by Robert Ferringo - 12/29/2005
Unless you've been under a rock, you know who needs to win and who is playing for what in the key games of Week 17. Bu there's still work to be done and knowledge to be shared. Here are some things to keep in mind entering the final week of the regular season:
1) Don't get crazy.
Whether you've had a strong year thus far or you're trying to make up some ground, don't do anything stupid. By "stupid" I mean throwing half your stack on what seems like an obvious play because one team needs to win and the other isn't playing for anything but pride and a paycheck.
I learned this lesson the hard way last season when Buffalo got bludgeoned by Pittsburgh's third-string. The Bills were at home, needing a win for a Wild Card slot, against a team that was resting its starters. I bet over half of my season winnings on the Bills. It was a "sure thing". Not so much. They lost 29-24. Worst gambling moment of my life.
2) The Patriots DO NOT want to steal the No. 3 seed.
Don't think that Bill Belichick won't be keeping an eye on the Cincinnati score. If the Bengals lose and the Patriots win, New England will slide into third position and give them a first-round rematch with the Steelers. There's no chance - and I mean no chance - the Patriots could win against the Steelers, at Denver, and at Indianapolis in consecutive weeks to go back to the Super Bowl. Their odds are much better taking on the Jags, facing a rusty Indy team, and then taking on Pittsburgh or Denver.
3) The Bears have a quarterback issue - again.
So, Chicago goes back to Rex Grossman and the offense finally finds a rhythm. The Bears already have the two-seed wrapped up, so what do they do this weekend in Minnesota? Do they switch back to Kyle Orton to protect Grossman, who has gotten injured in each of his three seasons?
4) Which team will choke?
Pittsburgh, Carolina and Washington each control their own playoff destiny. But does that mean they'll all get in? Also, New York and Tampa Bay are both one win away from a division title and a home game. Will they both hold up? This is the NFL. Nothing ever goes according to plan. The question is which team will blow it?
Without further ado, here are my Week 17 Power Rankings:
1) Indianapolis (13-2) - How could they fall so far, so fast. I refuse to bump them out of the top spot because of two shady losses.
2) Denver (12-3) - The Broncos are this year's money team at 10-4-1 ATS. Linebacker Al Wilson (broken finger) will be fine and ready to go in the playoffs.
3) Seattle (13-2) - Shaun Alexander will start on Sunday in his quest for the touchdown record. He scored three times in his last trip to Green Bay.
4) Pittsburgh (10-5) - Rumor has it that this will be Jerome Bettis' final home game. Sources close to The Bus have let out that he intends to retire following this season.
5) Chicago (11-4) - The Bears defense can set a franchise record for points allowed if they give up 18 or less.
6) New England (10-5) - In the Pats first six games of the season without Tedy Bruschi, they were getting rolled over for 125 rushing yards per game. That would qualify them for 25th in the league.
7) Cincinnati (11-4) - Needing a last-second field goal to beat Cleveland was curious. Losing by double-digits at home to Buffalo is a serious red flag. They're losing steam.
8) Tampa Bay (10-5) - For the second straight week, pass protection was a huge problem for the Bucs. They yielded four sacks, and tackle Kenyatta Walker is 50/50 this week with a sprained foot and ankle.
9) Washington (9-6) - Mark Brunell will likely start this weekend against Philadelphia. Also, Lavar Arrington has been popping off again about how unhappy he is in D.C.
10) Carolina (10-5) - This team just isn't as good as everyone thought. They went on an 8-1 run in the middle of the season by beating seven non-playoff teams. Since then they've gone 1-2, losing both games at home.
11) Jacksonville (11-4) - Odd team. Not going to do much in the playoffs, but I think they'll cover in their first game. Call it a hunch.
12) New York Giants (10-5) - It's not really a good thing to be bringing in middle linebackers off the street on your way into the playoffs.
13) Dallas (9-6) - Thirteen of Bill Parcells' 25 wins over the past three years have been by four points or less.
14) Kansas City (9-6) - What ever happened to Dante Hall, X-Factor?
15) San Diego (9-6) - The Chargers don't intend to start Philip Rivers this week. That's smart because it can only have a negative impact on his trade value.
16) Miami (8-7) - The Dolphins have given up just 24 sacks this year after allowing 51 all of last season. That's serious improvement without any considerable talent upgrade.
17) Atlanta (8-7) - In 2004, the Falcons' defense was the NFC's second-best against the run. In 2005 it's the fifth-worst unit in the conference.
18) Minnesota (8-7) - Expect a big game out of lineman Pat Williams. Williams believes that he was left off the Pro Bowl roster because of some conspiracy orchestrated by Bears center Olin Kreutz.
19) Baltimore (6-9) - Kyle Boller shouldn't be the biggest offseason concern for the Ravens. The offensive line and leaky front seven need to be addressed.
20) Philadelphia (6-9) - Ryan Moats single-handedly lost me $500 in a fantasy league last weekend. If I ever meet him he had better watch out.
21) Cleveland (5-10) - They've found two solid tight ends (Steve Heiden and Aaron Shea). Do you think they could get anything for Kellen Winslow Jr.?
22) Buffalo (5-10) - For the season, Kelly Holcomb has completed over 68 percent of his passes and boasts a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2-to-1.
23) St. Louis (5-10) - The Rams hadn't been swept by the 49ers since 1998. That's also the last year that St. Louis finished with a losing record at home.
24) Oakland (4-11) - Oakland is 3-1 ATS in their last four games against the Giants. Despite all of the offseason moves, the Raiders are 23rd in the league in scoring (17.9 ppg).
25) Tennessee (4-11) - I find it sad that so much attention has been paid to whether or not Brett Favre is going to retire, yet no one is putting together highlight packages and round-table discussions over the future of Steve McNair.
26) Arizona (5-10) - Good riddance to Sun Devil Stadium. In 18 seasons, the Cardinals posted a 61-82 record and just one winning season.
27) Detroit (5-10) - In all five seasons with Matt Millen as general manager the Lions have lost 10 or more games. Their record in that stretch is 21-58.
28) San Francisco (3-12) - The 49ers have converted just 22.7 percent of their third down opportunities this season (42-for-185).
29) Green Bay (3-12) - This will be the first time that Mike Holmgren has returned to Lambeau since the Packers' wild overtime victory in the Wild Card round two seasons ago.
30) New Orleans (3-12) - The Saints have won in Tampa each of the last three seasons.
31) New York Jets (3-12) - The Jets are 1-4 ATS against Buffalo since the start of 2003.
32) Houston (2-13) - Would Reggie Bush really make that much difference?
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