There’s still plenty on the line headed into the final week of the NFL season for almost every team. The AFC seeding is still far from set, the wild cards are still up in the air, and the teams missing the playoffs are about to know where they’re picking in the upcoming NFL Draft. As the draft seems to increase in importance every year, where your team is picking in the 2013 NFL Draft will be extremely important.
Because of the many positions still in play, I’ve included the scenario for each team if they win and if they lose. I’ve also included my pick against the spread with just a quick reason. Last week my picks (click here to see the full entry) picked up some steam with a 12-4 record. I’m using the spreads from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’Em which doesn’t always include late-week point swings and uses half points to avoid pushes. The home team is indicated in all caps.
ATLANTA FALCONS (-3.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Falcons are about the only team whose position is locked up coming into this week. They have clinched the number one seed and home-field throughout the playoffs.
The Bucs with a win would finish at 7-9 which could land them in draft spots 10-16 depending on other results. If they lose and finish 6-10 they’ll pick between spots 6-13. Either way, they’ll probably be toward the lower end of those options since their opponent’s winning pct is fairly low.
I’m taking Atlanta since they’re on a roll and Tampa seems to have mailed it in having plummeted to five straight losses. When the two teams met earlier this season Atlanta won 24-23 at Tampa. This could go either way though depending on how Atlanta rests their starters.
BUFFALO BILLS (-3.5) over New York Jets
The Bills with a win can improve to 6-10 and would pick between six and 13. If Buffalo ends the season the way they started it losing to the Jets, they’ll finish 5-11 and could pick between third and ninth.
The Jets would finish at 7-9 with a win and end up picking between ten and 16. If they lose in Buffalo, they’ll be 6-10 and end up picking between six and 13.
I’m taking Buffalo to avenge their week one loss and cover at home against a struggling Mark Sanchez back under center. Buffalo will be motivated and their defense has been playing better lately getting pressure on the QB which could be disastrous for Sanchez. Neither of these teams have been playing well though, so you’re probably best off with your money placed elsewhere
Baltimore Ravens (+2.5) over CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Ravens are the AFC North Champs and can move up to number 3 with a win and a Patriots loss since they have the tiebreaker with New England. If they lose, they cannot finish worse than fourth since they’ll be division champs. They play before New England so will have plenty to play for during the game.
Cincinnati is in the playoffs after their win last week and currently sits as the six seed. This game cannot change their seeding and they’ll travel to whoever is the three-seed. If they let the Ravens win and New England loses they could be headed to Baltimore next week in a rematch of their week one embarrassment.
I really like the Ravens here after they dismantled the Giants last week. They’re actually getting points as they face off with the Bengals who they’ve beaten four times in a row including a 44-13 rout in week one.
Chicago Bears (-3.5) over DETROIT LIONS
The Bears can play their way into the wildcard with a win and a Minnesota Vikings loss to the Green Bay Packers. If the Bears lose they’ll be 9-7 and picking between picks 18-20.
The Lions are 4-11 and have a difficult strength of schedule. If they lose they’ll be 4-12 and picking between three and five. If they win, at 5-11 they’ll pick between 3-9.
I’m taking the Bears since they still have lots to play for and they won the earlier meeting 13-7 in Chicago. The Lions have lost seven in a row.
TENNESSEE TITANS (-4.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars
The Titans have had a tough year and enter at 5-10. With a win they’ll move to 6-10 and pick between six and 13. A loss to Jacksonville would be a rough way to end the year and would drop them to 5-11 where they would pick between three and nine.
The Jags wrap up the number two pick in the draft with a win and a 3-13 record. If they lose and the Chiefs beat Denver, they would move up to number one overall, but that seems unlikely.
The Titans have shown signs of progress at times this season and have picked up wins at home over the Jets, Lions, and Steelers. The Jags have been horrible pretty much all year and have lost four in a row and 11 of their last 12. They did beat Tennessee in Jacksonville for their only win in that stretch emerging with a 24-19 win.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+3.5) over Houston Texans
The Colts will be the number five seed headed into the AFC playoffs and will take on either the Patriots in New England or the Ravens in Baltimore. Their positioning can’t be affected by this game, but they’ll have Coach Chuck Pagano back on the sidelines as they look to close out their year with a win over their division rival.
