PEWTERREPORT.COM STAFF STANDINGS

Scott Reynolds
150-90

Jim Flynn 140-100

Hugh MacArthur 131-109

LAST WEEK

Scott Reynolds 11-5

Jim Flynn 9-7

Hugh MacArthu
r 7-9

New York Giants at Washington (Saturday 8:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Week 17 is usually challenging because it is hard to tell who will be resting starters. With a dozen teams fighting for just three playoff slots, more teams than usual will be playing right down to the wire. I can tell you that the Giants and Redskins are two teams headed in opposite directions. The Giants have inexplicably lost six of their last seven games, and haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since October. Tom Coughlin’s demotion of poor John Hufnagel as offensive coordinator is a pathetic attempt to play the blame game in an effort to spark the team. He should blame Eli Manning, who has totally tanked the second half of the season, just as he did a year ago. Eli’s passer rating is 77 and falling faster than Paris Hilton’s grades in high school. The Redskins, despite a loss at St. Louis last week, are coming on in the last few weeks of the season. The offensive line is paving the way for Ladell Betts, who now has 1,062 yards rushing this season and a 4.7 average per carry. The Redskins are more physical on both sides of the ball at this point, and they are playing at home.  Joe Gibbs announced he is returning to coach next year. Tom Coughlin won’t be making any such announcements. Washington

Reynolds – The Giants are reeling and don’t have much confidence after losing six of their last seven games. Injuries and in-fighting haven’t helped. This team is in disarray. Washington plays well at home and has some promise heading into 2007. I like the Redskins to cost the Giants a playoff spot. Washington

Flynn – The Giants defeated the Redskins in convincing fashion several weeks ago, 19-3. New York isn’t the same team, though. The Giants have lost six of their last seven. But the Giants can still get in the playoffs. All they have to do is win and they’re in. But the Redskins won’t make that easy, especially at home. Washington

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (Sunday 1:00 ET)

MacArthur – The Steelers are truly a mystery. The imposters who got destroyed at home last week during a must-win game against the Ravens looked little like defending SuperBowl champions. Of course, the Bengals inability to convert an extra point in a game they absolutely had to have in Denver won’t make many highlight films either. This is a rivalry game, so the usual stats can go out the window. The reality is Cincinnati can still make the playoffs and the Steelers are reeling, as well as looking at the serious possibility that Sunday is Coach Bill Cowher’s last game at the helm. I’m taking the convicts in this one. Cincinnati

Reynolds – Cincinnati hates Pittsburgh more than Pittsburgh hates Cincinnati. I think the Bengals will be up for this one, especially at home. With a playoff berth on the line, the Bengals send Bill Cowher into retirement with a loss. Cincinnati

Flynn – Revenge will be sweet when the Bengals avenge their playoff loss to the Steelers last year by downing the defending Super Bowl champions at home in a game Cincinnati needs to win in order to have a chance to make the playoffs. Cincinnati

Cleveland at Houston (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – This game is easy. I cannot possibly pick the Browns to win a game after the abomination they displayed at home against the Buccaneers last week. Houston has two wins over Jacksonville and a win over Indy, and most of their losses have been to teams still fighting for playoff berths. The Texans have more talent, and Cleveland’s 31st-ranked turnover differential (minus 13) will help put this one in the win column. Houston

Reynolds – Houston is a tough team to pick. They win when you least expect it, and lose when you think they should win. Overall, I think Houston is more talented and is healthier. They’re also playing at home, but the field is chewed up after a home game last Sunday and a bowl game on Thursday. Houston

Flynn – I can’t figure the Texans out, and after watching the Browns lose to the Bucs last Sunday, I’m not sure how Cleveland won four games this season. However, what I am sure of is the Browns won’t be winning thief fifth game of the season as the Texans should win quite easily. Houston

Jacksonville at Kansas City (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Can anybody explain the Jaguars to me? Let’s look at the points scored and allowed for each of these 8-7 teams for some insight. The Chiefs have scored 296 points. They have given up 285 points. A team scoring 11 more points than it gives up should be somewhere around .500, and the Chiefs 8-7 record doesn’t seem out of place. The Jaguars have scored 341 points. They have given up 239. A team scoring 102 more points than it gives up should not possibly be 8-7. This is a team with the second-ranked defense and 10th-ranked offense in the league, but with an 8-7 record? We cannot even blame turnovers. It’s been a crazy season, but no team’s record defies explanation quite like Jacksonville’s. Florida teams winning at Arrowhead in December are about as rare as Buffalo nickels, and I don’t see many of them helping the Jags on Sunday. Kansas City

