jimmythegreek Posts:10785 Followers:378
On 01/01/2012 11:16 AM in NFL

NFL GREEK INSIDER WEEK 17

San Francisco -10 over St. Louis (bought half):
The San Francisco 49ers had hoped to have already clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs entering the final weekend of the regular season, but things didn't go their way. However, that coveted first-round bye doesn't seem to be in jeopardy with their next game coming against the St. Louis Rams. San Francisco visits NFC-worst St. Louis on Sunday looking to sweep the season series for the third time in four years.

The 49ers (12-3) clinched the NFC West title and their first playoff berth since 2002 with a 26-0 win over the Rams (2-13) on Dec. 4. They're assured of hosting at least one postseason game but surely would like an extra week off before that happens. All they have to do to claim that first-round bye is beat a St. Louis team which has lost six straight by a 150-53 score. Even if it loses, San Francisco could still get the bye if New Orleans - also 12-3 - loses to Carolina because the Niners own the tiebreaker over the Saints.

Frank Gore also should be excited to face the league's worst run defense. St. Louis gives up 154.5 rushing yards per game. San Francisco is No. 1 in that category (75.1) and has allowed the fewest points in the league (202). St. Louis has a league-low 166 points, the only team to have scored fewer than 200. The 49ers held the Rams to 157 total yards in December's victory and held leading rusher Steven Jackson to 19 on 10 carries. It was the second time in the last five meetings that St. Louis couldn't score on the 49ers. San Francisco put together another impressive defensive performance in a 19-17 victory over Seattle last Saturday.

Pro Bowl kicker David Akers made four field goals to give him an NFL-record 42 this season, and the only points the Seahawks scored after halftime came following a blocked punt. Seattle totaled just 72 yards in the second half. San Francisco continues to rely on its defense with the offense depleted because of injuries to Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle), Kyle Williams (concussion) and Delanie Walker (jaw) as well as the team's decision to release receiver Braylon Edwards. While the 49ers prepare for the playoffs, the Rams are looking to next season, with a chance to have the No. 1 pick in the draft if they lose and Indianapolis wins this weekend.

St. Louis is coming off its second shutout loss in four games, 27-0 to Pittsburgh last Saturday, as Kellen Clemens started for the injured Sam Bradford and completed 9 of 24 passes for 91 yards. It's been a miserable season for the Rams, who have scored an NFL-low 15 touchdowns and rank last in third-down efficiency. With one year remaining on his contract, Steve Spagnuolo could be coaching his final game. The Rams are 10-37 in his three seasons. Spagnuolo wouldn't comment on speculation about his future, and he certainly isn't thinking about the idea that a loss actually may benefit the Rams because it could give them the top overall draft pick.

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jimmythegreek Posts:10785 Followers:378
01/01/2012 11:22 AM

New Orleans -6.5 over Carolina (bought half):
Drew Brees and Cam Newton both wrote their names into the NFL record books in Week 16, adding acclaim to what have been fantastic campaigns from each. While Newton looks to conclude his tremendous rookie season on a high note, Brees has an opportunity to add to his record breaking single season passing yardage. Brees threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns - breaking Dan Marino's mark of 5,084 passing yards set in 1984 - and the Saints clinched their second NFC South title in three years with Monday night's 45-16 rout of Atlanta.

New Orleans (12-3), which has the third seed in the NFC locked up, can only improve its postseason position with both a victory over the Panthers (6-9) and an unlikely San Francisco loss to St. Louis. With 5,087 passing yards, Brees enters Week 17 just 190 ahead of New England's Tom Brady - leaving Payton with a difficult decision. With the Patriots needing a win to clinch the top spot in the AFC, Brady could very well surpass Brees' mark if the Saints' QB doesn't play.

Though the Panthers will miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season, they have plenty to be excited about heading into next year thanks to Newton. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft has led Carolina to four wins in five games and helped post the second-highest scoring output in franchise history during Saturday's 48-16 dismantling of Tampa Bay. Newton completed 12 of 17 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns, surpassing Peyton Manning's previous record for passing yards by a rookie.

While others have certainly stepped up - most notably wideout Steve Smith - Newton has accounted for 34 of Carolina's 45 offensive touchdowns. His 14 rushing TDs are the most by a quarterback in NFL history. Smith, who along with center Ryan Kalil will represent the Panthers at the Pro Bowl, is four receptions away from surpassing Muhsin Muhammad's team record of 696.

