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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Week 17: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & NO analysis) FINAL WEEK EDITION



Week 17: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & NO analysis) FINAL WEEK EDITION

Week 16 results: 11-5 (WINS); 8-7-1 (ATS); 10-6 (O/U)

Season totals: 155-83-2 .651 (WINS); 115-117-8 .496 (ATS); 130-107-3 .549 (O/U)

Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN); Against the spread (ATS).

Note: As in past years, I will not belabor the analysis of the Week 17 games, with a few exceptions (e.g. INDvsTEN). Like Week 1, situations are so fluid it makes predicting games, and perhaps betting on them, much more difficult than during the regular season. Whether teams are eliminated and playing undrafted rookies or they’re the No. 1 seed and have decided to sit their players, there’s a reason why fantasy football leagues are long finished by the time Week 17 rolls in. As in years past I will begin reviewing games with full analysis beginning with the Wild Card Round of the 2018 NFL Playoffs. As always, thanks for reading and have a safe and fun New Year! – Pro Football Media

 The Patriots aren't going anywhere this post season unless they secure home field advantage, or this man pulls an ace out of his short sleeves.

New York Jets 4-11 (+13.5) @ New England Patriots 10-5 (45.5): Patriots 27-20
Sunday, 1:00PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny; low 30s)

Reasons: The Patriots desperately need to win, because if they don’t have home field advantage throughout at least some of the playoffs they’re toast. As for the Jets, what a better way to end your terrible season then to help ruin the Patriots, who hold the tiebreaker over the Houston Texans.

Miami Dolphins 7-8 (+3.5) @ Buffalo Bills 5-10 (38.5): Bills 21-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Sunny; low 30s)

Reasons: The Dolphins could end the season .500 again. Thank science for the Miracle in Miami.

Detroit Lions 5-10 (+8) @ Green Bay Packers 6-8-1 (45): Packers 30-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Sunny; low 30s) 

Reasons: I though an early season tie would play to Green Bay’s favor. Considering how insufferable Aaron Rodgers is, I’m glad I was wrong.

Jacksonville Jaguars 5-10 (+7) @ Houston Texans 10-5 (40.5): Texans 23-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, NRG Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: What a difference a few weeks makes. The Texans were in charge of the AFC South until a few weeks ago, and now they’re in danger of going from divisional champions to the 6th seed if they don’t win Sunday. In fact, if they lose the division title goes to the winner of the Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans game. As for the Jaguars, what a difference a season makes. At least the Jaguars won their Super Bowl against New England earlier this season. 

 The sky is the limit now that New Orleans has secured home field advantage through the NFC playoffs.

Carolina Panthers 6-9 (+7.5) @ New Orleans Saints 13-2 (44.5): Saints 28-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Saints have locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but the Panthers are without Cam Newton, and therefore, not even remotely the same team.

Dallas Cowboys 9-6 (+6) @ New York Giants 5-10 (41.5): Giants 23-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; low 30s)

Reasons: There’s no way Eli Manning ends his career with a loss at home against the hated Dallas Cowboys, is there? Wait, you think Eli still wants to play?!?! The Giants season is so bad they can’t even qualify for the top pick in the draft. Cowboys starters play and instill anything but confidence heading into the playoffs. 

Atlanta Falcons 6-9 (-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-10 (51.5): Bucs 28-27
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: So much offense. So little interest. 

Cleveland Browns 7-7-1 (+6) @ Baltimore Ravens 9-6 (41): Ravens 24-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Cloudy; low 40s) 

Reasons: One of the few games of Week 17 with anything on the line. The Browns could end 2018 with their first winning season in what seems like decades, while the Ravens could win the AFC North with a victory. 

 The Eagles aren't going anywhere with Carson Wentz, but that wasn't a problem last year.

Philadelphia Eagles 8-7 (-6.5) @ Washington Football Team 7-8 (42): Eagles 24-17
Sunday, 4:25 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Cloudy; low 40s)

Reasons: As unbelievable as it seems the Eagles can actually make the playoffs with a win and a Minnesota Vikings loss. Nick Foles is the starting quarterback because Carson Wentz is down for the season. Sound familiar? 

Oakland Raiders 4-11 (+13.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs 11-4 (54.5): Chiefs 31-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: The Chiefs hold the tiebreaker over the Los Angeles Chargers and need a win Sunday to secure the AFC’s top seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Chucky probably thinks he has a chance at securing yet another top draft pick.

