As far as I can tell, there are only two games today that don’t involve a potential playoff team: Tennessee- Jets and Giants-Washington. Instead, those games could determine who gets the top pick in the draft. So every game is important this week! The models are already off to a good start this week with Arizona’s cover (and outright win) over the Rams on Thursday. The Cardinals have a pretty solid chance of getting a bye and being a home underdog in the second round if they keep this up; they only scored 12 points and lost a QB again. When I went through some playoff possibilities last time, I had Arizona traveling to New Orleans or Atlanta as the 5 seed, but they all assumed the Cardinals would lose. Now, Arizona has two wins in hand over Seattle and gets to host their game next weekend. It isn’t a fool-proof lead by any means, but it’s a decent one.
Atlanta-Pittsburgh involves two potential playoff teams despite the Falcons sitting at 5-8. The models all have Pittsburgh winning the AFC North, but with no thanks to today. They all have the Falcons as small favorites, while the line has the Steelers as the way to go. Pittsburgh has looked good some weeks (vs the Bengals, Texans, and Colts) and pretty bad others (Saints, Browns, Tampa, and Jets) so it’s hard to say. It feels like the Steelers’ game to lose though.
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Colts and Texans is another interesting one. Indianapolis is supposed to win handily, sitting at 6.5 point favorites. But you kind of feel like J.J. Watt could go crazy and keep the Colts offense in check on his own somehow. On the other hand, the Texans haven’t beat a decent team all year, maybe excluding Buffalo (other wins over Washington, Oakland, Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Tennessee twice). The models all have Indy hosting a playoff game in the first round, starting on their way today (although not as much of a favorite as the line says).
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We also have the Eagles and Cowboys playing for probably the NFC East title and maybe a playoff spot. It’s unlikely they both make it. Whoever loses today has to win out and whoever wins needs to split the other games, meaning Philly loses to either Washington or the Giants or Dallas loses to either Indy or Washington. That would put them both at 11-5, which gives them both a shot. Dallas has the tougher road, traveling to Philly today and hosting the Colts next week. So let’s hope they just tank so that the Lions don’t have to sweat too much.
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Bill Simmons’ picks are here as usual. Instead of belaboring that though, I’ll point out that only one of the three models have the Chargers making the playoffs despite them sitting at 8-5 right now. San Diego hosts the Broncos, travels to San Francisco, and travels to Kansas City to finish the year. That’s tough sledding. Similarly, the 49ers have the Chargers game, today’s game with the Seahawks, and host Arizona in week 17. They don’t make it according to the models either. Or using any of the Playoff Machine ‘easy choice’ methods.
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Finally, speaking of tough sledding, Luigi’s SuperContest picks are San Diego +4, Tennessee +2, Minnesota +8, Atlanta +2.5, and San Fran +10. I’m just going to hope the Vikings pick is wrong for safety. Yoshi 1’s picks are Minnesota, Jacksonville +13.5, San Fran, San Diego, and Miami +7.5. Yoshi 2 is going with San Diego, Tennessee, Minnesota, San Fran, and Atlanta (same as Luigi). I’m flying today, so let me know if anything exciting happens.