Week 17 Game Picks are in, and boy, is there a lot riding on the last weekend of the NFL's 94th regular season.
We've got much seeding at stake in the AFC, and shockingly, every NFC division is still up for grabs. Now, before we get to this week's slate ...
No, Jeff. I just hate birds.
As for everything not related to the Cardinals -- who lost earlier this year to the 10-5 Saints, who are above them in the Power Rankings -- take a look below. As always, feel free to hit us up with your take ... @Harrison_NFL is the place.
Now, let's get to it.
Elliot Harrison went 9-7 on his predictions for Week 16, giving him a record of 147-93 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 17? His picks are below, with home teams listed second. To make your own predictions on this week's games, click here.
Yes, it's a rare opportunity for the Texans to truly prove they are the worst team in pro football. They merely have to lose in Tennessee to do it, as there are no other two-win teams left in the league. It's amazing to think the Texans have lost 13 in a row -- their last win, in fact, was over these Titans in overtime, way back in Week 2. Tennessee won't need any extra periods to stop Houston this go-around, as Shonn Greene and Chris Johnson will combine for 150 rushing yards, while a stingy secondary (the Titans have allowed a mere 15 touchdown passes) will tolerate no more than one Matt Schaub scoring toss. The Texans should be able to pressure Ryan Fitzpatrick, but stopping the run will be a problem -- Denver gained more than 6 yards per carry against them last week. Tennessee notches its seventh win. #HOUvsTEN
We heard that some in the Ravens organization thought the Steelers would beat the Bengals and Baltimore would win out to take the AFC North. Well, the first part happened, at least. Now, unlike last year's version, this Week 17 matchup between the Ravens and Bengals actually means something. Cincinnati is playing for the AFC's No. 2 seed while Baltimore simply is trying to get into the postseason dance in the first place. For that to happen, the Ravens must be able to get their passing game going against the Bengals -- something Matt Cassel and the Vikings couldn't do in Cincinnati last Sunday. Unfortunately, the Ravens' lack of a run game will hurt them on the road; pounding an opponent via a good ground attack is a phenomenal way to shut up a home crowd. We're ... gulp ... putting our faith in the Bengals. Let's hope the Gruden mystique (mistakes) doesn't make us regret that. #BALvsCIN
Carolina scores a defensive touchdown and rides to the NFC South title via its running game -- and that includes Cam Newton, who has 513 rushing yards on the season. Newton didn't go off in this department versus the Saints on Sunday, but he should be able to find some lanes on the fast track of the Georgia Dome. In two career games in Atlanta, Cam has rushed for 47 and 86 yards, averaging more than 8 yards per tote while picking up nine first downs and two touchdowns. That's right -- more than half of his 16 carries in those games went for a first. We will mention that Newton has struggled a bit on the road this season (compiling a 79.9 passer rating), but it's not like he's been awful ... he still has nine touchdowns against just six interceptions. Atlanta, meanwhile, can't run the football, but that's OK; the Falcons make up for it by failing to stop anyone on third down. In fact, they rank last in both categories. #CARvsATL
Does any Lions fan really want to watch this game, really? Maybe it's one of those deals where, as with a superhero movie or something, you feel like you're 1,000 miles behind everyone else if you don't sit through it. Detroit backers will just have to see how this whole thing plays out. If we are, in fact, right, and the Lions do finish 7-9, well, we're not sure it will change anything, other than to feed the cynicism of those who can point to yet another late-season losing stretch. It looks like Jim Schwartz won't survive long -- one wonders about Leslie Frazier with the Vikings, as well. We're expecting a strong finish from a nucleus that seems to win just when you think Minnesota is going to pack it in. The back seven on defense can be had, but when one considers that the Lions are far and away the league leaders in drops, one shouldn't anticipate the Vikings will pay so much for blown coverages that they lose at home. #DETvsMIN
Miami needs a victory and a Ravens loss in Cincinnati to sneak into the postseason, but even if the Dolphins make it, will their offense be able to do anything? For that matter, will their offense be able to do anything against the Jets on Sunday? Ryan Tannehill will have to show some poise (and footwork!) in the pocket, something he's struggled with all season. Luckily for Miami, New York has been an abomination on the road since beating the Falcons in Atlanta back in October. Since that time, Rex Ryan's club is 0-4 in away games, losing by a combined score of 135-46. No, that's not a misprint -- the average final in those games was 34-12. The Dolphins' secondary matches up very well with the Jets' receiving corps, and given that Geno Smith is not exactly dynamic when operating outside of the pocket, well ... if the 'Fins get up, the game will likely be over. Miami should win with defense and home support. #NYJvsMIA
