnedest on Sunday to deliver.

First up was Dallas at the Giants, a team the Cowboys had a seven-game winning streak against and usually score 30+ points on. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton must have gotten the memo that this was a de facto playoff game that his team could not lose or they would be eliminated from the division race. In true January Andy Dalton fashion, he finished with no touchdown passes, a crucial interception in the final two minutes, and the Cowboys lost 23-19. Dalton was not protected well and took six sacks, including a big one two plays before his interception in the end zone. Wayne Gallman then fumbled for the Giants, but saved his ass by recovering it to run out the clock on Dallas’ season.

So Jason Garrett, the Giants’ offensive coordinator, gets the last laugh for 2020 as this was the game that sent the Cowboys home.

Over the last two seasons, Dallas is 0-16 when not scoring at least 30 points and 14-2 when scoring 30 or more points. There has never been a split like that in NFL history over multiple seasons. Teams who don’t score 30 points win about 36% of their games since 2019. The Cowboys’ 14 straight wins with at least 30 points in each is the longest such streak in NFL history. This team simply cannot win without scoring a lot of points.

Does that really change even if Dak Prescott is back healthy in 2021? No, more changes need to happen too. This roster does not work.

Alas, the Giants did not turn this win into a division title after the Washington Football Team was able to squeeze out a 20-14 stinker in Philadelphia on Sunday night. The second half, which only produced a Washington field goal on a 1-yard drive, was one of the worst halves of football I was subjected to all season. Doug Pederson basically threw in the towel by benching starter Jalen Hurts for backup Nate Sudfeld for the whole fourth quarter of a one-score game. It was shameless tanking. If he’s going to play a bad quarterback with no future in Philadelphia, he could have just started Carson Wentz.

Alex Smith had a lot of rough moments and was again carried by the defense to a victory and home playoff game next week. For as much as people like the courageous stories behind Ron Rivera’s cancer battle and Smith’s rehab, this team is one of the worst to watch play football this year. Now we have to see them host Tampa Bay on Saturday night.

Just the thought of a Washington-Tampa Bay game gives me PTSD to the 2005 NFC Wild Card matchup, which had to be one of the worst playoff games ever played. Mark Brunell got a win for Washington in a game where he completed 7-of-15 passes for 41 yards and an interception. I watched the game in freezing cold temperatures as the furnace gave out that weekend. The only thing that could have made the viewing experience worse was if Tom Brady was playing the game and the announcers were up his ass over it.

That awaits us Saturday night. At least I should have heat this time. But then again, if Brunell can win a playoff game doing that and Brady could lose one to Joe Flacco (2009 Ravens) where he threw for 34 yards and a pick, then anything is possible this week.

NFC South: Eat the Rich

In another case of the top of the division making short work of the bottom-feeders, the Saints and Buccaneers cruised to wire-to-wire victories over the Panthers and Falcons on Sunday. Not even losing Alvin Kamara and the running back room to COVID could stop the Saints from throwing in Ty Montgomery and getting 105 yards on the ground out of him in a 33-7 win, reportedly the final regular season game in Drew Brees’ stellar career. Brees finished with three more touchdown passes and enough completions (needed eight) to Emmanuel Sanders to earn the receiver a $500,000 bonus.

Tampa Bay showed even more gall in getting to milestone numbers for its loaded receiving corps, but that came at a price when Mike Evans dropped a touchdown and hyperextended his knee after hitting his benchmark. His status for the playoffs is uncertain but he appears to have dodged the worst of it. Evans is the first receiver in NFL history to have 1,000 yards receiving in his first seven seasons, but this was the first time he ever needed all 16 games to cross the mark.

You might think the Evans scare would knock some sense into them, but that didn’t stop Tom Brady and Antonio Brown from connecting three more times with the game well decided – up 44-27 at the 2:14 mark – just so the receiver could get a $250,000 bonus. It is the only time in the last 20 years where an offense started a drive pass-pass-pass with a three-score lead in the final four minutes.

Maybe the Buccaneers would have done better than a fifth seed in a weak conference had this connection been stronger against better opponents. As it stands, the Jets (two) have more wins against 2020 playoff teams than the Buccaneers (one).

Now Brady will start a playoff run on the road for the first time in his career, and he gets to do it in a crowd-less stadium for a nameless 7-9 Washington team that came out of the worst division since the merger.

Play us off, Rod…

AFC East: The Right Stuff

The Buffalo Bills (13-3) completed their best season since the Super Bowl years by going 6-0 against the AFC East and eliminating Miami from the playoffs in a 56-26 rout. Josh Allen and other starters could have rested the whole game, but they played a half and put up a commanding 28-6 lead before every other phase of the team stepped up with four more touchdowns in the second half.

We knew one of the five 10-5 teams in the AFC was going to be kept out of the playoffs, and Miami was the only underdog against the spread. Sure enough, the Bills got the dominant win and Miami’s season is over. It’s fitting really because Miami was the weakest contender of the five. The switch to Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback did not serve the Dolphins well enough this season, and I think this will cost Brian Flores the Coach of the Year award. Ryan Fitzpatrick was out this week with COVID, but maybe things would have gone differently had he remained the starter. Tua really struggled on Sunday with 58 pass attempts and three interceptions, even after Buffalo was playing backups.

The Bills are clearly in the best shape in this division. The Patriots pulled away from the Jets in the fourth quarter in a 28-14 win as Cam Newton had one of his few good passing games of the year. Is it his last game with the team? Pretty likely, and certainly it’s the last game for Adam Gase in New York. Now if only this team didn’t bother to beat the Rams and Browns, they would be 0-16 and have their choice of head coach and the attractive option of drafting Trevor Lawrence with the top pick. But the Jets are almost never on the right side of history.

NFC West: Goff Clap

Russell Wilson may have saved his best fourth-quarter comeback of 2020 for Week 17, rallying the Seahawks from a 10-point deficit to a 26-23 win against the 49ers, who were very competitive in the final weeks of the season. But go figure, another blown lead and close loss for the Kyle Shanahan era.

Meanwhile, the closest thing to a de facto playoff game between both teams was my expected shitshow between the Rams and Cardinals. It ended up being the eighth 18-7 final score in NFL history, which is a surprisingly high number to me. More surprising than the final was the leading passer for each team: Chris Streveler for the Cardinals and John Wolford for the Rams. When I saw that Streveler threw an early touchdown pass, my first thought was the Cardinals tried a fake field goal and a holder or random player threw the score. I never heard of this player in my life, and Wolford was another unknown to me coming into this one.

We knew coming in that Jared Goff was out with an injured thumb and Kyler Murray was banged up. Murray started and finished, but for a large chunk in between it was Streveler at quarterback. Go figure, the game’s only offensive touchdown was a 14-yard drive set up by Wolford’s interception. The Rams came back thanks to a safety and pick-six.

The quarterbacks in this game were so jacked up that even Boomer Esiason replaced Tony Romo in the booth for CBS due to COVID. Esiason seemed more impressed than anyone with Wolford’s play. I guess given the circumstances and lack of experience, he was okay? He led the team in rushing with 56 yards. He threw for 231 yards and only took two sacks. It was a more mobile Jared Goff-type performance on one of his basic bitch days. In the end, the Rams scored three field goals on 10 drives and were fortunate that the Cardinals were in worse offensive shape than they were. Larry Fitzgerald didn’t even play in what could have been his final game due to injury, and now the Cardinals (8-8) are out of the playoffs.

Sean McVay certainly owns the Cardinals, but we’ll see if he can find his success again with the Seahawks in a third meeting next week. After getting so much praise early in the season, this division really limped across the finish line to get two teams in the tournament.

AFC North: Browns vs. Big Brother

The Steelers-Browns game went about as I expected. Even though the Steelers were missing most of their best players, they weren’t just going to lay down and let Cleveland get a big win to make the playoffs and finish 11-5 for the first time since 1994. Mason Rudolph showed some of his usual lack of pocket awareness, but he converted several third downs and tested the Browns deep with success. Even after Pittsburgh fell behind 24-9 a play into the fourth quarter, Rudolph led two touchdown drives, but missed on the game-tying two-point conversion. The Browns got the one first down needed to run out the clock and secure the 24-22 win.