Carolina has dropped three straight in this series, but will look to take another step in the right direction with a win Sunday - no matter who the Saints have under center. The Saints, who have won all seven games at the Superdome this season, have never gone 8-0 at home.

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jimmythegreek Posts:10785 Followers:378
01/01/2012 11:27 AM

Atlanta -10 over Tampa Bay (bought half):
The Atlanta Falcons have made franchise history by clinching a second straight playoff berth, but if they don't make improvements on both sides of the ball, the team could be in line for another quick postseason exit. Atlanta tries to reach double-digit wins in a second consecutive year for the first time Sunday when it hosts a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team looking to avoid closing the season on a 10-game losing streak. With Chicago losing at Green Bay the previous night, the Falcons (9-6) clinched a wild-card spot before they took the field Monday in New Orleans. Atlanta had an outside shot of winning back-to-back NFC South titles, but those chances ended as the Saints clinched the division with a 45-16 victory.


The Matt Ryan-led offense failed to score a touchdown in three red-zone possessions Monday, was 0 for 3 on fourth down and went three-and-out following both interceptions of Drew Brees. Those picks were the highlights for the Atlanta defense, which surrendered season highs in points and yards (463) while recording only one sack. While coach Mike Smith was disappointed with his team's effort with so much on the line, the Falcons have a week to make corrections before opening the playoffs on the road next weekend against New Orleans, San Francisco, Dallas or the New York Giants.

Tampa Bay expected to contend for the South title after going 10-6 last season and opening 4-2 in 2011, including a 16-13 victory over Atlanta on Sept. 25, but the team is limping to the finish with its longest single-season skid since opening 0-9 in 1985. This slide also has increased speculation that third-year coach Raheem Morris will lose his job. league high-tying 36 turnovers has been one of the team's glaring weaknesses. Last season, the Buccaneers had 19 - sixth-fewest in the NFL.

The lack of development of Josh Freeman also has been a concern. The third-year signal-caller has thrown for just 14 TDs and is tied for the league lead with 19 INTs after throwing for 25 scores with six picks last season. Tampa Bay's last 10-game losing streak came in 1977 when it dropped its first 12 to extend the franchise's 0-26 start.

The Falcons are in a second straight postseason for the first time in their 46-year history but now would like to reach 10 wins for the third time in Smith's four years at the helm. They lost their playoff openers the previous two times, in 2008 and 2010, but Ryan insists the team is currently only concerned about the Bucs.

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jimmythegreek Posts:10785 Followers:378
01/01/2012 11:32 AM

San Diego/Oakland over 48:
The Oakland Raiders still need help to advance to the postseason for the first time since 2002, but at least they have a chance. Oakland goes for its fourth consecutive victory in this matchup Sunday when the visiting Chargers will try to avoid their first losing season since 2003 while ending their AFC West rival's playoff chances. By snapping a three-game skid with last Saturday's 16-13 overtime victory at Kansas City, Oakland (8-7) remained in the playoff hunt. The Raiders have not been to the postseason since their 2002 AFC championship season, yet a victory and a Chiefs win in Denver will clinch the West for Oakland.

Even if the Broncos win the division title, the Raiders can still secure the second wild-card spot if they win, Cincinnati loses to Baltimore with either the New York Jets winning over Miami or Tennessee losing to Houston. With all the possible playoff scenarios, what is clear is Oakland will be eliminated with a loss. Winning three straight after a six-game skid gave the Chargers (7-8) hope late in the season, but their slim playoff hopes were dashed Christmas Eve when they lost 38-10 at Detroit and the Bengals defeated Arizona. There's a good chance San Diego will be playing its final game under coach Norv Turner, who has failed to lead them to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons after going in five of the previous six years.

Carson Palmer - making his second start and third appearance since being acquired from Cincinnati - threw two TD passes to Denarius Moore, while Michael Bush ran for a season-best 157 yards with a career-high 85 yards receiving. While Oakland's offense could get a huge lift with the possible return of running back Darren McFadden (right foot) and wide receiver Jacoby Ford (left foot), who have missed eight and six games, respectively, the club will have a significant edge in special teams.

Kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who drilled the game-winning 36-yarder last Saturday, was named to the Pro Bowl, as were punter Shane Lechler and Richard Seymour, the AFC special teams player of the week who blocked two field goals against Kansas City.

Best of luck to all in week 17

YTD 34-30

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