It's Week 17, the playoffs are right around the corner, and for two lucky teams, they actually start Sunday night! For the second straight year, we've got ourselves a play-in game to decide the final division winner, and this year it's the Cowboys and Giants doing the fighting on Sunday Night Football.
And before we get started, I just want to say that if there were any justice in the world, neither of these teams would make the playoffs, and Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers would be grandfathered into the postseason for the sake of the game. If David Stern were running the NFL, this would have happened six weeks ago. Alas...
Someone has to win the NFC East, so that means Sunday's showdown is essentially a playoff game. Here's where we remind you that it was flexed into NBC's Sunday night slot. That's important, because it means the Cowboys are probably f'ing DOOMED.
Just look at the recent history for Dallas on NBC:
9/12, 2010 -- Lost 13-7 at Washington. Game-winning touchdown was reversed thanks to a holding penalty, and the Redskins' only touchdown of the night came on a 32-yard fumble return when Dallas attempted a screen pass on their own 30-yard line as time expired in the first half.
11/7, 2010 -- Lost 45-7 at Green Bay. The most humiliating performance of the season, and the game that ultimately got Wade Phillips fired, paving the way for Jason Garrett's ascendance. Careful what you wish for...
12/12, 2010 -- Lost 30-27 vs. Philadelphia. After keeping it close and even taking the lead in the third quarter, Dallas fell behind for good thanks to a DeSean Jackson TD, part of a 191-yard night where Jackson and Michael Vick made a mockery of the Dallas secondary.
9/11, 2011 -- Lost 27-24 at New York Jets. Tony Romo fumbled away the touchdown that would've had sealed the game. The Jets blocked a punt to give them a touchdown and the tie. Romo threw an interception that set up a field goal for the Jets win. The gold standard for Sunday Night meltdowns.
10/30, 2011 -- Lost 34-7 at Philadelphia. Dallas was down 24-0 at halftime, and it felt like it should have been twice that.
12/11/2011 -- Lost 37-34 vs. New York Giants. The Cowboys had a 12-point lead late in the fourth quarter, only to surrender two touchdown drives and a two-point conversion in the final 3:41 to give the Giants a three-point lead. Not content with mere collapse, the Cowboys actually got into field goal range and Dan Bailey made a game-tying kick ... only to have it waved off because of a Giants timeout. The re-kick was blocked.
The implication is pretty clear; given the Sunday Night context, history suggests the Cowboys won't just lose in New York, but it'll happen in the most spectacular way possible. Either a humiliating blowout, or a gut-wrenching, mind-boggling feat of incompetence the likes of which the NFL's never really seen before. Prepare yourselves accordingly.
Having said all that... I'm a Dallas fan, Romo plays better when he's hurt, and f**k Cris Collinsworth. In Dez We Trust. Here's to betting they're due to break through... The pick: Dallas.
With that, let's get into the rest of Sunday's picks... We went 9-5-1 last week, bringing our overall record to 112-101-4 on the year. In other words, all we have to do is go 3-13 this week, and we reach the stated goal of .500 for the year. Three and thirteen, you guys. That can be done!
We'll be quick with these. All picks in BOLD.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville (-3.5) ... Lotta depressing games this week, but none quite as soul crushing as this one. You know how depressing it must be to play in one of those random bowls before Christmas? In front of like 4,000 fans, on ESPN2 with like a 6 pm kickoff? Sponsored by a baked potato or a some obscure website? This game is all that and worse.
Tennessee at Houston (+2.5) ... Chris Johnson still has no idea who "Mike Munchak" is.
Detroit at Green Bay (+3) ... Does Detroit keep Ndamukong off the field for this one to make sure he doesn't get suspended? No, because we haven't reached that point yet.
But we're close, right?
San Francisco at St. Louis (+12) ... Can't wait to bet against Alex Smith in the playoffs.
Washington at Philadelphia (-9.5) ... Feel like the Skins have one more meaningless, draft-killing win in them, and lord knows Andy Reid's Eagles probably have one more epic disappointment in 'em.
Carolina at New Orleans (-9.5) ... Cam! Breesus! This game should happen four times-a-season for the next five years.
Buffalo at New England (-11.5) ... The Patriots have gotta be the worst "Best Team In The AFC" we've seen... maybe ever, really. And we still don't know whether this is a credit to Belichick or a strike against him.
Chicago at Minnesota (PK) ... Adrian Peterson having his knee explode during a meaningless game between two hopeless franchises in December is why watching the NFL can sometimes be super depressing. The NFL needs more trade demands.
New York Jets at Miami (-1.5) ... There are a lot of reasons you should be reading Drew Magary's Jambarooo every week, but his takedowns of Greggggg Easterbrook are absolutely at the top of that list:
"That's why Tuesday Morning Quarterback lauds hard work and determination on the part of football players who were not born into success, but reached success through constant effort. They set a good example."
WHAT THE F**K IS WRONG WITH THIS MAN? Since when is being a first-round pick or winning a lucrative free agent contract a birthright? Adrian Peterson's father was in prison for the majority of his adolescence. His brother was killed by a drunk driver. Do you think that Peterson was any less dedicated to become a pro football player than an undrafted success like Arian Foster?
Kansas City at Denver (-3.5) ... KYLE ORTON GETS REVENGE!
San Diego at Oakland (-2.5) ... Still holding out hope for a Raiders Super Bowl run.
Seattle at Arizona (-1.5) ... #EuthanizeTavaris.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland (OFF) ... #EuthanizeCleveland.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-13) ... Why do they even play a game like this?
Baltimore at Cincinnati (PK) ... Sure Andy Dalton's overrated, but Joe Flacco is REALLY overrated. And the Bengals defense, at home, is good enough to make this work. And yes, that means we're getting three AFC North teams in the playoffs this year. Just goes to show... Uh... Well, the AFC was really awful this year.
Also: The NFL is really, really awesome sometimes. Enjoy the games!