Last Week: 9-7
Overall: 152-87-1

Panthers @ Falcons

This week is all about what teams have something to play for and what teams have no incentive whatsoever. Sure, there’s pride and all that. But as Marsellus Wallace wisely states in Pulp Fiction: “The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.” Atlanta stands to gain nothing from a win while Carolina needs to continue to build momentum heading into the playoffs as perhaps the hottest team in the NFC—aside from the Cardinals, who beat the Panthers this season and still probably won’t make the playoffs.

Win: Carolina Panthers

Ravens @ Bengals

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most mediocre playoff team of them all? No one knows what to expect from either the Ravens or Bengals. Both of their seasons have been wildly inconsistent yet consistently mediocre. Ray Rice finally revealed he’s been playing hurt this year, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise as the Ravens have heavily relied on Joe Flacco—displaying all the reasons why he isn’t an elite quarterback. Luckily, Cincinnati isn’t positioned any better with Andy Dalton’s up and down play. Baltimore gets the benefit of the doubt defending their Super Bowl title because no one can trust a ginger.

Win: Baltimore Ravens

Texans @ Titans

Can they just play this game on Madden? I’m sure the players wouldn’t mind. Houston is holding off on naming a starting QB until game-time—as if it matters. The entire Texans team is as doughy and soft as their defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Remember when the Houston Texans weren’t interested in Peyton Manning when he entered the open market? Yeah, that worked out well. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans put pride aside and went all in to try to sign Peyton, but they just weren’t good enough. But if Houston said yes, I don’t think there’s any question that the Texans would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the second straight season. It was a marriage waiting to be consummated.

Now the Texans are just plain fucked.

Win: Tennessee Titans

Jaguars @ Colts

This game doesn’t matter for either team this year, but it’s slightly more important for the Jaguars since they’re looking to build something under new coach Gus Bradley. As I said last week, the Colts play up to and down to their competition so it wasn’t a complete shock to see Indianapolis upset Kansas City last week. In fact, I’d be more shocked if they beat the Jaguars this week without any real incentive. It’ll be a close game, but Chad Henne is competent enough to guide Jacksonville to a close victory.

Win: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jets @ Dolphins

Rex Ryan has apparently saved his job by salvaging a lost season with a rookie QB. Unfortunately, I’ll have to look at his still fat face on the sidelines. While the Jets may have more potential room for growth than the Dolphins next year, it only matters if the team can reach that potential and Rex Ryan has proved he’ll produce a below-average offense year after year. Miami torched the Jets secondary and Ed Reed’s corpse in their last match-up so look for 60 Minutes to get loose again despite New York finally realizing they need to protect Reed in coverage. Hopefully last week’s goose egg against Buffalo was just a hiccup.

Win: Miami Dolphins

Lions @ Vikings

There’s no reason whatsoever for Jim Schwartz to be the Lions head coach next year. Detroit has underachieved while being severely undisciplined under Schwartz’s tenure. If the Lions players know what’s good for them, then they’ll tank in another embarrassing loss. Matthew Stafford needs to make the leap to the next level in order for the Lions to be anything other than a perennial disappointment. Minnesota is working with a skeleton crew, but still playing hard. That’s more than can be said for Detroit.

Win: Minnesota Vikings

Redskins @ Giants

Somehow, the Giants found a way to upset the Detroit Lions last week. Kirk Cousins could go off on New York’s woeful secondary and the Giants have also failed to consistently rush the passer. Look for a possible Matt Flynn-esque performance that could be parlayed by Cousins into a starting gig for a desperate franchise. Although the Giants didn’t pack up and vacate the field last week, they have no reason to show up against the Redskins in this match-up.

Win: Washington Redskins

Browns @ Steelers

Cleveland is so artfully apt at sucking. With nothing to play for (but a lot to lose for), the Browns will put forth a quality effort and still lose by a touchdown to the Steelers this week. I would love to hit the rewind button on this NFL season and see how everything would have played out if Brian Hoyer were healthy. But Cleveland won’t have Hoyer available in this game, and Pittsburgh actually has a slight glimmer of hope to make the playoffs with a win. In the last week of a long season, incentive makes all the difference.

