Pigskin Pick’Em: Final week brings uncertainty

  • By Nolan Rose
  • Saturday, December 27, 2014 11:57pm
  • Sports

The Sultan of Sides hoped to find a winning week under the Christmas tree, but found a big box of average instead. An 8-8 effort last week moves our season record to 127-109-4. The column still sits at a positive 54% mark with only sixteen games remaining. Some of you may be wondering, “How does that translate to dollars”? Let me tell you, had the loyal Peninsula Clarion faithful wagered $110 on every single NFL game this season, using this column as your pigskin compass, you would have won $710 through the first 16 weeks (assuming a 10% juice on all contests). Not enough to take the family on a Hawaiian vacation, but close enough to buy a shiny new TV to watch this year’s Super Bowl.

Of course, with a great week 17, we could ensure that TV was a plasma screen and add an inch or two for our viewing pleasure. Admittedly though, the final week of the year is always the hardest to predict. Will teams eliminated from the playoffs lose on purpose for draft considerations? Will teams that have already clinched their playoff seed rest starters? Will Peyton Manning show more signs of rapid aging?

Cleveland Browns @
BALTIMORE RAVENS -10

The Cleveland Browns waited longer than usual to remember that they’re still the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland sported a flattering 7-4 mark after 11 games, but in typical Browns fashion the club hasn’t won a game since. Adding insult to fandom, the Johnny Manziel experiment quickly exploded with the ferocity of an atom bomb. Both Manziel and season opening starter Brian Hoyer will be sidelined this week with injuries, leaving untested practice squad rookie Conner Shaw under center. Baltimore needs a victory over the Browns and a San Diego Chargers loss to qualify for the postseason. After last week’s meltdown in Houston I’m not sure the Ravens deserve to get in. Ravens win 20-9

DALLAS COWBOYS @
Washington Redskins +6

Dallas needs a miracle to capture the number one seed in the NFC playoffs (a Green Bay-Detroit tie is part of the equation). The most likely outcome will leave the Cowboys with the three seed and home field advantage for the Wild Card round. I’m not sure what’s more offensive to Native American groups, the Redskins name or the team’s play on the field. Can somebody please end the Robert Griffin trial period? I’m certain Dallas will look to bench Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray at some point if the opportunity arises, but in a battle of Cowboys and Indians, history tells us to favor the Cowboy. Cowboys win 34-17

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @
Tennessee Titans +7

If the struggling Colts were facing anyone other than the Titans I would fade the horseshoe. Andrew Luck has mysteriously evolved into a turnover machine in the second half of the season. Undoubtedly, a completely non-existent rushing attacked has aided Luck’s struggles, but the decline in play still has to have a sobering effect on the franchises ownership (did you catch what I did there?). The Titans are awful. I’m not certain the Soldotna Stars football team couldn’t beat these jokers. Colts win 30-17

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @
Houston Texans -9.5

The Jungle kittens, led by the motivational mastermind Gus Bradley, have turned into a scrappy bunch late in the year. Fresh off a 21-13 dismantling of the aforementioned Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville will look to end their season on a two game winning streak and capture their first road victory in over two seasons when they visit the Houston Texans this Sunday. Houston has J.J. Watt. Watt eats Jungle Kittens for breakfast. Jacksonville doesn’t have the chops to pull off the upset, but I expect this contest to remain competitive. Texans win 21-14

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS @
Kansas City Chiefs -3

I would favor the home side in a game San Diego has to win to make the postseason, but the Chiefs will be without starting quarterback Alex Smith. Smith is out with a lacerated spleen. Ouch! It’s hard to imagine the Chargers blowing this opportunity facing second-stringer Chase Daniel. San Diego’s passer, Philip Rivers, has been nursing injuries of his own, but that didn’t prevent the veteran from rallying his team to an improbable victory over the San Francisco 49ers a week ago. For the Lightning Bolts it’s simple, win and you’re in. Chargers win 24-13

NEW YORK JETS @
Miami Dolphins -6

I vowed never to side with the New York Jets again so long as Rex Ryan was still coaching the team. I’m going to break that vow. The Jets played New England extremely tough last Sunday and nearly pulled off the upset. I think the Jets will go down swinging knowing this will be Ryan’s final contest. For whatever reason, Jets players seem to like the guy. Canned Tuna quarterback Ryan Tannehill was excellent last week rallying the Dolphins to victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings, but the next time Tannehill plays two good games in a row will be the first. Jets win 20-19

Chicago Bears @
MINNESOTA VIKINGS -6

Both of these stalwarts of the black and blue division have been eliminated from the playoffs, but the vibe surrounding the teams couldn’t be more different. Chicago benched overpaid passer Jay Cutler last week for the infamous Jimmy Clausen, and the former golden-domer didn’t survive the week. Clausen will miss this week’s contest with a brain injury. The Bears will turn back to Cutler in hopes of… Well, I’m not really sure what the Bears are hoping for. The Vikings carry a defense with a pulse and a young passer that appears to be improving every week. That’s enough to leave the Bears in hibernation. Vikings win 30-17

