The Commish Online                                                                                
It’s really amazing how much smarter I get when the teams are in a position where one win or one loss can determine their destiny in the playoffs.  The past week’s 11-3-1 record with one no play was a third straight winning week.  I could have counted Denver as a win, but I stated that if the spread was greater than 5-6, it was a no play.  It came out 6½ and went to 7.  That gave me a record on best bets of 4-1, with the only loss the inexplicable cold weather triumph by the Dolphins.  The last three weeks’ overall record is 36-12-1(75%) and best bets are 12-5 (71%.)  That evens up the season best bet record at 23-23-4.  Considering the rash of upsets this season, I’ll take that and hope I can push above the .500 mark this week.

Now, on to week 17, the most difficult week to handicap of the year.  Teams that have made the playoffs will rest weary stars.  Teams that are out of it will show whether they have any pride or if they are only interested in getting the hell out of Dodge.  This is a week where I can’t really tout my expertise.  Honestly, with the exception of just a few games, it is a total crapshoot.  Week 17 is all about “feel.”

So this is what I “feel” will happen.

Best bets:

( I’m picking seven best bets this week, since one got thrown out last week.)

Buffalo at New England (-8)  o/u  34
The Pats can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with a win and a KC loss.  This game is on Saturday, so it could have a huge effect on the Chiefs performance Sunday.  The Bills’ offense has been pathetic all season.  I’m going to call this for the PATRIOTS and give the points.  On the total I give a slight nod to the OVER.

Seattle at San Francisco (Pick)  o/u  44½
Terrell Owens is out for the Niners.  Seattle has a slim shot at making the playoffs.  Normally this would point to a win for the Seahawks, but they have been a complete train wreck on the road.  I’m going to take the NINERS at home and lean UNDER on the total.

St. Louis at Detroit (+10½)  o/u  46
The big doggie game of the week.  Let’s see…  Is Arizona the dog?  No?  OK.  Take the LIONS at home to cover the 10½ and improve the trend to 13-4, and just for giggles let’s go with the UNDER here.

Chicago at Kansas City (-10)  o/u  45
This is the toughest game of the bunch to call.  If New England loses Saturday, the Chiefs will want to rest some starters.  If not, this game will be for home field throughout the playoffs.  I believe that the Pats will win, and cause KC to have to care.  Take the CHIEFS to cover the 10 and lean ever so slightly to the OVER.  (Note:  If the Patriots lose, you might want to take the points.)

Dallas at New Orleans (+2½)  o/u  39
This is an interesting matchup.  On paper, the Saints should win this game. So why is Dallas favored?  My guess is Bill Parcells wants the Cowboys to go into the playoffs on a winning note, since they will have to play on the road unless Philly loses.  Will that be enough to overcome Dallas’ road woes?  My heart says yes, but my pocketbook says no.  Take the SAINTS to squeak by at home and lean to the OVER.

Oakland at San Diego (-4)  o/u  45½
The Raiders are totally discombobulated.  I don’t even know who they will start at QB.  Play the CHARGERS at home and give a slight nod to the UNDER.

Pittsburgh (+7½) at Baltimore  o/u  43
If Cincinnati loses, the only excitement this game will offer is whether Jamal Lewis gets 2,000 yards.  If the Bengals win, we may get to see a new single season rushing record.  There is also some speculation that Bill Cowher could be coaching his last game for Pittsburgh before taking the job at Nebraska.  I think Baltimore should win the game, but I’m going to go with the STEELERS to stay inside the spread.   For the total, there is no Monday night game, but these defenses won’t let me take the over, so I will give a VERY slight nod to the UNDER.

The rest of the story:

Philadelphia (-6½) at Washington  o/u  41
The Spurrier experiment comes to its fateful conclusion.  Dan Snyder needs to learn that you cannot buy a title in the NFL like the Yankees do in baseball.  The NFL is a team sport.  Chemistry and coaching take you a lot farther than a few high priced skill position players.  Play on the EAGLES to get a division clinching victory and cover.  The OVER looks good as well.

N.Y. Jets at Miami (-4)  o/u  37½
Two teams playing out the string.  Nothing of consequence here except the question of Dave Wannstedt’s job.  Probably won’t put a dime on this game, but if I have to choose I will take the home team DOLPHINS and give the nod to the OVER.

Jacksonville (+3) at Atlanta  o/u  43½
I just don’t see the Jags being able to go on the road and pull the upset.  Vick tunes up for next year.  My money will be on ATLANTA and the UNDER.

Indianapolis (-7) at Houston  o/u  44½
Indy needs this game for a division title.  Houston has a banged up defense and nothing to play for but pride.  The Texans have had a pretty good season for a second year team, but Indy just has too may weapons.  Take INDIANAPOLIS and give a small nod to the UNDER.

Tampa Bay (+6½) at Tennessee  o/u  41
Tennessee can win the division with a win and an Indy loss.  Unfortunately they play at the same time.  Look for a little scoreboard watching and if Indy is drilling Houston, look for McNair and company to sit out the second half.  As for me, I’m going to play the reigning Super Bowl champs to at least stay inside the number.  Play the BUCS and UNDER the total.

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-7½)  o/u  41
Cincy has to win just to have a chance at the playoffs.  This is an awful lot of points, but something tells me that the motivation will be there for the BENGALS to cover.  Flip a coin on the total.  Probably a hair OVER.

Carolina at N.Y. Giants (+5½)  o/u  34½
.Another meaningless game.  The Giants have come completely unraveled the last few weeks.  Carolina has clinched its division and has nothing more to play for.  I should have my head examined for this pick, but I’m going to go with the GIANTS to muster a little pride at home and at least cover the number.  Even with the low total, I like the UNDER.

Minnesota (-7½) at Arizona  o/u  45½
There is danger lurking in this one.  Arizona has made a habit of upsetting teams at home and the Vikings have been less than awe inspiring on grass.  I have never been able to figure out how the Cardinals do it, and I still can’t.  Go with MINNESOTA and lean UNDER.

For The Record:
Dana Harris' Best Bets ATS:
Week 16:    (4 - 1 - 0)
YTD:           (23 - 23 - 4)

Questions/comments/tomato throwing may be directed to
Week 17
December 26, 2003
by Dana Harris