Predicting Week 17 of the NFL season

By Sam Cowan

Entering the final week of the 2015 NFL season, all but two of the 12 playoff berths has been claimed, but three divisions have yet to be decided.

For the Broncos, Chiefs, Packers and Vikings, the playoffs are a guarantee, but this week’s games will determine which of those teams will host a playoff game or be forced to play on the road as a wild-card.

The Colts and Texans will also play in separate games for the AFC South title in a situation where one team will be in and the other will be watching the playoffs from home.

With the stakes increasingly being raised across the NFL, let’s get into this week’s picks.

Jets over Bills

This is Rex Ryan’s second game against his old team, the Jets. Last time, the Bills beat the Jets in New York 22-17 in an ugly Thursday night game.

With a full week of rest this time, I think the Jets will get revenge and beat the Bills to officially claim the final AFC wild-card spot.

Patriots over Dolphins

The 12-3 Patriots still need a win or a Broncos loss on Sunday to guarantee home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This should be an easy game to get that win against a mediocre Dolphins team.

Falcons over Saints

The Falcons shocked the world on Sunday when they handed the Panthers their first loss of the season. Riding the momentum of that huge win, I expect them to eke out a close win against the Saints to close out the year above .500.

Bengals over Ravens

The Ravens shook up the playoff picture after shocking the Steelers last week, but now must head to Cincinnati to play an 11-4 Bengals team that has beaten them five games in a row.

I think the Bengals will win, especially with their chance at a first-round bye still in play depending on how the Broncos play later in the day.

Steelers over Browns

Speaking of the Steelers, they went from the team no one wants to play in January to a team needing major help to make it past the first week of January.

The Steelers will win in a blowout because this is the Browns they are playing. However, they will be kept out of the playoffs due to the aforementioned Jets win.

Texans over Jaguars

If the Texans win, they are guaranteed the division. Even if they lose, the Colts need to win and have five other teams also come through with wins to have a chance at winning the tiebreaker.

As it is, I think the Texans will clinch the easy way by winning at home against the Jaguars.

Colts over Titans

I’m really curious to see who the Colts trot out at quarterback. With Andrew Luck likely out for the year, Charlie Whitehurst on injured reserve and Matt Hasselbeck doubtful for the game, they’re going to have to go with someone deep in the organizational depth chart.

I’m still picking the Colts though which tells you how little I think of the Titans.

Redskins over Cowboys

The Redskins are locked into the 4-seed now and should have several starters on the bench for this game. Again, the fact I am picking them regardless should say what I think about this Cowboys team, especially without Tony Romo.

Giants over Eagles

This is a game with nothing but pride on the line. I think the Giants will win primarily because the Eagles will be in some disarray from the firing of Chip Kelly.

Bears over Lions

This is another game with nothing on the line, but I am still intrigued by this matchup. The Bears have had a surprisingly good season while the Lions have disappoint. With that in mind, I’ll go with the team which has looked better most of the year.

Panthers over Buccaneers

The Panthers need to win this game to get home field advantage in the NFC. I think they will come out strong off the loss and cruise to an easy victory to wrap up their impressive, nearly perfect regular season.

Chiefs over Raiders

The Chiefs already beat the Raiders in Oakland earlier this year so there is no reason to think they can’t win on their home turf. They will be playing especially hard in light of playing at the same time as the team they are chasing in the division, the Broncos.

Broncos over Chargers

Speaking of which, the Chiefs and Bengals would both definitely benefit from a Broncos loss. It’s too bad the Broncos are playing a bad Chargers team.

The Broncos will secure a coveted first-round bye at home with the win here.

Cardinals over Seahawks

The Cardinals come in on a nine-game winning streak that will give them a first-round bye in the playoffs. With home field still on the line, I have no doubt all the starters will be out there and I can’t see much hope for the Seahawks in a tough place to play like Arizona.

Rams over 49ers

This is the only late-afternoon game with nothing on the line for either team. Be that as it may, I will go with the Rams who are coming off a shocking win at the Seahawks and have shown flashes of brilliance this season in between streaks of mediocrity.

Packers over Vikings

The winner of this game will host a playoff game; the loser will go on the road in the wild-card round. Interestingly enough, if the Packers win, they will play the Vikings in the exact same scenario we are seeing this week except with a do-or-die situation added in for good measure.

The Packers easily handled the Vikings earlier this season and should be able to win again in front of a very loud and supportive crowd.

With that, we wrap up my picks for the final week of the regular season.