Reynolds – Having lived in Kansas City while growing up, I know the Chiefs are deadly at home in December. I really shouldn’t pick against K.C. at Arrowhead, but the Chiefs are a one-trick pony with Larry Johnson running the ball. I think the Jags can take him away with their defense. I’m going with the upset here to save Jack Del Rio’s job. Jacksonville

Flynn – The Jaguars need to win to get into the playoffs, and they picked the wrong team and place to play under those circumstances. Kansas City just doesn’t lose at home, especially in December.  Jacksonville has struggled on the road (2-5) this season. The question isn’t which team will win this game – it’s a matter of whether Jack Del Rio will get fired or not after the Jaguars lose to the Chiefs. Kansas City

Carolina at New Orleans (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – This game is a trap. New Orleans is playing for nothing and the Panthers are playing for momentum and jobs in 2007.  There could easily be a letdown from the 30-7 shellacking the Saints put on the Giants in the Meadowlands last week.  However, I just don’t think the Panthers have enough healthy weapons on offense to keep up with the points the Saints will inevitably put on the board. The game may be closer than many think, but the Saints will have a bye week to rest, so they will finish off a highly successful and improbable season in style. New Orleans

Reynolds – New Orleans will want to keep its momentum going into the postseason with a win. Carolina wants the season over with as soon as possible. They’ll get their wish at about 4:05 p.m. on Sunday afternoon after a beatdown. New Orleans

Flynn – The Saints don’t have anything to play for as they’ve already wrapped up the division and a first-round bye in the playoffs. However, the Panthers don’t have anything to play for, either. The Saints will carry momentum into the playoffs without even playing its starters for the whole game. New Orleans

Detroit at Dallas (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Aside from the Giants, I can’t think of many other teams who are falling apart faster than the Cowboys.  T.O. is squawking. Terry Glenn is squawking. Heck, even Jerry Jones has served notice he is not happy. Well, the magic carpet ride is over.  Tony Romo might be a good NFL quarterback, but he is not the second coming of Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman, at least not yet. And, as many analysts pointed out before the season started, the Cowboys offensive line is the weak link on offense. There is only so much scrambling around you can do. Sometimes, you need to just line-up and knock people off the ball. The Cowboys can’t do that, and the good teams know it. Fortunately for Dallas, the Detroit Lions are not a good team.  Dallas

Reynolds – Dallas is fighting the New York Giants for the right to the “Team Turmoil” tag. Throw the gawd-awful Lions into the mix, too. Will somebody please hurry up and fire Matt Millen? Dallas squeaks by Detroit. Dallas

Flynn – Dallas got handled by Philadelphia on Christmas, but Detroit isn’t good enough to do the same. Plus, the Lions are playing for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. The Cowboys can win the division with a win over the woeful Lions, and they’ll do just that. Dallas

St. Louis at Minnesota (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Oh boy. Two bad teams going nowhere. Marc Bulger has quietly put together a very solid season. The Rams’ best offensive weapon remains Jeff Wilkins. With Tavaris Jackson at quarterback, I don’t think the Vikings can score enough to win.  St. Louis

Reynolds – Two words as to why the Rams will win – Marc Bulger. I’ll take him any day of the week over Tavaris Jackson. Oh, and Steven Jackson is pretty good, too. St. Louis

Flynn – I’m not sure how many people even really care about this one. St. Louis managed to win in overtime against a bad Washington team last week. The Vikings defense is solid, but their offense will put spectators to sleep. Defense wins … games against the Rams. Minnesota

Oakland at New York Jets (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Okay, no need to think about this one. Eric Mangini should be Coach of the Year. He has done more with less than any coach in the NFL this season.  Oakland has, perhaps, done less with more than any team in the NFL this season.  The Jets will win and they will make the playoffs.  New York Jets

Reynolds – J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! Oakland is just terrible. New York Jets

