NFL Week Seventeen Preview

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by Ryan Meehan

The final week of the regular season is finally upon us.  For some teams there are playoff seeds to be arranged, and for others draft picks that will be dependent on assorted tank jobs that will take place on Sunday afternoon.  From time to time here at FOH we take shots at Commissioner Goddell and the NFL higher-ups for some of the poor decisions that they have made over the years.  To be fair, I need to do a better job of giving credit where credit is due.  So I have to say that the way the NFL has arranged these games so that the divisional match-ups occur the final week of the season is brilliant.  The fans wanted it, the teams wanted it, and overall it’s just better for the league.  So props to the NFL suits who were able to arrange every single game this week being a divisional match-up.  It’s a great setup and makes for excellent television.  Don’t get me wrong…they’re not all winners.  Twenty of the teams who play on Sunday will not advance to the postseason, and as we cue the fat lady for them we also take a look at who will advance in our final regular season wrap-up of 2014.

Buffalo Bills (8-7) +3.5 at New England Patriots (12-3)  (44)
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The Buffalo Bills seemingly had the world on a string last week.  They were 8-6 heading in with the possibility of a double digit winning season still a longshot, but with the way that defense had been playing a week seventeen win in this game was hardly unattainable.  But they lost to the Raiders and all bets were off after that.  New England struggled last week at the Jets but snuck out of there with a victory by one measly point.  The Jets always play them tough, but let’s get real Tom Brady was not Joe Montana on Sunday.  Nevertheless, they’ve won ten out of their last eleven games and may not lose the rest of the year.  If you told me right now they would play the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, I would have very little interest in the AFC playoffs altogether.  They’re that good, and for certain there is going to be a lot of confusion with regards to how the two teams they play in that tourney are going to handle them.  The easy pick here is to say that New England will have a field day since this environment will be so difficult for Buffalo to succeed in, but I do believe that at times they will struggle.  I still like the Pats to cover, but they won’t be scoring 43 points in this one.  Take the under.
Patriots 24, Bills 16        
Cleveland Browns (7-8) +10 at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)   (42.5)
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To tell you how disappointing the second half of the Cleveland Browns’ 2014 NFL season has been, I could remind you that they are ranked last in the league at stopping the run.  I could have Coach Ryan make his long-awaited return to FOH and just have him vent his frustration, then post a video of a mariachi band so you’d have annoying music to listen to while you read it.  Or I could simply recant the numerous quarterbacking struggles that have essentially cost the Browns what looked like a very good season.  Instead, I’ll share with you a fun fact that you may have missed this week.  The Browns are having such complicated quarterbacking problems that they actually extended an offer to Rex Grossman and he said no.  I like the Browns, but how is that not the most hilarious thing you’ve ever read in your life?  Is Rex Fucking Grossman actually holding out for a better team to come calling?  Has Arizona already signed him and I completely missed it?  Get the fuck out of here.  If that’s not a huge red flag that your football team may be in trouble, I don’t know what is.  Things haven’t been much better for the Ravens, who ranked right up there with Philadelphia when it came to blowing golden opportunities and other things not working out last week.  Joe Flacco was invisible in the first half of that game, and they are going to need a miracle to end up a six seed.  To put that into perspective for a second, every single scenario where the Ravens can get in involves the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Chargers.  But when you lose games like the Ravens did last week and you’re in a division such as this year’s AFC North, you don’t control your own destiny and your fate depends on dumb shit like that.  I like the Ravens to fall just short of the line, but that’s why other sites have this game listed as low as plus 8.5.  Point total too close to call, but if I had to lean one way I’d say under.
Ravens 25, Browns 16     
Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) +4 at Atlanta Falcons (6-9)   (47.5)
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This is for all of the marbles.  But much like that once popular child’s game, the kind of football played in the NFC South has become obsolete while the rest of the league has eclipsed it.  Teams like New England and Seattle have become the iPad that your friend has bought for his six year old daughter, while the NFC South sits there realizing that marbles are only fun when you put them in a sock and use them to beat juggalos so they don’t reproduce.  So I’ll just say things that I hate about both of these teams, and whoever I hate less is who I will pick.  Carolina went for a period of exactly two calendar months where they didn’t win a single game, but because this division is so awful after winning three straight they are right back in the thick of things.  For the record, the three teams that they beat were New Orleans, Cleveland, and Tampa so it’s not like they have risen from the dead or anything.  Atlanta has the worst secondary in the league, and gets torched to the tune of 291 yards a game.  Keep in mind, they are in a division where they play the Buccaneers twice a year and that makes that stat hurt even worse.  So it kills me to say that I like the Falcons in this one, which is a weird thing for me to say because I can’t stand that team and what this division has become.  Atlanta covers and this stays way under the point total.
