Jazz: Here we stand at the End of All Things in terms of the NFL. The last regular season games. The final fling before the exit for most teams. Things didn’t go quite as well for me in week 16, which saw me going 4-3, leaving me at 62-50 on the season. The good news is that I am officially safe from falling under .500 this year for the regular season. The bad news is that I’m four games behind Ed and this is the final week. That means that I basically have to go at least 5-2 today and have Mr. Morrissey miss every game in order to catch him. Given the opponents lined up for our three, weekly feature teams, let’s just say I’m not optimistic. But there’s always the post-season! Last year I beat Ed in the regular season, but he came roaring back and took the win in the playoff and Superbowl categories.
Ed: That may have been the only time in our history at Hot Air when I did better in the playoffs than in the regular season, too. Last week I also went 5-2 to run my record to 66-46, but Jazz is keeping the pressure on to be sure. This time we’ll have a little more flexibility for our game choices since there won’t be an evening game today and no Monday Night Football, so we can concentrate on the playoff-influencing games. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t get to talk about one of the most famous doormats in the NFL this season … and pretty much every season. (Pssst: Don’t tell Hugh Hewitt.)
Jazz: This week we’ll start with the 5-10 Jets meeting the 12-3 Patriots for the second time, this one in Foxboro (1:00 pm, CBS). Let’s not kid ourselves here. The Jets have lost a lot of their starting players and have struggled against marginal teams. New England isn’t sitting out their starters for some reason, which might have been our only hope. They may pull some of them after getting a comfortable lead, allowing the Jets to get a bit higher score than they would otherwise, but that’s about it. The Patriots are a two-touchdown favorite for a reason and they’ll slink off with a victory again today, 31-21. The 12-3 Steelers play the, um… 0-15 Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh at the same time (1:00 pm, CBS). Word on the street is that Big Ben, along with a number of other starters will be staying on the bench today, preparing for the postseason. Is that going to be enough to allow Cleveland to sneak away with their only win for 2017? Nope. I’m fairly sure the Steelers’ cheerleaders could beat the Browns at this point. Pittsburgh wins this one 31-12. The 12-3 Vikings finish up their season by welcoming the 5-10 Chicago Bears to Minnesota (1:00 pm, FOX) in a game where the most exciting thing to watch for would have been to see if the ball shattered in the cold were they not playing in a dome. Minnesota won’t be taking this game lightly because a win will assure them of a first round bye in the playoffs. That’s worth fighting for in a huge way so they’ll break out the big guns and dispatch Da Bears 27-10.
Ed: As much as I’d loooooove the Jets to beat the Pats today and open the road to home-field advantage for the Steelers, New York’s not strong enough to beat New England in Foxboro. The Pats won’t sit their starters because of the need to clinch the #1 seed, but don’t be surprised to see some of them in loungewear after the half. Pats over the Jets 35-17. With that being the case, Pittsburgh can afford to rest some of their starters as they have clinched the #2 slot and a first-week bye. Backup QB Landry Jones and RB James Conner will get in some needed practice against a defense ranked 30th in points allowed. It should be closer than usual, but Pittsburgh will prevail 24-17. The Vikings will dominate in Minneapolis against Da Bears in a low-scoring affair, 21-9.
Jazz: Having a rough time finding truly competitive games, so let’s just pick the ones with the most implications for the playoffs.
- Raiders at Chargers (4:25 pm, CBS) – This might be the most exciting game of the day. The Chargers still have a chance of making the playoffs depending on several factors, but they all involve winning today. The Raiders are out but would dearly love to play the spoiler to their division rivals and they have a lot of fans in Los Angeles so home field advantage won’t mean much to the bolts. The Chargers are an 8 point favorite, but I’m going way out on a limb here and call the upset in a close one. Give me the Raiders 21-20.
- Jaguars at Titans (4:25 pm, CBS) – The outcome of this game may come down to how serious the Jags are in claiming they’ll play their starters to win today. Jacksonville is a lock for the 3rd position in the playoffs no matter what happens, while the Titans still have a shot to make it to the dance, but must win here. I think the temptation to protect their starters will have the Jags rethinking that decision by halftime and Tennessee will pull this one out 24-17
- Saints at Buccaneers (4:25 pm, FOX) – The Bucs haven’t looked good lately, but they’ve proven they can be a match for the Saints already. Still, New Orleans needs this game to lock down a division title and they should be able to overcome this challenge, even on the road. I’ll take the Saints 27-20.
- Cardinals at Seahawks (4:25 pm, FOX) – If they want to go to the postseason, the Seahawks need not only a win today, but for the Falcons to lose as well. The Cardinals have given them trouble in the past, but I think that motivation factor will put Seattle over the top 30-21.
- Raiders at Chargers (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Raiders haven’t beaten a competitive team since their surprise win over Kansas City in October. Their poise and concentration have dissipated in the second half of the season. The Chargers have won five of their last six and have a real shot at a wild-card slot. Chargers keep the momentum and win 24-20, giving Los Angeles two playoff teams. We’ll see if anyone there notices.
- Jaguars at Titans (4:25 pm, CBS) – I agree with Jazz that Jacksonville’s starters will likely only play the first half, but that will likely be enough. They outscore Tennessee by a TD on offense and give up a TD less in points on defense. Jags win 27-19.
- Saints at Buccaneers (4:25 pm, FOX) – The Saints need the win to keep the Panthers from the division title, and still have an outside shot at the 1st-week bye if Minnesota loses. The Bucs have a chance to … um … yeah. Saints 31-19.
- Cardinals at Seahawks (4:25 pm, FOX) – As much as I’d love to see Bruce Arians win what might be his last NFL game today, Seattle’s too tough at home and have too much on the line today. Seahawks 23-17 over the Cardinals.