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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Week 17 picks + Play-off scenarios

If you survived your family Christmas and didn’t get in too much trouble for trying to watch Sunday Night Football instead of play board games with elderly relatives then you’re in for the best time in the NFL regular season. Watching commentators, analysts and talking-heads try and explain all the different permutations for who can make the play-offs and what seed they’ll all be. Nothing is as amazing as listening to Brian Billick or Troy Aikman try and explain that if Team A lose to Team B then Team X will get in because their strength of schedule is better than Team Y’s, then get it wrong and have an argument with their commentary partner. So we here at The Pulling Linemen have worked it all out for you so that you'll know where you stand.


Win and You’re In:

Cincinnati Bengals (Vs. Ravens)

Denver Broncos (Vs. Chiefs)

NY Giants (Vs. Cowboys)

Dallas Cowboys (@ NY Giants)
AJ Green as lived up to the billing in his Rookie season

The Bengals have been slowing since their hot start to the season, but the defense continues to be impressive as does rookie wide receiver AJ Green. But the real thing going for the Bengals in this one is the Ravens terrible play away from home. They have just a +4 points differential (135-131) and a 3-4 record on the road this season. Baltimore need to match Pittsburgh’s result to secure a 1st round bye and the division title, and any slip up from New England would give them home field advantage throughout the playoffs so don’t expect them to rest starters and make life easy for the Bengals. Making the post-season would put a big exclamation point on Cincy’s turnaround, and with the Carson Palmer windfall added to their draft stock they’re in a fantastic position to kick on and really compete for the AFC North title for many years.
Von Miller has terrorized opposing QB's all year.
Tebow's terrorized the good name of Quarterbacks generally.
As for Denver, well Tebow-Time has been shut down recently as the turnovers start to rack up for the 2nd year quarterback and the defense has come down from the championship-level it had been at during their incredible run. One big thing going for Denver is that Kansas have nothing to play for. Their slim play-off hopes ended last week when they lost to Oakland, but they do have the pieces to potentially cause some issues for Denver. Don’t forget the job interim-head coach Romeo Crennel  did in motivating his team and defensive scheming to beat Green Bay. There’s a bit of pop in the Chiefs that shouldn’t be overlooked.
There's history and hatred between these two.
It's the perfect SNF cocktail.
The Dallas @ New York game is the dream week 17 scenario. It’s very simple: Only these two teams can take the NFC East division. The Giants win last week eliminated the Eagles (at last) despite them beating Dallas. This game could easily come down to the wire like their 1st encounter did this season, but a key difference is that Dallas are without rookie running back DeMarco Murray who had been fantastic at taking a lot of the pressure off Tony Romo’s shoulders. Without him the weight of the world is back on them and his banged up throwing hand. Football Outsiders says that there’s a 68.6% chance of the Giants winning this one, mostly because they get after the opposing quarterback far better than Dallas does. Jason Pierre-Paul has a really good chance of being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year when it’s all said and done. He’s been fantastic not only from defensive end but also in blocking field goals this season, he’s the difference maker for a Giants defense that has suffered injuries all year and has been somewhat underwhelming all season. 

Waiting In the Wings:

Oakland Raiders (Vs. Chargers) – Need to win and: Denver loss (for 4th seed & Division title) OR Bengals loss and Titans loss (for 6th seed). If the Titans win the Raiders can still take #6 seed with a Jets win (They’ll win tie breaker over Titans on strength of victory)

Throwing to the other team is like second nature to Carson
now.
The Oakland Raiders made a really ballsy decision when Jason Campbell went down for the year during their week 6 win over Cleveland. At 4-2 they decided to trade their 2012 1st round and 2013 2nd round (rising to a 1st if they win a playoff game) pick to Cincinnati for the “retired” Carson Palmer. Since then the former 1st overall pick, who was once talked about as the next elite quarterback but has since turned into a slightly below average one has lead them to a 4-5 record and thrown picks at a staggering 5.3%. We hated the trade from Oakland’s perspective when they did it, it looks even worse now.

They’re also running into the Chargers who, despite their problems this year, can be a very dangerous side. They’ve won 3 of their last 4, including a win against the Ravens, and while this will in all probability be Norv Turner’s last game in charge of them San Diego will still play tough.