Win: Pittsburgh Steelers

Packers @ Bears

Finally, Aaron Rodgers has returned. This should be the best game of the day that’s relegated to the afternoon after the NFL mistakenly sided with another potential Tony Romo faceplant in the late game. Smokin’ Jay reverted to his old tricks and poor body language last week, but this is his biggest game in a Bears uniform. I pushed all my chips into Cutler’s basket in Fantasy Football, but I think the outcome of this match-up hinges on whether or not Rodgers can finish the game healthy. If so, Cutler will struggle to keep pace with how much the Packers can post points on the scoreboard.

Win: Green Bay Packers

Broncos @ Raiders

Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Reclaiming the single season TD record doesn’t make him the greatest. The same can be said if he also claims the single season yardage record. Denver would be nothing without Manning. Honestly, you’re looking at a 6-win team at best with an above-average quarterback because the Broncos defense is just that bad. Manning masks all those issues and raises expectations with his greatness, which only places more pressure on Peyton. It’s Super Bowl or bust.

Win: Denver Broncos

Bills @ Patriots

Buffalo may have surprised the Miami Dolphins last week, but Belicheat always has the Patriots ready to play. This will be a fine tune-up for New England with a few opportunities to showcase what they can do in the playoffs. As with Denver, the Patriots will go as far as their defense allows. The Patriots have lost more playmakers than the Broncos, but New England has more talent and depth to cover up those faults. Expect this match-up to be a nice walkthrough for New England.

Win: New England Patriots

Buccaneers @ Saints

The Arizona Cardinals need the Buccaneers to show up and upset the Saints at home in order for the Cardinals to make the playoffs over New Orleans. I don’t see that happening. Tampa Bay is playing with a rookie QB in Mike Glennon, which is like fighting with a hand tied behind your back. This may very well be the final stand for Schiano as a loss could cement his firing—also opening the door for a potential college return, this time at Penn State. The Saints don’t lose at home so it’s an uphill battle for the Buccaneers to try to save Schiano’s job against New Orleans.

Win: New Orleans Saints

49ers @ Cardinals

Arizona will surely be scoreboard watching while playing against San Francisco this week. While the Cardinals surprised the nation by upsetting the Seahawks in Seattle, don’t expect another miracle to happen again. The 49ers have the perpetual inspirational speech machine in Jim Harbaugh so you know San Francisco will be motivated to make a statement against the hottest team in football. I’m expecting more interceptions from Carson Palmer while the Cardinals struggle to stay competitive.

Win: San Francisco 49ers

Chiefs @ Chargers

Kansas City is locked into their playoff seed, and Andy Reid has already declared that the Chiefs will rest their starters. That’s all you need to hear. San Diego will look to get healthy in terms of scoring points by moving the ball up the field against a cast of back-ups. Whether or not this will play out well for Kansas City is a different story altogether in the playoffs.

Win: San Diego Chargers

Rams @ Seahawks

Last week’s upset at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals was the best thing for the Seahawks. Seattle needs to know they are not invincible and that home-field advantage doesn’t win a game outright. Although St. Louis has been surprisingly spry against above-average competition, Seattle’s need for revenge supersedes the level of talent on the Rams roster. The Rams will be in a prime position to be a potential playoff team next year if they draft well and take advantage of the Redskins’ awful season with their high draft pick.

Win: Seattle Seahawks

Eagles @ Cowboys

Neckbeard

What’s that noise? Wait, that’s Kyle Orton’s music! Even though Tony Romo is incapacitated due to back surgery, the Cowboys offense should be able to post 21+ points on offense with The Neckbeard at the helm. Between the 20’s has never been Orton’s problem, but his difficulty in the red zone has been well-documented. Everything here says that the Eagles will win this handily. But in the final game of a crazy NFL season, I have a feeling that a monumental upset could be in the works. At least I want to believe. Kyle Orton gives me hope. If Philadelphia wins, then they just did what was expected. But if the Cowboys win, it’s an explosion of disbelief that creates more sports radio fodder regarding Tony Romo.

Win: Dallas Cowboys

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