FIWK the NFL: The playoff picture is starting to clear up.

There are 7 NFC teams competing for five playoff spots. And the winner of the NFC West gets the last spot. The two AFC wild card spots are probably coming from the AFC East and North. The AFC South is down to the Colts and Jags, who just happen to be playing this weekend. The AFC West is down to the Chiefs and the Chargers. I guess I'm saying there are 8 teams fighting for six spots, but I don't want to count out the Dolphins completely.

When I went to look for a picture for this weeks Chargers game, 90% of the available images were from the Super Bowl, which made me I'm taking the Chargers and going on to the rest of the picks.

Cleveland @ Cincinnati (-2): So 2-11 Cincinnati is favored over 5-8 Cleveland? How is a 5 win team an underdog to a 2 win team? Oh yeah, it was exactly the same as last week when five win Cleveland was the underdog while visiting two win Buffalo...and Buffalo won 13-6. So of course I'm going to learn from my mistakes and take the home team between two non-playoff teams...right? Wrong. I'm being stubborn and taking the Browns and the points. You know why? Because if I had to pick the Browns-Bills again, I'd still take the Browns.
Not so bold prediction: Peyton Hillis has a good game.
Bold prediction: Peyton Hillis has more fantasy points than both quarterbacks.

Washington @ Dallas (-6): The Cowboys have been playing pretty well lately. Since Jason Garret took over, they have beaten teams they should and lost by three to the Saints and Eagles. So are the Redskins a bad team that the Cowboys should beat by a touchdown? Probably not. I feel a little more comfortable taking an underdog that likes to lose close games than taking a favorite that has only beaten a team by seven twice in thirteen games. I'm taking the Redskins and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Someone scores 10 fantasy points.
Bold prediction: No one scores 18 fantasy points.
*Update: So, apparently Donovan McNabb is getting benched for Rex Grossman...I'm switching to the Cowboys.

Houston @ Tennessee (-1.5): Chris Johnson is currently on pace for 1629 total yards. Vince Young has never played 16 games in a single season. Football Outsiders says they have the #10 defense in the NFL. Hey, maybe if Vince Young could stay healthy, Chris Johnson ran like Chris Johnson and their defense played well, they could be pretty good. You know, like a couple years ago when they went 13-3 and had the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Oh wait, that was Kerry Collins. I guess they just need a good defense, Chris Johnson and a QB that won't screw things up. In Houston, Andre Johnson is playing like Andre Johnson. Does Andre Johnson have a nickname? Because he needs one...and it has to be better than Megatron, because that is an awesome nickname and Andre Johnson is better than Calvin Johnson. I guess the best I can do is always use his full name...which is kind of necessary to distinguish Andre Johnson from Calvin Johnson and Chris Johnson and any of the other 37 Johnsons in the NFL. As for picking a team to win, both are 5-8 and uninspiring. I guess I'll take the 1.5 points and see if it makes a difference like it did for the Bucs and Redskins last week.
Not so bold prediction: Chris Johnson gets over 100 total yards.
Bold prediction: Three guys get over 100 total yards in this game.

Jacksonville @ Indianapolis (-5): Assuming both the Colts and Jaguars win their last two games, this game decides the division. If the Jaguars win, they are up two games with the first head to head tiebreaker. If the Colts win, they are tied and have split the season series, but the Colts currently hold a one game advantage in common games (6-4 vs. 5-5) with both of each team's last two games against common opponents. So whoever win this game controls their own destiny, while the loser needs the other team to lose another game. I'm not entirely sure who wins (as opposed to those times when I'm 100% sure that a team wins), but I think these teams are actually pretty close. One has Peyton Manning, the other has a running game and a defense. With them being pretty close, I'm taking the Jaguars and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Maurice Jones-Drew (of UCLA) scores at least ten fantasy points.
Bold prediction: Marcedes Lewis (also of UCLA) scores a touchdown.

