We've finally arrived to Week 17 in the NFL. For Cowboys fans, this is likely merciful since the season has been over for awhile, but still somewhat bittersweet. Dallas has played much better under interim head coach Jason Garrett - and perhaps well enough for Garrett to earn the job long-term.
There's not too many worthwhile games this week as most of the playoff spots have been locked up and the seeding is essentially set in stone. The Falcons can clinch homefield in the NFC with a win over the lowly Panthers, and the Steelers can clinch the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a win over the Browns. The best game of the day is the Sunday night game, featuring the Rams and Seahawks - winner of that game wins the NFC West and the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
Panthers (2-13) at Falcons (12-3) - John Fox will be coaching his final game in Carolina on Sunday as he and his staff have been informed they will not be retained for the 2011 season. The Falcons can lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win over the lowly Panthers, so this has all the makings of a mismatch.
- Charley Code: Falcons
- Robbie Griffin: Falcons - It will be hilarious if Atlanta misses out on homefield by losing to the Panthers in the last game.
- Christopher Fittz: Falcons
- Maurice London: Falcons - Patrick Peterson is awesome.
- Liam Ponting: Falcons - No explanation necessary really. Carolina's really bad and Atlanta now needs this win.
- Brett Perryman: Falcons - Atlanta still has to clinch the division and home field, shouldn't be too hard here.
- JP Starkey: Falcons - Wonder if Carolina will make a play for Bill Cowher, but it doesn't seem like they'd want to pay up for him.
Steelers (11-4) at Browns (5-10) - The Browns have played better than their record indicates, but will that be enough for Eric Mangini to keep his job? A win over the Steelers would definitely help the Mangenius' case, but Pittsburgh will be playing for the AFC North crown. With a win, the Steelers clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye.
- Code: Steelers
- Griffin: Steelers - Pit isn't the team we thought they were early on, but they're probably good enough to take care of business against Cleveland.
- Fittz: Steelers
- London: Steelers - Patrick Peterson is pretty.
- Ponting: Steelers - See Above.
- Perryman: Steelers - The Steelers are another team that must go ahead and win and the Browns are slumping big time.
- Starkey: Steelers - Would like to pick the Browns here, but the Steelers should roll.
Vikings (6-9) at Lions (5-10) - Two franchises that went in opposite directions this year. Granted, the Lions will have at most six wins this year, but they've played much better and even won on the road for the first time since 1853. The Vikings had Super Bowl aspirations, but the wheels didn't even have a chance to fall off the wagon as the Vikings were a mess from the get-go. This will
mercifully hopefully be Brett Favre's final game and he'll spend it on the sidelines.
- Code: Lions
- Griffin: Lions - Close game, but I'm taking the home team.
- Fittz: Vikings
- London: Lions -
- Ponting: Lions - Admittedly neither of these teams don't have anything tangible worth playing for, but Detroit's at home and this could be a tipping point in this matchup for years to come.
- Perryman: Lions - We are now in The Age Of Lions.
- Starkey: Vikings - Brett Favre goes out a winner! On the sidelines.
Raiders (7-8) at Chiefs (10-5) - The Chiefs have wrapped up the AFC West and will look to go 8-0 at home. The Raiders played fairly well this year, but not enough to make the playoffs - or even come within two games of doing so. By being mediocre, though, they played out of a top 10 pick for the Patriots courtesy of Richard Seymour.
- Code: Chiefs
- Griffin: Chiefs - I was going to take the Raiders over a Chiefs team that will be best served resting their players, but then I noticed the game will be before noon locally before the Raiders. Never pick the away team to win before noon.
- Fittz: Chiefs
- London: Chiefs -
- Ponting: Chiefs - Hey! Another playoff team playing a team that's out of it. Wonder what happens here.
- Perryman: Raiders - I'm going to speculate that KC rests Matt Cassel for part of the game and that it's enough for Oakland to finish 8-8.
- Starkey: Chiefs - Only because I want the Raiders to lose.
Dolphins (7-8) at Patriots (13-2) - New England will be looking to go 14-2. Why is this important? Well, the two times the Patriots have gone 14-2, they've won the Super Bowl. OK, I doubt that's on Bill Belichick's mind, but it's a fun fact nonetheless. Look for Tom Brady and the rest of the starters to play for the majority of the game.
- Code: Patriots
- Griffin: Patriots - Like the game above, I'm tempted to take a New England team who's set. Particularly when they have a storied history in the Brady era of struggling against the Dolphins when they shouldn't. I'm still liking them enough over the Dolphins at home to win even when resting, but it's close.
