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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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2011 NFL Week 17 Primer

Baltimore Ravens’ Terrell Suggs has his helmet taken off by Cincinnati Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on January 2, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

MARQUE MATCHUP: It’s the final week – pick one.
Some will argue that the Cowboys-Giants Sunday night matchup is the biggest game of the week, but it’s no bigger than Ravens-Bengals. While Dallas-New York will finally settle the NFC East race, Baltimore needs a victory to win the AFC North and secure the No. 2 seed in the AFC, while Cincinnati needs to beat the Ravens just to clinch a playoff berth. There is no shortage of important games on the schedule this week, including Kansas City-Denver and San Diego-Oakland. (If the Broncos beat the Chiefs they’ll win the AFC West, or if they lose and the Raiders beat the Chargers, then Oakland will win the division.) In fact, out of the 16 games on the Week 17 schedule, only five contests have absolutely no barring on the playoff races in either conference. It figures to be a wild Sunday in the NFL, with postseason implications galore.

THE POTENTIAL (NOTEWORTHY) UPSET: Packers over Lions
Some of you may be thinking, “This wouldn’t be an upset, you clown.” But the Packers have nothing to play for and thus, will likely rest their starters this weekend. Considering they’re a 3.5-point home underdog, technically this would be considered an upset, so shove it. Wait…what?…You’d have to go back to December 15, 1991, for the last time the Lions won at Lambeau Field. That’s a massive drought; an even bigger drought than the Lions’ 11-year span of not making the postseason. Granted, the rest of Green Bay’s starters played that night but Matt Flynn nearly willed the Packers to a victory last season at New England when Aaron Rodgers was sidelined with a concussion. With nothing to play for, Mike McCarthy may let it all hang loose against a Detroit team that must win in order to secure the fifth seed in the NFC (and therefore avoid playing at New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs). It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Detroit will win this Sunday versus Green Bay’s backups, but in case you haven’t been paying attention: Green Bay’s backups are pretty freaking good, too. We’ll see if the ghosts of Lambeau Field haunt the Lions one more time this Sunday.

THE GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: DENVER BRONCOS
The Broncos have one mission and one mission only: Beat Kansas City at home on Sunday and win the AFC West. That’s it. That’s all they have to do. They don’t have to win and then hope for another team to lose like the Raiders, Titans and Jets do. All they have to do is take care of their own business at home against a 6-9 Chiefs team and they’ll be headed to the playoffs. That said, this is the same Chiefs that knocked off the defending (and undefeated) Packers a few weeks ago in Kansas City. Romeo Crennel is likely auditioning for a head-coaching job so he’ll have his defense ready to shut down Tim Tebow on Sunday, and let’s not forget that the discarded Kyle Orton is now Kansas City’s starting quarterback. This game is a writer’s dream because there are plenty of storylines to choose from. Still, Denver is the better overall team and has a chance to wrap up the division while clinching what was an improbable playoff berth at the start of the season. All those goofy horse heads have to do is win.

PUT UP OR SHUT UP: CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Broncos, Cowboys and Giants are all candidates for the “Put up or shut up” section this week, but if I’m only choosing one team then it’s the Cincinnati Bengals. Look, the Bengals have had a tremendous season. Nobody expected them to win more than five games this year, let alone nine and have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win in the final game of the season. Thus, this year is already a success in most people’s eyes. But they’re here, so they might as well finish the job and storm into the playoffs with a head full of steam instead of backing in because other teams (i.e. the Raiders, Titans and Jets) lost. Cincinnati obviously still has a lot to prove but if it can beat Baltimore at home this Sunday, it’ll give the Bengals confidence that they can win next week in Houston. If they get drubbed, then their season is likely over or they’ll back into the playoffs having lost to Pittsburgh (twice), Baltimore (twice) and Houston during the regular season. So strap ‘em up Bengals, and prove to the NFL that you’re one of the six best teams in the AFC.