These teams will meet on Sunday night, meaning it will be the Steelers the Browns have to get past in the playoffs for the third straight postseason after losing to their hated rival in 1994 and 2002. I may end up having to write two previews for this game, so I’ll save my thoughts for later this week, but I like the prospects of the Steelers in that game with their starters back.

Then there is Baltimore, the scariest 11-5 team in the league with the best scoring differential (+165) in football again. How absurd were the Ravens against Cincinnati? They were up 38-3 going into the fourth quarter and basically called off the dogs, finishing with 404 rushing yards, the most in the NFL since the 2000 Bengals had 407 against Denver.

Baltimore could be the most fascinating story this postseason as a legit contender to win it all, or it could flame out again in the playoffs and to the Titans again.

NFC North: Bears Back In

The Chicago Bears had a chance to enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak with confidence if they could knock off the Packers and prove they haven’t just been scoring on bad teams lately.

They flopped again, going down in a 35-16 loss and only backing into the playoffs at 8-8 because of Arizona’s collapse. The 19 and 16-point losses to the Packers this year are Chicago’s worst margins of defeat in 2020. However, this one felt closer than last time despite the final score. The Bears were down 21-16 and 25 yards away from the end zone in the fourth quarter before failing on a 4th-and-1 pass. With nine minutes left, the Bears had their second dropped interception of the day thrown by Aaron Rodgers. More than five minutes later, the Packers were back in the end zone and then added a fifth touchdown after Chicago’s second turnover of the game.

Once again, the Chicago defense could not create splash plays against the Packers, allowing five touchdowns on seven drives. Meanwhile, the Chicago offense was 5-of-6 on fourth down, but that one miss in the fourth quarter hurt. Chicago actually played into Green Bay’s hands a bit with a game that featured very few big plays despite each team having a 50-yard pass play. Green Bay’s second-longest gain of the day was only 17 yards. The Bears only had two plays gain more than 14 yards. Chicago tried to dink and dunk with Trubisky on these long drives that also featured a lot of David Montgomery runs (3.1 YPC on 22 carries), which helped shrink the game, but it also led to too many fourth downs and not enough touchdowns. The Bears were 1-for-5 at scoring in the red zone.

I really hope the Bears do not end Drew Brees’ career in New Orleans next weekend, especially since it sets up another Bears-Packers game. We don’t need a third one of these. The Bears just do not have it against their hated rival, no matter what type of game they play against them.

In the Hollow Shootout of the Week, the Vikings took care of Detroit 37-35. The 2020 Lions allowed 519 points, the second-highest mark in NFL history between the 1981 Colts (533) and the 2008 Lions (517) of 0-16 fame.

Kirk Cousins was 0-22 as a starter in his career when his team allowed more than 30 points, but he has a win now. We’ll have to see if the final snap of Matthew Stafford’s Detroit career is an inaccurate miss on a game-tying two-point conversion attempt before his defense failed to get the ball back one more time.

AFC West: Boo-Urns

The least eventful division on Sunday was the AFC West with the Broncos and Raiders having an old-fashioned shootout that was ultimately meaningless. The fact that Denver had field goals of 70 and 63 yards (to win the game) blocked might tell you all you need to know about that one, a 32-31 comeback win by the Raiders to finish 8-8.

Then there’s the Chargers-Chiefs finale, won 38-21 by the Chargers. This one personally ruined my Sunday, and it’s not just because we didn’t get to see Patrick Mahomes or any of the interesting players on the Chiefs play. It’s because I put way too much trust in the Chargers to fill out their BINGO card with a performance that shouldn’t have blown away the Chiefs even if they were playing heavy backups. I lost quite the potential winnings on this game.

I was worried this meaningless game for the Chiefs would end all of their best streaks, but it only ended up taking out the record one of 60 straight games without losing by more than eight points. I guess we’ll have to put that one in the context of Mahomes from now on.

By resting, Mahomes missed out on leading the league in passing yards, joining Drew Brees as the only quarterbacks with multiple seasons of 5,000 yards/40 TD passes, and becoming the first quarterback to win 18 games and a championship in the same season. Achieving that in a 17 or 18-game regular season wouldn’t be as impressive, as this was the end of the 16-game era. The 2020 Chiefs should still have the record for most yards per drive at over 43.

Alas, the rest is for the postseason where the Chiefs have their ultimate goal still in front of them. It is just a bit of a bummer to see a throwaway game like this one. It was not a good showing by the Chiefs, and neither was the 17-14 escape win over the Falcons last week. Now they will go on a bye while these other AFC teams are in playoff mode for a few weeks now and competing this weekend in the wild card.

If the Steelers take care of the Browns and the Bills take care of the Colts, the Chiefs could have to start this title defense with a Tennessee or Baltimore team looking to punch them in the mouth and avenge past losses. That is a tough, physical draw after weeks off. I know Mahomes is different and Andy Reid has the great bye success, but these playoffs are guaranteed to be a bigger challenge than a year ago when the Chiefs still had to rally from double-digit deficits in all three playoff games.

My Preseason Predictions

Finally, something I am always quick to recap is seeing how my preseason predictions for team final records fared. I knew this would be a challenging season with COVID, a lot of quarterback movement, and the lack of a real offseason. My pick of Dallas making the Super Bowl in the NFC certainly did not pan out, and that was probably going to be the case even if Dak Prescott stayed healthy. However, I’m still on track for the Chiefs repeating, but let’s see how I did with all 32 teams.

As it turns out, this was my worst year of predicting since 2013, but not by much. I was off by an average of 2.78 wins. I have had some years before where I was off by 2.75 wins. A good year is 2.1 or 2.2. The 2019 season was one where I was only off by 2.16 wins. At least I was not off by more than six games for anyone this time.

I did not foresee Miami and Cleveland having this much success this season, which is why I think Kevin Stefanski should win the Coach of the Year award. I also obviously was disappointed by the Vikings and Texans in addition to the Cowboys. Even just those four very winnable division games the Texans had against the Colts and Titans could have made a huge difference for my predictions (2.78 down to 2.53).

But we’ll get into the close game summary of 2020 very soon. That is where teams like Houston, Atlanta, and Philadelphia flopped the hardest. Also, at least I can say I nailed Tampa Bay’s record. Now if only I could nail their postseason prediction later this week, but that is also to come.


NFL Week 17 Predictions: Rest vs. Rust Edition

In the NFL, sometimes Week 17 is great drama, and sometimes you just want to get it over with as quickly as possible to get to the playoffs.

Last year was more on the drama side with the Patriots getting upset by the Dolphins to lose out on a bye and the No. 2 seed to the Chiefs, who rode that to a Super Bowl win. The regular season concluded with a good game between the 49ers and Seahawks that came down to the 1-yard line to decide the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

This year looks to be more on the get it over with side of things, especially during a pandemic and another situation (Saints’ running backs) where a team’s whole position group is being wiped out by protocol.

Despite half of the 14 playoff spots still not clinched, this Sunday lacks that game for both teams that has a “win or go home” pressure to it. Plus with the new system only giving out one bye week in a year where being at home doesn’t even matter, there’s not much of an incentive to improve your seeding if you’re Pittsburgh or Buffalo.

But let’s sort this out quickly. I wrote previews already for Ravens-Bengals, Steelers-Browns, and Vikings-Lions.

AFC Picture

It is shocking to think that the AFC could have eight teams with at least 11 wins if all five of the 10-5 teams win on Sunday. Four of the 10-5 teams are favored by at least a touchdown too with only Miami (+2) at Buffalo as an underdog.

Chances are at least one of them will slip up and lose, but which one?

The Colts should be able to avenge that Week 1 loss to the Jaguars with a win. The Ravens should feel good about the way they’ve been rolling, only needing to beat the Bengals (no 2017, 4th-and-12 vs. Andy Dalton repeat). Deshaun Watson absolutely could give the Titans a game, but I think Tennessee scores a lot there. Still, that might be the best game of the day for SGP.

