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Fearless Rick & Coin Flip's NFL Conference Picks

Sunday, January 28

AFC 3:00 pm Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens (-4, 44 1/2) - Patrick Mahomes proved once again that it's unwise to take a stand against him, even on the road in hostile territory with frigid temperatures. Nonetheless, that was the call here last week, figuring it was Buffalo's shot at the big time. Mahomes and Kelce did all Bills fans wrong, though the wide right Bass missed FG that would have sent the game into overtime proved the proverbial Achilles Heel for the Bills in the 27-24 loss.

Last Saturday, as expected, Baltimore took it to the badly overmatched Houston Texans by a 34-10 score. The only touchdown Houston scored was on a 67-yard punt return by Steven Sims. Outside of that, the Ravens allowed C.J. Stroud and the Texans just one measly field goal. Besides the obvious talent of Lamar Jackson (likely league MVP) hat's what makes the Ravens the odd-on choice to capture the Super Bowl trophy: their defense is top-notch.

In their last five games, the Ravens have outscored the opposition by a combined score of 156-65, and that includes the 17-10 loss to Pittsburgh in the regular season finale when Jackson and a number of starters were absent.

Despite Mahomes, Kelsey, and the Chiefs' emergent receiving corps, Baltimore looks well-positioned to take the next step toward their destiny.


Rick's Pick: Ravens 24 Chiefs 16

NFC 6:30 pm Detroit Lions @ San Francisco 49ers (-7 1/2, 51 1/2) - The 49ers didn't exactly impress anybody with their 24-21 victory over the Packers in the divisional round. Two things cannot be stressed enough about the outcome of that contest: 1) the 49ers dearly missed Deebo Samuel, and 2) Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur deserves NFC coach of the year honors for the masterful job he did with the youthful Packers. They gave the 49ers fits and nearly pulled off the upset as underdogs of more than a touchdown.

Given San Francisco's narrow victory and Detroit's momentum after defeating the Rams (24-23) and Tampa Bay (31-23), this game may come down to overall health and the overall efficiency of both quarterbacks, Brock Purdy for the 'Niners and Jared Goff for the Lions. Purdy gets accolades for his accuracy and numbers, but Goff hasn't gotten enough praise or recognition (4,575 yards, 30 TDs, 12 INTs). He hasn't thrown a pick in the playoffs, was 22-27 against the Rams and 30-43 for 287 yards and a pair of TDs agains the Bucs. Goff gets a slight nod in the QB match-up.

As far as injuries are concerned, edge goes to the 49ers, with Deebo Samuel listed as questionable, but practicing. The Lions are considerably banged up, especially on offense. WRs Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds are questionable, as is TE Sam LaPorta. TE Brock Wright has been placed on IR. Center Frank Ragnow is also questionable, sustaining a sprained knee and ankle in the win over Tampa Bay. Guard Johan Jackson is doubtful and may be reasonably ruled out.

San Francisco may have to rely on their defense for a win here since the Lions will gut it out in "next man up" fashion and the Detroit defense is still sound. Only LB Alex Anzalone is listed as questionable. If Detroit can muster up a ground game, they could keep this close, especially if Samuel isn't 100%.


Rick's Pick: 49ers 24 Lions 20

Fearless Rick's Divisional NFL Previews and Picks

Saturday, January 20

4:30 pm Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (-9 1/2, 43 1/2) - After roughing up the Browns last week in their Wild Card match-up, 45-14, the Texans approach a more daunting task, taking on the Ravens, winners of the AFC North, on their home turf.

Arguably, the Ravens are the best bet to reach the Super Bowl, having taken their division easily. At 13-4, they have the best record in the league and had a bye last week. Lamar Jackson has had an MVP-like season, throwing for 3,678 yards with 24 TDs and just 7 interceptions, while also rushing for 821 yards and five more scores.

It's easy to believe the Ravens will win this game by more than the allotted line, having whipped the Texans back in Week 1, 25-9, but the Texans have improved steadily throughout the season. Probable Rookie of the Year, C.J. Stroud, will do his thing and likely produce a few scores, but the defense isn't facing Joe Flacco, so expect the score to be radically different from last week's blowout.

