NFL Week 17: NFC Picks

Kelly W. PattersonContributor IJanuary 1, 2010

We're down to Week 17 and there are several playoff scenarios remaining to be sorted out in each conference during the final games. 

Unlike previous weeks ,  I'm going to do two separate previews, so that I can properly sort out the key games in each conference and how they effect the playoffs.

Read my AFC picks here.

The NFC Playoff Picture

In the NFC, things are settled as to which teams are in, but there is still a pretty good amount of uncertainty about which teams will end up seeded where. 
Everything comes down to three games, which will decide the second through sixth seeds, with New Orleans having clinched the home-field advantage already. In addition, regardless of what happens, Green Bay will end up with the No. 5 seed.
The easiest of the NFL scenarios also involves what might potentially be the best game of the season featuring the Philadelphia Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys, who are arguably the two best teams in the NFC right now.
It's not very complicated math here; the winner is the NFC East champion, the loser ends up the No. 6 seed. Additionally, the Eagles will be the No. 2 seed if they win, while the Cowboys could end up anywhere from the No. 2 to No. 4 spot if they win, depending on whether the Vikings and Cardinals win their respective games. 

Most likely, a Dallas win means a rematch in the first round of the playoffs
This game can easily go either way and I could see either team winning. Having said that, I'm picking the Eagles here. Dallas beat them the first time in Week Nine, but it was one of the worst games for the Eagles offense and they were still adjusting to being without Brian Westbrook
Not only is Westbrook back, but they have had time to adjust to life without him and his presence is an asset rather than a necessity at this point. Philadelphia has scored 31 points a game during their six-game win streak, which began two weeks after that first game.
There are, however, two things that could point to trouble for the Eagles. 
One is their defense's propensity to forget about tackling in favor of going for the big play. While this has resulted in a fair amount of turnovers during the season, it has also turned what should be a routine play into a big play for the other team many times.
Another potential problem for the Eagles is the loss of starting center Jamaal Jackson for the season last week against Denver. This could potentially be a big loss, since the Cowboys had four sacks last time they played.
The other big game in the NFC involves the Arizona Cardinals vs. the Green Bay Packers in Arizona. 
For the Cardinals winning this game could put them into position to be the No. 2 seed (if the Vikings and Eagles both lose)  or the No. 3 seed (if the Eagles win and Vikings lose). 
If the Packers should win, more than likely the Cards and Pack will play again in the first round of the playoffs. However, if the Eagles and Giants also win, they would instead play the Vikings for the third time this season. 
Obviously, another rematch against Brett Favre's new team would be huge, but in order for that to happen the New York Giants would have to upset the Minnesota Vikings. 

With the way the Vikings have played the past month, that's not out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if the Giants weren't such a mess right now, I would pick them to beat the Vikings.

I still wouldn't be surprised if New York did win, but they have been less than impressive lately. You just never know which team is going to show up anymore.

Last week they couldn't even keep the game competitive against the Carolina Panthers when they needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. I don't have a lot of faith that things are going to go much different this week.
Other Games of Interest
Some other games have the possibility to be interesting games even though they don't actually effect the playoff situation. 
New Orleans plays Carolina in a game that essentially means nothing, but could have some significance in light of the fact that the Saints have lost two straight games.
There is some speculation that they will rest their starters, but I expect them to play all out to try to go into the playoffs on a positive note. 

After losing to Tampa Bay last week, I actually wouldn't be surprised to see them lose, however I think the difference in the game will be the loss of Steve Smith for the Panthers last week.

The other game that has some interest in spite of not involving the playoffs is the Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The reason it is relevant is because the Falcons will be trying to finish with a winning record in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. Luckily for them, they are playing the Buccaneers and should be able to pull it off.
Last week, I ended up with a 9-7 record straight up and only 5-11 against the spread. Which leaves me with a season record of 147-90 straight up and 118-118-3 against the spread.

My Picks for the 2009 Week Seventeen NFC Games

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Sun, Jan 3
10:00 AM (PST)
11:00 AM (MST)
12:00 PM (CST)
1:00 PM (EST)
Point Spread
Straight Up
Against the Spread
@St. Louis
San Francisco
St. Louis
New York Giants
New York Giants
New York Giants
@Tampa Bay
New Orleans
New Orleans
Sun, Jan 3
1:00 PM (PST)
2:00 PM (MST)
3:00 PM (CST)
4:00 PM (EST)
Green Bay
Green Bay
San Diego
San Diego