Antigonish - December 30, 2011 - Pigskin Picks went 5 for 5 last week, correctly picking two upsets, and moving within striking distance of my season goal of 80% with a 78% prediction success rate to date. Can I go 5 for 5 once more in the final week to hit 80%? Stay tuned!
Week 17 has perhaps more variables to consider than any other in the NFL schedule, as many playoff bound teams elect to rest starters for fear of pre-playoff injury in essentially meaningless games. There is very little on the line for many teams in Week 17, although there are a few notable exceptions. For example...
Lock of the Week - San Francisco 49ers at St Louis Rams - The Rams are in close contention for the 1st pick overall (Andrew Luck), which would be worth a huge bounty considering they already have a young QB with star potential in Sam Bradford, who is out with an injured ankle. All they have to do is lose, and have the Colts beat the very beatable Jaguars to clinch. Fortunately for their chances of doing so, the 49ers have a goal in mind as well - a first round playoff bye, thus ensuring that they will be playing to win and not resting key starters. That in itself should ensure a 49er win.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets - The Dolphins have played inspired football behind RB Reggie Bush and QB Matt Moore, however, the Jets are a tough team despite their inconsistent play and the struggles of QB Mark Sanchez. Moreover, a loss to the Dolphins eliminates their playoff chances, which require help even with a win. Look for the Jets to shut down the Dolphins running game and for the more talented (and motivated) team to win. Jets win!
Game of the Week - Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants - Two very talented playoff calibre teams square off in a huge battle from which only one playoff team will emerge. Those stakes are high. Tony Romo's sore hand has received much attention, especially given that it essentially knocked him out of last weeks game entirely (ruining all of his fantasy owners hopes of a Week 16 championship in the process). He should be back ready to go for this one though - just in time to face the leagues best front four, led by Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, who will give the Dallas O-line fits all day. While the Cowboys have the talent on both sides of the ball to make this a sure game to watch, look for Eli Manning and the G-Men to find their way back to the playoffs. Giants win!
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans -The Texans have a playoff spot already set, and gain nothing with a win, thus making it likely that their key starters will put in a token appearance at best to avoid injury. We may have a brief Andre Johnson sighting, if only to work some of the rust off prior to the playoffs, but Arian Foster, who is the offensive centerpiece for the Texans will not likely play much. That should be enough to produce a win for the Titans, whose slight playoff chances require a win. Titans win!
Upset of the Week - Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots - The 12-3 Patriots, having already established home field advantage for the playoffs are unlikely to let star QB Tom Brady, who is said to be slightly favoring his non-throwing shoulder, to play for the entire game, despite team released media reports to the contrary. The Bills will be looking to end the season on a positive note, and though backup RB CJ Spiller has finally emerged as a dangerous force, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has largely fizzled after signing a huge contract earlier in the season. Picking against the Patriots at home is always a dicey proposition, but the Pats have nothing to win by letting Brady play the entire game, and the Bills starters vs the Pats backups seems like a reasonable gamble to me. Look for Fitzpatrick to do just enough versus the Pats sub-standard secondary to allow the Bills to emerge as winners in a battle the Patriots just want to emerge from healthy. Bills win!