Baltimore's defense can be formidable. Six times this season, they've held opponents to ten or fewer points. The offense has put up 30 or more points in eight of the last 10 games in which Jackson was the starter (he skipped the season finale, 17-10 loss to Pittsburgh). Could be a long day for the upstart Texans and turnovers may be costly.

PREDICTION: Ravens 34 Texans 20

8:15 pm Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-9 1/2, 50 1/2) - As good as the Packers looked against Dallas in their 48-32 blowout Wild Card win at Dallas last week, they'll have to put in another outstanding performance to get past the mighty 49ers, runaway winners of the NFC West at 12-5.

That's not to say it's not possible. Green Bay has come a long way the last four weeks since getting Aaron Jones back full time. He's rushed for over 100 yards in each of those games and looked very fresh and agile doing so. QB Jordan Love has hit his best stride as well and he's got a stable of young, aggressive receivers with which to work. The Packers are by no means an easy out and could pull of the upset.

San Francisco has established stars on offense, including sensational Christian McCaffrey, multi-purpose RB-WR Deebo Samuel, TE George Kittle, WR Brandon Aiyuk, and QB Brock Purdy. The defense can also play big. In nine of their 12 regular season wins, they've held the opposition to 17 or fewer points.

This should be a very competitive contest, and could be decided by a field goal, an area that favors the 49ers with kicker Jake Moody. The Packers should be in it until the end and maybe come away with a victory, so taking the points is a must.

PREDICTION: 49ers 30 Packers 27

Sunday, January 21

3:00 pm Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions (-6 1/2, 48 1/2) - The Lions have captured the hearts of Detroit fans this season, winning the NFC North division and winning their first playoff game in 32 years by the slimmest of margins, 24-23, over the LA Rams. While the Lions are getting the "Lion's share" of the action as a nearly TD favorite, they may not be as deserving as the line indicates. They likely beat a better team in the Rams last week and easily could have lost that game and one wonders how well-prepared they'll be for the incoming Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay, after a 4-7 record through week 12, won five of their last six to take the NFC South with a 9-8 record. While Baker Mayfield has performed well, throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Trey Palmer, it's been the defense that's improved the most. In their final five wins of the regular season, they've allowed a total of 75 points, or just 15 per game. In last week's Wild Card victory over Philly, they held the Eagles to a field goal and a TD and failed two-point conversion in the second quarter and nothing after that. They allowed just 42 yards rushing for the entire game.

The Lions have the advantage of home field and rabid fans, but they're far from perfect on offense and defense. If Detroit can't move the ball on the ground, they may find themselves in a world of hurt, because Mayfield, who has his moments both good and bad, may pick apart the Lions' vulnerable secondary.

Tampa Bay has every right to move forward here and the points are adequate insurance in case they fall short.

PREDICTION: Buccaneers 23 Lions 20

6:30 pm Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills (-2 1/2, 45 1/2) - In what may be the best game of the weekend it's more of less a pick 'em game. Who do you like, Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen? This game will revolve on how well those QBs perform and how well the defenses contain them.

This could easily go either way. Mahomes and the Chiefs don't back off from any challenge and the Bills rallied to win there final five regular season games and capture the #2 seed and the AFC East crown. Incidentally, that five-game win streak to close out the season started with a 20-17 win at Kansas City and the controversial off-sides call that overturned a late KC touchdown. The commentators may make a big thing of it, but once the game starts, the players will forget the past and just play football.

These two teams know each other well, having met six times since 2020, each winning three, though the Bills have won the last three meetings but have never defeated the Chiefs in the playoffs with Allen behind center.

If this game's a coin flip, figure it to be an old nickel which comes up heads with a smiling Buffalo grazing on it.

PREDICTION: Bills 27 Chiefs 24

Fearless Rick's Wild Card Previews and Picks

Saturday, January 13

4:30 pm Cleveland Browns (-2 1/2, 44 1/2) at Houston Texans - While CJ Stroud is probably going to be rookie of the year in the NFL, he hasn't faced a defense quite as formidable as Cleveland's this season. The Browns were the #1 defense in the league during the regular season (270.2 yards per game) and also the stingiest against the pass, yielding a measly 164.7 ypg. Stroud will have his work cut out for him evading the fierce Cleveland pass rush and finding open receivers down the field.