- Fittz: Patriots
- Ponting: Patriots - Patriots coax Teddy Bruschi out of retirement, play him at QB, still win.
- Perryman: Patriots - Belichick isn't going to let the Pats stumble into the playoffs.
- Starkey: Patriots - This team has been very fun to watch.
Buccaneers (9-6) at Saints (11-4) - The Saints are in the playoffs, but will likely play hard since it's feasible they can still end up with the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Bucs can still make it as well, but they need to beat New Orleans in New Orleans and have Green Bay and New York lose. Tall order.
- Code: Saints
- Griffin: Saints - How much it must suck to be a Bucs fan this weekend. You have to pull off a borderline miracle in New Orleans just to stay alive enough to watch two late games that favor the teams you need to lose. Harsh.
- Fittz: Saints
- London: Saints -
- Ponting: Saints - Tampa would love to win this one but the Saints are playing tremendous football and won't lose at home.
- Perryman: Saints - Both teams will have something to play for and the Saints are just better.
- Starkey: Saints - I think New Orleans has a very good chance of going to the Super Bowl again.
Bills (4-11) at Jets (10-5) - Much like Cleveland, I feel that the Bills have played better than their 4-11 record, so I guess Chan Gailey didn't do a horrendous job in his first year in Buffalo. The Jets are going to be a Wild Card, much like last year, so this game doesn't really mean too much to Gang Green.
- Code: Bills
- Griffin: Jets - Similar to the Pats game. Jets are set, but I think they're better enough than Buffalo to squeak out an edge at home, anyway.
- Fittz: Jets
- London: Jets -
- Ponting: Jets - More of these types of games!
- Perryman: Jets
Bengals (4-11) at Ravens (11-4) - The Bengals ended the Chargers season last week with an upset win, and a win over the Ravens would end Baltimore's chances at an AFC North crown and the No. 2 seed. Baltimore needs to defeat Cincinnati and have Cleveland defeat Pittsburgh to earn the AFC North title.
- Code: Ravens
- Griffin: Ravens - I remember someone from Football Outsiders and, I think, Ron Jaworski talking about this game way back in week one as huge, and likely between the two best teams in the AFC. Oops.
- Fittz: Ravens
- London: Ravens -
- Ponting: Ravens - MORE!
- Perryman: Ravens - The Ravens will go all out for this one.
- Starkey: Ravens - Should be kind of ugly.
Chargers (8-7) at Broncos (4-11) - Tim Tebow mania is almost in full-effect. A win over the Chargers, even if they are uninspired, could go a long way to proving Tebow's potential legitimacy as an NFL quarterback. As for San Diego, well, they join the likes of Dallas, Minnesota and Cincinnati as the most disappointing teams in 2010.
- Code: Chargers
- Griffin: Chargers - I'm actually enjoying watching Tebow. It's weird.
- Fittz: Chargers
- London: Broncos -
- Ponting: Chargers - I'm sort of glad the Chargers' season tanked the way it did. This way, you won't have to hear "THIS IS JUST WHAT THEY DO! They'll be good to go in the second half of the season!" when they get off to a horrific start next season.
- Perryman: Chargers - Nothing to see here but the Chargers are a lot better.
- Starkey: Broncos - Tim Tebow will try really hard, the Chargers won't.
Bears (11-4) at Packers (9-6) - The Bears are locked into a first round bye and at least the No. 2 seed in the NFC. If both New Orleans and Atlanta loses and Chicago wins, the Bears will actually be the No. 1 seed. That isn't terribly likely though, and the Bears will be facing the Packers who need to win to clinch a Wild Card berth.
- Code: Bears - Were the Bears a different team this season because Urlacher was healthy?
- Griffin: Packers - Chicago's playoff position is set. Green Bay is at home and has its playoff life on the line. I'll take the Packers, but the Bears might just give them a run for the sake of rivalry.
- Fittz: Packers
- London: Packers -
- Ponting: Packers - Packers desperately need to win this game. I still don't have much faith in the Bears.
- Perryman: Packers - I am sad that Jay Cutler forced me to stop making jokes about him.
- Starkey: Packers - Packers/Eagles should be a pretty good first round game.
Titans (6-9) at Colts (9-6) - A win-and-in game for Peyton Manning and the Colts. Indianapolis won't be earning a first-round bye, and they'll have to take on either the Ravens/Steelers or Jets in the first round, but they'll at least make the playoffs barring a heroic effort from the Titans. Once again - poor Randy Moss.
