Friday, December 29, 2006

Let the Real Season Begin (NFL picks finale)

Well, another 9-7 weekly mark (hey, that would be far and away the best record in the NFC West) leaves the season record at 108-112-5. .500 is still in sight if I have my best week ever, though with the way this season has gone - the last Sunday in the NFL could put the exclamation point on what has been an absolute circus of a year. All you need to know is that it's still possible that a 7-9 NFC team could make the playoffs. Look for the playoff preview late Sunday night, sponsored by the MIT math club. The official playoff system is diagrammed on the right.

@Washington (+2.5) vs. NY Giants: Just for the sheer fun of watching the car crash that is the Giants. Yeah, it's a must-win game for them - once again - and yeah, they're probably more talented on paper than the Redskins, who are so bad that they're going to drive their Hall of Fame coach back to NASCAR. Logic says the Giants should rally and win - which is exactly why I'm picking the Redskins. (Saturday, TV, 8:00, NFL Network)

@Tennessee (-3) vs. New England: This may be the first time all year that I've gone against the Patriots, and I'm doing it because of the QB matchup. Vince Young vs. Matt Cassell. Yup, our golden boy Tom Brady is most likely going to sit out for a big chunk of this one after taking a hard hit last week against Jacksonville. With the Pats assured of at least the 4-seed in the AFC, there's simply no point risking the franchise. The leaders on D - Bruschi, Vrabel and Harrison - may also get a breather. On the other hand, Young has been absolutely amazing and with another win, can put his Titans in the playoff picture. Tennessee has much more to play for. (TV, 1:00, CBS)

Buffalo (+9) @ Baltimore: While everyone's talking about the Chargers, the Ravens are quietly emerging as a solid Super Bowl contender. They've always had the vicious defense, and now they've got Air McNair at the helm of the offense. All that said, I've been impressed with Buffalo's stick-to-itiveness this year and will take them to keep it somewhat close.

@New Orleans (+3) vs. Carolina: Let me get this straight - the Saints are getting three against the Panthers at home? I know New Orleans has already clinched a spot in the tournament, and my MIT math pals tell me that Carolina may still be alive, but still... the Saints demolished the Giants last week and will want to keep the momentum rolling as the playoffs start.

Green Bay (+3) @ Chicago: Will it be Rexie or Griese? Either way, the Bears have to be one of the least-respected No. 1 seeds of all time. They're heading into the playoffs with not a clue who their starting QB will be, which is a testament to their incredible defense. Will this be Brett Favre's last game in a Packers uniform? This game was moved to network TV and that's all we're going to hear about. Favre has a little Clemens in him - he'll be back. (TV, 8:15, NBC)

@Cincinnati (-6) vs. Pittsburgh: The Steelers had been on a major roll before they hit a speed bump known as the Ravens last week. Cincy, meanwhile, suffered a catastrophic loss last week in the snow in Denver when their holder couldn't catch the ball for an extra point. The Bengals' playoff hopes may have died in Denver, but they'll come out firing for this one.

Detroit (+12.5) @Dallas: What to make of the Cowboys' soap opera. A month ago, Tony Romo was the man, he was dating Jessica Simpson, Jerry Jones had a little kick in his step, and the Tuna was actually caught smiling on the sidelines. No more. Romo now has to settle for Carrie Underwood, Jones looks like a man who has eaten tainted seafood, Tuna is most definitely not smiling, and everyone on the Dallas offense is sniping about not getting enough touches. Somewhere, Drew Bledsoe is stifling a grin. The Cowboys would make a great NBA team. I'm going with the Lions to cover the dozen and a half. (TV, 1:00, Fox)

@Denver (-10.5) vs. San Francisco: Denver desperately needs this one and the shine seems to be wearing off the feel-good Niners. Perfect opportunity for Denver to put it together heading into the playoffs, where they will likely come to Foxborough next week to play the Patriots. Frank Gore could have some difficulty against Denver's strong rush defense. (TV, 4:15, Fox)

@Houston (-4) vs. Cleveland: Why is everyone wearing blue shirts at Texans Stadium? Oh, those are chair backs? I mean, it's New Year's weekend, and you're sitting home in Houston wondering what to do. Does Texans-Browns even make the top-20 list? What a stinker. On the bright side, maybe Romeo Crennel will come back to New England. Texans in a romp.

@Indianapolis (-9) vs. Miami: Peyton Manning vs. Cleo Lemon. Indy is the pick. (TV, 4:15, CBS)

@Kansas City (-2.5) vs. Jacksonville: Big game for both squads, whose playoff hopes are on life support. I was impressed with Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew last weekend, but I can't root for good things to happen to caveman Jack Del Rio. Chiefs win a close one.

@NY Jets (-12.5) vs. Oakland: Lot of points, but the Jets know what's on the line today and won't be messing around. Art Shell's long nightmare is about to shut down... at least for a couple of months.

@Philadelphia (-8) vs. Atlanta: Philly may be playing the best ball of anyone right now - AFC or NFC - and they'll lay the lumber to the fraudulent, pathetic Falcons. Look for several Jeff Garcia fist-pumps throughout the course of this one. The Eagles put themselves in position to do some damage in the NFC dance.

St. Louis (-2.5) @Minnesota: The Rams have been your typical NFC team this year and need a win to close at .500. They'll be ready for this one on the road, and look for Steven Jackson to have a field day with a banged up Vikings defense. Whether it's good enough for the Rams to be in the playoffs, well, I'll again defer to my mathematician colleagues at MIT.

@San Diego (-13.5) vs. Arizona: The Chargers have been in the catbird seat all year long and will be looking to lock up home field throughout the playoffs. Again, lots of points to give up but these are the Arizona Cardinals after all. The Tomlinsons take it handily.

Seattle (+3.5) @Tampa Bay: The Seahawks could finish 8-8 this year and still host a playoff game in the first round. Unreal. Tampa Bay killed Cleveland last week, but everyone kills Cleveland. I'll take the Seahawks in this one.

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