It feels a little strange that we are heading into the final week of the regular season already. I had a hell of a time watching the Bengals last week, it doesn’t matter that he hasn’t played well for a couple of weeks now, Peyton Manning is still terrifying and the comeback in the third quarter was so dispiriting to watch. Still, the Bengals finally pulled one out on prime time national TV and they are in the playoffs, with a chance of revenge against the Steelers in the final week.
The picks competition is coming down to the wire, with Dan holding a game’s lead going into the final week, but the question is who is going to be playing all their players as we look at the final games of the regular season.
Gee: Week 16 7-9 Overall 119-121
Dan: Week 16 7-9 Overall 120-120
Bills @ Patriots (-3.5)
The Patriots have secured their twelfth consecutive double-digit win season and have secured themselves a first week bye in the playoffs. It was not pretty last week, but they got the job done despite the offensive line struggling in pass protection, which they have not done since the early part of the season. We will have to see how they go, but having looked through the last few seasons I don’t see any let up in the final game despite having a good record.
Last week the Bills needed a win to keep themselves in the playoff race having got a great win against the Packers in week fifteen, however they dropped the ball in a disappointing loss to the Raiders. The Bills came into the game with the number one ranked defence by DVOA, but gave up a surprising 140 yards on the ground and were unable to force a turnover. Unfortunately for the Bills their offensive problems continued, and having given up the fourth most quarterback hits this season this perhaps is not surprising, but they were unable to regain the lead having given it up in the first quarter. This is where giving up a future first round pick in the draft hurts as there is no doubting Sammy Watkins talent, but what this team needs is a quarterback to throw the ball to him, and they have one less way to address the need in the offseason.
The reason I’m already turning to the offseason for the Bills is that I don’t see them travelling to the Patriots and winning, they’re just too hampered on offence.
Gee’s Pick: Patriots
Dan’s Pick: Patriots
Bears @ Vikings (-6.5)
Who would have through at the start of the season that the Bears would be playing a meaningless game as six and half point underdogs against the Vikings. The loss against the Lions might have been more respectable, but that is more to do with the Lions up and down offence than any dramatic improvement by the Bears. It will be interesting to see how they go about turning this mess around, and what happens to Jay Cutler as he returns to the starting line-up following Jimmy Clausen’s concussion, but I don’t see anything changing in this game as this team is going to need work in the offseason to fix its problems.
The Vikings have quietly had a solid season in Mike Zimmer’s first year, and if they can improve the offensive line to give Teddy Bridgewater better protection then they could really make some noise next year. The points worry me in this game, but I think they will finish the season strongly at home against one of the most disappointing teams of the season.
Gee’s Pick: Vikings
Dan’s Pick: Vikings
Browns @ Ravens (-8.5)
There is actually quite a lot to be positive about when you look at the Browns’ season given the improvement in their record and how long they stayed in the playoff hunt in a competitive AFC North. The problem is that the one thing they needed to do having been eliminated from the playoffs was get Johnny Manziel as much playing time as possible to see what you have. Unfortunately, a pulled hamstring won’t even allow them to do that, and given that Brian Hoyer is out of contact at the end of the season and what we have already seen from Manziel so far, the Browns will need another quarterback of some kind going into next season. The fact that they are picking up a practice squad players to play quarterback in this game is not exactly inspiring.
I have been saying that the Ravens are a really good team with a glaring flaw thanks to the injuries they have had in the secondary, but there were more problems than that last week as they lost to the Texans. In fact, it wasn’t so much their secondary as the offence that cost them the game last week, with Joe Flacco throwing three interceptions and the running game only gaining thirty-three yards. I think they are still a good team, and that they will win this game, but the points make me nervous and the Browns will be desperate to be playoff spoilers in this game. The Browns have huge questions at quarterback, but their defence is ranked eleventh by DVOA and I just have a feeling this will be closer than nine points. I could be proved very wrong, and the Ravens need this win to make the playoffs, but this is a lot of points in the usually tight AFC North.
Gee’s Pick: Browns
Dan’s Pick: Ravens
Cowboys @ Semi-Pros(+6.5)
The Semi-Pros managed a win last week despite fairly average numbers on offence, including a not particularly strong showing from Richard Griffin. I’m really not sure where this win came from, but I think there are too many flaws for them to be able to repeat the win this week.
The Cowboys wrapped up the division last week against a Colts team that really weren’t in the game at any point. Given the injury status of Murray and Romo it was surprising how much they played after the Colts pulled Andrew Luck. I don’t think they will have any problems against the Semi-Pros, even if they rest their injured players as the o-line is still going to one of the best in the league. Also, it is not like Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has shown much reluctance in risking injury to his players so far this season.
Gee’s Pick: Cowboys
Dan’s Pick: Cowboys
Colts @ Titans (+7.5)
The Titans have had an awful season, and having seen them last week I can see why as neither side of the ball looked good, and pass protection was a serious issue. This is a team that needs a serious overhaul, and it is likely going to take a couple of seasons for them to turn it round.