Falcons 23, Panthers 16    
Chicago Bears (5-10) +7 at Minnesota Vikings (6-9)   (44)
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Neither of these teams will finish the year with a winning record, but these teams still hate each other so there will be a lot of fire here.  The Bears are facing all sorts of questions regarding the future of their franchise heading into this one, and it’s unclear who will be gone and who will stay.  Cutler is horrid, but it’s going to be so hard to get someone to pay for the remainder of his contract so if he stays I’m not going to be shocked.  Head Coach and Bill gates lookalike Marc Trestman on the other hand better not be in the bed when that franchise wakes up Monday morning.  He’s done a terrible job of managing a lot of average or below average players, and Cutler’s two prime targets (Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall) have suggested everything just short of his firing in interviews.  Long story short, nobody is listening to him because it’s a pro sports team.  You can’t have 53 guys who used to steal the nerd’s lunch money taking orders from said nerd.  It’s never worked, and it never will.  Minnesota is trying to build a winner in the Twin Cities, and it appears as if they have found one in Teddy Bridgewater.  He’s being heralded as a good pickup for anyone whose fantasy league will hold its championship this week, so that speaks volumes about how people trust Chicago’s defense.  The line on this game is a little excessive at a touchdown but I like the Vikings to cover because Chicago is a set of broken men.  If Jared Allen loses any more weight that whole situation is going to be depressing on a level we may not currently be able to understand.
Vikings 23, Bears 14    
Dallas Cowboys (11-4) -7 at Washington Redskins (4-11)   (49.5)
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Sometimes mirror image records are very telling, and this is a very clear example of that.  The Redskins have had a rough year:  Their coach is a blithering moron, their owner probably plays in a sandbox, and Robert Griffin the Third has become almost unusable in every clutch situation.  You know I feel sorry for?  The Malaysian kid who sews the numbers on his jerseys.  Could you imagine life being so bad that the best aspect of your otherwise miserable life turned out to be a lie?  That young man’s soul went to be with the Lord the second he put all of his clothes in one garbage bag.  Anyhoo Washington somehow took out the Eagles last week, and I hate everything in that sentence fragment.  The Cowboys on the other hand are looking like the team Jerry Jones has thought they were all these years.  They are great on the ground due to the amazing year DeMarco Murray, and Tony Romo has finally figured out how his skill set can be really successful with the help of Dez Bryant.  I don’t like them as a deep playoff threat – which I’ll discuss more in the playoff preview piece – but here they win.  This is going to seem strange given their play last week, but although I like Dallas in this one I can’t see them covering.  Also the point total seems high because the Redskins are all sorts of terrible on offense this year.
Cowboys 24, Redskins 20     
Detroit Lions (11-4) +9 at Green Bay Packers (11-4)  (48)
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A lot of people were wondering why in the world a game like this wouldn’t be the primetime match-up, so let me just get that out of the way first.  Both of these teams are going to the playoffs.  The NFC is set, it’s just a matter of seeding so I completely understand why they chose CIN/PIT to be the night game.  Additionally, fans of these two teams need to understand that by not having this at the primetime game both squads will get an extra four hours to nurse their wounds before Wild Card weekend begins.  The Lions won the first match-up this year at home, prompting Aaron Rodgers’ now famous “relax” comments.  The Lions have a staunch defense.  They can come at you from all angles, but if there is anybody who can decode their gameplan it’s going to be #12.  The Packers enter this game having won six out of their last seven, and they seem to have bounced back from the Buffalo loss a couple of weeks ago pretty well.  The Lions should be able to contain Eddie Lacy, as they are surrendering less than 64 yards per game on the ground.  That’s brutal as hell but I like the Packers at home in this one and I do believe they cover, although this line is way high.
Packers 29, Lions 19     
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) +10.5 at Houston Texans (8-7)  (40.5)
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The Texans looked really solid in a home win against the Ravens last week, and they are going to end up being one of the better teams that won’t be in the postseason this year.  The only scenarios where they can get in are so far-fetched they aren’t really possible, so it looks as if JJ Watt will be watching the playoffs from his home again this year.  It’s been a long year for the Jaguars, who probably don’t want to see their 2014 Facebook movie.  Their two leading receivers haven’t even combined for 100 receptions, and they aren’t ranked 19th or higher in any of the main categories.  Houston on the other hand has been running the ball really well as of late, with Arian Foster having a quietly accomplished season to say the very least.  I want to pick Jacksonville here as an upset, but I just can’t bring my self to do it because they are so bad.  I like Houston to win and cover the spread, and the point total is too close to call.
