Outlook for NFL weekend | NevadaAppeal.com

Outlook for NFL weekend

by Joe Ellison
Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist

In past years the final Sunday of the NFL regular season has been a nightmare for handicappers to keep track of playoff scenarios and whether or not teams have anything to play for. But this year, assuming there will be no ties, everything is very simple.

Sunday morning there is only one meaningful game. New Orleans needs a win to stay alive for the remaining NFC Wild Card berth. Even though Cleveland has not clinched an AFC spot, because of playoff tie-breakers it doesn’t matter what the Browns do.

In the afternoon Washington owns the advantage for that last NFC slot, and Minnesota will by playing for position in case the Redskins falter. San Diego needs a win to lock up the AFC No. 3 seed and avoid playing blistering hot Jacksonville, while Pittsburgh faces Baltimore with the faint hope of a San Diego loss, and probably without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The night game is definitely meaningful. If Tennessee wins, the Titans are in the playoffs. If they lose, Cleveland gets in.

Of course Saturday night there will be one other important game, but not for playoff purposes, as New England attempts to complete the first unbeaten regular season since Miami in 1972. Any team can go through a season, play like crap and lose every game. But for the Patriots to avoid all the pitfalls and go 16-0, especially in this salary cap era, it would be an unbelievable achievement.

And thanks to Commissioner Roger Goodell, we can all watch it on television, too. New England was scheduled to play only on the NFL Network, but in his wisdom Goodell arranged it so the game will be simulcast on CBS and NBC. The Sunday game time changes were also excellent moves.

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The NFL Network is not available in 74 million American homes, including those subscribing to our local cable company. Sure, NFL is a new network, so you’ll catch them making rookie mistakes, like displaying the wrong down and distance during games and showing touchdown replays during important extra points, but any broadcast is better than no broadcast. Plus, overall for the die-hard fan, the NFL Network has many shows that make having it worthwhile.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

The Monday Night Football season is now over, and after watching the broadcasts, it’s hard to understand why some people are complaining about the quality in the announcers’ booth.

Ron Jaworski can sound goofy, but remember last year we were listening to Mr. Know-It-All Joe Theismann. Hitting the mute button on my remote control after every play became quite the chore, and was annoying to my guests, so it was good to see Joe go.

While hatred for Theismann seemed universal, liking Tony Kornheiser is a matter of opinion and taste. I am hooked on Kornheiser’s ESPN afternoon show Pardon the Interruption, and agree with him 90 percent of the time, so I’m fine with him. When I disagree with him, his folksy delivery makes it OK, where other journalists such as those on Around the Horn, when I used to watch it, made me angry and sick.

Mike Tirico is hardly noticeable, which means he does his job well. Overall it is a decent group.

BOWL GAMES

By this time next week, 21 more college football bowl games will have been played. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to look at all of them closely enough to make true predictions. Unfortunately, that is, for those who have been making a fortune betting against my bowl picks so far. However, I am currently leaning toward these selections: Boston College -4; TCU – 4 1/2; Maryland and Oregon State under 47 1/2; Central Florida -3; Penn State – 5 1/2; Air Force +3; South Florida – 6 1/2; Fresno State +5 1/2; Auburn on the Money Line; Wisconsin on the Money Line; Texas Tech -5 1/2; Hawaii +7 1/2; and Oklahoma -7 1/2.