Chicago Bears 11-4 (-5.5) @ Minnesota Vikings 8-6-1 (40.5): Bears 24-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Indoors) 

Reasons: The Bears can secure home field advantage and the second seed in the NFC with a win and a Los Angeles Rams loss, but the Vikings need to win to get into the playoffs at all, a year after being Super Bowl contenders heading into the regular season. Anyone who thinks the Bears would lay down for a divisional opponent, especially in a game that would give Minnesota access into the playoffs, is crazy; compound that with Chicago’s – and Mitch Trubisky’s – need to be home in the playoffs, and what we have is a Bears team playing like they need to win. 

Cincinnati Bengals 6-9 (+14.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 8-6-1 (45.5): Steelers 28-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Cloudy; low 40s)

Reasons: What a clown show the Steelers are. Faced with elimination in a winnable game they go for a fake punt deep in their own territory against one of the most effective and efficient quarterback-head coach tandems in NFL history. That’s not gutsy, that’s stupid and desperate. This Steelers team is loaded with talent and devoid of character and leadership. That’s weird, that sounds like the Bengals. The Steelers can win the AFC North with a win and a Ravens loss, or back into the Wild Card with a win and a tie between the Colts and Titans game. Neither seem very likely, although the first scenario is obviously the most plausible. This game might come down to the last possession with these two bitter rivals, but these Steelers really deserve to go home and fight amongst themselves. 

 Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers have a chance to win the AFC West Sunday, but they'll need some help to accomplish it.

Los Angeles Chargers 11-4 (-6.5) @ Denver Broncos 6-9 (41.5): Chargers 24-23
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Partly Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: The Chargers win the AFC West with a win and a Chiefs loss or tie, and Denver might be the last place on Earth they want to go to try and accomplish that feat. Denver has nothing to play for besides the scorn of John Elway, which could be enough to light the fire under the Broncos and spoilt their division rivals’ chances going forward in the playoffs. We could see another one-point game here; at the very least 6.5 points seems very high, especially considering the over/under.

San Francisco 49ers 4-11 (+10) @ Los Angeles Rams 12-3 (50): Rams 27-24
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Los Angeles Memorial Stadium, Los Angeles, CA (Weather: Sunny; mid-60s)

Reasons: The Rams gain the top seed in the NFC with a win and a Bears loss and the 49ers are looking to secure that top draft pick, which means they need to lose and have the Cardinals win (at least). That’s basically a recipe for lopsided Rams win, which begs the question: Why is this point spread so small relative to several other similar games when this is one of the clearest paths to a landslide? Does Las Vegas trust the Rams? Does anyone anymore?

Arizona Cardinals 3-12 (+13.5) @ Seattle Seahawks 9-6 (39.5): Seahawks 24-10
Sunday, 4:25 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Rain; mid-40s)

Reasons: Record-wise the Cardinals are the worst team in the NFL, although that assertion could be argued statistically, but probably without much success. The Cardinals own the worst record, which means the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft is theirs to lose, while the Seahawks are trying to fine-tune their machine heading into the playoffs, and possibly get a higher seed (5th relative to a 6th). Considering the game is in Seattle this is the only game where these double-digit point spreads actually makes sense. Add the terrible forecasted weather and we have a lock.

Indianapolis Colts 9-6 (-3) @ Tennessee Titans 9-6 (44): Colts 24-23
Sunday, 8:20 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Rain; low 40s)

Reasons: The game of the week with the most on the line, including the playoffs and possibly the division, features a team that had a losing record heading into their first match up in Week 10 (IND was 4-5 heading into Week 10) versus a team that ended up with a .500 record after a loss in that aforementioned first matchup (TEN was 5-5 after the Week 10 game). Now both teams are 9-6, and with the help of a Houston Texans loss, could end of AFC South champions. The loser goes home. To complicate things for the Titans they could be without quarterback Marcus Mariota again; the Colts, on the other hand, might have to deal with some inclement weather. The Titans have been the more inconsistent team this year, and the constant quarterback carousel hasn’t helped, while the Colts are 8-1 in their last nine games after starting the season 1-5, while Andrew Luck is been playing at a true MVP level (36 TDs; 14 INTs). The Colts are favored by three on the road in the rain; that’s all you need to know. Well, you should also know the Colts have the 8th-ranked rush defense, so the suddenly-located Derrick Henry has his work cut out for him if the Titans are advancing beyond Nashville.