On the flip side, Cleveland resurrected Joe Flacco, who has Super Bowl-winning experience from his days with the Baltimore Ravens, winning the game's MVP award by leading them over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII (2012-13 season). Flacco is only 38, so he's nowhere near over the hill, something he's proven by helping the Browns to four straight wins down the stretch, one of which was a 36-22 win AT Houston.

Cleveland fans have suffered long but they're about to be rewarded with a playoff win.

PREDICTION: Browns 34 Texans 17

8:00 pm Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs (-4, 44 1/2) - Kansas City hasn't looked like a Super Bowl caliber team all season and it's mostly because they've been unable to find high football-IQ receivers for Patrick Mahomes. After whipping Miami, 21-14, in Germany in week 9, they may have become complacent with a 7-2 record and big lead in the AFC West, but that is not a good excuse for their 4-4 record to close out the season, including losses to Green Bay, Philly, Buffalo and Las Vegas.

Kansas City's defense is, however, much improved (2nd overall), but if the Chiefs can't keep Miami's offense off the field, they will - being human, after all - wear down late in the game. Miami will likely have Raheem Mostert back for at least a limited go (listed as questionable), but De'von Achane has proven to be more than adequate as a replacement. Miami may also have Jaylen Waddle back at wideout, a big boost for Tua Tagovailoa. This one figures to be close and the points may come in handy.

PREDICTION: Dolphins 23 Chiefs 20

Sunday, January 14

1:00 pm Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills (-10, 36) - The reasons the Steelers are in the playoffs are twofold. Pittsburgh won three straight to close out the regular season and the Jacksonville Jaguars completely folded up down the stretch, losing five of their last six, including the inexcusable, 28-20, loss at Tennessee last weekend. Not having to face likely league MVP, Lamar Jackson, in their final 17-10 win over the Ravens was a real gift, but the Steelers did what they had to do and gave themselves a playoff shot. Mason Rudolph has been a steadying influence at QB, but the Steelers may be overmatched, especially playing at Buffalo, where the crown will be manic.

If anybody's challenging the aforementioned Jackson for MVP honors, it's Buffalo QB Josh Allen. He's the heart and soul of this team, practically willing them to five straight wins to not only reach the playoffs, but take the AFC East title for a fourth straight season. Buffalo can cream opponents on both sides of the ball and their special teams - as proven last week in their 21-14 win at Miami - are top notch. If Buffalo isn't too emotionally drained from the regular season, they should be able to handle Pittsburgh with relative ease.

PREDICTION: Bills 31 Steelers 13

4:30 pm Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (-7 1/2, 50 1/2) - The Packers and QB Jordan Love deserve plenty of credit for winning their final three regular season games to make it into the playoffs, but considering the quality of opponents, they should have beaten Carolina, Minnesota, and the Bears, anyway. After all, the Packers were just 2-6 heading into week 9, their 7-3 closeout also included wins over the Rams, Lions, Chiefs and Chargers. This is a well-coached team that is peaking at the right time, especially now that RB Aaron Jones is 100%.

Dallas has very right to be favored at home, where they were 8-0 over the regular season, but the line may be a bit generous to the Packers. Dak Prescott started and finished every game for the Cowboys and had a superb season, throwing for 4,516 yards with 36 TDs and only nine picks. His favorite targets, Brandin Cooks and Ceedee Lamb, are trouble for any secondary. The run game isn't dynamite, but it is useful to keep pressure off Prescott. The Dallas defense is rowdy and ready. Green Bay isn't going to just roll over. Look for plenty of scoring and a close call for the Cowboys

PREDICTION: Cowboys 30 Packers 28

8:00 pm Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions (-3, 51 1/2) - Possibly the most intriguing match-up of the week has the ultimate QB face-off with Matthew Stafford returning to the team that traded him against the guy they traded for, Jared Goff. While Stafford won a Super Bowl in his first season with the Rams, Goff has needed three seasons to get his team into the playoffs, winning the NFC North handily with a 12-5 record.