2011 NFL Week 17 Odds & Point Spreads

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo makes a long completion to wide receiver Laurent Robinson to setup a touchdown by wide receiver Miles Austin against the New York Giants in the second half of their NFL football game in Arlington, Texas December 11, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Four Spreads of Note:

Ravens –2 vs. Bengals, 4:15PM ET
While Cowboys and Giants fans will say otherwise, this might be the marquee matchup of the week. The Ravens need a win to secure a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game, while the Bengals need a victory to clinch a postseason berth, period. The first time these two teams met, Baltimore beat the Bengals 31-24 as a 7-point home favorite. Thus, it’s interesting that oddsmakers would only set the spread for this game at 2 when they have to figure that people will hop on the Ravens again (especially when they don’t even have to lay a field goal). That said, Baltimore has been a completely different team on the road than at home this season, so maybe oddsmakers are setting a trap expecting a Cincinnati upset. We’ll find out soon enough.

Cowboys +3 @ Giants, 8:20PM ET
This is an absolute coin flip. The Giants already beat the Cowboys in Dallas a few weeks ago so clearly they won’t be intimidated by their NFC East rivals come Sunday night. That said, the Giants might be the worst home team in the league, so you can’t assume anything when it comes to either of these two teams. But I developed a theory a couple of months ago when it came to NFC East teams. Without looking at the actual facts, I felt as though NFC East teams were pure gold as an underdog and pure garbage as a favorite. After compiling the numbers for this article, it would appear as though my theory holds some water. As a favorite, NFC East teams are 10-22-2 against the spread this season. As an underdog, they’re 16-10, which includes Washington’s 6-6 record as a dog. Now, does this mean I expect Tony Romo and the Cowboys to roll into East Rutherford on Sunday night and beat the Giants? No. But if you’re hell bent on putting some action on this game, maybe those numbers will help paint a clearer picture.

Chiefs @ Broncos –3; Chargers @ Raiders –3
I’ll lump these games together since my thoughts basically apply to both of them. I’m shocked oddsmakers didn’t make the Broncos and Raiders 3.5-point home favorites instead of 3-point faves, and therefore made bettors choose whether or not to take or lay the hook. Then again, maybe sports books feel as though they’ll get more two-way action if they keep the spread at a field goal. Either way, it might be wise to lay off these games entirely. The NFL didn’t do bettors any favors by setting the time for both games at 4:15PM ET. If Denver wins, Oakland is eliminated in the AFC West so it would have made that Raiders-Chargers game easier to bet (at least in theory). But since both games will played at the same time, bettors will be forced to decide whether or not to bet teams in Kansas City and San Diego, which have nothing to play for besides pride. Again, I’d lay off.

Lions –3.5 @ Packers, 1:00PM ET
This game might be the most interesting on the board when you consider the factors at play. The Packers have nothing to play for after securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs last Sunday, but the Lions haven’t won in Green Bay since Brett Favre was wearing Falcon red. Detroit needs a win because if it doesn’t and Atlanta beats Tampa Bay, then the Lions would have to play the No. 3 seed in the NFC next week, which would likely be the Saints. A trip to Dallas or New York seems like a more pleasurable experience right now than a flight to New Orleans so again, the Lions need to beat the Packers on Sunday. But even though this game means much more to Detroit than Green Bay, there’s something unsettling about laying 3.5 points with the Lions at Lambeau.

2011 NFL Week 17 Odds:

Redskins +8.5 (46)
Eagles –8.5

Buccaneers +12 (47)
Falcons –12

49ers –10.5 (35.5)
Rams +10.5

Bears PK (40.5)
Vikings PK

Lions –3.5 (46)
Packers +3.5

Cowboys +3 (46.5)
Giants –3

Panthers +8.5 (54.5)
Saints –8.5

Titans –3 (39.5)
Texans +3

Ravens –2 (37.5)
Bengals +2

Steelers
Browns

Colts +3.5 (37)
Jaguars –3.5

Jets +2 (41)
Dolphins –2

Bills +11 (51)
Patriots –11

Chargers +3 (49)
Raiders –3

Chiefs +3 (37)
Broncos –3

Seahawks +3 (40.5)
Cardinals –3

Check out the most current NFL Betting Lines.

Suh, Lions showing lack of experience and maturity

Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh tries to argue his case with umpire Paul King at the start of halftime against the Green Bay Packers in Detroit on November 24, 2011. UPI/Jeff Kowalsky

At Ford Field on Thursday, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh got tangled up with Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith, got frustrated, then stomped on Dietrich-Smith’s arm as the offensive lineman lay on the ground.

Suh’s act was highly unnecessary and honestly, pretty stupid. But not as stupid as his remarks following the game while describing what happened.

Instead of owning up to the situation and apologizing to his teammates for potentially costing them the most important game of the season, he blamed the refs for misinterpreting the situation.