Pittsburgh is basically throwing in the towel on Week 17 and the No. 2 seed, inviting the Browns to suffer an embarrassing loss to Mason Rudolph. The Steelers also won’t have Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt, and Maurkice Pouncey for rest, or Joe Haden and Eric Ebron for COVID reasons. This sets up nicely for a Cleveland win, but pure hell if they lose. I still think the Steelers can cover this one as they rarely lose by more than 10 points and will want to make this as hard as possible on Cleveland even without their best players active.

MIA-BUF is an interesting one because how much Josh Allen will we see? Cole Beasley is already out for the Bills, who really don’t need this one like Miami does. If the Dolphins need a comeback, they can’t go to the bench for Ryan Fitzpatrick either because he has COVID. So it’s all on Tua at QB, but he may only need to outscore Matt Barkley for a half or so. Again, not a game I’d want to bet any money on.

Finally, the Chiefs have the No. 1 seed wrapped up and won’t play Patrick Mahomes among several other starters. That makes the Chargers a 4.5 point favorite in Arrowhead and leaves a few great Chiefs streaks in jeopardy.

Yeah, I’m not a fan of Week 17 and I don’t think eliminating a bye was a good idea. That would have at the very least made the Steelers and Bills go all out tomorrow.

NFC Picture

I think the top three seeds (GB/NO/SEA) are all going to win, making Green Bay the coveted No. 1 this year. I however wouldn’t overlook the Saints dropping a game to the Panthers. Last time it was a 27-24 final and the Saints are down Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Plus, aren’t the Panthers due to at least win one close game? That should be the most interesting of the three games there.

I just don’t believe in Chicago or Mitchell Trubisky, though I will say the Bears at least beat Tampa Bay this year. And if beating the Lions, Falcons, Panthers, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars doesn’t impress you, well, that’s eight of Green Bay’s wins this season too.

The NFC East is still open to a 6-10 division winner if it’s the Giants, but I think Dallas takes that one to get to 7-9. Then it’s all about SNF and the no-name team against Philadelphia. It appears Alex Smith is starting, but that’s really a marginal improvement over the recently released Dwayne Haskins these days. Still, the Eagles are good for disappointment this year and Washington has been a tough opponent for them the last few years. So I guess based on my picks I still have Washington taking this one at 7-9 thanks to a sweep of Dallas this year.

And to think this could have been Dak Prescott’s division at 8-8…

That leaves probably the closest thing we have to a Week 17 de facto playoff game for both teams between the Rams and Cardinals. I hate betting on the Rams to begin with, but now we’re talking about unknown John Wolford starting at quarterback for an injured Jared Goff. Running back Cam Akers is also still out for the Rams. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray was also banged up at the end of Week 16’s game, so this might not be an offensive showcase.

I’m going to trust my gut and go with Sean McVay in this one as he has owned the Cardinals in his career. If his system and mind are so great, then he should be able to get production out of Wolford in a big spot. The star defenders (Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald) need to show up too. The Rams are a 3-point underdog, but I just don’t trust Kliff Kingsbury, especially not after that brutal performance to the 49ers last Saturday.

NFL Week 17 Predictions

Here are the picks for every game:

During the week I’ll have Stat Oddity for Week 17, a close game summary of 2020, a look at the historic offensive marks achieved this season, and wild card previews. Maybe some other things if I’m feeling that energetic.

NFL Week 17 Predictions: Seedy Edition

How time can move both fast and slow
Amazes me

On the one hand, it doesn’t feel that long ago when the Falcons blew it in the red zone in Philadelphia to start the season, yet here we are for Week 17. On the other hand, Ryan Fitzpatrick was a top MVP candidate in September, and that does feel like eons ago. We also knew that would never sustain in Tampa Bay, but the offensive wizardry of Patrick Mahomes has gone on all year for the Chiefs. He should be a lock for MVP and first-team All-Pro quarterback, but I’m not getting into that right now.

We still have 16 games to wrap up on Sunday with plenty of playoff seeds still up for grabs. Drama will have to come in the form of just a few games though. Can the Browns cap off Baker Mayfield’s rookie season in the best way by eliminating the Ravens in Week 17? Crazier things have happened there, and this would get Pittsburgh in this time. There’s the Titans-Colts play-in game on Sunday night. The Raiders could pull off the upset of the year if Jon Gruden can get a win in Arrowhead, but I think Mahomes hits 50 TD passes in an easy win there.

On a lesser note, we’ll see if Houston and Chicago can leapfrog the Patriots and Rams for No. 2 seeds, but I wouldn’t hold my breath there. The Bears are interesting though, because they can knock out the Vikings if the Eagles beat the Redskins (I expect that part). If you assume the Rams are likely to take care of the 49ers to get the No. 2 seed, do the Bears just half-ass their effort to get the Vikings at home in a third matchup next week? That gets the Eagles out of the picture, which might be a good thing now that they’re getting hot with the right quarterback behind center. It also wouldn’t shock me if Kirk Cousins did something horrific in this one and blew it, but I’m just not sure what kind of effort the Bears are looking to give Sunday. You’re likely going to have to beat the Rams and Saints either way, and I actually think they’re more than capable of winning in LA. I just think Vikings would be a preferable opening game to Philadelphia, and they could rest key starters in the second half on Sunday.

As for the Colts-Titans game, nothing would surprise me at this point given the nature of the Titans. They can play great as they did in wins over NE/DAL, or they could lose to the Bills and nearly blow it at home to the Jets. The Colts aren’t as good on the road while the Titans play better at home. Andrew Luck doesn’t play his best ball against the Titans, but he is 10-0 against them, so he always finds a way to get it done. Derrick Henry has gone off the last three weeks, but he averaged 39.5 rushing yards per game over the first 12 weeks, and the Colts are No. 5 in rushing DVOA defense. This is more on Marcus Mariota to step up with a limited offense in a game I’d have to imagine will be close despite the 38-10 rout last time. I think Jurrell Casey is another big loss for the Titans and Luck has been hard to get pressure on this season with an improved OL, so that really benefits Indy too. So I’m cautiously backing the Colts here on the road to get the last playoff spot, but I also could just as easily see writing about how a tie for Pittsburgh and Indianapolis passing on a tie with Houston cost them in the end in 2018.

NFL Week 17 Predictions

I’m definitely not a fan of predicting Week 17 when you don’t know what kind of effort teams will be giving. Dallas is a good example as the Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 seed. There’s no way they’re a 6-point underdog to the Giants under normal circumstances. Then you have to factor in things like Blake Bortles getting his starting job back and possibly playing for his career in Jacksonville in the Houston game. Could be a similar situation for Ryan Tannehill in Miami and Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay. Boy, gotta love Florida. Backup quarterbacks in CAR-NO too, though I’m interested to see how Teddy Bridgewater does. And no, him struggling doesn’t strengthen Drew Brees’ MVP case in a game the Saints really don’t care about.


I need to do better than 10-6 ATS to break .500 in my first year of doing that every week, though I’d still be disappointed with the results. I’ll have to look during the offseason where I went wrong some weeks, but I know it was some boneheaded moves at times when I should have known better. Things like picking the Dolphins ATS vs. Minnesota when I know they’re a win close, lose big team. At least I was 11-4 ATS picking Steelers games, and Week 15 NE was a default pick by me of course.


NFL Week 17 Predictions: Fitting 2017 Finale

So this NFL season has kind of sucked.

I’ve been pretty consistent in saying that throughout a year that has put far too many great talents on the injury list. There was way too much attention and misinformed angst over the player protests, or anything involving Papa John’s, the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, or any stupid thing a stuffy old white owner had to say.

I’m sad that the Colts seemed to have botched Andrew Luck’s career. I’m sad that Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone derailed Green Bay’s season. I hate watching DeShone Kizer blow every cover for the Browns, though watch him come through tomorrow since I put money early in the week on the Steelers before they decided to sit stars. I’m tired of John Fox and conservative coaches like him, or that Jeff Fisher might return in 2018 just because of how many jobs are expected to be open. I can’t stand Oakland’s wasted talent on offense, or that Miami thought bringing Jay Cutler out of retirement was a good idea, or that Buffalo benched Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman. I hate watching the Colts blow every halftime lead or watch the Titans make sure every game is an insufferable slog for 60 minutes. I’m so disappointed that Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston didn’t help their teams take the next step this season. I can’t believe how much the Giants and Broncos have fallen off.

