And we're there ...
Week 17, unbelievably, has arrived, and not without some juice. The No. 1 seed is up for grabs in the AFC. The NFC West has been guaranteed to no one. The NFC East is anybody's boxing match.
What a game that will be in Washington. The Redskins and their fans would be fired up about the opportunity to finish with 10 wins, but to win the NFC East, while closing the door on the Dallas Cowboys' season? Come on. What an atmosphere. Bear in mind that the guy taking snaps with the star on his helmet has been balling more than any quarterback in the NFL this side of Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson over the last month or so. Again, what a treat this de facto NFC East title game will be.
@harrison_nfl you can DM me about the cowboys rotating right tackle situation...— Ryan Corbin (@MrMcGibblets04) December 27, 2012
Or I can just watch right along with you and the rest of the country, wondering if ol' Flozell Adams is still available.
But enough about Dallas vs. Washington. We have 15 other ballgames on the docket. Would love to hear your thoughts, with @Harrison_NFL being the dropbox.
So let's get to it ...
Elliot Harrison went 10-6 on his predictions for Week 16, giving him a 128-63-1 record since taking over this space in Week 4. How will he fare in Week 17? His picks are below, with home teams listed second:
Will Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith rest his starters? My guess is no. Resting players hasn't proven to win anything over the years. Especially when you consider that wild-card teams like the 2005 Steelers, '07 Giants, and '10 Packers won the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman has really struggled the last couple of weeks ( nine turnovers). From 6-4 to 6-9, and with Smith playing his starters, make it 6-10 for the Bucs. #TBvsATL
How do you call this game? Call it expired bologna, or something to that effect. Holy cow, this matchup has dud written all over it. Look, I love the NFL, but a quarterback matchup of Mark Sanchez vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick not only makes for a difficult game to predict, but a painful one to watch. Then again, we've seen both these clubs play some exciting games this year. My sense is that Buffalo will get to Sanchez at least five times, while C.J. Spiller will pick up 125 scrimmage yards. Bills win, Bills win. #6-10 #NYJvsBUF
The Baltimore Ravens are playing solely for playoff positioning, hoping to vault into the No. 3 seed. That's key should someone knock off the 1 seed in the divisional round. (Hey, you never know.) The key to this game will be how the Cincinnati Bengals handle Ray Rice, who got 30 touches for 158 yards in the Ravens' rout of the Giants last Sunday. Also, can the Bengals' pass rush make life miserable for Joe Flacco? Cincy gave him far too much time to throw in the teams' first meeting. Ray Rice's absence = stripes win. #BALvsCIN
A lot of people seem to think the Detroit Lions are primed for a meaningless win at home. Or maybe I'm just imagining that. The Chicago Bears' defense won't allow a season-ending loss with a potential postseason spot on the line. The Bears need help to make the playoffs, but they will throttle Mikel LeShoure -- who hasn't averaged four yards per carry in a game since Nov. 18 -- and make Matthew Stafford beat them. Should the Lions quarterback struggle, hopefully Detroit's left tackle won't just olé Julius Peppers, allowing the Bears defensive end to knock Stafford out of the game. Nobody would ever pull a stunt like that. #CHIvsDET
I'd really like to pick the Indianapolis Colts to win in Chuck Pagano's first game back. But the reality is that the Colts struggled over the last two weeks, and they are playing a bunch of "Who the heck are these guys?" along the defensive line. That's not good when facing Arian Foster, who apparently is OK after being pulled last week with an irregular heartbeat. The Houston Texans are playing for home-field advantage, so I fully expect to see a better effort from the defense than we've seen the last month. Matt Schaub? That's the question. He's been inconsistent, and completely failed to get the offense going in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Expect Andrew Luck to go the whole way, even though the Colts are locked in as the 5 seed. #HOUvsIND
In what amounts to a highly intriguing (yet completely irrelevant) game, the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints will go all out to finish 2012 on a run. Carolina has won three straight and four of five, while the Saints have taken their last two games. The crucial questions here involve the quarterbacks. Can New Orleans' defense thwart Cam Newton, who has been a fantasy legend for the last month? Can the Panthers' eighth-ranked pass defense hold the fort versus Drew Brees, who threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns last week? Perhaps the true story of this NFC South battle will be how much Carolina plays for Ron Rivera, who might not be back next season. There have been no votes of confidence sent Rivera's way by ownership. So that means Rivera doesn't get fired, of course. Carolina wins. #CARvsNO
Whew doggy. Good luck here, folks. Well, not Foles. Nick isn't playing, due to a broken hand. Yet that doesn't make it any easier to pick a winner in this divisional bout, featuring a seriously rusty Michael Vick and a seriously slumping Eli Manning. So, what gives? The Philadelphia Eagles undoubtedly would like to win the final contest of the Andy Reid era, while the Tom Coughlin regime still has an outside chance at adding its sixth playoff berth in nine seasons. Give the nod to the New York Giants, who are 5-2 at home, with losses to only the Cowboys and Steelers. Wouldn't it be ironic, though, if LeSean McCoy got 30 carries and produced 212 yards rushing? Even if Reid barely employs the stud tailback, it is worth noting that he gained 123 yards rushing against Big Blue earlier this season -- in an Eagles win. #PHIvsNYG
