Week 17 Cheat Sheet
Week 16 gave us an embarrassing performance out of the Giants in
their last game played in Giants Stadium, a flurry of questionable
calls in Pittsburgh and clutch catches out of Jeremy Maclin and
Chad Ochocinco. The Jim Zorn Era hit another all-time low, Jay
Cutler played his best game as a Chicago Bear and the Colts, well,
you know what happened with them.
What’s Week 17 have in store for us? Let’s dig into the
Sunday 1 p.m. ET games
Indianapolis at Buffalo: Dating back to Nov. 9
last year, the Colts have won 11 consecutive regular-season road
games. But if we learned anything last week, Indy can give two
Colts about regular-season records. With all the starters resting
and the media bored with the story by Sunday, Indy falls to the
Bills in windy Buffalo.
The Pick: Bills 20, Colts 10
New Orleans at Carolina: Uh-oh. After 14 weeks of
gushing media love and an unblemished record, the Saints have lost
two bad ones in a row in their own building. With the top seed in
the NFC already locked up, the Saints won’t play another game
outdoors after Sunday until Miami. Miami? Oh yeah, the Super Bowl.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The Saints get back on
course and win an important one before the bye week.
The Pick: Saints 34, Panthers 24
Jacksonville at Cleveland: Everyone assumes this
is Eric Mangini’s last game in Cleveland, but don’t be so sure of
that. His Browns, a melting pot of undrafted free agents and
also-rans who have no egos and seem to just want to play, are now
winners of three straight. The Browns haven’t won four straight
since 1994. Maurice Jones-Drew leads the NFL with 16 total TDs (15
rush, one receiving) and needs two to surpass Fred Taylor (17 in
’98) for the most TDs in season in club history. With 91 rushing
yards, Jones-Drew (1,309) can surpass Taylor (1,399 in 2000) for
the second-most single-season rushing yards in Jacksonville
history. Look for Jones-Drew to achieve both career milestones and
for the Jags to finish the season on a (somewhat) high note with a
The Pick: Jaguars 34, Browns 14
Chicago at Detroit: Say what you want about my man
Jay Cutler, but he has 3,390 passing yards this season, the
second-most in a single season by a Bears quarterback. He also
looked pretty darn good on Monday night, connecting with All-Who’s
Earl Bennett and Devin Aromashodu in a 36-30 overtime win over the
Vikes. Look for Cutler to have a big day on Sunday, ending the
Bears season on a rare high note.
The Pick: Bears 31, Lions 17
New England at Houston: The Patriots will make
their first appearance at Reliant Stadium since their Super Bowl
XXXVIII victory over Carolina. Often remembered for Janet Jackson’s
breast, that Super Bowl also featured Tom Brady at his best. Andre
Johnson has been at his best the past few weeks. The All-Pro
receiver (1,504) needs 72 receiving yards to surpass his career
high of 1,575 in ’08. Johnson (95) needs just five receptions to
record back-to-back seasons with 100 catches. The Texans superstar
will get all that and more, locking up the Texans’ first season
The Pick: Texans 34, Patriots 30
Pittsburgh at Miami: The Steelers are 5-1 in
January regular-season games and have won three straight over the
Dolphins. Though it will likely end up being too little too late,
look for Big Ben to go 3-0 in his career against Miami. The
Steelers have three players (Hines Ward, 87; Santonio Holmes, 78;
Heath Miller, 71) with 70-plus catches for the first time in
franchise history. Look for each target — and rookie Mike
Wallace — to have good days.
The Pick: Steelers 24, Dolphins 17
New York Giants at Minnesota: Eli Manning needs
194 yards to set the Giants single-season passing yards record
(Kerry Collins, 4,073) and three touchdowns to join Y.A. Tittle as
the only Giants quarterbacks with 30-plus touchdown passes in a
season. Neither will happen on Sunday. The Vikings finished the ’08
regular season out with a home victory over New York. They’ll do
the same this weekend.
The Pick: Vikings 30, Giants 17
San Francisco at St. Louis: I’m not sure exactly
how the Keith Null Era of the Rams will be remembered. The
five-interception debut against the Titans? The near win over the
Texans? The heinous effort last week in Arizona? Or a bad home loss
this Sunday? Rams fans, cheer up. Ndamukong Suh will be yours in
April. And who knows — maybe a quarterback, too.