“My intentions were not to kick anybody,” Suh said before going into how the officials “misinterpreted” his stomp. “I was on top of a guy, being pulled down, and trying to get up off of the ground and why you see me pushing his helmet down (is) because I’m trying to remove myself from the situation, and as I’m getting up, I’m getting pushed, so I’m getting myself on balance and getting out of the situation,” Suh said. “With that, a lot of people are going to interpret it as, create their own story lines for seeing what they want to interpret it. But I know what I did, and the man upstairs knows what I did.”

Um, no. Suh clearly wasn’t trying to “remove” himself from the situation and his entire explanation is riddled with immaturity. He sounds like a high-schooler who got caught drinking and now he’s trying to tell his parents that he was a victim of circumstance. Like, “No Ma, I wasn’t drinking. I just went to that house because I was trying to see if other kids would help me volunteer at the homeless shelter. Once I saw that they were drinking, I tried to remove myself from the situation by leaving right away. But my friends misinterpreted my actions and started shoving beer in my face.”

Part of Suh’s explanation stems from the fact that some fans and media members have defended his actions. He’s a big star on a team that is finally heading in the right direction so whenever Suh has been flagged for unnecessary roughness, some are quick to say, “Well, he’s just being aggressive” or “Other players are getting away with the same things!” Thus, Suh must have figured that people would eat up whatever garbage excuse he tossed their way.

But this latest situation has caused many Lion fans to flip. When Suh was ejected the Lions were only down by a touchdown and there was still plenty of game left. As soon as he got the boot, Detroit fell apart and everything unraveled at the seams. If you’ve read the fallout from his actions, fans aren’t rushing to defend a player that continues to cost their team yards, points, and just maybe their first playoff berth in over 10 years.

The Lions are a good football team but they’ve shown their youth several times throughout the year. They’re a team that doesn’t play with a lot of composure and for that, I blame head coach Jim Schwartz, who hasn’t displayed much composure himself. It’s almost like Schwartz and his players are trying to prove that they’re not going to be everyone’s doormats anymore but they have no self-control, poise or grace so they come off looking like a bunch of punk kids on the playground.

Given the Lions’ brutal schedule down the stretch, if Schwartz doesn’t get a hold of the reins soon this team will go spinning out of control. (If it hasn’t already, that is.)

Ndamukong Suh kicked out of Lions-Packers game

Ndamukong Suh was kicked out of the Thanksgiving battle between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. The Packers had just failed to convert on third down inside the Lions’ 5-yeard line, setting up a fourth down and a likely field goal while holding a 7-0 lead over the Lions. Suh got tied up with offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith and then proceeded to deliver what seemed to be a blow to the face to the linemen while they were on the ground, and then as he was getting up he clearly stomped Dietrich-Smith with his foot. Suh was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and then ejected from the game. The entire episode was caught on television.

Instead of going up 10-0, the Packers were awarded a first down as a result of the penalty and then were able to get into the end zone, resulting in a 14-0 lead. We’ll see if this impacts whether the Lions can win the game, but Suh’s stupid play will definitely make things more difficult. Plays like this can be turning points in a game and even a season. As I’m writing this the Packers have gone ahead 21-0, so Suh’s bonehead play may have opened the flood-gates for the high-octane Packers. You don’t give Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated Packers extra chances to beat you.

Apart from that, this will have a lasting impact on Suh’s reputation. This was clearly a dirty play from a player who has developed a reputation as the dirtiest player in the NFL. Suh is clearly a great lineman and a big reason for Detroit’s resurgence, but this play on national television during Thanksgiving will follow him for a long time. He is very possibly facing a suspension as well.

Suh recently met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at Suh’s request to get a better understanding of the rules. Suh isn’t the only player baffled by the NFL’s attempt to protect quarterbacks and defenseless wide receivers. In many ways the NFL is ruining the game as legitimate hits are being called as personal fouls. These calls have huge impacts on the game, and we saw one today with a lame call on a clean hit on Aaron Rodgers.

But Suh’s penalty today had nothing to do with a new push to protect the quarterback. The game was already marred by some silly skirmishes and Suh wasn’t the first player kicked out, but Suh’s penalty was old-fashioned dirty play from a player who seems to let his aggression get the best of him. By doing it on a national stage, he’ll be an even bigger target for the officials going forward.

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