Well, it’s officially over.
With an eight-game gap and one week of games left, MDS and yours truly disagree on only five games. Which means that, even if MDS sweeps, I’ll still be three games ahead. (Math continues to be my strong suit.)
Of course, if I sweep I’ll finish with a 13-game lead. And based on the five disagreements, I think I will.
Read on to see our picks and our takes for the final week of the regular season. It all re-sets to 0-0 for the playoffs, at which time MDS will have a chance to exact revenge. Or to fail again.
Last week, I was 11-5 and MDS went 10-6. For the year, I’m now at 157-82-1, good for 65.4 percent. MDS is 149-90-1, which keeps him at 62.0 percent.
Buccaneers at Falcons
MDS’s take: The Falcons wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but they say they’re playing to win in Week 17. They shouldn’t have much trouble winning against the Bucs, who have collapsed at the end of the season.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 34, Buccaneers 13.
Florio’s take: The Bucs haven’t been the same team since they nearly beat the Falcons in Tampa. The Falcons are still trying to prove that they’re one of the best teams in the league.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17.
Jets at Bills
MDS’s take: Football fans, the Greg McElroy–Ryan Fitzpatrick quarterback matchup you’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Fitzpatrick will throw a couple of touchdown passes in what may be his final start in Buffalo.
MDS’s pick: Bills 20, Jets 10.
Florio’s take: The Jets have folded the tents, even though the circus is still in town. Buffalo celebrates the news of a new lease with a home win to end the season, just in time for plenty of changes.
Florio’s pick: Bills 27, Jets 14.
Ravens at Bengals
MDS’s take: At first glance this might look like a big game, matching up two playoff teams. But with the Bengals locked into the No. 6 seed and the Ravens highly likely to end up with the No. 4 seed, neither of these teams has a lot to play for. I think the Ravens, however, will be a little more motivated to build on the momentum from last week’s win over the Giants and will take this one.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 21, Bengals 14.
Florio’s take: This meaningless game has plenty of meaning for the Bengals, who need to convince themselves that they can beat the Ravens, in order to obtain the confidence that they can do something else they haven’t done in an even longer time — win in the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 27, Ravens 20.
Bears at Lions
MDS’s take: In 2000, the Lions were 9-6 heading into Week 17 and needed only to beat the 4-11 Bears to make the playoffs. Instead, the Bears pulled the upset and Lions owner William Clay Ford cleaned house and began the disastrous Matt Millen era. This year it’s the 9-6 Bears who need to beat the 4-11 Lions to have a shot at the playoffs. I’ll take the Lions to get their revenge in an upset.
MDS’s pick: Lions 28, Bears 24.
Florio’s take: Rodney Harrison declared while watching the Lions lose to the Falcons that Detroit’s body language suggests the Lions have quit. The Bears haven’t. Sometimes, it’s that easy.
Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Lions 10.
Texans at Colts
MDS’s take: The Texans are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, while the Colts are already locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Houston has more to play for and is a better team and will win this one going away.
MDS’s pick: Texans 36, Colts 17.
Florio’s take: The Texans have never won in Indianapolis. They need it this time more than ever. But the Colts will have coach Chuck Pagano back, and even if the Colts leave so much on the field that it will make it harder to win in the playoffs, they’ll leave it all on the field to beat the Texans.
Florio’s pick: Colts 27, Texans 23.
Packers at Vikings
MDS’s take: This is the biggest game played in Minnesota since Brett Favre led the Vikings to a divisional playoff win over the Cowboys three years ago. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, they’re hosting a Packers team that’s peaking at the right time. I like Aaron Rodgers to lead the Packers to a high-scoring win.
MDS’s pick: Packers 35, Vikings 27.
Florio’s take: The Vikings are playing for a postseason berth. The Packers are playing for a bye. The Packers remain the better team, and they have every reason to demonstrate that on Sunday. To the delight of the Bears.
Florio’s pick: Packers 34, Vikings 21.
Dolphins at Patriots
MDS’s take: A win probably won’t be enough to earn New England a first-round playoff bye, but the Patriots will be motivated to try — and to wash out the bad taste of back-to-back disappointing performances, in a loss to the 49ers and a close win over the Jaguars.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 41, Dolphins 14.