The Pick: 49ers 27, Rams 13
Atlanta at Tampa Bay: Matt Ryan has won five
December starts in a row, but he hasn’t seen anything like the
red-hot ’09 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And this isn’t December; it’s
January, baby. In all seriousness, Ryan has had his issues with the
Tampa D. The Bucs defense has four interceptions and has not
allowed a TD to Ryan, holding him to a career-low 43 passer rating.
Look for Raheem Morris’ boys to win their third straight game,
preventing the Falcons from posting back-to-back winning seasons
for the first time in franchise history.
The Pick: Buccaneers 23, Falcons 19
4 p.m. ET games
Green Bay at Arizona: There’s a good chance the
Packers play the Cardinals in the first round of the NFC playoffs
next weekend. Aaron Rodgers has 4,199 pass yards and is the first
player in NFL history to throw for 4,000-plus yards in each of his
first two seasons as starter. Rodgers has a 102.4 rating and can
join Bart Starr as the only Packers quarterbacks with a 100-plus
rating in a season. He also has 14 TDs, zero interceptions and a
135.1 rating on third down, tops in the NFL. Brett who?
The Pick: Cardinals 28, Packers 20
Kansas City at Denver: The past two times the
Broncos needed to win the final game of the season (’06 vs. the
Niners, ’08 vs. the Chargers), they lost. That won’t be the case
this weekend. The Broncos are 8-0 vs. the Chiefs all-time at
Invesco Field. They’ll get the W on Sunday. But will it be enough?
The Pick: Broncos 41, Chiefs 17
Baltimore at Oakland: On top of a playoff spot,
lots of Ravens records can be broken on Sunday. Joe Flacco has an
89.5 passer rating and can set the franchise record for a single
season (Vinny Testaverde, 88.7 in ’96) with a decent day in
Oakland. The Ravens (370) need 22 points to surpass the franchise
scoring record of 391 points in 2003. Flacco has the big day, the
Ravens score more than 22 points and they lock up a wild-card spot.
The Pick: Ravens 34, Raiders 10
Washington at San Diego: Norv Turner was Redskins
head coach from 1994 to 2000. On Sunday, he’ll be going against Jim
Zorn, Redskins coach from 2008 to 2009. The Chargers have 10
consecutive wins, the longest current streak in the NFL. The
Redskins, meanwhile, haven’t shown up for a game in three weeks.
There’s a solid chance they don’t score a point on Sunday.
The Pick: Chargers 28, Redskins 6
Tennessee at Seattle: As my man Ian Eagle put it
to me in an e-mail this week, this one should be billed “Chris
Johnson’s Quest for Immortality.” I like that. Since we’re in the
quoting mood, I’m going to cite Heidi from MTV’s
The Hills in saying Seattle is “dunzo.” Matt Hasselbeck’s
best days were three years ago, and the defense is an
embarrassment. Last week, I wrote that losing to one-loss Tampa at
home was the low point. That was before Seattle fell, 48-10, to the
Packers Sunday. Johnson becomes just the sixth player in NFL
history to reach 2,000 yards, and does it in the first half.
The Pick: Titans 42, Seahawks 17
Philadelphia at Dallas: This one is for all the
marbles. The winner takes the NFC East title and secures at least
one home game in the playoffs. The Eagles have won six in a row,
but Tony Romo is 3-0 when he tosses for 300-plus yards against
Philly. The Cowboys opened their new stadium with a loss to the
Giants in September. They’ll finish the regular season with a win
and a division title on Sunday. As for postseason success? Well,
that’s a whole other story. We’ll get to that next week.
The Pick: Cowboys 27, Eagles 23
Cincinnati at New York Jets: Can you find a team
with a less impressive starting quarterback than Mark Sanchez to
make the playoffs? The short list? Tarvaris Jackson and the ’08
Vikings, Rob Johnson and the ’99 Bills and Danny Kanell and the ’97
Giants. With the Bengals jockeying for playoff position, they
should be playing tough. Look for a desperate Jets team to come out
on top in front of a raucous home crowd on Sunday night.
The Pick: Jets 20, Bengals 16
Reader E-mail of the Week
Is it time to officially retire (a.k.a. throw out) my Jason
Campbell Redskins jersey? — Doug, Chevy Chase,
I’d say so. Put it in the very same closet you have your
Heath Shuler, Cary Conklin, John Friesz, Jeff Hostetler, Tony
Banks, Jeff George, Shane Mathews, Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel
and Tim Hasselbeck jerseys. If all works out, you’ll be donning a
Sam Bradford sweater next fall.