Jazz: I’m still not sure how it happened but after sixteen weeks of this competition, Ed and I remain right where we started. I went a disappointing 3-4 last weekend, neither passing or falling behind my colleague. But hey… all in all, a 69-43 record out of well over 100 picks isn’t all that shabby. But that means that the stainless steel martini glass/trophy for the regular season is still hovering precariously on the line. And a lot of the games this week are tough to pick, particularly if some of the big hitters are resting their starters. One last time into the breach, friends.
Ed: “… once more, or close the 2019 season up with our playoff-expectations dread.” If we’re going all Shakespearean here at the end of the year, we have to determine whether we’re in tragedy or farce, right? A 69-43 season record is actually quite victorious — perhaps not Henry V/Agincourt victorious, but nothing to sneeze at, either. The man who captures the Steel Martini Trophy will indeed recall this perhaps even better than St. Crispin’s Day. And better than anyone can recall who Saint Crispin was, for that matter.
Where was I? Oh yeah, we’re picking football games here, and for the last time in the regular season …
Jazz: The Jets visit the 10-5 Buffalo Bills (1:00 pm, CBS) for the final week of the regular season. (And the end of the Jets’ season.) On paper, while it pains me to say it, the Jets should be no match for the Bills. But two facts haunt me here. When the Jets have been firing on all cylinders this season they’ve beaten some quality teams. They scored more against the Ravens than some much higher-ranked teams have. And second, the Bills are currently a lock for a wildcard slot and a win doesn’t do much for them. Their coach has already indicated that he’s resting the starters for much of the game. New York can beat Buffalo’s second team and they will. Jets over Bills 24-17.
The Steelers travel to Baltimore to face the seemingly unstoppable Ravens (4:25 pm, CBS). But will the Ravens be unstoppable today? Even more so than the Bills, Baltimore has virtually nothing to gain from a win and a lot to lose of any of their all-stars head for the doctor’s office. And their coach hasn’t made a secret of the fact that his prime players will be getting a hero’s sendoff from the fans and will then be sealed in a cushioned vault until the playoffs. And besides, are you going to waste your starters against a team that couldn’t even beat the stinking Jets??? (*cough*.. sorry Ed.) The Steelers, on the other hand, have everything to lose. They can still nab a wildcard slot with some help from the Titans and they’ll be playing at the same time. With everything on the line, Pittsburgh will rally at the 11th hour, the Duck will fly again and end Baltimore’s eleven game winning streak. Pittsburgh over the Ravens 21-18.
The Vikings welcome their division rivals from Chicago… da Bears (1:00 pm, FOX) in another game where Minnesota has little or nothing to gain. Rumor has it that the Vikings will play backup QB Sean Mannion for most of the game. If that’s the case, I’ll go with da Bears over da Vikes 23-13.
Ed: Can the Jets win in Buffalo, even against second-stringers? They beat Pittsburgh last week (grrrr…) but that was at home. The Jets are 1-6 when they, er, have to get on a jet to the game. Buffalo might give some of their starters a rest, but their rushing game is superior and the Jets aren’t doing much on the road. I’ll stick with the line and home-field advantage and pick Bills over Jets 23-13. Surprisingly, the line also favors the Steelers on the road against the Ravens, but only because Baltimore has pledged to leave Lamar Jackson hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall’s doorstep. Duck Hodges will have to dig deep to overcome two bad games in a row in order to get this ramblin’ wreck into the playoffs. Steelers 20-17 over the Ravens. The Vikings are playing at home against the beat-up Bears in a game that would normally be meaningless. However, as bad as the offense played last week against the Packers, their starters clearly need the extra work. However, Mike Zimmer apparently disagrees, sticking six starters on the inactive list for today and starting Mannion as Jazz predicted. I’d normally choose the Vikings, but with that change, make it Da Bears 20-14 over the Vikings.
Jazz: Our final four “extra” games, three of them having playoff ramifications.
- Browns at Bengals (1:00 pm, FOX) – This is the fun game without playoff implications except possibly for the Browns’ coach, who may be unemployed next year if he can’t score a win over the lowly Bungles. And putting my finger to the wind, I think he’d better get to work on his resume. Bengals over Browns 27-19.
- Raiders at Broncos (4:25 pm, CBS) – Believe it or not, the Raiders are still in the hunt. (Only barely. In addition to beating the Broncos, they would need both the Steelers and Titans to lose and the Colts to win.) Sadly for them, the Raiders have been terrible on the road while the Broncos are slightly better at home. I’m taking Denver over Oakland 17-9 in a defensive struggle.
- Titans at Texans (4:25 pm, CBS) – This is a weird game to call. The Texans have locked up the division, but they won’t know if they have a shot at the number 3 seed until kickoff. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, the Titans have their fate in their own hands. If they win, they’re in. If they lose they will need a LOT of help. They will be hungrier for it, so I’m going with the Titans over the Texans 31-27.
- 49ers at Seahawks (8:20 pm, NBC) – There’s too much craziness surrounding this game to break it all down. Both teams are heading to the postseason and both really need this win. But San Francisco just puts up so many more points every week while allowing so many fewer. Nothing is certain in the final week, but I’m going with the 49ers over the Seahawks 33-30.
- Browns at Bengals (1:00 pm, FOX) – The Browns are one of this season’s biggest disappointments … but they’re not Bengals bad. And Kitchens will be gone no matter what happens today. Browns over Bengals 30-14.
- Raiders at Broncos (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Broncos are another disappointment this season, but so are the Raiders — and Denver’s won three of their last four games, too. Oakland, er, Las Vegas is poor on the road, and their leading RB just got ruled out for today. Broncos 21-14 over Oakland.
- Titans at Texans (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Texans are resting Deshaun Watson today, so the Titans have a leg up to lock up the last AFC playoff spot. They are coming in without their starting cornerback and two wide receivers, though. A tough game to call, but with Houston playing it safe and Tennessee needing to go all out to extend their season, I’ll pick Titans over Texans 27-20.
- 49ers at Seahawks (8:20 pm, NBC) – This is truly the game of the week, and it’s the last game of the regular season to boot. The Seahawks re-signed Marshawn Lynch this week to replenish their depleted RB corps, but Beast Mode has been sitting all season long. A bigger deal is having Jadeveon Clowney back on defense against the run and Shaquill Griffin back at corner against the pass. Seattle’s 12th man hasn’t helped them much this season at home (4-3????), but two of their three home losses were to the Ravens and Saints. I’m loathe to pick against the 49ers on their hot streak, but I get a sense that Lynch’s return will add more than just the sum of his rushes to the Seattle squad. Seahawks 34-31 over the 49ers.