We'll combine two posts this week. These are the Week 17 picks, but as we go game-by-game, we'll update playoff scenarios.
Last week: 8-6-2
Colts at Jaguars
For the Colts, it's simple. Win and they're in the postseason for the seventh season in a row. Indy doesn't have a shot at the division. Even though the Colts could conceivably tie the Titans with a 12-4 record, they would lose the tiebreak. That means Indy is likely looking at the No. 5 seed and a date in Denver, owners of the 27th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. I don't think it's often that road teams are favorites in the playoffs, but you'd have to give Peyton Manning and company the edge in that matchup.
The pick: Colts (-6.5)
Ravens at Cowboys
When you put together ESPN, Terrell Owens and Stephen A. Smith, any number of jokes can be made. But my favorite part was ESPN's promotion of the "exclusive interview." As if they had to fight long and hard to get T.O. to talk about himself. I'm pretty sure any reporter/blogger/radio host in America (and probably other countries) can land Owens for an interview without too much effort. Anyway, back to football. The Cowboys control their own destiny. At 9-5, they are tied with the Bucs and Falcons in the wild card race. If Dallas wins out, it's in by count of tiebreakers. The Cowboys, of course, face the Eagles in Week 17. The Ravens are in the same position: win out and you're in. Baltimore is 9-5 and has the Jaguars in Week 17.
The pick: Cowboys (-4)
Steelers at Titans
Two schools of thought on the Steelers. One, they could have easily lost to the Chargers, Cowboys and twice to the Ravens. That would have put them at 7-7 and on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. Or two, they find ways to win those close games, and that's what good teams do. It can only help them in the postseason. Both these teams have already clinched their divisions and first-round byes. I lean towards the latter. What's at stake here is the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field throughout.
The pick: Steelers (-2)
Dolphins at Chiefs
Include Miami in the "control their own destiny" category. With wins over the Chiefs and the Jets in the final two weeks of the season, the Dolphins improbably take the AFC East after going 1-15 a year ago. If they lose this week, the Dolphins still have a chance, but they'd need to beat the Jets in Week 17 and get help from either the Ravens or the Patriots. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are looking at a top-five pick, and Herm Edwards could be looking at his final days as K.C.'s head coach.
The pick: Dolphins (-4)
49ers at Rams
Time for MC's Pick of the Week. MC is 6-9 on the season.
Look for the Rams to make it 9 losses in a row.
The pick: 49ers (-5.5)
Cardinals at Patriots
The Cardinals have clinched the NFC West, but have convinced no one that they're a real threat in the NFC. They have no shot at a first-round bye since the Giants and Panthers have 11 wins already. That means Arizona will host a wild-card game. The Patriots' picture is a little more cloudy. To win the division, New England needs to win its remaining two games and hope the Jets and Dolphins each finish 1-1. For a wild card, the Pats need to win out and have the Ravens go 1-1 or have the Colts go 0-2. If New England goes 1-1 in its remaining two games, it needs either the Ravens or the Jets or Dolphins to go 0-2 to get in. Confused yet? I am. Let's move on.
The pick: Patriots (-7.5)
Bengals at Browns
When you hear the words Braylon Edwards and Deadspin, you think Costas Now. Speaking of which, funny blog post by David Murphy over at High Cheese about the show. Anyway, Edwards had some interesting things to say to the Web site: "I've learned being here that I'm very unappreciated. Not in the organization, just in the eyes of the fans, the city. Since Day One I've been a marked man coming from Michigan. It's just gone that way. Even when things are good, there's heckles." However, before Eagles fans get excited, he says he wants to stay in Cleveland.
The pick: Bengals (+3)
Eagles at Redskins
I feel like I've explained the Eagles' playoff scenario about 32 times on the blog, but I feel like some of you are still confused. It's very easy: win out and hope the Bucs or Falcons drop one of their final two games. And you're in. I think the Eagles win ugly this week, causing fans to say "Who cares if they make the playoffs? They're not going anywhere." But inside, we'll all be thinking "Beat Dallas, please beat Dallas, PLEASE!" How's that for analysis?
The pick: Redskins (+5)
Falcons at Vikings
Speaking of which, this is one of the games to keep an eye on for Eagles fans. Let's start with Minnesota. The Vikings are NFC North champs with a win or a Bears loss. They would be looking at a potential No. 3 or 4 seed and a first-round game against one of the wild-card teams in Minnesota. And then there's the Falcons. Atlanta can clinch a playoff spot with a win and help from the Bucs, Cowboys and Eagles. Contrary to popular belief, they do not control their own destiny. Even if the Falcons win out, they will be on the outside looking in if the Bucs and Cowboys win their final two games. It's a monster game on the road. I think Matt Ryan adds to his already impressive rookie resume and leads the Falcons to a win.
The pick: Falcons (+3)
Saints at Lions
With their loss to the Bears last week, the Saints' season ended, and maybe so did Drew Brees' MVP campaign. The Lions are down to their final two chances for a win. Next week is another team playing for nothing in the Packers. I think this could be the week the Lions do it. The Saints are crushed, have to travel from New Orleans to Detroit and should be generally disinterested. I'm saying that's enough.
The pick: Lions (+7)
Panthers at Giants
This is the NFC's answer to Steelers at Titans. The Panthers clinch the NFC South, the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory. The Giants, meanwhile, already have the division locked up but need the win to get the No. 1 seed, which looks to be very important, considering the recent injuries they've suffered. The Panthers have impressed me the last couple of weeks, putting together the punishing ground game that made people anoint the Giants NFC favorites earlier in the season. Plus they have a game-changer in Steve Smith.
The pick: Panthers (+3)
Jets at Seahawks
And to round out the AFC East confusion, let's break down the Jets. New York controls its own destiny. Wins over the Seahawks and the Dolphins would give the Jets the AFC East. But as Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. The Jets have made three trips to the west coast this season: a 48-29 loss to the Chargers; a 16-13 loss to the Raiders; and a 24-14 loss to the 49ers.
The pick: Seahawks (+4.5)
Texans at Raiders
If this were college, the Texans would be the hot team everyone wants in a high-profile bowl game despite their overall record. Houston has won four in a row, even though only one of those victories came against a playoff team -- last week against the Titans.
The pick: Raiders (+7)
Bills at Broncos
The Broncos clinch the AFC West with a win or a Chargers loss. Denver has shown little consistency all season, falling 30-10 to the Panthers last week after back-to-back wins over the Jets and Chiefs. Jay Cutler vs. Peyton Manning on wild-card weekend? That's something I might be interested in.
The pick: Broncos (-6.5)
Chargers at Bucs
This is the other game Eagles fans should keep their eyes on. And I think this could be your best shot. The Bucs have gotten beat up on the ground in back-to-back losses to the Panthers and Falcons. Meanwhile, Jeff Garcia is questionable. The Chargers need a win and a Broncos loss to stay alive.
The pick: Chargers (+3.5)
Packers at Bears
And finally the Monday night matchup. Think Brett Favre will get a mention in this one? Green Bay is done. Chicago is not. Well, not yet. The Bears' best chance at getting in is probably two wins to end the season, and two Vikings losses. That would give Chicago the division. The Bears would lose a potential tiebreaker with Minnesota. As for the wild card, the Bears would have to leap three of four of the teams ahead of them (Eagles, Bucs, Cowboys, Falcons).
The pick: Bears (-4)