NFL Playoff Predictions and Picks: Week 13

Well, last week we got back on track and went three for five. Carolina crushed Dallas, Oakland pulled it out in Tennessee, and Minnesota continued the rain on Atlanta’s parade.

Meanwhile, the Rams got smashed in Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh should’ve beaten Seattle, if not at least covered. But, yet again, a horrific call by NFL refs solidifies a Seahawks win–and cover. Yes, Kam Chancellor’s pick of Landry Jones with a little more than a minute left was technically a catch, but what he did with the football has also been ruled not a catch. Indeed, the Cowboys season ended last year in the playoffs when Dez Bryant made a football move after catching a ball that somehow invalidated his catch. A similar thing happened to Odell Beckham earlier this year.

It’s gotten to the point where we, the fans, have no idea what is and is not a catch anymore, and that’s fucking ridiculous. What’s even worse is that it would appear the NFL is fine with leaving it up to the seemingly arbitrary judgment of its officials. So a catch is a catch unless it isn’t, but that distinction isn’t born out of any sort of valid or consistent criteria. It also seems to me there’s been enough of these calls in Seattle to arouse suspicion of a little home cookin’, but I’m sure Goodell will get right on looking into that.

But back to the picks: last week’s finish leaves me at 22 for 43–just a little north of .500. Which, in a season like this, isn’t actually that terrible.

What kind of season am I talking about? Consider this: out of 165 games so far, the favorites have covered 80 times, and lost 68 times. So Vegas, picking just winners (which is relatively easy compared to picking against the spread), is only 97-68, and their favorites only cover the spread 48% of the time. What that tells you is that Vegas doesn’t have a very strong sense of what’s going on this year, and they’re the ones setting the spreads, so it kind of fucks up the whole system. It’s been even crazier in the last couple weeks. From weeks nine through twelve, Vegas is 26-27 picking winners, and their favorites have only covered 22 out of 53 games (41%).

In sum, it’s been a pretty crazy year betting against the spread in the NFL. But that’s why it’s so fun–it’s by far the most volatile league in professional sports. Period.

Look no further than the Chiefs and Bears. Kansas City starts the season 1-5 and looks awful doing it, then wins the next five in a row, handing Denver one of its two losses. If the season ended right now, they’d be in the playoffs, and oh by the way, they went on the winning streak AFTER losing their star running back, Jamal Charles.

Similarly, the Bears lost their first three games, but have recovered to 5-6 overall, with an outside chance at the playoffs; if they make the playoffs, they’ll be only the fourth team in NFL history to do so. You can’t predict this stuff.

So that’s just what I’m going to do. Every team’s got five games left—let’s take a look at who’s in, and who’s out. We’ll start with the AFC.

AFC–Low Hanging Fruit

The New England Patriots will win the AFC East and the number one seed overall. They finish with the Eagles, Texans, Titans, Jets, and Dolphins. The Pats are 10-1 already, and I just don’t see them losing more than one against those teams, desperate though they may be.

Who Wins Week 16?

That means Denver would have to win out to steal the number one seed, which will be a tall order. Sandwiched between two seemingly easy games against the Chargers, they face the Raiders, Steelers, and Bengals—tough games against good teams that’ll be looking to secure playoff births and/or seeds. Plus, the Chargers have nothing left at this point but to beat the Broncos, and though Osweiler’s played well so far, let’s not pretend he’s a world beater just yet…

The question is whether they beat Cincinnati—which is what Bengals’ fans are wondering as well. The winner of that MNF game in week 16 will likely determine the number two seed. Aside from the Broncos, the Bengals play Pittsburgh in week 14 and the Ravens in week 17, divisional games that will be hard fought.

If I had to guess, the Broncos either edge out the Bengals in wins or head to head, meaning they secure the second AFC seed and the bye.

Clusterfucks and Crapshoots

As far as who comes out of the South, who the fuck knows? The Colts have a slightly softer schedule, if only because the Texans still have to play New England, but Houston will get their chance against Indy head to head in week 15. I’m going to say they both go 3-2 down the stretch, Houston wins in Indy, and through some weird tie-breaker (division wins?), the Texans win the South.

The Wild Card is even more of a clusterfuck. The Steelers, Chiefs, Texans, Colts, and Jets are all 6-5, and the Bills and Raiders are hanging around at 5-6. Everyone plays each other in some form or fashion and though, overall, I think the Steelers are the best team, their schedule is brutal. It’s a crapshoot, but I think the Chiefs and Steelers get in.

So, drumroll please, your…

2015 AFC Playoff Seeds

  1. Patriots
  2. Broncos
  3. Bengals
  4. Texans
  5. Chiefs
  6. Steelers

NFC–Low Hanging Fruit

Carolina is going to be the number one seed. Yeah, that’s all I got.

