Here we are, ladies and gentlemen, in the final week of the 2011 NFL season. After posting some pretty good numbers last week, I'm above water against the spread for this season (a position that it didn't look like I'd get back to after the craziness of Week 15), but can I stay there? I certainly hope so, but let's take a look at this week's games and see what we have going on. As always, the numbers are provided by our good friends from Oddsshark.com.
Game of the Week - Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (-3)
One playoff spot in the NFC is still up for grabs, and this is the game that's going to decide it. The Giants needed to have a lot of things go right in order to knock off the Giants in Dallas a few weeks ago, and I don't know if they can get all those bounces again. I know a lot of people are going to pick against Dallas because of Tony Romo's propensity for falling apart in big situations, but I'm going to go against that particular grain here.
Straight-Up - Cowboys, ATS - Cowboys
Lock of the Week - San Francisco 49ers (-12) at St. Louis Rams
A win will give the Niners the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs and the all-important first-round bye. The Rams are starting Kellen Clemens at quarterback. Gee, tough call.
Straight-Up - Niners, ATS - Niners
Upset of the Week - Baltimore Ravens (-1) at Cincinnati Bengals
Both teams have things to shoot for in this one. A win for the Ravens locks up the AFC North and a first-round bye. A win for the Bengals clinches the second wild card spot in the AFC. I don't trust Joe Flacco enough to be confident in picking the Ravens here. No real rhyme or reason behind it. . .just a gut feeling.
Straight-Up - Bengals, ATS - Bengals
The Rest of the Week
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5)
The Colts have a chance to play themselves right out of the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft with a win here and a St. Louis loss. The Jaguars are terrible and really, at this point, shouldn't be favored over anybody. Sorry, Colts fans. . .it doesn't look like Luck is going to be on your side after all.
Straight-Up - Colts, ATS - Colts
Tennessee Titans (-1) at Houston Texans
The Texans are reeling, and their seed can't change from the #3 spot in the AFC, so they have nothing to play for. Tennessee still has a shot at a wild-card berth, but they need to have a lot of things go right. They'll get one of those things with a victory here.
Straight-Up - Titans, ATS - Titans
Detroit Lions (-4) at Green Bay Packers
The Packers have nothing to play for, and will likely only put their starters in for a half. Detroit hasn't won at Lambeau Field since 1991. That changes here.
Straight-Up - Lions, ATS - Lions
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-9.5)
The Eagles are this year's "thank goodness they're not going to make the playoffs team," but I'm guessing they're going to be a serious contender in 2012. The Redskins, meanwhile, are trying to figure out exactly what they need to do to move up and select a quarterback in this April's NFL Draft.
Straight-Up - Eagles, ATS - Eagles
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-9)
The Saints are still playing for a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs, but with San Francisco having an easy one against St. Louis, it likely won't matter. The Niners/Rams game will be going on at the same time, and if that one gets out of hand early, look for the Saints to start pulling guys.
Straight-Up - Saints, ATS - Panthers
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-12)
A victory here for the Pats ensures that the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC runs through Foxboro. The Bills trouncing of Denver last week not withstanding, I don't see any reason to think they're going to knock off the Patriots here, though they might keep it closer than expected.
Straight-Up - Patriots, ATS - Bills
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-3)
The Jets are another team that need a lot of crazy things to happen in order to back into the AFC's post-season party. One of those things is a victory over the Dolphins. While that isn't necessarily "crazy," the Jets have done a good enough job of falling apart over the past few weeks to convince me that it isn't happening.
Straight-Up - Dolphins, ATS - Dolphins
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders (-2.5)
In the battle of "which quarterback can throw more terrible interceptions," a victory by Carson Palmer's Raiders over Philip Rivers' Chargers would give the silver and black a shot at an AFC North title. A Raiders win and a Denver loss will put the Raiders into the post-season to host the AFC North runner-up. The Raiders should be able to hold up their end of the bargain here.
Straight-Up - Raiders, ATS - Raiders
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-3)
This game will be going on at the same time as Chargers/Raiders, so everyone will have to go all-out in both games. If the Broncos win, they're in. If the Broncos lose, they need to hope that Oakland loses, too. Some deity of some sort might strike me down for saying this, but after getting thumped two weeks in a row. . .I'm just not sure if Tebow-mania is going to carry over into 2012.
Straight-Up - Chiefs, ATS - Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (-1.5)
You know what's sad? The winner of this game is going to finish with a .500 record. And nobody outside of Phoenix and Seattle is going to care.
Straight-Up - Seahawks, ATS - Seahawks
Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5) at Cleveland Browns
The Steelers have a shot at the AFC North title and a first-round bye with a victory. This game will be taking place at the same time as the other AFC North tilt between Cincinnati and Baltimore. The Steelers could use an extra week to help Ben Roethlisberger's ankle heal, and I have the feeling they're going to get it.
Straight-Up - Steelers, ATS - Steelers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-12)
A Falcons win and a Lions loss would give Atlanta the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs as opposed to the #6 seed. Really, that's about all that's at stake here, unless you're curious to see whether or not Raheem Morris gets fired at halftime.
Straight-Up - Falcons, ATS - Falcons
Playoff picture based on our picks
First-Round Byes - (1) New England Patriots, (2) Pittsburgh Steelers
(6) Cincinnati Bengals at (3) Houston Texans
(5) Baltimore Ravens at (4) Oakland Raiders
First-Round Byes - (1) Green Bay Packers, (2) San Francisco 49ers
(6) Atlanta Falcons at (3) New Orleans Saints
(5) Detroit Lions at (4) Dallas Cowboys
Straight-Up For Season: 143-77 (11-3 last week)
ATS For Season: 107-105-8 (9-5 last week)
Lock of the Week: 7-8
Upset of the Week: 6-8-1