12.20.2006

The Office Pool: Week Sixteen

by Rick Rockwell

Right now, like the National Football Conference (NFC) teams, this column is setting lowered expectations: perhaps a return to over .600 by the end of the season. Last week, the trouble was picking too many longshots and underdogs. Have we changed our ways?

Last Week: .562
This Season: .594

Game of the Week: Saints at Giants

The Giants still have the inside track to nab a wildcard playoff spot despite their continued inconsistencies. The Giants have so much talent but apparently they often don't understand the concept of the word "team." This column keeps picking them and they keep losing! So be forewarned Giants fans, we are picking them again because the Saints, despite their incredible run this year as NFC South Champs, are showing some late season fatigue. The Saints are not playing for their survival like the Giants will be in this contest.

Panthers at Falcons

Both of these teams resemble hospital wards with so many injuries one can't even predict who will start at quarterback for either team. If the Giants stumble, the Falcons are right behind, still alive in the playoff race. But Atlanta's quarterback Michael Vick is limping these days. If Vick plays, the Falcons will win. So put me down for Atlanta by a point.

Thursday Night: Vikings at Packers

Believe it or not, both of these teams with losing records are still alive in the NFC playoff scramble. The Vikings just benched their starting quarterback Brad Johnson though. Look for the Packers to win on the tundra in Lambeau.

Cardinals at 49ers

Last week, the die-hard 49ers fans emerged to let us know their team is still alive too in the NFC race. Some are actually picking them to win out and win their division. Here's where that possibility gets more juice. San Francisco should edge the inept Cardinals in a close one.

Buccaneers at Browns

This is the hardest game to predict this week, because who knows what these underachieving teams will produce. The Bucs woke up in the fourth quarter last week and gave the Bears a scare. The Browns have shown signs of life too for a quarter or so. After promising he was sticking with his rookie quarterback, Tampa's Coach Jon Gruden backtracked and is now starting Tim Rattay. Rattay looked sharp against the Bears. But playing at home, the Browns will find a way to win.

Bengals at Broncos

Both of these teams have the inside track on the American Football Conference (AFC) wildcard playoff race. No matter which one loses, likely they both will be contending to the end of the season. The Bengals looked clueless on Monday night against the Colts and Mile High can be unforgiving to visiting teams at this time of year. Even with rookie Jay Cutler at the helm as quarterback, the Broncos come up winners.

Patriots at Jaguars

The Jaguars are fierce at home, but their running backs are limping. The Patriots know how to close and if they don't put the Jaguars down here they could be facing them again in January. The Patriots are still trying to find their midseason rhythm, but with some tough defense this should be a low scoring match with the Patriots winning by a touchdown.

Christmas: Eagles at Cowboys

The resurgent Eagles still have visions they can win the division championship. The Cowboys won't be so giving though on this Christmas evening. These teams have some of the best offenses in the conference, so look for both to put up points. But quarterback Tony Romo (who was just named to the Pro Bowl squad!) should hook up on enough touchdown plays to put the Eagles in their place. Dallas by a touchdown.

Christmas Night: Jets at Dolphins

Talk about inconsistency: the Dolphins can shut out the division leaders one week and then stumble to an ugly loss the next (with a quarterback who registered a zero for a quarterback rating). The Jets are playing to stay in the AFC wildcard race. In an upset, the Dolphins should end those dreams behind one of the conference's best defenses.

Ravens at Steelers

The Ravens thought they had knocked the Steelers out of the playoff hunt the last time these teams played. But the World Champs have finally found their groove. If the Ravens don't want to see the Steelers in January, they had better take care of business here. The Ravens should win in a close one.

Titans at Bills

Both of these teams have been big surprises down the stretch. Even if rookie sensation Vince Young at quarterback can't get it done, the Titans are winning with defense and strong special teams. Even in the cold, the Titans will roll.

Washington at Rams

Welcome to this week's Disappointment Bowl. Both of these teams have the talent to be in the playoffs but they have consistently proved they can't put it together at the right time. Perhaps DC's favorites have finally found their formula though, winning with tough defense and a dominating ground attack against the Saints last week. Look for Coach Joe Gibbs and his team to be smiling after this one with another late season win.

Colts at Texans

After dismantling the Bengals, the Colts seem to have their winning formula back. Here's another tune-up game, as they play for a playoff bye week.

Chargers at Seahawks

The folks in Seattle are hoping this game is a preview of a potential Super Bowl match-up. My guess is this is the only time this season these teams will meet though. The Seahawks look lost lately. After the Chargers stomp on the Seahawks this week, it will just give those 49ers fans more false hope.

Saturday Night: Chiefs at Raiders

The Raiders look like they are playing to challenge Detroit for the top college draft pick. The Raiders are having one of their worst seasons in 45 years. Meanwhile the Chiefs are frustrated after muffing a chance to stay in the playoff hunt. They should win in Oakland although it will take more than that to get them firmly back into the playoff race.

Bears at Lions

Last week the Bears found a way to make the Laugher Bowl into the only overtime game in the league. But the Lions don't want to disappoint too much: if they win, they hand Oakland the inside track for the top draft pick. The Bears need to let quarterback Rex Grossman continue to work the kinks out. This should be a runaway, but maybe these teams will make it interesting. Either way, the Bears should notch another win.

Enjoy the viewing and the holidays!




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2 comments:

Dan said...

We agreed on 11, disagreed on five (Chargers, Skins, Titans, Ravens, Pats), and you're almost certainly right about the Chargers -- I don't know what the hell I was thinking picking the Seahawks, honestly. Ravens, too... And Patriots...

Rick Rockwell said...

Dan...

Indeed, the NFL is difficult to predict this year, at least for some of us. Lots of inconsistency. Good luck with those special 11 picks.

And thanks for all your comments. Leave a link next time and we'll check out some of your picks.

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