You read that title right. This is the final edition of The Opening Drive of the 2013 regular season! Week 17 will settle all of the questions we have surrounding the playoffs as well as the order of the 2014 Draft. Let’s hop into all the games that will be happening Sunday! Are you ready?
(11-4) Carolina Panthers at
(4-11) Atlanta Falcons
The Panthers have a shot to secure the two seed and a first round bye with a win this weekend, and all they have to do is crush the Falcons in what is surely Tony Gonzalez’s last game in the NFL. (Why would he come back after a season like THIS?) Carolina’s front seven will be too much for Atlanta to handle, and I have doubts that the home team’s run defense can slow anyone down either.
(8-7) Baltimore Ravens at
(10-5) Cincinnati Bengals
Cincy’s chance at the two slot in the AFC might be a slim one, but it’s worth putting your guys out there and hoping for a Patriots upset. The Bengals are 7-0 at home this season, a bad sign for the Ravens, who are desperate for a win to extend their season. Cincy’s injured secondary is an issue against Joe Flacco and the long-bomb, but otherwise I feel confident that the Bengals can finish the season by beating a division rival in front of their fans.
(2-13) Houston Texans at
(6-9) Tennessee Titans
As surprising as it may be, the Texans don’t have the number one pick in the draft locked up yet. One more loss will keep them worse than Washington and able to select the QB of their future. If healthy, Case Keenum will start and try to prove he’s worth keeping around as a back-up. At 6-9, Titans head coach Mike Munchak may not have that opportunity, unless this game is dramatically one-sided.
(4-11) Jacksonville Jaguars at
(10-5) Indianapolis Colts
The Colts can actually nab a first round bye if everything shakes their way (NE and CIN losses), and all they have to do is pound on the Jaguars in Indianapolis. This probably won’t be an utter blow-out with the way Gus Bradley motivates his squad, but the Colts are a playoff team that just ran over the Chiefs. The Jaguars shouldn’t be much of a roadblock.
(7-8) New York Jets at
(8-7) Miami Dolphins
Ugh. The fact that Miami is in the chase for the six seed means I have to talk about this AFC East pile of dookie. The Jets have the league’s best run defense and they’ve earned seven wins (thanks to some luck), so Rex Ryan can’t have done that terrible a job this season. That being said, that’s a job to watch on Black Monday. Miami is currently in the driver’s seat for the Wild Card position… kinda. They need help, just like everyone else does. (We’re at the conference record tiebreaker for the teams involved.) A Baltimore loss or a Charger win plus a Dolphins win means Miami gets to be knocked out of round one.
(7-8) Detroit Lions at
(4-10) Minnesota Vikings
The Lions and Vikings will meet in a match-up of NFC North teams that want to end their season on a hi—
I’m sorry, I couldn’t get through that sentence with a straight face. Both of these teams are likely undergoing head coaching changes when Black Monday rolls around. This is just the end of a crappy season for both of them.
(3-12) Washington Offensive Names at
(6-9) New York Giants
Mike Shanahan may be coaching his last game for Washington as they try and avoid sending St. Louis the number one pick in the upcoming draft. Oh how I’ll miss this dysfunction. Tom Coughlin should be safe in New York regardless of the outcome.
(4-11) Cleveland Browns at
(7-8) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers can get into the playoffs at 8-8, if every other team in the race for that spot (Miami, San Diego, Baltimore) also loses. That’s asking a lot for that to happen, but that they were able to rebound from an 0-4 start says a lot about this team. It also makes me look a lot better for predicting a 9-7 record for them. Whew. Cleveland likely “wants” to lose this game so they can get higher in the draft order. And I really don’t blame them.
(12-3) Denver Broncos at
(4-11) Oakland Raiders
As much as the Patriots wish they could get to a one seed, the Raiders are going to throw a wrench in those works… because they’re so freaking terrible. Peyton Manning can use this game to pad his passing touchdown record at the same time he’s going for 5,500 yards. (Which would be a record as well.) And since Dennis Allen (who I’m sure is on the bubble when it comes to keeping his job) decided Terrelle Pryor would be starting the finale, I don’t expect a lot of points from Oakland. It’s like he’s setting the QB up for failure.
(6-9) Buffalo Bills at
(11-4) New England Patriots
The Patriots’ drubbing of the Ravens last weekend gave Bostonians hope for the playoffs. Maybe New England isn’t completely without life! And they’re playing the hapless Bills, who can’t decide what the hell they’re doing. At times Buffalo’s defensive line has been dominant, but that passing game is abysmal. So good luck trying to keep up with Tom Brady.
(4-11) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at
(10-5) New Orleans Saints
So the Saints being at home for their finale obviously increases their likelihood of showing up in the postseason. That they’re playing the Bucs makes that turn into a near certainty, unless they seriously screw the pooch. Brees is best at the Superdome, and Jimmy Graham is a match-up nightmare for the Buccaneers. How do you defend him? You don’t put Revis inside on someone that physical, so what then? Doubling Graham just opens up possibilities for the other Saint receivers as well as the running lanes to the opposite side. Saints should win big here.
(11-4) San Francisco 49ers at
(10-5) Arizona Cardinals
The Niners are hoping the Seahawks falter and allow them a first round bye (they can still get the one seed), but Arizona hasn’t even secured a playoff spot yet. They need help too. (From the Bucs of all teams.) The Cardinals went on the road last week and defeated the Seahawks, and now they’re up against the wall versus one of the best teams in the NFC yet again. Their defense will keep it interesting for four quarters, maybe just enough for the win. There’s a lot riding on this outcome for both sides, so I’m expecting a fantastic game that is decided by Carson Palmer turnovers.
(11-4) Kansas City Chiefs at
(8-7) San Diego Chargers
The Chiefs have officially nothing to play for, as they are locked into the five seed. Andy Reid’s already come out and stated that he’ll have no problem pulling his starters out (Jamaal Charles is a strong candidate). San Diego is still in the hunt for the AFC’s sixth slot, so unless Rivers implodes (which I hope he’ll hold off on until the postseason), the Chargers have a win gift-wrapped for them.
(7-8) St. Louis Rams at
(12-3) Seattle Seahawks
All Seattle has to do is win and they’re the number one seed in the NFC, with every one of their postseason games occuring at Qwest Field. That alone should be impetus enough Pete Carroll’s squad. But the Rams are a tough team, thanks to Jeff Fisher and that imposing defense, which features Robert Quinn, a surefire finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. The Rams are the worst team in the NFC West but they’ve beaten up quite a few teams this season. I like a close game in Seattle, but eventually the Seahawks will come out on top. Kellen Clemens can and will throw interceptions.
(9-6) Philadelphia Eagles at
(8-7) Dallas Cowboys
This Sunday Night Football presentation is for all the marbles, just the way NBC wants it. Unfortunately, it’s also going to be sans Tony Romo, which is not the way NBC wants it. Philly’s defense isn’t so fantastic that Kyle Orton and the Dallas offense can’t put up 20-27 points. I just know how bad the Cowboy defense is, so the Eagles will be able to score at least 40. And that means Dallas wouldn’t make the playoffs. Again.
And that is it! The last regular season edition of The Opening Drive! I’ll try to be back Sunday night with The Final Drive, wrapping you through all the ramifications of the day’s games. Until then, enjoy the games and may the odds be ever in your team’s favor! Unless they’re already eliminated, in which case drink away.