Last week: 11-5, extending out the season forecast to a balmy 152-87
The final week of the regular season is perennially the toughest forecast of the year. There are so many different butterflies flapping their wings, spreading odd effects all over the NFL landscape.
As such, I’m only offering commentary on games with playoff implications. If you really care about the Lions vs. Packers, seek help immediately and/or listen to my Sunday morning radio show on ESPN 96.1 in Grand Rapids, available for streaming on the iHeart app.
All games this week are on Sunday.
- Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (+3): The only true win-or-go-home game of the weekend for both teams. It’s simple. The winner gets the 6 seed in the AFC, the loser’s season ends in the final game of the regular season slate.
The Colts have won 8 of 9 since starting 1-5, and it’s been a balanced effort between offense and defense. That’s what makes them so difficult of an opponent for Tennessee. If Andrew Luck isn’t having his best night, Darius Leonard and the defense can still keep the game winnable. Tennessee can be the better team but also the worse team, even at home. Marcus Mariota’s questionable status--even if he plays--makes it real tough to trust the Titans.
Colts 24, Titans 17
- Philadelphia Eagles at Washington (+7): Washington’s top three QBs are all on IR. Then again Carson Wentz is also unavailable, leaving the Eagles prayers hanging on Nick Foles. That worked out pretty well at the end of last season. Unfortunately, Foles cannot control what happens with the Vikings, who must lose to the Bears for the Eagles to make the postseason...presuming Philly wins this game. Presumption made.
Eagles 28, Washington 17
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-14.5): The Steelers need to beat what’s left of the Bengals and hope the Browns can beat the Ravens. If those things both happen, Pittsburgh sneaks into the playoffs as the AFC North champion. Otherwise, Mike Tomlin & Co. will be watching the postseason with the rest of us.
If they can’t beat Jeff Driskel throwing to Cody Core by at least two touchdowns in Pittsburgh, the Steelers have no business even thinking about looking at the scoreboard in Baltimore. Then again, the line has gone down at BetOnline from a high of 16.5 points early in the week.
Steelers 34, Bengals 10
- Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-5.5): A lot is at stake here. The Ravens win the AFC North with a win, but the surging Browns do have something to play for. Both these teams have won five of their last six games, and that stint leaves the Browns with a chance to seize their first non-losing season since 2007 with a win. Interim coach Gregg Williams has declared this a playoff game, and a win would offer him a better chance of sticking with the rising franchise.
To accomplish that, Williams’ defense will need to control Lamar Jackson. The dynamic rookie has improved his passing proficiency enough that the Browns can’t overcommit to stopping him and the Baltimore run game. For all the praise Williams has earned as the head coach, his defense is still prone to being too blindly aggressive and mistake-prone. I think John Harbaugh and the Ravens taken advantage and win the AFC North.
Ravens 26, Browns 21
- Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-4.5): The Vikings need to win to seize a Wild Card berth. The Bears are locked into being the No. 3 seed unless they win and the Rams lose to the 49ers.
I’m interested in seeing how rookie head coach Matt Nagy handles his Bears. Will he rest them and play vanilla, hoping for a rematch next week? Or will he treat this as an important enough game to play everyone full bore and not risk any rust in the postseason? I’ll venture this--if the Bears really want to win this game, they will win it and ruin what has already been a disappointing season for the Vikings. But if Chicago backs off the gas, the Vikings could win by 25.
Bears 23, Vikings 21
- Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-5.5): This will be the final game for venerable veteran Bills DT Kyle Williams. The 14-year vet announced this week that he is hanging up the cleats after the game. Williams has been one of the most popular and underappreciated players around the league for a long time. He goes out a winner.
Bills 18, Dolphins 13
- Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (+6.5): Vance Joseph goes out on the wrong end of yet another outcome in what figures to be his final game as Denver’s coach.
Chargers 33, Broncos 22
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-6.5): Blake Bortles will start again for the Jaguars. Cheer up, Duval...it’s the last time.
Texans 27, Jaguars 21
- San Francisco 49ers at LA Rams Rams (-10): If the Rams win they get a bye as the NFC’s No. 2 seed. If…(insert lol GIF of your choice here)
Rams 30, 49ers 17
- Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (-5.5): I’d like the Giants more if Odell Beckham was playing but his season is over. Dallas has nothing to play for except the pride of burying a hated division rival. Might be one of the more interesting watches on the day for the meaningless games.
Giants 29, Cowboys 24
- Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-13.5): Arizona locks up the No. 1 overall pick. Hope you like the dry air, Nick Bosa…
Seahawks 35, Cardinals 10
- Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-14.5): The Chiefs need to win to lock up home field and the No. 1 seed. They’ll get it.
Chiefs 40, Raiders 20
- Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-7): Now playing quarterback for Carolina: Kyle Allen, the undrafted rookie from Houston. He’s backed up by Garrett Gilbert, who may or may not have been your claims adjuster at Liberty Mutual last week.
Saints 32, Panthers 12
- Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-7.5): Matt Patricia’s rookie season comes to a merciful end the same way it began, with a humiliating loss. At least nobody will watch this one, unlike the opener on national television.
Packers 20, Lions 6
- Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1.5): Dirk Koetter’s last stand. I have a feeling the Bucs players go out and show the kind of coach-killing potential they have and smoke the Falcons in a ploy to try and land a better coaching candidate.
Buccaneers 41, Falcons 30
- New York Jets at New England PAtriots (-13.5): Something odd will happen in this game with the Patriots. Maybe it’s Gronk throwing a TD pass, or James White catching 17 passes to get 100 receptions on the season, or a Kyle Van Noy pick-six. Heck, it could be all three…
Patriots 27, Jets 17
Clemson 31, Notre Dame 14
Alabama 57, Oklahoma 36