Stay tuned for Week 18: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & some analysis) WILD CARD ROUND EDITION coming Saturday!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tuesday’s Gone: Week 16 #NFL Game Reviews



Tuesday’s Gone: Week 16 #NFL Game Reviews

Week 16 results: 11-5 (WINS); 8-7-1 (ATS); 10-6 (O/U)

Season totals: 155-83-2 .651 (WINS); 115-117-8 .496 (ATS); 130-107-3 .549 (O/U)

Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN); Against the spread (ATS).

 The Tennessee Titans have been up and down all season, much like quarterback Marcus Mariota, whose window seems to be closing.

Washington Football 7-7 (+10) @ Tennessee Titans 8-6 (37): Titans 21-13 Titans 25-16
Saturday, 4:30 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Mostly Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: One of these teams will be going home after the game, but you’re right: Both teams might as well go home. The Titans have won three straight games to come back from the dead, largely on the legs of Derrick Henry, who has rushed for 408 yards on nearly 10 ypc the past two games and has finally learned how to run the ball in the NFL after a pep talk from Eddie George. Unfortunately for Washington their once proud defense has been shriveling by the week, and their run defense remains in the bottom half of the league, meaning the Titans could jump on Henry’s shoulders again Saturday and ride them all the way to the playoffs. Washington can barely move the ball, but either can the Titans unless Henry is running, which chews up the clock, meaning less points even for the Titans. 10-point spread in this game? Maybe that makes sense: The Titans have won three straight game by an average of 14 ppg; Washington is 1-2 in the same stretch, losing games by an average of…14 points. Washington may not score, but who ever said the Titans do?

This terrible game only got more terrible when Josh Johnson threw an INT in Washington’s last two possessions, the latter being returned for a pick-6 to not only seal the game, but turned a total of 35 points into 41 and ruined the beginning of Week 16 for all of us who took the under.

Baltimore Ravens 8-6 (+4.5) @ Los Angeles Chargers 11-3 (44.5): Chargers 24-21 Ravens 22-10

Saturday, 8:30 PM, Stub Hub Field, Carson City, CA (Weather: Partly clear; low 50s)

Reasons: Both teams are fighting for their respective divisions, which makes this game one of the most intriguing of Week 16. The Chargers 10-1 in their last 11 games, the one loss coming to the Denver Broncos 23-22 on a FG as times expired, and are in the dRiver’s seat (Get it?) after coming back from down 14 points to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 29-28 last week. The Ravens are 4-1 in their last five after a mid-season skid, the one loss in their past five games coincidentally coming in OT 27-24 to the aforementioned Chiefs. Los Angeles also managed to come back against Kansas City without Melvin Gordon or Keenan Allen, not only the Chargers two best skill players, but two of the best in the NFL. Those guys will be back Saturday, which means the Ravens need to rush the ball 60 times and chew up 45 minutes of the clock if they want to beat one of the most skilled teams on both sides of the ball in the NFL. There’s a lot of money coming in on the under, especially the first half under, but I’m here to preview the full game and the Chargers don’t need much time to score in bunches, just ask the Chiefs.

The Ravens went to neutral ground and beat the Chargers soundly, on perhaps Philip Rivers worst game of the season (181 passing yards; 2 INTs), holding the Chargers to only 10 points in a game that could’ve helped Los Angeles seal the AFC West. Alas, it never happened, but the Chargers lucked out with another Kansas City Chiefs loss.

Buffalo Bills 5-9 (+12.5) @ New England Patriots 9-5 (45): Patriots 24*-17 Patriots 24*-12

Sunday, 1:00PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Chance snow; high 30s)

Reasons: While you might think the Patriots lucked out again facing the Buffalo Bills Week 16, I point to the Patriots late season away troubles with AFC opponents, which occur for many reasons, most notably the opposing team’s chance to ruin some aspect of the Patriots impending playoff run. Well, actually, that doesn’t happen with the Bills. In fact, since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick became a thing the Bills have only beaten New England at home three times (2003; 2011; 2015). That’s absurd. This time the Bills could sink New England to a lower seed, say the 3rd seed, in which the Patriots might have to host the Baltimore Ravens. Talk about late season troubles; suffice it to say the Patriots don’t want that scenario playing out. While one might point to Josh Allen being more of a dynamic runner than the Patriots are used to facing, I would point to Tyrod Taylor and put those claims to bed. The Patriots are absolutely awful; the skills position players are hurt or haven’t recovered from being hurt, and the defensive front seven can’t stop anybody. However, they’re the Patriots and they’re coached by Bill Belichick. Knowing what they face in the playoffs I expect the Patriots to win and control their own destiny; covering 12.5 points is another story, although my track record with New England ATS is atrocious.

