Bengals vs. Texans - Bengals - The Texans are not playing very well right now, having backed into the playoffs. The Bengals have been fighting just to make the playoffs, and went toe to toe with the Ravens last week in a game that had a playoff feel to it. Even though the Texans will be at home and will have their fans providing a wild atmosphere, I don’t think that will matter much. Injuries have taken a toll on the Texans, and I don’t think they are really in a playoff mindset right now.
And I know the Texans bat the Bengals in Cincinnati a month ago, but that was a different Texans team then. The Texans now are team that is on a three game losing streak, having lost to the like of Carolina and Indianapolis, and that doesn’t bode well. T.J. Yates has played well as a rookie, but he’s injured, and if he goes down I don’t think Jake Delhomme will be able to get it done if it comes to down to him.
Andy Dalton not only is a rookie of the year candidate, but he’s become a very good QB, and good QB play gives you the edge in the playoffs. I think he and the rest of the Bengals are much more battle tested than the Texans, having earned a wild card berth in the tough AFC North. I don’t think the Texans can duplicate the intensity of having to play against the Ravens and Steelers, so I think the Bengals will win.
Bengals - 24
Texans - 20
Lions vs. Saints - Saints - The Lions and QB Matthew Stafford have been on an offensive tear over the last month of the season and come into this game as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. But unfortunately for the Lions, the Saints are the hottest team in the NFL. Bringing an eight game winning streak to the table, and QB Drew Brees has been unstoppable. To make matters worse for the Lions, the Saints defense has been playing at a high level as well, but the Lions defense, not so much.
So essentially this game could come down to QB play. And as good as Matthew Stafford has been this season, Drew Brees has been that much better. I see this being a shootout early on, but as the wears on, the Saints will be too much for the Lions, and they won’t be able to keep up. Drew Brees is in a zone right now, and I can’t see him allowing the Saints to lose.
Lions - 28
Saints - 38
Falcons vs. Giants - Falcons - In a lot of ways, I think the Atlanta Falcons have been waiting for this game for an entire year. Last season the Falcons had home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and seemed like a good bet to get to the Super Bowl. But then something happened that no one expected. Aaron Rodgers made his ascent to being the best player in the NFL, and the Green Bay Packers came into the Georgia Dome and stole the Falcons thunder, by blowing them out and going on to win the Super Bowl themselves.
Everything the Falcons have done since then has been a concerted effort to not allow the disappointment of last season to happen again. The Giants have been teetering on the brink of disaster the last month of the season. They have ridden an emotional roller coaster all the way to the NFC East Division Title, and bragging rights over the Jets and the Cowboys. But as exceptional as the Giants have played as of late, I don’t think this game against the Falcons gives them the same emotional motives to win as those games against the Jets and the Cowboys did.
For this Giants team, I think reaching the playoffs is their ultimate destination, and I don’t think they have enough emotional fuel left over to go any farther than they have. The Falcons on the other hand were taught a huge lesson last season by the Packers, and that lesson is that in the playoffs you can’t expect to teams to roll over and die for you, just because you’re at home. You have to play like its us against the world, and the world is going to lose. The Falcons have carried the burden of losing for an entire year, and now against the Giants, they will lay that burden down.
Falcons – 31
Giants – 24
Steelers vs. Broncos - Steelers - Much has been written and said about the highs and lows of the short Tim Tebow era of the Denver Broncos. Tebow has been praised and criticized, heralded and heckled, and the Broncos have won big and lost big as well. I knew that when Tebow became the Broncos starter it would an exercise in extremes. But for the Steelers, whose goal ever year is to win the Super Bowl, this season has been an exercise of maintaining their focus through being decimated by injuries.
Ben Roethlisberger is the key to the Steelers success. As he goes, they go. But right now due to injury, he may not be able to go like he has in the past. and the confidence that the Steelers typically exude at this time of the year has been replaced by uncertainty. But even through that uncertainty, the Steelers as a franchise are still a united front, committed to each other, and to one goal….win the Super Bowl.
The same cannot be said however, for the Denver Broncos, whose organization seems to be divided in their loyalties, and in their agendas. The Tim Tebow led spread option offense started out as an experiment, and initially the experiment worked like a charm. NFL defenses were caught off guard, and led by Tebow the Broncos were able to reel off enough wins to sneak into the playoffs. A tremendous coaching job by John Fox.
But then NFL defenses began to catch up with the Broncos experiment and reality began to set in. Not the reality that Tim Tebow is not a very good passer, that was already known. But the reality that Broncos management never really expected or wanted the thrill ride to last in the first place. I seriously doubt the Broncos organization has fully embraced the spread option offense. But then again how could they? In order to truly master it, it has to be completely installed and everyone has to be ”all in” with its execution.
That’s not happening with the Broncos, where it appears as though some within the organization want to see Tim Tebow fail, so they can advance their own agenda. In the playoffs teams have to be on the same page with the same objectives. This exists for the Steelers, but not so much for the Broncos. And that’s why even though the Steelers have been decimated by injuries, they will still win this game. There is only one agenda for them, and that’s the Super Bowl.
Steelers – 17
Broncos – 10
Week 17 Review - I went 11-5 for week 17.
Year to Date: 144-74, which is 66% correct.