Ed: Last week Jazz and I made the same three picks, and wound up going 3-0 for the Christmas Day contests. That still leaves me a game behind Jazz for the regular-season crown, but with a decent 67-43 record. Bragging rights are on the line today, because as usual, we’ll wipe the slate clean for the playoffs.
Jazz: I know what you’re thinking. Jazz, for the first time ever you have the lead on Ed coming into the final stretch. A real capitalist would simply pick all the same teams and stroll out with a win. Sadly, I just don’t have it in me. I’ll follow my gut and trust my amazing skills to take me from my current 68-42 status to glorious victory, just like the Jets! (That analogy fell apart quickly.)
Ed: Today’s the last day of the regular season, and the end of the road for a lot of teams. For the Browns, their season ends just as it finally began with their first win in Week 16, and they come to Pittsburgh to try to end on a high note (1 pm ET, CBS). The Steelers will rest their key players as they don’t have any way to change their #3 seeding. Still, the Browns probably don’t have enough to surprise the Steelers, who will win 24-16. Buffalo takes on the Jets (1 pm, CBS), who play poorly at home. Both teams will start their offseason tomorrow, and Buffalo will want to end their season at .500 rather than with a losing record. Bills over the Jets, 24-17. The same dynamic will be in play when Minnesota welcomes Chicago to US Bank Stadium (1 pm, FOX), plus Da Bears have dropped every road game this season. Vikings get to 8-8 with a 31-19 win at home.
Jazz: There are always crazy things which can happen in the final week, particularly when some teams who are locked in choose to bench their starters. But there’s nothing crazy enough to make me think the Browns beat Pittsburgh. Steelers win this one, but in a closer match with their backups playing, 16-10. The Jets and the Bills have nothing to play for but pride. With that said, New York tends to be a real bunch of spoilers when it comes to either the Bills or the Dolphins. Plus, we’re back to starting Fitz who beat the Bills like a bongo earlier this year. The Gang Green finishes the season with one last pathetic win 28-24. The Vikings defense has collapsed these past few weeks and they know they’ll be watching the post season from home, but that’s still not enough to manage to lose to Da Bears. Vikings squeeze out one more win 27-17.
Ed: Let’s focus on some of the key matchups for the playoffs today:
- Patriots at Dolphins (1 pm, CBS) – New England’s definitely in the playoffs with a first-round bye, but they haven’t clinched home-field advantage yet. If they lose today and the Raiders win, Oakland clinches home-field advantage. If the Dolphins win, they can play against the Texans rather than the Steelers in the wild-card game … and it’ll be warmer in Texas. Count on the Pats to win this one in a 35-31 shootout.
- Raiders at Broncos (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Raiders will know when they take the field if they can win home-field advantage, while Denver’s out of the playoff picture altogether. With Raider QB Derek Carr out and Denver losing their last three games, this may come down to who can persevere to the final gun. Matt McGloin did well in relief, though, Oakland has more at stake, and the Broncos have some key injuries on defense. Raiders in a close 27-24 grinder.
- Giants at Redskins (4:25 pm, FOX) – The Redskins still have a shot at the playoffs, assuming that they can win at home today and that the Packers and Lions don’t end up in a tie. The Giants can’t change their #5 playoff seed with a win or loss, so they’ll almost certainly rest some starters to get ready for next week’s game on the road. Expect a big game from Kirk Cousins and a 31-20 win by the Redskins at home today.
- Packers at Lions (8:30 pm, NBC) – This won’t end in a tie, but it’s still not clear whether a loss would keep either team out of the playoffs, either. They want to see the Giants beat the Redskins, which will mean this game matters for just the division championship and seeding. The Lions got fat off of sub-.500 teams this year but have struggled against winning teams, and dropped two in a row against the Giants and Cowboys. The Pack has won five in a row, including impressive wins over two playoff teams (Seattle and Houston). Detroit is favored by a TD, but I’ll go with Green Bay on this one for a 35-28 upset on the road.
- Patriots at Dolphins (1 pm, CBS) – I don’t know why Ed thinks this game will be so close. The Dolphins are only really competing with the Chiefs for which wildcard slot they get and rumor has it they’ll be resting a somewhat banged up Jay Ajayi. The Patriots will pour it on and take this one 31-17.
- Raiders at Broncos (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Raiders need this game to stroll into the post season with home field advantage all the way through and the emotional momentum. But with Carr having broken his leg… who knows? I don’t know enough about McGloin to say how he’ll do in the clutch, but the Broncos have been stinking up the joint lately. I’ll take the Raiders in a low scoring struggle, 17-10.
- Giants at Redskins (4:25 pm, FOX) – I think Ed missed the weekly Jets/Giants preview show which airs locally in New York. The Giants may be locked in at #5 seed, but the coach has promised that everyone is playing and they are coming to knock out the Redskins. And they’ll do it today, 24-21.
- Packers at Lions (8:30 pm, NBC) – The loser in this game could be done for the season depending on how the Redskins game goes, so nobody is leaving anything on the field. If this game were in Green Bay I’d give it to the Packers just for the magic they pull off there, but not tonight. Detroit has dropped two in a row, but they’ll summon up what’s needed to get into the post season. Lions win it in a nail biter 27-24, possibly in OT.
Ed: At this time of the year, let’s put the difficulty of NFL life in perspective: