This article is part of our NFL Observations series.
I remember two years ago Week 17 fell on New Year's Eve, and I was barely tracking it on my way-too-slow US phone as I drank wine out of a plastic cup at a pizza place on the river in Porto. Not so this year, as I watched it in detail, following my players and my ATS picks blow by blow.
There were two concerns, not being the double buyer in the Steak League (I had a 10 point lead going in over poor Tim Schuler) and finishing strong against the spread. Despite moronically subbing out a linebacker who had 15 tackles (Todd Davis ) for one who got only one (Donald Payne), and at the 11th hour using Drew Lock of Gardner Minshew (giving up another 11 points), I won, i.e., lost less badly, comfortably, saving me about $160 worth of dinner buying. I also went 12-4 ATS, winning $100 in my local pool and bringing my season-long record above .500.
But for losing my best bet (Giants), it was nearly an ideal week.
• The Niners controlled the entire game, but had to hold off the Seahawks by inches to earn the No. 1 seed. That's the thing about Seattle – they're not good, but Russell Wilson can just flick his wrist a couple times and beat you anyway. The TD throw to a covered Tyler Lockett while on the run, nearly crossing the line of scrimmage was insane.
• Marshawn Lynch wasn't a major factor, but he probably would have scored the game-winning TD had the Seahawks not taken a delay-of-game penalty. There's one other time he was deprived of an important would-be game-winning TD in his career too.
Lynch is a rarity in sports, the "bad guy" the media tries unsuccessfully to destroy who turns out to be not only a great player but a goofy persona the public loves. Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson and Manny Ramirez are other examples.
• The Cowboys did some stat-padding late against a worthless Redskins team, but what a failed season given their talent level. If Bill Belichick had the Cowboys players (and access to their opponents' video), the Patriots would be 15-1.
• Adrian Peterson is no Frank Gore – he's an all-time great and still a good runner. Crazy that Peterson and Lynch (top two backs in the 2007 class were still prominent in Week 17 of 2019.) (Gore was drafted in 2005.)
• The announcers in the Giants game were among the worst I've ever heard. I'd feel so much better about humanity if it were shown to be an intentional parody. After wondering whether and where Eli Manning will have a starting job next year (obviously he won't), they devolved into tonguing his posterior so obsequiously, it beggared belief. Here's actual quote from one of them, describing all the praise he had read about Manning in recent weeks: "the word that kept coming up over and over again – and it's a beautiful word – is humility."
They also fell over themselves to praise Boston Scott (who admittedly played well and probably has a future), using the same joke/phrase at least five times. And they were extremely impressed with the Philly defense for scoring a TD on a botched snap Daniel Jones tried and failed to pick up. It's not possible for someone to have a lower opinion of their viewers' intelligence than those two and the cynical producers who employ them.
• Carson Wentz played a great game, making all the throws, many of which were to players off the street. He also became the first 4,000-yard passer who didn't have a single wide receiver make it to 500 yards.
• Doug Pederson has had his team peak in December and January the last few years (remember, they won in Chicago and barely lost to the Saints on an Alshon Jeffery drop last year.)
• I'd expect Pat Shurmur to be fired, and I won't be sad to see him go. He's not the worst coach in the league, but the Giants can do better. They could also do much worse, but I doubt even they're dumb enough to sign Jason Garrett.
• I had the Jaguars plus 3.5, and the line went all the way up to six. I'm not sure why though as both teams were expected to go all out with eight months off after the game. I'd give Gardner Minshew a better chance to be a starter in 2020 than Jacoby Brissett.
• What an epic backdoor cover by the Raiders! You have to love it when you're getting 3.5, your team scores the TD to bring it within one, and the coach goes for two. Succeed or fail, it's in the bank! Honorable backdoor cover mention to the Cardinals too.
• Neither Robert Griffin, nor Devlin Hodges made it to 100 passing yards Sunday. At least Justin Tucker finally got some field-goal attempts. Not only do the Ravens have a rested team and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but the best kicker in NFL history. Kickers don't matter at all unless the game is close, in which case they often matter a great deal.
• The Titans vowed to get Derrick Henry the rushing title, and he got it in style on a 53-yard TD run. What a monster he is. The Patriots specialize in taking away the other team's best receiver, but their all-world secondary (that DeVante Parker torched, incidentally) can't help them with Henry next week. Even a cold-weather home game doesn't do them much good against a 250-pound bowling ball with breakaway speed.
• The Jets won seven games this year. Probably enough to keep Adam Gase employed, hopefully for the next decade as far as I (a Giants fan) am concerned.
• Why the Browns were still laying points on the road in Week 17 boggles the mind. I'd like to see Odell Beckham, one of the best draws in the NFL, play somewhere that takes advantage of his generational skills before they wane the next couple years.
• Joe Mixon will get drafted in the second round again next year, and rightly so.
• It's amazing that if the Seahawks scored on that final play, the Packers would have been the NFC's No. 1 seed, quite possibly the weakest of all time. As it stands, they're the two after barely beating the Lions.
• Damien Williams' return has been big for the Chiefs – they struggled to find consistency at running back all year. Even bigger is the inconceivable loss by the Patriots at home, giving KC a first-round bye.
• Philip Rivers is almost in Eli territory. The Chargers should move on while they still have such a talented young core. But given their non-existent home field, it's an uphill battle no matter who's on the roster.
• I didn't catch much of Bears-Vikings, but seeing Mike Boone go off after costing so many people fantasy titles lifted my spirits.
• I had the Buccaneers as a pick 'em, and they would have covered easily but for Matt Gay missing three many field goals. On the other hand, we wouldn't have gotten to see Jameis Winston post the first-ever 30/30 season and end the year (and possibly his tenure) in Tampa Bay so aptly.
• Christian McCaffrey had a relatively quiet game in the blowout loss, but finished with 116 catches for 1,005 yards, becoming the third 1000/1000 player in league history. He also ended with 2,392 scrimmage yards, good for third all time.
• The 13-3 Saints have to be one of the strongest three seeds in NFL history.
• I took the Dolphins plus 15.5, thinking they'd show up to play against the NFL's all-time dynasty, and I wasn't disappointed. Brian Flores is already a top-10 NFL coach, and Ryan Fitzpatrick might somehow be an above-average NFL QB at age 36.
• DeVante Parker went 44-802-5 in the season's second half, despite missing most of the Jets game with a concussion. The Dolphins once had Ryan Tannehill, Parker, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams and Jay Ajayi on the same roster.
• Just amazing the Patriots blew a first-round bye with a loss at home to a (at kickoff) 17-point underdog. You never want to count them out completely in January, but a tough draw against a nasty Titans team, followed by a trip to Arrowhead and then Baltimore would be the toughest gauntlet they've ever run.