by Chris Corbellini
Week 17 Picks: Chaos Theory at Work
So, Week 17. The week where playoff seeds are set, and for brief stretches right before the 1 pm and then 4 pm games end, the NFL and its fans lose their sh-t entirely. It’s chaos football, and it’s beautiful and baffling to watch.
I’ll explain. We’ll get there. First, know that as this NFL season progressed, while in an oaken classroom that should be a set for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I learned a new phrase: The Attention Economy. Put simply, your eyeballs and tastes are the new currency, and at the moment, every content-provider is fighting for it. Today, these content houses/sports leagues know you can select ANYTHING on a video device, and so, how do they make sure their stuff is at the top of the queue? How do they grab you? That’s the attention economy at work.
On my end, I binge-watch Maisel and Atlanta. I plop down and watch Game of Thrones whenever I can. I’ll toggle channels, accidentally stumble upon and then stay with an NHL playoff game on – any playoff game, because it is white-knuckle spectacle. The NBA has LeBron and my daily fantasy sports obsession, so I check those ESPN.com box scores every night. And I can’t change the channel whenever GOODFELLAS or JAWS is on AMC or HBO. That’s my attention economy, and it’s probably not that much different than most — like Jeff Bebe said in ALMOST FAMOUS: “Most of the time, the best stuff is the popular stuff.”
And still, when the stakes are there, the NFL’s Week 17 trumps everything. No, not just my favorites. Programming, period. That stretch trumps them all. No pun intended. But while we’re here, I’m still waiting for President Orange to scare the hellfire sh-t out of all 32 owners by tweeting how he hates it when wide receivers make one-handed catches – and how if he were an NFL owner he’d make them “catch the ball with BOTH handz, damit”.
I digress. The high stakes of Week 17 also make gambling picks that much more difficult. The Saints have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, the Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC, and everything else is up for grabs. And man, is the AFC a sh-tshow to predict right now. Around 7:20 pm or so I have a gut feeling the NFL will have reached apex chaos football, sending the lot of us into hysterics long enough to not notice the back-door covers and broken hearts of NFL players who won’t be getting playoff bonuses.
And yeah, those bonuses are still a thing in an NFL locker room: I had a Spring League alum get a playoff bonus check with the Falcons last year, and to a guy like that at the bottom of the roster, that’s serious coin. I expect a lot of those minimum-salary guys to really hunt this week – which in their case means gunning for big plays on special teams. Look for it. Someone knows he can make $50k (after taxes) in a single play. Maybe another Music City Miracle happens.
As always, home team in caps, with William Hill odds. I also added some percentages to correspond with my picks – they represent the probabilities calculated by The Quant Edge that my picks will actually happen. Full disclosure: I work at TQE as an advisor.
Dolphins at BILLS UNDER 39.5 (71.1%)
With so many AFC teams vying for playoff seeding — eight in all, gunning for six slots — this poop punch bowl game will be banished to the “small TV near the bathroom” in sports bars from Maine to San Diego. The exceptions? Pubs in Buffalo or Miami (and Miami is a hard maybe).
STEELERS (-14.5) beat Bengals (67.8%)
Ooh, that line. Ow. But I’m going to shake it off. The Steelers have all the motivation they need, with two scenarios to advance to the playoffs: 1) Win + hope their best buds the Browns upset the Ravens in the same time slot (4:25 starts) and 2) Win + hope the Colts-Titans Sunday nighter ends in a sister-kissing tie.
The winning at home part won’t be an issue. I see Big Ben just rolling down the field against Cinci, throwing a deep strike or two to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown (if he plays, which should happen), and then hoping Baker Mayfield has some Favre in him at the finish against Baltimore (which won’t happen).
REDSKINS (+7) cover vs. Eagles (66.6%)
The Eagles will win to stay in the hunt, and they would then need the Bears to beat the Vikings to secure the NFC’s No. 6 seed. Again, in the same time 4:25 time slot. Not an impossible dream, and I do like the chemistry Nick Foles has with Alshon Jeffery and Darren Sproles.
Still, some Redskin special teamer is going to keep this close. Philly wins, Washington covers.
Jaguars at TEXANS OVER 40 (64.1%)
Give this to Blake Bortles: He’s an all-time garbage time QB. So, yeah, we’ll get to that over in the fourth quarter, when Blake throws for a meaningless TD – likely because the Texans D is too busy plotting out a Gatorade attack on Bill O’Brien. With a victory Houston will clinch the No. 3 seed (at least), and yeah, I think this Texans team has the potential to go the distance. I saw them up close a few weeks ago, and their ultimate trump card (again!) is DeAndre Hopkins. Too good. Too much. Too young to know they are supposed to be too young to win a Super Bowl.
Last week: 3-1