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Week 17 NFL Picks

Another NFL season comes to a close Sunday. Three playoff spots (and all four division titles) are up for grabs in the NFC, and the AFC’s final Wildcard remains unclaimed. With so much on the line, even Aaron Rodgers and his bum collarbone couldn’t sit this one out. (Getty Images)

Last Week:  11 – 5 – 0
Season:    155 – 84 – 1

[My apologies for missing Week 16. I was traveling for early Christmas get-togethers, visiting family, and shoving my face with Chick Fil A, Wawa, and anything else I can’t get here in New York. If you don’t believe I went 11-5 last week, ask my brother. I emailed him my picks Saturday night.]

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Panthers at Falcons
I’m slightly worried by Cam Newton’s recent up-and-down play. On the other hand, when Newton has had a poor game, he’s done enough to rally his team to victory. Tough defense, clutch quarterback; that’s the formula you want for a playoff run. It worked for New York and Baltimore. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -6.5

Ravens at Bengals
The AFC Wildcard situation is a mess. I missed the Patriots-Ravens game last week, so I’m a little lost on why the Ravens stunk so bad. Was Flacco’s bum knee the difference? I like Baltimore and trust them in big games… but Cincinnati is really tough at home and they just look like the better team. Barring a miracle, it looks like the NFL Playoffs will be without the defending champs for the second consecutive season. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -6

Texans at Titans
The Texans look for their 14th straight loss. The Titans look for anything worth watching. Seriously, is there a team less interesting than the Titans? I watched them earlier in the year and it was painful. I can only imagine it’s worse now. After a few seconds of thought, I think being a Titans fan is the worst. The Jaguars have looked good over the season’s second half. The Bills are kind of fun to watch. The Raiders have awesome colors. The Redskins have hope RG3 rebounds. Even the Browns have budding stars. So yeah, being a Titans fans is the worst right now. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans +7

Jaguars at Colts
The Colts win and will host Kansas City next week, a team they beat convincingly a week ago… in Kansas City. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +11.5

Jets at Dolphins
The Dolphins are a nice team, but they proved last week they’re not ready to be a playoff team. Too bad. They’ll be a playoff team anyway. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins -6

Lions at Vikings
I wanted to say this last week but it never happened: Could you imagine if Dez Bryant dropped three huge passes on Monday Night Football while the Cowboys were fighting for their playoff lives? ESPN would have melted down. The Internet would digitally tar and feather Bryant. What was the response after Calvin Johnson dropped two first downs and a crucial two-point conversion? Silence. Not a word. I don’t like Bryant, but I think this proves we choose who to ridicule more so by what we think about them rather than their production. Calvin Johnson was horrible Monday night against Baltimore and ultimately cost Detroit its season. And no one said a word. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -3

Redskins at Giants
The NFC East has been bad this year. The Giants were a mess, the Redskins were embarrassingly bad, and the Cowboys did Cowboys things for most of the season. The Eagles were the one competent and relatively consistent team. And guess what? At least three of the NFC East coaches will be returning next season, and depending on who wins the pissing match in D.C., all four coaches could return in 2014. (For the record, firing Tom Coughlin wouldn’t make sense to me. That team got old on defense and you have to hope Eli Manning is just having a bizarre season.) GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -3.5

Browns at Steelers
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d rather see the Steelers in the postseason than the Jets/Ravens/Dolphins. (I would welcome the Chargers, though.) Ben Roethlisberger has been fun to watch. Antonio Brown is a highlight waiting to happen. I’d probably take the Steelers in the Wildcard round, too. Sadly, I just don’t see the Jets winning in Miami. Sorry, Pittsburgh. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -7

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Packers at Bears
Aaron Rodgers is back. Josh McCown is not. Advantage, Packers. This is a playoff game. At this point in his career, how can you side with Jay Cutler in a big game? I expect Rodgers to be rusty and out of sync, so hopefully the Packers can stay within striking distance until he settles in. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3

Broncos at Raiders
Denver still needs a win to keep the top seed in the AFC, which isn’t such a bad thing as they’ll have plenty of time to rest between now and the Divisional Round. However, injuries have been a major problem for Denver all year, so escaping Week 17 intact is nearly as important as winning. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders +13

Bills at Patriots
Copy what I just said about Denver and paste it here. Just change “Denver” to “New England” and “top seed” to “second seed” and you’re all set. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -9

Buccaneers at Saints
The Saints are the obvious choice here but there’s something off about that team. They’ve lost three of four and the offense has looked atrocious in each of those losses. Assuming the Panthers don’t lose in Atlanta, New Orleans’ ideal situation is beating Tampa Bay and both Chicago and Dallas winning. That would put New Orleans in Dallas for the Wildcard round, or, as some may call it; a first round bye. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -13

49ers at Cardinals
Arizona needs a win and a Saints loss in order to turn their ten or eleven wins into something meaningful. Sadly, beating San Francisco is the easy part of this equation. Though, there is some hope for the Cardinals as Tampa Bay has delivered Week 17 miracles before. In 2008, the Eagles’ playoff lives depended on the lowly 4-11 Raiders traveling to Florida and taking out the 9-6 Buccaneers. The Raiders scored 17 points in the final ten minutes to erase a ten point deficit and won 31-24. Believe, Arizona, believe. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals +1

Chiefs at Chargers
Of the five teams battling for the AFC’s final Wildcard spot, only the Chargers have a positive scoring differential. Sadly, their playoff lives depend on the Jets beating Miami in Miami. Thus, in all likelihood, this one will mean nothing to both teams. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -9.5

Rams at Seahawks
Seattle checked out after clobbering the Saints earlier in the month. I’m not putting too much stock into any of their last three games. I expect Seattle to roll through the Rams, clinch the NFC’s top seed and wait for the poor team that must travel to Seattle in two weeks. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -11

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Eagles at Cowboys
Since their last meeting on October 20th, the Eagles have been better than Dallas. They’ve been the better team; they have the better QB, defense, offense, coach, everything and anything. It’s a no-brainer to pick the Eagles to win this game, the NFC East title, and the playoff spot that comes with it. And that’s what scares me the most. Romo’s injury shifted all the pressure from the Cowboys onto the Eagles. Nick Foles will now be the quarterback expected to win and deliver for his team. The Eagles, not the Cowboys, will be the choke artists if they fail to clinch that 3rd seed in the NFC. I don’t expect the Eagles to lose. I really don’t. But watching the Cowboys convert on 4th and 6 and then 4th and goal from the 10 gave me nightmares. Teams that don’t die when they should have died are often trouble when given second life. Think about the 2008 Eagles, the 2010 Packers, the 2011 Giants, or the 2012 Ravens. Obviously, the Cowboys are nowhere near the level of those teams, and Dallas won’t be sniffing the Super Bowl, but those grasping for life plays change teams. Please stay the same, Cowboys. We love you just the way you are. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -7

*****

If I were Charles Barkley…
Last Week: 11 – 5 – 0
Season:    120 – 111 – 8

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