Last week was a very good one for my predictions straight up, but another struggle against the spread. These last two weeks could be tough to predict as there’s no telling how teams out of contention will show up, and what teams will start resting players for the postseason. Entering this weekend, five playoff spots and four divisions have been clinched. The NFL likes to pride itself on parody among teams and if you enjoy that, this is shaping up to be a season for you. If the season ended today, eight of the 12 playoff teams wouldn’t have made it in 2016. Change can be a good thing and these different franchises breaking through would also provide hope for fans whose teams don’t have much to play for at this time.
Last week: 14-2, Season: 146-78
Last week against the spread: 6-10, Season: 109-115
Game of the weak: Browns vs Bears: Could this be another Christmas Eve miracle for the Browns? The potential is there as the defense is an underrated group against the run while that has been the Bears’ most effective way of moving the ball. Also John Fox at times seems to be playing not to lose in close games which could benefit the Browns here. One of the many issues with the Browns this season has been Hue Jackson’s play calling.
Even in close games, Jackson has simply abandoned the run at times. The Browns along with putting money into the offensive line, also have two capable backs in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. Yet, there have been many instances where Jackson tries to have DeShone Kizer do it all. That isn’t a healthy situation for any young quarterback (just look at what the threat of the run has done for Blake Bortles this year) and the franchise has put on a clinic of how not to handle a rookie signal caller. Kizer might not get another chance with the franchise as a starter, and if the Browns want to move on they’ll have to evaluate if Jackson is someone they can trust with their next highly touted quarterback prospect. Browns 17 Bears (-6.5) 20
Game of the week: Falcons vs Saints: Thanks to head-to-head wins, the Falcons clinch a playoff spot with a win in either of the next two weeks. Despite sitting at 9-5, you could say this has been a disappointing season given the talent they have while also a lucky one at the same time. We all know how the offense hasn’t lit up the scoreboard as they did last year, but even on defense key pieces like Vic Beasley haven’t had the same impact. After leading the league in sacks a year ago, Beasley missed time due to injury but also hasn’t seemed to improve as a pass rusher. Last year he capitalized on his quarterback pressures at a ridiculous rate, but things haven’t gone that way in 2017.
Then there’s how they’ve won. With a point differential of 36, if that stood over the next two weeks, that mark is more reflective of a .500 team. But that’s where some luck comes into play. The Falcons have won two games by opponents missing field goals that would send a game to overtime, one by a overturned touchdown (which while correctly called, was an extremely typical way for the Lions to lose), and then an uncharacteristic Drew Brees interception in Falcon territory when the Saints were down three. Two of those are why the Falcons would clinch a playoff spot with one more win, and the other could determine the NFC South. All I know is the fans of these two teams don’t like each other, Alvin Kamara figures to fully play in this one, and the Superdome is going to be rocking. Can’t ask for much more in a battle of these two teams. Falcons 24 Saints (-5.5) 28
Colts 13 Ravens (-13.5) 27
Vikings 27 Packers (+9.5) 17
Buccaneers 17 Panthers (-10.5) 28
Lions 24 Bengals (+5.5) 20
Dolphins 16 Chiefs (-10.5) 27
Bills 20 Patriots (-11.5) 33
Chargers 28 Jets (+6.5) 16
Rams 30 Titans (+6.5) 20
Broncos 21 Redskins (-3.5) 17
Jaguars 26 49ers (+4.5) 20
Giants 20 Cardinals (-3.5) 21
Seahawks 23 Cowboys (-5.5) 26
Steelers 27 Texans (+9.5) 17
Raiders 17 Eagles (-9.5) 30