It’s Week 17 now, the end of line for any team without at least eight wins of which there are plenty. The Bears and a whole flurry of birds for instance have rustled up no more than seven and any team - save the Patriots - even vaguely associated with some bygone historical figure are all but buried on the bottom on pile. Even the Chargers, whose season started with so much promise are outsiders now and we won’t waste any words talking about what was once upon a time a highly-touted Eagles team.
Yes, many new members made their presence felt last week in the backrooms of America’s No More Fun Club, a dark and dire place where sports teams go to die come season's end and some even before that when they’ve realized halfway through a winless campaign exactly where they were when the fun stopped. Week 17 is no place for the faint of heart and it is a notoriously sad time for anybody on the outside looking in but it’s even sadder for the Joe Blow hobby gambler trying to scoop up and salvage whatever remains of their season long losses and, in some cases their dignity.
Foreclosures will be common on January first for the many hapless homeowners who doubled-down on the Eagles in the second half. A similar scenario will likely play out for anyone who thought the Bills would finish better than 7-9 or had Philip Rivers to win the MVP. These are the kind of things that are wagered on regularly by the innocent bystanders at the bar, the sheep who are constantly gouged and gorged by the sharks and they will inevitably lose, either by design or because they were born to do so.
They’re what we in the business call rubes and they will be fleeced at an alarming rate many times over the course of a season and usually for no good reason at all other than to feed our own twisted sadism and of course, for the huge sums of money involved. On some days we’ll feel bad about it but for the most part we just laugh and point them on down the road towards what we know to be the last bastion and only hope for people like that, the dark and dank backrooms of the No More Fun Club.
This Week’s Lines:
San Diego (+3) over Oakland
Philip Rivers handed in a 2011 resume in which he posted a QB rating and TD to INT ratio inferior to Matt Moore's. He's going to the Pro Bowl. Are you? Norv Turner's time is likely done in SD but a Week 17 trouncing of Oakland might be just enough for Chargers' brass to let him keep his job.
Dallas (+3) over New York
These two teams have somehow managed to stumble to the finish line in spectacular fashion, keeping with a time honored NFL tradition of having at least one division produce such hit or miss crap on any given week that one of two hopelessly flawed teams will inevitably find their way (and probably win a game) in the postseason. Everyone, meet your 2011 Seattle Seahawks: The Dallas Cowboys.
New Orleans (-8.5) over Carolina
I don't know. There is no telling how many points Drew Brees can put on the board anymore. Carolina isn't cohesive enough to keep pace and the Saints will be playing for either a bye or three-seed and another shot at a Falcons team they hung 45 on last week. Its win-win but one is obviously better than the other.
Pittsburgh (-7) over Cleveland
The Steelers shut out the Rams 27-0 last week to keep pace in the AFC North. The Ravens, Steelers and Patriots are all vying for a first round bye, and it's a coin toss as to whether coach Mike Tomlin wants to take his chances going for a win this week and pray for a Ravens loss, or sit Big Ben and his battered ankle and take his chances in the Wild Card round. The safe play is to wait, but we'll say he goes for the bye with Baltimore playing the tougher matchup in Cincy.
Indianapolis (+4) over Jacksonville
This is the only way the worst Indy season in a decade can get any worse. Another win combined with a Rams loss leaves them on the outside looking in on Andrew Luck. The Rams have what we assume they consider to be a franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford but how expendable (and sellable) is he with a guy as highly touted as Luck on the table?
Cincinnati (+2.5) over Baltimore
Who likes the ‘Nati to simultaneously earn a postseason berth, cost the Ravens a bye and a division and shatter the hopes of Tennessee and at least one AFC West fan base with a single win. Honest to God folks, the gambler in me is saying Baltimore but the storyline for a sports fan is way too good. Heart over the head here, heart over head.
San Francisco (-10.5) over St. Louis
Can we name a player on the Rams not named Steven Jackson? The Niners want the bye, the only question is whether they lay off once they've locked it up and let the Rams somehow weasel their way onto the scoreboa...oh wait, the St Louis Rams? No. Ten and a half should be fine.
Miami (-2) over New York/Houston (+3) over Tennessee
Bottom line: the sky has to fall in just the right way for the Jets or the Titans to make playoffs. It would take up too much of our time to explain it all here but put simply both teams have to win and they won’t. If they somehow do, a series of strange and improbable events must follow for it mean anything; too many pieces are at play for that to happen.
Detroit (-3.5) over Green Bay
The Lions aren't well equipped for a Wild Card battle against either the Niners or the Saints. That said, they can probably manhandle whatever mess stumbles on to the field in New York or Dallas. They need this win against Green Bay's second string to secure the fifth seed.
New England (-11) over Buffalo
Brady locks up a bye and home field through the postseason with a win. You think he wants it? You think he was happy about Buffalo’s little show in Week Three?
Quick Slants: Atlanta (-12) over Tampa Bay, Washington (+9) over Philadelphia, Minnesota (PK) over Chicago, Seattle (+3) over Arizona, Denver (-3.5) over Kansas City
Last Week: 11-4