Before I begin, I would like to wish anyone reading this Happy Holidays. I hope you enjoy the gifts, the time with your families and the excitement the new year brings. Hopefully, you will plan your holidays accordingly, as the 2014 NFL regular season wraps up on Sunday. NFL week 17 features all divisional matchups on Sunday. With the playoffs approaching, the NFL wants all of the teams on relatively the same schedule. With that being said, there are no Thursday Night or Monday Night football games in Week 17. All the action takes place on Sunday, December 28. Let’s take a look at the key matchups, pick every game and try to get a sense of what the AFC and NFC playoff pictures will look like after Sunday.
Panthers (6-8-1) @ Falcons (6-9), 1:00 – Georgia Dome
The NFC South division title is up for grabs in Atlanta on Sunday. It is no secret that the 2014 NFL season has been disappointing for all 4 teams in the NFC South, and the division winner will host a playoff game with only 7 wins. The last time this happened was in 2010 when the 7-9 Seahawks hosted a playoff game and actually beat the Saints (nfl.com). With the NFL already considering changing playoff seeding, you have to imagine that they will fix the seeding in the offseason so that hosting a playoff game is determined by team records, not division wins. I still think division winners should be represented in the playoffs, but if you win the division with under 9 wins, I’m sorry, but you do not deserve to host a playoff game. Earlier this season, the Panthers beat the Falcons 19-17 in Carolina (Google). This time around, I think the Falcons get the upper hand. According to Yahoo Sports, the Falcons are fourth in the NFL in passing. They are going against the Panthers secondary, who is 9th in the NFL in pass defense. This is a key match-up to watch as Matt Ryan will be looking to Roddy White and Julio Jones often down the field. I should note that the Falcons are last in pass defense, but I think Cam Newton still being beat up along with the lack of weapons in Carolina’s offense will hurt the Panthers in the Georgia Dome, which will be rocking with the division on the line.
PICK: Falcons 27, Panthers 24, Falcons clinch NFC South and #4 Seed in the Playoffs
Browns (7-8) @ Ravens (9-6), 1:00 – M&T Bank Stadium
The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens both had rough weekends. The Browns lost 17-13 in Carolina and lost rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel for the season with a hamstring injury. Quarterback Brian Hoyer was also injured and his status for Sunday is uncertain. If Hoyer can’t go, undrafted rookie Connor Shaw or veteran Tyler Thigpen will start. As for the Ravens, they lost 25-13 in Houston. Joe Flacco had one of if not the worst game of his career and ended the first half with a 0 passer rating and 2 interceptions. He finished the game with 3 interceptions and was under duress the entire game. The Ravens lost control of their destiny and now have to win this game and count on the Chargers losing to the Chiefs in order to grab the #6 seed in the AFC. Whoever is playing quarterback for the Browns this Sunday is going to have a tough time with the Ravens front seven, who have a combined 45 sacks this season. Baltimore’s offense has started slow the last few weeks, but I think Gary Kubiak will be very upset with the group this week after an embarrassing performance in Houston. This along with the home field advantage will lead to a Ravens victory.
PICK: Ravens 27, Browns 13
Chargers (9-6) at Chiefs (8-7), 1:00 – Arrowhead Stadium
The Chargers season is on the line in Kansas City, all they have to do is win and they are in the playoffs with the AFC #6 seed. This is highly unlikely, but they could also get in with a tie and a Ravens loss or tie. The only problem is, they are playing in the loudest stadium in the NFL. Earlier this season, the Chiefs beat the Chargers 23-20 (nfl.com). I think the Chiefs will play spoiler and beat San Diego once again. First of all, Phillip Rivers is playing with a herniated disk in his back along with cracked ribs (sbnation.com). This fact along with San Diego’s 18th ranked offense going up against Kansas City’s 7th ranked defense (espn.go.com) in Arrowhead will lead to a long day for Phillip Rivers and the Chargers offense. San Diego also has the NFL’s 26th ranked run defense, which will lead to a big day for Jamal Charles and Alex Smith will be able to do the rest of the damage, crushing the Chargers playoff hopes.
