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
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NFL Week 16 Predictions: Christmas Edition

For family reasons, I’m not too much into the Christmas spirit this year, so I welcome a weekend of important NFL action as a distraction.

San Diego at Cleveland

No one wants to lose to an 0-14 team on Christmas Eve, but I’d put an upset alert on San Diego here. Traveling across the country for an early game against a team trying to finally win a game at home in its last opportunity this season. We’ve seen Philip Rivers and the Chargers lose an ugly 7-6 game in Cleveland in 2012. A pick parade is never out of the question, and it’s a tough game to not have Melvin Gordon for, because he would have had a huge fantasy day most likely. I’m still going to pick San Diego, but this game is a little more interesting to me than the last few Cleveland massacres. I’m saying there’s a chance…

It’s not like Jets at New England where the Jets really have no chance.

Atlanta at Carolina

I think the “Ron Rivera and Cam Newton know how to finish strong in December” thing is overblown, and it begs the question why their Sept-Nov. seasons are usually poor. But this is going to be a tough game for Atlanta, which lost 38-0 in Carolina a season ago. In Week 4, Matt Ryan kind of put a stamp on the 2016 Panthers in showing it was going to be a long year with a 500-yard passing game, including 300 yards for Julio Jones, who should be back from injury this week. The Falcons have the No. 1 offense, Luke Kuechly is still out with a concussion, but I think you’ll see the Falcons struggle on the road here. Hopefully one so-so or even bad game from Ryan doesn’t detract away from the outstanding MVP season he’s had to this point, but you know how moronic voters can be with this stuff. The Panthers are the last real challenge from Ryan finishing strong and leading the Falcons to a division title. This is my top game for the 1 p.m. slot. MIN/GB isn’t bad, but not really that interested in seeing those teams again.

Indianapolis at Oakland

I’m probably going to jinx them, but you know what hasn’t been happening this year? The Colts haven’t been getting blown out early and losing games by huge margins like they usually do several times a season under Chuck Pagano. In fact, the Colts have won four road games in a row, two blowouts, and scored 31+ points each time. They’ve even won in Green Bay and Minnesota in impressive fashion. So can Andrew Luck outduel Derek Carr in Oakland? I don’t see why not. You could argue that Luck has been better overall than Carr this season, but the Colts have still lost to the Jaguars and swept by the Texans to be at 7-7 instead of in first place. Meanwhile, just about every fourth-down decision (and penalty call) has gone Oakland’s way late in games this year, and the Raiders are the only team in 2016 not to have blown a fourth-quarter lead. From Twitter, I’m a bit scared that multiple people have thought that an 11-3 team hasn’t had many fourth-quarter leads to blow, but common sense should tell you they have. They just make the necessary plays to end games, and have seven 4QC wins now (one shy of Detroit’s new record). This should be a fun, high-scoring game, but I’ll take Oakland just because of Khalil Mack’s potential to wreck damage against the offensive line whereas Carr should have better protection. But an Indy win would come as no surprise, obviously.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

The AFC North is basically going to be decided on Christmas afternoon in Pittsburgh, making this low-key one of the biggest games of Mike Tomlin’s career. Because if the Steelers lose this one at home to drop a fifth straight game to Baltimore, then the playoffs are likely not happening. And this is a season where just about anything could happen in the playoffs due to the down year in competition. So I’m a little surprised that the Steelers are a 6-point favorite. Baltimore usually plays them tough, and it’s going to come down to if the offensive line for Pittsburgh can play at a high level. The Ravens tend to contain Le’Veon Bell, and do a good job on Antonio Brown. They also seem to get a deflected pick from Ben Roethlisberger every contest now, and Terrell Suggs has a long history of sacking him in this rivalry. On the other side, the Pittsburgh defense has not allowed more than 20 points during this five-game winning streak, but check the offensive competition: Browns, Colts (no Andrew Luck), Giants, Bills and Bengals (no A.J. Green). Not exactly a bunch of juggernauts, or even average offenses there. Of course, you could say Baltimore fits right into that this year, but I wouldn’t discount Joe Flacco from playing well in this one. I’m going to pick the Steelers, obviously, but I don’t feel confident about it. If they look flat early, look for Baltimore to win and go on to take the division.

2016 Week 16 Predictions

I even knew I should have picked the Eagles on TNF, but still trusted the Giants defense. Well, the Giants did allow fewer points (17) than the Eagles (19), but that early pick-six was a killer, as was the final interception of the night for Eli Manning.

Winners in bold:

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

Looks like another big week for the home teams, or a very wrong week for me coming up.

  • 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
  • Season: 139-85

NFL Week 15 Predictions: Saturday Night Edition

Technically, it’s almost always a Saturday night edition here since that’s usually when I post, but we have an actual Saturday night game in Week 15. It’s a polished turd of course between the Jets and Dolphins, but it’s an NFL game nonetheless.

Here are a few better games to think about.