- Code: Colts
- Griffin: Colts - After all the "Death of the Colts" talk this year, it looks like they're still probably winning the division again and going to the playoffs again with double digit wins again.
- Fittz: Colts
- London: Colts - Patrick Peterson never insults your intelligence by saying he's giving 110%.
- Ponting: Colts - Possibly Jeff Fisher's last game?
- Perryman: Colts - Indy can't screw this up.
- Starkey: Colts - Want to pick the Titans but can't.
Cowboys (5-10) at Eagles (10-5) - Let the Stephen McGee era begin! OK, not really, but McGee will be starting for Dallas on Sunday in Philadelphia. Not the best environment for a quarterback to make his first start, but the Eagles will likely rest some of their starters as the Eagles are locked into the No. 3 seed in the NFC.
- Code: Cowboys
- Griffin: Eagles - Yet another situation like the Jets and Pats games. One set team against one team that can beat them, but being better and at home I still expect to be just enough. I would really like to end the year with a win in Philadelphia, though.
- Fittz: Cowboys - BECAUSE!
- London: Cowboys - You just know the Cowboys are going to screw up and win this one. They hate Patrick Peterson.
- Ponting: Eagles - Granted, no Michael Vick, but Kevin Kolb is still exponentially better than Stephen McGee.
- Perryman: Eagles - Nothing to play for here, but [insert any Eagles QB] > Stephen McGee.
- Starkey: Eagles - McGee isn't winning in Philly.
- Code: 49ers
- Griffin: 49ers - There are so many teams that are likely resting their players, and this is still the least interesting one on the dockett.
- Fittz: 49ers
- London: Cardinals -
- Ponting: 49ers - There's a hole in my heart now that I know that Mike Singletary isn't going to be dropping his pants as part of a motivational technique for the foreseeable future.
- Perryman: 49ers - You know what's annoying? The first result in a Google News search for Mike Singletary is a friggin Bleacher Report top five about Donovan McNabb and the 49ers.
- Starkey: Cardinals - Maybe Arizona should sign Pujols to 8/200.
Giants (9-6) at Redskins (6-9) - Well, if the Redskins want to try to redeem their season in any capacity, they can knock off the Giants and officially end their season. Big Blue has a chance to make the playoffs still - they need to win and have Green Bay lose to Chicago, but a loss to Washington would end all hope.
- Code: Giants
- Griffin: Giants - Again: poor Bucs fans.
- Fittz: Giants
- London: Giants - Prince Amukamura is pretty.
- Ponting: Giants - The Redskins may as well just concede this one.
- Perryman: Giants - The Giants are very much alive, so you have to expect a hard fought game from their side.
- Starkey: Giants - I doubt Tom Coughlin gets fired after a 10 win season.
Jaguars (8-7) at Texans (5-10) - How is Gary Kubiak coming back to Houston next year? At least he'll have Wade Phillips on his staff next year to help overhaul the league's worst defense. The Jags still have a chance to win the AFC South - if Indy loses and Jacksonville wins, the Jaguars will be headed to the playoffs.
- Code: Texans - Hope my T-shirt works this week.
- Griffin: Texans - Jaguars will be too distracted watching the Indianapolis score.
- Fittz: Jaguars
- London: Texans - Prince Amukamura is sweet.
- Ponting: Jaguars - The Texans are in disarray, so it's a perfect time to announce the hiring of Wade Phillips.
- Perryman: Texans - The Jaguars are not very good. I might have said that before.
- Starkey: Jaguars - Houston sucks.
Rams (7-8) at Seahawks (6-9) - I'm glad that this is the Sunday Night game - but it's kind of sad at the same time. The winner will win the NFC West, and if Seattle wins, they'll be a 7-9 playoff team hosting a playoff game next weekend. Cripple fight!
- Code: Seahawks
- Griffin: Seahawks - The most meaningful game of the last week is a tough call. I'm taking the home team, though I do think the Rams are a little bit better. And that would give us a 7-9 division winner. Hilarious.
- Fittz: Seahawks
- London: Rams - Prince Amukamura is amazing.
- Ponting: Rams - This game is the most meaningless meaningful game ever. Seattle's starting Charlie Whitehurst so...good luck with all that.
- Perryman: Rams - You know who isn't good? The Seahawks.
- Starkey: Rams - They're just better than Seattle.