Buffalo Bills @
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS -5

The Brady Bunch can lock up the AFC’s number one seed with a victory over their rival Buffalo Bills this Sunday. Is there any reason to suspect a surprising outcome? The upstart Bills have been eliminated from the playoffs after falling to the Oakland Raiders last Sunday. It’s hard to imagine a team coming off that level of disappointment playing a competitive game in Foxboro a week later. A Patriots win will force Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to visit wintery New England in the playoffs. That’s all the motivation Tom Brady will need for a sterling performance. Patriots win 35-13

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ New York Giants -3

Everyone expects the newly eliminated Philadelphia Eagles to not show up this Sunday in New York. After all, the Eagles have nothing to play for, but what exactly do the Giants have riding on this contest that’s so important? Odell Beckham has been a revelation for the Fighting Blueberries, but that defense is so bad even Mark Sanchez will look like a starting quarterback in the NFL. Expect the Eagles to reach 10 wins and fail to make the playoffs while a crappy team from the NFC South hosts a Wild Card game. Eagles win 28-21

New Orleans Saints @
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS +4

I finally ended the Bayou curse last week when I sided with the visiting Atlanta Falcons and got a cover over New Orleans, but I still don’t have any faith in my ability to pick Saints games so proceed with caution. If Tampa Bay had any brains at all they would lose this game on purpose and hope to gain the number one pick in next year’s draft (Marcus Mariota). Sadly, doing the smart thing would be a very un-Bucs thing to do. Bucs win 30-28

Carolina Panthers @
ATLANTA FALCONS -4

The powderpuff division comes down to this! The mighty 6-8-1 Carolina Panthers visit Atlanta to face the intimidating 6-9 Falcons. The winner earns the right to host a real life NFL playoff game. No I’m not kidding. Everyone’s favorite, the Seattle Seahawks, benefited from a scenario similar to this in Pete Carroll’s first season. The 7-9 Seahawks ended up defeating the 11-5 New Orleans Saints in a thrilling contest that featured one of the greatest runs in NFL playoff history. Despite Seattle’s success in that game, the non-biased part of me thought that Seattle hosting a postseason game with a losing record was sour. I still feel that way. Falcons win because somebody has to 33-21.

DETROIT LIONS @
Green Bay Packers -8

The loser of this contest, featuring a pair of 11-4 teams vying for the NFC North Division title, may very well have to travel to Carolina or Atlanta next week to play a road playoff game, because that makes sense. With so much at stake, windy and frigid Lambeau won’t lend itself to a high scoring affair. I don’t think Detroit is good enough to capture the division title in Green Bay, but it should be a game decided in the final minutes. Packers win 28-24

Oakland Raiders @
DENVER BRONCOS -14

The inevitable Peyton Manning postseason collapse is fast approaching! Manning has shown chinks in his armor in recent weeks. Surely, the increasingly cold weather has aided Manning’s regression. While the weather is unlikely to warm up, the Oakland Raiders should be a much more hospitable opponent for the greatest passing AARP member of all time. The Raiders have been competitive late in the year, but this is a game the Raiders really need to lose. Broncos win 35-9

Arizona Cardinals @
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS -6

The Desert Bats late season swoon continued last week when the Cardinals were crushed 35-6 by the Seattle Seahawks. Arizona, a team with championship aspirations just a few weeks ago, needs a win to avoid falling all the way to the sixth seed in the NFC. For the 49ers, this contest marks the end of an era. Insane, but excellent football coach, Jim Harbaugh will likely be fired at season’s end. As a Seahawks fan I have to admit that I’m saddened by this reality. Hating Harbaugh was fun and there’s no denying the Seattle/San Francisco rivalry won’t be the same without the embattled 49ers coach. I’m about to do something I never thought I’d do. I’m rooting for the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh to get a win. 49ers win 27-10

St. Louis Rams @
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS -12.5

I expect Seattle to come out a little tight knowing that a win equals home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but ultimately the hottest team in the NFL will pull away from a bewildered Rams team. Things are officially feeling like they did a year ago. That’s scary news for the rest of the NFL. Seahawks win 21-3

CINCINNATI BENGALS @
Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5

What a fun matchup to end the NFL regular season with! The Bengals visit the Steelers with the AFC North Division title up for grabs. Pittsburgh seems to be the trendy pick as a sleeper in the AFC, but I’m going the other way and siding with a Bengals team that finally got the prime time monkey off their back with a win over Denver last Sunday. Cincinnati has the type of run game that gives Pittsburgh fits. If the Bengals can control the clock and keep Big Ben Roethlisberger off the field expect Cincinnati to pull off the upset. Either way this game should be decided by a late field goal. Bengals win 27-24.

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