Houston can lock up the number one seed and home-field throughout the AFC playoffs with a win. If they lose, the Texans could fall out of the top spot if the Broncos win. If the Patriots win as well, Houston could tumble all the way to three since the Patriots own the tiebreaker with the Texans.
Chuck Pagano is back on the sidelines and the Colts are at home. I think they can at least keep this division rivalry to a field goal game possibly even ending in overtime. Remember, the Texans lost last week to Minnesota and three weeks ago at New England. In between those losses, Houston playing at home handled Indianapolis 29-17 but I think it’ll be a different story in Indy today.
Carolina Panthers (+4.5) over NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Panthers come in 6-9 and can improve to 7-9 with a win landing them a pick between ten and 16. In they lose and fall to 6-10 they’ll pick between six and 13.
New Orleans hosts their season finale at a disappointing 7-8. If they finish 7-9 they’ll have between the tenth and 16th pick in the draft. If they win and finish 8-8 they’ll pick between number 14 and number 19.
Carolina beat the Saints at home earlier this season and their defense has stepped it up in recent weeks along with a resurgent Cam Newton. New Orleans’ defense struggles with mobile quarterbacks and Newton should be able to finish his sophomore season with a win. Getting the 4.5, I really like Carolina.
Philadelphia Eagles (+7.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
The Eagles would fall to 4-12 with a loss and would pick between third and fifth. If they win, at 5-11 they’ll end up somewhere between the third and ninth pick.
New York will be looking to finish their season with a win and move to 9-7 which should land them the 19th or 20th pick in the upcoming draft. If they lose they’ll finish 8-8 giving them a pick between 14 and 19 depending on other results. There is an outside chance that the Giants make the playoffs; they need a win, a Vikings loss, a Bears loss, and a Cowboys win or tie Sunday Night.
Look for Phily to at least cover against a reeling Giants team. The Eagles are 8-1 against the spread in their last nine meetings with the Giants and Michael Vick will be out to make a statement.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-6.5) over Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh can finish with a win at home and move to 8-8 giving them between the 14-19 pick in the draft. If they lose and drop to 7-9, they’ll pick between tenth and 16th.
Cleveland is just 5-10 coming into their finale and will pick between six and 13 with a win. If they lose their third in a row they’ll finish 5-11 and pick no higher than third and no lower than ninth.
The Browns are starting Thad Lewis at quarterback and will be without rookie Trent Richardson as well. With a house-cleaning reportedly on tap for Monday, the Browns won’t have many stars on the field or motivation to play it would seem. The Steelers should roll over Cleveland in this one.
DENVER BRONCOS (-15.5) over Kansas City Chiefs
Denver can move to the number one spot in the AFC with a win and a Houston Texans loss. If the Broncos and Texas win, Denver will be the two-seed. If Kansas City pulls the shocking upset, Denver could fall to the three seed if New England wins against Miami.
Kansas City can secure the number one pick in the draft if they lose at Denver. The Chiefs with a win would still get the top pick if Jacksonville wins as well, but would fall to number two in the draft if they win and Jacksonville loses.
Denver has everything to play for and the Chiefs are better off losing. In the last three weeks, the Broncos have been blowing out their opponents by a total of 94-42. Kansas City meanwhile, has lost their last three games by a combined score of 65-20.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (+3.5) over Green Bay Packers
Minnesota can get into the playoffs as the six-seed with a win. They can also get in if they lose and the Bears lose to Detroit. If they lose and Chicago wins, Minnesota will fall out of the playoffs and finish 9-7 resulting in pick 18, 19, or 20 in this year’s draft.
Green Bay is the NFC North Champ and can lock up the second seed with a win. If they lose and San Francisco wins, they’ll fall to the three-seed and would host the Vikings at Lambeau next week.
