We’re heading into the last week of the NFL season, which means one of two things: 1) Some teams will be resting their starters, and b) so many teams think they still have a shot at the playoffs, that invariably three or four of them can’t handle the pressure from their fans and media and end up choking. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=peyton+manning&iid=7433555″ src=”a/6/e/6/Colts_Manning_Passes_b79b.JPG?adImageId=8776319&imageId=7433555″ width=”234″ height=”404″ /]
Either way, it all adds up to a bad weekend of football.
It also makes it harder to predict the winners of games.
So in honour of the unpredictability of this weekend, I give you two scenarios for every game: what I think will happen, and what will probably happen.
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills, Bills favoured by 7 1/2
What I think will happen: I understand the Colts will probably rest their starters after the first quarter or so, but we’re talking about the Bills here. Half of the backups on the Colts could be starters for the Bills. I expect the Colts to score on their first couple of possessions for an early lead, and maybe hold on for the game. But they’ll cover the spread.
What actually will happen: Peyton Manning starts, throws one pass, and then comes out for the rest of the game. The Colts then bring out their secret weapon, Archie Manning, who goes on to throw nine picks.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions, Bears favoured by 2 1/2
What I think will happen: At 2-13, can this season be declared a success by the Lions organization? I say yes. Their quarterback, Matt Stafford, got some games in. Their young players got older and another year of experience. And they’ll be getting a top-five pick in the draft this year. If they take it slowly, and make smart drafting decisions and signing, they could be a playoff team in two or three years. But that’s still a few years away. For now, they have trouble with any team with more than four wins. That includes the Bears. Bears to win.
What actually will happen: Daunte Culpepper, who will start in place of Stafford, throws for an NFL record 600 yards and seven touchdowns, leading to a dispute over the winter about who should be the actual starting quarterback in Detroit. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=ricky+williams&iid=7364198″ src=”7/b/6/0/Miami_Dolphins_v_1618.jpg?adImageId=8776342&imageId=7364198″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]
Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins, Steelers favoured by 2 1/2
What I think will happen: The Steelers still have an outside chance for the playoffs. And despite them being the worst team in the league when it comes to the spread, they’ll pull off the victory this week.
What actually will happen: Ben Roethlisberger holds onto the ball for too long, gets sacked four times on the first possession, with the fourth one leading to another concussion for him. Ricky Williams makes the Steelers defence look foolish, and in the meantime, becomes the first person to retire and unretire in the same game.
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, Vikings favoured by 8 1/2
What I think will happen: The Giants need a win, and they’re going to get it this week. The Vikings have looked brutal lately, losing three of their last four (interesting stat: all three of those losses were night games). Brett Favre is yelling at his coach, Brad Childress. Childress is yelling at Favre. Not a good sign going into the playoffs.
What actually will happen: Brett Favre decides hsi coach is right and he needs a break, and takes himself out of the game during the warm-up, and ends his consecutive game streak at 284. The Giants lose to whoever the backup quarterback is in Minnesota. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=atlanta+falcons&iid=7432969″ src=”5/1/7/f/Buffalo_Bills_v_562a.jpg?adImageId=8776352&imageId=7432969″ width=”234″ height=”340″ /]
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Falcons favoured by 2 1/2
What I think will happen: No matter what their record may say, Tampa is the worst team in the league. They have looked unprepared for games, and seem to get destroyed on a weekly basis more than the Brooklyn Brawler. Atlanta to win.
What actually will happen: The Falcons look forward to the next game, and look past the Bucs. Unfortunately, their next game is in August during the preseason.
San Fransisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams, 49ers favoured by 6 1/2
What I think will happen: The Rams may have the league’s worst record at 1-14, but they are a respectable 7-8 against the spread, especially when they’re the underdogs (which has been for all 16 games this year). I expect the 49ers to win, but the Rams to cover.
What actually will happen: The Rams decide they actually want to win a game, and destroy the Falcons, leading to everyone in St. Louis to act their the Rams had a half-decent season, but they had some bad breaks.
New England Patriots at Houston Texans, Texans favoured by 7 1/2
What I think will happen: What’s up with all these much-better teams getting shafted in the spread? The Patriots have never taken a game off, or rested their starters. In fact, I think Tom Brady has played every minute this year, including the preseason and even on defence. Look for the Pats to not rest anyone and win the game.