Tom Brady looked absolutely awful (126 passing yards; 1 TD; 2 INTs), but luckily Bill Belichick has seen the writing on the wall and decided to hand it off 47 times for 273 rushing yards against one of the better passing defenses in the NFL and held the ball for 36 minutes. The Patriots won their 10th straight AFC East title, which means absolutely nothing at this point.

New York Giants 5-9 (+9) @ Indianapolis Colts 8-6 (46.5): Colts 24-13 Colts 28-27
Sunday, 1:00PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Odell Beckham Jr. is out again, which means the Colts 6th-ranked rush defense will stack the box against Saquon Barkley and force Eli Manning to embarrass himself. The Colts are battling for the 6th seed, or are they? The AFC South has three teams also battling for playoffs spots, although Houston has a two-game advantage with two games remining. Yet there are many tiebreakers to be sorted should the Colts, or Titans, win out and the Texans lose out. Regardless, the Colts have everything to play for while the Giants don’t. 

The Giants put up a fight; even Eli Manning ran for a TD. It wasn’t enough, so the Giants move on to the 3-5th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, where they hope to land a mediocre quarterback, while the Colts move on to Week 17 and play the only meaningful game to end the 2018 NFL regular season.

This is the idea, but it won't be on the wings of Carson Wentz for the second season in a row.

Houston Texans 10-4 (+1) @ Philadelphia Eagles 7-7 (45.5): Texans 27-24 Eagles 32-30
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Stadium, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: What a coincidence, we just talked about the Houston Texans, and here they are, facing the one team in the NFL no one wants to face right now with zero room for error and two divisional teams breathing down their backs for the AFC South title. What a scenario for a team that had won nine straight games and was the hottest team in the NFL until they lost a Week 14 game to the one team they couldn’t affords to lose to (IND) and suddenly aren’t even locks to make it the playoffs, let alone win the AFC South title. The Texans attrition levels haven’t quite reached the Eagles levels, but it’s not looking good heading down the stretch. Will Nick Foles turn into Saint Nick and bring gifts to Philadelphia or will the Texans recognize the situation and get the win they need to put all the doubts to rest?
It was the battle most of us expected, and the Eagles almost squandered their season, but a Jake Elliot FG as time expired after losing a 13-point lead in the 4th quarter sealed the victory for the Eagles, keeping their playoff hopes alive, while sending the Texans into panic mode as they now have to wait until Week 17 – and win – to win their division after a season in which they won nine straight games and looked like the best team in the NFL only three weeks ago. Imagine the New England Patriots cheering for the Eagles? It happened.

Jacksonville Jaguars 4-10 (+4.5) @ Miami Dolphins 7-7 (39): Dolphins 20-17* Jacksonville 17*-7
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: The Florida Bowl should be a fun one. The Jaguars might be the worst NFL team east of the Mississippi River and the Dolphins wouldn’t even be relevant if it weren’t for the Miracle in Miami. So next time someone gets excited that “14 of 16 games have playoff implications”, remember they’re talking about statistical improbabilities like this game when they’re saying that.

The Florida Bowl lived up to its shitty potential. Bye, Miami.

Green Bay Packers 5-8-1 (+1) @ New York Jets 4-10 (44): Packers 24-20 Packers 44-38

Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; low 40s)
Reasons: This game has zero playoff implications and I wouldn’t count on Aaron Rodgers to help you in any fantasy capacity. Green Bay gets their first road win of the year.
Las Vegas got it right again, at least from the perspective that it took OT for the Packers and their golden quarterback to beat the lowly Jets with their rookie quarterback. When I saw one-point in the spread I laughed, but in most cases, Las Vegas gets the last laugh. Not the case this time as anyone with a brain knew the Packers couldn’t lose to the Jets after blaming their season woes on Mike McCarthy.

