The regular season ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, both on the gridiron and here at FR’s West Coast Headquarters. The NFC East playoff battle was actually decided on the field, with the Giants winning big over the Cowboys on Sunday Night, but the other open playoff spots were lawyered into by teams that lost, the Bengals and the Broncos respectively. The NFL Picks battle ended with a .500 week and two pushes, so I basically lawyered my way to an over-.500 record for the season. Not bad, but not great, either.
All of that is of little consequence now, though, because coming up is the first week of the playoffs, and we all like us some playoff football, don’t we? FR Nathan’s Lions and FR Tyler’s Bengals both are in the “twelve-team tournament” or the “second season” or “the dance” or whatever cliched phrase you’d prefer to use instead of just saying “the playoffs.” My Rams did not make it, obviously, but they have fired their coach and GM, so at least something good came from their 2-14 season.
So, on with the picks, shall we? Let’s shall.
For a team that will win big this week.
(Note: All point spreads listed here are the lines at the time bets were made. Be sure to consult your very legitimate and legal sports book [cough] before making a bet of your own; lines move constantly due to the action on particular games. Also, gambling is illegal in many states. And watch out for those offshore betting sites, lest you end up like an online poker professional. Okay? Okay. Onward and upward.)
Week 17 Record: 7-7-2
Regular Season Record: 126-119-11
Saturday Early Game (1/7 1:30PM ET)
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-3)
The Bengals are one of the teams that backed into the playoffs last week, losing to the Ravens but still winding up with the fifth seed and a Wild Card berth. The Texans clinched what seems like decades ago, and come into the playoffs with Andre Johnson finally supposedly healthy again, but starting T.J. Yates, third string at the beginning of the season, starting at quarterback. With the first two QBs, Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, both injured, did you know that the current third-stringer on the Texans roster is Jeff Garcia? That’s right, Jeff Garcia. Second string is Jake Delhomme. Yates played well at first, but regressed and eventually looked like a third string quarterback, but the Texans have the best one-two punch in the running game (Arian Foster and Ben Tate). Still, I think this is the greatest chance for an upset this weekend, and so I’m taking Andy “The Red Rifle” Dalton and the Bengals.
My Pick: Bengals (+3)
Saturday Late Game (1/7 8PM ET)
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints (-11)
This is going to be a shootout: Two dome teams with great offenses and lackluster defenses, playing indoors, in primetime. While Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have both had fantastic seasons, Drew Brees is looking mighty unstoppable. The Lions’ penchant for penalties, and the fact that they haven’t been in this situation before, favors Brees and his bros big time at home, where they just don’t lose.
My Pick: Saints (-11)
Sunday Early Game (1/8 1PM ET)
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants (-3)
Last year, the Falcons lost to the hot Packers as they blazed their trail to the Super Bowl. The Giants feel closest to that level of heat and turning it on at the right time (other than the Saints, of course). Nothing about the Falcons is exciting, and that might be what leads me to underestimate them, but I still think the Giants will take this one at home.
My Pick: Giants (-3)
Sunday Late Game (1/8 4:30PM ET)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (+8)
If it really were a good vs. evil storyline, there really couldn’t be a better matchup than the clean-cut, God-fearing Tebow against Ben “Not Formally Accused of Being a Rapist but Probably at the Very Least a Big Scumbag” Roethlisberger. Things don’t tend to work out that way, though—many of the guys on the Soviet Red Army team that the US beat in Olympic hockey in 1980 came to the NHL and proved to be decent dudes; the 2001 Patriots who seemed like the lovable underdogs when they beat the Greatest Show on Turf Rams turned into one of the grossest dynasties of the 2000s and cheated in more ways than one to win; depending upon your viewpoint, Tim Tebow may be far more dangerous to the world than Ben Roethlisberger because of his connection to Focus on the Family and because he’s a very charismatic young guy who people want to be like who also likely believes at one point humans rode dinosaurs, Flintstone-style; and maybe Ben Roethlisberger is truly innocent of all the bad things he was rumored to have done. None of that really matters, though, because the Broncos are not as good as the Steelers at football.
My Pick: Steelers (-8)
Hopefully I do a little better in the playoffs than I did in the regular season, but, even though I’m a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on it. Except, I would. Check you all next week.