CAUTION: I’m sick, on meds, the computer’s constantly crashing, my place is dealing with broken pipes, I have no water, and I’ve had little to no sleep all week. Oh, and finals week starts tomorrow morning. So, if the tone of this article is a bit sour, well, there you go.
For the fourteenth time this season, NFL Sunday has arrived. The day is packed with important matchups, as six teams are tied for the final AFC Wild Card playoff spot. Every single Wild Card team is partaking in a titanic matchup, every primetime game is relevant and potentially amazing on paper, and notable matchups have lit up the schedule.
From a picks perspective, I went a mediocre 9-7, which is by far my worst week to date. Therefore, my overall record for the season is 134-53-1. Let’s see if things go any better this time around.
Thursday Night Football (NFL Network, 8/30/7:30c)
Dallas Cowboys (8-4) at Chicago Bears (5-8)
Prediction: Cowboys 32, Bears 30. Result: Cowboys 41, Bears 28.
Noon games (CBS & FOX, 1/12c)
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1) (CBS)
Line: Bengals by 3. O/U: 47.
In the most notable divisional game of the week, longtime AFC North Rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati get set to butt heads again. The Steelers put forth a pitiful performance last week against the New Orleans Saints, before scoring a bunch of points in garbage time to make things look close.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are on a bit of a roll, having won three straight, and five of six. That needs to be taken with precaution, however, since they barely won against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. AJ Green is a great receiver, and the running game is potent, but the Bengals are still pretenders in my book. The Steelers have won ten of their last twelve in Cincinnati, and Big Ben always seems to surprise. There will be points on the board, and the road team will prevail. Prediction: Steelers 35, Bengals 27.
New York Giants (3-9) at Tennessee Titans (2-10) (FOX)
Line: Giants by 2.5 O/U: 46.5.
In one of the more dubious games of the week, the hapless Giants take on the even more hapless Titans. The Giants were up 21-0 at Jacksonville last week, before melting down in a 25-24 loss. I cannot see them blowing back-to-back games against bad teams, and I see Eli Manning having a big game. Prediction: Giants 31, Titans 10.
Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Miami Dolphins (7-5) (CBS)
Line: Dolphins by 3. O/U: 45.
In the lone game pairing two AFC Wild Card hopefuls, the Ravens and Dolphins each need the win. Both teams have several notable performances on the season, but there’s one problem for the Dolphins: they flounder under pressure. They were up for the vast majority of their game in Denver, but melted down and lost 39-36. Last week, they barely defeated the hapless Jets on Monday night. The Ravens are coming off a heartbreaking loss against San Diego, and I believe they are the more reliable team here. Prediction: Ravens 24, Dolphins 20.
St. Louis Rams (5-7) at Washington Redskins (3-9) (FOX)
Line: Rams by 2.5. O/U: 45.
Let’s be brief. The Redskins suck. Jay Gruden was a semi-decent Arena League coach, but has been extremely overrated in the NFL. The Redskins are a mess. Meanwhile, the Rams are finally playing up to their potential. It’s too late for them to make a playoff push, but that doesn’t mean they are a bad team. They destroyed the Raiders by 52 last week, and they’ll dominate the ‘Skins, too. Prediction: Rams 27, Redskins 6.
Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cleveland Browns (7-5) (FOX)
Line: Colts by 3.5. O/U: 49.5
*Side note: This game was supposed to be on CBS. But, the early FOX slate was so mediocre, the NFL switched this game to FOX. Now, everybody can see it!
When the Colts visit the Dawg Pound, they will be playing a team that needs a win in order to keep pace in the AFC Wild Card race. The Browns are not the better team, but the Colts have had some underwhelming performance on the road lately. I see this being a game that the Colts should win, in Trent Richardson’s return to Cleveland, but this game will be too close for comfort. Expect a Browns’ chokejob. Prediction: Colts 27, Browns 23.
New York Jets (2-10) at Minnesota Vikings (5-7) (CBS)
Line: Vikings by 4.5. O/U: 40.5.
The Jets suck. The Vikings are actually pretty good. The score should reflect that. Prediction: Jets 13, Vikings 27.
Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-7) (FOX)
Line: Saints by 9. O/U: 50.
In a “battle” amongst two NFC South teams that actually have a shot at winning it, the extremely underwhelming Carolina Panthers face what might be the most disappointing team in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints. Expected my many to be a dark horse Super Bowl contender, the Saints have become the “Aints” yet again. Once viewed as invincible at home, they have lost three straight in the building.