Last time these two teams met, the Colts ran all over the Jaguars, gaining 157 yards on 30 carries in a 37-3 rout. Donald Brown rushed three times for 64 yards that day, while Trent Richardson went 20 times for 60 -- so not much has changed there. Say this for the Colts' backs: At least they're consistent. The Jags have been similarly so lately, staying in each of their past seven games and winning four -- three on the road, in fact. Still, Jacksonville struggles to mount drives, and scoring quickly hasn't been easy, either. Jags quarterbacks have the lowest passer rating in the league on throws over 20 yards. Indy wins. #JAXvsIND
Pittsburgh wins the battle but loses the war. Mike Tomlin's group will beat the Browns, taking advantage of a defense that has struggled in recent weeks. Cleveland didn't allow any opponent to top 370 yards for the first 12 games of the year -- then proceeded to cough up 484 against the Patriots, 440 against the Bears and 422 against the Jets(!). Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has scored 30 and 38 points the past two weeks. Le'Veon Bell was the key against the Packers last Sunday, posting his first career 100-yard rushing game in the win. We like the Steelers to take a game they need badly -- the Browns, by the way, have lost their last nine meetings at Heinz -- but Pittsburgh simply requires too much help to make the playoffs. #CLEvsPIT
You know who wins this game? The fans.
It was hard to type that last line seriously. We really want to pick Kirk Cousins to deliver a win against the reeling Giants. Here's the deal, though: The Redskins are reeling more. Expect Big Blue to play for Tom Coughlin; Eli Manning just can't be baited into making a bad throw or sailing another ball, like he was at the end of last week's game in Detroit. The key matchup here will be how the Giants' run defense fares against Alfred Morris, who is sure to see 20 to 25 carries after getting 24 against the Cowboys. Surprisingly, New York has played the run well, allowing just 3.83 yards per carry. Hakeem Nicks gets a big touchdown -- his first of the season. #WASvsNYG
Aaron Rodgers returns and delivers a glorious win for the Pack. Then they get beaten by the 49ers at Lambeau the next week ... but that's a blurb for another day. We like Eddie Lacy to go for 150 rushing yards in this contest -- and then, just when the Bears sell out to stop the run, Rodgers hits Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin for scores. James Jones will be heavily involved, as well, but ultimately, the offense will roll through the rookie phenom from Alabama. Why will Lacy have such a huge afternoon? Because Chicago is allowing 161.5 rush yards per game, that's why. Jay Cutler will be able to answer by throwing the ball to the trees he has at receiver in the form of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but it won't be enough. Of course, if Matt Flynn had been slated to play for Green Bay, well, you could have just forgotten everything we just typed. #GBvsCHI
These two clubs locked up in Week 17 last year in the same locale. And just like last year's game, this matchup will come down to one last-gasp Rams drive against that Seahawks defense in front of that Seattle crowd. Last year, 7-7-1 St. Louis was playing for a winning record. This year, Jeff Fisher's club is 7-8 and trying to make it to .500. Interesting, by the way, that the Rams went 3-4 with Sam Bradford starting and 4-4 with Kellen Clemens. When the game is on the line, can Clemens make the kinds of throws that Carson Palmer did for the Cardinals when Arizona upset Seattle last Sunday? Sure. He probably won't throw four picks like Palmer did in that one, either. Of course, the Rams have to emulate Arizona in another important way: Make consistent stops. St. Louis' defense is a completely different animal on the road -- a dead one, in fact. The Rams allow 23.7 points and 372 yards per away game. #STLvsSEA
The Chargers get a defensive touchdown and a sterling performance from Philip Rivers to beat the Chiefs and stay in the playoff race. Unfortunately for them, what the Bolts will not get is the necessary help to capture the AFC's sixth seed. Kansas City should be able to move the football against a defense that has struggled, particularly versus the run -- San Diego has allowed 4 yards or more on 51 percent of running plays, which is the highest percentage in the NFL this year. Ditto the 6.22 yards per play they've surrendered. That said, the Chiefs will have trouble with a red-hot Chargers running attack, which has posted totals of 144, 177 and 148 yards over the past three games. Kansas City has not been the same since losing Justin Houston. We feel the Chiefs will fall victim to Rivers in the clutch. (Of course, if the Chiefs play some running back who was working at Hurricane Harbor last week because they decide to rest their starters, the Chargers won't need Rivers in the clutch.) #KCvsSD