Cincinnati Bengals 6-8 (+7) v. Cleveland Browns 6-7-1 (45.5): Browns 24-19 Browns 26-18
Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Snow; low 30s) 

Reasons: The Bengals started the season 4-1 and the Browns started the season as the Browns, but what difference 10 weeks makes. Suddenly the Bengals might actually consider firing Marvin Lewis and Baker Mayfield might run away with the 2018 ROY, even if Saquon Barkley amasses 2,000 yards from scrimmage and owns the rookie TD record. What Mayfield has done for the Browns is nothing short of amazing, especially considering the coaching inconsistencies, to put it politely. The only shot the Bengals have is if they suddenly come to life and live only to ruin Cleveland’s season, but these young kids are hungry. 1-31 to a serious shot at the playoffs and a distant shot at the AFC North title. Holy shit.

The Browns have officially turned things around, but let’s see how long it lasts. The only real question is, Will the Bengals finally fire Marvin Lewis? The answer is probably not.

If the Dallas Cowboys want to win out it's going to take efforts from both of the guys pictured here.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-9 (+7) @ Dallas Cowboys 8-6 (46.5): Bucs 23-21 Cowboys 27-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: I don’t trust the Cowboys at all and the Buccaneers are the last type of team Dallas wants to face right now, because if Tampa Bay has anything left to play for it might be Jameis Winston’s pride and even his place with the organization after an up-and-down year, but one in which Jameis is the 5th-rated QB in the league since getting the starting job back from FitzMagic. The Cowboys are banged up and feeling themselves, a horrible combination in Week 16. The Bucs will face their third top-10 defense in a row, which has made people forget this team can put up 30 points any given Sunday, but the truth is this Cowboys team is as good as any of them, and does so without the fresh legs the Baltimore Ravens defense enjoys. Any other team with these numbers would get the no-brainer nod, but I’m sticking to my “Dallas goes 8-8 this season” guns, because I simply don’t trust them in clinching situations.

This push was almost as annoying as Skip Bayless is about to become regarding these mediocre NFC East winners.

Minnesota Vikings 7-6-1 (-5.5) @ Detroit Lions 5-9 (43.5): Vikings 21-17 Vikings 27-9
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Vikings are atrocious on the road, going 2-4-1 averaging fewer than 13.5 ppg with an offense that includes Stephon Diggs, Adam Theilen, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook. Oh yeah, and Kirk Cousins. You like that?! Neither do I, and the ineptitude could likely cost them a trip to the playoffs. The Lions are averaging 17.8 ppg over their last nine games since coming back from their bye week, so we’re in for a doozy.

The Vikings took care of Detroit and now must win Week 17 to earn a playoff berth, which will be tough considering they play the Chicago Bears, who need a win for a shot at the 2nd seed and home field advantage. The Eagles lurk, which is another reason I need Minnesota to win; I predicted the Eagles would go 6-10 and miss the playoffs.

Atlanta Falcons 5-9 (+4) @ Carolina Panthers 6-8 (50): Falcons 24*-21 Falcons 24*-10
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: Cam Newton is done for the season. So are the Panthers and Falcons.

Both of these teams went to the Super Bowl in the past few seasons. The NFL stands for Not For Long. Jerry was a Falcon, too.

Chicago Bears 10-4 (-4) @ San Francisco 49ers 4-10 (42.5): Bears 23-17 Bears 14-9  
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny; mid-60s)

Reasons: This would be the perfect trap game for the Bears, no pun intended, but then again it wouldn’t be a trap if the Bears just put out the reserves or played to stay healthy for the playoffs. No, the Bears have seeding to play for, and the 49ers aren’t going away quietly, especially after it was reported this week how hard the 49ers went to the hoop on Khalil Mack, just to be denied. I can imagine keeping Mack in the Bay was something the Oakland Raiders wanted no part of. This is the perfect game for the Bears to stay sharp, as Nick Mullens is no practice squad defensive back anymore, and the 2nd seed means staying home instead of taking Mitch Trubisky on the road for the playoffs. The real question is, how badly will the Bears miss Eddie Jackson?

The Bears defense is on fire, but the Bears offense is a dumpster fire, lowering their season average by over 3 ppg (29 ppg to 26 ppg) in just two weeks. The Bears have a chance to secure the 2nd seed in the playoffs next week and enjoy home field advantage until at least the NFC Championship, something these Bears likely desperately need heading into the playoffs with their suddenly defunct offense. Maybe Mike Nagy has something hidden up his sleeve, like a veteran playoff quarterback.

