NFL GAMES OF THE WEEK – WEEK SEVENTEEN

29Dec12

Here we are, in the final week of the regular season.  Although we already know most of the teams that made the playoffs, there is relatively little known regarding the seedings.

Atlanta has locked up the #1 spot in the NFC and Indianapolis and Cincinnati have locked up the #5 and #6 spots, respectively, in the AFC.  The four divisional winners in the AFC are known, but their seedings are all up for grabs.  Four teams have locked up playoff spots in the NFC, leaving two spots yet to be claimed.

As a result, there should be relatively few starters preparing to sit out the second half of any games this week.  For week 17, that’s a rarity.  You would think that would help in picking the games this week.

Not so fast.  I only picked two “upsets” this week, and I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy about either one, especially with my recent record in this category.

I’m somewhat confident in my Game of the Week winner.

The only one I’m absolutely certain about is the Lock of the Week.

NFL Football

This week’s Lock of the Week (14-3).

After the events of last week, one game has become an absolute guarantee.  The San Francisco 49ers will beat the Arizona Cardinals.

I know, I know, you’re probably getting dizzy from this on-again off-again thing with my hometown franchise.  Just think how I feel!

Let’s skip all of the in-depth analysis of the two teams and cut to the chase.

The 49ers had their clocks cleaned at Seattle last week.  This did two things.  First, it dropped them to third place in the playoff food chain.  Which means they not only have to win to get a bye in the first round, they also need the Vikings to upset the Packers in Green Bay.

Second, they need to win this week to guarantee the division title, allowing them to begin the playoffs at home instead of on the east coast (see the Game of the Week to see why I didn’t say Dallas).

The fact that they have learned to really hate the Cardinals and Arizona has become pretty pathetic on the road (even worse than they are at home) only adds to the realization that this one should be in the bag.

The only way the 49ers can lose this game is if they beat themselves.  They haven’t done that two weeks in a row yet this season, and I don’t believe they will start now.

San Francisco puts this one away early to win the NFC West division title.

49ers Team

This week’s Upset of the Week (7-10).

As I stated earlier, I don’t feel very confident with this pick.  I only went against the odds-makers on two games.  The first one is between the Jaguars and Titans, two teams that cashed it in several weeks ago, so who really knows which team will show up, if any at all!

The other game is the one I’ll need to go with, since it involves two teams that have already locked up playoff spots.

The Indianapolis Colts will upset the visiting Houston Texans.

This one is a risky call for a couple of reasons.  First, the Colts have already clinched the #5 spot in the AFC playoffs.  A win or loss will not change that.  Therefore, there is a chance that they won’t be as emotionally involved as their opponents.

Second, the Texans need a victory in order to clinch one of the top two spots and a bye in the first round.  After their amazing start to the season, which included a firm grip on the #1 spot in the AFC for the first three months, it would be devastating to fall all the way down to #3 to begin the playoffs.

Now you can see why I’m not bursting with confidence with this pick.  However, I’m sticking with it because something in the back of my mind is telling me that the Colts are so excited about exceeding most expert’s pre-season expectations, they won’t be happy without knocking off the top dog in week 17.

Houston has shown some weaknesses on defense lately.  Andrew Luck and his gang have the weapons to exploit that.  It may be slow going for the first half, but I’m picking the Colts to turn it on after halftime and put it away by the middle of the fourth quarter.

Andrew Luck

This week’s Game of the Week (14-3).

There will be several games that will be worth watching this week, especially knowing all the different playoff seeding possibilities.  And while a lot of games will play important roles in determining the playoff picture, no other game will be guaranteed to influence the playoffs as much as the Dallas Cowboys at the Washington Redskins.

Why is this one so important?  Because the winner of this game wins the NFC East division title and begins the playoffs at home.  Period.  End of story.

And why did I pick this as the Game of the Week?  Because I don’t see a blowout, nor do I see a boring game.

These teams have been playing each other twice a season for several decades.  Over the years, they’ve taken their turns beating each other up, with no love lost on either sideline.

This year, nobody was picking either one of these teams to be in the playoff hunt, let alone the division title hunt, come week 17.  Now they meet one final time to decide the #4 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Neither team has reached this point by playing stellar defense.  They both got here because of their offense.  Don’t look for anything to change this week.

I don’t care what anybody says, Tony Romo is a very good quarterback that is fully capable of putting up big numbers (and big points).  RGIII is playing like a seasoned veteran and is a running and passing threat, banged up or not.  I’m looking for a score in the neighborhood of 34-27, but don’t be surprised if it goes higher than that.

In the end, I see the Redskins pulling it out, possibly on a scoring drive with less than a minute to go in the game, bringing the division title back to the nation’s capital.

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