The scenario is complicated for the Raiders to get the last wildcard spot, life will be much easier for them if they can get some help from Kansas City.

Need A Bit of Help:

Tennessee Titans (@ Houston Texans) – Need to win and: Bengals and Raiders to lose OR if the Raiders win then a Dolphins win will give them the tie breaker.

The Titans have maybe the best match up of all the potential playoff teams. Houston are locked into the 3rd seed, they’ve had a raft of injuries to key players throughout the season and can’t afford to risk another before the 1st playoff game in franchise history next week. The fan base will be nervous with every snap of this dead rubber. They won’t want to see important players like Arian Foster or Jonathan Joseph risked for very long at all. There could even be a Jake Delhomme sighting.
Colin McCarthy (#52) has been making a name for himself
in 2011
All this is good for the Titans, who despite spending most of the season without their best offensive players, Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson (who ever that is out there with #28 on his back it’s NOT Chris Johnson) have been good enough on both sides of the ball to remain in contention all season. They look to be set for the future too with 1st round pick Jake Locker playing well in his cameo performances this season and young linebacker Colin McCarthy proving to be a force in the middle of the defense.

On Life Support:

New York Jets (@ Miami Dolphins) – Need to win and: Bengals, Raiders and Titans to lose

Rex Ryan's talking makes headlines, but sooner or later
it will have to be backed up on the field
Yet another pre-season Super Bowl prediction from Rex Ryan but yet another disappointing regular season performance. The Jets really lost their offensive identity during the season, they tried to put more of the game on Mark Sanchez, which didn’t really work, but they’ve lost the ability to really pound the ball in the running game too. As a team the Jets are averaging just 3.8 yards a carry while allowing 4. They’re 15th in run defense this season after being 3rd in 2010. It’s not that big of a drop but it’s meant that the good teams can stay balanced against them and have real success on offense (The Jets are 1-6 against teams who are already in, or could make, the playoffs this year).

Mark Sanchez is really struggling as an NFL quarterback. We’re all of the opinion that the Jets should bring someone in to compete with him before the 2012 season kicks off. He’s just not consistent enough and really struggles when the running game isn’t scaring the opposition. Offensive Co-Ordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s neck is firmly on the chopping board too, and the axe could swing if they don’t scrape into the Playoffs again. 

But Miami aren’t the pushovers of September and October anymore. In Matt Moore they’ve found a quarterback who can get the job done while Reggie Bush continues to dumbfound people as a feature back, running hard between the tackles. Their defense is also up around the level it was expected to be before the season started. They did a number on the Patriots in the 1st half last week and if they put a similar performance in against the Jets then Rex Ryan can kiss the post season goodbye.  

So sit back, nurse that New Years hangover and enjoy the last week of regular season action. Here are our picks, remember that The Pulling Linemen have a full “Fuck you” policy for any complaints about money lost on our advice.

Happy New Year folks!

Coming next week: TPL’s awards get handed out


Toby Durant
Phil Gaskin
Gur Samuel
Panthers @ Saints
Panthers
Saints
Saints
Bills @ Patriots
Patriots
Patriots
Patriots
Bears @ Vikings
Vikings
Vikings
Vikings
Jets @ Dolphins
Dolphins
Dolphins
Dolphins
49ers @ Rams
49ers
49ers
49ers
Lions @ Packers
Lions
Packers
Lions
Redskins @ Eagles
Eagles
Eagles
Eagles
Colts @ Jaguars
Colts
Jaguars
Jaguars
Titans @ Texans
Texans
Texans
Titans
Bucs @ Falcons
Falcons
Falcons
Falcons
Steelers @ Browns
Steelers
Steelers
Steelers
Ravens @ Bengals
Ravens
Ravens
Ravens
Seahawks @ Cardinals
Cardinals
Seahawks
Seahawks
Chiefs @ Broncos
Chiefs
Broncos
Chiefs
Chargers @ Raiders
Raiders
Chargers
Chargers
Cowboys @ Giants
Giants
Giants
Giants




Last Week:
10-6
11-5
8-8
Overall:
153-74
150-77
142-85

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