Kansas City @ St. Louis (OFF or -1.5): COME ON ST. LOUIS!!! LET'S GO RAMS!!!! SAM BRADFORD!!!! WOOOOOOO!!!!!! STEVEN JACKSON, HOWIE LONG'S SON, STEVE SPAGNOLO or something like that!!!!!!!!!!! Beat those Chiefs. You can still make the playoffs despite being 6-7. In fact, you're in first place. In an epic battle between first place teams, both of whom are coming off horrible losses to teams not in first place last week, the home team can win, right? I'm going to say that the potential of the Chiefs losing probably clouds my objectivity. I'm taking Kansas City and the points, but cheering really, really hard for the Rams.
Not so bold prediction: I get way too into this game.
Bold prediction: Dwayne Bowe doesn't catch more than one pass from Brodie Croyle.

Buffalo @ Miami (-5.5): Miami doesn't have a chance to win the AFC East...but it still has an outside shot at a wild card. That's going to make them desperate to win over a team that is already focusing on their jobs in 2011, right? Probably. Since their bye week, Miami has alternated winning and losing, never winning or losing two in a row. So, under the stats-that-don't-actually-mean-anything category, this means they will lose this week, right? Probably not. But it does mean that I'm not comfortable taking an inconsistent team and giving points to a team that has shown surprising mental toughness. Down 31-14 at the half to the Bengals, the Bills scored 35 points in the second half and the week after that they took the Steelers to overtime. I'm taking the Bills and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Buffalo's QB has more fantasy points than Miami's QB.
Bold prediction: Steve Johnson has more fantasy points than Brandon Marshall.

Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-3): This should be a great game between two 9-4 teams. The Giants probably have the speed on their defensive line to chase Michael Vick behind the line of scrimmage and it is already part of their game plan to regularly rotate in multiple defensive linemen to keep their legs fresh. The Giants have the second best defense in the NFL. If any team in the NFL is going to keep Michael Vick in check...well it would probably be the Steelers, but the Giants are second on that list. The Eagles have the second best offense in the NFL. Michael Vick has been throwing well to Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. In fact, if there is anyone in the NFL that could run faster than Michael Vick...well it's probably Chris Johnson, but DeSean Jackson is really close. LeSean McCoy has been one of the top overall backs in the NFL. So, if you've been paying attention to how I pick games, whenever you have a top offense going up against a top look the other way. This game is going to be decided by how well Eli Manning and the Giants offense does against the Eagles defense. When looking at two above average units, and well, when looking at just about every team, I like to go to my favorite metric. Eli Manning leads the NFL in interceptions. The Eagles defense leads the NFL in intercepting the ball. Eli Manning throws too many interceptions, the Eagles win and cover.
Not so bold prediction: Eli Manning throws an interception.
Bold prediction: Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs both have at least ten fantasy points.

Detroit @ Tampa Bay (-6): At 8-5 Tampa Bay is still very much alive in the NFC wild card chase. Either the Giants or Eagles will have five losses after Sunday. The Packers already have five losses and they are playing the Patriots this weekend. Between the Bucs, Packers and loser of the Eagles/Giants game there are three teams fighting for the last playoff spot (assuming 10-3 New Orleans and 11-2 Atlanta make up the NFC South champ and the first wild card team). Everything I look at says the Buccaneers will win this game. Better record, need/want it more, QB throws fewer interceptions, defense catches more interceptions, Football Outsiders says the Bucs are better...but six points? I just don't trust them to win and blow them out. I think a close win or even a loss is more likely. And the Lions are the kind of team that loves to lose close games. I'm taking the points...and I guess the Lions come with them.
Not so bold prediction: Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, leads all receivers in fantasy points.
Bold prediction: Josh Freeman throws for fewer yards, but scores more fantasy points than the Lions QB.

Arizona @ Carolina (-2.5): The Panthers have one win, beating the 49ers 23-20 in week 7 (sorry Scott and MP). How is the worst team in the NFL favored over anyone? Oh yeah, the Cardinals are the second worst team in the NFL and the Panthers are at home. These teams deserve no more thought...I'm taking the four win team and the points over the one win team. Tim Hightower could have a good game though.
Not so bold prediction: Someone throws an interception.
Bold prediction: There are at least three interceptions OR the total completion percentage for all QBs is less than 45%. Basically I'm saying that both these quarterbacks are so bad that their passes may be so inaccurate that no one can catch them. They will miss their target, the two defenders standing next to their target and the three refs in the general area.