Despite having some stud players, the Lions and Rams were ranked 19th and 20th on defense league-wide, so look for offense to dominate in a game that may become a score-or-die contest. Detroit head coach Dan Campbell has had the offense go for first downs on fourth down more than any team in the league and he's certainly not going to back down here. By being relentless offensively, the Lions will put pressure on the Rams to keep pace. The Detroit crowd will certainly not be hospitable to the Rams and especially Stafford, which could cause some confusion and lead to penalties or mental miscues by Los Angeles.

No doubt the Rams, winners of seven of their last eight after a 3-6 start, are a formidable foe capable of winning on the road (5-4), whereas the Lions went 6-2 at home this season.

PREDICTION: Lions 36 Rams 31

Monday, January 15

8:00 pm Philadelphia Eagles (-3, 44) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Nobody's been able to pinpoint exactly what the problem is for the Eagles, but heading into the playoffs with five losses over the last six games doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Breaking Philly's woes down into the simplest terms, the offense isn't clicking and the defense is paying the price. In those final five losses, the Eagles have allowed 157 points, or 30.1 points per game. Philadelphia finished the regular season 26th on defense and 8th on defense, but the last six games have been disastrous. Their demise down the stretch made them a wild card, whereas Tampa Bay won five of their last six games to capture the NFC South and get to play at home,.

QB Baker Mayfield can sling it with the best of them and he's got quality receivers in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Trey Palmer. Jaylen Hurts has A. J. Brown and Devanta Smith outside as possibly the best 1-2 receivers in the league. Neither team has much of a running game, though both are serviceable. The issue for the Eagles may be nagging season-long injuries to Hurts. Whether the Eagles can fix what's wrong in time to earn a win in the playoffs remains to be seen.

PREDICTION: Buccaneers 21 Eagles 17

CFP National Championship Game

#2 (14-0) Washington Huskies vs. #1 (14-0) Michigan Wolverines (-5 1/2, 55 1/2) - There are enough reasons to choose either of these undefeated teams to emerge victorious in this national championship game, the last under the CFP (expanding to a 12 team playoff format next season). Both are undefeated. Each won their respecteve conference titles, and each have players and coaches of high ability.

So, the obvious reasoning is to take the overly-generous point spread afforded the Huskies. Giving 5 1/2 points to a team that owns the nation's longest winning streak, won every game this season, and has the NCAA's leading passer in Michael Penix Jr. is like giving Secretariat a five length lead in a six-furlong sprint.

Since the Husies are as likely to win this game as is Michigan, taking the points should be a no-brainer. The line should be closer to even. Neither team has any discernable advantage other than four key players. For Michigan, that's QB J.J. McCarthy and RB Blake Corum, while Washington touts Penix and WR Rome Odunze. For the sake of argument, figure Corum and Odunze an even match. Corum will get as many yards rushing as Odunze gets receiving. Penix is likley to perform better than McCarthy in the passing game. Forget all the analysis and touts of Michigan's defense. Texas was supposed to stop Penix. They didn't. Oregon's defense was supposed to be his undoing. It wasn't, twice.

Just take the points and consider these trendlines: Michigan is 2-11 ATS in their last 13 games against PAC-12 opponents. Washington is 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games as an underdog.

PREDICTION: Huskies 41 Wolverines 34

NFL Week 18 Possibilities and Picks

Playoff possibilities are best broken down at nfl.com at this link:

There are simply too many possibilities to list them all here, so, the following are the most distinct possibilities and Fearless Rick's picks, by conference, in chronological order. (All times Eastern)


The biggest game is the last, Sunday night, Bills at Miami. The winner clinches the AFC East. Miami has already clinched a playoff spot, but the division title would be better. If the Bills lose, they could be out of the playoffs altogether. In that scenario, they need either Pittsburgh or Jacksonville to lose or tie, or the Houston-Indianapolis game to end in a tie, none of which are very likely. So, let's take a look, in chronological order.

Saturday, January 6, 4:30 pm, Pittsburgh Steelers (-3, 34 1/2) @ Baltimore Ravens - the Ravens are expected to rest most of their starters, so the obvious play is to take the Steelers, a team that remains with an open chance to make they playoffs (they'll need help). The Steelers are probably the best bet of the day. They're playing tough, winning their last two, hammering the Bengals out of playoff contention two weeks ago, 34-11, and then surprising the Seahawks in Seattle, 30-23. Remembering that a Steeler loss makes the Buffalo-Miami game somewhat less meaningful (which NFL brass would not appreciate), the Steelers are as close to a lock as you'll see this weekend.

