There’s not too much riding on this week’s picks for me given how far I am behind, which is possibly a good thing as this is one of the hardest weeks to pick with many teams not having anything to play for and others resting players ahead of the start of the playoffs. At this time of the season pretty much everyone is going to be carrying some kind of injury and I never like trying to guess the motivation of players and coaches, but I will do my best to get as high a score as possible. Still, for once I feel relatively comfortable with the trivia questions:
‘I was the quarterback that led the Rams to a victory in the 2000 Super Bowl against the Tennessee Titans. I lost my starting job after I fumbled six times in the first game of the 2003 season. Who am I?
Which Charger quarterback bounced back from a dismal 2003-04 season, winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award, throwing 27 touchdowns to seven interceptions, and landing himself a spot in the 2005 NFL Pro Bowl?’
I think I know the answer to both of these questions, including the slightly sneaky second one, The first quarterback playing for the then San Diego Rams in an offence nicknamed the Greatest Show on Turf and was Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, whilst the second I believe is the future Hall of Famer who is now inextricably linked to the New Orleans Saints, but who started his career in San Diego – Drew Brees.
‘I think I know these this week, which I’m very pleased about so let’s see what Gee can do!
Question one is Hall of Famer Kurt Warner – he presents on the NFL Network now and he’s a very knowledgable guy but wouldn’t let viewers forget his Super Bowl ring! Doesn’t mention those fumbles though strangely enough!
Question two is the sure-to-be Hall of Famer, Drew Brees. Known of course now for his legendary career in New Orleans but he started life as a Charger and I think it would have been around this time.’
Falcons @ Buccaneers (-1.5)
The first game in the week’s list makes me hesitate as the absence of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at receiver didn’t hinder Jameis Winston that much last week as he threw for over three hundred yards, but he also threw four interceptions in a losing effort for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Houston Texans. This week the Bucs host the Atlanta Falcons who have won three straight and five of their last seven games, which some are saying is the team trying to save their coach. I don’t have the information to make such a statement but given the way these teams are playing, the Bucs’ injuries at receiver and Winston’s propensity for giving the ball away I am going to grab the points.
Gee’s Pick: Falcons
Dan’s Pick: Buccaneers
Jets @ Bills (-1.5)
The Buffalo Bills are locked up as the fifth seed and so technically don’t have anything to play for this week, except this is why the season now finishes with divisional games and it is hard to see head coach Sean McDermott not going for the win. Meanwhile the New York Jets have quietly won five of their last seven, but one of those losses was against the Bengals and I think the Bills are a much better team.
Gee’s Pick: Bills
Dan’s Pick: Bills
Bears @ Vikings (-6.5)
This is a game where nether team has much to play for. The Minnesota Vikings are locked into the sixth seed but will want to make amends after last week’s loss to the Packers, However, Dalvin Cook will still be sat out as they try to get his shoulder injury right for the playoffs so I wonder how much of a reaction there will be for the Vikings. The Chicago Bears meanwhile have been eliminated from the playoffs so this is a tricky road game for them. In this situation I am going to nervously grab the points as right now I can see the Vikings getting three and half points not giving away six and a half, which is a huge swing away from this line.
Gee’s Pick: Bears
Dan’s Pick: Vikings
Browns @ Bengals (+2.5)
The Cleveland Browns need to win this game to equal the number of wins they got last season, but they go into this off-season with a very different feel and I don’t know how they are going to react to a disastrous season of dysfunction, It certainly feels like the Cincinnati Bengals are set to take Joe Burrow in the new year having secured the number one pick in the draft. You only have to look at the comeback against the Dolphins last week to see how hard the players are still playing for the Bengals and there has not been the locker room discontent that you often hear from teams with a losing record so I am going to grab the points here and see if the Bengals can show something for next season.
Gee’s Pick: Bengals
Dan’s Pick: Browns
Packers @ Lions (+10.5)
This might be a big line but the Green Bay Packers have a shot at the number one seed in the NFC and the Detroit Lions have now lost eight straight and you have to go four games back to find a game where the Lions would cover this line. I could regret this, but I am seeing an even bigger number online so I’m going to back the Packers.
Gee’s Pick: Packers
Dan’s Pick: Packers
Chargers @ Chiefs (-7.5)
The Kansas City Chiefs have won five straight but still need to secure the number three seed as they welcome an LA Chargers team in flux. The Chargers lost last week in front of so many Raider fans in their home stadium that they had to use a hard count and go into the off-season with big questions around their move yet alone their future with Philip Rivers finally looking his age and out of contract. I’m not sure what is going to happen in the off-season, but I’m pretty sure the Chiefs are going to win this game and I’m going to guess by enough to cover this line.
Gee’s Pick: Chiefs
Dan’s Pick: Chiefs
Dolphins @ Patriots (-15.5)
The Miami Dolphins were three wins better than they needed to be to secure the first pick in the draft, but they still have plenty of draft capital to take advantage of and Brian Flores has impressed in his first year as a head coach. This is a tough game though as they head into New England to face a playoff bound Patriots team who looked a little better on offence last week. I don’t expect anything other than a Patriots win, but this is a huge line and it is too rich for me.