New Orleans @ Baltimore (-1.5): This should be another good game between ten and nine win teams. Both teams are currently in line for the first wild card spot and have a two game lead before missing the playoffs (well Baltimore's is 1.5 games with San Diego winning last night). Both are in second place by a game. So both teams need to win to have a chance at winning their division, but aren't exactly in danger of missing the playoffs. They're in different conferences, so it is unlikely they will factor into tiebreakers. So in a game between two good teams that both want, but neither needs...I'll go check my favorite metric. Man, New Orleans really has missed a healthy Darren Sharper. Last year they were top three in interceptions and now they are in the bottom third. Drew Brees has also increased his interceptions from a few to more than a few. Drew Brees throws more interceptions than Joe Flacco and the Ravens win...and I guess I'm forced to throw in the point and a half.
Not so bold prediction: Drew Brees leads the game in passing yards.
Bold prediction: Ray Rice has more receiving yards than rushing yards.

Atlanta (-6) @ Seattle: Seattle has a reputation of being a better home team than road team. Atlanta has the same reputation. But that does not mean these teams are going to be close. Seattle is average at home and bad on the road. Atlanta is average (at worst) on the road and great at home. Atlanta is 11-2, Seattle is 6-7. Atlanta is much, much better. If they deserve the #1 seed in the NFC, they should win this game by 20. I'll be happy just to take the Falcons -6.
Not so bold prediction: Michael Turner has at least ten fantasy points.
Bold prediction: Michael Turner scores 20 fantasy points.

Denver @ Oakland (-6.5): Remember last week how I decided not to include the Raiders in the AFC West playoff projection, even though they were tied with the Chargers? Yeah, I feel good about that too. Remember how firing the head coach and going with an assistant as an interim head coach worked in Dallas and Minnesota (sort of)? Yeah, it didn't work in Denver. The Raiders may be a below average team, but the Broncos are fighting for a top three pick. I'll take the Raiders to cover.
Not so bold prediction: The Raiders get over 100 yards rushing.
Bold prediction: Darren McFadden scores over 20 fantasy points.

NY Jets @ Pittsburgh (-6): All of a sudden the Jets are fighting for their playoff lives. Two weeks ago they were 9-2 fighting for the #1 seed. After losses to the Patriots and Dolphins, if they lose to the Steelers (who are a better team) and the Bears (fighting for the top seed in the NFC and a first round bye) they're at 9-6 and tied for the last playoff spot. If the Steelers take care of business and don't let the Ravens catch them, they're in line for a first round bye. The Steelers are the better team in the interception department. But six points? The Steelers are perfectly happy to win 10-7 as long as the end result is the 'W'. This game just feels like a 3 point game. I say that if the Jets don't cover, they will miss the playoffs. I'm taking the Jets and the points.
Not so bold prediction: There are at least five punts in this game.
Bold prediction: There are seven guys over five fantasy points, but no one over 20.

Green Bay @ New England (OFF or -10.5): Man, Yahoo (or whatever site Yahoo uses) really likes to know who the starting quarterback is. They did the same thing for Minnesota and Kansas City. They can't man up and give us a line? 10.5 is a huge line and I guess accurately reflects the uncertainty in Aaron Rodger's status. Ok, if the line is OFF, I'll take the Patriots no matter what. If Aaron Rodgers starts, I'll take the Packers +10.5. If he doesn't start, I'll take the Patriots -10.5 and pray that Greg Jennings still catches a touchdown and helps my only playoff fantasy team.
Not so bold prediction: Tom Brady throws a touchdown.
Bold prediction: Aaron Hernandez scores a touchdown and Rob Gronkowski does not.

Chicago (OFF or -3.5) @ Minnesota: So Minnesota might be starting a quarterback that is eligible as a WR in fantasy. So let's quickly take the Bears minus whatever and move on to a much more relevant discussion (since I write this pretending that I'm having a conversation with people). Joe Webb stepped in when Tavaris Jackson went down with a season ending injury and completed two of his five passes for eight yards and ran once for sixteen yards. But it looks like he's going to be a starting quarterback. I have the #1 seed in this particular fantasy league mostly on the strength of Drew Brees, Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Ahmad Bradshaw, Matt Forte, LaDainian Tomlinson and Jacob Tamme. We start two WR and two RB, so I've been going with the studs at WR and playing matchups between LT, Forte and Bradshaw. So, question you think a starting quarterback you've never heard of will outscore Greg Jennings who is being thrown to by Matt Flynn? In the snow at Gopher stadium. Outside in Minnesota in December. In his first career start. And #2, should I? This particular league has money involved. If the system allows me to do it, is it appropriate for me to start a QB at a WR spot? Does this go against the spirit of the game? Isn't this the same thing as starting Danny Woodhead at WR or Marques Colston at TE (his rookie year)?
Not so bold prediction: The Bears score a touchdown.
Bold prediction: I make the smart AND honorable play and start Greg Jennings at WR and he outscores Joe Webb.

