Bet On It: NFL Week 17 predictions
Last Week: 2-5-1; Season: 52-72-4
Wayne Gretzky famously said that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. He did not say anything about what to do when you take your shots but keep misfiring anyway.
So we come to the end of the regular season and, mercifully, reach the final “Bet On It” segment. A 6-2 Week 1 was the high point, and things rapidly fell apart from there, winding up where we are now: 20 “games” under .500 with one week to go.
A recovery is impossible, a total rebound unlikely. But since it’s Week 17, there’s one last chance to go out in a blaze of glory (or a cloud of shame). The Week 17 “Bet On It,” complete with a bunch of bonus picks:
• Matthew Stafford will throw at least two touchdown passes
It’s up in the air how much Detroit and Green Bay lean on their starters, and Stafford had three interceptions vs. the Packers on Thanksgiving. But expect the Lions to go a little more all-out for the win, which means a longer appearance for Stafford against Green Bay’s shaky secondary.
• The Jets will run the ball 35 times or more
Mark Sanchez threw 59 passes last week, and Rex Ryan said that will never happen again. He’ll stay true to his word Sunday — New York will pound it against Miami, for better or worse.
• Jared Allen will sack Josh McCown at least twice
Allen needs four sacks to tie Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22.5. He may not get there Sunday against Chicago, but he’s one of the few players with something to play for in that otherwise-meaningless game. That ought to be enough to get him in the Bears’ backfield a couple of times.
• Chris Johnson will finish with less than 50 yards rushing
Johnson has had more poor weeks than strong ones this season, though he’s set to go up and over 1,000 yards rushing this weekend. But he had just 18 yards on 10 carries in an early loss to Houston, and the Texans will try to take him away again Saturday.
• Tom Brady will throw for at least 350 yards
Lost in all the hoopla of Drew Brees breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record last week was that Brady is a mere 190 yards behind Brees. And while the Saints’ QB may not play a full game Sunday, Brady might — against an awful Buffalo defense, no less.
• Maurice Jones-Drew will rush for 150 yards or more
Jones-Drew heads into Week 17 with a comfortable lead in the rushing race. He’ll want to finish off the title, and his teammates will too, since the Jaguars don’t have much else to hang their hats on this season.
• Steve Smith will make multiple touchdown catches
Brees and the Saints’ offense may clear the bench relatively early against Carolina, but the Panthers figure to let it all hang out in their season finale. That means plenty of Cam Newton and, in turn, plenty of Smith, his favorite target.
• Washington and Philadelphia will combine for five or more turnovers
Two mistake-prone teams with nothing to play for? Yea, this one might get ugly. In Rex Grossman’s last start against Philadelphia, back in Week 9, he threw four picks and was benched for John Beck.
• Kendall Hunter will be the leading rusher in the 49ers-Rams game
Even though San Francisco needs a win to wrap up a first-round playoff bye, don’t expect to see much of Frank Gore. The 49ers may not need him either against the 2-13 Rams, so Hunter ought to carry the load.
• Arizona will be in single digits at halftime
Believe it or not, the Cardinals have not scored more than seven points in a first half since Week 8. Despite that, Arizona’s gone 6-2 in its last eight games. That trend — at least the quiet first two quarters — will continue vs. Seattle Sunday.
• Tampa Bay will have a second-half lead in Atlanta
The Bucs have lost nine straight, while the Falcons are playoff bound. Huge mismatch, right? Well, yes, on paper. But Tampa Bay already had a win over Atlanta in its pocket this season, and the Falcons would be forgiven if they were caught looking ahead to next week’s playoffs.
• Joe Flacco will throw at least two picks
Flacco has had all sorts of issues playing in Cincinnati — in three career games there, he has thrown six interceptions to just three touchdowns. The Baltimore QB didn’t miss Anquan Boldin last week, but he’ll feel that loss more Sunday.
• There will be a kick or punt returned for a TD in the Steelers-Browns game
Two of the league’s most explosive return men, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs, go head-to-head here. Cribbs just took one to the house last week, while Brown has been one of the more consistent return men in the league all season.
• Kyle Orton will finish with more total yards than Tim Tebow
The prospect of Orton knocking Denver out of the playoffs has to be the Broncos’ worst nightmare. Kansas City’s new QB may not have enough to pull out a win, but he’ll get plenty of opportunities to throw against the Broncos’ secondary.
• Sebastian Janikowski will hit two field goals from 50 yards or farther
Kickers don’t always get their fair share of love, but Janikowski’s season has been nothing short of impressive. He’s connected on 27 of 31 field goal attempts and matched the NFL record with a 63-yarder earlier this season. He’ll get a few chances against San Diego on Sunday.
• There will be at least five touchdown passes thrown Sunday night
The health of Tony Romo’s right hand may dictate how the regular season’s final game — an NFC East winner-takes-all affair between the Cowboys and Giants — will go. One thing seems fairly certain, especially after watching the first game between these two this season: The secondaries will have a hard time keeping up with either team’s aerial attack.