Finally! It took until week 16 but Sportsmasher had his best week of the 2012 NFL Season by finishing (11-4-1) against the spread. His previous best week of the season was a (10-5-1) mark, which was done in both weeks 3 and week 12, and Sportsmasher is feeling extremely confident as he head into the final week of the 2012 NFL Season. It has been great discussing the NFL with all of the fans of the site throughout the NFL Season, so keep it here during the NFL playoffs, the NFL Draft and right through the kickoff of the 2013 Season. On to the Week 17 NFL Picks, which is always difficult, because several key players may sit this one out and we will not have a full breakdown of that until right before kickoff:
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills (-3.5) At this point of the season, it would be extremely difficult to pick the New York Jets (6-9) in any game, the way that Jets head coach Rex Ryan has mismanaged the quarterbacks has been laughable. Mark Sanchez was benched, Tim Tebow was skipped over (and sulked about it) and Greg McElroy was named the starter. Now McElroy has a concussion, Tebow will be cut, and Mark Sanchez will start the season finale with his future uncertain. The Jets best defensive player this season, defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, may also sit this game out due to a concussion. The Buffalo Bills (5-10) are by no means a good football team, in fact they stink, and there are lots of rumors that this could be head coach Chan Gailey’s last game in Buffalo and the team is expected to search for a new quarterback this offseason (hearing Alex Smith interest in Buffalo). With so much uncertainty with both organizations going forward, I’m taking the points.
The Pick: Jets (+3.5) FINAL SCORE: Bills 13 Jets 10
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals (-3) This game is meaningless to both teams, the Ravens (10-5) have won the AFC North while the Bengals (9-6) are locked into a Wild Card playoff spot, no matter who wins this game between divisional foes due to tiebreakers. It will be interesting to see if either team rests players heading into the playoffs, but both of these teams have pride, and will want to go into the playoffs with momentum. In what will be a tight but meaningless game with both teams playing in the postseason next weekend, I have to take the points, especially with how good the Ravens offense looked in last week’s drubbing of the New York Giants.
The Pick: Ravens (+3) FINAL SCORE: Ravens 20 Bengals 17
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers (EVEN) This line may change, because there is uncertainty as to if banged up Steelers (7-8) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play and risk aggravating his injuries (shoulder, ribs) and if Browns (5-10) rookies quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson will play due to injuries and both teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. I know Weeden has played above expectations this season, but there is a rumor that the Browns will play Colt McCoy to showcase him, and I actually like their chances better with McCoy. I expect to see a tight game in Pittsburgh, but at home and with a lot of uncertainty surrounding this game, I think Big Ben plays and I’m taking the Steelers at home.
The Pick: Steelers (EVEN) FINAL SCORE: Steelers 20 Browns 13
(OFF THE TABLE FOR BEST BETS: LINE WILL CHANGE)
(Update: Since I wrote this it has been announced that quarterback Thad Lewis will start for the Cleveland Browns Sunday, as both Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy are out with shoulder injuries, if the line changes before I post this I will update the pick. I’ll take Pittsburgh either way though, because a untested QB will struggle against the Steelers D in Pittsburgh, even if they are banged up).
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts (+7) Finally, a game that means something, because if the Texans (12-3) lose and the Patriots and Broncos win Houston can lose their first round playoff bye since New England holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over them. If the Texans win this game, they clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Colts (10-5) are locked into the five seed right now, so I would normally pick against them, except head coach Chuck Pagano returns to the team for the first time this season after battling a life threatening illness. I believe in ChuckStrong, Pagano’s story has inspired the Colts and many others this season, and I think they win the finale for him. Also, keep an eye on J.J. Watt, there is a chance that my pick for defensive player of the year ties or breaks the single season sack record (he has 20.5, Michael Strahan’s record is 22.5).
The Pick: Colts (+7) FINAL SCORE: Colts 27 Texans 24
SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: COLTS (+7)
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans (-4) In another meaningless game between two of the worst teams in the NFL the Jaguars (2-13) take on the Titans (5-10) in Tennessee. The Jaguars surprised and nearly beat the Patriots last weekend, which I think was their maximum effort and their Super Bowl, I do not expect them to play as well this weekend. Part of me wants to take the points here, however, I can’t do it as the Titans are flat out the more talented team.
