Thursday, December 18, 2014

NFL Picks, Week 16 - Thursday Night Edition

This week's NFL TV maps: 506sports

  • The "national" late afternoon game is Indianapolis at Dallas, on CBS. 

JAGUARS (-3.5) over Titans
I'm picking the Jaguars. Since this game features two 2-12 teams who would each be better served to lose the game rather than win it, and since you should spend exactly 0% of your life paying attention to this game (added "bonus": Phil Simms will be involved), let's instead analyze what the final game of the NFL's regular season will be. 

A couple of points before we begin:
  • As of right now (as usual), there is no scheduled Sunday Night Football game for week 17. Every game is currently scheduled to be played at 1:00 PM or 4:05/4:25 PM Eastern. The NFL does this so it only has to move one game for week 17, rather than the game originally slated for prime time and the new game being moved into prime time. 
  • The NFL wants as much on the line (in terms of playoff qualification) as possible. For the last 4 years, this game has featured two teams in competition for their division title. Each of the 8 teams involved in the final game of the season has entered this final regular season game of the season knowing that a win gets them into the playoffs, and a loss eliminates them.
So what games are likely to be featured in prime time next week? Let's take a look:

The No-Chancers:
Jacksonville (2-12) at Houston (7-7) - Too much would have to break right for Houston to be alive for a playoff berth by this Monday, let alone next Sunday night. 
New York Jets (3-11) at Miami (7-7) - Too much would have to break right for Miami to be alive for a playoff berth by this Monday, let alone next Sunday night. 
Indianapolis (10-4) at Tennessee (2-12) - Indy is in the playoffs already. Tennessee is...well, terrible. 
Chicago (5-9) at Minnesota (6-8) - Do you hate Jimmy Clausen? Would you like to watch him get pounded behind the Bears' offensive line? No? Then there is no reason to watch this game. 
New Orleans (6-8) at Tampa Bay (2-12) - Tampa Bay will not be involved in game 256. 
Oakland (2-12) at Denver (11-3) - Not going to happen. But, but Peyton Manni...No. Just no. 
Philadelphia (9-5) at New York Giants (5-9) - The Eagles could face a "Win-and-they're-in" scenario. But it would leave too much to chance and the 2014 New York Giants are not going to be a part of game 256. 
Arizona (11-3) at San Francisco (7-7) - Arizona'a already in. San Francisco is already on their way to Michigan out of the playoffs. 

The Unlike-lies: 
Cleveland (7-7) at Baltimore (9-5) - The drama of old Cleveland playing new Cleveland with a playoff spot on the line? Hoo-boy. Unfortunately, there are just too many moving parts that would all have to cosmically align for that to happen. While even the drama of Cleveland standing in the way of a Baltimore "Win and you're in" would be delicious, even that scenario is mostly a pipe dream. 
Dallas (10-4) at Washington (3-11) - Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys are not contractually obligated to be involved in game 256. Really this game should be in the no-chancers section, but NBC would at least think about putting this game in that slot, only because it involved the Cowboys. 
Detroit (10-4) at Green Bay (10-4) - Both teams will very likely be in the playoffs already by the time Sunday night rolls around, so while it should be an interesting game, there won't be enough on the line. 
Buffalo (8-6) at New England (11-3) - Buffalo's a longshot to still be alive by Sunday night, and the Patriots will likely already have sewn up at least a bye by next weekend. 
St. Louis (6-8) at Seattle (10-4) - Seattle could face a "Win and you're in" scenario, but it would rely on too many other pieces falling into place to be a realistic option.

The Options: 
2nd runner up: Carolina (5-8-1) at Atlanta (5-9)
For the last 4 years, game 256 has been a winner gets the 4th seed in the NFC affair. In 2010 it was St. Louis vs Seattle. In 2011 it was Dallas vs New York Giants. In 2012 it was Dallas vs Washington. In 2013 it was Philadelphia vs Dallas. In 2014, it could be Carolina vs Atlanta. If Atlanta beats New Orleans this week and Carolina beats Cleveland, then this game will decide the NFC South, no matter what the Saints do against Tampa Bay. The problem with this option is if the Saints win this weekend then Atlanta is eliminated and this game just becomes a clash of two terrible NFC teams. 

First runner up: San Diego (8-6) at Kansas City (8-6)
Right now these are teams 7 and 8 in the AFC playoff field. Unfortunately for them, only 6 teams get in. So this game could easily be a win and you're in battle for the 6th and last AFC spot, but that requires losses from Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and/or Baltimore between now and then (multiple losses in Cincinnati's case). It's just as likely that these two teams are playing out the string come next Sunday night. 

The likeliest pick: Cincinnati (9-4-1) at Pittsburgh (9-5) 
Best case scenario? Winner takes the AFC North, and the loser is out of the playoffs. But even the worst case scenario likely has the AFC North division on the line (if both teams are in the playoffs), and it could hold a wildcard spot on the line too. Because this game will mean something across most of the possible outcomes between now and then, this game is my pick for likeliest to be flexed by NBC into the final game of the regular season.  

2014 Midweek Picks: 12-5

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