Jazz: Another week, another mediocre performance for me, once again going 4-3 for a season total of 61-44. But the good news is that even if I fall to a complete collapse in the final two weeks I should at least finish better than .500. I’ll grudgingly admit that even with the various bits of politics still infecting the sport here and there, this season has been delivering a lot of fun, exciting games to watch in the final stretch. Sadly, the Jets will once again finish horribly, but not quite horrible enough to get a top draft pick. So goes the life of New York fans.
Ed: I had a great week! Oh, sure, my performance was mediocre, but the Steelers beat the Patriots in an amazing defensive performance against one of the better teams in the league. Even if I’d gone 1-6, that’d be enough to make this a highlight week for me in 2018. As for my performance, I still only went 4-3 to tie Jazz yet again, bringing my season total to 56-49. Unlike Jazz, I’m not assured of an above-.500 finish, so I need to choose my picks carefully. Er, more carefully.
Jazz: The Jets host the Packers (1:00 pm, CBS) facing the dismal end of another dismal season. But how bad are the Packers this season if they’re only a three-point favorite over New York? Which Jets team will show up? The one that barely managed to beat the lowly Bills or the ones that came within inches of beating the Texans? The Packers look broken and the Jets are coming on late in the season so I’ll be loyal one last time and take New York 27-21. The Steelers visit the Saints (4:25 pm, CBS) in another make or break moment for Pittsburgh. They can lock up the AFC North and put the Ravens away for good if they beat the Saints. Unfortunately for Ed, the Saints at home should be able to put up at least thirty points and Pittsburgh seems too worn out. I’m going with the favorites here and taking New Orleans 33-30 in another heartbreaker. The Vikings are in Detroit to play the Lions (1:00 pm, FOX) in a game which is almost a must-win for Minnesota if they hope to hang on to a wildcard shot. (Both the Eagles and the Redskins are close behind them.) Kirk Cousins will need to up his passing game because Detroit’s run defense has been very solid. I think he’ll manage it though, so I’ll go with the Vikings in a close, lower scoring match, 17-13.
Ed: Green Bay is favored in their matchup against the J-E-T-S, but I’m not sure why. They have yet to win a game on the road this year. It might have something to do with the Pack’s 11th-rated offense going up against NYJ’s 21st-rated defense. On the other side of the ball, the Jets’ O is ranked 30th and Green Bay’s D is ranked 13th — although only 22nd against the run. Still, I’ll take the Pack 27-20 over the Jets. The Steelers have to win against the Saints on the road today, and the good news is that New Orleans’ offense has been slowing down the last few games. With Baltimore’s win last night, Pittsburgh will fall out of first place with a loss — and almost certainly out of a wild-card spot too. Give me the Steelers 27-24 in a must-win situation. The Vikes aren’t reliable on the road, but the Lions aren’t better at home. With Minnesota’s offense finally coming alive last week, Detroit’s 26th-ranked O probably can’t keep up, especially against the Vikings’ fourth-ranked defense. Minnesota 26-13.
Jazz: Four more games with playoff implications (mostly).
- Texans at Eagles (1:00 pm, CBS) – The Texans still haven’t locked up the AFC South and the Eagles are somehow still in contention for a wildcard spot. This is really an “Any Given Sunday” game because Nick Foles has been looking sharp and his team’s back is against the wall while the Texans almost lost to the Jets. I’m going to go out on a limb and call this one for Philadelphia, 30-27.
- Bears at 49ers (4:05 pm, FOX) – At this point the Bears are basically just fighting to see whether or not they can get a first-round bye, but the 49ers may be tougher than their record would indicate. Nick Mullins has developed a lot in the second half of the season and has some good receivers. That won’t be enough against Chicago’s defense, however. Da’ Bears get da’ win 27-17.
- Chiefs at Seahawks (8:20 pm, NBC) – The Chiefs are in a tie with the Chargers in the AFC West while the Seahawks are desperately trying to hang on to a shot at a wildcard slot. If you’d asked me three weeks ago, I’d say the Chiefs would be untouchable in this match, but now I think it’s going to be a close one. Kansas City is capable of putting a lot of points on the board, but only if they can keep their offense on the field. Seattle’s D will make the difference one more time in a home field upset. Seahawks win it 20-17.
- Broncos at Raiders (Monday, 8:15 pm, ESPN) – I’m only picking this one because it’s the Monday Night game. The Broncos spirit is willing but the flesh isn’t enough to shut down the Raiders. Oakland takes this one away 33-16.
- Texans at Eagles (1:00 pm, CBS) – I’m a little surprised to see Philly favored in this game, but Houston’s been looking shaky the last two weeks. Both teams need this game for playoff rankings, although the Texans are all but assured of some slot. They clinch if they win, and Philly’s defense is still suspect. I’ll go with the Texans, 23-20.
- Bears at 49ers (4:05 pm, FOX) – A few weeks ago, this one would have been a no-brainer. Give Nick Mullins a lot of credit for making it a tougher choice now. Da Bears have locked up the division title but probably won’t get the first week bye, so they may start resting their starters, especially on the road. The 49ers beat two good teams in a row, and I’ll pick them for an upset today at home, 17-14.
- Chiefs at Seahawks (8:20 pm, NBC) – Seattle lost on the road to San Francisco last week, and they face the hottest team in the NFL at home. They’re hardly bulletproof at home these days, and the Chiefs have to win to get a game up on the Chargers. I’ll go with the odds and the spread to pick KC over Seattle, 30-28.
- Broncos at Raiders (Monday, 8:15 pm, ESPN) – Oakland’s losing but they’re not getting blown out. Denver’s beaten some good teams of late (Chargers and Steelers) but then dropped two in a row to San Francisco and Cleveland, the latter at home. Those ended Denver’s playoff hopes, so I’d expect them to come out flat on the road. Still, the Broncos have more talent and the Raiders are giving up 30 points a game. In the spirit of competition, I’ll take the Broncos 28-23 just to challenge Jazz a bit in the final game this week.