NFL Week 17 picks

Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled since signing his extension. A poor finale may have even more fans calling for a quarterback in the first round of the draft.

The last week of the NFL season means it’s the last week for football picks. Milt Northrop leads the Buffalo News picks at 118-105-7. I’m tied in second with Jay Skurski at 114-109-7, with the rest of the News cast on the outside looking in.

But let’s be honest, they don’t know that I’m playing along. So it’s really between Milt and Jay, but I like winning at things so we’re keeping this up.

The tiebreaker is best bets, but I sort of forgot to keep doing those midway through the year. My bad … I’ll concede a tie. Here’s what the standings look like:

Northrop: 118-105-7
Skurski: 114-109-7
Always Game Seven 114-109-7
Gaughan: 107-116-7
McKissic: 107-116-7
DiCesare: 106-117-7
Sullivan: 104-119-7

The Bills play in Foxboro this weekend, where they haven’t won since 2000. Week 17 games are tricky to pick and hard for fans to deal with because we aren’t entirely sure what we want.

We always want the Bills to win. That’s a given. But at the same time, we’d hate for something stupid to happen, like winning a meaningless game that would hurt our draft position. For a team that was thinking playoffs the first two months of the season, we sure have a lot of holes to fill — so much so that we can’t even agree on which to fill first, but that’s another story for another time.

With a loss, the Bills can pick inside the top 10. With a win, we could move as far back as 16. It doesn’t sound like much, but it does matter. And besides, that another 45 minutes you have to watch the draft.

The Patriots have won seven straight and can clinch home-field with a win. Tom Brady is probable while offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer are out. How long will the starters play? Only The Hoodie knows and he’s not telling. For the rest of us, it’s all guesswork. I think Brady gets his team up a bunch and then comes out … leaving garbage time to kill bets this week.

Bills (+11 1/2) at New England
New England

Washington (+9) at Philadelphia
Washington

Tampa Bay (+12) at Atlanta
Atlanta

San Francisco at St. Louis (+10 1/2)
San Francisco

Chicago (+1) at Minnesota
Minnesota

Detroit at Green Bay (+3 1/2)
Detroit

Carolina (+8 1/2) at New Orleans
Carolina

Tennessee at Houston (+3)
Houston

Baltimore at Cincinnati (+3)
Cincinnati

Pittsburgh at Cleveland (+7)
Pittsburgh

Indianapolis (+3 1/2) at Jacksonville
Indianapolis

Jets (+2) at Miami
Miami

San Diego (+3) at Oakland
Oakland

Kansas City (+3 1/2) at Denver
Denver

Seattle (+3) at Arizona
Seattle

Dallas (+3) at Giants
Giants

Last week

Denver at Bills (+3)
Denver
Bills 40-14. Loss
Oakland (+1 1/2) at Kansas City
Oakland
Raiders 16-13 (OT). Win
Jacksonville (+7 1/2) at Tennessee
Tennessee
Titans 23-17. Loss
Arizona (+4) at Cincinnati
Arizona
Bengals 23-17. Loss
Miami (+9) at New England
New England
Pats 27-24. Loss
Cleveland (+13) at Baltimore
Cleveland
Ravens 20-14. Win
Giants (+3) at Jets
Giants
Giants 29-14. Win
Minnesota (+6 1/2) at Washington
Washington
Vikings 33-26. Win
Tampa Bay (+7 1/2) at Carolina
Carolina
Panthers 48-16. Win
St. Louis (+16) at Pittsburgh
St. Louis
Steelers 27-0. Loss
San Diego (+2 1/2) at Detroit
Detroit
Lions 38-10. Win
San Francisco at Seattle (+2 1/2)
San Francisco
49ers 19-17. Loss
Philadelphia (+2) at Dallas
Philadelphia
Eagles 20-7. Win
Chicago (+13) at Green Bay
Chicago
Packers 35-21.  Loss
Atlanta (+6 1/2) at New Orleans
New Orleans
Saints 45-16. Win
8-7
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Belardo injury not getting any better

Canisius coach Tom Parrotta revealed after the Binghamton game Wednesday night that the sore back junior guard Gaby Belardo has been dealing with for the better part of the season is being caused by a herniated disc.

The coaching staff has been trying to limit Belardo to around 20 minutes a game, depending on his pain level and his effectiveness. Belardo made it through 26 minutes last week against Loyola of Chicago and tied for the team lead with 10 points, but was limited to 18 minutes Wednesday night and just five in the second half.

