Last week: 12-4, a merry week given the tiresome slate. 163-87 on the season.
The final week features so many variables that make the forecast nearly impossible. Conditions change up to the very last minute.
Will the starters play extensively for teams with playoff seeds already clinched?
How will players respond to coaches who are set to be fired on Monday?
Which unheralded players make names for themselves with increased opportunity?
In that spirit, the commentary this week is brief. I did include the bigger college bowl games by request.
All games are on Sunday, mercifully…
- Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-11): The 0-15 Browns attempt to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only team to ever go 0-16. With the Steelers still having something to play for, at least to start the game, I expect Pittsburgh to roll. This could be the last game for Hue Jackson coaching in Cleveland, and given the way he points fingers at everyone and anyone, it wouldn’t surprise if the players help him jump in Lake Erie after the loss.
Steelers 28, Browns 12
- Washington at New York Giants (+3): Is this Kirk Cousins’ last game as quarterback in Washington? Maybe. More importantly, it’s his final chance to prove he’s worthy of a $30 million per year contract in the offseason. The in-fighting among the Giants, who suspended CB Eli Apple and lost Landon Collins to injury, should get a bit of a commission for helping Kirk look great in the finale.
Washington 31, Giants 20
- Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-7): Now that there is nothing left to play for, I expect the Lions to play with more abandon and thrive against a Packers team that could not score last week without Aaron Rodgers. The Lions send Jim Caldwell out with a bang.
Lions 37, Packers 13
- Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-11.5): Cheer up, Chicago. The end of the John Fox era is almost here!
Vikings 23, Bears 10
- Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5): The Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Will thumping the fading Cowboys prove enough motivation? I wouldn’t bet on it, as hard is might be to trust the inconsistent Cowboys.
Cowboys 20, Eagles 17
- New York Jets at New England Patriots (-15.5): A win locks up the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the Patriots. NFL Director of Officiating Al Riveron will make sure they get that, come hell or high water. Or perhaps even both…
Patriots 34, Jets 10
- Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-3.5): Star Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins will sit this one out, ending a spectacular season with 97 receptions and a league-leading 14 TDs despite playing over half the year with the likes of Tom Savage and T.J. Yates throwing to him. Without him, the Texans are a longshot to score, even against the league’s worst scoring defense.
Colts 18, Texans 3
- Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (+2.5): Buffalo keep the playoff flame flickering ever so dimly.
Bills 26, Dolphins 20
- Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-9.5): I think the Bengals shot their load as playoff spoilers last week against Detroit. Can’t see them doing it again, though a wounded secondary makes the host Ravens vulnerable.
Ravens 24, Bengals 17
- Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-9): The Seahawks stay alive--barely--in what might be Bruce Arians’ last game in Arizona.
Seahawks 23, Cardinals 21
New Orleans at Tampa Bay (+7): No team was a bigger disappointment for me personally than the Bucs this year. I picked them to win the NFC South and contend for home-field advantage. Instead, last place and chaos prevail. So do the Saints…
Saints 33, Buccaneers 17
- Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-3.5): Patrick Mahomes alert! The rookie QB and my personal QB1 in the last draft class gets the start for the Chiefs. That’s reason to watch right there. Tough place to make a first start, especially considering the Chiefs are locked into the No. 4 seed already.
Broncos 29, Chiefs 27
- Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-7.5): The team that used to call LA home visits the team which probably shouldn’t call LA home, as the former denizens ready to move to Las Vegas. The Chargers still have playoff life, and they ride that lightning to a huge win.
Chargers 36, Raiders 16
- Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-4): The Panthers will win, I guarantee it. Why am I so confident? Because the Detroit Lions needed Atlanta to lose its final two games to qualify for the playoffs. Detroit dropped the ball by losing to the Bengals last week, but it’s the fate of the football Gods to torture Lions fans with what could have been.
Panthers 28, Falcons 24
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-3.5): Jacksonville appears content in “sit everyone” mode. It’s a Gob Bluth-esque huge mistake they’ll learn the hard way next weekend.
Titans 17, Jaguars 10
- San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (+3.5): Jimmy Garoppolo has not lost as the starting QB for the 49ers. As much as I think the Rams would like to rest players for the playoffs next week, I sense they will take the longer view and try to kill the Jimmy G momentum. I also expect the Rams to test new kicker Sam Ficken to see what they’ve got.
Rams 26, 49ers 20
Washington 28, Penn State 21
Wisconsin 27, Miami 6
South Carolina 20, Michigan 16
Auburn 32, UCF 24
Notre Dame 27, LSU 24
Georgia 36, Oklahoma 28
Clemson 31, Alabama 27