GJ Sports Blog: NFL Week 17 - Preview and Predictions Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) @ Atlanta Falcons (13-2) Tampa Bay head to Atlanta to face the playoff bound Falcons hoping to end their five game losing streak. The Falcons are 7-0 at home this year but with the number one seed already wrapped up they will most likely have a lot of backups in the game. I have mixed feelings about the Falcons resting players in this game. I understand that they want to give their players rest and they don't want to pick up injuries but I worry about teams who have a first round bye resting players. If the Falcons rest their starters, it will be three weeks since their last game by the time they take to the field in the playoffs. Personally I think it's too long although I do appreciate that teams want to avoid injuries. If a team is good enough to earn a bye in the playoffs, the likely hood is they will be coming into the playoffs with a lot of momentum. Would a three week break take that momentum away? I think it would but it will always be a cause for debate. Prediction - The Falcons starters to play a quarter/half and then sit the rest out and the Bucs to win it. New York Jets (6-9) @ Buffalo Bills (5-10) The Jets and Bills meet in Buffalo in a game that will only decide draft picks. Both teams have losing records and their playoff hopes died a few weeks ago. The New York Jets have had quarterback issues and Rex Ryan is proving himself to be an even bigger idiot than we already suspected he was by once again overlooking Tim Tebow. He benched Mark Sanchez last week in favour of Greg McElroy. McElroy has a concussion and won't play so Ryan has said that Sanchez will start at quarterback. I just don't understand that decision. Tebow is far from a top quarterback but he would suit the New York Jets. They have had injuries at receiver this year and have had to rely on their running game. Tim Tebow is very capable of playing that role but for some reason, Ryan hasn't even given him a chance to show what he can do. The Bills are 5-10 for the year and they have now gone four years in a row with at least ten losses. The quarterback situation in Buffalo isn't much better and Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't had a great season. Fitzpatrick is 30 now and it may be time for Buffalo to look for a new quarterback. The one bright spot for the Bills has been the emergence of CJ Spiller at running-back. He has had a great season and has set career numbers in almost every category. Spiller looks like being the future of the franchise and if they can get him some support, then the Bills could push towards a .500 finish next season. Prediction - I'm not taking Mark Sanchez to win on the road, Bills win. Baltimore Ravens (10-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) These two are playoff bound and there's even a chance that they could meet again next week in Baltimore. The Ravens have the division wrapped up and the Bengals have a wildcard secured. I expect there to be a lot of backups in this game as both teams will be involved in the wildcard round next weekend. The Ravens know there opponents will be either the Bengals or the Colts. For the Bengals, things are a little more complex and there is still a chance they could face any of the four divisional winners. Games like this one are hard to judge. Both coaches are talking as if they are here to win but I'd be very surprised to see the likes of Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, AJ Green and Andy Dalton battling it out for the win in the fourth quarter. Prediction - Coin toss, Bengals win. Chicago Bears (9-6) @ Detroit Lions (4-11) Isn't football a funny old game. The Chicago Bears need to win this one and then rely on some help from their hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers. If Green Bay can do the Bears a favour and beat the Minnesota Vikings, then the Bears destiny will be in their own hands. I'm sure there hasn't been many occasions over the years when Bears fans were hoping for a Packers win but given the circumstances, Bears fans all over the world will be praying for a favour. Favours aside, the Bears have a tough enough task to do their own part of the bargain. Detroit are a dangerous team with a lot of talent all over their roster and if it clicks, Chicago could be in trouble. The Lions have nothing to lose at this stage of the season. They are 4-11 and their playoff hopes died a long time ago so they can afford to spend all day lumping the ball towards Calvin Johnson and he's not the easiest guy in the league to cover. Johnson has already broke the record for most receiving yards in a season and I would be very surprised if he doesn't pick up the 108 yards he needs to take him to 2000 yards for the season. Prediction - I don't think it matters what the Packers do as the Lions will end the Bears hopes with a win. