It’s always hard to predict what will happen in week 17 because all of a sudden there are teams who don’t even care any more. Buffalo and the Jets? Do any of those guys actually want to play? Sanchez is starting because the rookie who replaced him (and skipped over Tebow) has a concussion, but Sanchez has to know that it’s very unlikely he gets his job back next year. Will he play a half and then Tebow play a half so the Jets can see if Tim gets any trade value? Will Sanchez air the ball out, trying to look impressive himself? What will Mike Vick do against the Giants? He can’t imagine he’ll be back on the Eagles next year. How about the Saints and Bucs? They don’t even have anything intriguing like a Vick or Sanchez situation; what do they play for besides avoiding injury? If the Texans and Bengals win in the early afternoon game and then Denver goes up big on the Chiefs, will the Patriots pull their starters or start playing differently in the second half, their playoff position locked in?
All of these things are unknowable before the games start. So here are the predictions as usual, but use some judgment in evaluating them. The models use data from previous week 17s, and they obviously have a lot of games where things went unexpectedly due to injuries and the like, but they don’t really “know” what teams are in what position.
The over/under; ignore, as usual. I’ll put in my own feelings for the games that have some kind of meaning. The Bears have lost some luster from earlier in the year, but the Lions are inventing new ways to lose every week. I’m happy I was driving and listening to the game on radio last week when Logan waived himself down at the 4 on a free kick return instead of watching it on TV. Who knows what kind of heart attack I might have had? So I think Chicago wins and waits to see what happens with the Vikings. Speaking of which, I think the Vikings lose to the Packers. If the Packers can get any sort of lead, Ponder simply isn’t good enough to recover and Peterson can only do so much. Unless AP breaks off, say, three runs over 50, I don’t see how the Vikings keep up.
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Here are the moneyline picks. I like the Bengals over the Ravens. They don’t technically have anything to play for, but if they lose and the Patriots also manage to lose, we would have this same game next week in the playoffs. I think the Bengals are preferred at home, that they would want to send a message in case they would get the Ravens again, and that if anything the Ravens would rather be the 4 seed and play the Colts. Speaking of the Colts, they can’t hang with the Texans if Houston wants to win. Houston will want to win to keep the number one seed. But they are at home. I think it stays interesting but Houston wins, assuming they try throughout.
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Here are the spread picks. There are four uninteresting games where a playoff team will want to win for sure and they’re playing a non-playoff team. I like the Patriots, Broncos, 49ers, and Seahawks. New England will probably have the roughest time of it, assuming Miami tries, followed by the NFC West games, assuming the Cards and Rams try. But losses by any of those four would be surprising (unless the Patriots see an opportunity to steamroll the Colts again next week, or something similar comes up in the NFC).
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Finally we have Bill Simmons’ picks. The final games of interest are in the NFC East. The Giants need a lot of help to get into the playoffs, but step one is to win and the Eagles just aren’t especially good. I’m tempted to go with some Vick magic, but his offensive line just won’t let him be magical. I like the Giants to win and watch someone else get in. As for the evening game with Dallas and Washington, I think it should be an entertaining game but Washington is simply the better team. Prepare yourself for (even more of) the Luck versus RGIII rookie of the year debate.
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