Last week: 11-5 straight ahead, not bad considering the turbulent week. 149-88 for the season.
For the first time in league history, week 17 is not the last week of the regular season. With all of the COVID-19 problems hitting so many teams and with varying levels of motivation to play multiple games, the tips here are the best guesses as to who might actually be playing.
The NFL gave us a break with no game on Thursday night. Every game takes place on Sunday, with the exception of one all-important game between the Browns and Steelers on Monday night.
– Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals (+5): This is a marquee matchup that could anticipate the AFC championship game. If you like great QB play and skillful passing games this is a must. The Chiefs have given up only once more than one touchdown in the past five weeks, but they haven’t seen Joe Burrow throw Ja’marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and friends. If the Bengals can hold Travis Kelce in the middle of the field they should win. Easier said than done; Cincinnati has been struggling year-round with teams using the TE as a receiver, despite a good group of safeties and LBs and can also run the ball. The Chiefs’ game hasn’t been particularly efficient lately, but it’s still capable.
Chiefs 30, Bengal 28
– Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans (-3.5): Good litmus test to see how well the impressive turnaround in Miami holds up against a good team. Give the dolphins credit for winning the games they should, but this is a playoff game against a good Titans squad who can win on offense or defense. Miami’s sharp, well-coordinated defense gives them a real chance, but the offense must give Tua Tagovailoa time to operate and clear the trajectories. It’s a tough job in Tennessee.
Titans 17, Dolphins 13
– New York Giants at the Chicago Bears (-4): Two teams that had significant parts of the team reviewing losing seasons clash in what could be Matt Nagy’s last appearance in Chicago. Give the bears the top paw at home and for making sure they have the better QB, whichever of the three they have, she starts …
Bears 27, Giants 13
– Philadelphia Eagles with Washington Football Team (+3.5): The WFT that we destroyed from Dallas has no chance against the brave Eagles who recently fled into the final NFC wildcard place. The overall point difference between these two teams is illuminating: the Eagles are plus-80 – better than Green Bay or Tennessee – while the football team is sitting at an unhealthy minus-110. The soccer application of the Pythagorean Theorem makes this seem academic.
Eagles 36, soccer team 17
– Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts (-7): Major game in the AFC Wild Card race where the Colts climbed to the top of the crowded pile but the Raiders are still hanging around. A win in Las Vegas gives the Raiders a huge tiebreaker boost in the overall standings. These are the types of games the Colts Carson Wentz imported to win, period. It will take Wentz to lose it by the time the Cots fall home.
Colts 27, Raiders 17
– Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5): Good luck figuring out which Chargers team shows up. Denver’s stellar defense can make it moot. In another note, pray for the Colorado forest fire victims. It is one thing to live in an area where forest fires are a known risk, but it is quite another.
Broncos 20, chargers 17
– Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets (+11.5): This time last year the Jets stunned the Browns. Unfortunately, these Bucs are not these COVID-ravaged Browns.
Buccaneers 28, Jets 14
– Jacksonville Jaguars with the New England Patriots (-16.5): Will not happen. Next…
Patriots 33, Jaguars 12
– Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills (-14.5): Will not happen v2.0.
Bills 37, Falcons 21
– Detroit Lions at the Seattle Seahawks (-7): It sure looks like Tim Boyle will take the place of the injured Jared Goff at the QB for Detroit. It’s an interesting game for two teams that are out of the postseason. The understaffed Lions stand a chance if the faded Seahawks don’t get the A-Game performance, even with Boyle at QB. Don’t bet on it though …
Seahawks 24, Lions 16
– Arizona Cardinals with the Dallas Cowboys (-6): Supreme order for the staggering cardinals to try to break out of their crisis by facing the ardent cowboys and their playmaker defenses. Dallas gives up on their four-game winning streak under 15 ppg and pulls it off with the combination of a terrifying pass frenzy and an opportunistic secondary. The Arizona team we saw last month, on the other hand, doesn’t stand a chance. Can you be the Cardinals team of the first half of the season again, the best in football? They’re dangerously close to being this year’s version of the 2020 Steelers, the last team to lose in the regular season but easily come out in the playoffs after peaking too early.
Cowboys 32, Cardinals 21
– Carolina Panthers at the New Orleans Saints (-6.5): Expect plenty of fans in New Orleans disguised as empty squares where the Saints must win to keep them alive in the hunt for the season. Carolina has been tacitly one of the bottom feeders of the NFL, especially since early November.
Saints 22, Panthers 11
– Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens (+3.5): Speaking of teams that have fallen sharply in the past two months, the Ravens have underperformed the Lions and Texans over the past seven weeks. And the ramshackle Baltimore secondary is a terrible mismatch with Matthew Stafford throwing Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, and friends. LA’s recently rejuvenated running game makes it even more difficult.
Aries 33, ravens 15
– Houston Texans in the San Francisco 49ers (-12.5): This could be the start of the Trey Lance era in San Francisco. Aside from the initial nervousness, I expect a strong performance from Lance against a Texan defense that has allowed more yards per game than any other in the NFL over the past month. Great weekend to have George Kittle in fantasy football.
49ers 34, Texans 17
– Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-7): The way the Packers have been playing lately, even a premium weapon like Justin Jefferson shouldn’t upset Green Bay. The Packers must win at home to stay at the forefront of NFC and earn the postseason goodbye. Don’t expect the Vikings to be more than a speed bump, although Minnesota might actually be a pretty bouncy speed bump.
Packer 28, Vikings 20
– Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5): This should be the last home game for Ben Roethlisberger. Any dynamic that you think Pittsburgh descended from holds true given the betting lines. Pittsburgh opened as a 1-point underdog and the line has grown to 3.5 in most books and higher in a few select casinos. Brown tones make the playoff light flicker.
Browns 22, Steelers 17
Alabama 26, Cincinnati 20. The variety of weapons of the Crimson Tide around Heisman winner Bryce Young is simply too much for a good Cincinnati team. The Bearcats have a chance if someone does something similar for QB Desmond Ridder.
Georgia 17, Michigan 13. I expect a defensive battle and a lot of punting.