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) @ Tennessee Titans (5-10) The Jacksonville Jaguars will most likely pick second in the 2013 NFL Draft. They still have a chance of picking first but it is unlikely as the Kansas City Chiefs would need to beat the Broncos in Denver. The Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL and there is next to no chance that the 2-13, Kansas City Chiefs will go to Mile High and win. Jacksonville played well last week against the Patriots and if they bring that performance to Tennessee, they have every chance of winning. The Titans have had a bad year and will be glad to see the off season. At 5-10 they are well outside the playoff places. The Titans have had quarterback issues in recent years and they still exist. Jake Locker doesn't look like he is the right man and until they address it, it is highly unlikely they will be threatening the playoff places. Prediction - I think the Jags could nick this one. Houston Texans (12-4) @ Indianapolis Colts (10-5) These two have already wrapped up their playoff places and the Colts know they will be going on the road next week in the wildcard round of the playoffs so I expect they may rest some starters. No matter what happens, Indianapolis are the number five seed in the AFC. The same can't be said of Houston though and it is still possible that they could finish in any of the top three seeds. A win would secure the number one seed and home advantage right to the Superbowl. If they lose though and the Patriots and Broncos both win they would take the three seed, meaning they would host the Cincinnati Bengals in the wildcard round next week. The biggest thing about this weeks game for the Colts is the return of Coach Pagano to the sideline after his successful battle with leukemia. It's great to see him back on the sideline and there's no doubt his return will give the Colts a huge lift. Prediction - This game means something to the Texans and nothing to the Colts so I will go with a Houston win. Carolina Panthers (6-9) @ New Orleans Saints (7-8) These NFC South rivals square off in New Orleans in a game that means little more than pride and draft picks. Both sides started poorly and left it too late to make a playoff push. The Panthers have won four of their last five and the Saints have won seven of their last eleven. Form like that would merit a playoff place but the bad starts had put them in too deep a hole. The Saints have struggled on defense all year and are giving up 434 yards per game. They will need to sort that out in the off season and if they do, Drew Brees will do his part on offense to lead them toward a playoff place. The Panthers will try to run the ball with Cam Newton and if fit, DeAngelo Williams. Prediction - The Saints should have too much fire power and will finish on a high. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) @ New York Giants (8-7) This game will most likely be the last time we will see Michael Vick and Andy Reid as part of the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick had a good year in 2010 when he led the team to the playoffs but he has been poor since then. Andy Reid gave us a lot of success in his early years, leading the Eagles to four NFC East titles in a row but he was never able to bring a Superbowl to Philly and in recent seasons, we haven't even been close. The time is right to part company and hopefully the Eagles can move forward in the near future. This game means a lot more for the Giants than the Eagles. If the Giants win and the Bears, the Vikings and the Cowboys all lose then the Giants will squeeze into the playoffs. It's not as unlikely as it sounds and when I look at the games on paper, I think it will happen. Prediction - The Giants should win easily. Cleveland Browns (5-10) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) Pittsburgh loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week means that this game is another dead rubber and there are no playoff places at stake. The Browns have been out of the race for a while but if anything it has made them play with a sense of freedom and their performances have picked up. Pittsburgh looked certainties for the playoffs when they reached 6-3 but an injury to Ben Roethlisberger in their next game hit the team hard and they have won just one of their last six games. Roethlisberger has been back for the last three but he has been unable to change the teams fortunes. These teams appear to be heading in different directions, with the Browns a young team who are improving and the Steelers an older team who seem to be a downward path. However, if I've learned anything in my time following this league, it's that the Browns will most likely find a way to regress and the Steelers will find a way to get back on the upward curve. Prediction - The Steelers should win. Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) @ Denver Broncos (12-3) In this game, both sides have something at stake, although both will be in a better position if the Broncos win the game. As things stand, the Chiefs will have the number one pick in next years draft and the only way that can change is if they win here and Jacksonville lose to Tennessee. The Broncos have already secured their playoff place but I can't see them taking things easy as a win would guarantee them a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The Chiefs haven't been a bad team this year but they have been absolutely killed by turnovers. They have turned the ball over 37 times this season which is the worst record in the league. It doesn't matter how good you are, if you don't take care of the football, you won't win in this league. Denver have got to this stage thanks to a ten game winning run. The Broncos had a good side last year but the addition of Peyton Manning has turned them into a genuine contender and I wouldn't be surprised to see them make the trip to New Orleans for the Superbowl. Prediction - The Broncos should win this one easily. Green Bay Packers (11-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (9-6) This looks like being one of the most intriguing games of the weekend. If Minnesota win, they are in the playoffs. If they lose, it opens things