Thursday, December 28, 2006

Betcha Bottom Dollar: NFL Week 17

Oh joy, Week 17.

Instead of making witty bonmots and loving tributes to James Brown, Gerald Ford and John Edwards, I get to spend this week's picks telling you the story behind the story.

What teams have something to play for? What has to happen for Team A to make it into the playoffs? Who will be starting their best players? How many teams have to tank for the Falcons to make it into the playoffs?

The answer to that last question is clear, by the way: A lot. OK, even clearer: four.

This NFL season, however, has been so putrid that Atlanta actually still has a shot - if Carolina, Green Bay and the New York Giants all lose, and the Falcons somehow go to Philadelphia and win, Michael Vick and Co. have a date with destiny. Or maybe the Bears.

NY Giants (-2 1/2) @ Washington. The 7-8 Giants can lose and still make it to the playoffs - that's unbelievable. Sure, it's a longshot - it would require losses by St. Louis, Atlanta, Green Bay and Carolina - but still, the thought of a 7-9 team in the playoffs is absurd. Meanwhile, in Washington, Ladell Betts will continue his very unheralded streak of 100+ yard games (five and counting) and help lead the 'Skins to a win. PICK: Washington

Buffalo @ Baltimore (-9). The Ravens clinch a first round bye and possibly home field advantage with a win - so expect them to make buffalo burgers out of the Bills. (See what I did there?). PICK: Baltimore

Green Bay @ Chicago (-2 1/2). Chicago ain't playin' for a thing, Green Bay is - but it don't matter a bit. Chicago's backup QB (Brian Griese) is probably better than the starter (Sexy Rexy). PICK: Chicago

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati (-6). Upset special: Pittsburgh is going to absolutely relish knocking the Bengals out of playoff contention. Bill Cowher wants to leave the Steelers for his new coaching job in Atlanta with a win. (Or did I dream that press conference?). PICK: Pittsburgh

Detroit @ Dallas (-12 1/2). The Cowboys are going to be huge Falcons fans on Sunday, as their win plus an Eagles loss clinches the division for them. The first part is going to be easier. (And thankfully I got through a pick without using parenthes ... dammit!). PICK: Dallas

Cleveland @ Houston (-4). This is one of the few games that means absolutely nothing. So let me take this moment to recommend Rocky Balboa to you. I saw it last week, and - oh, I've already talked about this? Incessantly? Obnoxiously? Rocky! Rocky! Rocky! PICK: Cleveland

Miami @ Indianapolis (-7 1/2). The Colts - or rather, The Team That's Destined To Make An Early Playoff Exit - can clinch a first round bye with a win and a Baltimore loss. And since we already covered Baltimore's win up there a bit, maybe that "early playoff exit" will be really freakin' early. PICK: Miami

Jacksonville @ Kansas City (-2 1/2).
Both of these teams need wins and a lot of help to make the playoffs. I mean, a lot of help. Basically, chalk this contest up to just as important as Cleveland/Houston - which sucks, because I would love to see what the Jags could do in the postseason. PICK: Jacksonville

St. Louis (-2) @ Minnesota.
St. Louis is another team that technically has something to play for, but is basically out. I mean, how can you be confidant when you have to rely on beating the Vikings, and the Giants, Panthers and Falcons all losing? Oh, and you suck? PICK: St. Louis

Carolina (-3) @ New Orleans. So far, it looks OK for the Falcons - a Giants loss, a Packers loss - but hold on there, kitten. The Panthers are pretty awful, but New Orleans is playing for absolutely nothing, so don't expect to see heavy doses of Drew Brees, Reggie Bush or Marques Colston. Who's the Saints backup QB, you ask? Jamie "Big Game" Martin. Sorry, Falcs. PICK: Carolina

Oakland @ NY Jets (-11 1/2). The Jets win and they're in. They're in. PICK: NY Jets

Atlanta @ Philadelphia (-6 1/2). I really, really wish the Eagles had nothing to play for. Instead, they have to beat Atlanta to win the division (or hope for a Cowboy loss to the Lions, which ain't happening). I'm hoping Jeff Garcia will realize it's the new millennium and calm down a bit, but that would only help if the Falcons could actually score. PICK: Philadelphia

Seattle @ Tampa Bay (-3 1/2). Seattle has made the playoffs, and can achieve nothing further with a win. So get ready for that QB matchup we've been anticipating for decades: Seneca Wallace vs. Tim Rattay! I just hope Seattle third-stringer David Greene (UGA, what, what!) gets some snaps. PICK: Seattle

New England @ Tennessee (-3).
The worst Patriots team in years has still clinched their division, and are playing for nothing - while the Titans are still a longshot for a playoff spot. With only a win here and a Cincinnati loss and a Denver loss and a Kansas City win - Vince Young to the Super Bowl, baby! PICK: Tennessee

San Francisco @ Denver (-10 1/2).
Denver wins, and they're in. So they're - woah, hold on there, little doggy. Ten-plus point spread or no, I'm laying the gauntlet here. In my best (worst) Dick Vitale voice, "UPSET SPECIAL, BABY!" The 49ers not only cover, they go to Colorado and win out fuckin' right. And man, I hope it helps clear a path for the Titans. PICK: San Francisco

Arizona @ San Diego (-14). The Chargers clinch home field advantage with a win, which means the starters will play until they're up by three touchdowns or so. Expect the ball to be handed to backup QB Billy Volek, then, around 12:00 in the first quarter. PICK: San Diego

Last week: 8-8
Overall: 85-78-3
Fake wagering total ($50 on every game, 10% juice on losses): minus $40

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