This is not your barnburner of Week 17. In a game that means nothing, you might see close to nothing from the Cleveland Browns' offense. Brandon Weeden ... hurt. Colt McCoy ... hurt. So get out your program (or iPhone) and look up Thaddeus Lewis. There's your possible starter at Heinz Field. Don't you worry, though, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense pretty much sucked versus the Bengals, with Ben Roethlisberger going 14-for-28 with two interceptions, while the ground game averaged 3.1 yards per rush. Defense still wins football games, thank God. #CLEvsPIT
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in a dogfight for the top overall pick. Jacksonville must lose and hope Kansas City wins. Now, the Jags are likely to pull out all the stops to win this game. And you know, a team must pull out ALL the stops to beat the Tennessee Titans. Like, maybe one -- if Chad Henne fares OK, advantage Jacksonville. It might be tough producing some offense without the injured Cecil Shorts. The Titans are looking to rebound at home. Not allowing 55 points would be one way to do that. Or having Jake Locker complete half his passes. That's always neato. #JACvsTEN
The Denver Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL and have much to play for -- namely, home-field advantage in January. The Kansas City Chiefs, meanwhile, are duking it out with the Jags for the top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. On paper, this game appears to be a mismatch. Denver is ranked in top five in both offense and defense. Shockingly, Kansas City is 22nd in offense and 17th in defense -- not exactly indicative of a 2-13 team. Quarterback play, or lack thereof, has been the story of K.C.'s season. As tough as the Chiefs played the Broncos at Arrowhead a month back, the latter has too much to play for this time. #KCvsDEN
Much going on in this NFC North affair. For starters, the Green Bay Packers are playing for the No. 2 seed, which would give them a bye in the playoffs. And then there's the HUGE running back story ... ... the Ryan Grant comeback story. I kid because I care. Can Adrian Peterson do it? Can he gain the 208 yards necessary to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, a mark that's stood since 1984? I'm not counting on it, although I wouldn't be overly shocked. My sense is that the game situation (Green Bay getting a two-touchdown lead) will cause the Minnesota Vikings to air it out a bit more. What's more important: a playoff berth or the record for Peterson? Long term: Peterson. Short term: playing football in January. By the way, the Packers' run defense allows 111.9 rush yards per game. Peterson has averaged 155.4 since Week 7. #GBvsMIN
The New England Patriots pull away thanks to halftime adjustments. The 2012 Miami Dolphins' defense has acquitted itself pretty well, particularly in the red zone, where they are the best unit in pro football. Miami also is only allowing 3.84 yards per carry on first down (third in the NFL), so the Patriots might have trouble getting Stevan Ridley and Co. going in the early frames. Nonetheless, there's a reason the Patriots win far more than they lose, and that's takeaways. Expect the secondary to pick Ryan Tannehill twice in the third quarter, while Tom Brady patiently exploits Miami's underneath coverage -- before hitting some big plays in the fourth. #MIAvsNE
Matt Leinart has an opportunity to revive his career at Qualcomm. Get excited. With Carson Palmer out, the speedy Oakland Raiders wideouts will be catching passes from the lefty ( we think). The San Diego Chargers' defense has played pretty well, while Oakland's offense hasn't scored 20 points since Nov. 11. The thought here is that won't change. San Diego will win for Norv Turner. I'm anticipating a quality game from Philip Rivers in what will likely be the swan song for his head coach. #OAKvsSD
This is your weird score of the week. Greg Zuerlein has an extra point blocked by Red Bryant -- who is quite proficient in such matters -- but kicks three field goals, including two from 50 yards, to keep the St. Louis Rams in the game. This NFC West contest will feature two physical running backs in Steven Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, with the latter rushing for 120 yards. Look for Jackson to get a touchdown in his final game in a Rams uni. It won't be enough, as Offensive Rookie of the Year (at least in my book) Russell Wilson completes 15 of his 26 passes for 206 yards and two scores. He'll run for 56 more and a touch, as well. A Russell Wilson-esque day, and another win for a team nobody wants to face in the playoffs. #STLvsSEA
The San Francisco 49ers have to be all sorts of ticked-off after their embarrassing loss in Seattle. Enter the Arizona Cardinals, who can't throw the ball, but make up for it by not running it effectively, either. The hope here is that Arizona's front can control Frank Gore, while getting some pressure on Colin Kaepernick. Maybe Patrick Peterson will get a return touchdown -- something he hasn't done all season. Listen, I just want to watch a decent game. Yep, you're right. San Francisco is going to throttle the Cardinals' offense. Brian Hoyer is getting the start at QB. #Awesomeness #AZvsSF
The Dallas Cowboys have had their struggles over the years in Week 17 games that matter. Last season, they were hammered in New York with the division title (and postseason life) on the line. In 2008, they were blasted by the Eagles with a playoff spot at stake. This year's group is different. Ravaged by injuries on defense, the Cowboys lack the immense "talent" purportedly overflowing from Jerry Jones' cup ... er, cap ... on an annual basis. These Cowboys have relied on terrific quarterback play from Tony Romo, a receiver who has dominated smurf defensive backs in Dez Bryant and some clutch defensive plays when needed. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins are one of the hottest teams in the league, with Robert Griffin III meriting consideration for both Offensive Rookie of the Year and league MVP. My sense was that the Cowboys would defy all odds and pull this game out on the road, but DeMarcus Ware's injury is too much for an already depleted defense to overcome. #DALvsWAS