Coverage of the NFL will continue next week as we analyze the fallout of Week 17 and project who will make it out of the first round of the playoffs here at the Cowan Corner.

Week 16: 10-6

Overall: 147-93

Predicting Week 16 of the NFL season

By Sam Cowan

This week marks the final full week of games in 2015 for the NFL and presents matchups that will affect the complexion of the coming playoffs both directly and indirectly.

With so much on the line, the prospective playoff contenders will need to perform to prove they belong at the top. Which teams fall and which rise will be determined over the course of this week and next.

Without further ado, let’s get to this week’s picks.

Raiders over Chargers

Raiders safety Charles Woodson has had a long, illustrious career in the NFL which will come to an end after this season. Over the course of his 17-year career, Woodson has recorded 65 interceptions which is good for fifth all time.

This will be Woodson’s penultimate game of his career and I think his team will take it to start the week off.

Redskins over Eagles

A win will clinch the NFC East for the Redskins. I just don’t think the Eagles are very good and they match up poorly with the Redskins. The Redskins have been a big surprise this season and it will be interesting to see what Kirk Cousins and his team can do in the playoffs.

Patriots over Jets

With the Broncos falling off and the Bengals losing Andy Dalton for the regular season, the Patriots have the 1-seed in the AFC under lock and key. I see them establishing their hold further with a win against a division rival.

Texans over Titans

Of all people, Brandon Weeden would not have been my prediction to lead the Texans to a win in Indianapolis for the first time ever last week. Now, they can put away the division with a bad and tanking Titans team.

Chiefs over Browns

The league’s longest winning streak will easily extend to nine games with a blowout win for the Chiefs at home.

Colts over Dolphins

The Colts need to win this game to have a shot in the division and with the Texans playing at the same time, the Colts will be going all out against a hapless Dolphins team.

Lions over 49ers

This is a meaningless game with a result that will likely also be meaningless. The Lions and Matthew Stafford win to help him keep his job going into next season.

Bills over Cowboys

It was a rough first year coaching the Bills for Rex Ryan. The team came in with high hopes and a seemingly stout defense, but poor play in key games and rampant penalties kept the Bills from achieving their true potential.

It will be interesting to see what happens in year two for Ryan.

Buccaneers over Bears

This is a game between two teams who were surprisingly frisky this year, but both teams are outside the playoff picture. It will be interesting to see how both teams will do next year after a year of experience and team building.

Panthers over Falcons

I can’t buy the Falcons as a credible threat to the Panthers. At this point, a perfect regular season is likely and all eyes may be on Cam Newton in the playoffs to see if he can finish off the perfect season.

Steelers over Ravens

It has been a terrible year for Ravens fans and I don’t think it will get any better with the Steelers coming to town. The Ravens might surprise and step up their game against the division rival, but I don’t see it happening.

Jaguars over Saints

Don’t worry Jaguars fans. Your team wasn’t supposed to be close to being a contender this year and so falling short in the division should be expected.

In all seriousness, the evolution of Blake Bortles has been fun to see and I think the Jaguars will be legitimate contenders in the AFC South next season.

Seahawks over Rams

The Seahawks can no longer win their division, but the remaining games will still be important to determine which seed they get as a wild card team. I think they blow out the Rams pretty easily here.

Cardinals over Packers

This could be a matchup in the divisional round of the playoffs in a few weeks. I’ll take the Cardinals because they are playing at home and Aaron Rodgers probably won’t go full force in this game to prep for the playoffs.

Vikings over Giants

The Giants need to win out and get some major help for a shot at a division title. The Vikings need a win to stay alive in their division. The Vikings are better and will play this one at home so I will take them.

Broncos over Bengals

If the Bengals win, they will clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. However, I don’t see it happening this week due to the strength of the Broncos’ defense.

However, I expect it to be a very close and exciting game between two legitimate AFC contenders.

That will wrap up this edition of my NFL picks. Come back next week for the final week of the regular season as we go over the final games and determine who will be in the playoffs.

As always, picks for next week will be posted on Wednesday here at the Cowan Corner.

Week 15: 11-5

Overall: 137-87

Predicting Week 15 of the NFL season

By Sam Cowan

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff picture in both conferences is still in flux.

Entering the week, the Cardinals, Panthers and Patriots were the only teams to have clinched playoff berths and the latter two are the only ones to have their divisions clinched. This makes the final three weeks very important for all the teams still fighting for their spot in the playoffs.

With that in mind, let’s get into this week’s picks.

Buccaneers over Rams

I’m not sure what to think of the Rams. They seem like a completely different team week-to-week and it makes their games really hard to pick.