However, the Colts were not good last week, and having held out TY Hilton with a hamstring problem, were pretty awful in a lopsided loss to the Cowboys. Although there were a number of drops in that game, it has been several weeks since Andrew Luck has looked really good for four quarters. At some point they will have to address how much they are asking Luck to do for the team to win games, but for now they go where he and TY Hilton takes them.
I think they should win this game, but I’m not convinced that they will given their performance and what they have left to play for so in a week where I have to take chance to win, I’m taking the Titans to cover.
Gee’s Pick: Titans
Dan’s Pick: Colts
Chargers @ Chiefs (-2.5)
The Chiefs are a very solid team, but you can’t win consistently in the NFL without a passing game, and the stat that Alex Smith hasn’t thrown a touchdown to a receiver is now being talked about by everyone. I would imagine that this position would be a point of emphasis this offseason, but given the performance of this year’s rookie class, last year’s draft was the time to address the receiver position. They will keep themselves in this game as they do in most, but I’m not sure they have enough ways to win, particularly given that Alex Smith is now done of the season with a lacerated spleen.
This week the Chiefs welcome a Chargers team that still has something to play for as they can make the playoffs. The Chargers somehow managed to stay in the race despite losing another centre for the game against the 49ers with an ankle injury. They managed to get the win despite being 28-7 down at halftime and giving up 355 yards rushing yards. Furthermore, we’ve had it confirmed that Philip Rivers has been playing through a bulging disk in his back, which explains the variance in his play this season, but he did more than enough to win last week and if he can keep the interceptions down then the Chargers should have enough to win this week.
Gee’s Pick: Chargers
Dan’s Pick: Chargers
Jets @ Dolphins (-5.5)
The Dolphins did really well to get the come from behind win last week, but it must still rankle that they are not in the playoff hunt. It would seem to make sense to give Joe Philbin one more year given the improvement Ryan Tannehill has made during his first year in Bill Lazor’s offence, but there has to be disappointment that they are not part of the playoff race in the final week.
The Jets ran the Patriots close last week, but were unable to get the win, and this could very well be Rex Ryan’s last game as coach. It seems a shame given the success that he has had despite never having a good quarterback. However, despite Geno Smith saying he wants to be part of the solution, he hasn’t really convinced this year and threw another interception against the Patriots last week. The simple fact is that this team doesn’t have enough talent to win despite a pretty good front seven.
I can see the Jets competing in this one, and whilst I think the Dolphins can win, their run defence scares me and I’m changing my mind on this one given the points.
Gee’s Pick: Jets
Dan’s Pick: Dolphins
Saints @ Buccaneers (+3.5)
The Buccaneers have had a surprisingly torrid season under Lovie Smith, who I expected to bring stability to this team, but whilst the defence has shown flashes some weeks, neither side of the ball has really shown much this season. The only bright spots have been the performances of rookie receiver Mike Evans and outstanding defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. It looks like the Bucs will have a shot at a quarterback if they like any of the top prospects, but it will take more than that to turn this team around so they should probably just take the best player available.
The Saints went all in on this season as they have cap problems and an ageing quarterback. Whilst you can see the logic in this decision, it has backfired horribly and it is an offseason of turmoil that this team are facing. That said, they still have Brees and Graham so I can’t see them dropping this final game of a dismal season.
Gee’s Pick: Saints
Dan’s Pick: Saints
Eagles @ Giants (-2.5)
The Giants might have done enough to save Tom Coughlin’s job with a late season rally behind the outstanding rookie receiver Odell Beckham. Still, they will need several more drafts like this last one to replenish the talent of this squad.
Three straight losses have seen the playoffs slip out of reach for an Eagles team that have disproved the theory that Chip Kelly’s offence is quarterback proof. I actually feel sorry for Sanchez as he has achieved more than he is usually given credit for, but he can’t seem to overcome the turnovers.
The Giants still seem to be playing hard, where as the Eagles must be disappointed in the way the season is ending. However, I have been really impressed with Chip Kelly and I think there is a fundamental talent gap between these two teams so I’m taking the Eagles and the points.
Gee’s Pick: Eagles
Dan’s Pick: Eagles
Jaguars @ Texans (-9.5)
The Texans came up with a win last week despite having to start Case Keenum at quarterback and their only touchdown pass coming from Arian Foster. However, they do at least stand a chance of getting a winning season, which is the least that JJ Watt’s fantastic play this season deserves. He has anchored a defence that is top ten in the league by DVOA and it is amazing how he continues to affect the game despite sometime garnering triple teams from opposing offences.
The Jaguars definitely are showing signs of promise, but this will have to turn into wins next season if Gus Bradey wants to keep his job. The problem in this game is that they are horrible in pass protection so JJ Watt could have a field day. However, their defence is very tough and I see them keeping it close against the Texans, who are now down to their third starting quarterback of the season.
Gee’s Pick: Jaguars
Dan’s Pick: Texans
Panthers @ Falcons (-3.5)
This is a huge, winner gets into the playoffs game.
