Week 17 Confidence Pool

I can recall a time last year when, upon surveying the broader landscape of the AFC, I thought to myself, “Man, the whole conference is treating the 6 seed like it causes lymphoma” as the Steelers and Raiders crapped their way out of playoff contention. And I can recall a time earlier this year (which, paradoxically, now happened before last season) when it seemed that, in a tremendous reversal of the AFC’s seasons-long drought of depth, that the AFC Wild Card race would be one of the tightest, and most potentially consequential, of any in recent memory.

And yes, it is technically true that 4 teams are still fighting for 3 spots. But, after this past weekend, wherein not one, not two, but three potential AFC playoff teams wet the bed, I find that perhaps less has changed between last year and this year than I initially believed. None of these 4 teams can be trusted, with the exception of the resurgent Ravens, who have gone from preseason contender to mild disappointment to subject of spicy “What’s Wrong With the Ravens?” takes to possible Wild Card to now, where they all of a sudden look like the third best team in the conference, and control their own destiny.

Good on them for righting the ship, I guess, but speaking as someone who began the season by trusting the Ravens a little too much before leaving them for dead like most everyone else, I’m annoyed that, once again, I must reassess just how much I trust every single team in the damn conference. You’d think I’d be happy to have the Ravens to lean on again, and while I’m not entirely ungrateful, it’s both too little, too late in terms of salvaging this crap season, and a reminder of how little anyone else in the conference can be trusted.

This is my extremely long-winded and desultory way of saying that yes, I’m blaming the entire AFC for last week’s abysmal 7-of-16 showing, good for a useless, piss-ant 75 points. Prior to publishing last week’s column, I crunched some numbers and was pleasantly surprised to see that, for all of the mediocre weeks stacked on top of each other, compounded further with a series of high-profile failures, that I had still pulled in 70.556% of all possible points. That might not be great, but it could be worse and, most importantly, it’s a good chunk better than I would have guessed. After last week, I’m down to 69.385% of all possible points, which might not look like a huge dropoff, but is pretty massive relative to the sample size. Fuck!

None of this would be happening if the Browns, Titans, and Colts took care of business. The Titans got caught playing in the snow, and therefore almost have something resembling a credible excuse, but even so, how did they let the Packers’ anemic run defense shut down Derrick Fucking Henry? Having saw the game, I know the answer is, “by tackling him at or near the line of scrimmage”, but I still don’t understand it. Point is, I can’t trust the Titans.

The Colts’ woeful second half is even more of a mystery. Wasn’t their defense supposed to be good? I acknowledge that “Colts defense good, Steelers offense bad” is as reductive as analysis gets, but I simply don’t understand how they not only allowed a 17 point comeback, but also allowed the Steelers to unfuck their helpless and flailing offense. Point is, I can’t trust either team.

Then there’s the fucking Browns. I damn sure can’t trust them, but I should have already known that. Thank you all for listening; I feel better already. as always, it’s time to pick up the pieces and pick the next week. This is gonna suck, since Week 17 is once again composed exclusively of divisional games, and some of the playoff teams that are already locked into their seed are likely to take it easy, if not start the second team outright; I have seen no indication of who may or may not do that at the time this article is being written.

But before I do that, I must first announce that next week’s column will be a MEGACOLUMN, which will both be entirely too long and also stuffed to the gills with fresh fucking content for your endless, gaping content maws. This will include:

-Playoff Confidence Pool Rules and Picks

-Wild Card Weekend Picks…Against the Spread~!

-Regular Season Retrospective, including the Best and Worst of my Preseason Predictions

-Retrospective of Mike Zimmer’s tenure as Vikings coach, if and only if he ends up getting fired. If not, Vikings-specfic content will be kept to a bare minimum, I promise

-Maybe some other stuff!

it’ll be great fun, and if it’s not fun, it’ll at least be really long. Huzzah!