Since they won last week, I’m going to assume they lose big this week and pick against them.

Jets over Cowboys

The Cowboys season is pretty much over so there’s no sense in them giving a full effort here. In contrast, the Jets need a win to keep pace in the AFC wild-card race.

Vikings over Bears

The Vikings don’t lose against bad teams. The Bears are a bad team so I will go with the Vikings.

Jaguars over Falcons

Who thought the Jaguars would be the team to put up a 50-point performance this season? It came at the right time too as a win over the Colts kept their season hopes alive.

The Jaguars will continue to stay alive thanks to playing a Falcons team that has utterly collapsed after a 5-0 start to the season.

Colts over Texans

Andrew Luck is possibly out for the rest of the season, but Hasselbeck has done well as his replacement. I think the Colts will squeak out a close game at home to take sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

Panthers over Giants

I think this game will be close, but the Panthers will come out on top yet again. Cam Newton is just playing at another level right now and Eli Manning will not be able to keep up.

Patriots over Titans

I don’t care who the Patriots are starting at running back. This one is going to get ugly.

Redskins over Bills

This is the battle of the teams that need to decide if they are good or not. After 14 weeks of picks, I still have no idea what to think of these teams. I’ll go with the Redskins because they’re the home team.

Chiefs over Ravens

The longest winning streak in the NFL will extend to eight games here as the Chiefs play a struggling Ravens team.

Seahawks over Browns

The question isn’t who is going to win this game, it’s how many turnovers Johnny Manziel is going to have. My bet is on at least two in a blowout of a game.

Packers over Raiders

I think the Packers will put an end to the Raiders slim playoff hopes with this game. The Raiders faithful will have to wait another year or two for a winning season.

Steelers over Broncos

This will be a close game between two playoff-caliber teams, but I think the Steelers will come out on top here.

Dolphins over Chargers

This is the most skippable game of the week with absolutely nothing on the line. I’ll pick the Dolphins and immediately move on to more important games.

Bengals over 49ers

This will be the first career start for AJ McCarron, who takes over for an injured Andy Dalton. The good news for McCarron is that he is facing a mediocre 49ers team which just got blown out by the lowly Browns.

Even without Dalton, I think the Bengals will flourish this week.

Cardinals over Eagles

The Cardinals already have a playoff spot guaranteed, but I think they will clinch a division title with a win this week. Also, an Eagles loss could give the Redskins firm control over the NFC East.

Saints over Lions

I have no idea why this is a Monday night game. This game meant nothing when the schedule was released and it still means nothing this week. Here’s hoping it’s at least an entertaining game.

With that, we wrap up another week of NFL picks. Join me next Wednesday for more news and analysis of the week that was in the NFL here at the Cowan Corner.

Week 14: 8-8

Overall: 126-82

Predicting Week 14 of the NFL season

By Sam Cowan

Normally I open up these columns with a brief preamble about something that happened in the NFL in the last week.

However, this week I have nothing important to say and the coming finals week has me rushing to write this column so I can prepare for those.

With that being said, let’s go straight into the picks for the week.

Cardinals over Vikings

The Cardinals are a great team at home and the Vikings just got trounced on their own turf. Even on the short week, I’ll give the win to the Cardinals here.

Bills over Eagles

For the sake of my picks, I need the Bills to decide if they are good or not. I was about to write them off as playoff contenders and then they put up 30 points against a tough Texans defense.

I think they are better than the Eagles so I will take them on the road.

49ers over Browns

Let the speculation about who the Browns will draft with the first overall pick begin. The Browns have had a terrible year and it will continue here.

Lions over Rams

I think the Rams quit on this season three weeks ago. I’m just wondering if their management has the guts to fire Jeff Fisher who has done nothing for the team since coming on as head coach in 2012.

Buccaneers over Saints

Look out everybody, the Buccaneers are within shooting distance of an NFC wild-card spot. Meanwhile, the Saints are virtually guaranteed to set the new single-season record for passing touchdowns given up in a season.

Jets over Titans

This game is going to be over by halftime. The Jets are just better in every way.

Bengals over Steelers

This has potential to be the game of the day. In November, the Bengals won 13-10 in a hard-fought game.

I think this game will be a little higher scoring, but the final result will be the same. The Bengals will win a close game and clinch a division title in the process.

Colts over Jaguars

It was fun while it lasted Jaguars, but you are still a year or two away from true contention. I think the Colts win if it’s Hasselbeck or Luck under center.