The Los Angeles Rams aren’t the same team without a healthy Todd Gurley.

Los Angeles Rams 11-3 (-14) @ Arizona Cardinals 3-11 (47.5): Rams 27-17 Rams 31-9
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Indoors) 

Reasons: 11-3 v. 3-11. 14-point spread. One team is supposed to win the Super Bowl. One team is arguably the worst team in the NFL. So why does this feel so weird? I guess it’s because the Rams have lost two straight, new ground for this Hollywood scripted team, and with Todd Gurley banged up and Cooper Kupp gone, this offense isn’t the same. The defense also never lived up to the hype, although most of us knew that beyond Aaron Donald there was a lot of smoke and mirrors. Los Angeles can’t lose, literally and figuratively, but 14 points is a lot, even for the Rams, who have only won three games by 14 or more points this season (14 being a push, keep in mind), although one of those was a 34-0 blowout of these very Cardinals.

The Rams did what they had to do Sunday, now they have to win Week 17 and have the Bears lose to secure the 2nd seed in the NFC. It’s funny how teams can go from Super Bowl Champion favorites on paper to perhaps playing on the road for the entire playoffs. Life comes at you fast, especially in the NFL, which is why we play the games; all 16 games.

Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5-1 (+6) @ New Orleans Saints 12-2 (57): Saints 27-24 Saints 31-28
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Saints have been a shell of themselves the past few weeks, and to make things even stranger than Drew Brees averaging fewer than 200 passing ypg the past four games, the Saints defense has been the reason the Saints are still the NFC’s top seed. The Steelers are reeling, 1-3 in their last four games, that one win a 17-10 squeaking by the tired skill-less New England Patriots, averaging 21 ppg over that stretch, about a TD less than they’ve been averaging all season. Much like the Saints, the Steelers defense has come alive and kept the Steelers alive, but they haven’t faced a team like the Saints at home in that stretch.

Please don’t tell me how great of a coach Mike Tomlin is ever again.

Kansas City Chiefs 11-3 (-2.5) @ Seattle Seahawks 8-6 (53.5): Seahawks 24-23 Seahawks 38-31
Sunday, 8:20 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Rain; mid-40s)

Reasons: Home underdogs is a strange place to be for the Pete Carrol-coached Seahawks, but then again, the Seahawks don’t see many quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes (48 total TDs; 11 INTs) or the explosive Kansas City Chiefs. That explosiveness has dwindled the past few weeks with the absence of Kareem Hunt, and the depth at WR has been affected by the absence of Sammy Watkins, who, despite your laughter, can still spread the field and provides the same level of speed the Chiefs are accustomed to. Then there’s the Seattle weather. The Chiefs aren’t quite the same team everyone has come to fear, while the Seahawks are the team everyone is talking about hating to face right now. Apparently, Las Vegas agrees to an extent, making Seattle 2.5-point underdogs at home, which means on paper the Chiefs should probably win, but in reality, they probably won’t. The young Chiefs could be glued to that television screen Saturday night, which could be a good or bad thing for Sunday’s game.

The Game of the Week proved to all of us that Russell Wilson is every bit as good as the Great Patrick Mahomes, he’s just a lot shorter. No look passes, touch passes, scrambles, bullets, lobs, needle-threading…we saw it all from Wilson (271 passing yards; 3 TDs), who led his team to victory, a playoff berth, and will head into the playoffs one of the toughest match ups in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Chris Carson added two TDs on 116 rushing yards and proved Seattle could be the best running team heading into the playoffs, too. The Chiefs looked as strong as they have all season, especially Mahomes (273 passing yards; 3 TDs…look familiar?), but the defense, despite their ability to sack the quarterback, will prove to be this team’s Achilles heel.

Denver Broncos 6-8 (-2.5) @ Oakland Raiders 3-11 (45): Broncos 20-17 Raiders 27-14
Monday, 8:15PM, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA (Weather: Rain; low 50s)

Reasons: Aren’t games like this exactly what the flex schedule is for? Oakland tanks and aims for 14 first round picks in next year’s NFL draft.

The Raiders won their final game in Oakland Coliseum and it was as boring and wet and muddy and gross as the past few years have been for Oakland football, so besides the win, things ended in Oakland as they seem to have the past few years, one of the myriad reasons the Raiders are [probably] moving to Las Vegas.

Stay tuned for Week 17: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & some analysis) coming Sunday!