PREDICTION: Steelers 20 Ravens 10

Saturday, January 6, 8:15 pm, Houston Texans (-1 1/2, 47 1/2) at Indianapolis Colts - Yes, the Texans are favored on the road, if only because C.J. Stroud is starting at QB and he's 8-6 as a starter. However, the Texans are just 2-4 on the road when Stroud has started. Plus, the Colts ripped them back in week two, in Houston, 31-20.

Injuries and general health may play a big role in this game. The Texans are probably the worse off, with their receiving corps decimated, fullback Andrew Beck questionable and all four defensive linemen questionable. While the Colts offensive line has three starters questionable, they'll probably be able to give Gardner Minshew enough time to go downfield to his healthy receivers, including Michael Pittman Jr., and they have Jonathan Taylor in the backfield. Houston, on the road, giving points in a crucial game like this looks like a sucker bet.

PREDICTION: Colts 30 Texans 24

Sunday, January 7, 1:00 pm, Jacksonville Jaguars (-3 1/2, 41) at Tennessee Titans - Don't be too quick to pull the trigger for the Jags against the disappointing 5-11 Titans. Yes, they whipped them, 34-14, in November, but that was in Jacksonville and since then the Jaguars are an unimpressive 2-4 and Trevor Lawrence may not be available. Even if he is, he is not likely to be 100%. C.J. Beathard, who helped engineer a 26-0 rout of the Panthers last week (yeah, big deal), probably gives the Jags a better chance.

On the Tennessee side, Ryan Tannehill is back behind center. He is one of the main reasons the Titans have struggled. He's 2-6 as a starter this season. Hedging on probably starting QBs, if Tannehill starts, Titans lose, and he probably will start. Jacksonville can clinch the AFC South with a win, and, no matter who the QB is, will probably win by a bunch.

PREDICTION: Jaguars 27 Titans 9

Sunday, January 7, 8:20 pm, Buffalo Bills (-2 1/2, 48 1/2) at Miami Dolphins - The Bills have certainly made the season interesting, if not frustrating for their fans, losing in some weird ways to the likes of the Jets, Broncos, Patriots, and others. Avenging their season-opening loss to New York, they blistered the Jets, 32-6, then lost a heart-breaker to the Eagles, 37-34, in OT. Since then, four straight wins puts Buffalo in a position to win the division title or miss the playoffs completely, which are the scenarios leading into this game.

Without getting into specifics, Buffalo has been clicking since allowing QB Josh Allen more freedom to run, and RB James Cook has been spectacular of late. Miami's defense was exposed badly in last week's 56-19 rout by the Ravens and they're thin in the secondary. Plus, Raheem Mostert and Jaylen Waddle are both questionable coming into this game. Besides, Buffalo already netted and canned the Dolphins, 48-20, back in September. Look for Buffalo's defense to pressure Tua Tagovailoa relentlessly and Allen to cruise on offense. Miami is in the playoffs, win or lose, so, there's that.

PREDICTION: Bills 38 Dolphins 20


The NFC is a little less exciting because the 49ers, Lions, Rams, Cowboys, and Eagles have already locked up playoff berths, leaving open the NFC South division and one more wild card.

All games Sunday, January 7. All times Eastern.

1:00 pm Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4, 36 1/2) at Carolina Panthers - OK, Carolina is 2-14. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers come in at 8-8 and a shot at winning the NFC South with a victory. All the teams in this division basically suck, but the Panthers suck worse than all. Tampa Bay should run away with a win here, despite the Panthers fighting to a 21-18 loss in week 13. Baker Mayfield is a "go" for week 18.

PREDICTION: Biuccaneers 27 Panthers 13

1:00 pm Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-3 1/2, 46) - At 7-9, Minnesota needs to win and have Green Bay, Seattle, and either Tampa Bay or New Orleans lose, so their chances of making the playoffs are pretty slim. Besides, they're probably going to lose.