The Falcons had a horrible start to the year, losing pretty much an entire starting line-up of offensive lineman. Still, since the bye week they have gone 4-2, playing largely sold football on offence. Their defence has been horrible, but between Matt Ryan and their skill players they have enough fire power to keep themselves in games if the o-line can hold up long enough.
This week they go against a Panthers team that has struggled for long periods of the season. It was surprising to see Cam Newton run so much in week sixteen against the Browns just a week after fracturing two bones in his back in a car accident. However, they have not been consistent on either side of the ball, with the defence struggling to get a pass rush or cover receivers with their patched up secondary, and the offence sputtering with Newton’s inconsistent play across the season.
The fact of the matter is that the despite which team wins, we will have a team with a losing record in the playoffs, and I think that given how they have been playing recently I think that team will be the Falcons.
Gee’s Pick: Falcons
Dan’s Pick: Falcons
Raiders @ Broncos (-14.5)
By any team’s standards the Broncos have had a successful year, but the questions still surround Peyton Manning after he lost another game last week, his first against the Bengals. The fact of the matter is that he only needs to throw one more touchdown to have forty for the season and currently leads the league. He might not have looked at his best over the last few weeks, but he lead the comeback in the third quarter last week and this team has surrounded him with players that given them other ways to win. They should have more than enough to take care of the Raiders.
The Raiders may have a losing record for another year, but for the first time in a while they have hope in young players that they can build round. I don’t know who their coach will be, but they are heading in the right direction. However, whilst they may have improved, I don’t see them getting a final upset against the Broncos in this game. That said, with Peyton’s troubles over recent weeks, I don’t see why the Broncos are giving quite so many points to the Raiders, even if they are at home.
If anyone could prove me wrong, it is Manning and the Broncos, but this is simply too many points for me.
Gee’s Pick: Raiders
Dan’s Pick: Raiders
Lions @ Packers (-7.5)
This is a big game in the NFC North, and this line is a testament to how good the Packers have been at home as they lost to the Lions in Detroit. That said, whilst the Lions defence has been excellent all season, their offence has struggled for long stretches of the year and only scored twenty last week against a Bears defence that has been rotten all year.
This line does worry me a little, but Aaron Rodgers has been phenomenal at home and I’m backing him to carry that forward into the playoffs. The real question will be if he can take it on the road.
Gee’s Pick: Packers
Dan’s Pick: Lions
Rams @ Seahawks (-12.5)
The Seahawks have been playing great football over the last few weeks and no team will relish the trip to Seattle in the playoffs. Their defence has been at the heart of this resurgence, but even the offence got into the act last week, generating nearly six hundred yards with great games from Marshawn Lynch in the run game and Russell Wilson who generated yards with his arm and legs.
The Rams came back to Earth with a bump last week, losing to the Giants. Their defence has really come round, but the offence is struggling and they are another team who will be searching for an answer at quarterback in the offseason.
This is a lot of points, but the Seahawks are playing so well at home at the moment that I fancy them to cover the points.
Gee’s Pick: Seahawks
Dan’s Pick: Rams
Cardinals @ 49ers (-5.5)
The 49ers surprised me with how well they did last week, but whilst their offence did put up good numbers, they were going against a Chargers defence that was ranked twenty-third in the league by DVOA. It was good to see the long run from Colin Kaepernick, as it reminded you just what a physical talent he is, but next season he will need to develop in the pass game if this team are going to have more success. The 49ers will also need to improve their o-line for this to happen, as it has regressed markedly this season. Still, the main improvement could be stability at head coach as I don’t see how the turmoil that has surround Jim Harbaugh could have failed to affect the team.
The Cardinals are limping into the playoffs, with question marks surrounding their offence, and the quarterback in particular. Last week’s loss to the Seahawks was a rough one, but the Cardinals will be desperate to establish something on offence before they head into the playoffs. I am surprised by the number of points that the 49ers are giving in this game and I’m backing the Cardinals coaching staff who have done a phenomenal job of coping with the large number of injuries they’ve had this season.
Gee’s Pick: Cardinals
Dan’s Pick: Cardinals
Bengals @ Steelers (-2.5)
The Steelers are one of the scarier playoff prospects as when the offence takes off, be it Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown in the pass game or Le’Veon Bell in the run game, they can take over a game. The defence can show flashes, but you can exploit their secondary and the front seven can’t always bring the pass rush like they have in previous years. Still, this is a veteran team that knows how to win when it matters most.
The Bengals are almost the complete opposite in that prime time games have been an issue throughout Marvin Lewis’ tenure as head coach. One win against the Broncos on Monday Night Football does not change this, but it could be a turning point and the Bengals will be desperate to avenge the bad ten minutes they are claiming lost them the previous meeting with the Steelers, and defend their AFC North title. I can pretty much envision any result happening in this game, but I think it will be close so between getting points and blind optimism, I am backing the Bengals in this one.
Gee’s Pick: Bengals
Dan’s Pick: Bengals