Unfortunately, the last week of the year has arrived. On a brighter note, the column has produced nine straight over/under victories, so technically, we’re actually seeking a sweep of the second half of the season in totals. Soak it in as we enter the historic first-ever “Week 18.”
Overall Record*: 36-27-1, +11.17 units
*Each over/under graded to win 2 units; everything else for 1 unit
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Will this be the last hurrah for Russell Wilson as a member of the Seahawks?
What a run it’s been, one that already carries legitimate hall-of-fame aspirations as the former Super Bowl MVP continues his career. Yet at a still-springy age of 33, everything appears to be on the table when it comes to evaluating Russ’ future.
Withering trade rumors have presided over the Seahawks since before their lost season even began. And they’re sure to only intensify after the club’s oncoming last-place finish in the NFC West division.
Well, Wilson said this week his “goal is to win more Super Bowls” and the “plan is to win them here.” He’s got a no-trade clause, too, so ultimately, this decision should be up to No. 3 about what transpires — but given the possibility of a rebuild in Seattle and the somewhat murky future of longtime head coach Pete Carroll, leaving town is always viable.
Either way, emotions are sure to be running high for the 10th-year QB1. That helps to ensure Wilson churning out one of his usual efforts despite the ‘Hawks being long gone from the AFC playoff picture. And with this game having postseason significance for the rival Cardinals, there’s enough ingredients to help consummate a nice outing from Russ.
First of all, he’s having a better season than most people realize. When the Seahawks started to dip in the standings, that came while Wilson was sidelined with a broken middle finger on his throwing hand. He struggled a bit upon his return but has settled back in again and is still hanging a pretty 102.5 passer rating and completing 65.2 percent of his passes. Both those marks actually register as higher than his career average for each.
Wilson will also be concluding his 2021 campaign against a familiar opponent whom he’s generally enjoyed seeing. He’s etched a 29-8 TD/INT ratio in 19 lifetime meetings with the Cards and usually led them to fair activity on the scoreboard.
I’d also look out for DK Metcalf leaving his imprints on this game. The third-year standout wide-out is 91 yards away from notching his second straight season with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Arizona is the one in this affair still vying for a division title. Whether or not they can pull out the win here and be crowned champs of the West (they also need the Rams to lose) remains to be seen, but that doesn’t matter to us. We just want points.
Like his counterpart, Kyler Murray also possesses an encouraging history against the foe he’ll be facing off with today. For his career, the multi-sport star holds a 97.0 passer rating in four meetings opposite Seattle, easily his best mark among the three division rivals he sees twice annually. On top of that, the Seahawks are yielding more passing yards (270.4) each week than all NFC clubs
Murray’s health has been an issue in the second half of the season, arguably costing the Cardinals a couple of games following their blazing hot start. He seemingly followed a similar path to Wilson this year after both endured injuries that stunted very good work. At this point, though, Murray is back to full health.
Apparently so is Wilson after he guided his group to a whopping 51 points last week. While that came at the expense of the Lions, it still serves as a springboard for another big showing to wrap things up.
Meanwhile, Arizona is coming off an impressive and important win at Dallas last week. Each side being in rhythm sets the stage for an explosive season finale.
Pick: OVER 47 (-130)
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Spread: Bears +4/Vikings -4
Here we have another veteran upper echelon starting quarterback with a bit of an uncertain future despite prior success.
Cousins, age 33, is having another great year for the Vikings, even looking to clinch his third straight campaign with a passer rating above 100.0 (and he narrowly missed out on a fourth his first year in Minnesota).
Yet he’s often one of the more-criticized QB’s in the league. The Vikings’ lack of team success certainly plays a sizable role in these harsh words, and thus, potential trade rumors have swirled, too.
Any such talks would just be bogus. Cousins is getting paid a lot of money but he only has one year left on that deal — why not just let him ride it out with the fantastic numbers he’s provided them?
Though this is technically a meaningless final regular season game, I foresee Cousins wants to go into the offseason making a statement by way of a stellar performance. Additionally, the Vikings are far better than the respect — or lack thereof — the linesmakers are showing them based on this curiously low spread.
Contrast that to the first meeting a few Mondays ago, when the game was at Soldier Field, and Minnesota was actually favored by more than they are today. Typically, when you’re at home, that’s at least a few-point edge to the oddsmakers.
True, Andy Dalton is likely starting now instead of Justin Fields, but are we sure that’s an upgrade? I’m not convinced it is.
The Red Rifle has received a handful of starts this year and looked mostly mediocre, stringing together a 76.8 passer rating. Chicago’s lackluster cast around him considerably limits their ceiling in this road matchup opposite a quality defense.
Surprisingly (given all the vocal Matt Nagy hate out there), the Bears can actually even it up with Minnesota in the NFC Norris for second place at 7-10 if they get the W. That’s just not happening, though.
Pick: VIKINGS -4 (-110)
WAS-NYG U37.5 —> U50.5
Colts -14.5 —> -1.5
Falcons +3.5 —> +16.5
Raiders +3 —> +16
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first, that being the Colts taking on the lowly Jaguars. This is the epitome of the phrase “game you have to have.” All Indianapolis has to do is defeat the worst team in the NFL and they will move on to the postseason. If they somehow lose, they would need three different outcomes in other bouts to stay alive and advance.
Additionally from the early window, we’ll deploy a total that looks a little worrisome at first glance. After all, the over/under is low enough that even adding 13 points to the number still makes it look like a normal game amount. Still, how could this NFC East tilt between joke franchises get to beyond 50 points? The Football Team has been in free-fall mode the last month, while the Giants are being forced to trot out Jake Fromm as starting QB again. Oof
Eternal rivals New Orleans and Atlanta collide in a game that has playoff ramifications for the former. They must beat the Falcons on the road and hope San Francisco falls to the Rams in order to secure that final NFC Wild Card berth. No matter what, though, these encounters are almost always close and we just need the Falcons to not get blown out decisively
If we make it to the final game of the season on Sunday Night Football, the Raiders hosting the Chargers in an elimination game seems prime for a competitive meeting as well. That would indicate the Raiders not losing by 17.
Jonathan Taylor Over/Under 21.5 Carries
In a must-win game to reach the playoffs, expect the Colts to display their usual rush-heavy tendencies that should be prevalent against a very bad Jags team.
So long as that is the case, we’ll get the usual dosage of Taylor, which has equated to an average of 23 rush attempts the last 10 weeks. It was at that point the second-year stud (finally) became undisputed king of the Indy backfield after the club was rotating three backs prior and now he’s in position to possibly capture Offensive Player of the Year honors. My how things can change.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, sports a poor defense against the run, ranking 25th in rush yards allowed (127.1) per game. They’ve also yielded more touchdowns on the ground than all but two NFL clubs.
Oh, and the Jaguars are 2-14, owners of pro football’s worst record entering the final week. One of those L’s was at the hands of the Colts, who held Trevor Lawrence to below a 60.0 passer rating.
This has the Colts’ fingerprints all over it, especially while the Jags are without their best offensive player James Robinson, and that points to the right kind of game script, sending Taylor off to a busy day.
Pick: OVER 21.5 Carries (EV)