By Josh Kramer
This is it folks. After a very uncertain off-season, the 2011/2012 NFL season has lived up to all of the hype and more. Without question, it has been the “Year of the Quarterback,” defined by guys like Tebow, Rodgers, Brees, Newton, Brady, and more. As is usually the case, there is still plenty to be determined in Week 17, with three playoff spots still available. Plus the winner of the second annual “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge” must be determined. Grab your popcorn, because the season finale will be fun.
As has become the tradition, we are once again having “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge.”
The participants this season are as follows:
TheSportsKraze (TSK) (defending champion)-Josh Kramer-Founder/Editor-In-Chief of “TheSportsKraze” and former ESPN intern.
CV3-Chad Vordenberge-An elite high school wide receiver and a very successful business owner.
CB-Craig Baker-A former collegiate baseball player and current special education teacher.
DC-David Clark-A dedicated sports fan who was coached by TheSportsKraze on his fraternity flag football team. After playing for TheSportsKraze, he has developed a slow but steady motivation to show his coach who the real pick’em champion is.
After Week 16, here is the scoreboard.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: Cam Newton and Drew Brees have both had magical years. Brees owns the Superdome though as the Saints look to nab the number two seed in the NFC.
Buffalo Bills (CB) at New England Patriots (TSK, CV3, DC)
Chicago Bears (CV3) at Minnesota Vikings (CB, TSK, DC)
-The Word: Things have not gone to plan for either of these teams that many considered contenders back in September. Minnesota snapped their six-game losing streak last week. Can Chicago snap theirs at the Metrodome?
New York Jets (CB, TSK) at Miami Dolphins (CV3, DC)
-The Word: The Jets must win this game if they want even a prayer at making the playoffs. Maybe Rex should tone down the talking a bit?
San Francisco 49ers (CB, TSK, CV3, DC) at St. Louis Rams
-The Word: Many considered St. Louis the playoff “contender” and the 49ers the playoff “pretender” back in September. The roles have been completely reversed.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: Rodgers and the Packers embarrassed Detroit in front of the entire world on Thanksgiving Day. With home field already locked up for Green Bay, perhaps Suh and Co. can save face at Lambeau.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: Rex Grossman and Vince Young were both very wrong about where they saw their respective teams going back in the pre-season. At least the “Dream Team” appears to have finally gotten their act together.
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: The two AFC South bottom feeders. Should Indy just “Lose for Luck?”
Tennessee Titans (CB, TSK) at Houston Texans (CV3, DC)
-The Word: Tennessee is fighting for their playoff lives while Houston looks to right the ship before the playoffs and avoid a three-game losing streak.
Seattle Seahawks (CB, DC) at Arizona Cardinals (TSK, CV3)
-The Word: 8 and 8 looks a whole lot better than 7 and 9 any day. Which team will end up 500?
Kansas City Chiefs (TSK) at Denver Broncos (CB, CV3, DC)
-The Word: Welcome to the “Orton Redemption Bowl” at Mile High.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: I am at a loss for words regarding Tampa Bay. Could this ten win team of a year ago seriously end the year on a ten game losing streak?
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: Win and you’re in. It is as simple as that for the Bengals.
Pittsburgh Steelers (CB, TSK, CV3, DC) at Cleveland Browns
-The Word: A once great rivalry has sadly become a very one-sided affair.
San Diego Chargers (CB. DC) at Oakland Raiders (TSK, CV3)
-The Word: Can Carson Palmer give Raider nation a chance at the playoffs with a victory?
Dallas Cowboys (CB, DC) at New York Giants (TSK, CV3)
-The Word: Winner takes the NFC East. This game could define Tony Romo’s career.
Game of the Week: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
-Choosing a “Game of the Week” in Week 17 is never an easy task by any means. So much on the line. Playoff implications pretty much across the board. But I have to go with the hometown team this time, though the Cowboys/Giants showdown is a very close 2nd. Many had projected the Cincinnati Bengals to be the worst team in the NFL in 2011/2012. They felt as if Andy Dalton was walking into a major trap, and would succumb to the same fate that many past highly drafted Cincinnati quarterbacks had. Guys such as Dave Klingler, Akili Smith, and dare I say Carson Palmer. Well many were wrong. If the Cincinnati Bengals win, they are in. A postseason berth for the second time in the past three years.
-Sadly for Cincinnati, their opponent is arguably the best team in the AFC and a team with a lot riding on this game as well. No starters will be sitting in this one. Cincinnati struggled at Baltimore in Week 11. The game being at Paul Brown on Sunday will help, but it will not take away from the physicality in this one. Cincinnati is just 4 and 3 at home this year, and does not exactly match up well with a very talented Ravens team. Though it should be known that the Baltimore Ravens are just 3 and 4 on the road this year. Look for Baltimore lightning bolt Torrey Smith to once again provide the spark that makes the game a nail-biter. But also look for the Bengals A.J. Green and the stout Cincinnati defense to extinguish the flame, giving Cincinnati a playoff berth in front of a sold out Paul Brown Stadium!
Stat of the Week:
–In honor of Michael Jordan getting engaged yesterday to the beautiful Yvette Prieto, this week’s number is 23. The last time these two bitter rivals (Ravens and Bengals) squared off at M&T Stadium, the Bengals had 23 first downs. Baltimore only had 13. Despite 23 first downs, Cincinnati still went home a loser. I am going to go out on a limb and say that if the Bengals are unable to get more than 23 first downs on Sunday, they will not win this game.
CV3: Big playoff implications on the line this week. Many of these matchups will have a playoff game atmosphere. Hopefully the Bengals can pull it out with a packed stadium!
CB: In just the Bengals third winning season in 21 years, the Bengals have a rare opportunity at the playoffs. I look for Sunday’s game against the Ravens to be a slugfest. Not only can the Ravens win the AFC North with a win, but also the number one seed in the AFC. The intensity and atmosphere will be just as if this was a playoff game. I look for the Bengals to come away victorious as Andy Dalton and A.J. Green lead the Bengals to the playoffs in their first full season as pros.
DC: Make sure you do not make New Year’s Eve too late of a night because the NFL is rolling out 2012 with a dandy of a final week. With playoff considerations galore, your New Year’s resolution of “getting fit” will need to subside one more day because you need to be on your couch all day Sunday. In the AFC, I think the Bengals get it done at home in front of (finally) a sellout crowd. The Bengals will allow the NFL’s actuaries to get some sleep Sunday night by wrapping up the final spot in the playoffs. With the Steelers pounding the woeful Browns and the Patriots taking care of the Bills at home, I like the AFC to turn out like this: Patriots, Steelers, Texans, Broncos, Ravens, Bengals. The AFC semis may contain 3 squads from the AFC North. In the NFC, I think Romo puts the critics to bed with a big win in New York. Therefore, I think the NFC playoff picture looks like this: Packers, 49ers, Saints, Cowboys, Lions, Falcons. Is there a better way to start off the New Year than by watching a bunch of great NFL players put it all on the line for playoff seeds? Happy New Year to all and to the Giants, Jets, Titans, and Raiders: good night.
TSK: Multiple “Win and you’re in games” across the board. This is why Week 17 is always unforgettable. This is where the boys are truly separated from the men. If Cincinnati wins, they are in. When the G-Men take on the ‘Boys at the Meadowlands, the winner plays on. If Tebow is able to outmaneuver the man who once was the starter ahead of him (Kyle Orton), the Broncos will march on. Enjoy what should be a very fun season finale.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.