I find myself saying this a lot, but there really is no better time of year than NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios Season. This year feels tame by typical standards, but the years where no one without a doctorate in mathematics can figure out who’s in and who’s out are always amazing. Are the Titans in? Well, not only do they have to win, there has to be a waning crescent moon and Jupiter and Mars must be in perfect alignment. What about the Ravens? They have to win, everyone else has to lose, and if it isn’t an El Nino year, forget about it. The Bills? Believe me, it’s better if you don’t know. The other great part about this time of year? No one cares anymore. By my count, only 12 teams can gain anything by winning (13 if you include the Browns). That means 62.5% of the league is jockeying for draft position, planning vacations, getting ready to fire coaches, padding stats, and trying not to get hurt. Makes for some great, competitive games! Gonna be a good week, I can feel it.
These picks and all remaining picks until the Super Bowl will be made in the memory of my cat, Sundae. We got her when I was in 7th or 8th grade, and we had to put her down on Wednesday. I know people usually care way more about dogs than cats, but Sundae was an important part of my life; one of my best friends and one of the original fans of the Brian’s Den. She was real sick, so I know she’s in a better place now, but she’ll still be missed. No one was better at picking games than her, and I will do all I can to live up to her memory. On to the games.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-7)
Did you know Blake Martinez leads the league in tackles? It really doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things (the majority of individual defensive stats don’t), but just something to tuck away. Both coaches should be fired after this game, but somehow Mike McCarthy will hang on again.
Pick: Packers +7
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-11)
Another fun fact: the Super Bowl is in Minnesota this year. And the Vikings are in the playoffs. Crazy, I know. Bet you haven’t heard that be brought up this year.
Pick: Vikings -11
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles
Folks, I have some bad news: Nick Foles is not, in fact, as good as Carson Wentz. RIP Eagles.
Pick: Eagles +3
Washington Redskins (-3) at New York Giants
Literally the only interesting thing that could happen in this game is a brawl on the Giants’ sideline after Eli Apple comes down from the crowd like he’s Roman Reigns.
Pick: Redskins -3
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-15)
I’d say the Jets could probably cover, but that would mean they’d actually score a point. Surprise, surprise, Pats get homefield.
Pick: Pats -15
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-10.5)
I haven’t felt this good about a game all year: I’m all in on the Browns. Steelers have a bye secured and could theoretically get homefield if the Pats lose. As we just covered, the Pats are playing the Jets. Everyone, including the Steelers, knows the Pats will win. The Steelers are just going to want to get this game over with and escape with no injuries. They won’t care whatsoever. The Browns, on the other hand, care very much. No one wants to be the second 0-16 team. The first time was funny, sure, but the second time doesn’t make anyone happy. Don’t be surprised if Jon Kitna and Dan Orlovsky take Big Ben out in the locker room before the game to ensure their record is safe.
Pick: Browns +10.5
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-4)
Please go scoreless so they never cut to this game on RedZone.
Pick: Texans +4
Buffalo Bills (-3) at Miami Dolphins
To make things simple: If the Bills win and Ravens lose, they’re in. If they hadn’t started Nathan Peterman, odds are they would have already clinched. Gotta love NFL coaching! Yet another fun fact: there have been three seasons in NFL history where a player caught at least 100 passes and had less than 1,000 yards, with all of those players playing primarily in the backfield (shoutout Larry Centers for catching 100 passes as a fullback). Unless he has at least 105 yards on Sunday, Jarvis Landry will become the fourth player and first wide receiver to ever do it. Someone get him out of Miami.
Pick: Dolphins +3
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-9.5)
If you don’t see this shocking Cardinals win as the Seahawks implode on the sideline and try to fight everyone as their season and current run go down in flames, I don’t know what to tell you.
Pick: Cardinals +9.5
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Brocos (-3)
If none of the Chiefs big names play, this could be the most boring game ever played.
Pick: Broncos -3
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) at Los Angeles Rams
There’s no stopping Jimmy G. I assume the Rams will realize this early on and will proceed to quit. That’s what I’d do if I had to face the second greatest QB in league history.
Pick: 49ers -3.5
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-10)
If the Ravens win, they’re in. If they lose, things get dicey but odds are they’ll still be in. As much as I’d love it if they missed the playoffs, the Bengals haven’t won a game like this since Nam.
Pick: Ravens -10
New Orleans Saints (-7) at Tampa Bay Bucs
Saints win the division if they win, and friends, let me tell you something: the Bucs STINK.
Pick: Saints -7
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-4)
Wait, a game where both teams are actually playing for something? What the hell? Panthers are already in, but would win the division with a win and a Saints loss. Falcons would be in with a win or a Seahawks loss. It would be the perfect Falcons scenario if they made the playoffs, won their Wild Card game, maybe even made the NFC Championship game, only to lose in the most heartbreaking fashion imaginable.
Pick: Falcons -4
Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-8)
The Chargers need to win and have both the Titans and Bills lose, which, quite frankly, seems entirely possible. Raiders are so bad but will probably be a popular pick to bounce back next season.
Pick: Raiders +8
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-3)
I really hope the Jags don’t punt on this game, because the Titans should not be in the playoffs under any circumstances. They’re just so bad and so boring and have a 0% chance of winning a game. Which means they’ll be playing the Pats in the second round.
Pick: Titans -3
Bonus Bowl Picks
- USC +9 vs Ohio State
- Washington vs Penn State -3
- Wisconsin -4.5 vs Miami (FL)
- UCF +10 vs Auburn
- LSU -3 vs Notre Dame
- Georgia vs Oklahoma +2
- Alabama -3 vs Clemson