“He didn’t look right,” Parrotta said. You guys saw it out there. He was laboring. … Where you really notice it on defensive end because he can’t get in the stance.”

Belardo didn’t practice all week and hardly participated in the walk through before the Binghamton game, Parrotta said. When Belardo’s not in the game, he can be found behind the bench riding the exercise bike to stay loose. While everyone else relaxes during halftime, he goes to the training room and rides some more.

“I hope to hell it’s not this way all year,” Parrotta said. “I’m getting to the point where we probably have to get our doctors together and trainers and say when are we gonna settle this once and for all. He’s done everything. He gets two to three treatments a day. He had injections. He had chiropractors. He’s had acupuncture. And it’s just not helping.”

Parrotta had back trouble during his playing days at Fordham and feels like he can sense how Belardo is feeling. “Every step hurts,” the coach recalls, adding that back trouble was the only thing that kept him out of games in college. Now he must decide if it will keep one of his players out.

“I talked to my staff about what the right thing is to do here. Do we just shelf him? We have to look at whats fair to him and what’s fair to the team. Is he helping us when he’s in there at the 20-minute mark?”

Belardo cannot sit out the rest of the year and redshirt because already used his redshirt year during the 2009-10 season after he transferred to Canisius from South Florida. The NCAA has medical hardship waivers that athletes may apply for to get an extra year of eligibility, but those are not given out very regularly.

“They made it sound to me like it was going to be a huge shot in the dark to accomplish that,” Parrotta said in reference to the waiver. “I would have exhausted all opportunities had that been the case, because believe me, I really asked for that.”

Canisius’ next game is in Bridgeport, Conn. against Fairfield on New Year’s Day. Sitting on a bus for an extended period of time won’t do Belardo’s back any good, but perhaps that’s one of the reasons the Griffs used Thursday as a travel day — to give the players more time to get ready to go Sunday afternoon.

The Griffs are already in a hole at 0-2 in MAAC play and will need Belardo as healthy as possible for their game against the Stags, one of the conference favorites who downed Canisius 68-59 in Buffalo Dec. 4.

“[Belardo] was a preseason all-conference selection and I fully expected him to be a postseason all-conference selection,” Parrotta said. “But not at 50 to 60 percent.”

Washington’s 27 put Griffs over winless Binghamton

Washington, a JUCO transfer from Cecil College, leads the Griffs at 18.9 ppg.

Well, it was an improvement from their last game. And after a 2-9 start to the season, the Canisius men’s basketball team will take a victory in any form.

Sixth-year coach Tom Parrotta challenged his team in the week leading up to their game with the 0-10 Binghamton Bearcats.

“I told them flat out, you have a team coming in here that hasn’t won a game. This was probably the first time … that we were clearly the team that should win this basketball game,” Parrotta said.

“I wanted them to say ‘We got this, we’ll take care of it’ [and] that’s what I can take out of it with my guys. The challenge was there … and they found a way to win. And it was as ugly as you could possibly see at times. But they got the win.”

The Griffs even practiced on Christmas in preparation for the game but didn’t overpower a lowly Binghamton squad that came into the Koessler Athletic Center winless and near the bottom of the NCAA in every major category. But the 75-66 victory was a better performance than the unsightly 59-45 loss to Loyola of Chicago six days prior and gave the Griffs their first home win in six tries this year.

Canisius never quite managed to put the Bearcats away but kept the lead with great guard play. Junior transfer Harold Washington led the charge to his first-ever win at the KAC, hitting 9 of 17 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the line to lead all scorers with 27 points. Alshwan Hymes knocked down 3 of 8 from behind the arc and finished with 17.

The stat sheet may have looked clean – both teams finished with 16 assists and only eight turnovers – but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Wednesday night was all about winning the hard way.

Junior guard Gaby Belardo shared a quote from NBA star Chris Paul with his team before the game, which reminded them that wins don’t always have to look good.

“I had him share that quote again afterword because I thought it was pretty ugly at times,” Parrotta said, with “ugly” being the theme of the press conference. “I thought we did some good things but they kind of hang around, and a lot of it was our doing, but at the end of the game we found a way to gut out a win.

“The bottom line is the guys won an ugly game, but nonetheless it goes into the right column.”

Binghamton, which doesn’t have a senior on its roster, came into the contest ranked 336th nationally in scoring offense (55.0 points per game), 340th in field goal percentage (.363) and had been held to 45 and 44 in its last two outings. But that didn’t stop the Bearcats from shooting 43.6 percent against the Griffs and scoring 66 points, their second-highest output of the season.