PREDICTION: Lions 26 Vikings 14

1:00 pm Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-3, 42) - The Falcons are quarterback deficient, while the Saints have Derek Carr healthy along with James Winston and Taysom Hill, so they're good to go. Atlanta can only win the division if they win and Tampa Bay loses. They have no other possibilities, but, they whipped the Saints, 24-15, back in week 12, and they have a knack for showing up when least expected. This one could be overtime or Atlanta flexes muscle on defense, gets a turnover or two and sends the Saints marching into the off-season.

PREDICTION: Falcons 20 Saints 17

4:25 pm Green Bay Packers (-3, 45) at Chicago Bears - For the Packers, it's win and you're in, against a Bears team they ripped, 38-20, in week 1. With Aaron Jones returning, they look like a scary wild card team. They've won two straight and five of their last seven, so they're headed in the right direction. A Packer win knocks out all other wild card hopefuls. They look solid against an up-and-down Bears team.

PREDICTION: Packers 31 Bears 17

4:25 pm Seattle Seahawks (-3, 47 1/2) at Arizona Cardinals - If Green Bay wins, this game is a moot point, because the Seahawks will be eliminated. Since both games will be played simultaneously, there may be some scoreboard watching, though head coach Pete Caroll will surely advise his players against do so. The Seahawks are easily the better team here, though if Green Bay forges to a big lead by half time or in the third quarter, things could change for Seattle's hopes.

Seahawks 27 Cardinals 16

Elsewhere, expect Dallas to whip up on Washington and capture the NFC East crown. The Eagles will likely beat the Giants, though that's not a given, and finish a wild card behind Dallas. Both the Cowboys and Eagles are guaranteed playoff spots regardless of week 18 outcomes.

Projections, predictions for NFL and CFP

As the NFL season heads towards week 18 and into the playoffs and college football decides a national champion, keep an eye on this page for developments. IdleGuy.com will be updating through the college semi-final games and throughout the NFL playoffs heading to the Super Bowl, with Super Bowl coverage in the February issue (which should be available around January 26-29).

ROSE BOWL: Michigan (-2, 46) vs. Alabama

Hard to believe Alabama is rated underdog in this contest. The Crimson Tide comes off an upset of then-#1 Georgia, a huge accomplishment. Michigan is a solid squad, to be sure, but Alabama's athleticism and the emergence of their secondary puts them in a great spot here. Michigan will try to run with Blake Corum, which will be the biggest challenge for the Tide's front seven. If Michigan can dictate on offense, Alabama will have to be pressed to answer any scores.

Both teams have solid defensive units, but the strength is on offense. Alabama QB Jalen Milroe has developed into a serious two-way threat through the season. Michigan's J.J. McCarthy is great in or out of the pocket, but he may not be the best decision-maker overall. The game will likely come down to a few big plays, and Alabama has the advantage on big plays and turnover potential. Besides, does anybody think giving a Nick Saban-coached team any points is a good idea? In a pinch, look for Alabama to win, 28-24.

SUGAR BOWL: Texas (-4, 63) vs. Washington

OK, LSU's Jayden Daniels had a great season and took home the Heisman Trophy, but Michael Penix Jr. was hands down the best quarterback this season. Penix leads the unbeaten Washington Huskies against Quinn Ewers and the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl, the winner to meet either Alabama or Michigan for the national championship on Monday, January 8.

Penix led the Huskies to a 13-0 record, winning some tough games in the loaded PAC-12, including USC, Oregon State, Washigton State, Utah, and Oregon, twice. Texas knocked off Alabama, but that was in September, and the Tide is a much better team now than they were then. The Big 12 wasn't exactly overflowing with talent, but the Longhorns did win all but one game, losing, unforgivably, to Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout, 34-30.

Texas QB Quinn Ewers had a fine season, is an accurate thrower, and was solid in crunch time. He'll get the Longhorns into the end zone on multiple occasions as Washington's defense isn't their strongest suit. On the other side of the ball, the Texas defense isn't likely to hold up against Penix and the extraordinary Rome Odunze, who caught 84 balls for 1,428 yards and 13 scores. Nobody can cover this future NFL star.

Take the points, and the over. Texas will be forced to blitz Penix and he will make them pay dearly. Huskies 38 Longhorns 31

ORANGE BLOW: Georgia buries Florida St., 63-3

Georgia kicker, Peyton Woodring, had a pleasant afternoon, connecting on all nine of his extra point attempts as the Bulldogs chewed up Florida State, 63-3. In a shameful display of bad sportsmanship, after being snubbed by the CFP committee, so many Florida State players opted out of the game that it was nowhere near a fair contest.