The Pick: Titans (-4) FINAL SCORE: Titans 20 Jaguars 10
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants (-7) Has anyone seen the Giants (8-7) play in recent weeks? They should not be favored by seven points against anyone in the NFL right now, especially a divisional rival like the Eagles (4-11), who is forced to start a benched Michael Vick at quarterback due to Nick Foles breaking his hand. We all know the Eagles will cut Michael Vick this offseason, so this game is essentially an audition for teams who may be interested in his services for next season, which makes him very dangerous. The Giants are still a long shot to make the playoffs, they need to win and need the Redskins to beat the Cowboys (@ Washington), The Packers to beat the Vikings (@ Minnesota) and the Lions to beat the Bears (@ Detroit). This scenario, although difficult, is not at all impossible. I think the Giants win a tight game at home against the Eagles, giving themselves a fighting chance at the playoffs, with their backs against the wall.
The Pick: Eagles (+7) FINAL SCORE: Giants 27 Eagles 23
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions (+3) Although the Lions (4-11) have been absolutely awful this season, they match up well with the Bears, because Chicago’s offensive line stinks and the Lions front seven can pressure Jay Cutler. The Lions need to get a pass rush, because their secondary is absolutely awful, and will get picked apart by Jay Cutler if he has any time to throw. The Bears (9-6), once again, got off to a hot start but have fallen apart with their playoff hopes on the line and need help to get into the postseason. Chicago needs to win in Detroit this weekend, and the Packers need to beat the Vikings in Minnesota, in order for Chicago to make the playoffs. Although an angry Lions team will play hard in an attempt to knock their division rival Bears out of playoff contention, I do not see how they stop the Jay Cutler-to-Brandon Marshall-connection and I think the Bears win.
The Pick: Bears (-3) FINAL SCORE: Bears 23 Lions 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons (-7) There was a point this season when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were everyone’s darlings, quarterback Josh Freeman was in the midst of a resurgence and rookie tailback Doug Martin had set the NFL on fire, as the team sat at (6-4). Since then the team has lost five straight games and are (6-9), plus they look like they quit on head coach Greg Schiano. The Falcons (13-2) have secured home field advantage throughout the NFC playoff bracket and this game is meaningless to them, so I am not sure which players they will be resting for the finale, if any. The Falcons are a perfect (7-0) at home, and I expect them to keep that up, unless they decide to bench players and give them two weeks of rest. This pick is under the impression that Falcons head coach Mike Smith will play his starters, I have a feeling that those who have recently battled injuriesm such as Roddy White, may sit.
The Pick: Falcons (-7) FINAL SCORE: Falcons 31 Buccaneers 20
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (-6) The Saints (7-8) cannot stop anybody, but quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense can move the ball down the field on anybody, and will have no problem doing so against Carolina’s atrocious defense. I could see Panthers (6-9) quarterback Cam Newton putting up monster statistical numbers against a bad Saints defense this weekend as well, damning us to an offseason full of reports about Cam Newton actually had a solid statistical season in 2012, compared to his rookie season (when almost all of these stats came in meaningless games). The smartest bet on this game is probably the OVER (54), but in a game where a ton of points should be scored that could go either way, I’m taking the points.
The Pick: Panthers (+6) FINAL SCORE: Saints 31 Panthers 28
SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: PANTHERS (+6)
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots (-10) The Patriots (11-4) will be playing hard in this game, because they can still clinch a first round BYE if they win and either the Broncos or Texans lose (The Broncos won’t, the Texans might), and I think they will win. The question is, will they win by more than 10 points? The Dolphins (7-8) have a great front seven on defense and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has played beyond expectations, if they can get a few playmakers on offense and upgrade their secondary the future looks bright in Miami. I think that Bill Belichick will play hard to attempt to secure a first round BYE, and if not, will want to flex his team’s offensive muscle and put up points. The Patriots will know the outcome of the Texans game at this point, and if the Texans win the odds are long that the Broncos will lose to Kansas City, so this is a risky game. Belichick may decide to pull Brady and his starters if the game is meaningless.
