Tennessee 35, Houston 24
Not every game in Week 17 can be entertaining. However ... if this looks like one of those non-entertaining, play-out-the-string snoozers that is good for one thing - the fans of both these teams - think again. Houston has a chance to finally do something right this season. By doing something wrong. A loss gives them the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Chances are they will finally do something right this season. Don't bet on that happening in April. Texas football is nothing if not predictable.
Detroit 34 , Minnesota 31
Jim Schwartz thinks the season hasn't been a complete failure? He might not want to venture out in public and ask disgruntled Lions fans that question. This was (once again) supposed to be the year. Once again, the Lions are a mediocre team with some serious potential. Once again, they are on the outside looking in. It's kind of hard to root against the team you see every Thanksgiving. I mean, the one not from Texas. So, given this shot, I'll take the Lions in a squeaker.
Carolina 37, Atlanta 17
A year ago, center Ryan Kalil placed a full page ad in the Charlotte Observer predicting - no - promising, a Carolina Panthers Super Bowl title. Everybody laughed. Turns out Kalil might have just been a man before his time. A victory Sunday gives Carolina, and star quarterback Cam Newton, a bye. There is potential for a home-field advantage throughout with a Seattle loss and a San Francisco win. Hey Jack, stranger things have happened.
Pittsburgh 38, Cleveland 20
So... the Steelers somehow have a chance to make the postseason with a victory and a lot of help. However, that help is not out of the realm of possibility. The easiest of the things that need to go right is this game. The others are Cincinnati beating Baltimore (doable), Kansas City beating San Diego (doable if Andy Reid doesn't sit his starters) and the Jets and Geno beating Miami (doable) Well, check that. Likely just DOA. Anyway, the Steelers will at least take care of business. Remember that time Cleveland was ahead of the Steelers in the AFC North? Yeah, me neither.
N.Y. Giants 28, Washington 17
Redskins fans are counting down the hours . Not until kickoff of this classic rivalry. The countdown after the game. How long will it take for Daniel Snyder to get rid of Mike Shanahan after the season ends at 3-13. The coach basically sabatoged the season by sitting RG3-10 for the final three games. The guy wants out of this gig badly, and who can blame him. In other news, remember when you could spell elite without Eli.
Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 20
Oddly enough, Baltimore can actually lose this game and still make the playoffs, though that scenario is nearly as likely as a certain sportswriter walking into 7-Eleven and walking out with the winning lottery ticket. You have to play to win. The Ravens had better hope they have the winning combination in Cincinnati because Miami, Pittsburgh and San Diego all three are not going to lose.Cincinnati has won the AFC North and will go into the playoffs on a high note. Last year's Super Bowl champs may just be going home.
Remember when Jacksonville really looked like it had the talent to go 0-16? Well that didn't happen. And Jacksonville can't even get the top pick in April's draft because it screwed around and won four games. Much respect for playing it out and not tanking the season. So much that I almost feel like picking the Jags. Well, almost. Indianapolis already has a playoff spot sewn up and can get bye if New England and Cincy lose. Well, at least the Andrew Luck thing is working out.
N.Y. Jets 27, Miami 24
The talking heads on some nationally-televised sports shows can pound Geno Smith all they want. The fact is, he had better weapons when he was at WVU. The former Mountaineer has a chance to throw for 3,000 yards. Yes, he has tossed 21 interceptions and just 12 TDs. But the team with little talent on offense is also 7-8, which is a minor miracle and has a lot to do with the QB. In December, Smith is 55 of 99 for 629 yards with four TD and three interceptions. He started the season with a game-winning drive and I'm predicting he'll end it the same way.
Denver 48, Oakland 10
How long has it been since Oakland has been any good? Who knows? Denver, on the other hand, is very good and Peyton Manning is having a record-setting year in his second season with the Broncos. Odds are this one, despite being a rivalry, will get out of hand early enough for Manning to shower, negotiate another round on SNL, and do whatever else he wants to do. A victory clinches homefield throughout and that is exactly what is going to happen.
Kansas City 17, San Diego 16
The Chiefs, once the darling of October football, have fallen off a bit, but they still have a playoff spot guaranteed. The yelling you may hear will be from Steelers fans at Andy Reid if he he decides to sit his starters. San Diego needs a victory and a little help, not as much as the Steelers. The Chargers do have Phillip Rivers, one of the better talents in the league. But I'm rooting for this Steelers miracle and it is the Christmas season. And, hook a brother up, would you?
Seattle 31, St. Louis 21
You know what made St. Louis fun to watch? Former Mountaineer Tavon Austin. While he may not be in action after missing last week's game with an ankle injury, there is also fellow former Mountaineer and rookie Stedman Bailey, who scored his first NFL touchdown last week on a reverse. It was a carry he likely got in Austin's absence. He also caught three passes for 44 yards. Seattle is still in the thick of wrapping up home-field advantage and will do so.
San Francisco31, Arizona 30
Ya know, Arizona can finish 11-5 and get and get absolutely nothing from it. It's not always about how many you win but where you are and what those victories are about. San Francisco is still trying to get a bye, which it can do with a victory and a Seattle loss to the Rams. Don't know how that will work out but the 49ers at least know they are going to the playoffs. Arizona is not. What a shame. If I'm Arizona, I'm no-holds-barred trying to win this one. However...
Green Bay 21, Chicago 20
A classic from the black-and-blue division that, unlike the Lions-Viking game, actually means something. Both these teams had a chance to make a move last week but failed to do so. Both cannot, however, grab defeat from the jaws of victory this week. Faltering Chicago can actually clinch the division with a victory or a tie. As weird as the season has been, who would doubt it happening.
New Orleans 35, Tampa Bay 20
New Orleans is a hard team to figure out. One week the Saints are world beaters, the next week they struggle against a weak opponent. Still the Saints can march into the playoffs with a series of events, most noticeably and the least likely being a victory and a Carolina loss. I can see the win, but not a Carolina loss. That they still need to win to get a playoff spot ... that I can see. Tampa Bay, or, Rutgers South, is simply playing out the string.
New England 42, Buffalo 13
The main question will be, how long will Tom Brady go once this game gets out of hand. The Patriots clinch the all-important first-round bye and Bill Belichick is not prone to replacing Brady once he starts a game, no matter what the circumstances. Even the press conference comedy act that is Belichick might be induced into smiling as he runs in whoever is the Patriots' taxi-squad backup these days.
Philadelphia 24, Dallas 20
The best game of the final Sunday slate is a winner-take-all free-for-all at Jerry's World. Like Nixon five decades earlier, Dallas fans and haters alike might not have Tony Romo to kick around after this one. In the continuing drama that is the Dallas Cowboys, the overpaid QB may not play. But he might. Who knows.? No doubt there will be a Romo ticker and minute-by-minute reports from Dallas. Hey, they do have the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, right?