Fade Material: 2011 NFL Week 17 Predictions

A trainer works on the hands of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton (8) after he was injured during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 4, 2011 in Chicago. Orton only played one snap before being injured. UPI/Brian Kersey

This is it: Week 17. This is for all the marbles. Everything is on the line. My back is against the wall. Time to put up or shut up. It’s now or never. One last time for glory.

Have I hit on most of the clichéd sports phrases yet? No? Well post your favorite phrase in the comments section and have it mentioned the next time I do my predictions!

After my 3-1 effort in Week 16 (the Panthers, Vikings and Eagles all covered while the Chargers laid an egg in Detroit), my record this season is now 30-31-2 against the spread. As I noted last Sunday, my goal is to finish above .500 and save what’s left of my dignity, which means I need to go 4-0 or 3-1 this week in order to accomplish the feat. That’s no hill for a climber…

Jets @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET
Stick a fork in the Jets – they’re done. Their defense and running game hasn’t been as good this season as they’ve been the previous two years under Rex Ryan, which means Mark Sanchez’s awfulness isn’t been covered up. The Dolphins proved last week in New England that they still have plenty of fight left in them, even though they’re head coach-less and are looking at a major offseason overhaul. With their season slipping away in the fourth quarter, Sanchez puts a bow on things by throwing one last pick-six as Ryan looks dumbfounded at the scoreboard.
THE PICK: DOLPHINS –3

Chiefs @ Broncos, 4:15PM ET
I have a hunch that things will end very poorly for the Denver Broncos this season. It’s almost like they’ve spent all of their Tebow bucks just getting to this point (i.e. knocking on the door of a division title and a playoff berth) and now that they’re out of loot, they have no money to pay back the creditors. Romeo Crennel is auditioning for another NFL head coaching job, so you know Kansas City’s underrated defense will be prepared to play tomorrow. And would you look at who the Chiefs quarterback is this week, why it’s none other than Kyle Orton! The man who was benched for Tebow and then jettisoned out of town when the youngster started winning. I envision Orton running off the field at Sports Authority Dick’s Sporting Goods UnderArmor Field at Mile High tomorrow with a big, goofy grin on his face as the Denver crowd weeps in the background.
THE PICK: CHIEFS +3.5

Lions @ Packers, 1:00PM ET
This one is tricky because Green Bay essentially has nothing to play for after already wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the NFC last week. Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers’ starters will only see a few series, if they even play at all. That means Matt Flynn will have a turn to drive the Cadillac for a week, and there’s no telling how Mike McCarthy will call this game. Will he keep things basic and vanilla or will he toss in a couple of trick plays for craps and grins? Either way, the Lions haven’t won at Lambeau since 1991 so I look at that line and something just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Detroit will win easily and head to either New York or Dallas next week, but I just can’t pull the trigger on Lions –3.5. (Even with Flynn and the boys playing the majority of the game for Green Bay.)
THE PICK: PACKERS +3.5

Bucs @ Falcons, 4:15PM ET
If the Lions beat the Packers at 1:00PM ET then the Falcons essentially can rest their starters in preparation for next week because they’d be guaranteed the sixth seed in the NFC. But if Detroit loses than Atlanta can improve its playoff positioning and avoid possibly going to New Orleans again next weekend. But even if the Lions win, the Falcons still have something to prove to themselves following their horrendous effort last Monday night versus the Saints. If you read the local papers, the Atlanta players have said to a man that they want a rematch with New Orleans but the seed of doubt has been planted following their 45-16 loss. They need a strong showing this weekend against a hapless Buccaneers team that quit weeks ago before they head into the playoffs. Thus, whether Matt Ryan and the rest of the Falcons starters play a half or the full game, they need a strong effort tomorrow.
THE PICK: FALCONS –11

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T.G.I. Friday’s NFL Weekend Preview

“This series is brought to you by T.G.I. Friday’s, where every Sunday means Food, Fun & Football! Hut, hut, hut!”

The Scores Report has teamed up with T.G.I Friday’s to promote the action in Week 9 of the NFL. Here’s a look at Sunday’s top games.

