Week 17 is tiring. I get tired of trying to remember playoff scenarios and I get tired of listening to analysts and fans tell me who has quit and who is still playing.
We won’t know anything until the games begin. We don’t know if there is a punter daydreaming about his new snowmobile and we don’t know if there is a linebacker more concerned with a video-game quarterback than the quarterback in the opposing huddle.
We’re certainly faced with uncertainty in the regular season’s final weekend, but this is a time to maintain focus. Let’s work through the nonsense and find some winners.
This week’s picks (home team in caps):
DETROIT (+3) over Chicago: At a holiday party earlier in the week, my eyes drifted toward the crawl below whatever meaningless bowl game served as a background distraction. I was legitimately surprised when the projected 2013 NFL draft order told me the Lions were 4-11. I knew Detroit was frustrating, but I didn’t realize it had only four wins. Still, what about Chicago’s season? The Bears were 7-1 but now sit at 9-6 and need a win and a Minnesota loss to qualify for the postseason. I’m betting the Lions have enough pride, and talent, to provide sputtering Chicago with a legitimate scare. Risking $110 to win $100.
TENNESSEE (-4) over Jacksonville: Tennessee spent Week 16 getting crushed in Green Bay while Jacksonville battled to the finish at home against New England. Cue the theories that the Titans have folded while the Jaguars are still playing. My retort: If predicting week-to-week motivation were such a precise endeavor, wouldn’t New England have throttled Jacksonville after a disappointing home loss to San Francisco? The Titans will cruise. Risking $165 to win $150.
Carolina (+5) over NEW ORLEANS: A meaningless game has me intrigued because Carolina is closing strongly for the second straight season. I’ll take the points in what figures to be a field goal game. Risking $110 to win $100.
St. Louis (+10½) over SEATTLE: The real intrigue in this divisional tilt is the collision of two trends. St. Louis is 5-0 against the spread vs. the NFC West; Seattle is 7-0 against the spread at home. The latter trend will receive attention leading up to kickoff, but the former shows St. Louis is capable of going out in style. Take the head start. Risking $165 to win $150.
Last week: 2-2, minus $20. Season: 29-31-1, minus $273.