The final day of the NFL season is here. This tends to be a sad time whenever this day arrives, though the playoffs bring more joy (and heartbreak when you're a fan of the 11 teams who end up losing). We go into the final Sunday of the season with the AFC playoff field all set in terms of who's playing, with some haggling over seeding, while the NFC still has a mess to clean up. Here's a quick look at the scenarios going into today.
The Texans clinch home field advantage with a win. That's all they need to do. If they lose, the door opens for both the Patriots and the Broncos to take home-field away. The Broncos will get a bye with a win, while the Pats need a Broncos loss (along with a win). The Ravens can pass the Patriots if they win and the Pats lose, which the only result is that the Ravens will face the Bengals again and a second Pats-Colts showdown will occur. Colts and Bengals are locked in.
All we are guaranteed right now if the Falcons have home-field throughout. The biggest game in terms of the entire NFC playoff picture will be the Packers-Vikings. Green Bay clinches a first round bye with a win and opens the playoff door for the Giants and Bears (while giving the Redskins a backdoor possibility). A Vikings win puts them in the playoffs and allows the 49ers and Seahawks an opportunity to get a bye. 49ers win clinches the NFC West, Seattle wins it if they win and the Niners lose. If the Bears or Vikings win, the Giants are eliminated, while it makes the Cowboys-Redskins game a de facto playoff game. If neither win, the Redskins make it regardless of their result against Dallas, while the Giants would need a Washington win to make it (along with their own win today that they need).
Are we all caught up? Great, here's my final list of weekly picks (yes, picks will continue into the playoffs).
ATLANTA (-3) over Tampa Bay
I'm not picking the Falcons based on them playing their best lineup, that's for sure. I'm just sure that the Bucs have quit this season and don't see them coming through with a win today.
Jets (+3.5) over BUFFALO
We know all about the year the Jets have had. Lord knows we are fully aware of the Jets season. I must thank them for deflecting all the attention away as the Giants have squandered away an easy playoff berth. However, the Bills have been more of a failure since they had actual playoff aspirations and now the Chan Gailey Era will come to an end.
Baltimore (+3) over CINCINNATI
I'm only taking the Ravens because they might play like they have something to play for (I'd rather face the Bengals again than the Colts), while Cincy may as well rest their starters and possibly play just a bland offense.
INDIANAPOLIS (+6.5) over Houston
With head coach Chuck Pagano returning today after his battle with leukemia, I expect the best effort out of the Colts, who have ridden the wave of ChuckStrong to the playoffs. If this was a team like New England, I wouldn't expect a storybook ending. With the Texans, they are the perfect team.
NEW ORLEANS (-4) over Carolina
This was a good try, Joe Vitt. I'm impressed the Saints are at 7-8 after starting the year 0-4. However, they already won when Sean Payton signed a contract extension to be the Saints head coach.
PITTSBURGH (-10) over Cleveland
Expect the Steelers to take out their frustrations for not making the playoffs out on the Browns. Looks like Pat Shurmur will be cast aside as well, but it does seem like the Browns are trending upward.
Jacksonville (+5) over TENNESSEE
Battle of two teams who appear to have whiffed on their QB choice back in the 2010 draft. We know this is true with Jacksonville and they are playing Chad Henne now because of this. The Titans are still seeing if Jake Locker is capable, but it's more likely to be false.
Oakland (+8.5) over SAN DIEGO
The last game of the Norv Turner Era (as well as the Norv Turner Death March) will end with a whimper. Rough year for the Raiders, but this was predetermined when they made the trade for Carson Palmer last year. Biggest question for the Chargers: Can Philip Rivers be saved?
GIANTS (-6.5) over Philadelphia
We've seen the Eagles go down this path of awfulness to finish out Andy Reid's tenure, but do they have enough to win against the Giants. Personally, I really hope the Giants get eliminated from the playoffs because they lost this game. Really hope to see the best of the Giants today.
DETROIT (+3) over Chicago
The Bears have the same opportunity as the Giants, with the same "win and a" quality to the day. I know the Lions tend to blow leads, but I don't see Chicago slowing them down like they did back in October. 9-7 year after a 7-1 start and Lovie Smith can start sweating.
NEW ENGLAND (-10.5) over Miami
I know the Dolphins can get to .500 with a win, but the Pats will blow out Miami because anytime New England plays a close one as the first game vs an AFC East opponent, they dominate in the second meeting. They won by 7 in Miami, they'll win by a lot more than that now.
Kansas City (+16.5) over DENVER
This isn't a pick against the Broncos, but I think this points spread is way too high and the Chiefs defense is good enough to keep the margin closer (close means a couple TD's). Still, the Broncos will win and get the bye for Peyton Manning and co.
SEATTLE (-12) over St Louis
Good year for the Rams, but the Seahawks are the hottest team in football. Even if the 49ers win, I don't expect the Seahawks to give away this game at home.
SAN FRANCISCO (-16.5) over Arizona
Unlike Denver, I do think the 49ers are blowing out the Cardinals to clinch this division. The Cardinals don't just lose games to good teams, they get annihilated. Prediction: Aldon Smith breaks Michael Strahan's sacks record against the team who's given up the most sacks in the NFL.
MINNESOTA (+3) over Green Bay
I'd like to say that Adrian Peterson will break the all-time rushing record, but he will fall just short. I guess he'll have to take the consolation prize of making the playoffs and winning NFL MVP instead. I also happen to think the Packers playing in Round 1 will help them in the playoffs (which by the way, will be against these same Vikings, but in Lambeau).
WASHINGTON (-3) over Dallas
Sorry, Cowboys. I just don't believe you can win big games. Yes, it's not hard to pick the Redskins offense with RGIII under center. Yet, it's their improved defense that has me leaning toward the Skins. This leads to Seattle-Washington in the wild card round. The two hottest teams in the NFC will be gone in a week. Which proves how much you have to be hot to make a playoff run.
Last week: 10-5-1