Flynn – The Jets need to win to get into the playoffs. What a terrific job of coaching by Eric Mangini and his staff. However, you can throw out the Coach of the Year talk for Mangini if the Jets suffer an epic collapse at the hand of the Raiders, who need to lose to get the top pick in next year’s draft. New York Jets

Seattle at Tampa Bay (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – This game is another trap game, as the wise guys in Vegas are attesting by making the Bucs slight favorites. And, I think Tampa Bay will win on Sunday. It is certainly true that Seattle has been awful of late, not only losing three straight, but having two of those be at Arizona and home against San Francisco.  I am sure Coach Mike Holmgren will not want to back into the playoffs on a four game slide, but can he do anything about it?  The offense is sputtering. Matt Hasselbeck has been inconsistent and the running game misses the solid blocking of Steve Hutchinson. The defense has been downright lousy, and is rated 21st in both scoring and yards allowed. The Buccaneers should be able to run the ball and that will open up the passing lanes for Tim Rattay. They’ll need a more efficient effort than they delivered last week in Cleveland, but there is good reason to believe the Bucs will put up a spirited fight to provide a bit of momentum heading into the offseason. Tampa Bay

Reynolds – I want to pick the Buccaneers because I really think they have a shot at winning on Sunday. However, I don’t know if Tampa will be able to consistently run the ball against Seattle. If they do, they win. If they don’t, they won’t. I think the adrenaline will be flowing at Ray-Jay on Sunday for players like Mike Alstott and Dave Moore, who might be playing their last games as Buccaneers. Tampa Bay

Flynn – Seattle has nothing to gain by winning this game since it has already won its division. However, the Seahawks have lost three straight games, and losing four straight is no way to go into the playoffs. I’m still not convinced the Seahawks will play their starters for the entire game. Even if they do, Tampa Bay wants to finish the season with some momentum and wouldn’t mind sending Seattle reeling into the post-season. Tampa Bay

New England at Tennessee (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – My friends, I set the over-under on Patriots’ wins this season at 12, and as they stand at 11-4, I cannot look away now. New England is rounding into playoff form and readying to make a dash to Miami through the AFC. Tennessee has made an unbelievable run, going 8-2 after a 0-5 start. New England may rest some players, such as Vince Wilfork and Ben Watson.  However, unlike last season, the Patriots do not know that they are playing in the playoffs, and are looking to keep building on late season momentum. The Titans still cannot pass, and they won’t be able to run on the Patriots’ defense. New England

Reynolds – I think Tennessee’s miracle run is going to come to an end this Sunday. New England has big-game experience, and Sunday’s game is a big game for both teams. I’ve picked Tennessee a lot down the stretch, but for some reason, I think they’re about to run out of gas. The Patriots’ gas tank is rarely empty. New England

Flynn – The Titans are this year’s Cinderella team. After starting the season 0-5, Tennessee has won eight of its last 10 games to put itself in position to make the playoffs with a win and some help. The Patriots don’t have much to gain by winning this contest and can actually benefit by losing since they would delay facing San Diego in the playoffs. I’ve picked against Vince Young and the Titans too many times over the past several weeks. They’ve made me a believer, so I’ll go with them to upset the Patriots at home. Tennessee

Atlanta at Philadelphia (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – Speaking of teams in the middle of monumental collapses, we introduce the Atlanta Falcons. How the Falcons could put up a pathetic three points at home in losing to the Carolina Panthers last week is beyond belief. Jim Mora, Jr., who is obnoxious and insufferable, will likely be put out of his (and our) misery after blowing yet another one. The Bucs’ 2007 quarterback, Jeff Garcia, will complete his magical run with the Eagles by leading them to the NFC East title with a convincing win. Philadelphia

Reynolds – Bye, bye, birdies – and I’m not talking about the Eagles. Philly will handle the Falcons, who will be searching for another head coach next year. Philadelphia

Flynn – The Eagles are in the playoffs, but they can still win the division with a win and a Cowboys loss. Atlanta is underachieving … again, and this time it will probably cost Jim Mora Jr. his job. Jeff Garcia will pick apart Atlanta’s defense while Michael Vick gets stuffed by Philly’s relentless defense. Philadelphia

