Let’s say two friends just finished dinner at a steakhouse. The check comes. Unless they agree to split the bill, the next three seconds will go one of four ways.
1. One friend grabs the check as the other friend says “no, no, no!” and puts up a token fight.
2. One friend grabs the check as the other friend doesn’t put up a fight.
3. Both reach for the check at the same time, fight over who’s paying it and do the dueling, “no no no no, lemme get it, no no no no no” routine.
4. Both pretend not to see it because neither wants to pay.
Each scenario comes down to one simple question: Who wanted the check more? In the first two scenarios, one friend wanted it more than the other. In the third scenario, luck usually determined the winner — where the waiter placed the check determined who grabbed it first. In the fourth scenario, someone eventually has to care or else they’ll be sitting there forever. So really, it’s about caring. Who cared more on that day?
Same goes for Week 17 in football, or as it could easily be called, Dinner Check Sunday. Just figure out the stakes for every team, weigh them and pick accordingly. Without further ado, the Week 17 picks …
(Home teams in caps)
Dolphins (-4.5) over PATRIOTS
At stake: The Pats already clinched a No. 1 seed. Miami could become the first team ever to finish 1-7 at home and 7-1 on the road, easily one of the five or six dumbest accomplishments in sports history.
Why you should pick the Dolphins: The last time New England was locked into a playoff spot and faced Miami in a meaningless Week 17 game (Jan. 1, 2006), Tom Brady played only one quarter, Doug Flutie tried a dropkick, a rookie receiver named Bam Childress played some snaps at cornerback and Bill Belichick said afterward, “We played guys to get them experience, get them out there to play, give them a chance so they will be better prepared to play if they are called upon.” Hmmmmm. I wish the Pats would try one of my favorite ideas that hasn’t happened yet: play the starters for the second half and that’s it. Why not use your best guys at the end instead of the beginning? Or is that too logical?
Why your 2010 MVP should be Tom Brady: Fifteen games, 3,700 yards, 34 touchdowns and four picks (through 15 games), flanked by a former practice squad running back, a Jets castoff, two rookie tight ends, a slot guy eight months removed from major knee surgery and someone that a losing team gave away during the season … and if that’s not enough, he lost his security blanket (Kevin Faulk in September) and his only deep threat (Randy Moss in October), and he maintained the trust of New England fans despite changing his hair and becoming an Uggs spokesman. Just when you thought the Manning-Brady rivalry was dead …
Enduring lesson from 2010: Any Patriots fan who thought Bill Belichick was washed up should punch himself in the face, then do it a second time.
Bills (+8) over JETS
At stake: The Jets are locked into the No. 6 seed unless Pittsburgh somehow blows the Cleveland game, leaving them little incentive other than it would be funny if they won the game and then, instead of giving Rex Ryan a Gatorade bath, they dumped a bucket of Odor-Eater powder on him. Meanwhile, the Bills are in a three-way battle for the second pick of the NFL draft. In other words, don’t bet this game, tease it, throw it in a parlay … just stay away.
Why you should pick the Bills: When in doubt, take the points.
Enduring lesson from 2010: If foot fetish videos of your wife surface online, and the voice of the cameraman sounds like you, just admit that it was you … because the alternative is that someone else was filming foot fetish videos of your wife, and I’m pretty sure that’s worse.
Cowboys (+10) over EAGLES
At stake: Philly already clinched the No. 3 seed and can’t move any higher. The Cowboys are playing for Jason Garrett’s job … and unfortunately for Jason Garrett, the only person who probably cares is Jason Garrett.
Why you should pick the Cowboys: Because Stephen McGee is one game away from being this year’s “Random third-string QB who finishes the season strongly enough that he sucks another team that’s desperate for a starter into ponying up an improbably high draft pick for him” guy.
Relevant e-mail (from Dan F. in Chicago): “During the Giants-Eagles game, a friend from Philadelphia sent the following message: ‘Michael Vick is Michael Vicking. If you turned off the Eagles game, turn it back on now.’ That’s all it took for us to switch the channel in time to see a ridiculous comeback. What other athletes could have their name turn into a verb?” Look, Dan, I appreciate your point and it’s a good one. But how dare you discount Brett Favre like that! You didn’t even mention him! I feel like Brett Favreing you right now. What’s your cell phone number?
Enduring lesson from 2010: You want Jerry Jones building your football stadium. You don’t want Jerry Jones building your football team.
Giants (-4) over REDSKINS
At stake: For the Giants, a playoff spot if they win and Green Bay loses. For the Redskins, if they win this game, the odds immediately double that Donovan McNabb will replace Warren Sapp on “Inside the NFL” next season.
(Cut to Warren bulging his eyes and screaming, “Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh!”)
Why you should pick the Giants: Because there’s no way the Football Gods would crush Giants fans for three solid weeks in the most mind-blowingly way possible, then cap it off with Rex Grossman killing their playoff hopes. It’s too cruel. That wouldn’t even happen to Cleveland.
Best e-mail to capture the 2010 Giants season (from Ashley in Rahway, N.J.): “I am on a budget and a diet. I was so depressed after the Giants game that I went out shopping and to McDonald’s. Being a Giants fan is harmful to my life.” Actually, maybe we shouldn’t rule the Grossman scenario out.