Even coach Mark Macon, a pure shooter in his NBA days, remarked that his Bearcats 4-of-12 night from behind the arc was impressive, at least by their standards – they came into the game shooting .259 from three.

It’s a win nonetheless for the Griffs (3-9, 0-2 MAAC), who reopen conference play New Year’s Day at Fairfield, which handed Canisius a 68-59 loss at the KAC on Dec. 4.

The scene got even uglier near the end of the game, when Binghamton’s leading scorer, Ben Dickinson, hammered Josiah Heath from behind as Heath went in for a wide-open dunk. The 6-foot-9, 230-pouind freshman crashed hard into the base of the hoop and Dickinson was ejected from the game with 14.5 seconds to play.

Heath would make 1 of 2 ensuing free throws and Parrotta said he suffered no injuries on the play. Macon apologized to Parrotta after the game and neither coach was overly upset about the incident in the postgame.

Byron Brown Jr., son of the Buffalo mayor, played a career-high four minutes for Binghamton and hit a jumper with dad on hand in the gym just a few hundred yards from the house he grew up in on Blaine Avenue.

Canisius has now defeated in-state rival Binghamton two years in a row, but this may be the last time the sides meet for some time. The MAAC Council of Presidents approved a policy in mid-December that prohibits MAAC basketball programs from scheduling nonconference opponents that rank in the bottom 50 of the two-year relative power index (RPI) report.

It’s possible that Binghamton, 8-23 last year and 0-fer this year, will be listed in that report.

The policy is effective starting next season and offers schools an exception for what it calls “traditional” opponents, such as if Buffalo or St. Bonaventure were to ever fall into that category. For more, check out that MAAC’s release.

NFL Week 16 picks

I still haven't decided what I'm going to do if I ever have a daughter, but there better be another one of these guys around when she becomes of age. It might be an arranged marriage.

Santa’s bringing Western New York an early Christmas present this week and it’s exactly what we want.

Winning football? The Bills are beyond Santa’s help. It’s Tim Tebow!

The NFL decided there wouldn’t be enough people getting together this weekend to waive its blackout policy, so you’ll have to find another way to see Tebow play. There are plenty of tickets left if you want to get away from your inlaws for a little before Christmas Eve dinner, or, for broken leg cripples like me who can’t get out to stadiums, there are online feeds to be found.

I’m expecting a healthy dose of Tebow on the ground and through the air. With seven straight losses, despite the odds, it looks like the Bills are going to pull through after all complete my preseason prediction of a 5-11 record. If the Bills lose to Denver, if it won’t get any easier when they travel to Foxboro next week.

The Bills are a three-point underdog.

Denver at Bills (+3)
Denver

Oakland (+1 1/2) at Kansas City
Oakland

Jacksonville (+7 1/2) at Tennessee
Tennessee

Arizona (+4) at Cincinnati
Arizona

Miami (+9) at New England
New England

Cleveland (+13) at Baltimore
Cleveland

Giants (+3) at Jets
Giants

Minnesota (+6 1/2) at Washington
Washington

Tampa Bay (+7 1/2) at Carolina
Carolina

St. Louis (+16) at Pittsburgh
St. Louis

San Diego (+2 1/2) at Detroit
Detriot

San Francisco at Seattle (+2 1/2)
San Francisco

Philadelphia (+2) at Dallas
Philadelphia

Chicago (+13) at Green Bay
Chicago

Atlanta (+6 1/2) at New Orleans
New Orleans

Overall

Northrop: 109-99-7
Skurski: 107-101-7
Always Game Seven 106-102-7
Gaughan: 102-106-7
McKissic: 101-107-7
Sullivan: 99-109-7
DiCesare: 97-111-7

Last week
Miami (+2) at Bills
Miami
Dolphins 30-23. Win
Dallas at Tampa Bay (+7)
Dallas
Cowboys 31-15. Win
Washington (+7) at Giants
Giants
Redskins 23-10. Loss
Green Bay at Kansas City (+14)
Green Bay
Chiefs 19-14. Loss
New Orleans at Minnesota (+7)
New Orleans
Saints 42-20. Win
Seattle (+3 1/2) at Chicago
Seattle
Seahawks 38-14. Win
Carolina (+6 1/2) at Houston
Houston
Panthers 28-13. Loss
Tennessee at Indianapolis (+6 1/2)
Tennessee
Colts 27-13. Loss
Cincinnati at St. Louis (+6)
Cincinnati
Bengals 20-13. Win
Detroit at Oakland (+1)
Detroit
Lions 28-27. Push
New England at Denver (+6 1/2)
Denver
Pats 41-23. Loss
Jets (+3) at Philadelphia
Jets
Eagles 45-19. Loss
Cleveland (+7) at Arizona
Arizona
Cardinals 20-17 (OT). Loss
Baltimore at San Diego (+2 1/2)
Baltimore
Chargers 34-14. Loss
Pittsburgh (+3 1/2) at San Francisco
San Francicso
49ers 20-3. Win
6-8-1

