Well here we are at the end of the regular season. I'd say it flew by, but it always seems to do that. It did seem slightly accelerated this year because of the Thursday night games, and because I was doing these picks. The pressure to get them done does tend to hasten things, you know. Picking 256 games is not easy for one who doesn't get paid to do it. I don't know if I'll do this again next year. I'll see how I feel in August.
The Browns continue to disappoint. They play tremendously hard football, and then lose in the final quarter. However, they have a great deal to look forward to next year, especially given the salary cap issues faced by the Ravens and the Steelers. Another team with a great deal of good in their future is the Tampa Bay Bucs. Unless Schiano finds a way to waste him as well, Glennon looks to be a superior quarterback. To me, he frankly looks like a young Joe Montana. Suround him with some talent and/or fire Schiano and the Bucs have a bright future.
The AFC playoffs are mostly set, save jockeying for position. The Broncos, Patriots and Colts all have their divisions wrapped up, and the Chiefs are immovable from the 5th seed. Congratulations to both the Colts and the Cardinals for doing what no one thought they could do in beating the Chiefs and Seahawks respectively. Truly astounding, they pulled off those upsets in Arrowhead and facing the dreaded Twelvth Man in Seattle. And big rasberries to the Lions, who completely pissed away a shot at the playoffs in two short weeks. Further tongue wagging at Miami. Coming into the weekend only one team had been shutout in a game, the New York Football Giants, and it happened to them twice. Miami joined that awful company having played like crap against the scrappy Buffalo Bills. The only thng they have going for them now is that the Ravens play in Cincinnati, the Chargers host the Chiefs and Miami gets Gino on what is a down week of his annoying sine-wave of performance. I'd say that favors them, but the only team playing like they truly want that sixth AFC playoff spot are the San Diego Chargers, and KC has nothing to play for but rest until the playoffs begin.
Two high profile injuries could radically alter the playoff picture. Von Miller is out for Denver and if they make it to New Jersey in February, he will be watching from the sidelines. Still, that Bronco defense seemed effective after his injury, and the the Broncos rely on out-scoring opponents with gaudy offense. The Cowboys, on the other hand, need Tony Romo. Kyle Orton has skills, but not Romo skill by any stretch. Romo is a win-at-all costs quarterback, and Orton is way too conservative for that style. Facing a winner take all showdown against the Eagles, Dallas fans can't have much hope and Chip Kelly may solidify a lock on Coach of The Year over Ron Rivera (though I still think it should be Andy Reed.)
Finally, huge Congrats to Peyton Manning. 51 touchdown passes with one game left to play. It is typical Manning and to his credit that he says Brady will likely break that record next year, but I strongly doubt it. Even in the pass happy NFL, defenses are adapting to rules that favor receptions. One cannot understate how difficult it is to average throwing 3+ touchdowns every game over a 16 game season. I don't think that's a record that will last forever by any stretch, but I doubt it will fall in the next couple of years. Further, Manning only needs 270 yards to pass Drew Brees' single season pass yardage total, against a rather suspect Oakland secondary. In only one game this season has Manning thrown less than that, the overtime loss to the Patriots. Peyton Manning most certainly deserves what will be his 5th NFL MVP award.
Merry Christmas to you all, and let's get on with the final picks:
Cleveland (4-11) at Pittsburgh (7-8) - Steelers (7 -20, Steelers)
Washington (3-12) at New York Giants (6-9) - Giants (6 - 20, Giants)
Baltimore (8-7) at Cincinnati (10-5) - Bengals (17 - 34, Bengals)
Houston (2-13) at Tennessee (6-9) - Titans (10 - 16, Titans)
Jacksonville (4-11) at Indianapolis (10-5) - Colts (10 - 30, Colts)
New York Jets (7-8) at Miami (8-7) - Jets (20 - 7, Jets)
Detroit (7-8) at Minnesota (4-10-1) - Lions (13 - 14, Vikings)
Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (4-11) - Panthers (21 - 20, Panthers)
Tampa Bay (4-11) at New Orleans (10-5) - Saints (17 - 42, Saints)
Buffalo (6-9) at New England (11-4) - Patriots (20 - 34, Pats)
Saint Louis (7-8) at Seattle (12-3) - Seahawks (9 - 27, Seahawks)
Green Bay (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7) - Packers (33 - 28, Packers)
San Francisco (11-4) at Arizona (10-5) - 49ers (23 - 20, 'Niners)
Denver (12-3) at Oakland (4-11) - Broncos (34 - 14, Broncos)
Kansas City (11-4) at San Diego (8-7) - Chargers (24 - 27, Chargers)
Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7) - Eagles (24 - 22, Eagles)
Last Week's score: 10 - 6, 63%, Overall: 148 - 92, 62%