That said, they were pretty impressive in Pittsburgh last week, and they are the best team in the division, in my opinion. Perhaps last week was a sign of things to come for the Saints, which could spell dreadful news for a Panthers team that has lost six straight. Prediction: Panthers 17, Saints 31.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) at Detroit Lions (8-4) (FOX)
Line: Lions by 10. O/U: 41.5
Like the jets from the previous writeup, the Buccaneers also suck. And, they are playing a better team than the Jets are. The Lions are back on track, and this should be a bloodbath. Prediction: Bucs 14, Lions 35.
Houston Texans (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) (CBS)
Line: Texans by 6.5. O/U: 41.5
First off congrats to the Jags for winning another game. That said, they’re getting annihilated today. Prediction: Texans 34, Jaguars 10.
Late afternoon games (4:05/3:05c on CBS, 4:25/3:25c on FOX)
Seattle Seahawks (8-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-3) (FOX)
Line: Seahawks by 1.5 O/U: 47.
In what might be the premier game of the week, the surging Seattle Seahawks take on the equally blazing Philadelphia Eagles. The Seahawks’ defense seem to be resembling the same team that won the Super Bowl last year, while the Eagles offense is amongst the league’s best.
That said, I still don’t trust Mark Sanchez. He will make some good plays, but mistakes will occur. The Seahawks won’t look great, but they’ll wind up with the win. Prediction: Seahawks 23, Eagles 21.
San Francisco 49ers (7-5) at Oakland Raiders (1-11) (FOX)
Line: 49ers by 8. O/U: 40.5.
The late afternoon slate for the NFL this week is as good as any, with three vey important games taking place. This one, however, is the odd game out. It is the battle of the bay, but neither team is playing well. I’ll just go with the team with a decent record, in a somewhat close game. Prediction: 49ers 28, Raiders 17.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-3) (CBS)
Line: Chiefs by 2.5. O/U: 41.5
Both teams are in the playoff hunt at the moment, but the Cardinals could be in for a freefall. Drew Stanton is not a bad quarterback, but he’s not starter quality like Carson Palmer. Andre Ellington and Larry Fitzgerald have been underwhelming this season, as has Michael Floyd. The Cardinals’ defense will keep this one somewhat close, but I believe Jamaal Charles and company will be too much for them to handle. Prediction: Chiefs 27, Cardinals 14.
Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Denver Broncos (9-3) (CBS)
Line: Broncos by 9.5 O/U: 47.5
The final late afternoon game to address is a very intriguing one, with a predictable result. The Broncos have an elite offense and capable defense, while the Bills have a great defense and subpar offense. The Bills are in the playoff hunt, but this game is one of four straight against what might be the four best teams in the NFL. Their playoff chances are over in my book, but I still see them competing hard in this game. Prediction: Bills 17, Broncos 28.
Sunday Night Football (8:30/7:30c, NBC)
New England Patriots (9-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-4)
Line: Patriots by 4.5 O/U: 53.5.
The nightcap is a straight up doozy, as two of the best December quarterbacks in the league take each other on. While Tom Brady might be the best December quarterback in the league, Philip Rivers’ 30-6 mark is good for second. The Patriots are coming off a tough 26-21 loss at Green Bay, in which star tight end Rob Gronkowski as unable to hold onto a potential game-winning touchdown catch. They may be unbeaten at home, but are 3-3 away.
Meanwhile, the Chargers have won three straight, after dropping three straight. The losing streak came after a five-game winning streak, making this team as streaky as it gets. They are 5-1 at home, and barely edged out the Rams and Ravens over the past few weeks. They may be a playoff contender yet again, but they struggle to beat the Patriots. I see the AFC’s top team holding on the the #1 spot, in a fun game. Prediction: Patriots 35, Chargers 27
Monday Night Football (8:30/7:30c, ESPN)
Atlanta Falcons (5-7) at Green Bay Packers (9-3)
Line: Packers by 13. O/U: 56.
Closing out the week is a matchup of division leaders. I know, that sounds ridiculous. Unfortunately, the NFC South is so poor, that’s actually true. That said, the Falcons have won three of their last four, with the lone loss coming in the final minute to the Cleveland Browns. Meanwhile, the Packers are on fire, having won four straight, and eight of nine. They are unbeaten at home, and in their last five home games, they have outscore their opponents 151-23 in the first half. They were up 23-14 against the Patriots last week at halftime, meaning in the previous four home games, they outscored opponents 128-9 in the first half. This will be a blowout early on, but the Falcons will put up yardage and points in playing catch-up. It’ll still be a blowout, though. Prediction: Falcons 27, Packers 52.