By Peter King
December 29, 2011

NFL Week 17
Last week: 9-7 (.563); Season: 155-85 (.646)
Sunday, Jan. 1
1 p.m. ET (CBS) New York Jets (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-10)
I kept thinking I should like Matt Moore in this game more than Mark Sanchez because of how each has played recently. But I see the Jets coming out with a better defensive performance.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) Washington Redskins (5-10) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-8)
Suddenly, I don't hear everyone lining up the firing squad for Andy Reid.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) San Francisco 49ers (12-3) at St. Louis Rams (2-13)
A few words in defense of one of the best men I've met in my years covering football, Steve Spagnuolo. I'll always remember an August night in 2010 when the Rams beat the Patriots in Foxboro in a preseason game, and afterward, two reporters from Spagnulo's hometown paper in Massachusetts were there to write a story about the local boy who came into town and beat the almighty Patriots, and about how well he was doing in his coaching life. Spagnulo was beaming that they cared enough to come to the game, and he spent far more time with them than the other media there that night. A very good man is likely to lose his job next week, but that won't diminish anything about the man or his ability to coach defense.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) Chicago Bears (7-8) at Minnesota Vikings (3-12)
Jim Kleinsasser retires after Sunday's game. Memo to Jim: The game will really miss you. You've always done it right, you've never complained about how much you touch the ball or who you have to block. You've appreciated your lot in life and realized how fortunate you've been to be an NFL player. Been a pleasure watching you for 13 years.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) Detroit Lions (10-5) at Green Bay Packers (14-1)
Tough game to pick, because I doubt Aaron Rodgers is going to play much, and the Lions will be fighting for the fifth seed. But there's something about this game that Mike McCarthy feels he needs to get right, and that's the Packers' run defense, so I don't see him mailing this one in. The run D could ruin their Super Bowl dreams. Surrendering 4.7 yards per carry could be a killer, unless Rodgers can put up 40 points a game three games in a row. The best news Green Bay got this week was good run defender Ryan Pickett being cleared to work after a Dec. 11 concussion. They need Pickett badly.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) Carolina Panthers (6-9) at New Orleans Saints (12-3)
No idea how Sean Payton will play this, though I know he'll want Drew Brees to finish with more passing yards than anyone in history. Meaning Tom Brady, who enters Sunday 190 yards behind Brees. A half sounds about right for Brees, particularly if Payton hears at halftime the Niners are comfortably ahead in St. Louis.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Tennessee Titans (8-7) at Houston Texans (10-5)
Wade Phillips is back. Gary Kubiak is telling his players he doesn't care what they've clinched so far, they'll be one-and-done if they don't get sharp before the Wild Card game. By the way, if Tim Tebow doesn't make the playoffs, Cincinnati at Houston (or someone at Houston) has the early Saturday Wild Card game written all over it.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Indianapolis Colts (2-13) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11)
I'll tell you one reason why the Jags will play hard here: Maurice Jones-Drew has a 128-yard lead over LeSean McCoy for the rushing crown, they play at the same time, and he could care less about the first pick in the draft -- he's going to run as hard as he can to build the biggest lead he can for the title. Why Indy? Because Jax just has too many debilitating defensive injuries.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Buffalo Bills (6-9) at New England Patriots (12-3)
In many other seasons, Tom Brady would be the MVP, and who knows? He still may be. But his mates and his coaches know how hugely valuable he's been this year, whoever's name ends up on the 2011 MVP trophy.
4:15 p.m. ET (FOX) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) at Atlanta Falcons (9-6)
Of all the possible Wild Card matchups, Falcons-Saints would be the nastiest (and I'm not even saying I expect it to happen), and the one I'd like to see the most. This game, not so much.
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS) Baltimore Ravens (11-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)
In the end, puzzling over this game is futile. The Ravens are better. But I don't trust their offense, and I don't trust their road resume (3-4 away, 8-0 home this year), and I trust Andy Dalton to win a big one. Finally.
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS) Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) at Cleveland Browns (4-11)
Sounds like Ben Roethlisberger's going to play some, and if my forecast comes true, he'll get that extra week to be about 90 percent entering the divisional game Jan. 14 or 15 at home. Shout-out, by the way, to a great Brown this year: Inside 'backer D'Qwell Jackson, who leads the AFC in tackles after missing the 26 games prior to this season due to two pectoral injuries. Great comeback season.
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS) San Diego Chargers (7-8) at Oakland Raiders (8-7)
The see-saw season ends for the Raiders, but look on the bright side: At least they'll eclipse the all-time record for penalties and penalty yards in a season with four penalties for at least eight yards.
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS) Kansas City Chiefs (6-9) at Denver Broncos (8-7)
The Broncos do something Tebow-riffic to win at the end. After the game, I can just hear it. Some wise guy asks Tim Tebow, "Tim, do you have any comments about the provocative and nasty and idiotic tweet Bill Maher had about you and the devil the other day?" He'll smile and say, while moving away from the podium to leave, "I heard about that. Mr. Maher is a terrific comedian. He's got some strong opinions. God bless him, and all of you -- have a blessed day!"
4:15 p.m. ET (FOX) Seattle Seahawks (7-8) at Arizona Cardinals (7-8)
Daughter Mary Beth, a Seattleite, says the Seahawks are finally starting to play like a team instead of a bunch of individuals. And also, she almost named her dog after Mike Holmgren a few years ago.
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at New York Giants (8-7)
Impossible to pick. Was set to pick Dallas until Wednesday morning, when I just started to think: Who's rushing the passer better than Jason Pierre-Paul right now? Who can cover Victor Cruz? Which quarterback do I trust more in the last five minutes? And so I changed to the G-men. So scientific.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)