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- Week 17 Predictions: Colts Need a Win to Please Browns

Chris Pokorny December 29, 2007
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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It's been another fun season of NFL action, disregarding all of the off-the-field negative issues that plagued the league in the offseason. Instead of worrying about the next arrest for Michael Vick or Pacman Jones, we watched the Patriots compile a soon-to-be undefeated streak and the Green Bay Packers resurrect under Brett Favre.

Not many games have playoff implications in Week 17, which often gives a preseason-like feel to picking games. Are the contenders going to play their backups early? Are the eliminated teams going to try out some of their reserve players? This is why you'd be crazy to play fantasy football in Week 17 too, unless your team consisted of guys like Drew Brees, Clinton Portis, and Adrian Peterson (players whose teams have something to play for this week). With that in mind, let's kick off with my Week 17 games of he week...



Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts. NBC's philosophy when it comes to flex scheduling involves hoping that a game has meaning. When it came down to the league picking which contest had the best chance of having playoff implications in Week 17, the Titans/Colts matchup was the only sure bet. The Cowboys/Redskins contest would've had a decent shot at being chosen too had the Cowboys not already played in the maximum of six primetime games this year. Here's the sitation for this game: if the Titans win, they are the AFC's sixth seed. If the Titans lose, the Cleveland Browns are the AFC's sixth seed. Considering the Colts are guaranteed the AFC's second seed, Tony Dungy has already made it clear that he will rest a lot of his starters at some point in the first half. Does that spell the end of the world for the Browns? Not at all.

This is a Titans team that has failed to muster an attack against many teams this season. The Colts' backups have already had plenty of experience this season with all of the injuries suffered, so it's not like the inexperience exists. And, the Titans are going to have to win in the RCA Dome. And, the Titans are going to still see Peyton Manning for about a quarter, along with the returning Marvin Harrison. And, the pressure is on the Titans to win. I'm not saying this will be a gimmie for the Colts, but the Titans haven't proven they have what it takes to get the job done in this game, whether the Colts play their backups or not. Colts 26, Titans 14


Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins are the NFC's equivalent to the Titans this week. They control their own destiny technically (although they could lose and still get in), and are facing a division rival that has already locked up a first-round bye. There is a difference though: where the Titans lack the quick strike necessary to win, the Redskins don't. If Jason Campbell was playing in this game, I might react differently. I still think Campbell is the long-term route for the Redskins, but Todd Collins shouldn't have any pressure on him because no one is expecting him to take the fall if this team doesn't make the postseason. What are they going to say: "You led us to three straight wins, but that last one screwed your career!"

The Cowboys are already set to have Terrell Owens, Terrence Newman, and many others sit. That's far different than the Colts, who should have guys like Reggie Wayne and Bob Sanders starting and playing for at least two series. It's still up-in-the-air whether or not Tony Romo will play a little or the whole game. My money is on Brad Johnson coming in as soon as the Cowboys put together their first scoring drive, which should be at some point in the first quarter. After that, I expect more of Washington's recent high-octane approach against a carefree Cowboys team. Redskins 23, Cowboys 20


Minnesota Vikings vs. Denver Broncos. Isn't is great how in the first three games I've mentioned that the team needing a win is on the road? That adds to the element of a team needing to earn their stripes into the postseason. This game will be played at the same time as the Redskins/Cowboys game, so you'd better believe that some scoreboard watching will be going on during this game. It's not a far cry to ask for the Cowboys to pull off a home win over the Redskins too, meaning the Vikings will be giving it 100% for four quarters straight. The key in this game should involve whether or not the Broncos can do to the Vikings what the Redskins did to them a week ago: stack the box and force Tarvaris Jackson to make a play.