PICK: Chiefs 20, Chargers 17, Ravens grab AFC #6 seed
Lions (11-4) at Packers (11-4), 4:25 – Lambeau field
The NFC North division title is on the line in Green Bay this Sunday, and it is sure to be a good one. The Lions beat Green Bay 19-7 in Detroit earlier this year. The Packers have almost been 2 different teams this season, going 7-0 at home and 4-4 on the road. The Packers 11th ranked offense will be going against the top defense in the league (Yahoo Sports). This will be an exciting match-up to watch, as Green Bay has been unstoppable at home. As good as the Lions have been, there have been a lot of question marks on offense. I think it will be very hard for them to operate in a noisy environment. Green Bay’s defense is ranked 23rd overall, but they held the Lions to 19 points earlier this season and I think the Lions will not score much more than 19 if that in this game. If this game were in Detroit, I would give the Lions the upper hand. Sorry Detroit, but you will have tough luck here and will have to settle for a Wild Card spot.
PICK: Packers 27, Lions 17, Packers win NFC east, get #2 seed and bye and Lions get #6 seed
Bengals (9-4-1) at Steelers (10-5), 8:30 – Heinz Field
After a Monday night thriller that saw the Bengals defeat the Broncos after Peyton Manning’s 4th quarter meltdown, these two teams have a chance to win the AFC North and improve their playoff seeding in the AFC. The Steelers win the AFC North win a win here. The Bengals win the AFC north with a win or tie and can also clinch a first round bye with a win and a Denver loss, or a tie with losses by both the Broncos and Colts. Do not count on Denver losing at home to the Raiders, however. With all this being said, this may be the hardest game to predict in week 17. Both the Bengals and the Steelers have been very unpredictable this season. I do not think many people expected the Bengals to beat the Broncos Monday night since the Bengals usually fold under the spotlight. The Steelers have had many impressive wins and have shown flashes of their past Super Bowl teams, but at the same time have fallen to the likes of the Jets and the Buccaneers. We can look at the rankings, as the Steelers have the #2 ranked offense and the Bengals have the #15 ranked offense (espn.go.com). Defensively, Pittsburgh ranks #20 and the Bengals come in at #22. The Steelers are 5-2 at home this season and the Bengals are 5-2 on the road. All of these tight-knit facts prove that I (and I would assume most of you) have to idea what is going to happen Sunday night. We thought that the Bengals could not win in primetime, but they did so on Monday. The Steelers usually play good teams well, and it will also be interesting to see if AJ Green plays after sustaining an arm injury on Monday. The Steelers blew out the Bengals in the fourth quarter in their last meeting, and I think the Bengals will be out for blood with the division on the line. Yes, I know Heinz Field will be rocking and it will be a hard environment for the Bengals to play in, but I think after last week’s performance against the Broncos the Bengals defense will be the deciding factor here, giving Big Ben and the Steelers offense fits throughout the game. It could be a low scoring game or it could be a shootout, but for some reason I see the Bengals getting the job done and winning the AFC North.
PICK: Bengals 34, Steelers 31, Bengals clinch AFC North and #3 seed
Cowboys 27, Redskins 13, Dallas clinches #3 seed in NFC
Colts 13, Titans 9, Colts rest starters but win and clinch #4 seed in AFC
Buccaneers 16, Saints 13
Giants 24, Eagles 14
Bills 24, Patriots 20 – Patriots will rest starters in meaningless game
Texans 17, Jaguars 16
Dolphins 21, Jets 20
Vikings 13, Bears 6
Broncos 24, Raiders 17, Broncos clinch #2 seed and bye
49ers 13, Cardinals 9 – No reason why Cardinals need to win this game
Rams 16, Seahawks 31, Seattle gets #1 seed and clinches home field advantage
So, here are the AFC and NFC Playoff Seedings according to my picks:
1. Patriots (12-4)
2. Broncos (12-4)
3. Bengals (11-4-1)
4. Colts (11-5)
5. Steelers (11-5)
6. Ravens (10-6)
1. Seahawks (13-3) 2. Packers (12-4)
3. Cowboys (12-4)
4. Falcons (7-9)
5. Cardinals (11-5)
6. Lions (11-5)
So, if these were to be the playoff seedings, Wild Card Weekend will feature these matchups:
Ravens @ Bengals
Steelers @ Colts
Lions @ Cowboys
Cardinals @ Falcons
So, what do you think will happen in week 17? Do you agree or disagree with my picks and seedings? Please let your voice be heard! Leave a reply to this post if you have WordPress, tweet me your thoughts at @jakemcd95, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading my first post in this blog, and I wish you a very Happy Holiday season!
MLB and NFL at 5 Host
Also, lets appreciate the beast Marshawn Lynch really is by watching this highlight of his 79 yard touchdown run this past Sunday Night against Arizona. Wow!