The Pick: Patriots (-10) FINAL SCORE: Patriots 34 Dolphins 20
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings (+3) If the Vikings (9-6) win this game, they are in the playoffs, it’s that simple. If the Packers (11-4) win this game, they clinch a first round BYE, and additional rest for their plethora of injured players. If the Vikings are going to win this game, they will need to lean heavily on superstar running back Adrian Peterson, who needs 208 yards to break the single season rushing record. I think that he will fall short. The Packers have a lot of injured players who could benefit from the BYE and an extra week of rest, I think they key the defense on Adrian Peterson and force Christian Ponder to beat them, which he will be unable to do.
The Pick: Packers (-3) FINAL SCORE: Packers 27 Vikings 20
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos (-16) The Broncos get a layup for their final game of the 2013 regular season, as they get the worst team in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs (2-13). If the Broncos win this game, they clinch a BYE, and they will unless the Chiefs pull out a miracle win. I think that Peyton Manning and the Broncos excellent defense will be too much for Kansas City, and in a must win game in Denver that can clinch players an extra week of rest, the line could not be high enough. Broncos win easy.
The Pick: Broncos (-16) THE PICK: Broncos 31 Chiefs 10
SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: BRONCOS (-16)
Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers (EVEN) This line is EVEN in some places right now and “No Line” in others, due to the fact that Raiders (4-11) quarterbacks Carson Palmer and his backup Matt Leinart are injured and Terrell Pryor may get the start against the Chargers (6-9). This should be a close, but meaningless game between two awful teams, however I think that the Norv Turner and A.J. Smith era in San Diego ends with a win. If I am the Chargers, I am calling Jon Gruden immediately, I think this will be the best open job in the NFL this offseason.
The Pick: Chargers (EVEN) FINAL SCORE: Chargers 17 Raiders 10
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers (-17) The 49ers (10-4-1) can still clinch a first round BYE if they win this game and will win the NFC West if they win this game, so it will be important for them to beat the Cardinals (5-9) on Sunday. I do not think that the Cardinals will be able to move the ball at all on the 49ers defensive unit, however, this line is huge and the Cardinals have a strong defense. I think that the 49ers will win this game, however, the best cornerback in the game Patrick Peteron makes a few plays on defense and in the return game to keep it close.
The Pick: Cardinals (+17) FINAL SCORE: 49ers 24 Cardinals 10
St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks (-11) The Seattle Seahawks (10-5) are the hottest team in the NFL right now, they are playing excellent defense and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has the offense clicking, this is a team I would not want to face in the playoffs. The Seahawks are also (7-0) at home and I have said on this blog that I will not bet against the Seahawks at home, they have the best home field advantage in football. The St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) are actually a pretty good team, and with a ton of draft picks this offseason, I think they will be a serious playoff contender in 2013. They have nothing to play for but pride in this game, and Seattle has more momentum than anybody, I like the Seahawks in this one.
The Pick: Seahawks (-11) FINAL SCORE: Seahawks 31 Rams 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins (-3.5) The Sunday Night Football game is one of epic proportions to close out the 2013 NFL Season as the Washington Redskins (8-6) host the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) with the winner going to the playoffs. It’s win and in. Can Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III shine in a must win game? Will Tony Romo again crack under the pressure of the big stage? This is clearly the game of the weekend, with the winner winning the NFC East and playoff bound and the loser going home. I think this will be an intense three point victory either way, but it is that half point that scares me away from a rookie quarterback, even though RGIII is no ordinary rookie.
The Pick: Cowboys (+3.5) FINAL SCORE: Cowboys 24 Redskins 21
Week 1: (9-7)
Week 2: (7-8-1)
Week 3: (10-5-1)
Week 4: (8-7)
Week 5: (5-9)
Week 6: (6-7-1)
Week 7: (6-7)
Week 8: (5-9)
Week 9: (8-6)
Week 10: (5-9)
Week 11: (9-5)
Week 12: (10-5-1)
Week 13: (5-11)
Week 14: (9-6-1)
Week 15: (8-8)
Week 16: (11-4-1)
2012 Season: (122-113-6)
Sportsmasher’s Best Bets: 23-24
RexRated’s Best Bets: 24-20-2