That’s not to say everything has been bad. The Vikings may have something special here with the Super Bowl in Minnesota. The return of the NFC South (minus Tampa Bay) has been good, as will seeing Drew Brees in another postseason. Jacksonville’s talent on defense is finally paying off. Alex Smith actually hit some deep balls and threw for 4,000 yards this year. Sean McVay has totally transformed the Rams into watchable TV again and should be Coach of the Year. It’s exciting what Jimmy Garoppolo has done for the 49ers after a late-season trade.

But overall, this thing has kind of sucked, and Week 17 is a pretty fitting end to this regular season. While it is New Year’s Eve on Sunday night, the NFL still couldn’t find a great matchup with deep playoff implications that was worthy of a prime-time slot. The closest thing we have to a game where both teams give a damn because it matters is Carolina at Atlanta. The defending champions need to win to get in, but the Panthers still have an outside shot at the NFC South if the Saints slip up in Tampa Bay. Crazier things have happened, and let’s face it, Tampa Bay is known to ruin things anyway.

The race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC is basically over. It’d take an act of God for the Jets to win in New England with Bryce Petty at quarterback. I still think it’s a big mistake for the Steelers to blow off the Cleveland game with resting stars. I’d play a half, go up big like last week and then rest. You have the bye week to rest. Don’t rest an additional week too. You’d have to piss off the football gods something fierce to lose Ben and Bell to injury in this game.

Otherwise, I’d like to see Baltimore get the No. 5 seed and the Chargers get the No. 6 seed. I just don’t want to see the Titans, who haven’t won since I said they were arguably the worst 8-4 team ever, get in this year. I also think it would be so fitting to be able to say that the 9-7 Bills missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker because they started Nathan Peterman over Tyrod Taylor. Sure, the game may have still been a loss with Taylor, but it wouldn’t have been that brutal as The Five Pick Man’s performance.

In the NFC, I’d honestly rather see Seattle get in than Atlanta, just because I think Russell Wilson and the remaining talent on defense are more capable of putting a run together than these Falcons, who easily can be anywhere from 3-12 to 13-2 right now.

I wasn’t going to comment on the MVP race now, but why not? It’s 2017 and we’re all miserable anyway. The race itself is a microcosm of this lousy season.

Tom Brady: The Default MVP

Tom Brady is probably going to win the 2017 NFL MVP by default, because he’s the only legitimate candidate who managed to make it to Week 17. He’s certainly not finishing in style based on the last month of play. Now I think it’d be hilarious if he threw a couple of picks against the Jets, but the Patriots still won 16-3, and he’d get the award anyway. That could even happen, because who else would you vote for? Check the timeline.

1. We start with the fact that a lot of teams never even really had a viable MVP candidate. Here’s looking at you Miami, Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, Jets. I could piss off more fanbases by listing more names, but you get the point.

2. Andrew Luck couldn’t even get on the field in Indy this year.

3. David Johnson couldn’t make it through Week 1 for Arizona before injury ended his year.

4. We lost a superstar wideout in Odell Beckham Jr. to injury and Ezekiel Elliott to a six-game suspension while he was the league’s most valuable rusher.

5. Aaron Rodgers was off to a strong start in carrying a flawed team, but his collarbone broke in Week 6 and so did Green Bay’s season.

6. Deshaun Watson was a rookie phenom who made the Texans a scoring juggernaut, but a non-contact torn ACL in practice ended his season after 6.5 games.

7. The only quarterback this year who can really come close to the dramatic shift in his offense’s success than Watson is Jimmy Garoppolo, but you’re not going to vote for him for a 5-0 stretch to end the season on a bad team. But it is so intriguing for the 49ers next year.

8. How about Matt Ryan for repeat MVPs? That died around mid-October when his receivers tipped more interceptions in a couple of games than any other quarterback’s had in a full season in years. That’s continued all season for Ryan and Atlanta in an offense that is nowhere near as good as 2016’s incarnation.

9. Alex Smith actually had a good case, but the GWDs allowed by his defense against the Raiders and Jets in games he played so well killed him. Then he had the offensively inept losses against the Bills and Giants, and people were just ready to write off KC entirely. Don’t do that, but yeah, no one’s going to vote for Alex Smith as MVP.

10. Just like how no one will actually vote for Case Keenum, because he’s Case Keenum. He still has a shot to finish No. 1 in passing DVOA, which is just incredible given his career to this point. Minnesota’s third quarterback of the year and he just may be leading the NFC’s Super Bowl favorite.

11. Of course, the Eagles were that Super Bowl favorite, but then Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14. Nick Foles has gotten credit for two pretty soft GWDs since then, and also threw four touchdowns against the Giants in a win. I don’t think you can possibly argue Wentz for MVP based on his 13 games, but I expect he’ll get at least a vote so it won’t be unanimous.

12. Russell Wilson could lead the NFL in touchdown passes if he throws at least two more to get to 34 and surpass Wentz (33). He’s had a very interesting season for Seattle. I think the “absurd percentage of team’s offense, leading the Seahawks in rushing by 300+ yards, and setting the NFL record for touchdown passes in the fourth quarter in a season” are all sexy MVP arguments. He’s clearly very valuable, but he hasn’t always played that well this season. He’s had some bad turnovers early in games (namely losses to ATL and JAX) that hurt. He didn’t pull out the GWDs in those games. He had the huge fumble in Green Bay in Week 1. He just got a win in Dallas where he threw for 93 yards. It’s a flawed offense this year, and sometimes Wilson is part of the problem. Seattle may not even make the postseason, so I just can’t get behind his MVP case this year. If he had his 2015 finish this year, then yes, but that’s not the case.

13. Todd Gurley has been finishing real strong, and sometimes that’s all you need as a RB to win MVP. Finish strong and get those flashy numbers. Adrian Peterson took away a sure MVP from Peyton Manning in 2012 just because he reached 2,000 yards rushing and helped the Vikings make the playoffs in Week 17. Unfortunately, Gurley isn’t even going to suit up for the Rams tomorrow. He’s resting for the playoffs, so he’ll finish with 2,093 yards from scrimmage, which is appealing, but not as appealing to voters as 2,000 rushing yards for some reason. And he’ll have 19 touchdowns instead of a shiny 20. No chance for Gurley to finish really high and jack up those league-leading YFS and TD numbers, and it’s not even his fault. He’s helped the Rams back to the playoffs, which is of course going to have a lot of the credit go to rookie coach Sean McVay. But Gurley has had a great year and I think he’ll at least take home Offensive Player of the Year, or the Stat Whore’s Consolation Prize as I like to call it. Okay, that probably sounds more disrespectful than it needs to be, but that’s basically what the award has turned into.

14. There is a big problem with Week 17. Not only will Gurley sit out, but so will Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and of course Antonio Brown. So Brady will play against the lowly Jets and basically have no pressure from anyone else adding to their cases.

15. Brown was probably Pittsburgh’s best mainstream MVP candidate, but oh yeah, he was injured in the second quarter of that huge game with the Patriots in Week 15. That game really decided the MVP as far as I’m concerned. Had the Jesse James touchdown not been overturned, and had Ben Roethlisberger not had that awful decision to force a fake spike into traffic for a game-ending interception, then I actually think Roethlisberger would take over as the MVP favorite. He’d still be top 3 in DYAR, he’s had 29 TD to 13 INT, he’d lead the league with 4 4QC and 5 GWD, and he’d still be near the top in passing yards for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. That’s another game-winning touchdown pass in a huge game everyone was watching after game-winning drives in prime time against the Packers, Bengals, and Ravens in recent weeks. The five-pick game against Jacksonville was a disaster, but check out the numbers since that point and he’s been as good as he has been in years. That reversal and pick wrapped this regular season up for the Patriots.

16. Then you have Brady himself. The numbers, as I show below, are good enough to fit the profile of an MVP QB season. Cam Newton’s weak 2015 win aside, Brady’s numbers are on the lower end of these seasons, but good enough when you add the caveat of being 40 years old. But the 29.3% passing DVOA would only rank as Brady’s 8th-best season in his career, and he hasn’t been too good down the stretch here. When you have a stat like “first time he’s thrown an interception in five straight games since 2002”, you are hearing Father Time coming.