Tennessee at Kansas City

I want to see if Marcus Mariota rebounds after his Tim Tebow day against the Broncos. The Chiefs aren’t as good on defense, but they have playmakers at multiple levels even after losing Derrick Johnson (Achilles). I might like the Titans here at home, but Arrowhead should be a tough spot for this team. Oddly, I think Alex Smith has a good game (dink-and-dunk vs. Dick LeBeau scheme) in what should be the Chiefs’ 11th win of the season.

Detroit at NY Giants

The 2016 Giants are on pace for the lowest DVOA variance of any team since 1989. Basically, you get the same should-be-better offense and solid defense having to salt the game away every week. So it would make sense to see the Lions trying to pick up a ninth 4QC win in a low-scoring game here, but I would really not expect much from Matthew Stafford with the finger injury on the road against this defense. Look for Eli Manning to perk up against that defense and get this win.

Indianapolis at Minnesota

This could be an ugly game for Andrew Luck. Think what Carson Palmer faced earlier in the season in this building. The pass rush should be huge, but I also think the Vikings still struggle to score enough to put the game too out of reach. Luck will have his chance late, and I don’t see Adrian Peterson doing much in his return to action. Remember, there are some serious blocking issues that the Vikings can’t possibly fix this season that have stalled their running game. The talent level of the backs is a secondary concern.

New England at Denver

The Patriots never really do what you expect, but on paper this is a game where the Pats should look to run Blount, and the Broncos should lean heavily on Trevor Siemian’s passing. The latter sounds more unrealistic, but that has been the case the last few weeks with a disappearing running game. This is basically Denver’s last stand for the playoffs and title defense. We know Brady has struggled in Denver, but we also know Bill Belichick can easily limit the scoring of a one-dimensional offense that already has scoring issues. So I think Von Miller and company will show up well enough to win, but the offense won’t do its share this time.

Tampa Bay at Dallas

Feels like a Dallas blowout or a really good game. Let’s hope for the latter. Tampa Bay’s defense has really stepped up on this five-game winning streak. Dallas has obviously struggled on offense in its last two games. I think Dak Prescott, perhaps feeling a little heat to keep Tony Romo on the bench, will rebound with a solid game and the Cowboys take this one at home. Jameis Winston will hold the ball too long in looking for big plays instead of taking the readily available ones against a Dallas defense that simply isn’t very good, but will be good enough in this one. And wow, do we really need another Dallas prime-time game/national game? I know the alternatives weren’t great, but this is overkill.

2016 Week 15 Predictions

I had the Seahawks on TNF, minus a few concussions from that fourth quarter.

Winners in bold:

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

Season summary

  • 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
  • Season: 127-81

NFL Week 14 Predictions: Pivotal Edition

Week 14 started with what I think should go down as the most important game in the standings for the 2016 regular season. Kansas City beat Oakland for the fifth game in a row, and those Raiders fans were pissed at me after a week of calling them the worst 10-2 team ever and how Derek Carr would lower the standard of the MVP award.

cocksucker

Welp. The rest of the week’s schedule looks pretty good too, and I see some games that should also go a long way in clearing up this playoff picture.

Pittsburgh at Buffalo

Big snow game potential? Not bad for Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy then, but I like the Steelers having a better ability to throw the ball in this one. Still, it will be a tough game on the road, as Buffalo has played many teams better than itself closely this year. The Steelers need this game since I think they should get help from the Patriots on Monday night to take over the lead in the AFC North.

Baltimore at New England

I feel like I’m not giving Baltimore enough respect in this one on Monday night. Maybe it’s because the game is in New England, or maybe because I still don’t think that highly of the Ravens this year, or think too much of this Patriots squad. Frankly, are the Patriots any better right now than they were in 2014 or 2015? I don’t think so. The loss of Rob Gronkowski is huge, and you can see in the last three games (against crap competition) where he was basically unavailable, Tom Brady’s YPA is a measly 6.14. And we know the Ravens have had more success against Brady than just about any defense in the NFL. No, this year’s unit is not as strong as the 2009-2012 defenses, but it’s still a good unit, and it helps to have Elvis Dumervil back in action. But my main concern with the Ravens here is the offense’s low-scoring outputs. Last week against Miami looked like a major outlier. Even at his best, Joe Flacco is usually never a 36-of-47 for 381 yards and 4 TD type of passer, but he really took over the Dolphins game. He’ll need to be sharp again in this one, because we know how the Patriots tend to feast on turnovers and red-zone stops. They’ll give up yards, but they rarely break. So while I think the game can be very good, I still would have to pick the Patriots at home.

Seattle at Green Bay

This could be the season for the Packers (6-6), a ninth-place team in the NFC right now. Aaron Rodgers has never passed for 250 yards in six career starts against the Seahawks, and he’s 1-3 against the Legion of Boom era. That LOB will be missing Earl Thomas, which can be a problem when you’re playing an improv QB like Rodgers, but I think Seattle’s defense will be fine. The other side of the ball is where this one should be decided. Russell Wilson has alternated between looking like an MVP and having some of his least effective games, whether due to injury or the offensive line this season. I don’t think the Packers have the defensive front to really get after Wilson in the way that teams like the Rams and Buccaneers did. I think Wilson will take advantage of that weakened secondary with his receivers, and the Seahawks will control the game in Lambeau. At 6-7, it would have to take a big Detroit collapse for the Packers to rebound for the playoffs.