What actually will happen: Tom Brady gets injured on the first play, and Bill Simmons immediately posts a 10,000-word column about how in the past 10 years, Boston sports teams haven’t gotten a single break (well, except for Brady’s leg last season). [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=carolina+panthers&iid=7436361″ src=”1/9/f/a/Carolina_Panthers_v_d5b0.jpg?adImageId=8776360&imageId=7436361″ width=”234″ height=”348″ /]
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers, Panthers favoured by 6 1/2
What I think will happen: The Saints have looked terrible the past four weeks. They barely defeated the Redskins and Falcons, had their winning streak snapped by the Cowboys, and then lost to the Bucs. Now they play division rival Panthers, who still has an outside chance at the playoffs. And there’s no word on whether the Saints are going to rest their starters. This doesn’t bode well for the Saints. Panthers to win.
What actually will happen: Reggie Bush gets injured, but no one actually notices.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns, Browns favoured by 1 1/2
What I think will happen: With all due respect, how are the Browns favoured against anyone? If you were to put together a team of players left over from the XFL, which hasn’t been around since 2001, I’d still take XFL team over the Browns. Jaguars to win.
What actually will happen: In a surprise move, Lebron James actually makes his NFL debut, scores three touchdowns. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, James announces he is moving to New York next year for some inexplicable reason.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, Cowboys favoured by 2 1/2
What I think will happen: Wait, the Cowboys are playing a semi-important game in December? Against a division rival? Sounds like a tough decisi- Eagles to win.
What actually will happen: Tony Romo plays a great game, shedding the moniker of he’s just a great early season quarterback. Nah, that’s the most farfetched one yet. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=philip+rivers&iid=7415468″ src=”e/3/d/6/Cincinnati_Bengals_v_3cd7.jpg?adImageId=8776362&imageId=7415468″ width=”234″ height=”326″ /]
Washington Redskins at San Diego Chargers, Chargers favoured by 3 1/2
What I think will happen: This game is a crazy study in contrast. The Redskins have been the least entertaining team to watch this year. The Chargers have been one of the most. The Redskins don’t have a good quarterback. The Chargers do. The Redskins are one of the worst teams. The Chargers are one of the best. Chargers to win.
What actually will happen: Norv Turner gets outcoached by a coachless Redskins team. Not actually going to happen, because it’s not the playoffs.
Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks, Titans favoured by 4 1/2
What I think will happen: Despite the fact the Titans still have an outside chance to make the playoffs, I expect the team to mostly focus on Chris Johnson wanting to get 2,000 rushing yards in a season. He’ll get the ball early, and he’ll get it a lot, no matter what the score is. Still, I think the Titans will pull it off.
What actually will happen: Johnson actually rushes for negative 100 yards in a game, becoming the first runningback to ever do so.
Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders, Ravens favoured by 10 1/2
What I think will happen: This was my hardest pick of the week. The Raiders have looked good at times this season, especially against some of the better teams in the league. And it’s a pretty big spread. But the Ravens are going to be fired up for this game, and will be looking to make a statement going into the playoffs. Ravens to win.
What actually will happen: JaMarcus Russell gets the start, and finishes the game with a perfect quarterback rating.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals, Cardinals favoured by 3 1/2
What I think will happen: This could be the most entertaining game of the week. Both teams have already clinched a playoff spot, so it will come down to pride. I expect Kurt Warner to not play as much as Aaron Rodgers, and that will be the difference. Packers to win.
What actually will happen: Both teams have a dull game, with a combined 25 punts between them, and a final 3-0 score. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=denver+broncos&iid=7435211″ src=”1/6/7/b/Denver_Broncos_v_bb78.jpg?adImageId=8776366&imageId=7435211″ width=”234″ height=”319″ /]
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos, Broncos favoured by 12 1/2
What I think will happen: Has any team ever suffered more because of a bye than the Broncos. They were 6-0 going into their bye week, and are 2-7 since. They’ll win this game, but the spread is too high. Chiefs to cover.
What actually will happen: The Chiefs trade back for Larry Johnson, who breaks the Chiefs record for most rushing yards in a career with the team. Chiefs fans (all 37 of them) stage a protest.
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets, Jets favoured by 9 1/2
What I think will happen: This is the last game of the season, and a lot of what happens will be determined early in the day. The Jets will make the playoffs with a win. But if it turns out they can make it in win or lose, they could start resting starters early. The Bengals have been the surprise team of the season, and if they’re smart, will want to do what the Giants did a few years ago against the Patriots, and play the entire game for pride. It could help going into the playoffs.
What actually will happen: The Jets implode, with Mark Sanchez throwing three picks in a game. Wait, that’s already happened four times this season? Who’s his idol, Jay Cutler?