Anyone making the argument that Brady is carrying a bad D this year is not looking at the numbers properly. When NE’s defense stunk early in the season, the Patriots were very fortunate to be 2-2. They couldn’t beat the Chiefs and Panthers when the D was lousy. Against Houston, Brady did give up a touchdown on a fumble-six in that game, and he got away with a game-ending pick on the game-winning drive. Then the Patriots didn’t allow more than 17 points in eight straight games, almost unheard of in this era. Bad day in Miami and it was another loss. Not a great day defensively in Pittsburgh, but the Patriots got the ball back for Brady, and they again came away with the biggest interception of the NFL season with that unbelievable Roethlisberger decision at the end. You don’t have to call the New England defense good, and it certainly has benefited from multiple touchdown calls getting reversed this year. But don’t act like Brady has had to overcome this defense to get to another 13-win season. He’s had to overcome some risky throws he made himself more than anything, and the D has done well at keeping the score down the rest of the year.

So basically, Houston dropping a game-ending Brady INT in Week 3, then the end of the PIT-NE game is what’s going to bring this one home for Brady. If he implodes against the Jets in the upset of the year (after already losing in the upset of the year in Miami), then I don’t know what voters will do, but maybe just giving it to Gurley is the right thing at that point. Hell, I might just vote for Deshaun Watson anyway if that happens.

I think Brady won MVP by default in 2010 too, and this happens from time to time when no one just dominates from Week 1 to Week 17 in a special year. 2008 Peyton Manning was a default MVP too. But this 2017 race is the gold standard for a default case. It’s also just a reminder of how everything that looked so great at one point this year often ended in disaster with injury or things falling apart.

Maybe that happens to Brady too in the postseason. No one has won the regular season MVP and the Super Bowl in the same season since 1999 Kurt Warner.

2017 Week 17 Predictions


  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Week 7: 11-4
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
  • Week 12: 12-4 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 13: 11-5 (Spread: 10-6)
  • Week 14: 6-10 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 15: 14-2 (Spread: 7-6-3)
  • Week 16: 12-4 (Spread: 7-8-1)
  • Season: 152-88 (Spread: 52-51-5)

NFL Week 17 Predictions: One More Try Edition

Earlier this week I did a deep dive into the MVP race heading into Week 17. The only logical conclusion is for Matt Ryan to run away with the award, but some want to make it a career achievement thing and dismiss Ryan for a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, or a flashy new thing out of Dallas. The absurd part is that should Ryan lose on Sunday in a 38-35 game after some typical Drew Brees masterclass performance against his bad defense, while someone like Brady or Rodgers has a nice week to close the season against an opponent clearly worse than its record suggests, then you can almost guarantee that Ryan will finish with no more than a handful of the 50 votes. That’s crazy, because the race has simply not been that close if you actually value the whole season like you should. It’s almost impossible for a player who was suspended for a quarter of the season to be considered the most valuable player in the league. That’s 25% of the season where he’s given no value, and we know the Patriots are more likely to succeed without Brady than most teams would be without their top quarterback. Or in the case of Aaron Rodgers, why is the 4-6 start and spotty play just getting ignored here when someone like Ryan has carried a worse defense further in the NFC while turning in one of the most consistent QB seasons on record? It’s nuts. We’re going into 2017. Let’s do better, people. Then again, an NFL Network ad that glorified “analysis from guys with rings” is clearly a step in the wrong direction, but we’ll have all of January and the start of February to talk about ring fluff.

The drama in Week 17 really centers on clearing up the AFC West, and whether or not the Patriots will lay another bizarre egg in Miami like they did a year ago. I doubt the latter happens, and I think Matt McGloin is going to struggle in Denver for Oakland. However, the Raiders might just be able to lean on that run offense again, and Denver’s poor offense won’t be able to take advantage in a 8-8 finish for the year. Oakland gets the two seed, though that’s probably the best possible outcome for this AFC playoffs. Let’s see Kansas City at New England early, and then maybe Pittsburgh gets there too.

NFC North Title Match: Green Bay at Detroit

There’s only one other game worth highlighting, and that is the finale in Detroit between the Lions and Packers. My gut says Detroit finds a way to avenge the Hail Mary last year and win this game, though I’m just not sure I trust Matthew Stafford to come through in the biggest game of his career. Yes, he’s started two playoff games, but those were on the road. This is to get a home playoff game for the Lions. That’s huge. He played well in Green Bay in Week 3, but that was before Marvin Jones ended up on milk cartons and a lot of it came after a 28-point lead for the Packers. Rodgers has already shredded this No. 32 defense, and the health of Darius Slay is a big thing to monitor against Jordy Nelson and company. The Lions are allowing a 72.9 completion percentage this season, the worst in NFL history. Oddly enough, the 2011 Colts, also coached by Jim Caldwell, hold the record at 71.2%. Five of the 12 worst rates ever belong to Detroit teams. I don’t expect either running game to take off in a huge way, so it really comes down to the passing games. I just think Rodgers has the experience, superior talent and more weapons to deal with than Stafford here, and we know the Lions have been in a scoring rut lately. I’m going to take Green Bay, which seems to be in one of these seed-determining Week 17 games each year, though a Detroit win wouldn’t shock me. Ideally, you’d want to see this game come down to the final drive given the eight comebacks for the Lions this year and GB’s history in that department under Mike McCarthy. Six of Detroit’s comebacks have been at home, and seven of the eight have been from just a 1-4 point deficit. It’s a myth that this team waits to turn it on until the fourth. It’s a fact that they’re just not a very good team that gets involved in a ton of close games and usually trails each week. This one shouldn’t be any different, but a blowout sure would be disappointing to end this regular season on Sunday night.

Final: Packers 27, Lions 23

2016 Week 17 Predictions

Man, I knew I should have picked San Diego to lose to Cleveland last week.  Here’s one more try at a 16-0 week (yeah right).

Winners in bold:

  • Ravens at Bengals
  • Browns at Steelers
  • Patriots at Dolphins
  • Bills at Jets
  • Texans at Titans
  • Cowboys at Eagles
  • Jaguars at Colts
  • Bears at Vikings
  • Panthers at Buccaneers
  • Giants at Redskins
  • Seahawks at 49ers
  • Saints at Falcons
  • Cardinals at Rams
  • Raiders at Broncos
  • Chiefs at Chargers
  • Packers at Lions

Season recap

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 7-7
  • Week 11: 12-2
  • Week 12: 12-4
  • Week 13: 10-5
  • Week 14: 9-7
  • Week 15: 12-4
  • Week 16: 9-7
  • Season: 148-92

NFL Week 17 Predictions

Earlier this week I posted a graphic on Twitter about the changing playoff picture for this year, finding that it’s really just another case of health (primarily at QB) determining the changes. The only real decay and growth came from the Lions and Vikings, which many expected to happen.


There was something the other day I thought I would build this Week 17 post around, but it has slipped my mind. It was not going to be a rant about the MVP, because Carson Palmer should have been leading that for several weeks. I’m tired of talking about that. It wasn’t about Carolina, which finally lost a close game last week. I’m not even sure it was about the Chiefs, who I just don’t think are anything special again this season. Was it about the prospects of a weak AFC playoff field practically rolling out a red carpet for the Patriots to the Super Bowl? No, I don’t think so. Was it some support for Marvin Lewis, who might have had a No. 1 seed if Andy Dalton and Tyler Eifert didn’t get hurt at the worst time? Probably not. I’m not nearly interested enough in Vikings-Packers to even preview it at this point, especially if we end up having to preview it again a week later.

Whatever it was, I’m sure I will get back to it eventually this month, which is usually my busiest of the year. The playoffs are coming, moving on from the weakest regular season I can ever remember following.

Which games are even worth focusing on this week?

Jets at Bills – that sure would be perfect for Rex Ryan to keep the Jets out of the playoffs with a season sweep. However, it’s been about five years since Ryan did something monumental, so why should we expect it now? Of course, the Jets are a team known for failing in ways worthy of Greek tragedy. But I think they get this one, because they really let the first meeting get away with some bad play calls and bounces. The Jets have a better offense and better defense than Buffalo. They also just may have the better coach too.