up for Chicago, New York and even the Washington Redskins to secure the final wildcard place. Green Bay have plenty to play for and a win here would give them the NFC's number two seed and a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Add to that the fact that Minnesota's running-back, Adrian Peterson needs 208 yards to break the record for most rushing yards in a season. I hope I am wrong but I don't think he will break that record although I can see him getting the 102 yards needed to reach 2000 yards for the season. The biggest problem Peterson has is the team still have it all to play for and if he's struggling on the ground, the team will resort to Plan B rather than handing him the ball all day and let him push for the record. Having said that, the Vikings need Peterson to have a big day as I can't see them winning the game with their Plan B. Prediction - I think this game will be tight but the Packers should be able to edge it and secure a bye. Miami Dolphins (7-8) @ New England Patriots (11-4) The New England Patriots are in the playoffs for the ninth time in the last ten seasons and once again they will be many peoples favourites to reach the Superbowl. On their day, they are capable of beating anyone but it looks as though at some stage they will have to go to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos which will be a very difficult game for them. Miami have had a decent season and at 7-8, it is better than I expected they would do. They can certainly take some positives from the season and look to build on it for next year. If Houston win in the early games, I expect the Pats to be keeping an eye on the score in Denver and if Denver look like winning easily, the Pats will pull their starters and let them rest up before next weeks wildcard round. Prediction - The Patriots should win the game. Oakland Raiders (4-11) @ San Diego Chargers (6-9) These AFC West rivals do battle in another of Sunday's "Nobody Cares Bowls". The Raiders will be well used to being involved in these sort of games and it's becoming a habit for the Chargers too. This is the third year in a row they have missed the playoffs and it should be the final game of the Norv Turner era. There's a lot of talk that Andy Reid will be next in line, if/when the Eagles fire him. As an Eagles fan I'm not sure whether it would be a good move for the Chargers or not. I guess only time will tell whether Andy has lost touch with modern football or things have just gone stale for him in Philly. Either way, if he gets the job, I wish him well. Prediction - The Chargers should have too much for a poor Raiders side who are giving Terrelle Pryor his first NFL start. Arizona Cardinals (5-10) @ San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) The 49ers need this one to win the NFC West and after their defeat to the Seahawks last week, they will want to secure the division and guarantee that they won't have to go back to Seattle and face that atmosphere. The Cardinals have lost ten of their last eleven games and if the 49ers can't beat them in such an important game then they don't deserve to win the division. I tipped San Francisco to win the Superbowl at the start of the season but I have gone cold on them as I don't think they have helped themselves by creating a quarterback controversy. I will wait and see who they play in the playoffs before making a call but there is quite a few teams in the NFC who I would take to beat them and they might not even make it out of the wildcard round. Prediction - The 49ers should win this one. St Louis Rams (7-7-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (10-5) Ultimately I think this game will end up being a dead rubber as I think the 49ers will beat the Cardinals in San Francisco to win the division and send the Seahawks to a wildcard place but the Seahawks will still want to keep their momentum going and I am sure they will want to finish the season with an 8-0 home record. The Rams have had a decent season too. They have improved a lot from last season and they look like a franchise heading in the right direction under Jeff Fisher. Seattle are the team heading to the post season in the best form and will fancy their chances of making progress. As a neutral fan I would have liked to see them host a playoff game as the atmosphere generated in that stadium is second to none. It doesn't look as though it will happen this year but with Russell Wilson doing so well in his rookie year, I expect him to improve and their will be plenty of home playoff games in the next few years in Seattle. Prediction - Seattle are the better team and should win. Dallas Cowboys (8-7) @ Washington Redskins (9-6) This looks like being the best game of the weekend and it is an old fashioned winner takes all battle. Some of the edge could be taken out of it depending on the earlier results and it is possible that the Redskins could have a wildcard guaranteed by the time they take to the field on Sunday night. As a neutral, I hope results go against that outcome and this game is a straight knockout. These two looked dead and buried earlier in the season but they have both went on great runs and at least one and possibly both of them will be in the playoffs. These two met at Thanksgiving and it was a cracker. The Redskins got off to a great start and led 28-3 at half-time but the Cowboys came back well in the second half but fell short and lost by 38-31. If this game is as good as that one, we are in for a treat. Prediction - The Redskins will finish the job and reach the playoffs.