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

Cheat Sheet.

 

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

win.

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

above .500.

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?

Keep reading!

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

 

Sunday night

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

Peter,

Is it time to officially retire (a.k.a. throw out) my Jason

Campbell Redskins jersey? — Doug, Chevy Chase,

Maryland

Doug,

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.