Steelers at Browns – so I’m not expecting the Steelers to get the help they need (a Bills win) to make the playoffs, but that’s why you take care of your own business and win the games you’re supposed to. The Steelers will naturally smoke Cleveland, getting the memo one week too late when they should have taken care of The Replacements in Baltimore last week. If they can’t even beat Austin Davis and a Cleveland team waiting to fire Mike Pettine, they shouldn’t even think of bringing Mike Tomlin back next year.

Patriots at Dolphins – the outrage over New England’s justifiable decision to kick off in overtime was funny to me. I guess the league will do what it takes to build up some Week 17 drama. That No. 1 seed isn’t in jeopardy at all. I know Miami has won the last two home meetings against the Patriots, but have you seen Miami play this year? Out of the ridiculous 10 scenarios the Colts needed to make the playoffs, Miami beating New England is probably the most far fetched of them all. The Patriots will win and the Texans, albeit a mediocre team at best, will win the AFC South.

Seahawks at Cardinals – it’s the DVOA Bowl. Seattle ranks 2nd and Arizona ranks 1st in DVOA in a tight battle with one game left. Seattle’s DVOA dynasty has been something else, leading the league three years in a row. That’s about the only thing on the line for Pete Carroll here, so I actually think he should rest starters. The NFC North winner followed by Carolina is a playoff path I wouldn’t mind starting out on, and why show the Cardinals your current offense this close to the playoffs? This could be the game that ends Seattle’s 85-game no blowout streak. Backwards hat Jeff Fisher came pretty close last week, which was a real surprise. But that also speaks to why this team does so well in DVOA. The Seahawks rarely have bad quarters, let alone bad games. They are always so competitive and never out of a game. They just may have their worst two-game stretch in a while here if they take this game lightly.

Vikings at Packers – doesn’t it seem like every Week 17 has the Packers in some crucial playoff seeding game? That’s what made me realize earlier this week that despite such a long run of HOF QB play and 10-win seasons, the Packers have only had a first-round bye three times since 1998. Even Jeff Fisher has done that (2000, 2002, 2008). This year’s team does not look like it’s headed anywhere far, but the Vikings are one team I can trust these Packers to beat by having the defense step up. Then again, Minnesota’s really seemed to have an 07 Giants-like surge from the confidence it gained in Arizona a few weeks back. Remember, the Vikings were supposed to get killed in Arizona on a short week with several starters out, but were down 3 points in the final minute in field goal range, not too unlike its loss in Denver earlier this season. Then Teddy Bridgewater had his most dominant game against the Bears and the Vikings embarrassed the Giants last week. Maybe this team is peaking at the right time, but this is a great test on the road where the Packers have already lost at home to the Bears and Lions this year. The Vikings have enough on the roster to win this one, yet my knee-jerk reaction is to still go with Green Bay.

So we’re not really set up for a ton of excitement on the final day of the regular season, but something worthwhile should happen.

2015 Week 17 Predictions

Keep in mind I am 3-12 at picking Tampa Bay games this year…And it’s about 10:16 p.m. on Saturday night and I don’t have a f’n clue who the Colts are starting at quarterback, yet I almost feel compelled to still pick them.

Winners in bold:

  • Redskins at Cowboys
  • Eagles at Giants
  • Saints at Falcons
  • Jets at Bills
  • Steelers at Browns
  • Patriots at Dolphins
  • Titans at Colts
  • Lions at Bears
  • Jaguars at Texans
  • Ravens at Bengals
  • Raiders at Chiefs
  • Chargers at Broncos
  • Seahawks at Cardinals
  • Buccaneers at Panthers
  • Rams at 49ers
  • Vikings at Packers

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 4-10
  • Week 11: 9-5
  • Week 12: 8-8
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Week 14: 10-6
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Week 16: 9-7
  • Season: 148-92 (.617)

NFL Week 17 Predictions: In the Nervous Light of Sunday

The NFL’s regular season sure goes by quickly. Even though it does feel like a long time ago when I woke up at 3 A.M., choking on my own mucus just hours after the Seahawks shut down Green Bay on opening night, the 17 weeks just fly by.

So for the last time this year, here are some thoughts on this week’s action.

REST: Colts at Titans, Bills at Patriots, Cowboys at Redskins

Some teams have little or really nothing to play for, but should they rest? I hate playoff rest, especially for a team that’s already earned a bye. That’s when you rest. Bill Belichick has not been one to make Week 17 an excruciating sight like Bill Polian’s Colts teams used to, so I expect Tom Brady and company to make short order of the Bills, but it really doesn’t even matter if they don’t.

Is this the first “rest game” for Andrew Luck? I think the Colts need to establish some rhythm on offense and the lowly Titans are a great opponent to do that against. I would aim for playing a half and hoping the offense puts up 17+ points before giving the backups the second half.

The Cowboys have a very slim chance of getting a bye, so they should rest DeMarco Murray, but I imagine he’ll play just long enough to get the yardage necessary to break Emmitt Smith’s single-season franchise record. Tony Romo should be a MVP favorite, so sitting could depress his numbers a little more than they already are with missing some time this year, but the Redskins are bad enough for him to add to his career-best season. Still, I would not have him in there in the fourth quarter along with anyone else that’s irreplaceable.

With a win in Washington, Dallas would join the 49ers (1984, 1989, 1990), 2001 Rams and 2007 Patriots as the only teams to go 8-0 on the road in a season.

Rams at Seahawks

No way will Jeff Fisher sweep the Seahawks with a home game where Seattle can clinch the No. 1 seed, but he might see his defense throw a cheap shot or two along the way. I picked Seattle to repeat all year long and I see no reason to change that. Russell Wilson won’t have the dynamic 300/100 game again, but I expect the Rams to struggle to reach 10 points in this one, especially if we’re just looking at offensive scoring.

Eagles at Giants

After Odell Beckham Jr. gets done with Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, he will replace Eli Manning in those “Unstoppable” commercials that never made any damn marketing sense. The Giants will end the season on a good note, and be ready to take down the Patriots in next year’s Super Bowl. Every four years, like leap year.

Lions at Packers

Well, you probably know the Lions haven’t won in Green Bay since 1991. Three weeks later Detroit won its last playoff game, 38-6 over Dallas. So it’s not hyperbole to say a win in Lambeau this week would be the biggest Detroit win since the 1991 season. We also know this is exactly the kind of game the Lions just don’t win. The Matthew Stafford era still carries this ugly graphic around:


Note: I watched Lindsay Rhodes and Brian Baldinger amusingly reference this stat on TV the other day. People are paying attention. Even good-looking blondes. 

That’s 3-29 against teams that finished the season with a winning record. He still technically hasn’t played a team that finished 9-7 yet. Buffalo could finish 9-7, but Detroit lost that game. Miami could finish 9-7 and Detroit actually won that game with one of Stafford’s five 4QC wins (most in 2014). Otherwise the record is 1-2 this year with a win over Green Bay in which Eddie Lacy almost scored as many points for Detroit (9) than the Stafford-led offense did (10). Detroit’s defensive turnaround has been great this year. The Lions have intercepted a pass in 12 consecutive games (longest streak in the league). The Lions have held 11 opponents to fewer than 18 points. I think the defense will do a respectable job against an offense that’s been incredible at home, but I think Detroit’s offense is going to lose this game by being too ineffective. This offense struggled in Chicago last week against a putrid defense. I just don’t see Stafford pulling this one out, though if you give him the ball last, he could deliver Detroit’s finest moment in 23 years.

Final prediction: Lions 13, Packers 24

Chargers at Chiefs

Does Chase Daniel exist for the sole purpose of starting against the Chargers in do-or-die games in Week 17? Hey, he might actually throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. Daniel played well enough to win last year in San Diego and that was with a backup-heavy roster. Andy Reid does a great job of getting the backup ready to play, so I actually don’t expect much of a drop-off, if any, in this one, which could be a high-scoring game. Philip Rivers will have to suck up the pain and play really well to get this win, but I do like the Chargers’ chances of claiming that last playoff berth in the AFC.