The answer? No. The Broncos have one of the worst run defenses in the league, whether they try to stack the box or not. When the Vikings are able to run the ball, they win. That's not just a typical general statement either, because it's the formula they used to get to the position they are currently in. Jay Cutler will try to send Denver fans home happy with a win to close out the 2007 campaign, but I simply can't see them bringing the intensity that they've lacked since they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this season on Sunday Night Football. Vikings 31, Broncos 17


New England Patriots vs. New York Giants. Props to everyone involved for making it possible to have this game telecast for free across the country. The only negative actually derives from the fact that the Giants won last week. If they hadn't, they may have needed a win over the Patriots to even make the postseason. That's not the case now, so unfortunately, we may only see the Giants' backups play against New England. Don't expect Tom Brady to be taken out unless the game is far out of reach either. The Patriots haven't had any injury problems all season, and if they've won a certain way for fifteen straight games already, why bother changing how you play the game? Because of that, there's not much to analyze here, other than the fact that the Patriots should get the job done nearly by default. Patriots 34, Giants 14


Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons. Having clinched the NFC's third seed already, the Seattle Seahawks aren't going to take this Sunday's game as an opportunity to rest up. The Seahawks know that they'll have to be back on the field one week later, and passing up the opportunity to lose any momentum that they've built up isn't in their gameplan. Matt Hasselbeck throwing the ball for Seattle remains their best weapon, because the running game still proved to be non-existent last week against the Baltimore Ravens. The Falcons gave the Arizona Cardinals a nice run for their money last week by rallying before losing in overtime. Next season, Byron Leftwich and Joey Harrington are looking forward to competing for the team's starting job. If I'm a Falcons fan, I'd much rather see both of them gone -- time to freshen up the team like the Houston Texans did (too bad Atlanta ridded of Matt Schaub). Seahawks 23, Falcons 13

New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears. Talk about night and day when it comes to these two teams. The Saints are that close each week to winning, but they fail to convert the intricacies of the game (although their defense is far below-average). They botched a trick play reverse earlier this year against Tampa Bay with the lead in the fourth quarter, resulting in their downfall. Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, they failed to score a touchdown from the inch line despite having several cracks on the ground at getting in. Meanwhile, the Bears can't seem to play respectable football unless they are pitted up against the Packers. Without the Bears having a strong defense (other than when they face the Packers), they lose the edge to the Saints when it comes to a shootout-type game. The Saints have a crack at the postseason still, but they won't get it when they see the Vikings and/or Redskins win later in the day. Saints 27, Bears 24

San Francisco 49ers vs. Cleveland Browns. In an unusual situation that may be an NFL-first, the Browns control the sixth seed in the AFC heading into Week 17, but whether they win or lose, they don't control their own fate. Still, the Browns are heading into this game preparing like they will be in the postseason the following week: that means no Brady Quinn, and a lot of Derek Anderson again. The Browns have been a below-average NFL team on the road this year, as displayed in their losses to the Bengals and Raiders this season. However, they've been one of the NFL's best teams at home and could break a team record by winning seven at home this weekend. The 49ers are trying to build a three-game winning streak to boost their confidence heading into next season, but that will have to come without the guy who has gotten them here: Shaun Hill. Chris Weinke will start due to Hill's injury, and that is worst than having Trent Dilfer under center. Browns 30, 49ers 16

Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers. The Packers can mail it in if they so choose to against the Lions, but I can't see that happening. While there shouldn't be too much concern for the letdown to the Chicago Bears in Week 16, it'd be a negative for the Packers mentally to head into the postseason knowing they just got blown out by two non-playoff teams in their own division. The Lions were happy to end their losing streak last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, but it wasn't in the most convincing fashion over the Kansas City Chiefs. Jon Kitna won't find the success he needs early in the game on the road against the Packers' press coverage defense. Packers 27, Lions 23

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans. Had the Texans built up some more momentum earlier this season and not been without Andre Johnson, perhaps this would've been the Sunday Night game everyone would've been talking about. When you look at the Jaguars' record, it's hard to imagine how they lost four games this season with how well they've played. What you have to consider is that two of their losses came against the Indianapolis Colts: in other words, put this team in another division and they may be looking at a first-round bye coming up. Like the Seahawks, you'd imagine that David Garrard and company want to keep their momentum going, and what better of a way than against a Texans team that is still pretty good all around? Jaguars 24, Texans 17 UPDATE: Due to the Jaguars not activating any starters, I am taking the Texans to win now.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Miami Dolphins. On paper, the Dolphins are primed for success when it comes to facing AFC North teams. They lost to Cleveland by ten points only, lost to the Steelers by three points only, and beat the Ravens with a touchdown in overtime. Could they go 2-2 against the division when they battle the Bengals this Sunday? I think that'd be wishful thinking. The Bengals are still underachievers, but they aren't putting the minor league talent on the field that the Ravens and Dolphins are. Bengals 31, Dolphins 10