Miami at Indianapolis (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – It is strange to even think about an 11-4 team that has already clinched its division facing a “must-win” game in week 17, but I believe Tony Dungy when he describes Sunday’s tilt against the Fish this way. Indy has lost 3 of 4 and is looking anemic. The defense has given up over 100 yards rushing in every game this year. Peyton Manning is now throwing that unit under the bus the same we he dissed the offensive line after the Colts folded in the playoffs last year. I’m sorely tempted to pick Miami, but whether their quarterback is Joey Harrington, Chet Lemon, Cleo Lemon or Meadowlark Lemon, I don’t think they’ll have enough offense to win the game.  Indianapolis

Reynolds – This may be the last game the Colts win all year with that embarrassing, porous run defense. Wasn’t Tony Dungy supposed to bring defense to Indy? Just checking. Indianapolis.

Flynn – The Colts have lost three of their last four, but they’re still 7-0 at home. Indianapolis needs to get some momentum heading into the playoffs. Peyton Manning should be able to move the ball on Miami’s secondary while the Colts’ run defense will hold up just enough for Indy to down Miami at home. Indianapolis

Buffalo at Baltimore (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Buffalo has done more with J.P. Losman at the helm than I thought possible. Unfortunately, there will be no let-up to the Ravens, who will devour both Losman and Willis McGahee on their way to a 13th victory.  Baltimore

Reynolds – Buffalo has overachieved this year. Baltimore has dominated. I’ll take “Dominated for $300, Alex.” Baltimore

Flynn – The Bills are a playoff-caliber team, but they won’t be participating in the post-season thanks to a loss at home to the Titans last week. The air was sucked out of Buffalo’s balloon with that loss. Baltimore is in the playoffs, but it has a lot riding on this game. A win and the Ravens get a first-round bye in the playoffs. That’s enough motivation for the Ravens to beat the Bills at home. Baltimore

San Francisco at Denver (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – This game is another one that makes me wonder.  San Francisco is just the kind of unpredictable team that could give the Broncos unexpected fits.  However, Coach Mike Shanahan needs to get Jay Cutler ready for the playoffs, so he won’t be pulling any punches on offense.  That intensity should be enough for the Broncos to pull off the home win.  Denver

Reynolds – San Francisco overachieved a little bit this year. They are still a year or two away from getting to the postseason, but they are on their way. I think Jay Cutler is showing more poise and patience. Denver

Flynn – If the 49ers can’t beat the Cardinals at home, what makes us think they can go into Denver and beat the Broncos on the road, especially when the Broncos are playing for a playoff spot? I wouldn’t be surprised if San Francisco made this one close, but I just don’t see Denver losing this game. Denver

Arizona at San Diego (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – It’s hard to pick against the Chargers at this point. They’re home and they’re tuning up for the playoffs. The Cards are done and are wondering who their next coach will be. San Diego

Reynolds – No contest. San Diego

Flynn – The Chargers will rest their starters, but they’re still deep enough to win this game, especially at home vs. an inconsistent Cardinals team. San Diego

Green Bay at Chicago (Sunday 8:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – This spotlight game of the week could be very interesting. Chicago has developed a nasty habit of playing down to the level of its competition, and despite a 13-2 record, there are many doubters. The defense is slipping with key starters missing, and though Rex Grossman hasn’t turned the ball over lately, the specter of his sometimes gruesome performances this year hangs in the air like the smell of day old fish. Green Bay’s relentless sack attack has improved the defense and led to three straight wins.  Brett Favre actually has a chance to lead them back to the playoffs with a win. In the end, this game is a coin-flip, but I err on the side of not believing Favre has enough left to drag the Packers over the hump by himself. Chicago

Reynolds – Brett Favre goes out throwing four picks to the Bears. That’s what Favre has become – a turnover machine. He threw a career-high 29 last year, and has 17 picks against 17 touchdowns this year. Chicago caps off a great season at home with a win. Chicago

Flynn –  The Bears have nothing to play for as they have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The 7-8 Packers, on the other hand, can actually get into the playoffs with a win and some help. If this is Brett Favre’s last game as a Packer, he and his teammates will go down swinging in this NFC North division rivalry. Green Bay

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