Panthers at Falcons

It seems ridiculous one of these teams will get a home playoff game, and possibly against an opponent (say Arizona) they could probably beat. These teams usually play tight games, which usually favors Atlanta. However, I think the team that can get its skill guy going (Jonathan Stewart for Carolina, Julio Jones for Atlanta) strong will get the win. I lean towards Atlanta just because it’s at home and Matt Ryan has been better than Cam Newton this season, but it’s certainly a coin-flip game. Neither team has been very good for any sustained period this season. I’m just confused why this game wasn’t played at 1 p.m. to give that time slot something more meaningful on Sunday. Let us focus heavily on DET-GB in peace, though that game’s more likely to be a blowout than this one.

Raiders at Broncos

Denver will have to play this game out just so the Bengals can’t jump ahead for a No. 2 seed, but if this is anything but a massacre of the Raiders, then maybe there is something rotten in the state of Colorado. I expect Peyton Manning to rebound from Monday night and lead the league in touchdown passes for a record fifth time by surpassing the 40 mark again. His teams have usually been aware of receiving feats, so I imagine he’ll try to get Emmanuel Sanders up to 10 touchdowns. He has nine this year. One more and he’ll join Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas with at least 10 touchdowns this year, making the 2014 Broncos the third offense to ever have at least three double-digit touchdown receivers. Manning was the quarterback of the first two offenses.


Bengals at Steelers

I already wrote a little preview at FO this week on the game, so let me provide a Pittsburgh fan’s perspective. I think Cincinnati’s win over Denver helps the Steelers in this one. Cincinnati won’t be playing for its playoff lives anymore since both teams are in, but this is for the division and likely a No. 3 seed. The Steelers have been much better at home this year, especially the offense which will need to play very well to win. That’s where the Steelers are this year. The defense can’t be trusted, so Ben Roethlisberger has to play borderline great for the Steelers to win. I actually think compared to the 42-21 game a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, we’ll see much lower scoring in this one. A.J. Green possibly being limited could be a big boost for the Steelers, but that’s why Jeremy Hill is the guy to watch. I can see him outrushing Le’Veon Bell, but it’s the passing battle that the Steelers need to win decisively. Roethlisberger played a piss-poor game in Week 16 two years ago against the Bengals that eliminated the Steelers from the playoffs. This defense has given him trouble in the past. His last game against them looks more like an outlier than anything. So I think he’ll have more of the team’s fate on his shoulders and will have to deliver a very good performance whereas Dalton will have more help. The Bengals can certainly win this game, but they’ve only won two games on the road in prime-time against a quality opponent since I’ve been born. So what do you think I’m going to pick here?

Final prediction: Bengals 17, Steelers 24

Note: I went all Jay Cutler on this final prediction piece of the regular season, meaning I didn’t proofread anything. If something’s wrong, I don’t currrr. You’re not replacing me with Jimmy Clausen. 

NFL Week 17 Predictions

After going 8-8 in Week 1, I’ve managed 15 straight winning weeks.

Winners in bold:

  • Bears at Vikings
  • Saints at Buccaneers
  • Jaguars at Texans
  • Bills at Patriots
  • Jets at Dolphins
  • Cowboys at Redskins
  • Eagles at Giants
  • Browns at Ravens
  • Chargers at Chiefs
  • Colts at Titans
  • Cardinals at 49ers
  • Rams at Seahawks
  • Raiders at Broncos
  • Lions at Packers
  • Panthers at Falcons
  • Bengals at Steelers

I know it’s been such a home-road season for the contenders (minus Dallas), but damn, 75% home teams? Oh well. Trust the gut. The teams I picked to win were only 9-7 in the first matchup this season.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-5
  • Week 9: 11-2
  • Week 10: 10-3
  • Week 11: 8-6
  • Week 12: 12-3
  • Week 13: 9-7
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 14-2
  • Week 16: 10-6
  • Total: 161-78-1

NFL Week 17 Predictions: Peyton Manning’s Greatest Season and NFC Playoffs

It’s the eve to the end of another NFL regular season. They sure go by quickly. This Sunday should be as eventful as any with only the Chiefs locked into their playoff seeding. There are a few notable story-lines to focus on this week.

Peyton Manning: Best QB Season Ever?

I’ve been asked by a few people if I think Peyton Manning is having the best season ever by a quarterback this season. The simple answer is no, it’s not even the best Peyton Manning season. The reasoning is a bit more complex.

For starters, Manning’s season is not over yet, so it’s not exactly fair to ask this question right now. He has one more game and if we are to factor in the postseason, then that’s 1-3 more games. From a pure statistical volume standpoint, I do think it will go down as the best season in that he has a good shot to reach 55 touchdown passes and 5,500 passing yards.

When factoring in efficiency, caliber of opponents and how he’s compiling the numbers, then I think it falls short of the all-time great seasons.

Manning has already thrown 631 passes this season. He only needed 497 when he threw 49 touchdowns in 2004. His passer rating is 113.0, which is below the 121.1 he had in 2004. While his interception percentage (1.6%) is the lowest of his career, he has career-worsts in fumbles (10) and lost fumbles (6). The standard of defense has also fallen off greatly this season around the league and it’s hard to acknowledge many of the defenses Manning’s played as being good, let alone great.

Manning only took the field for 149 drives in 2004 when he compiled his amazing numbers. This season the Broncos have 182 drives with one game to go. Even after we take out a few that Manning did not play, he simply has had quite a few more opportunities this season to put up touchdowns and yards.

So I think 2004 is a superior season from Manning and I think his finest overall effort was 2006. No, that’s not because he won the Super Bowl, but it’s because he carried that heavily flawed team so effectively each week. He had to overcome the horrific run defense. He led the best third-down offense ever at the time. He had a rookie running back (Joseph Addai). He had no No. 3 WR thanks to injuries to Brandon Stokley. He was as effective as ever at throwing downfield to Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. He only gained 34.3% of his yards via YAC, which is a career low. In 2013, he’s enjoying a career-high 48.5 YAC% from his receivers.

When ESPN introduced their QBR stat, the first season I wanted to see was Manning’s 2006, because I felt it could be as high as any in the last decade. Sure enough, when ESPN added more QBR data, Manning’s 2006 is the best at 87.2. His 82.2 QBR in 2013 is only his personal 4th-best season and this thing only goes back to 2006.

With all that said, I do think Manning came up just a few drives short from having had the greatest season ever this year. The margin in football is usually that small. Had Manning completed a 19-point comeback in the fourth quarter in Indianapolis, threw a game-winning touchdown in overtime in New England and at least tied the game with a 97-yard touchdown drive against San Diego, then I probably would say it’s the best QB season ever. Why would it change after three drives? Because in addition to boosting his stats even more, that’s adding the stuff of legends to his season.

Remember when Peyton went back to Indianapolis and brought his new team back from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter? No, I just remember him getting hit as he threw and the pass was intercepted. Then his running back fumbled in the red zone to end the last rally attempt. Ho-hum.

Remember when Bill Belichick took the wind in overtime and Manning embarrassed him again with a game-winning touchdown pass? No, I just remember two punts and the game pathetically ending on a muffed Denver punt.

Remember when Peyton led his team back from 14 down in the fourth quarter with a 97-yard game-tying touchdown drive against San Diego? No, I just remember another play where he was hit as he threw and the pass was intercepted.

See, it’s only three drives and I frankly don’t even care if the Colts/Chargers both came back to win. Had he finished those games with 3 more TD passes (and 2 fewer INTs in return), then yes, that would probably be enough for me to put him over top of his own seasons and ones like Dan Marino 1984 and Tom Brady 2007.

Ultimately, the fact that one quarterback has multiple seasons in the conversation for best ever says enough about Manning.

NFC De Facto Playoff Game 1: Green Bay at Chicago

The 2013 Green Bay Packers are Above the Law, making comebacks that never happened under Mike McCarthy’s watch with better quarterbacks. This team is Hard to Kill and has been Marked for Death since November 4, but they’re Out for Justice against Chicago this week. Jay Cutler will be Under Siege against a team he’s been terrible against. The Bears are On Deadly Ground and it could be Dark Territory on Sunday night. It was an Executive Decision to hold him out this long, but Green Bay’s Glimmer Man is back in action and there’s a Fire Down Below in Rodgers, a true Patriot playing his first game in almost two months. The Bears might be leaving 2013 with some Exit WoundsThey’re going to regret starting last week’s game Half Past Dead.

