Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Hail Mary - Week 16

First off, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever you choose to celebrate at this time of year! Two weeks remain in the regular season and the playoff pictures remains quite muddled. That means there is still plenty of intrigue left this season. Last weekend was quite amazing as underdogs ruled the day. That continued into last night when the Colts knocked off the Texans. You know it has been a crazy five days when the Colts have won twice in that span. This weekend features multiple games with major playoff implications, so what am I waiting for!?!?

Programming note, I may not have a Hail Mary next week as I will be out of town. I will try to get something up, maybe just a quickie post but I wouldn't count on it.

Week 16 - Saturday, December 24

Denver (8-6) at Buffalo (5-9), Denver favored by 3

Tim Tebow's miracle run finally came to an end at the hand of the Patriots. It might have been because he flipped the script and started off the game playing well before falling apart. I think that Tebow will go back to what he does best in this game. Play like crap for three quarters, then lead the Broncos to a thrilling come from behind win in the fourth quarter. Despite their loss last week, they still control the AFC West, holding a one game lead over the Raiders and suddenly resurgent Chargers. I gave Buffalo the benefit of the doubt last weekend and thought they had to have had at least one more win in them, but no, it is obvious they are ending the year on a 9 game losing streak.

Prediction: Denver 28, Buffalo 17

Arizona (7-7) at Cincinnati (8-6), Cincinnati favored by 4 1/2

The Arizona Cardinals are neck and neck with their NFC West brethren the Seattle Seahawks for who can have the most miraculous run to the playoffs. They sit two games out with two to play, so the chances are a long shot, but considering they were 1-6 earlier this season, to even be in the discussion right now is quite amazing. Plus, they have won most of those games with John Skelton as their quarterback. The Bengals have to be the biggest surprise of the season. Very much alive for a playoff spot with two weeks to go, I don't even think Marvin Lewis would have expected this. You can just tell the Bengals aren't quite ready for the intensity that playoff football brings and because of that I think they lose this game but could still be very much alive in Week 17 for the final playoff spot.

Prediction: Arizona 20, Cincinnati 16

Jacksonville (4-10) at Tennessee (7-7), Tennessee favored by 8

The Titans probably blew their playoff chances with an inexplicable loss at Indianapolis. Matt Hasselbeck has been awful the last few weeks, and each time I have seen Jake Locker enter a game he has moved the offense better than Hasselbeck. I understand wanting to go with the veteran over the rookie when you are fighting for a playoff spot, but the proof seems to be in the pudding that Locker may give them a better chance to win right now. The Titans also lost to the Jaguars earlier this year, another loss that will haunt them when they are home for the playoffs.

Prediction: Tennessee 23, Jacksonville 19

Oakland (7-7) at Kansas City (6-8), Kansas City favored by 1

Definitely didn't see that Chiefs over Packers upset coming. The defense did a great job slowing down the Packers, while Orton did a nice job of controlling the game and not letting the Packers offense get on the field much. The Raiders dropped their third straight game in heartbreaking fashion to the Lions. All signs would point to this being a Kansas City win, especially because the Chiefs blew out the Raiders in Oakland earlier this season, 28-0. The NFL is not a conventional wisdom league though and that is why I like the Raiders to pull off the mini upset.

Prediction: Oakland 27, Kansas City 20

Miami (5-9) at New England (11-3), New England favored by 10

The Patriots are moving closer and closer to securing the number one seed for the second straight season. Now whether or not that is a good thing based on their recent playoff history is up for debate. Their is no denying the atrociousness of their defense and it may come back to bite them in the playoffs, but maybe times have changed in the NFL and all you really need is a super, awesome quarterback. Tom Brady certainly qualifies.

Prediction: New England 29, Miami 21

New York Giants (7-7) at New York Jets (8-6), New York Jets favored by 3

Definitely one of the most intriguing games this weekend. A Giants loss will likely end their playoff hopes and probably lead to Tom Coughlin being fired. A win and the Giants will control their destiny going into the season finale with the Cowboys. As for the Jets, they currently hold the final playoff spot by a thread. While a loss wouldn't do them any good, they would still have a chance at making the playoffs. That extra feeling of desperation the Giants have is what will ultimately be the difference. These two teams are very evenly matched, so this game will likely come down to the wire.

