Another wonderful NFL season has come and gone. After this week, 12 teams will play for the ultimate prize - only one will win it. For the state of Florida, none of our professional teams will be playing in the Super Bowl tournament.
While Miami was expected to struggle, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay did harbor some hope going into this season after respectable 2010 campaigns, but the jettisoning of key veterans and adhering to the youth movement derailed both franchises. It cost Jack Del Rio his job with the Jags and likely will cost Raheem Morris his Bucs gig after Sunday's game.
Tony Sparano's team got off to a terrible start but they seemed to rally around their coach who of course was then fired.
It's definitely been a strange year around the league. The Lions are in the playoffs. So are the Niners and the Texans. Both the Bengals and the Tebows...sorry Broncos could possibly qualify on Sunday. Even the Raiders might make the tournament.
Meanwhile the Eagles, Colts, Bears, Jets and either the Giants or Cowboys will be watching at home with the rest of us.
Strange times indeed.
As for my picks, I'm petering out down the stretch. My prognostication skills have quit on me, just like the players have on Raheem (ouch, sorry Rah).
Now we face Week 17 - or for those of us who enjoy picking games for fun - Black Sunday. Who's playing, who's not? Who has motivation to save their coach or to spoil a rival's season or want to protect players for the playoff run or win and get in or are playing out the string?
It's not an easy proposition...but enough complaining by me. Let's get to it and start off the new year on the right foot.
Last Week: 8-8 50% Overall Season Record: 153-87 64% Upset Specials: 9-16 36%
Upset Special: Carolina 30, New Orleans 24 - Last season, Saints' coach Sean Payton made a huge mistake by playing his starters in a meaningless season finale against Tampa Bay. The result? Several of them got injured and were unavailable for the playoff game the following week. He won't make that same mistake again.
Upset Special #2: Buffalo 13, New England 10 - Tom Brady's banged up and may not play the entire game against the Bills. I hate picking Buffalo in anything (they've burned me too many times this season) but I can't imagine the Pats victorious without Brady...even against the Bills.
Chicago 20, Minnesota 10 - It appears Leslie Frazier is safe for the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears don't have a lot to play for but even with their horrid QB situation, they have enough talent to beat the Vikes.
Miami 24, NY Jets 17 - I don't know who Todd Bowles is but the Dolphins are playing inspired football down the stretch. Some one will be sacrificed in New York for this disappointing season. Is it the O.C., the QB or the Head Coach?
San Francisco 23, St. Louis 3 - The Niners will wrap up a first round bye with a win over the rival Rams. Spags looks like he'll be Philly's defensive coordinator next year.
Green Bay 23, Detroit 13 - The Lions will probably win this game, especially if the Packers play many of their back ups - but it's been over 20 years since Detroit has won at Green Bay. No one picks Detroit in Green Bay. Unless you're a nutter (British slang for CRAZY).
Philadelphia 23, Washington 13 - After their terrible start, "The Dream Team" will finish the season 8-8. After another disappointing year in D.C. - will Dan Snyder look to make a move?
Jacksonville 13, Indianapolis 10 - You gotta hand it to the plucky Colts. The players don't care about Andrew Luck - they're just trying to get better. Mel Tucker gets a nice going away present from his team.
Tennessee 26, Houston 13 - The Texans certainly aren't inspiring any confidence heading into the playoffs. Banged up, they won't beat the Flaming Thumbtacks who need to win, have Cincinnati lose and have the Jets win in Miami (or a number of other scenarios) to make the playoffs.
Arizona 23, Seattle 20 - Two teams that have played well down the stretch with nothing to play for. Considering last season the Seahags won the division with a 7-9 record, another 7-9 record isn't exactly a step back.
Denver 23, Kansas City 20 - The shine has dimmed a bit on Tim Tebow, especially after last week's awful performance. With Kyle Orton coming to town and the Chiefs having a shot at knocking the Broncos out (not to mention improbably replacing them at the top of the AFC West), nothing would be sweeter for Orton to beat the Tebows. Still, Tebow has God on his side and you can't fight God.
Atlanta 48, Tampa Bay 16 - 48 seems to be the magic number for the Bucs this season. Raheem Morris says good bye. Bucs fans say don't let the door hit ya where the Lord split ya. Meanwhile Matt Ryan and company get ready for this year's post season failure.
Baltimore 23, Cincinnati 13 - The Bengals can't beat the good teams while the Ravens need this one to wrap up the AFC North and a bye. While Baltimore plays down to its competition but I think they'll win this one.
Pittsburgh 20, Cleveland 13 - Big Ben will be playing hurt but it's the Browns.
Oakland 30, San Diego 10 - The Norv Turner era appears to be at an end in San Diego while the Raiders hope to still have a shot at the playoffs.
NY Giants 23, Dallas 13 - In the big showdown for the NFC East title, the G-men host the Cowboys in what could be a game played in the elements. I think New York, with their defense and running game are better suited to win in inclement weather - not to mention Romo's injury certainly won't help.
Have a safe and Happy New Year's everyone! See you next year!