San Francisco will be playing for everything: hoping Seattle falls, hoping the Panthers stumble in Atlanta early in the day, hoping Colin Kaepernick doesn't struggle against an Arizona secondary that made Russell Wilson look exceptionally ordinary last week. Speaking of things that happened last week, Carson Palmer absolutely cannot afford to commit four turnovers again if his Cardinals are to have any hope of making the playoffs. Arizona carried the football 43 times (including Palmer scrambles) against the Seahawks, but the Cards will find the sledding tough versus the league's fifth-ranked rushing defense. That said, Arizona actually has the toughest front seven in football to run on. We trust Kaepernick here, as he doesn't turn the ball over and can make some plays on his own. Palmer, on the other hand, does give the ball up and can't make plays on his own. Truthfully, this is anybody's ballgame. It should be as physical as it gets. #SFvsAZ
Remember how tough Buffalo played New England back in Week 1? Well, 16 weeks deeper in the season, things have changed. Or have they? New England is once again operating without Rob Gronkowski and still employing the running-back-by-committee approach to full effect. In the season opener, every Pats running back received at least seven touches, and Shane Vereen led the way with 101 rushing yards. Last week, New England leaned heavily on LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley, with Brandon Bolden even getting into the act, as the team collected 142 rushing yards in a victory over the Ravens. We should note one major difference from Week 1: The Patriots' defense is dealing with injuries to key players. If Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller can contribute the way they did in Sunday's win over the Dolphins, the Bills can limit possessions, giving their vaunted pass rush some rest between drives. Still, in late-season games that mean something, we'll say Tom Brady > EJ Manuel. #BUFvsNE
Denver merely needs a win or a Patriots loss Sunday to capture home-field advantage for the playoffs. Either outcome has a decent chance of happening, but we'd say the Broncos have jussst a little bit better shot at winning in Oakland. The Raiders are going to take a long look at their supposed future at quarterback in the form of Terrelle Pryor, who, less encumbered by the knee that gave him trouble earlier in the season, should at least put up fantasy points, as the Denver defense will have trouble matching his speed. That said, the Raiders have not been playing well defensively for weeks, giving up 31, 37, 56 and 26 points over their past four contests. Teams pounded the run on them during that time -- and even when they didn't, well, Jamaal Charles took short passes to the house. Peyton Manning will audible to the run plenty, meaning Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball will combine for 140 yards. Little drama in this one. #DENvsOAK
We don't like Tampa Bay in this football game -- as we guess you can see. By the time Bucs- Saints kicks off, all of New Orleans will have an idea as to whether the Panthers will be winning the NFC South or not, as Carolina-Atlanta should be over (we like the Panthers on the road, as the blurb for that matchup makes clear). Still, the Saints know they need this one, if for nothing else than to play better; they've dropped two in a row, to the Rams and Panthers, respectively, and can count 5,500 mistakes and missed opportunities in both. From a strategic standpoint, we'd like to see defensive coordinator Rob Ryan challenge Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon ... we'd also really like to see the Bucs' coaching staff takes the brakes off and lets Glennon play. Air it out; there's nothing to lose. If the organization is going to evaluate the guy, let's see him throw 40-plus times. Why not? #TBvsNO
This is the game of the week, sorta. I don't know if any of you out there have heard this, but
Tony Romo has a herniated disk in his back and will be placed on injured reserve after undergoing surgery. I was watching "The Hobbit" the other night and HBO broke in with a report from Larry David informing me that Romo was out and
Kyle Orton will start for Dallas. On the Orton front, I expect neckbeard to do well. He succeeded in plenty of pressure-filled situations in Chicago, and he's proven to be effective in spurts, as during his time in Denver. That's great. But here's what's not: The Dallas secondary allows receivers to run around like kids at a public swimming pool. Don't expect
LeSean McCoy to run for 150 yards, because he won't have to.
Here's how this will unfold: The Cowboys' defense will play better, because they know they don't have Romo to bail them out, which will make Orton look better, which will suddenly make it Romo's fault, which will provoke Monte Kiffin to make an in-game adjustment, which will make Miles Austin pull a hamstring while watching ... and the Eagles will still win the NFC East. #PHIvsDAL
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.