Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Santa brought you everything you had on your adult list. If that list included winners and the jolly old fella didn’t leave that in your stocking, I’m here to pick up his slack.
And since this is the final week of the NFL season, there is no reason for survivor selections as you have either been eliminated or you are doing your best “Indecent Proposal” impression, minus Demi Moore of course (hot).
1. Pittsburgh (-7) – The Steelers still have a micro-sweat of making the NFL dance. But it’s going to take 3 other teams to fall flat on their respective faces along with a win over the Browns of Cleveland to make that happen. But since they won’t know the other teams (SD, Balt, Miami) fate, I fully expect head coach Mike Tomlin to have his team ready to roll the Browns. And based on how the two teams have played of late, I expect the Steelers to be scoreboard watching come early in the 4th quarter.
Nuggets: The Steelers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 vs. AFC North teams. Browns are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games in December.
2. New Orleans (-11) – Like the Steelers, Drew Brees and the Saints need to win to get in the playoffs. Only difference here is, if they beat Tampa Bay they can punch their ticket to the playoffs. So I expect head coach Sean Payton to come out early and be aggressive to take any modivation out of the Bucs by scoring early and often. This would also be a good spot for an “exotic play” by taking the Saints -6 in the first half.
Nuggets: The home team is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings.
3. Jacksonville (+11.5) – Remember when this guy was telling everyone how bad the Jags were? Well like a good politician, I’ve flip-flopped. The Jags are playing about as hard as any team right now and their ATS proves it going 5-2 over their past 7. And even their losses have just missed ATS as well. This week the Colts of Indy have very little to play for as they are pretty locked into the 4th spot in the playoffs. I expect them to win, but those gritty little Jags won’t make it easy and should keep it close enough to cover the 11.5.
Other leans include: Minnesota (-3): Last game at the Metrodome as well as propbably Arbutus’ own Jim Schawartz’. Seattle (-11): Need to win to secure the #1 seed overall.
After last weeks BeatDown at the Bank by the Patriots, the Ravens head to Cincinnati with their playoff hopes on the line. As our great contributor Andrew Holly pointed out, the Ravens basically need to not only win and have the Bolts and Fins lose. I’m of the opinion that a win over a (7-0 at home) Bengals team that has a ton to play for is going to be the toughest part for the home team in Purple.
That’s because the Bengals not only need to win to keep themselves positioned in the 3rd spot in the playoffs, which helps them avoid Kansas City in the 1st round, but also needs to win to get a graspers chance at the 2-hole if the Pats were to lose later in the day at home to Buffalo.
But that’s not to say the Ravens won’t play their asses off and give a Champions type performance, because that’s what I fully except from a John Harbaugh coached squad. And for that to happen QB Joe Flacco will have to shake off his knee issues and make good, accurate down field throws as the Bengals can be beat in the back end of their secondary. Mixing in a decent type running game wouldn’t hurt, but based on 15 games of sample size, I just don’t see that happening.
In the end, I think the Ravens quest for back to back Championships will come up a bit short in the Queen City. And if that does happen, which game will you look back on as the one that got away? Was it the Green Bay game at home? Chicago game played during a Tornado? Or was it in Buffalo where Flacco threw 5 picks? Either way, it has been a season of missed opportunities that is for sure. But if they do win and SD and Miami fall on their faces, then the Ravens might as well just extend their stay in Cincy as they would be playing the Bengals there next weekend in a Wild Card matchup — Bengals 24-21.