Georgia blew away the Seminoles with 35 second quarter points and played mostly backups in the second half.

ORANGE BOWL: Georgia v Florida St. Sets the Tone

Before the CFP semifinal games is Saturday's (Dec. 30) all-important Orange Bowl, (4:00 pm ET on ESPN), which will set the tone for the remaining games and the overall legitimacy of this season's national champion.

The story line for the Orange Bowl is a compelling one and it goes straight to the heart of one of the biggest arguments in the world of sport for at least the past ten years, that of how to quantitatively determine a college football national championship.

Understanding that the championship title is best determined on the field, the College Football Playoff system that's been the standard since 2014, is still largely a function of polls and a committee that picks what they consider the four best teams in the country.

This season, ironically, the final year of the CFP, the committe ran into quite the quandary when Alabama upset undefeated Georgia in the SEC Championship, 27-24, staking the Crimson Tide with a compelling argument to be included in the four semi-finalists.

Fine, Alabama should be in, and Georgia out, but there was yet another snag. Along with the three remaining unbeatens, Washington, Michigan, and Florida State, Alabama had one loss, to Texas, in the season's second week. And the Longhorns really did a number on the Tide, topping them, 34-24, so, how could the committee leave them out? Texas wasn't perfect, their only defeat a mid-season loss to arch-rival Oklahoma, 34-30. The Longhorns romped in the Big 12 title game, knocking off Oklahoma State, 49-21.

As luck, or fate, or the gods of football would have it, Florida State became expendable when their star quarterback, Jordan Travis, was lost for the season in the Seminoles' 58-13 romp over pushover North Alabama. Travis' left leg was placed in an air cast and he was carted off the field in the first quarter. Travis eventually had surgery for a supposed broken leg that ended his college career. Enter second-stringer Tate Rodemaker, who mopped up and started the following week against Florida.

Rodemaker would lead the Seminoles to a 23-14 victory at Florida, keeping their undefeated season intact, but not without another issue. Rodemaker took a blow to the head in the fourth quarter, missed a few snaps, but returned in time to hand the ball to Trey Benson, who iced the win with a 26-yard scamper into the end zone. Later, Rodemaker would be sidelined for the ACC Championship game against Louisville, having suffered a concussion in the Florida game.

That left true freshman QB Brock Glenn to lead the Seminoles against Louisville. Glenn wasn't exactly dynamite, going 8-15 for 55 yards, but he didn't lose the game either. While Florida State had a hard time against the Cardinals' defense, Louisville was completely shut down by the Seminoles, allowing just 188 total yards and 10 first downs in the 16-6 victory.

The story gets even twistier when the CFP committee leaves Florida State out in the cold, the first time an undefeated team from a major conference (ACC) has been left out of the mix. Ostensibly, the committee felt that the team wasn't the same without Travis, completely disregarding the notion that Florida State has been consistently one of the best defensive teams in the nation all season.

Worse yet, once the Florida State players heard the disappointing news, they began mumbling and opting out of playing in the Orange Bowl. Eventually, a legion of as many as 20 players will miss the game, either opting for the NFL draft or entering the college football portal. One of them entering the portal is Rodemaker, leaving the starting job to Glenn, against a Georgia squad that, outside of the Alabama loss, is a powerhouse.

As far as Georgia's concerned, the loss to Alabama and missing out on the chance to play for a third straight national championship hasn't diminished the desire of the players. None have opted out of the game, which makes this contest appear somewhat lopsided. Georgia is a 21-point favorite, with the over/under set at 45.

The takeaway is that if Georgia doesn't cover the spread, and especially in the unthinkable event that Florida State actually wins the game, the national championship will be tainted with a 14-0 Florida State on the sidelines.

A Florida State win is highly unlikely, but covering the massive, 21-point line might be possible. The defense, even missing some key starters, is formidable. In their last five games, the Seminole defense has allowed a total of 61 points, or 10.2 per game.

If only for the possibility of a Florida State win, the game is worth a look, though the Bulldogs might make a moot case of it by half time. Next up: Alabama vs. Michigan and Texas vs. Washington on January 1.

