I LOVE LOVE LOVE the fact that the NFL now has all divisional games the final week of the regular season. Rivalries, playoff spots on the line, likelihood of wackiness - it's got it all.
The big news for 2013's week 17 is that two NFC divisions are "win and in" matchups, with the Bears hosting the Packers and the Cowboys hosting the Eagles. You knew one of those games would get flexed, and I'm psyched it was Eagles/Cowboys.
The Eagles have had a wild ride this year: new head coach, new coaching staff, new defensive scheme, QB controversy, you name it. They shocked everyone by killing the presumptive NFC East front runner Redskins on Monday Night Football to open the season (yeah, the final score was relatively close, but the game itself wasn't), followed by two close losses, then the trouncing by the Broncos that may have been the low point of the season.
Actually, I take that back. The low point of the season was the home loss to Dallas when Mike Vick was out with the hamstring, Foles went down, and Matt Barkley threw 4,356,273 picks. The following week, the Eagles lost to the totally sad-sack Giants and were standing at 3-5. And I was starting to think that my hopes of an 8-8 season were a little optimistic.
The following week, Nick Foles had an historic game in Oakland. Since then, the team has gone 6-1. The defense is playing much better. LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson are both having outstanding seasons. Riley Cooper has come out of nowhere to be a stud #2 receiver. Zach Ertz is looking like a genius early second round draft pick up. Trent Cole finally adjusted to the 3-4 and is playing great. DeMeco Ryans is turning into an excellent field general for the D. The offensive line has been playing amazingly well. Nick Foles is f-ing on fire. BRANDON BOYKIN (maybe my next jersey)! Donnie Jones for Grand Pooh-Bah of the punting universe!
Oh - and did you hear? Tony Romo's totally not going to play on Sunday. Yeah, I know Jason Garrett is publicly hedging his bets, but Tony's out and Kyle Orton is in. You heard it here, well, not first. About 234th. And Dez Bryant is iffy. And Sean Lee is probably out.
Thing is, none of that matters. To quote Cary Williams: "We’re on a mission and they’re in our way." The Eagles are going to KICK ASS in Allas (because they have no D).
In the other matchups:
There are a LOT of games with playoff implications, which makes picking a little crazy. That said...
Panthers at Falcons: Did you hear that if the Panthers win, they win the NFC South AND get a first round bye? And they're facing a team that's 4-11? Yeah, I'm going with the Panthers.
Ravens at Bengals: Did you hear that if they Bengals win, they ALSO get a first round bye? The Ravens are fighting for a playoff spot, but I don't think it's going to matter. Bengals.
Jaguars at Colts: Nothing is at stake here. Well, actually, that's not true. If the Colts win and the Bengals lose, the Colts will get the #2 seed in the AFC. And they will. But it won't matter (see above).
Jets at Dolphins: If the Dolphins and the Ravens both lose, and the Chargers win, the Chargers will sneak into the playoffs. Which is, I think, exactly what's going to happen. Jets.
Lions at Vikings: Can you believe the Lions blew it AGAIN? Nothing's at stake here, and they're playing in Minnesota, but I have to go with the Lions playing for the tattered remnants of their pride.
Redskins at Giants: OH, THE HUMANITY. Don't watch this game. If it's the only game playing in your area, Sunday would be an excellent time for a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon. Or drinking until you pass out. EVERYONE has the Giants, but I think the Redskins will pull off the upset and just maybe get Kirk Cousins an offer somewhere else.
Browns at Steelers: Another upset pick in what is essentially a meaningless game, since a MIRACLE has to happen for the Steelers to make the playoffs. Browns.
Texans at Titans: Damn it, I'm picking the goddamn Texans. So there.
49ers at Cardinals: The 49ers will win to try to jump the Seahawks, which they won't, of course, but they will do their part.
Packers at Bears: Did you hear that ARodg is back? And did you also hear that the Bears have NO DEFENSE AT ALL? Yeah, the Bears are dead meat, and the Packers are going to win the NFC North. After which Jim Schwartz and all the Lions will start DRINKING HEAVILY.
Bills at Patriots: I'm picking another upset - the Bills. Hey, Chef Spouse and I got knocked into third place in his company's pick 'em league, and this is my LAST chance to make up some ground.
Buccaneers at Saints: Saints. Superdome magic, and the #6 seed.
Broncos at Raiders: Nothing at stake, so John Fox may rest his starters, but it's the Raiders. Broncos.
Chiefs at Chargers: I think the Chargers have this - as you already know, since above I said that the Chargers would sneak into the playoffs.
Rams at Seahawks: Also with the homefield, and because the Rams are NOT the Cardinals, Seahawks.