Texans 27, Jaguars 14    
Indianapolis Colts (2-13) -7.5 at Tennessee Titans (10-5)   (46.5)
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After last week’s loss to Dallas, the Colts will be looking to take out their frustrations against the Tennessee Titans, the NFL’s favorite whoopee cushion.  I’m not sure what Coach Pagano’s game plan is here since no series of events would result in Indianapolis not having the four seed, but I’d be willing to bet you’re going to see plenty of Matt Hasselbeck and very little to none of Andrew Luck.  Every team the Colts have lost to this year will finish with a winning record, and they have looked marvelous in some of their big wins.  But they still have times in games where their defense just disappears, most notably the New England and the Dallas losses. I don’t care who starts for Indy, Tennessee is so bad it won’t make a difference.  I like Indy to cover here and get back on track, because they simply cannot afford to head into the playoffs without some kind of positive momentum.  Point total will be the under.
Colts 29, Titans 10
San Diego Chargers (9-6) +2.5 at Kansas City Chiefs (8-7)  (42)
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The San Diego Chargers are a much better team than the Chiefs.  Although not the most potent offense in the world, they at least have more available targets than Kansas City does.  I really don’t want to see the Chiefs make the playoffs this year.  Their lack of offensive production makes for a bad Saturday Wild Card game we all know they will lose, and I’d rather see any of the other AFC teams that are still in the hunt than more of them.  Half of San Diego’s losses have been at the hands of teams who employ the services of Manning or Brady, and although the Miami game was inexplicable I really doubt they will lose to a team like Kansas City twice.  Really the only thing they need to focus on is Jamaal Charles up the middle, and even though they are ranked 26th against the run they will find a way to make this work.  I’m taking the Chargers to win in what shouldn’t be considered an upset at all, and I like the under on the point total by a field goal.
Chargers 23, Chiefs 16    
New York Jets (3-12) +7 at Miami Dolphins (8-7)   (42)
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I’m not going to lie, this portion of the AFC East bores me to tears.  Ryan Tannehill could be elected president tomorrow and I’d pour another bowl of cereal without flinching.  While we are making breakfast analogies, the Dolphins are like non-buttered toast.  They have no real substance and identity, even though they have a great secondary.  If I had to compare the Jets to any breakfast food it would be those packets that hold the oatmeal.  And not the finished product either, just the powder packet and no hot water.  There definitely wouldn’t be any brown sugar, as nothing New York has done with their organization this year has been sweet.  It’s been a free-for-all of all-for-free type play, and the fans who go to those games are probably ready to see the end of the way this team looks as they know it.  As much as I’d love to see the Jets win and prove Miami a .500 team, they won’t do it because they have absolutely no passing game to begin with and in the New England game they were spreading their running game out to too many different backs.  It’s not a very reliable setup, so I like the Dolphins to cover.  Point total is going to be an under.
Dolphins 22, Jets 12    
New Orleans Saints (6-9) -4 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13)   (46.5)
NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Now that the Saints have officially been eliminate from playoff contention, they can go back to the things they are good at.  Thankfully for them one of those things is beating up on NFC doormat Tampa Bay, regardless of who is steering that ship on fire.  Tampa is so bad they aren’t even averaging eighty yards a game running the ball, and Josh McCown at quarterback isn’t making any more sense than Mike Glennon did.  Remember, this is the team that Sports Illustrated said would win the division at the beginning of the season.  I like the Saints here primarily because this game isn’t in the Superdome, and the Buccaneers haven’t won a home game all year long.  So if they lose on Sunday, there will be people watching that game that spent good money on season tickets and didn’t get to see their team win a single time.  I don’t know why the line in this game is so low…I get that the Saints have been awful lately and are the most underachieving team that has an elite quarterback, but the Buccaneers couldn’t get laid in a morgue.  They are going to get a fantastic draft pick and they are going to earn it like no one else in the league outside of Tennessee.  Saints cover, bad game, point total will be the under for sure.
Saints 22, Buccaneers 9    
Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) +2.5 at New York Giants (6-9)  (52)
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Vote against Pedro

The Eagles had a bad week.  After blowing a Saturday game at Washington that they should have easily been able to handle, they were eliminated from the postseason when Dallas finally got done stepping on Andrew Luck’s back and pulled themselves off of the pile.  They are an underdog to a below average football team in the Giants this week, and even though I’m a guy who loves teams with a winning record I am actually buying this line with confidence.  It’s very strange to have a 9-6 team be an underdog against a 6-9 that is clearly not as good as team A.  Eli Manning has several good years left in him, but the question is going to be:  “Do they have enough around him to make him a winner again?”  The Giants have won four in a row, but the last game they lost was against Jacksonville – An inexcusable L.  Speaking of Ls, Mark Sanchez probably won’t be getting a Christmas present from Nick Foles.  Foles handed him a great squad with a killer record and Buttfumble pretty much just walked them right out of the playoff race.  Philadelphia hasn’t won a game all month long and it’s Christmas today.  I like the Giants to cover the spread here, which is a sentence that I almost never get to type.  Stay away from the point total, as this game could potentially be a match-up where neither team’s defense shows up.  I don’t believe that will happen, but it very well could more so than any other game this weekend.