Florio’s take: The Pats still have a crack at a bye. That’s all the incentive they need to take out the Dolphins for the second time this month.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 34, Dolphins 17.
Panthers at Saints
MDS’s take: It’s a meaningless game for both teams, but that doesn’t make it a bad game: Both of these teams have been playing good football in recent weeks, despite falling short of the playoffs. I like the Panthers to keep their winning streak going and make a statement that they’re a team to keep an eye on in 2013.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Saints 21.
Florio’s take: New Orleans is trying to finish on a high note. And they are succeeding.
Florio’s pick: Saints 34, Panthers 10.
Eagles at Giants
MDS’s take: The Eagles quit on Andy Reid months ago. The Giants have looked in the last couple weeks like they quit on Tom Coughlin. Both of these teams are slouching toward the end of the season, but the Giants have more to play for.
MDS’s pick: Giants 14, Eagles 10.
Florio’s take: The Giants are playing for pride, along with a sliver of hope that they could make it to the playoffs if enough other teams lose. If the Giants find a way in, there’s a pretty good chance they won’t lose again.
Florio’s pick: Giants 27, Eagles 20.
Browns at Steelers
MDS’s take: This game is meaningless, and I’m tempted to pick the Browns on the theory that the Steelers will be feeling a hangover from their disappointing Week 16 loss. But the Browns have gone in the tank over the last couple of weeks, and at this point I’m not sure I’d pick them to win on the road against anyone.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Browns 9.
Florio’s take: The Browns haven’t swept the Steelers since 1988, 11 years before the current edition of the Browns was born. With rampant changes looming in Cleveland, the Steelers still have enough gas in the tank to avoid getting punked by the franchise they’ve owned since 1999 (even though the Browns are now technically owned by a guy who still owns a chunk of the Steelers).
Florio’s pick: Steelers 20, Browns 10.
Jaguars at Titans
MDS’s take: Last time the Titans suffered a humiliating blowout loss and were called out by their owner, they responded by winning the next game. I think they’ll do it again.
MDS’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 14.
Florio’s take: Bud Adams isn’t happy with his coaching staff. He’ll be slightly less unhappy after Sunday, but still unhappy enough to clean house.
Florio’s pick: Titans 27, Jaguars 16.
Chiefs at Broncos
MDS’s take: Knowing they need to win in order to earn a first-round playoff bye, the Broncos will pound the Chiefs, who have nothing to play for other than the first pick in next year’s draft — which Kansas City will earn by losing.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 27, Chiefs 10.
Florio’s take: With 10 straight wins each by at least seven points, the Broncos could be the best team in the playoff field. They’re definitely good enough to continue chasing a bye week.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 34, Chiefs 10.
Raiders at Chargers
MDS’s take: With Norv Turner virtually assured of being fired after the game, his team will send him out a winner in an AFC West contest that doesn’t really matter for much of anything.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 24, Raiders 10.
Florio’s take: Norv Turner has one last chance to change the owner’s mind. It won’t matter.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 24, Raiders 10.
Cardinals at 49ers
MDS’s take: San Francisco will shake off Sunday night’s thrashing in Seattle to clinch the NFC West.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Cardinals 3.
Florio’s take: The Niners are on the brink of squandering the NFC West title that we were ready to hand them back in September. If they can’t beat the Cardinals and Brian Hoyer at home, San Fran doesn’t even deserve to be in the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 31, Cardinals 13.
Rams at Seahawks
MDS’s take: No one wants to play the Seahawks right now. They’re destroying everything in their paths. The Rams will be no different.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 45, Rams 7.
Florio’s take: The Seahawks, who lost their first round of NFC West games, have been exacting revenge in a big way. They finish the job on Sunday.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 41, Rams 17.
Cowboys at Redskins
MDS’s take: In the biggest game of the day, the Cowboys will ride Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to a high-scoring win. I suspect that Robert Griffin III is hurting more than he’s letting on and won’t be able to move as effectively as he did in the Redskins’ Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys. Dallas will take the NFC East crown.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 31, Redskins 28.
Florio’s take: For the second straight year, the NFC East title game returns to prime time in Week 17. For the second straight year, the home team advances. For the second straight year, the Cowboys come up short.
Florio’s pick: Redskins 24, Cowboys 21.