Dallas at NY Giants

These teams played another close finish in Week 1, the first start of Dak Prescott’s career. Had Terrance Williams got out of bounds late, the Cowboys might be looking at a 12-0 record right now. I honestly never would have seen that coming after that harmless loss in Week 1, but Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have only continued to get better to make this one of the best offenses in recent years. I think the Giants have been a bit of a paper tiger on defense this year, and were shown up by a superior Pittsburgh offense last week. Now with Jason Pierre-Paul out, that just makes it harder on the pass rush to produce. Part of me wants to believe this is a bounce-back game for Eli Manning, who despite the reputation for having a down year, has been throwing multiple touchdowns week after week. He’s just not getting the yards and leading the offense to many points. I think he gets on track against a quietly weak Dallas defense, but it still may not be enough to outscore the Cowboys at home. Look for another super-close finish between these teams, but I think Dallas clinches the division.

2016 Week 14 Predictions

Oakland felt my kiss of death on Thursday night, so the dream of a 16-0 picks week died early this time.

Winners in bold:

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

Guess I’m big on road teams for a change. Boy, we get a real turd bowl with Jets-49ers. The 49ers haven’t had a fourth-quarter lead since Week 1. I think that will finally change this week.

  • 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
  • Season: 118-74

NFL Week 13 Predictions: Life Without Gronk Edition

There was a point earlier this season where the Patriots looked capable, if not likely, of running the table to finish 18-1 (the good kind of 18-1, not the embarrassing type). But seasons change quickly, and a big pop by Earl Thomas on Rob Gronkowski in Week 10 has seemingly turned this season in a much different, much more open direction. Gronk is now on injured reserve after undergoing back surgery, and Seattle showed that the Patriots are beatable in that game. In fact, I expect the Patriots to lose a couple of more times this season now. The health of Gronk has often been a huge determining factor in just how successful their seasons are. Last year, I thought Gronk leaving the Denver game with an injury (and the Patriots subsequently falling in overtime) was a huge turning point for the 2015 season. New England also lost its next game (Week 13 against the Eagles), and Denver was eventually able to secure the No. 1 seed and keep that AFC Championship Game in Denver.

This year, there are still good reasons to keep the Patriots as the favorites in the AFC, but now not likely the Super Bowl with no possibility of a Gronk return. For one, Martellus Bennett is a very capable backup, and would be the TE1 on more than half of the teams in the NFL. The other big part is that the AFC lacks contenders. This injury news is great for Oakland and Pittsburgh, two teams who would really have to outscore the Pats in January. That gets a little easier if Gronk isn’t there. Oakland especially could get a boost here with the No. 1 seed in sight, and the fact that Khalil Mack is starting to play at an All-Pro level again. Pittsburgh lacks that type of dominant pass rusher, but at least the defense wouldn’t get killed by Gronk again. Meanwhile, Denver and Kansas City were always going to try beating the Pats by holding Brady to 21 or fewer points. That gets easier with Gronk gone, but they’ll still have to find a way to manufacture points in Foxboro. Or maybe not. While the Patriots get a third weak opponent in a row (Rams) this week, those road games in Denver (Week 15) and Miami (Week 17), two places Brady-Belichick have had their share of struggles, look more daunting now, making a 12-4 finish probable. That may only be good enough for the No. 2 seed this year.

Gronk probably should go down as the best TE ever, but his back was an issue in the draft, and his physical style does take its toll on his body each season. We may have already seen him at the best he’s ever going to be, and the Patriots can only wish they would have gotten to see more of him over the years.

Giants at Steelers

This is the highlight game of Week 13, and I’m not just saying that because it involves the Steelers and I usually cover their games here. This is a nice matchup on paper between one of the best offenses (PIT) and one of the best defenses (NYG). However, much like how I felt about DAL-PIT a few weeks back, I don’t think the Giants have been tested by anything like they’ll see from Pittsburgh here. When you have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell on the field together, especially at home, it’s usually dynamic stuff. The Giants haven’t seen an offense to this level since maybe the Saints in Week 2, and we know New Orleans isn’t the same on the road. So I expect to see the Steelers play up to the competition here and put on a good offensive performance. The key matchup is really on the other side. Eli Manning has not had a great season, but he hasn’t been bad either. Odell Beckham Jr. seems poised for a monster day against this secondary, so that could help this one reach a shootout level or at least a very competitive game into the fourth quarter, which has been the case in all three career meetings between Ben and Eli (a 4QC in each with Ben getting two). The Giants have been squeaking by opponents all season. Records be damned, I think Pittsburgh is a more dangerous team and will get the home win.

Final: Giants 22, Steelers 28

2016 Week 13 Predictions

I had the Cowboys on TNF, and that was a little close for comfort, but an 11th straight win nonetheless.

Winners in bold: 

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

Might be warming up down the stretch (Finally). And something is totally fvcked if Lions-Saints isn’t a very high-scoring game.

  • 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
  • Season: 108-69