The only thing more difficult than trying to pick winners in weeks 1 and 2 is trying to pick winners in weeks 16 and 17.  Last week was a week of upsets and weird finishes.

This week should be even stranger.  Usually week 17 presents us with a bundle of games that are meaningless. As a result, we are faced with starters sitting on the bench, if they even dress out at all.  The handful of games that have playoff implications are the only reason to be watching the action on the field.  (Not to mention that most Fantasy Football leagues finished up last week!)

This year we are seeing something different.  Yes, there are some meaningless games like Houston at Tennessee and Washington at the Giants.  But there are a lot of games that will see the starters in the lineup, even for playoff bound teams.

For instance, Denver, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Kansas City have all locked up playoff spots in the AFC, but only the Chiefs will be sitting their starters, since their game will not impact their #5 seed.  All of the other teams listed are trying to keep or improve their current seeding.

In addition, there are still three 8-7 teams and two 7-8 teams trying to grab the final playoff spot.

Over in the NFC, Seattle, Carolina and San Francisco have all clinched spots, but not seeds.  They all have a shot at a first round bye.  The winner of the Philly/Dallas game will win the East while the winner of the Packers/Bears game will win the North.  Arizona and New Orleans have their sights on the final playoff spot.

That leaves only three games that have no playoff implications.  For week 17, that is unheard of.

And that officially makes this week the most difficult to pick.  But hey, let’s give it a shot anyway!


This week’s Lock of the Week (15-2).

With all of the scenarios mentioned above, there is only one game that jumps out at me as a “Lock”.  Buffalo at New England.

The Patriots have everything to play for, such as hanging on to the #2 seed or possibly getting the #1 seed if the Broncos stumble.  Also, a loss would open the door to dropping to #3 and losing their opening round bye.

Meanwhile, the Bills are closing another disappointing season with half of their starters down for the count.  Don’t look for this one to stay close for long.

New England will win this one going away and be able to rest their starters for half a game before their bye week in round one!


This week’s Upset of the Week (6-11).

I was surprised to see that I only disagreed with the experts on one game this week.  They have picked the Packers to beat the Bears.

I don’t see it.  Not that I think Chicago is a great team by any means, because they are not.  Sure they have offensive weapons that can light it up, but their defense is nothing like this franchise has seen before.  And I don’t mean that in a good way!

But the Packers have been a shell of themselves ever since Aaron Rogers went down with a broken collarbone against these very same Bears.  Since then they have gone 2-5-1, and were very lucky to have won those two games.  Bringing Rogers back when his collarbone is only 80% healed is not a very smart move.

Let’s face it, he is going to be extremely rusty and one good hit could snap him like kindling wood.  Do you really think Chicago’s defense doesn’t have side bets about who knocks him out first?

Even if they did survive this game and made it to the playoffs, there is no way they would possibly advance against the field they will be facing in the NFC.

Their best, and smartest, move would be to finish the season with the players that are in place now and start over next year with a healthy Rogers in place.

As far as this week, I don’t believe the timing will be up to par for the Packers.  The Bears will take this game and the North division title.


This week’s Game of the Week (10-7).

Although there are a number of meaningful games this week, there will none better for football fans than San Francisco at Arizona.  Not only are both teams in the playoff hunt, but these are two physical teams with two of the best defenses in the league.  Oh yeah, they don’t like each other very much either!

Don’t look for a high scoring affair.  Both teams are driven by their defense.  Sure, they both have offensive weapons throughout their lineup, but it’s their D that got them where they are now.

The 49ers have clinched a playoff spot, thanks to the Falcons handing the game to them in the final two minutes last week.  But they want to hang on to the #5 seed at the very least, and grab the division title at the very most.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals need a victory and a Saints loss or tie just to make the playoffs.  That’s right, they could finish 11-5 and miss the playoffs completely, while several 9-7 teams continue to move forward.  (I know, poetic justice.  The Cards’ run to the Super Bowl a few years ago began with a 9-7 record!)

This will be a knock-down, rock-em sock-em, black and blue (and any other cliché you can think of) physical and bloody battle.  Don’t be surprised if a few fights break out during the course of the game.

In the end, look for the home team to finish on top.  Cards will win 23-20!


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