Buffalo Bills vs. Philadelphia Eagles. If you're looking for a game that doesn't have playoff implications but will still be very competitive, then this is your game of the week. Both the Bills and the Eagles have nothing to lose and would love nothing more than to get a victory on the board to close out the season. Also, the winner of this club will finish with a .500 record, which is something to at least claim respectability on. The Eagles' defense has gotten them back to being competitive in recent weeks, along with slightly improved play from quarterback Donovan McNabb. The Bills' run defense is suspect, and I don't think Trent Edwards will handle the Eagles' defense well enough on the road. Eagles 20, Bills 12

Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I hope I haven't been making a mistake by selecting too many of the "better" teams to win this week. When it comes to attitude, the Buccaneers have a different approach. They will try to win against the Panthers, but Jon Gruden knows what his team is capable of with Jeff Garcia under center and the defense ready to explode. Ending the season with two straight losses can be frowned upon, but there's a vibe in Tampa Bay that provides a sense of comfort in that win or lose these types of games, it'll have no negative effect come playoff time. Panthers 14, Buccaneers 10

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens. To be fair, the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to match the Baltimore Ravens and play their second- and third-stringers against them this Sunday. Charlie Batch vs. Troy Smith. Najeh Davenport vs. Willis McGahee. Believe it or not though, the Steelers still need to treat this game seriously: the Chargers are very capable of upsetting the Colts and/or Patriots, and Pittsburgh still has a shot at the third seed. The Steelers' backups are 100 times better than the Ravens backups though, so it's a moot point either way. Steelers 28, Ravens 6

St. Louis Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals. Ah, how lovely...Kurt Warner faces his former team again. The Cardinals got the better of the Rams earlier this season, and without their offense dying down, chances are the Cardinals will win and end the season at 8-8. In the offseason, the Rams can finally regroup and dissect everything that went wrong in their 2007 season. Cardinals 34, Rams 20

San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders. All of hell is breaking loose: JaMarcus Russell is going to start his first NFL game this week. It's too bad it won't mean much; maybe if Lane Kiffin would've started him several weeks earlier, we would've had a productive Russell to look forward to. Instead, I'd expect to see the same multiple-turnover Russell that we saw last week as the Chargers will roll again with LaDainian Tomlinson reaching 100 yards before halftime. Chargers 41, Raiders 21

Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets. You can't help but laugh knowing that before the season started, this was the "placeholder" Week 17 game for NBC for Sunday Night Football. And, you can't help but shake your head that both of these teams were wildcard teams last year. Go on, soak that fact in for awhile, because both of these teams seem far from being postseason contenders this year. The Chiefs can't find a way to win right now, while the Jets have looked better in defeat. This week, the Jets will look good in victory. Jets 21, Chiefs 16


Last week, I took the Cowboys to beat the Panthers to improve my survivor streak to seven straight wins. This week, I hope to achieve perfection in the second half of the season. This is a tough pick, because you never quite know what will go on with all of the backups and such. I'm actually not eligible to pick many teams this week either because I've already used them. I'd rather put my money on a game where we won't see backups: Buffalo vs. Philadelphia. My pick was the Eagles, so they are my survivor pick.

Predictions Record to Date: 159-81 (With just one win this week, I will have tied my record from last season.)
Last Week: 11-5 (Still looking good.)
Survivor Streak: Won 7 (Min over Atl, Den over Oak, Car over Atl, [NYJ over Buf], Ari over StL, Cle over Mia, Cin over NYJ, NYG over Mia, [SD over Min], Sea over SF, Ind over KC, Pit over Mia, NE over Bal, GB over Oak, TB over Atl, and Dal over Car.)
Survivor Record: 14-2

The regular season will be finished after Sunday, and I'll be back for all of my in-depth postseason previews next week. Be sure to stay tuned to Pro Football Critics for all of the content needed to get you ready for gameday!

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