Griffs’ offense flat against Loyola of Chicago

Gaby Belardo has been bothered by a bad back lately, though he says it's not the cause for any missed shots. Coach Tom Parrotta said Belardo was in pain today and they planned on limiting him to 20 minutes (he played 26).

Gaby Belardo put up a 3-pointer with just under seven minutes left in the game and his Golden Griffins holding a two-point lead.

Nothing but … rim. Freshman Josiah Heath got the rebound and kicked it back out to Belardo for another wide open 3. Clank. Heath won another rebound before throwing it back to Belardo once again.

Third time’s the charm, right? Not Thursday at the Koessler Athletic Center. The Loyola of Chicago Ramblers took the ball down the court after Belardo’s third consecutive miss and made a layup that was part of a late 10-0 run that sunk the Griffs in a game they found offense hard to come by.

“That was a moment in time where everybody froze,” head coach Tom Parrotta said. “He missed it, it came to him, he shot it again, it came to him again. Think about what would have happened if he made that third one…”

Belardo cut in: “I was wide open. I should have made that.”

“He was wide open, but he knows that,” Parrotta continued. “I didn’t say pull it out and run something else, but you have to find a way, as a Division I athlete, to find a way to do that. That was one microcosm of the game, and when you look back on it, you’re going to be like ‘wow, that kind of speaks volumes of the whole night.’ ”

The unusually low-scoring affair was cute while Canisius was winning. Once Loyola of Chicago started to run away with the game, it stopped being so funny.

Missed shots and turnovers from both teams kept the scoreboard quiet most of the night. Canisius led 10-8 at the 10-minute mark and trailed 20-18 at halftime.

It was anyone’s game for the taking in the second half. Belardo connected for one of his two 3-pointers with 8:15 left in the game to put Canisius up 36-32, the largest lead either team enjoyed up to that point in the second half.

But the Griffs would miss their next six shots while the Ramblers went 5 for 8 over the same stretch. In a game like this, that was enough to put the Griffs in a hole they couldn’t climb out of, eventually losing 59-45. The Griffs shot just 27.8 percent in the second half.

The Ramblers entered the game in the top 50 nationally in scoring defense at 59.5 points allowed per game, but Canisius wouldn’t come close to that. At times, it was questionable whether Canisius would even hit 40 points. A Reggie Groves layup would finally get them there – with 2:35 left in the game.

Loyola of Chicago finished the game shooting 39.2 percent from the field. Leading scorer, 6-foot-8 junior Ben Averkamp, kept them afloat with his 10-for-18 night, which was good for a game-high 22 points. The Ramblers couldn’t have done it without him – guards Denzel Brito, Chim Kadima and Jordan Hicks combined to shoot 2 of 18 from the field as the Ramblers went the entire game without hitting a 3-pointer.

But they didn’t need the long ball – they won the game pounding the ball inside and keeping focus. Loyola of Chicago hit 17 of 18 free throws in the second half (19-20 total) to stay in the game and then put it away. Once a tight, low-scoring game, the Ramblers led by as many as 14 before the final horn.

“It was a frustrating night offensively and shooting the basketball,” Parrotta said. “I thought we got better shots than them for a large part of the game. We’ve been down this road before where we’re getting good looks. When you don’t knock some shots down it becomes a snowball effect, and that was the difference. It zapped our defense a little bit and they were able to exploit us in the paint.

“All those shots [my players] took, I know they can make.”

Heath and Harold Washington led the Griffs with 10 points each while Chris Manhertz had a career-high 13 rebounds. Averkamp’s partner in crime, 6-foot-7 Walt Gibler, had a double-double for Loyola of Chicago with 17 points and 12 boards.

The Griffs (2-9, 0-2 MAAC) have Binghamton at home next Wednesday in their final nonleague tune-up before they reopen conference play New Year’s Day at Fairfield.