I've got to be honest - right now I'm feeling pretty hot with my string of luck lately (purely gambling - not with women or anything else). My brother and two of my best friends set on our annual ski trip to Harrisburg, PA this past week to visit another one of our good friends - funny thing about that is, we didn't ski one bit. Not because we didn't want to - but because the ski resorts "needed a couple more inches" - where have I heard that before? Anyways - with skiing no longer a possibility we took the next best option - Hollywood Casino. Our first night we played timidly and really had no grasp of what was going on - we blew through a couple of stacks in a very short period of time and were left scratching our heads as to what just happened. Determined to get our money back we decided to come back the next night and go big or go home. Roulette was the game of choice. Black was the bet. After security confirmed that our group of friends "all look the same", we sat down at the table - placed the bet and watched that little white ball whip around the wheel. A couple of lucky bounces later - Black 22 hit. We won. Big. Just like that the rest of the night was a flurry of recklessness and good times. I thought I should share that little story for not other reason than to let the readers know what kind of confidence I'm working with right now. Without further ado - the picks:
Sunday, January 1st (1:00 ET Kickoffs)
Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles (-8.5)
With four straight wins to close out the season the Eagles very well may have saved some jobs (looking at you Andy Reid and maybe even Juan Castillo). One thing that is certain is that with a win the Eagles will also finish in second place for the division - that may not seem like much but in a year as wild and crazy and this one was thats not a bad consolation. The Eagles will finish of the season at home and give the fans a glimpse of what next year will look like - minus DeSean Jackson. I like the Eagles to cruise in this one.
San Francisco 49ers (-10.5) vs. St. Louis Rams
The easy pick here is the 49ers. The Rams offense is incompetent. The 49ers defense just allowed their first rushing TD all season last week. Not sure how the Rams will be able to put up any points in this game. I'll take the 49ers on the road to coast to a win and lock up the no. 2 seed in the NFC>
Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings (-1.5)
How bad have the fortunes for these two organizations been this year? The Bears lost Jay Cutler and Matt Forte and look hopeless for the future. Meanwhile, the Vikings were dealt crushing news with the torn ACL and MCL to Adrian Peterson's left knee. Just not a good game - with very little at stake. I like what the Bears' Khalil Bell did last week against the Packers - but that's not good enough for me to take them in this game. I think Joe Webb will be the best player on the field on Sunday, which isn't really saying much. Take the Vikings at home and be glad the NFL didn't change to an 18 game season - could you imagine two more weeks of these teams?
Detroit Lions (-3) vs. Green Bay Packers
The Lions aren't the better team here - but get the three point spread from Vegas because it's largely assumed that the Packers will rest their starters and give the b-team a majority of the snaps. This means Ndomakong Suh will get to try to rip off Matt Flynn's head and not Aaron Rodgers. Usually that bodes well - but the Packers actually have some pretty competent backups - just ask the 2010 Patriots team. The Lions would definitely prefer to lock up the No. 5 see and avoid going to New Orleans in round 1. They can do that with a win in Green Bay. I'll take a motivated Lions team to avoid playing the Saints in round 1 by beating the Packers back up squad.
Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints (-8)
It's doubtful that the 49ers will lose their game against the Rams - so this game will likely mean very little for the Saints. The Panthers are also no push over when it comes down to it. Cam Newton will be playing in his last game as a rookie - which means he'll have the opportunity to shatter every rookie rushing and passing record for a QB. I like his odds to play the entirety of the game at a high level. Don't worry Saints fans - a rematch with the Falcons in round 1 is looming. Take the Panthers to cover the spread here.
Tennessee Titans (-2.5) vs. Houston Texans
Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak has been rumored to be high up on the list of candidates that Penn State would like to interview for the vacant position. He'll have a lot of time to think about the decision because the Titans are not going to the playoffs and they're not winning this game. The Texans get WR Andre Johnson back just in time to renew his rivalry with Titans CB Cortland Finnegan. I like the Texans to connect a couple more uppercuts and get the win at home to close out the season.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5)
Huge stakes in this game for the Colts. Lose and your in. In of course for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The only problem for the Colts is they are playing the Jaguars and they've also got a 2 game winning streak going for them - so winning isn't exactly out of the question. I could definitely see the Colts rallying around the idea of not shoring up the No. 1 pick and retaining Peyton Manning as the unquestioned QB of the future in Indy. I'll take the Colts to cover this game on the road.
New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins (-3)
The Jets need the W and the Bengals, Titans, and either a Raiders or Broncos loss. How's that for a long shot. No Reggie Bush in this game for the Dolphins who have been playing surprisingly well down the stretch. Doesn't look like Rex Ryan and the Jets will be playing in the post season this year - but I do expect them to handle their part of the equation. I'll ride with the Jets to get the W in South Beach.
Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots (-10.5)
The Bills finally got to 6 wins - there's no shot that they'll get to 7. Especially since they've already beaten the Patriots and New England can lock up a No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will do everything in their power to make sure they embarrass the Bills at home. The Bills will have nothing to say about that. 6-10 and a 12th pick in the 2012 draft feels right for the Bills. Strong improvement from the 3rd overall pick in 2011. Take the Pats to win easily in this one.
Sunday, January 1st (4:20 ET Kickoffs)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) vs. Cleveland Browns
The next two games should be an interesting chess match of strategy heading into the playoffs. The Steelers and the Ravens are both vying for playoff positioning - while also trying to stay healthy. It's uncertain as to how much the Steelers plan on using Big Ben - which could affect the spread of this game. The Browns will have very little say in what the Steelers do - they can only hope they get a heavy dose of Batch and not Roethlisberger. Unfortunately for Cleveland it won't matter since they won't have a quarterback until April. Take the Steelers and lay the points on the road. Side note: Greg Little is 6 catches shy of tying the Browns rookie record currently held by Hamilton West graduate Kevin Johnson - good call on Little, Sameer. He should be a solid part of their offense once they figure out the whole QB thing.
Baltimore Ravens (-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Interesting game. The Ravens can clinch the AFC North with a win - the Bengals can clinch a playoff spot with a win. So pretty important implications with the outcome of this game. The Ravens have been pretty suspect on the road so far this year (3-4) but have been perfect so far within the division (5-0). When it comes down to it - I think the Ravens are the better team - and with an AFC North division title looming I could see Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Co. taking care of the Bengals and shoring up the No. 2 seed and a first round bye. I'll take the Ravens to win this game on the road.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons (-11.5)
Words to fill up space - that's all I got on the analysis here. There's really nothing to write about this game. The Bucs are horrible. The Falcons are close to being a real contender. There's no way Matty ice and the Falcons lose this game at home - but 11.5 points feels like a lot for a game that the Falcons probably won't be trying very hard for down the stretch. I'll take the Bucs plus the points here.
San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders (-3)
Somehow Philip Rivers was able to snag a pro bowl spot in the AFC this year. I'm pretty sure through the first 10 weeks of the season he was playing like one of the 5 worst QBs in the league. Pretty remarkable turn around - but unfortunately for San Diego it wasn't enough as they came up short last weekend in Detroit. Speaking of coming up short - Norv Turner has failed to bring success to this Chargers organization since they hired him. My guess is this will be the last game he coaches as the head coach in San Diego. I'll take the Raiders at home to get the win - but come up short of the playoffs because of Tebow winning.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos (-3)
Broncos win - and they're in. That will be no easy task against a fired up Kyle Orton who will be the opposing QB on game day in Denver. How's that for irony. The same guy the Broncos cut on November 22nd could very well be the reason they don't make the playoffs. Much has been written about how the Broncos could have simply held on to Orton and let him collect him paycheck every 2 weeks and geared up to face a Chiefs team that would have been starting Tyler Palko. Instead the Broncos will have their 2011 playoffs riding on the hope that their Week 1 starter won't be able to beat them at home. Considering Orton has only won 6 of his past 27 games - I don't think Tebow will be in much trouble in this game. I expect the Broncos to win this game and advance to the first round of the playoffs behind Timothy.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals (-3)
Unfortunately for both of these teams - the playoffs in 2011 were too much of a stretch. That being said - this will likely be the game that I avoid watching at all costs. No implications - nothing to watch for. I'll roll with the Cardinals to close out the season on a good note at home.
Sunday, January 1st (8:30 ET)
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants (-3)
It's like the NFL knew I bet the Cowboys at the beginning of the season to win the NFC East at +300 and wanted to drag me along on their roller coaster ride with them for the entirety of the season. Here's the thing - I still believe the Cowboys have the better team. I believed it three weeks ago when these two teams matched up in Dallas - and I believe it now. The Cowboys are two botched last second field goals away from being a 10-5 team and in complete control of the division. Something tells me this just isn't Dallas' season - but I don't believe they'll lose this game by more than 3. I'll grab Dallas and the points in what should be a great finale to a wild up and down season. It truly has been fun covering the NFL this year - couldn't ask for a better game to conclude the non playoff games.
On that note - Happy New Year to everyone! Hope that this year was a great one and that 2012 will be an even better one. Take care and stay safe!
This Week: 5-10-1
Last Week: 9-6-1
Season Record: 124-122-10