Seth Walder of ESPN Analytics ran computer simulations for the final three weeks of the NFL season in an effort to divine the NFL's top seven seeds in each conference. Here's how ESPN figures the final three weeks play out:

IdleGuy.com will update and grade them as games go final, with a W for a correct prediction and an L for getting it wrong.

Projected Week 16 scores

NO-LAR: Saints 30, Rams 28 L
CIN-PIT: Steelers 24, Bengals 23 W
BUF-LAC: Bills 33, Chargers 27 W
IND-ATL: Colts 17, Falcons 16 L
SEA-TEN: Titans 20, Seahawks 13 L
DET-MIN: Lions 16, Vikings 14 W
WSH-NYJ: Commanders 27, Jets 17 L
GB-CAR: Packers 30, Panthers 9 W
CLE-HOU: Texans 33, Browns 10 L
JAX-TB: Jaguars 28, Buccaneers 11 L
ARI-CHI: Bears 17, Cardinals 9 W
DAL-MIA: Cowboys 31, Dolphins 26 L
NE-DEN: Broncos 23, Patriots 13 L
LV-KC: Chiefs 27, Raiders 3 L
NYG-PHI: Eagles 40, Giants 14 W
BAL-SF: 49ers 31, Ravens 20 L

6-10 for Week 16. Not so good for the analytics team.

Projected Week 17 scores

NYJ-CLE: Browns 31, Jets 30 W
DET-DAL: Cowboys 33, Lions 28 W
NE-BUF: Bills 35, Patriots 21 W
ATL-CHI: Bears 24, Falcons 16 W
LV-IND: Colts 34, Raiders 20 W
LAR-NYG: Rams 25, Giants 6 W
ARI-PHI: Eagles 31, Cardinals 22 L
NO-TB: Buccaneers 37, Saints 17 L
SF-WSH: 49ers 31, Commanders 13 W
CAR-JAX: Jaguars 48, Panthers 24 W
MIA-BAL: Dolphins 28, Ravens 24 L
TEN-HOU: Texans 24, Titans 17 W
PIT-SEA: Seahawks 20, Steelers 10 L
LAC-DEN: Broncos 28, Chargers 24 W
CIN-KC: Chiefs 19, Bengals 9 W
GB-MIN: Packers 24, Vikings 21 W

Week 17, 12-4. That's more like it, but the computer missed some big ones, like Arizona over Philly, Baltimore over Miami, and the Steelers over the Seahawks.

Projected Week 18 scores

CLE-CIN: Browns 23, Bengals 16 L
MIN-DET: Lions 19, Vikings 16 W
CHI-GB: Bears 38, Packers 10 L
JAX-TEN: Jaguars 31, Titans 28 L
HOU-IND: Colts 34, Texans 24 L
DEN-LV: Raiders 25, Broncos 3 W
BUF-MIA: Bills 27, Dolphins 24 W
NYJ-NE: Jets 23, Patriots 6 W
ATL-NO: Falcons 21, Saints 18 L
PHI-NYG: Eagles 13, Giants 9 L
SEA-ARI: Cardinals 34, Seahawks 24 L
KC-LAC: Chargers 29, Chiefs 19 L
LAR-SF: Rams 24, 49ers 17 W
DAL-WSH: Cowboys 30, Commanders 23 W
TB-CAR: Panthers 19, Buccaneers 14 L
PIT-BAL: Ravens 21, Steelers 9 L

Week 18: 6-10. ESPN might want to invest in a new computer.

Projecting how the AFC plays out

1. Baltimore Ravens (12-5)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-6)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6)
4. Buffalo Bills (11-6)
5. Cleveland Browns (11-6)
6. Indianapolis Colts (11-6)
7. Miami Dolphins (11-6)

Swing and a miss on Pittsburgh and Houston.

Projecting how the NFC plays out

1. San Francisco 49ers (13-4)
2. Philadelphia Eagles (13-4)
3. Detroit Lions (12-5)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)
5. Dallas Cowboys (13-4)
6. Los Angeles Rams (9-8)
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-9)

ESPN had Seattle in, but the Packers spoiled that prediction. This exercise was useful if only to warn humans about AI.


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