And go ahead and pencil in the Arizona Cardinals for the number two seed and coveted bye. They’ve got some tough games left, but so far, they’re clearly the second best team in the NFC; plus, they don’t have any competition. If they win three more games, they finish with 12 and that’s probably good enough. Sure, Green Bay’s got seven and Minnesota’s got eight, but they both have to play Arizona, and frankly, I don’t trust either of those teams enough to think they’ll take care of their other business even if they do beat the Cards.

Who Wins Week 17?

It’s likely to determine the NFC North: Packers vs. Vikings on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Minnesota has a tougher schedule down the stretch, playing Seattle, Arizona, Chicago, and the NY Giants leading up to week 17.

The Packers have it a little easier through week 16–after a miracle win last night in Detroit, they face Dallas, Oakland, and Arizona. If I had to bet, Minnesota goes 2-2, Green Bay 2-1, meaning they’re both sitting at 10-5 when they play each other.

So who wins? Even though they haven’t looked good lately, I’m not going to bet against Rodgers—they’re going to figure out a way to score points, right? Not a ton of confidence here, but I’m going to say Green Bay wins, earning the NFC North title and the third seed.

Clusterfucks and Crapshoots

What horrible team is going to win the NFC East? Technically, no one’s out, not even the Cowboys, but we have to start somewhere, so let’s start with the Pokes—their season is lost. And sure they might try, sure they might care, but Jason Garrett is a bad coach and Tony Romo’s out for the year. They. Are. Done.

Next dumpster fire up, the Eagles. Even if Chip Kelly can get his players to rally to the cause (which is unlikely given the number of negative comments players have been making recently), their schedule to finish is brutal. They. Are. Done.

The Giants have a slightly better record, but an equally brutal schedule (they still have to play the Jets, Panthers, and Vikings). Worse, they’re incredibly inconsistent week to week. Say it with me now: They. Are. Done.

Which brings me to declare that the Washington Deadskins, a team I’ve counted out all year, are going to be your NFC East champs. Yes, that Washington team (I refuse to use their racist name, just in case you were wondering) with captain Kirk Cousins and his band of merry, yet talented misfits. Actually, the main reason I’m choosing them is that three out of their final five games are against their own division, which is as weak as it gets. Plus, they’ve won three of their last five, and those two losses come at the hands of New England and Carolina, the two best teams in the league. Make no mistake, Washington is playing well, something that can’t be said of any of their divisional opponents. The Deadskins are your four seed.

Bringing us to the NFC Wild Cards. I think this is fairly easy—the Vikings realistically need to win only two more games to lock up one of those spots, and the Seahawks are clearly the best among the rest. In fact, if the Seahawks can beat the Vikings on the road Sunday—a tall order to be sure, but doable—my guess is they’ll finish 10-6 and with the head to head, take home the five seed, which leaves Minnesota at six.

2015 NFC Playoff Seeds

  1. Panthers
  2. Cardinals
  3. Packers
  4. Deadskins
  5. Seahawks
  6. Vikings

So those are my official predictions—and now that I’ve made them, I’m sure to be wrong on multiple accounts. But hey, it’s fun to guess and pontificate, right?

Anyway, that leads me to our week 13 picks.

HOUSTON (+3.5) at Buffalo

The Texans have won four straight. Their defense is playing extremely well, and they still have a lot of options on offense. Now if the weather was going to be particularly cold I’d stay away from this game, but so far the forecast calls for a balmy 52 degrees at game time.

And I love that the Texans are getting 3.5. Maybe the Bills win, but with the way JJ Watt has been playing, I don’t see it being a blowout.

ARIZONA (-5.5) at St. Louis

I don’t know who the Rams are starting at quarterback.

That’s bad.

Nominally, they’re hoping Case Keenum can start (concussion), but even so… the Rams have looked awful lately. I don’t see how this team beats Arizona for a second time this year–and in that sense, you can bet the Cards will be looking for revenge.

Arizona wins and it’s probably not close.

NY JETS (-1.5) vs. NY Giants

The Jets are technically the away team, but as both of them play at the same stadium, it’s not going to matter much. What scares me about this pick is that this is it for the Giants. If they lose, they’re probably… actually, wait. Even if they lose they might be OK. That’s how absolutely dreadful the NFC East is this year. At 5-6 the Giants can probably afford to stumble.

And stumble they will. The Giants will struggle to score against a strong Jets defense, and on the other side of the ball, the G-men are giving up more yards than any other team in the league.

That’s bad.

And the spread’s only 1.5? Take the Jets all day.

PITTSBURGH (-6.5) vs. Indianapolis

This is a must win for Pittsburgh, and coming home from a tough loss at Seattle, they’ll get it done. Their offense is moving the ball well enough to win a shootout, if it comes to that, but Indy’s still captained by Hasselbeck. Sure, he’s been able to win, but he hasn’t looked great, and if were, he’d be a starting quarterback–not a backup.

Methinks the Steeler D brings the house and this game gets out of hand quickly.

If not, the Steelers are done. So win and cover Pittsburgh, or else!

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About The Author: Jay Scott

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