THE PICKS SIX
Happy New Year! Welcome back to another edition of The Picks Six. Please excuse our brief hiatus over week 16 (Christmas got in the way), but we’re back here for a special week 17 column. With a lot of uncertainty over exactly who is or isn’t playing I’m going to change things up and just touch on a few big games before highlighting our Parlay and all our game picks. It’s a bit of a different read than normal, but we’ll be back next week in full for the Wildcard slate of 6 (six!!) games over two days. I can’t wait. Let’s get stuck into the big storylines of this Week 17 Sunday.
The NFC East
The biggest conundrum of this weekend is exactly who is going to be the #4 seed (and receive a HOME playoff game!) in the NFC. The NFC East has been… an abomination at times this year, but in the latter stages of the year you could argue that all four squads have found some legs and improved significantly. Jalen Hurts has given life to the Eagles, despite them now being eliminated from contention. The Giants defense started to show up and Daniel Jones has proven himself to have been a much better choice on draft night than the projected pick for the Giants… Dwayne Haskins.
Washington have heavily relied on their defense to keep them alive in the playoff race, with injuries to McLaurin and Gibson, combined with utter mediocrity everywhere else leaving them scrambling to stay ahead of the chasing pack. We also have no idea exactly how healthy Alex Smith is, or if it’s going to be at least partially the Taylor Heinicke show… And for the Cowboys, Andy Dalton has found rhythm in Dallas and despite Ezekiel Elliott’s struggles that wide receiver trio of Cooper, Gallup & Lamb is explosive enough to win this division without a consistent running game. Dallas looks perhaps the most complete team, and without ANY doubt if Dak Prescott had not got injured the Cowboys would have WALKED their way to this division title. And I think they still might…
I think the Cowboys will beat the Giants. Joe Judge has instilled a number of good things into this Giants’ team, but largely on special teams and defense. I’m yet to be convinced by their ability to move the ball downfield. The Cowboys are rolling and I think find a way to win in New York and mean all eyes turn to Sunday Night Football. Credit to Ron Rivera for turning this franchise around – I didn’t think they’d win 3 games, let alone find a way to beat the undefeated Steelers amongst others. But I think the dream dies Sunday night. Jalen Hurts is proving himself to be an NFL starting quarterback and will relish his first opportunity under the bright lights of a PrimeTime game. This game will really come down to can the Eagles O-Line stand up to the Washington pass rush. If they can, Hurts can – forgive me – “hurt” them down the field. I’m not convinced Smith will be 100% and I don’t believe this Washington team deserves to be a playoff team. I’m taking the Eagles and, therefore, the Cowboys to win the division.
NFC East Champion: Dallas Cowboys
The AFC Playoff Race
It’s fairly clear cut to me that the Titans will comfortably dispose of the Texans and lock up the AFC South crown, but everything else in the AFC is a bit more confusing. The Browns are struggling to contain COVID within their group as they face a must win against Pittsburgh, the Dolphins have lost their Week 16 Hero as FitzMagic has also tested positive for the virus, and the Colts know they need the Ravens (or others) to lose to have a shot of getting in. The Steelers and Bills themselves are still fighting over who is number 2 and who is number 3 in the seedlings too. It’s a wild Sunday slate. Basically – the short version is, I think all the teams that need to win will win. The Dolphins (my team) are perhaps the most at risk, but I’m hoping the Bills do the nice (and sensible) thing and rest Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs for at least part of this game. Brian Flores’ defense will stand tough regardless, as the Dolphins and Tua find a way to win a very close game and take themselves to Tennessee for wildcard weekend. I see no way the Ravens and Colts don’t beat the Bengals and Jaguars respectively, which leads us onto the big one: Cleveland vs Pittsburgh. The Browns have COVID issues, and the Steelers are resting their starters. This is a game Baker Mayfield HAS to win to end the longest active playoff drought for the Browns. They deserve to get in, and I think they have enough weapons – mainly Chubb and Hunt – to win this game and ensure they do. Sorry Phil Rivers, this ain’t your year.
