Poupart's picks: Week 17

Here are the fearless predictions for Week 17 of the 2006 NFL season, courtesy of Dolphin Digest Associate Editor Alain Poupart.

Saturday, Dec. 30

N.Y. Giants (7-8) at Washington (5-10) — Sadly, the Giants actually can make the playoffs with a victory in this game. However, the Redskins have played solid football in recent weeks, upsetting New Orleans and losing in overtime to St. Louis. This won't be easy, but we just can't see the Giants continuing to choke the way they have. Prediction: N.Y. Giants, 23-20.

Sunday, Dec. 31

Detroit (2-13) at Dallas (9-6) — Having gotten spanked by the Eagles on Christmas, the Cowboys now need help to win the NFC East. First, they have to take care of business against the lowly Lions, which shouldn't be a problem. A big day for Tony Romo and the Cowboys. Prediction: Dallas, 30-10.

Oakland (2-13) at N.Y. Jets (9-6) — The Jets are not a great team by any stretch of the imagination, but they're headed to the playoffs because all they need is a victory here against the lowly Raiders. Actually, it's lowly Raiders only on offense because their defense actually is pretty good. But it won't take much for Chad Pennington to get enough points on the board to get the Jets the victory. Prediction: N.Y. Jets, 17-9.

St. Louis (7-8) at Minnesota (6-9) — The Rams still have a slim chance to make the playoffs, but they need a victory here and a whole lot of help. Beating the Vikings will depend on Marc Bulger because Minnesota's tremendous run defense will make it difficult for Steven Jackson to have a lot of success on the ground. But the Vikings offense is a mess right now. Prediction: St. Louis, 24-14.

Cleveland (4-11) at Houston (5-10) —The Texans have come on a little bit of late and look like a team that could cause problems in 2007. Ron Dayne has been on a roll lately and he'll look to finish on a high note against a Cleveland team that will start -- yikes -- Ken Dorsey at quarterback. Prediction: Houston, 27-13.

Carolina (7-8) at New Orleans (10-5) — This is a tough game to handicap because the Saints already are locking into the No. 2 seed in the NFC. As for Carolina, the Panthers will know by game time whether they still have a shot because a Giants victory on Sunday night will eliminate them. Jake Delhomme is expected to start at quarterback, so we'll give Carolina a slight edge. Prediction: Carolina, 20-19.

New England (11-4) at Tennessee (8-7) — This is another one of those games that's going to be tough to predict because the Pats pretty much are locked into the No. 4 AFC seed, while the Titans have slim playoff hopes. Tennessee needs a victory over the Patriots, a Kansas City victory over Jacksonville, and losses by both Cincinnati and Denver. Regardless, a victory over the Pats would cap a marvelous turnaround for Jeff Fisher's crew. But it won't happen. Prediction: New England, 20-17.

Seattle (8-7) at Tampa Bay (4-11) — Seattle is locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs, but the Seahawks want to get some momentum after losing their last three. The Bucs have a little more dangerous with Tim Rattay at quarterback instead of Bruce Gradkowski, but they still don't have the ammo to beat Seattle. Prediction: Seattle, 24-16.

Pittsburgh (7-8) at Cincinnati (8-7) — The Bengals have been left to beg for help to make the playoffs after their botched extra-point attempt at Denver last week, but first they have to take care of the Steelers in what might be Bill Cowher's last game as Pittsburgh head coach. It won't be as simple as it might seem for the Bengals, who actually were outplayed by the Steelers earlier this season but won because of a couple of key turnovers. Willie Parker should have a big day for the Steelers, and that will be the difference. Prediction: Pittsburgh, 24-21.

Jacksonville (8-7) at Kansas City (8-7) — Both those teams have long-shot hopes to make the playoffs, and the Jaguars are reeling after losing their last two. The Jags should be able to run the ball on the Chiefs, but Trent Green should have success throwing the ball. Prediction: Kansas City, 21-17.

Miami (6-9) at Indianapolis (11-4) — The Colts really have struggled lately, but the Dolphins come in with a new starting quarterback and an injury-ravaged secondary. That's not a good recipe against an Indy team that needs to establish some momentum heading into the playoffs. Prediction: Indianapolis, 34-13.

Buffalo (7-8) at Baltimore (12-3) — The Ravens really are on a roll and they still have a chance at the top seed in the AFC witha victory here and a Chargers loss. Jamal Lewis should have a big day against a mediocre run defense. Prediction: Baltimore, 24-10.

Arizona (5-10) at San Diego (13-2) — The Cardinals have played really well in recent weeks, but now will turn to Kurt Warner at quarterback because of Matt Leinart's shoulder injury. If his line can protect him, Warner could have a big day throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin against an average secondary. But that's a big if, as we can see Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips spending the afternoon in the Arizona backfield. On the flip side, we can't see the Cardinals slowing down LaDainian Tomlinson very much. Prediction: San Diego, 33-16.

Atlanta (7-8) at Philadelphia (9-6) — The Eagles can complete their remarkable turnaround by beating the Falcons here and clinching the NFC East. Is there really any reason to think they won't? Jeff Garcia has gotten a lot of publicity for his work at quarterback, but the Eagles also have been playing tremendous defense. And that will make the difference here. Prediction: Philadelphia, 20-13.

San Francisco (6-9) at Denver (9-6) — Left for dead a few weeks back when they made the switch to Jay Cutler at quarterback, the Broncos are now a victory away from getting to the playoffs. Denver should have no problems on offense; their big obstacle will be making sure Frank Gore doesn't run wild for the 49ers. It won't be easy, but Denver gets it done. Prediction: Denver, 27-24.

Green Bay (7-8) at Chicago (13-2) — The Packers will make the playoffs with a victory here if the Giants lose on Saturday night, depending on what else happens around the league, and still might have a chance regardless depending on a very complicated tiebreaker involving strength of victory. Got that? The Bears have nothing to play for because they've already clinched the top seed in the NFC, but their defense will be looking to bounce back after a couple of sub-par efforts. Prediction: Chicago, 20-16.


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