Buccaneers (5-2) @ Falcons (5-2), 1:00PM ET
If someone would have told me before the season started that the winner of this game would have sole possession of first place in the NFC South, I would have said, “That’s crazy! You mean Tampa hasn’t already taken sole possession of the division?” Look for the Bucs to stick to their ground game with LeGarrette Blount in hopes that he’ll set up the play-action pass for quarterback Josh Freeman. That said, Blount could have trouble finding running room against an Atlanta defense that ranks sixth against the run (95.9 YPG). For whatever reason, Tampa has given the Falcons trouble over the years, so don’t expect a blowout inside the Georgia Dome this Sunday. That said, Matt Ryan has only lost once at home over his career and the Falcons will be fresh coming off their bye.

Dolphins (4-3) @ Ravens (5-2), 1:00PM ET
The Ravens are 3-0 at home and the Dolphins are 4-0 on the road so something has to give this Sunday in Baltimore. Miami is only the fifth team in NFL history to go 4-0 on the road and 0-3 at home in its first seven games. If the Fish are to pick up another road victory, they better stay balanced offensively so that Ray Lewis and company can’t zero in on the run. Chad Henne has put together some good performances this year but he needs to be more consistent and find Brandon Marshall inside the red zone. For the Ravens, the Joe Flacco-Anquan Boldin combination has been outstanding this year but more was expected out of Ray Rice. Much more. Rice could have a tough time finding running room against the 11th-best run defense in the league.

Colts (5-2) @ Eagles (4-3), 4:15PM ET
While this is also true for most teams, the Colts have looked like a completely different team on the road this season. Both of their losses came on the road and Philadelphia is certainly a tougher place to play than Houston and Jacksonville (the cities in which the Colts have already lost in). While Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez have both been ruled out, Joseph Addai and Austin Collie continue to battle injuries themselves. Peyton Manning has a penchant for making any receiver/tight end look like a Hall of Famer, but the Eagles’ have the weapons in their defensive backfield to keep the Colts in check. Michael Vick will make his first start since suffering a rib injury against the Redskins a month ago and it’ll be interesting to see if he can lead Philly to a win in order to keep pace with the Giants in the NFC East. This is a big game for both teams.

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Falcons’ last-minute win over Bucs could be season defining

There are moments every NFL season that could be deemed as defining for playoff contenders.

The Falcons had one of those moments in Week 12.

Atlanta lost Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and two starting offensive linemen on Sunday, but found a way to come from behind in the closing minutes to knock off division rival Tampa Bay, 20-17. Chris Redman completed 23-of-41 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns while subbing for Ryan (who hurt his foot early in the first quarter and never returned), and also found Roddy White on a 4th and goal from the 5-yard line to lift Atlanta to victory.

Outside of two separate 18-yard runs by Turner and Jerious Norwood, the Falcons had no running game, which made things tougher on Redman. It also didn’t help that starting left tackle Sam Baker and starting right guard Harvey Dahl left the game due to injuries and the Bucs revved up the pressure. Tampa produced six sacks on the day and harassed Redman for the majority of the game.

But with the game on the line, Redman was excellent. With 2:30 left on the clock and zero timeouts, he led the Falcons 59 yards for the game-winning score by taking what the Bucs gave them and methodically marching down the field. On the crucial fourth down attempt, Redman threw a bullet to White, who made an incredible catch in between defenders to secure the catch.

The Falcons have a ton of injuries, can’t defend the pass, need a new kicker (Jason Elam is horrible) and have two daunting home games against the Eagles and Saints over the next two weeks, but if they can build off the momentum they seized today, then they’ll make the playoffs. One could argue that they should have beaten a bad Tampa team by more than three points at home. But considering they were playing with several backups (including Redman), the only thing that matters is that they produced a victory. And with winnable games against the Jets, Bills and Bucs down the stretch, if they can find a way to beat either the Eagles or Saints over the next two weeks then a 10-win season is a possibility.

Speaking of Tampa, Josh Freeman (20-of-29 for 250 yards, 2 TDs) played very well and the defense responded to Morris calling the plays for the first time this season. But Morris’ decision to attempt a long field goal late in the fourth quarter set the Falcons up with prime field position to mount their comeback. Had Morris decided to punt, the Falcons would have had to drive the length of the field with no timeouts. Hindsight is always 20/20, but the decision to attempt the field goal doomed the Bucs.

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