This feels like a field goal game to me between these NFC North foes so I’ll take the Vikes and the points. I’m not sold on Green Bay’s defense and they struggled to stop Adrian Peterson in their previous meeting which the Packers won 23-14. I think this is closer than that game and wouldn’t be surprised to see this same matchup next week in Lambeau in the wild card round.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-10.5) over Miami Dolphins
New England has won the AFC East but can finish in any of the top four spots. If they win and Houston loses, they’ll pass the Texans. If they win and Houston and Dever both lose, the Pats move all the way up to number one. If all three win, New England stays at three and would host Cincinnati next week. However, if New England loses and the Ravens win, Baltimore would be the three seed and the Pats would slip to four.
Miami enters play 7-8 and with a win could finish .500 and pick between the 14th and 19th pick in the draft. If they lose and drop to 7-9, they’ll pick between tenth and 16th.
New England won the first meeting by just seven but always play well in Foxboro in December. New England has started their last few games slowly, but will look to gather steam headed into the playoffs.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-4.5) over Oakland Raiders
The Chargers have struggled to a 6-9 record coming into the week meaning with a win they would end up picking between ten and 16. If they lose to Oakland, they’ll be 6-10 and end up picking between six and 13.
Oakland enters this game at 4-11. If they lose they’ll be 4-12 and picking between three and five. If they win, at 5-11 they’ll pick between 3-9. The Carson Palmer era has definitely not gone as well as hoped.
San Diego is at home and the Raiders are starting Terrelle Pryor in place of Palmer. It’ll be interesting to see what Pryor can do, and the Chargers haven’t been good at putting up points but I still think San Diego is the better team and should win at home. I’d stay away from this game if possible.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-14.5) over Arizona Cardinals
The Niners can move to the number two seed and get a bye with a win and a Green Bay loss. The troublesome tie with St. Louis means that if the Packers and San Francisco both win, they’ll end up the three seed hosting either the Bears or Vikings next week. If the 49ers lose, they could be caught by Seattle and fall all the way to a five seed.
The Cardinals are 5-10 on the year thanks mostly to their 4-0 start. They can finish 6-10 with a win giving them a pick in the six to 13 range. If they lose they’ll pick no higher than third and no lower than ninth.
San Francisco’s defense will be looking to make a statement after getting stung be Seattle last week. The Cardinals offense is in trouble as a result especially when you remember that the 49ers went to Arizona earlier this year and beat them 24-3.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-10.5) over St. Louis Rams
Seattle could pass San Francisco if they win and the 49ers lose. If both NFC West leaders win, the 49ers take the division and Seattle would be the five seed headed for the winner of Dallas-Washington. If the Seahawks lose, they would remain the five seed because of head-to-head wins over Minnesota and Chicago.
St. Louis is 7-7-1 and has their own unique situation because of their tie. If they win, they’ll pick anywhere from 17 to 19. If they lose they’ll finish below .500 and pick somewhere 14th through 17th.
The Seahawks are the scariest team in football. Noway I’d pick against them at home against a division rival. The Seahawks lost to the Rams all the way back in week four in St. Louis 19-13. Russell Wilson and this offense have come a long way since then to be sure and will look to continue their incredible production.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (-3.5) over Dallas Cowboys
This one’s pretty straight forward. It’s win and you’re in. The winner becomes the NFC East champion and the number four seed. They would most likely host Seattle next week in the wild card round.
If the Redskins lose and finish the season at 9-7, they would pick 20th although they traded their first rounder to the Rams to get RGIII. The Cowboys would finish 8-8 with a loss and pick between 14th and 19th depeding on other results.
At home, I think RGIII can continue the magic and beat the Cowboys again like he did last time the team’s met on Thanksgiving Day. Washington won that 38-31 as part of their current six-game winning streak which I think they’ll continue as they roll into the playoffs. I doubt Luck and Griffin meet in this year’s Super Bowl (we’ll save that for a few years), but I do think that the top two pick will both get their teams to the playoffs.