Random idea (from Dan in Birmingham) that I’m co-signing: “I was waiting around all day Friday for the Week 16 picks column only to find out Monday that you twitter’d them in. Which got me thinking, with the postal service taking a backseat to e-mail, text, Twitter etc. … isn’t it time we change the term ‘mailed it in’ to ‘tweeted it in?’ Just think ‘Boy! Eli tweeted that game in last night!'”
Enduring lesson from 2010: If a rival coach in your division offers to trade you his starting quarterback — someone who’s been a signature player for his franchise, no less — and all he wants is a second-round pick, definitely turn this trade down as fast as possible.
Steelers (-5.5) over BROWNS
At stake: For the banged-up Steelers, a No. 2 seed and a much-needed bye week. For the Browns, AFC North pride and a feel-good ending for their 30-minute NFL Films 2010 Season In Review video. Don’t underestimate the importance there — those things run on cable at random times for the rest of eternity.
Why you should pick the Steelers: Because the Browns have looked like crap the past three weeks. We’re inching closer and closer to the Dirk Diggler-like return of a sobbing Eric Mangini as the Patriots’ secondary coach (with Belichick as Jack Horner).
Enduring lesson from 2010: The Steelers are headed for a bye even though Ben Roethlisberger has been playing with “Two Mississippi” protection these past two months, which means that either offensive lines are overrated or he’s better than we thought.
RAVENS (-9.5) over Bengals
At stake: The Ravens clinch a No. 2 seed (and a bye) with a win and a Pittsburgh loss. Meanwhile, Carson Palmer is playing for the right to say, “The 2010 season wasn’t my fault! It was T-Ocho’s fault! See what happened these past two weeks? I’m back, baby!!!”
Why you should pick the Ravens: Because Carson Palmer isn’t back, baby.
Random stat that warrants at the very least a pay-per-view urine test (courtesy of Steve in Denver): “Billy Cundiff has 38 touchbacks. That is insanely high. I didn’t recall him having a particularly strong leg, so I looked over his past stats: 38 of 75 kickoffs for touchbacks (this year); 11 of 209 kickoffs for touchbacks (previous five seasons).”
Enduring lesson from 2010: Hell will freeze over before another NFL team trots out two starting wide receivers who both have their own reality TV shows.
Vikings (+3) over LIONS
At stake: For Minnesota, the hope that Joe Webb might be more Willie Beamon 2.0 than Tarvaris Jackson 2.0. Meanwhile, the Lions could finish the year on an improbable 10-2 streak … against the spread, but still, 10 and 2!
Why you should pick the Vikings: Because the Lions are too banged up. And also, because it’s Brett Favre’s last game ever, at least until next August, when he comes back to Green Bay as Aaron Rodgers’ backup and everyone there forgives him.
Semi-relevant e-mail (from Mike in Quincy, Mass.): “My wife (reading US Weekly): ‘Charlie Sheen has a live-in sobriety coach?’ Me: ‘He must be the Brad Childress of sobriety coaches.'”
Enduring lesson from 2010: Any time your Super Bowl hopes hinge on a fading, banged-up, over-40 legend who had to be physically dragged out of retirement, then thrown on a plane by three teammates who spent the ride guilt-tripping him into coming back … you’re probably headed for 6-10.
PACKERS (-10) over Bears
At stake: The No. 6 seed and a playoff spot for Green Bay; a potential No. 1 seed for Chicago (with a win and some luck); and the upper hand in a nine-decade rivalry that dates back to 1921 (when the Bears were known as the Chicago Staleys).
Why you should pick the Packers: If Atlanta takes care of business at 1 p.m. ET, the Bears lock into that 2-seed before this game starts (making it meaningless for them). And also, we’ve been playing musical chairs for “They look like a Super Bowl team” NFC honors for four straight months; doesn’t it make sense that we’d go into the playoffs with the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds riding the most momentum?
Underrated subplot: If Atlanta wins and Chicago tweets this game in, that would mean Philly killed the Giants three times — twice on the field, then a third time when it choked against Minnesota (handing that 2-seed to Chicago and by proxy handing this game and the 6-seed to Green Bay). A triple homicide! Hey Eagles fans, would you rather have the 2-seed, or the 3-seed with the added bonus that you destroyed Giants fans a third time? (Waiting.) You picked the 2-seed … but you had to think about it, right?
Another underrated subplot: Mike McCarthy doing his Andy Reid impersonation — it’s like watching the Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker of Bad Clock Management grabbing their light sabers for three hours. Don’t sleep on McCarthy: He’s the one who prompted Brad from Tampa to e-mail me, “Can you ask one of your readers to make a YouTube video of Mike McCarthy as MacGruber? Whenever McCarthy has to battle the clock, the clock always wins. I’m waiting for the day when he calls for a fake FG in the two-minute offense with the Packers down four. MCCARTHY!!!!!”
Love it. Here, I re-wrote the theme song for the YouTube clip maker …
He can’t understaaaand that three zeroes are a bad thing
It’s like crossing Herm Edwards with Andy Reeeeeeid
He goes through timeouts like an all-you-can-eat buffeeeet