Saturday, 29 December 2012

NFL Predictions: Week 17

An identical (but solid) week of results  means I'm in a strong position going into the final week of the regular season. It's disappointing for the year's football to be almost over for most teams (and it really has flown by) but I'm excited for the post-season, which looks set to be a great one with so many strong teams competing. Most of the divisions are already locked up, but with a week of pure divisional games it should still be a fantastic close to a memorable regular season.

Week 16 = 11-5

Overall = 153-88

Sunday First Wave

Falcons @ Buccaneers
This should be an open and shut case with the Falcons continuing to fly high and the Buccs done. I wouldn’t put it past Tampa to make it competitive though.

DBL Coverage Prediction: Falcons by 7

Jets @ Bills
McElroy did not have an ideal start against the Chargers suffering 11 sacks, and I can't see him getting a much calmer ride in Buffalo. The Jets beat them convincingly very early in the season, but a lot has changed since then.

DBL Coverage Prediction: Bills by 10

Ravens @ Bengals
Tough one to call as both looked very good last Sunday, and the NFC North has already been decided.  Baltimore will have their foot off the gas a little so I like Cincy to grab a very narrow win.

DBL Coverage Prediction:  Bengals by 3

NFL Power Rankings: Week 17

**As always a reminder that my power rankings are not based on who I think is going to win the Super Bowl, but who would be most dangerous to play in week 17. Look out for my SB rankings next week, plus end of season grades for every team.**

1.            Denver Broncos 12-3 (U1)
Denver comfortably beat Cleveland as expected, and move up to the number one slot. 10 games unbeaten is impressive despite their weak schedule, and there’s no reason why they shouldn't make it 11 with a visit from the Chiefs this weekend. The best team in the league is a tumultuous thing to try and pin down, but right now Manning and the Broncos have as good a claim as anyone.

2.            Seattle Seahawks 10-5 (U5)
It’s almost the end of the season, and time to put my money where my mouth is with the Hawks. I've been ahead of the curve in their support all year so it’s only fitting I jump them up to Silver going into the final week. They just smashed the 49ers, and boast a ‘conservative’ run based offense that has put up 40+ points the last few weeks. If there are any Seattle (or Wilson) doubters left, I’d like to hear from them. More plus points are Sherman has just won his appeal and they host the Rams next.

3.            Atlanta Falcons 13-2 (U2)
The Falcons have been in and amongst the top 5 all year, so I think #3 is a fair assessment of where they are now. They’ve just had dominant wins over NY and Detroit and should feel quietly confident going into their final game against Tampa having already secured the #1 seed (they may well rest their stars in this game, so this and all my rankings assume teams field full squads).

4.            New England Patriots 11-4 (D1)
The Pats drop a spot after a lack-lustre win over Jacksonville. They had better hope their last 2 performances have been a blip rather than a slump with the play-offs looming, but are still one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Hosting Miami next should be a relaxed ramp up to the post-season.

5.            Green Bay Packers 11-4 (U1)
The Packers blow out the Titans, moving up to #5. Nothing more needs to be said about A-Rod and co., other than that they are blooming at exactly the right time. They've secured their division and will have all eyes on their post-season chances.

Bowl Season: 29th December

Rice vs Air Force
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl - 16:45 on ESPN

Two 6-6 teams will slug it out in what should be a interesting match up between two strong rushing attacks. Air Force rank second in the nation in rushing yards per game behind their triple option attack whilst Rice offer a much more balanced look but are still very potent on the ground. Rice are riding a four game winning streak, which should give them a lot of confidence coming into the game even if it is off a mediocre Conference-USA schedule.

Players to Watch
Rice: Taylor McHargue, QB 16. The man that does everything under centre, 11 TDs on the ground as well as in the passing game.

Air Force: Cody Getz, #28 RB. In a run game that features a little bit of everyone on offence, Getz has still managed to stand out with a 6.4 yard average on  1213 yards along with his 11 TDs.

Pick: Air Force
Confidence: 16

West Virginia vs Syracuse
New Era Pinstripe Bowl - 20:15 on ESPN

The early season team that everyone was talking about, West Virginia, rolls into New York to take on a Syracuse team that knocked off undefeated Louisville. The Mountaineers high powered offence really let itself down late on in the season and will be looking to help their defence out against a strong Orange Men passing game by putting up a lot of points.

Players to Watch
West Virginia: Geno Smith, QB #12. Video game like numbers and likely the first QB off the board come draft day, if he performs at New Yankee stadium like Marioan usually does, then I think his Mountaineers will win.

Syracuse: Ryan Nassib, QB #12. Here's another guy that will likely get picked up come draft day, albeit a bit later than Smith, he's still a good QB with the ability to post some huge numbers on a weak West Virginia defence.

Pick: West Virginia
Confidence: 22

Navy vs Arizona
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - 21:00 on ESPN

The biggest underdogs of bowl season, Navy, take on a Sundevils team that got embarassed by Boise Sate in bowl season play last year. It's hard to pick against State in this one who have been very solid in all aspects of their game this season, but the men from Navy will certainly make them earn the win.

Players to Watch
Navy: Keenan Reynolds, QB #19. The freshman has been a breath of fresh air since replacing Trey Miller earlier in the season. If he can play within the system and not make too many errors, he might give Navy a good chance of winning this thing.

Arizona State: Brandon Magee, LB #8. A man with over 100 tackles is sure to have a big game stats wise against a very run heavy team.

Pick: Arizona State
Confidence: 15

#23 Texas vs #13 Oregon State
Valero Alamo Bowl - 23:45 on ESPN

A Longhorn team that's had a very up and down year will take on a Beaver squad that's impressed all season and outperformed all expectations. Oregon State rank 15th in the nation in passing yards per games whilst the Texas defence has been a bit of a disappointment for the talent that they have on that side of the ball. Amidst all this, the Longhorns had to send home two players yesterday for violating team rules, one of them being Case McCoy, you hope that Mack Brown finds a way to keep their heads in this game.

Players to Watch
Texas: Johnathan Gray, #32 RB. The freshman will hope to see a lot of touches in his first ever bowl game, he can have a big impact if he gets a good workload.

Oregon State: Sean Mannion, QB #4. The play of Mannion will be paramount to the Beavers success, will have to keep an eye on his turnovers to give his team the best chance possible.

Pick: Oregon State
Confidence: 26

TCU v Michigan State
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl - 03:15 on ESPN

This one is all defence against defence, the biggest thing to watch in the game is how much impact LeVeon Bell will have running the ball on the TCU front. If the Horned Frogs find a way to bottle him up, then they will be in a great position to pull off an upset.

Players to Watch
TCU: Trevone Boykin, QB #2. Having been pressed into action after the suspension of Casey Pachall, Boykin has done a fine job of leading the Horned Frogs. Ball security is key for Boykin against a very aggressive and physical Michigan State front seven.

Michigan State: LeVeon Bell, RB #24. Probably off to the NFL after this game, he is the focal point of the Spartans offence and will look to carry his 266 yards season finale against Minnesota into this one.

Pick: TCU
Confidence: 23

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