Since the week 17 lines aren’t perplexing enough—what with the complete unknown around which teams are resting players, which teams will try for 30 minutes and then rest players upon seeing certain scores around the league, which teams will be motivated to win or lose and for what reasons—I decided to really up the degree of difficulty with my picks.
I’ve been driving across the country since Tuesday morning. I’ve barely had a minute to check twitter or keep up with any relevant NFL news. I’m writing this column without internet access in the passenger seat of a rental car while traveling between Flagstaff, Arizona, and Los Angeles. (If you’re not up to speed on the situation my wife & I encountered when trying to fly out of Boston this past Tuesday, I suggest you read through my Twitter timeline @rossgariepy or search Twitter for #GariepyRoadTrip2015.)
This should go really really smoothly.
NY Jets (-3) at Buffalo
The Pick: Buffalo
The Score: Buffalo 29, NY Jets 18
The Jets clinch an AFC Wildcard spot with a win. All they have to do is turn away the Bills, led by the former New York coach who would love nothing more than to keep the team that fired him a year ago out of the postseason. It’s probably the easiest thing in the world to take the Jets without a second thought considering the circumstances, but I think Rex, with a recent vote of confidence for next year from his owner, will pull out EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK to win this one. I think we finally see a Ryan Fitzpatrick meltdown combined with trickery such as Sammy Watkins throwing a touchdown to Tyrod Taylor.
New England (-10) at Miami
The Pick: Miami
The Score: New England 25, Miami 21
You know where having the internet available while writing this would come in handy? When trying to figure out which of the abundance of injured Patriots players are suiting up for action this weekend. Even with a hobbled offensive line, the Patriots should win by 10+ if—and only if—Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are participating. But I don’t have a clue about their status so I’m predicting a more conservative win for New England.
New Orleans at Atlanta (-5)
The Pick: New Orleans
The Score: Atlanta 23, New Orleans 20
Atlanta starts the year 5-0, I mentally cash my preseason ticket of “Atlanta over 8.5 wins.”
Atlanta goes 2-7 in the middle of the year, I mentally rip up that same ticket.
Atlanta takes down the undefeated Panthers to keep the bet in play with only the Saints left to beat…I don’t have a clue what to think. Let’s do an emotional hedge here and pick against them. I could still win the pick and the bet if the Falcons win by 3 or less.
Detroit at Chicago (PICK)
The Pick: Detroit
The Score: Detroit 27, Chicago 10
Didn’t the Bears put most of their offensive players on IR this week? I think I saw that when I had two minutes of cell phone reception while driving through Elk City, Oklahoma.
Philadelphia at NY Giants (-3.5)
The Pick: Philadelphia
The Score: NY Giants 12, Philadelphia 9
This game would only be exciting if Tom Coughlin accepted the head coaching job with the Eagles 1 hour before kickoff and coached Philly instead of the Giants, and then Odell Beckham headbutted Coughlin after an out-of-bounds play near his former head coach.
Washington at Dallas (-4)
The Pick: Dallas
The Score: Dallas 21, Washington 6
Washington rests everyone while Jason Garrett gets to use this game as evidence that his team never gave up despite a terrible season.
Also, I don’t know the mechanics of anything RG3 related right now in terms of him being on the active roster, etc, but shouldn’t Washington play him in this game as a final sendoff and a “thanks for the memories in 2012”? Oh, right. With their luck, he tears a knee ligament in the 3rd quarter and the Skins are on the hook for his huge salary in 2016. Nevermind.
Tennessee at Indianapolis (-6)
The Pick: Indianapolis
The Score: Indianapolis 17, Tennessee 7
I know there’s a good chance some guy that was on a different team’s practice squad just a week ago is starting at QB for Indy on Sunday, but I gotta go with the Colts because the Titans probably want to stay in position to pick 1st in the 2016 Draft pretty badly. More importantly, a meaningless 10-point win against the Titans in week 17 is a perfect recipe for the soon-to-be-fired Chuck Pagano to give a way too emotional postgame locker room speech that makes the entire country uncomfortable.
Jacksonville at Houston (-7)
The Pick: Houston
The Score: Houston 30, Jacksonville 21
A graduate from the University of Belichick, Bill O’Brien isn’t the type to scoreboard watch and pack it in during a meaningless second half after seeing that the Texans have officially clinched the AFC South.
Baltimore at Cincinnati (-9)
The Pick: Baltimore
The Score: Baltimore 24, Cincinnati 17
Going the exact opposite of the AFC South picks with the AFC North. Instead of both favorites who are still playing for something covering a pretty large spread, I like both underdogs in the North. Baltimore has been far better this year than their results, and I think they have fun making sure the Bengals don’t get a bye.
Pittsburgh (-11) at Cleveland
The Pick: Cleveland
The Score: Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 24
Johnny Manziel plays just well enough to end the season that the Browns stand pat at the QB position in the offseason. And then Manziel goes on a legendary bender next Labor Day weekend and we all say, “That’s so Cleveland.”
Oakland at Kansas City (-7.5)
The Pick: Oakland
The Score: Kansas City 23, Oakland 17
The AFC West is very tough to project this week. The Chiefs are certainly motivated to win this game since they still have a shot to capture the division title, but what happens if they see the Broncos are up by 20 in the 3rd quarter? Then the smart play would be for Andy Reid to pull Alex Smith, Jeremy Maclin and others because their position is effectively locked in.
San Diego at Denver (-9)
The Pick: San Diego
The Score: San Diego 26, Denver 16
Likewise, the Broncos are highly incentivized to win their final game because it would lock up at least the #2 seed in the AFC. If they lose and the Chiefs win, they could fall to the 6th seed. But what happens if the Broncos are up 14 late in the game and see the Chiefs are about to lose? They might go conservative and let the Chargers tack on a late, meaningless touchdown. Who knows?
I’m predicting the Chargers to win outright for one reason and one reason only…the Brock Osweiler vs Peyton Manning debate would get turned waaaaaay up if Osweiler loses and doesn’t look great on Sunday.
Tampa Bay at Carolina (-11)
The Pick: Carolina
The Score: Carolina 33, Tampa Bay 17
Remember all those things I just said about the AFC West games? It’s exactly the same for the battle for the #1 seed in the NFC. A Carolina win locks up the top spot, but if they scoreboard watch and see Arizona on the verge of losing anyway, the Panthers probably pull all their key players in the 4th quarter. But I’m going to assume the Cardinals will be winning and the Panthers will have to keep their foot on the gas.
Seattle at Arizona (-7)
The Pick: Arizona
The Score: Arizona 29, Seattle 14
Bruce Arians doesn’t care about what the Panthers are doing. Bruce Arians only cares about winning every game by as many points as possible.
St. Louis (-3.5) at San Francisco
The Pick: San Francisco
The Score: St. Louis 19, San Francisco 16
Feels like a 3-point win for someone.
Minnesota at Green Bay (-3.5)
The Pick: Minnesota
The Score: Green Bay 24, Minnesota 21
Also feels like a 3-point win for someone.
The weekly tally looks like this:
- 5 Favorites, 10 Underdogs, 1 PICK
- 4 Home Dogs, 6 Road Dogs
- 9 Home Teams, 7 Road Teams
- Season Record: 114-119-7 (8-8 in week 16)
Enjoy week 17. And in case it wasn’t clear in my intro, STAY THE EFF AWAY FROM THESE PICKS AND GAMBLING IN GENERAL THIS WEEK.