The final week of the NFL regular season presents our weekly NFL Swarm with its toughest challenge since the early part of the season. The dizzying array of playoff scenarios and seeding possibilities means that some teams may be highly motivated to play well on Sunday, while other clubs will already be thinking about offseason vacation plans. And although the swarm group was made aware of the various playoff motivations and implications of each game, sometimes even being aware of all that does little to help.
For instance, currently the Minnesota Vikings are the 2nd seed in the NFC playoffs, but they need to win at home against Chicago in a game that starts at 1pm EST. If the Vikings lose, the Rams – who play at 4:30 EST—can get that 2nd seed and the all-important first round bye that comes with it; in that situation, they’d likely go all-out to win. If the Vikes win, however, that locks the Rams in place for the playoffs. They’d likely rest all their starters and essentially concede the game to San Francisco. With that in mind, we urge extra, extra caution when reading this week’s picks chart.
Although the complications with the final week of the season create a large amount of uncertainty the swarm still found four games it feels pretty confident in. At the very top of the list is contest between the Steelers and Browns at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Both Pittsburgh and New England have sewn up first-round playoff byes, but 2nd-seeded Steelers can leapfrog the Patriots for the first seed (and home field advantage throughout the playoffs) if the latter team stumbles against the Jets. That motivation—plus the opponent, winless Cleveland—likely informed the swarm’s decision to make the Steelers the pick of the week.
Whatever the Steelers motivation may be on Sunday, the swarm seems to think they’ll easily handle the Browns. The magnets in the replay above immediately converge almost in formation and quickly take the puck to a “High confidence” answer. The swarm then reinforced that prediction by predicting Pittsburgh will win by more than a touchdown, and assigning a $100 bet confidence on a straight up victory.
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