Gee’s Pick: Dolphins
Dan’s Pick: Dolphins
Saints @ Panthers (+13.5)
The New Orleans Saints are one of three teams who could secure the first seed in the NFC and who have looked good for most of the season, even with Drew Brees sitting for a number of games. This is a tricky line for me though as the Saints only beat the Carolina Panthers by three points in week twelve but the Panthers also lost by thirty-two points last week. I could come to regret this as the Saints will be motivated, but on the road facing a divisional opponent I’m going to say this is too many points and hope not to be proven an idiot.
Gee’s Pick: Panthers
Dan’s Pick: Panthers
Washington @ Cowboys (-10.5)
The Dallas Cowboys are the seventh ranked team by DVOA, and by a lot of stats look to be a good team but this has not manifested itself into a good record. At 7-8 the Cowboys still have a slim chance of going to the playoffs but it relies on the Eagles losing as well as them beating Washington. The issue there is that Dak Prescott is struggling with a shoulder injury and did not look himself at all last week. As it turns out Washington also have quarterback problems with rookie Dwayne Haskins likely out with a high ankle sprain. I do see the Cowboys winning this game, but this line is simply too big for me to back the home team.
Gee’s Pick: Washington
Dan’s Pick: Washington
Raiders @ Broncos (-3.5)
I have very little faith in the Oakland Raiders right now, but they did beat the LA Chargers last week. Yet at 7-8 they only have three more wins than last season and this is Jon Gruden’s second year. Perhaps they can turn things round next season and justify the long contract they gave Gruden, but right now they are the twenty-fourth ranked team by DVOA travelling to face the twenty-third ranked Denver Broncos. The Broncos have won three of their last four games and so you can see why they are the favourites in this game. I’m not confident in the result of this contest, and the Raiders do have an outside shot of making the playoffs but with Gruden talking about not rushing players back from injury I’m going to back the team with more wins over the last few weeks.
Gee’s Pick: Broncos
Dan’s Pick: Raiders
Titans @ Texans (+4.5)
The Tennessee Titans have control of their destiny as if they beat the Houston Texans they get into the playoffs. I think the reason that the Titans are favoured in this line is that the Texans’ receiver Will Fuller went down injured again last week and whilst the Texans still won, they look a very different team without Fuller to stretch the defence. I like the Titans to get the win despite losing their previous meeting, but this line really gives me pause. However, the Texans are getting even more points when I look online and will only have something to play for if the Chiefs lose so I’m going to stick with the Titans and hope this isn’t going to make me look very daft.
Gee’s Pick: Titans
Dan’s Pick: Titans
Colts @ Jaguars (+3.5)
The Jacksonville Jaguars might have beaten the Raiders after Tom Coughlin was let go but they lost against the Falcons last week and in their final game of season they face an Indianapolis Colts team who won big against the Panthers in week sixteen. I can’t read too much into that game as the Colts had lost their previous four, but the Colts are 18.9% better by DVOA and so whilst I really don’t like this line, I am going to back the Colts to cover it.
Gee’s Pick: Colts
Dan’s Pick: Colts
Cardinals @ Rams (-7.5)
The LA Rams have had a strange year, and were competitive last week against the 49ers but are outside the playoffs, although if they were an AFC team they would have a shot at a wildcard with their current 8-7 record. I think they are likely to win this game with the Arizona Cardinals looking at playing without Kyler Murray who has sustained a hamstring injury. However, this is a big line that the Rams have already covered once this season. I’m actually seeing a better number online for the Rams despite the injury to Murray and that makes me pause but I can’t quite bring myself to back the Cardinals.
Gee’s Pick: Rams
Dan’s Pick: Rams
Eagles @ Giants (+4.5)
The Philadelphia Eagles simply need to win this game to make the playoffs, but the New York Giants come into this game having won two straight since rookie quarterback Daniel Jones returned to the starting lineup from injury. The Eagles recent wins are not exactly against impressive opposition and so whilst I think the Eagles are likely to win this game, the points make me nervous enough to take the Giants.
Gee’s Pick: Giants
Dan’s Pick: Eagles
Steelers @ Ravens (+2.5)
This is an interesting game in that it will be curious to see how the Baltimore Ravens run their offence with Lamar Jackson sitting, but the Pittsburgh Steelers simplest path to the playoffs is the Titans losing and them winning this game. Given the situation with the Ravens sitting Jackson this is definitely possible, but the line I am seeing online has shrunk and so this is actually a better number for the Ravens, even if the Steelers only need a field goal to cover. I’m really torn on this one but Jackson has been so good that I think I have to nervously back the Steelers as the Ravens are just losing too much from their offence with Jackson on the bench.
Gee’s Pick: Steelers
Dan’s Pick: Ravens
49ers @ Seahawks (+3.5)
The final game of the season pits two teams who still have something to play for against each other as a win for the Seahawks could see them seeded anywhere from first to third depending on other results whilst a loss would see them on the road as a wildcard team. However, with injuries at offensive tackle and running back this is an even trickier game than last time these two teams played. You don’t sign running back Marshawn Lynch out of retirement when things are going well. Meanwhile, the 49ers may have lost three of their last seven games, but they have also won two tight games against good teams in the last three and enter this game as favourites for a reason. However, despite the 49ers not covering this sized line in four weeks, I can’t quite bring myself to back the Seahawks given the injury situation and so I am reluctantly backing the 49ers who will be looking to try to secure the first seed if they can.
Gee’s Pick: 49ers
Dan’s Pick: Seahawks
DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.