Week 16 Correct Picks: 7/16

Season Total Correct Picks (Starting Week 2): 142/224

Week 15 Points: 75/136

Season Total Points (Starting Week 2): 1,242/1,790

16 Points: SAINTS over Panthers

All this talk of the AFC has come at the expense of not bothering to take a look at the NFC, which does not lack for intrigue. What matters for this game is that the Saints still have a shot at the #1 seed, and therefore, the only bye in the bracket, if they win this. Therefore, there is no chance that they pull any punches (or personnel) until victory is all sealed up. You may have noticed that I am treating a Saints’ victory as inevitable, because it is.

15 Points: BUCCANEERS over Falcons

To the best of my knowledge (which is based on fucking around with the Playoff Machine until I get bored with it), Tampa controls the #5 seed, but they could slip to #6 if they lose and the Rams win, which would mean they lose out on the all-important opportunity to smash whoever emerges from the NFC East cesspool. Therefore, they have to play to win this one.

14 Points: PACKERS over Bears

Everything I said about the Saints applies here, with two all-important caveats. First, the Packers guarantee themselves the top seed with a win. Second, a win also guarantees that the Bears watch the playoffs at home like the rest of us. Put these together, and you can rest assured the Packers will be extremely motivated to win this one. Matter of fact, you could put 16 on this and I wouldn’t bat an eye. I’m only bumping them down here because the Bears, for all of their self-evident shittiness, still deserve more respect than the Panthers and Falcons.

13 Points: RAVENS over Bengals

Like I insinuated in the intro, I think the Ravens are going to roll into the playoffs as the team nobody wants to play. That begins with a shellacking of the Bengals, who have at least decided to win a couple of games here and there as of late, but don’t inspire a tenth of the confidence I would need to predict an upset.

12 Points: STEELERS over Browns

We all know how this one ends.

11 Points: TITANS over Texans

Maybe I should back off, here; as already noted, I got burned pretty badly but picking the Titans strictly because of the crappy run defense they’re going against. But after this game, there’s nothing else left that I feel even sort of good about, as it’s a land of meaningless games between crappy teams, other no-stakes showdowns, and games featuring the Seahawks.

10 Points: COLTS over Jaguars

Oh right, there’s also the Colts, who seem worthy of trusting in this game but also gifted the Jaguars their one and only win of the season to date, which means that no such trust can be given. Again, the slate only gets worse from here.

9 Points: DOLPHINS over Bills

Call it a hunch; the Dolphins don’t 100% need to win this one to make the playoffs, but if they lose they’re at the mercy of the Browns. The Bills have much less to play for, in comparison; grabbing the #2 seed is theoretically useful, but all of the potential #7 seeds are close enough in quality to all of the potential #6 seeds that it’s almost not worth worrying about.

8 Points: SEAHAWKS over 49ers

The Seahawks are baffling but also terrifying; their range of potential outcomes feels the largest of any playoff team in either conference. It would not shock me to see them win the dang Super Bowl, nor would it shock me to see them get bounced in the first round (unless they end up facing the Bears). In the short term, the Seahawks still have a shot at the #1 seed with a win here, albeit an extremely narrow one, as it would require both the Saints and Packers to lose. Good luck with that, and good luck against the Niners, who are continuing to redefine the word ‘pesky’.

7 Points: PATRIOTS over Jets

6 Points: RAIDERS over Broncos

5 Points: FOOTBALL TEAM over Eagles

4 Points: CARDINALS over Rams

The Cardinals simply cannot be trusted, even against whatever backup quarterback the Rams trot out. I think I speak for all of us when I say I hope it ends up being Blake Bortles. Dude’s a legend.

3 Points: CHARGERS over Chiefs
I assure you, I am making this pick while sober. The Chiefs have absolutely nothing to play for with the #1 seed locked up, and it is all but impossible to see them keeping the first team on the field for any length of time, if they play at all in the first place, which I doubt.

2 Points: GIANTS over Cowboys

1 Point: VIKINGS over Lions

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