Giants 23, Eagles 20     
Oakland Raiders (3-12) +16 at Denver Broncos (12-3)  (48)
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A lot of people are saying that this could be a trap game that may end up signaling the end of Peyton Manning’s career, but I’m pumping the brakes on that one.  He did have an awful game last week.  He was beyond bad, and when you can’t keep your defense off the field like that you’re going to lose eleven times out of ten.  The Seattle game set aside, all of their other losses have been bad losses.  They’ve looked ugly in every single one of those games, and you can learn a lot of things about a team by how bad their losses are.  David Carr and his tendency to hover around only completing exactly half of his passes has been a nightmare for Oakland, but they believe in him and they’ve stuck with him for a majority of the year.  I have a very good feeling they are going to have the same feeling about Jameis Winston come April, but that’s another story for another article.  I understand the panic because the Broncos have had a couple games like the Monday Night affair so far this season, and I get that the Raiders taking out Buffalo was huge for a two win team full of guys who probably have to wear helmets outside of the workplace.  But I just can’t see Manning looking like that again, and especially at home.  I like Denver to cover but this is Oakland so stay away from the total.
Broncos 31, Raiders 13   
Arizona Cardinals (11-4) +7 at San Francisco 49ers (7-8)   (36.5)
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I’m not sure what’s more insulting:  The fact that Vegas slapped this game with a sub-37 point total, or the fact that I believe that might be too high.  After losing a game in overtime in which he had a 90 yard touchdown run, Colin Kaepernick is going to have to put on his big boy pants and try to salvage a .500 season.  At least Arizona is getting into the playoffs, but their recent slide is no reason to throw a party.  After getting crushed at home by the Seahawks on Sunday night, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the Cardinals are the one team every other playoff bound team in the NFC wants to see.  Their quarterbacking situation has put them in dire straits, and that’s ironic because after they gave Carson Palmer that three year extension he got hurt so that may be a case of spending all of that money for nothing.  If San Francisco can play field position and hold Arizona back, I can’t see any way that they won’t win this football game.  To be brutally honest the Cardinals’ offense is playing so poorly at the moment that I’m not 100% sure they can get into the redzone at all.  Touchdowns are oases in a huge desert for that team over the past month.  I’ll give them one because it’s Christmas, but I don’t think they deserve it and there’s no way in hell they win this game.
49ers 22, Cardinals 11  
St. Louis Rams (6-9) +14 at Seattle Seahawks (11-4)  (40.5)
Quintin Mikell,  Marshawn Lynch
After last week’s road drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals, a lot of people are saying that right now Seattle is figuring to be the best team to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  It’s not hard to see why, when they have finally been able to get things moving offensively.  Their defense isn’t really even worth questioning.  Those guys are going to show up every play of every quarter in every game and they are going to have a blast doing it.  They are going to come across the line faster than any other team that’s anywhere near the level they are, which right now would be nobody.  The Rams got knocked out at home against the Giants last week, but here the weight is even greater because they are trying to avoid having a season with double digit losses.  Unfortunately for them, this one is going to be brutal.  If Wilson can move the ball in the same fashion that he was able to last week, it could be a long ass day for St. Louis.  Plus after last week’s late hits on Giants wideout Odell Beckham, the referees are going to be up their piehole all afternoon.  This is a meaty line.  Two touchdowns is a lot, so I don’t expect them to cover and the point total here is risky any way you look at it.
Seahawks 24, Rams 14  
Sunday Night Flex Schedule Football:  Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) +3 at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)  (48)
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The Bengals most likely will not have another defensive performance like Monday night’s in this game which will be in Pittsburgh.  The Steelers are hungry to get to the playoffs because a lot of people thought they got jobbed last year and I can’t say that I disagree with that take.  They’re ranked second in the league in passing, and their defense has come around and stopped the run well at the perfect time in the season.  Cincinnati had a field day with Peyton Manning last week, so they are going to come into this game with an elevated sense of pride that I personally do not believe is justified.  They are still a bottom half of the league defense, and it’s not like they are going to get the same gifts Manning was tossing them on Monday.  Pittsburgh on the other hand is a live football team that probably deserves to win this division more than the Bengals do.  I still cant reconcile that shutout week 7 against the Colts, and the first game against Cleveland was pretty sorry as well.  I like the Steelers to cover here because it’s an easy line, and I can’t stress enough how in love I am with the over on the point total.
Steelers 31, Bengals 24    
Here’s a quick wrap-up of the potential playoff seeds courtesy of SB Nation…
AFC chart
NFC chart
Stop on back next week and we’ll have playoff previews, as well as a piece that involving all twelve teams that should be a lot of fun.  Happy Holidays!
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.
Meehan
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