All more updates coming. Well, I'm not going to discuss any more games (because there aren't any), but if something happens to change my mind, I may come back and make an know, like Mike Shanahan benching Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman.


  1. I already took the Chargers -9 officially and I am adding Cleveland +2, Dallas -6, Jacksonville +5, Philadelphia +3, Baltimore -1.5, Atlanta -6, Chicago -3.5.

  2. Picks this week:

    Chargers -9 (as seen here)

    And that's it - not a single line (other than betting for my team to get smoked) looked good to me this week. It was scary.

  3. Man I absolutely cannot wait to root hardcore for the Rams, starting in 15 minutes. This is huge.

    My picks:

    Cleveland +2
    I feel like they should be favored in this game, so I'm happy to take a free 2 points.

    Houston -1.5
    I don't really know why, but I feel like Houston should be Tennesse here by a field goal or better. But picking against Chris Johnson is scary.

    I wish I could pick the Packers game, but the OFF or -10.5 thing is a little weird. I really want to pick against the Packers though, so I'll just make it conditional: assuming no Rodgers and the line is really -10.5, I pick the Pats.

    By the way, between the Philly-NYG game, the NO-Baltimore game, and the KC-StLou game, this is gonna be an exciting slate of games. Let's get it on!

  4. Wow that Eagles victory was CRAZY. And the finish of the Steelers-Giants game was also close. Rough day for me, I am taking my Pats pick off the board because Rodgers is apparently playing. That means I was shut out - push on Cleveland (lost by 2) and destroyed in my Houston pick. Shouldn't have gone against CJ.

    And then, worst of all, the freaking Rams couldn't beat the Chiefs.

  5. Does the Giants punter get fired after that punt? I mean, really - what was he thinking? That had to be a miss-kick; there's no way that ball should have landed inbounds...

  6. Had to be a miss-kick. The punt was pretty darn short to begin with and had crappy hang time (so little that DeSean could fumble it, pick it back up, and still have time to find gaps). And also it went straight to him.

    Sucks for that punter that he cost them the game. Still, the fact that they had two straight TDs to tie it before that, and executed a perfect onside kick after the first TD, was awesome.

  7. With all the rain encouraging people to stay inside, it was a great day to watch football. The Giants-Eagles game in the morning was great. The Jets-Steelers was tied at 7, 10 and 17 and Jason Taylor's tackle for a safety was HUGE. Then Matt Flynn stepped up and turned a 10.5 spread into an interesting game.

    Tonight, I want Matt Forte and the Bears defense to do well.

  8. And I won my semifinal matchup. Now, regardless of the result of the fantasy championship game, I will win enough to cover all my entry fees plus a little extra.

  9. Congrats. I am improbably in the finals of our auction league, mainly because the Chi-town D put up a big game.

    Flash poll - do you think the Chiefs are going to lose once, or win out?

  10. Go TITANS!!!! Yay Kerry Collins and Chris Johnson!! Chris Johnson will set the single game rushing record and get back on pace for 2,000 yards.

  11. Haha, wow. You just did a whole there all by yourself.

  12. So the spread for the Pittsburgh vs Carolina game Thurs night is Steelers +14.5. I have a serious question - how high does that line have to be for you to actually consider taking the Panthers and the points? 20? 30? That score might be 38-0.

  13. Yeah, I do that sometimes.

    At 20.5 I'd take the Panthers.

    I'm going to try and get my full column up before I leave work today.

  14. My favorite correct Bold predictions: Josh Freeman threw for fewer yards, but more fantasy points (by .36) than the Lions QB; the Jets and Steelers combine for at least seven guys with over 5 fantasy points, but no one over 20 (they actually had 8 between 5 and 20); and Aaron Hernandez caught a TD, while Gronkowski did not.