This NFL season seems designed for just one purpose - to crush my soul. Each week I make these straight up picks, and each week the powers that be find new and unique ways to torture me. I mean, honestly - St. Louis beating the Seahawks in Seattle?! The Patriots losing to the Jets in bizarre fashion?! The Steelers stinking it up against the Ravens?! The Panthers having a disaster of a game at the horrible Falcons?! Ridiculous. All of it. I'm so ready for this season to be over and the playoffs to start, but I'm willing to pick myself up off the mat yet again and attempt to go out with a bang. Here are my straight up picks to help guide you in your office pool this week:
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New York Jets at Buffalo: The Jets are headed to the playoffs with a win. All the Bills are playing for is revenge for Rex Ryan against his former team. After the way that things have gone in Buffalo this year, though, it's hard to believe that that will be enough. Take the Jets.
New England at Miami: The Patriots are coming off an ugly loss, but they can clinch home-field advantage through the playoffs with a win here, so they should be motivated. They are very banged up, but at this point an all-star team from an old folks home could beat the Dolphins. Take the Patriots.
New Orleans at Atlanta: The two teams have gone about it in different ways, but both have had a totally wasted season. I don't like much about either team, but the game is in Atlanta and the Falcons are playing better lately than they have for a while. The Saints are mired in coaching uncertainty, too. Take the Falcons.
Baltimore at Cincinnati: The Bengals need to win in order to maintain a chance at having a bye in the playoffs, though thanks to their loss to Denver last week they no longer control their own destiny. All they can do is win here and hope for the best. They have QB health woes, but they still should be able to win a game like this. Take the Bengals.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland: The Steelers need to win to have any chance of a playoff berth. They should absolutely be able to beat the Browns. Of course, they should absolutely have been able to beat the Ravens, too - and their playoff chances were much better than than they are now. Still, take the Steelers.
Jacksonville at Houston: Houston has won two in a row. They can, improbably, clinch their division with a win here. Jacksonville has lost two in a row. At least the Jags won't be facing coaching uncertainty - Gus Bradley has already been given another year. I don't trust the Texans, but have to pick them here. Take Houston.
Tennessee at Indianapolis: The Colts have a chance to win the division, but they have no control. All they can do here is win and hope for the best. They have a total mess of a situation at quarterback, and that's a concern. Tennessee is so bad, though, that we still have to pick the Colts - even if they wind up playing their mascot under center.
Washington at Dallas: What a tough game to pick. The Redskins have clinched their division already and can't do anything to change their situation - they will be the fourth seed regardless of what they do here. They will very likely rest players. The question, then, is if a really bad and totally-beaten-down Dallas team can beat the second stringers from Washington. Hard to believe we can trust them. Take the Redskins.
Philadelphia at New York Giants: The Eagles are playing for an interim coach. The Giants are quite likely playing their last game for Tom Coughlin. Both teams have lost their last two. What a sorry mess of a game this one is. Take the Giants, but only because they are at home.
Detroit at Chicago: This is a battle for last place in the NFC North. Pathetic. Neither team is any good, but the Lions have won two in a row and are playing better now than they have at points this year. It's not much, but it's something. Take the Lions.
Tampa Bay at Carolina: The Panthers don't have perfection on the line, but suddenly this game means more tangibly than it might have. They have a bye locked down but haven't assured the No. 1 seed yet. Combine the need to win to lock down that with the need to get back on track after a horrible game last week, and the Panthers should be ready for this one. They are the pick. Take Carolina.
Oakland at Kansas City: The Chiefs have won nine in a row. They are a wild-card team and still have a chance to win the division if they win here and get some help. It's not likely - the Broncos would have to lose at home to the Chargers - but it's a chance. Hard to pick against them. Take the Chiefs.
San Diego at Denver: Denver can clinch the division with a win. They even have a shot at a bye. The Chargers have just four wins - and are lucky to have them. Surely Denver can win this one. Take the Broncos.
Seattle at Arizona: This was a much more interesting game last week before the Seahawks came out flat. The Cards still have a chance at the top seed in the NFC. They just need to win and hope for the best. The Seahawks don't have much to play for - the difference between fifth and sixth seed doesn't matter much. Take the Cardinals.
St. Louis at San Francisco: Neither team is any good. St. Louis has won three in a row, though, while San Francisco has lost three straight. On that alone we'll take the Rams.
Minnesota at Green Bay: This is the battle for the NFC North title. It's fitting that the last game of the regular season is the most important one of the week. The Packers at home would be the logical choice, but I both like and trust the Vikings more right now, so I'm going to gamble. Take the Vikings.
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