Prediction: New York Giants 27, New York Jets 24

St. Louis (2-12) at Pittsburgh (10-4), No Line

It was apparent that Ben Roethlisberger was really in no shape to be trying to beat the number one defense on Monday night. He could definitely beat one of the worst teams in the league, but so could Charlie Batch, so it would probably be prudent for the Steelers to sit Big Ben in this one.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, St. Louis 14

Minnesota (2-12) at Washington (5-9), Washington favored by 6 1/2

Been a rough couple of days for the Skins. They upset the Giants last week, worsening their draft position, and then Matt Barkley decided to stay at USC another year. Skins should win here and lose at Philly next weekend, so back to back 6-10 seasons appear to be on the horizon for Mike Shanahan. It is all about year three, another non playoff season and the cries for him to be fired will grow louder.

Prediction: Washington 24, Minnesota 20

Tampa Bay (4-10) at Carolina (5-9), Carolina favored by 7 1/2

The Panthers are going to be everybody's sleeper next season, causing them to not really be a sleeper.

Prediction: Carolina 34, Tampa Bay 20

Cleveland (4-10) at Baltimore (10-4), Baltimore favored by 13

I'm done trying to figure the Ravens out. Well, I take that back, they are quite easy to figure out. They are pretty much unbeatable at home, and almost atrocious on the road. Whoever wins the AFC North between them and the Steelers is who will get to the AFC Championship. Whoever settles for second is getting knocked out in the Wild Card round.

Prediction: Baltimore 23, Cleveland 13

San Diego (7-7) at Detroit (9-5), Detroit favored by 2 1/2

What is it about the Chargers and saving their best football for December, after playing like utter crap the previous three months? The Lions are tantalizingly close to their first playoff berth in 12 years. Typical Lions history says they will drop their last two games and somehow miss the playoffs. However, even if they lose to San Diego on Saturday, they get the Packers in the final game, and their is a good chance the Packers will have home field advantage clinched and nothing to play for. I don't think it will come down to that though. The Lions will give their fans a happy ending on Christmas Eve and clinch their playoff berth at home. Fittingly, the longest tenured Lion, Jason Hanson will kick the game winner.

Prediction: Detroit 26, San Diego 23

Philadelphia (6-8) at Dallas (8-6), Dallas favored by 2 1/2

The Eagles just won't die. It will take a multitude of things to bounce the right way but if Philadelphia can win their last two games, they have a chance at sneaking into the playoffs as NFC East champions. They should feel confident playing Dallas, they destroyed them in their first matchup, The Cowboys have gone from Rex Ryan talking shit, to Jerry Jones claiming the Cowboys are scared of the Eagles. Mind games are the sign of a desperate team, and desperate isn't a good look Jerry. I remember a game between these two on Christmas not too long ago, when Jeff Garcia and the Eagles pounded the crap out of the Cowboys to wrap up the division. I hope the Eagles can give me another Christmas memory of a win over the Cowboys.

Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Dallas 30

San Francisco (11-3) at Seattle (7-7), San Francisco favored by 2 1/2

I was very pleased with the 49ers performance on Monday night. That was a total team win with offense, defense, special teams all doing their part. The red zone issue came through in the beginning of the game, but the the Niners were able to punch it in later to put the game on ice. Going to Seattle is going to be tough, the Seahawks are playing well, and even when they are bad, it is tough to win at Seattle. This is a huge game for San Francisco, if they win this game they should be set for the #2 seed and a playoff bye, since I don't see them losing at St. Louis the final weekend of the season. It is imperative they get that 2 seed, not just for the week off, but so they would host the Saints, instead of having to potentially play them in New Orleans.

Prediction: San Francisco 22, Seattle 19

Sunday, December 25

Chicago (7-7) at Green Bay (13-1), Green Bay favored by 12 1/2

This the only game Christmas day and it's a shame the Bears are so injury depleted as it could have been a great one. The Bears defense will keep them in the game, but their is no way Josh McCown is winning at Lambeau Field.

Prediction: Green Bay 24, Chicago 10

Monday, December 26

Atlanta (9-5) at New Orleans (11-3), New Orleans favored by 6 1/2

It is always a great game when these two play and the stakes are high. The Saints can clinch the NFC South, and keep their hopes for a playoff bye alive with a win. The Falcons are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot, and a win would guarantee that, while also keep alive outside hopes of an NFC South title. The Saints have been fantastic at home all season long, but I think this is another Falcons/Saints game that will go right down to the wire. This game will also have major fantasy football implications, as championship games will likely be decided by this game. I'll be in Florida but hopefully I can find some time to watch this one.

Prediction: New Orleans 31, Atlanta 28

Last Week Straight Up: 7-9
Overall Straight Up: 139-85

Last Week Against the Spread: 6-9-1
Overall Against the Spread: 112-106-6

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