Chiefs over Chargers

The Chiefs win streak will extend to seven games here with an easy win at home against a broken and lifeless division rival.

Bears over Redskins

The Redskins have yet to win a road game this season which is a problem because three of their remaining four games are on the road. Combining that with the Bears being a decent team means I have to pick Chicago here.

Panthers over Falcons

At this point, the Panthers are going to be tough to beat. I still don’t think they will end this season undefeated, but a team like the Falcons is not going to give them any trouble.

Seahawks over Ravens

This should be a very one-sided affair with either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen starting for the Ravens. It is also a game the Seahawks need to win to keep pace in the NFC West race with the Cardinals.

Broncos over Raiders

The Broncos were a scary team while Peyton Manning turned into a pick machine. Now Brock Osweiler has them playing like the best team in the NFL.

Packers over Cowboys

The Packers will establish full control of the NFC North here with a home game against the depleted Cowboys. I just can’t see Matt Cassel picking up a win in Lambeau Field.

Patriots over Texans

This is going to be a tough game for the Patriots, especially if Rob Gronkowski does not play as expected. However, I see them doing just enough to win against a Texans team that has not established if they are good or not yet.

Giants over Dolphins

A win could give the Giants sole possession of first place in the NFC East and I think they will grab that against a mediocre Dolphins team.

With that, we wrap up another week of NFL picks. Come back next week for more picks and analysis of the NFL here at the Cowan Corner.

Predicting Week 13 of the NFL season

By Sam Cowan

After 12 weeks and 176 games, only one team remains among the unbeaten and to the surprise of many that team is the Carolina Panthers.

However, the Panthers start is no fluke. Six of the Panthers 11 wins this season have been by double digits and they have won against the Seahawks and the Packers.

Time will tell if the Panthers can continue their undefeated run, but for now they appear to be riding high at the top of the NFL.

With that said, let’s get to this week’s picks.

Packers over Lions

I still don’t know what’s wrong with the Packers. The Packers looked nearly unstoppable through their first six games, but have now lost four of their last five.

Despite that, I expect them to get back to winning against the Lions on Thursday.

Jets over Giants

I trusted the Giants to take care of business against the Redskins last week and they completely blew it. I’m not going to fall for that again.

Cardinals over Rams

Jeff Fisher is right. His team’s struggles this season are not an effort issue. They are a coach and quarterback issue and until one or both of those issues need to be resolved for the Rams to be taken seriously.

Buccaneers over Falcons

The Buccaneers are a better team and need the win so I will give them the nod.

Vikings over Seahawks

This was a tough decision, but I will take the Vikings at home. The Seahawks are a good team, but the Vikings are a little better.

Texans over Bills

JJ Watt has been an unstoppable monster the past few weeks. Meanwhile, the Bills might be a little overrated given their failure to win games against good teams this season.

Ravens over Dolphins

This is a game between two teams who should be better than they are. I’ll go with the Ravens because they at least have the excuse of losing in close games.

Bengals over Browns

The Browns have Austin Davis starting at quarterback for this game. I don’t need any more justification for this pick.

Jaguars over Titans

Look on the bright side, Titans fans. You’re going to get another high overall pick and you’ll eventually be good if you keep getting those, right?

Bears over 49ers

The 49ers are 0-5 on the road this season and the Bears are a remarkable 1-4 at home. Something’s got to give and I have to go with the Bears here because they are a better team.

Broncos over Chargers

This Brock Osweiler kid might have a future in the NFL with the way he played against the Patriots last Sunday. I think he will extend his record to 3-0 as a starter here in what will be a quasi-home game for the Broncos.

Chiefs over Raiders

The Chiefs enter this week with a five game win streak and a win here could put them in great position for a wild-card berth. I think they will get it done against the Raiders who are still a year away from being true threats in the AFC.

Panthers over Saints

This will probably be another 30+-point performance for the Panthers against a mediocre Saints team. It’s just a question of what dances Cam Newton will pull out this week.

Patriots over Eagles

It says a lot about the Eagles when I confidently pick a Patriots team that is missing Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis and potentially Rob Gronkowski. I don’t think this one will even be close.

Steelers over Colts

Reports suggest Ben Roethlisberger will play in this game. If he plays, I think the Steelers have the decisive edge in this game especially at home.

Redskins over Cowboys

When the Redskins benched Robert Griffin III during the preseason, a lot of people wrote them off as a bottom of the barrel team. Now, a win on Monday night could give them sole possession of first place in the NFC East and I think that will happen.

Week 12: 11-5

Overall: 109-67