Damn, Steven Seagal’s career really hit the skids over a decade ago.

I picked Green Bay in the preseason to win the division. When Marc Trestman made the move to go back to Jay Cutler, I felt the Bears would beat Cleveland, but lose to the Eagles and Packers (with a good assumption that Aaron Rodgers would be back) to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs. Now I did expect the Lions to be the team that took advantage, but it’s the Packers coming through and bringing back one of the best players in the game just in time for the Week 17 division clincher.

Is this one really as simple as Rodgers is great, he rarely has a bad game and he’s going to feast (as will Eddie Lacy) on that poor Bears defense while Cutler has to overcome the 1-8 mark against Green Bay (with atrocious stats)? It would seem so, but at least the game is in Chicago and there’s an expected rust factor from Rodgers. Still, let’s not forget it was Josh McCown for the first meeting and he made some incredible throws in that 27-20 win in Green Bay.

There’s not a throw McCown can make that Cutler can’t. The problem is there’s a lot of stupid throws Cutler will make that any smart quarterback wouldn’t, and that’s how he gets himself into trouble. The Packers are scoring and allowing plenty of points, so it would expect to be a high-scoring game, but Rodgers has the lowest turnover ratio in NFL history while Cutler is more prone than most to giving away the ball.

When you talk about a QB’s legacy, this is a huge game for both. Cutler is playing for a long-term job in Chicago, which could be likely should he come through with a big performance and push the Bears into the playoffs. For Rodgers, this would be a lost season for most quarterbacks after breaking their collarbone in November. He’s had just enough time to recover and the Packers have won just enough games — coupled with Detroit & Chicago losing enough — to stay alive for his Week 17 return. It wouldn’t be fair to put a lot of blame on him for losing and missing the playoffs on Sunday night, but it’s a great opportunity and his playoffs start now. He has to play well in this one and I think he will. I also think Cutler will make just enough mistakes.

If Chicago wins, it’s almost predictably going to be with a fourth-quarter comeback, which Cutler usually does well at as long as the game actually gets to that point. Now would be a great time for Rodgers to snap that eyesore streak of being 0-20 at fourth-quarter comebacks against teams .500 or better.

I don’t think the Packers have enough on defense to make a 2010-type title run, though there are 2010-like things happening for them again. It all starts with beating the Bears in Week 17 to make the playoffs, then they can go from there.

Final prediction: Packers 27, Bears 20

NFC De Facto Playoff Game 2: Philadelphia at Dallas

It’s the game many people expected would decide the NFC East since the schedule came out. But there is one big surprise: it’s Kyle “Neckbeard” Orton instead of Tony Romo at quarterback for Dallas. So let it be known Romo finished 2013 with a 1-0 record in elimination games, because he can’t lose this one after having back surgery. It’s a shame because it does weaken the game as Orton, while more than capable of moving the ball in this offense, is just not that effective when the pass rush gets to him. Romo has that unique ability to get out of trouble and make something happen. The last road game for Philadelphia featured an unexpected shredding of the improved defense by Matt Cassel, so anything’s possible, but I think the Eagles are playing too well on both sides of the ball for Dallas to pull this one out. The Eagles (especially the offense) have actually played better on the road than at home this season.

Nick Foles did have his worst game of the season — really his only down performance — in Philadelphia against the Cowboys, but that was the day he suffered a concussion. Given his season and the way the Cowboys have played on defense most weeks, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles fail to score at least 28, which should be enough here.

Final prediction: Eagles 31, Cowboys 21

NFL Week 17 Predictions

Do I think the Steelers have any hope of making the playoffs? They need four things to happen: win, Miami loss, Baltimore loss and San Diego loss. I expect the biggest problem will be getting the San Diego loss since the Chargers are at home against a Kansas City team basically mailing it in for Week 17. Now if the NFL actually had a great playoff system where every win counted, then the Chiefs would be playing for a higher seed and would actually try to win this game.

Winners in bold:

  • Browns at Steelers
  • Ravens at Bengals
  • Lions at Vikings
  • Jets at Dolphins
  • Texans at Titans
  • Jaguars at Colts
  • Redskins at Giants
  • Panthers at Falcons
  • Rams at Seahawks
  • Packers at Bears
  • Broncos at Raiders
  • Buccaneers at Saints
  • 49ers at Cardinals
  • Chiefs at Chargers
  • Bills at Patriots
  • Eagles at Cowboys

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Week 11: 9-6
  • Week 12: 7-6-1
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Week 14: 10-6
  • Week 15: 8-8
  • Week 16: 9-7
  • Season: 150-89-1

NFL Week 17 Predictions, Playoff Teams and Writing Recap

Part of me wishes the NFL regular season was not ending today, while some part of me is ready to move on to the playoffs.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 16: Steelers’ Meltdown Complete – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Pittsburgh came up a drive short to beat the Bengals, who are headed to the playoffs for the second straight season after Ben Roethlisberger threw another late-game interception. At home, Roethlisberger was a perfect 40-0 when the Steelers allowed 17 points or less in his career. Elsewhere the Cowboys had another great comeback to force overtime, but the Saints came away with the win. Andrew Luck joined the list of 11 seasons in which a quarterback led 7 game-winning drives.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2012 Season in Review: Where Did It All Go Wrong? – Bleacher Report

An in-depth review of where it all went wrong for the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers, starting with the offseason plan that failed, the lack of an offensive identity, and the identity fraud of a defense that can no longer get takeaways.


Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 16 at Kansas City Chiefs – Colts Authority

Andrew Luck led his 7th game-winning drive, the Colts overcame a record 352 rushing yards from the Chiefs in a win, and clinched a playoff spot at 10-5. Luck went 0/10 at one point in the second half, but as always, here is the play-by-play account of what really happened. Luck’s game-winning touchdown pass was his 4th this season, which is another rookie record.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Week 17 Predictions – Bleacher Report

This week we have the biggest game in Matt Schaub’s career, not the biggest game in Tony Romo’s, why Christian Ponder needs to be more of the MVP on Sunday if Minnesota wants to make the playoffs, and why a 2,000-yard season for Calvin Johnson would not be as impressive as it sounds.

It’s Do-Or-Die For Some in Week 17 – NBC Sports

A handy guide to what to watch for in Week 17, including playoff scenarios and NFL records on the line.

NFL’s New Overtime System Requires New Strategies for Coaches and Teams – Cold, Hard Football Facts

There have been 22 overtime games this season; the third most ever in one NFL season. With the new rules, combined with the kickoff rules increasing touchbacks, new strategies must be formed. Only 3/22 teams have taken the opening-drive kickoff for a touchdown, and it was always an 80-yard drive. A look at what might be the optimal strategy in the new OT, and it’s not the kind of gutsy decision-making you might have expected.

2012 NFL Week 17 Predictions

I always hate picking Week 17 games because of some teams treating it like preseason.

Winners in bold:

  • Buccaneers at Falcons
  • Jets at Bills
  • Ravens at Bengals
  • Bears at Lions
  • Texans at Colts
  • Panthers at Saints
  • Eagles at Giants
  • Browns at Steelers
  • Jaguars at Titans
  • Chiefs at Broncos
  • Packers at Vikings
  • Dolphins at Patriots
  • Raiders at Chargers
  • Rams at Seahawks
  • Cardinals at 49ers
  • Cowboys at Redskins

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 11-3
  • Week 10: 9-4-1
  • Week 11: 11-3
  • Week 12: 10-6
  • Week 13: 8-8
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Week 16: 12-4
  • Season: 157-82-1 (.656)

With my final picks, here is the playoff field I’m predicting:


  • 1. Houston
  • 2. Denver
  • 3. New England
  • 4. Baltimore
  • 5. Indianapolis
  • 6. Cincinnati


  • 1. Atlanta
  • 2. Green Bay
  • 3. San Francisco
  • 4. Dallas
  • 5. Seattle
  • 6. Chicago