It's already 2012 in many places around the world; here in the northeast U.S., we are less than 12 hours away from the ball dropping in Times Square to ring in the New Year.
What a year it has been!
One of the common things to do at the end of the year (or beginning of the subsequent year) is to reflect on the year that was. For us at Eat, Drink and Sleep Football, it was a good year.
Not only did I finish as the third-most accurate fantasy football expert for 2011 (through Week 16 and via FantasyPros.com), I have covered on more than 70 percent (31-13 with four pushes) of my weekly picks against the spread (ATS) this season.
Along with the other two "handicappers" on our site, we have covered on 61 percent of our picks and all three of us are locked in at over .500 on the season regardless of what happens in the final week.
Since we each pick three games per week, I would still finish at 66.0 percent ATS this season even if I went 0-3 ATS in the final week. If I go 3-0, however, I would finish 72.3 percent ATS. My official goal is to cover two-thirds of my three weekly picks and if I do that this week, I will finish at 70-plus percent for the full year.
Ok, enough talking about what I (we) have done. In our what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society, none of that really matters. You care about this week.
So, here are my Week 17 picks against the spread:
Baltimore Ravens (-2) over Cincinnati Bengals
This is a critical game for both teams. If the Bengals win, they're in the playoffs, which would be a remarkable feat considering the situation with quarterback Carson Palmer and ultimately starting a rookie quarterback with virtually no offseason.
For the Ravens, however, it could be even more important. As the only AFC North team to make the postseason in each of the three previous seasons, the Ravens have had to play all of their playoff games on the road during that span as a wildcard team.
A win in Week 17, however, will clinch the division (and a first-round bye). And in the unlikely scenario that the Patriots also lose to the Bills, the Ravens would secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Ironically, the Ravens need to win on the road to secure a home playoff game for the first time since the 2006 season. Over the past three seasons, the Ravens are 21-3 (8-0 in 2011) at home and 11-12 (3-4 in 2011) on the road. There is plenty of reason for them to do whatever it takes to win this game and the division.
In their past six games, Ray Rice has 20-plus carries in all five of those games (all wins). In the loss (to San Diego), Rice had 19 touches (10 carries plus a season-high nine receptions). I think Cam Cameron will make sure Rice gets a heavy workload; if not, Terrell Suggs will surely let him know.
[Note: the Ravens could clinch the division with a loss (if Pittsburgh loses to Cleveland) and the Bengals could clinch a playoff berth with a loss depending on the tie-breakers.]
Denver Broncos (-3) over Kansas City Chiefs
Boy, I was certainly wrong last week when I took the Broncos over the Bills. And Kyle Orton would love nothing more than to return to Denver to stick it to his former team and their Tebow-billboard-buying fans.
While Tim Tebow is not the league's most accurate passer by any stretch of the imagination, his career-worst four-interception performance was an anomaly. And their defense is not as bad as they have looked as they have allowed 40-plus points in back-to-back games.
Granted, Orton is playing better (599 yards in past two games) than Tyler Palko, but the Chiefs offense lacks firepower, especially since losing Jamaal Charles for the season in Week 2. For eight consecutive games, the Chiefs have scored less than 20 points and only the Rams rank lower in scoring offense than the Chiefs.
The Broncos control their own destiny as a win clinches the AFC West and the atmosphere at Mile High will be electric. Take the Broncos and give the points.
New York Jets (+3) over Miami Dolphins
Although the Jets do not control their own destiny in the AFC for the No. 6 seed, they absolutely need to win this game to remain alive. After that point, they need a ton of help.
Having made it to the final two AFC Championship games (see past results), the Jets have some recent history in performing well on the road in important games.
Dolphins running back Reggie Bush has been as good as it gets over the past four weeks. During that span, he has four straight 100-yard games including his 203-yard performance and no running back has more rushing yards than Bush during that span. That said, Bush has been ruled out for this week's game.
While the Jets may not win this game (and ultimately it may not matter considering the tie-breakers needed), I expect the Jets to at least keep the game close, especially if Mark Sanchez does not throw it 59 times this week.
For all of our Week 17 picks including our other two handicappers, click here.
If you're looking for our fantasy football rankings for Week 17, you'll find them here.