2 Seed – Buffalo
3 Seed – Pittsburgh
4 Seed – Tennessee
5 Seed – Miami
6 Seed – Baltimore
7 Seed – Cleveland
Out – Indianapolis
Bears, Rams or Cardinals?!
Lastly, the final spot in the NFC is also in a pivotal spot. The Chicago Bears have suddenly discovered they’re allowed to pass the ball accurately, and actually score points on offense. You do wonder what would have happened if the Bears had stuck with Mitch rather than the ill-fated pivot to Nick Foles earlier this season – although admittedly, it was injury influenced. Anyway, just as the Bears have found their rhythm, the Rams have absolutely capitulated and almost thrown away their playoff spot. Defeat to the Jets (incredible) and the Seahawks (reasonable) have seen McVay’s men drop to 9-6, and now cannot feel safe. And NOW Jared Goff appears to be out, leaving John Wolford – who has never thrown an NFL pass before – as the Rams final hope. If the Bears win, and the Rams lose, LA would be on the outside looking in. This is even more realistic when you consider that the Rams opponents are the Cardinals who MUST win to get in. Arizona’s inconsistent season was highlighted by the loss to San Francisco last week, which took their destiny out of their own hands. That said, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins have already fostered a great connection this year, and even Jalen Ramsey will have to admit how much of a struggle it will be trying to keep Hopkins in check. However, I think the Rams fears will be calmed by the soon-to-be MVP in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers loves beating the Bears, and with the Packers needing a win to secure a bye and the #1 seed, I see no other outcome in that game. Which means the Bears would NEED the Rams to win to keep them in the playoffs. I may be in the minority in this, but I’m a believer in Kliff Kingsbury and his offense. The Cardinals win this game, steal the 6 seed, and eliminate the Bears.
6 Seed – Arizona
7 Seed – LA
Out – Chicago
Last time out, we won our parlay! One push, 4 correct legs, and a nice healthy profit for anyone who backed it. Let’s end the regular season with a bang. We’re going SIX-fold this week.
As previously stated, the Cowboys look electric on offense right now, with the Red Rifle firing in Texas. Dalton’s weapons will carry the Cowboys to victory here.
The Lions are really bad and are still missing their main weapon in Kenny Golladay. Also, with Dalvin Cook missing for the Vikings after a family tragedy (my condolences to the whole family), Alexander Mattison has a chance to put himself firmly in the shop window. He’s a talented running back, and with Thielen and Jefferson still catching passes, I see the Vikings running away with this one.
Bill Belichick is not losing to Adam Gase’s Jets. It’s just not happening.
See above. The final chapter in Rodgers’ Revenge Tour. Packers all day.
I know Gruden’s guys have been suspect of late, but Drew Lock and the Broncos are flat out awful. Average defensively, abysmal offensively. Raiders a clear winner here.
This is maybe the riskiest one, but John Wolford isn’t beating Kyler Murray. I’m sorry. Cardinals win this game.
The Full English (Season Record: 85-39)
Falcons @ Buccaneers – Buccaneers
Ravens @ Bengals – Ravens
Cowboys @ Giants – Cowboys
Dolphins @ Bills – Dolphins
Vikings @ Lions – Vikings
Jets @ Patriots – Patriots
Steelers @ Browns – Browns
Cardinals @ Rams – Cardinals
Packers @ Bears – Packers
Jaguars @ Colts – Colts
Chargers @ Chiefs – Chiefs
Raiders @ Broncos – Raiders
Saints @ Panthers – Saints
Seahawks @ 49ers – Seahawks
Titans @ Texans – Titans
Washington @ Eagles – Eagles
Next Week: WildCard
I cannot wait for back to back days with NFL playoff triple headers… it’s hard for me to give you a preview with none of the matchups confirmed, but if we go by my predictions, we’d end up with Ravens vs Steelers, Browns vs Bills, Buccaneers vs Cowboys and Seahawks vs Cardinals amongst others. Sounds good to me. As always, I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram. Hope you all have a great week.