It’s the second last week of the NFL season and things are heating up, with eight teams in the running for the AFC wild card spots and just three serious contenders on the other side.
Last week I had another off-week, going 9-7 thanks to a big win by the Giants to keep them in the playoff picture. My record now sits at 134-58. You’ll notice these picks are a little more hastily done than in previous weeks, but hey – it’s a busy time of year! Here are my picks for this week:
San Diego (11-3) @ Tennessee (7-7)
My pick: San Diego
-As much as I want to see the Titans make the playoffs, they’re playing the Chargers at the wrong time of year. San Diego has won nine in a row, including wins over Dallas and Cincinnati the last two weeks. One factor in this game could be the Chargers resting starters, as they’ve already clinched their division.
Buffalo (5-9) @ Atlanta (7-7)
My pick: Atlanta
-The Falcons and the Bills might both be out of the playoff race, but both teams will be playing for pride this weekend. The Falcons are coming off a win over the Jets after a three-point loss to the Saints. They’re a far better team than their record suggests as injuries to key players have ravaged their lineup.
Kansas City (3-11) @ Cincinnati (9-5)
My pick: Cincinnati
-For the third straight week, the Bengals will be trying to clinch the AFC North title. After losses to Minnesota and San Diego they will finally get the win they need against a Chiefs team that has lost four in a row.
Oakland (5-9) @ Cleveland (3-11)
My pick: Oakland
-Just for a laugh, I’m going to pick the Raiders this week. It’s basically a crapshoot anytime Oakland is playing a game you think they should win, or a game you think they should lose. Take their wins over Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Denver, for example. They’ve been playing with more confidence as of late though, and I think we’ll see that this weekend.
Seattle (5-9) @ Green Bay (9-5)
My pick: Green Bay
-The Packers need this win to keep their place in the wild card slot of the NFC – and Seattle is 1-6 on the road and coming off a loss to Tampa Bay. The Steelers beat the Packers last week by a single point, but prior to that Green Bay had won five in a row so I don’t see any reason they won’t win this weekend.
Houston (7-7) @ Miami (7-7)
My pick: Houston
-This is a huge game for both these clubs – just two of a whole bunch of teams fighting for position in the AFC. I’m going to give it to Houston though, because Matt Schaub is due for a big game and the Texans are riding a two-game win streak. The Dolphins fell short in a big comeback last week against the Titans; I just think Schaub is more capable of winning this one than Chad Henne is.
Baltimore (8-6) @ Pittsburgh (7-7)
My pick: Baltimore
-The Steelers snapped a six-game losing skid last week against the Packers, but the Ravens have been playing strong football for about the last month or so, winning three of four after going through a bit of a rough patch. This is another big game in that AFC playoff race, but I’m not convinced that the Steelers are over whatever’s been plaguing them the past while.
Carolina (6-8) @ NY Giants (8-6)
My pick: New York
-The Giants are coming off a masterful performance against Washington last week where they absolutely dominated, getting themselves back on track after a loss to the Eagles. The Panthers became just the second team to beat the Vikings this season last week, but they’re out of the hunt, while the Giants still have a lot to play for.
Jacksonville (7-7) @ New England (9-5)
My pick: New England
-After losing three of four games, the Pats seem to be back on track with wins over Carolina and Buffalo. The Jaguars came close to beating the Colts last week, but have lost three of four. I’m picking Tom Brady and the Pats to rise up to the challenge and get past the Jags.
Tampa Bay (2-12) @ New Orleans (13-1)
My pick: New Orleans
-The Saints are coming off their first loss of the year, but I expect them to bounce back this weekend against Tampa. The Saints have some tight games this season, they’ve had to battle from behind a few times – so they’ve faced some adversity during the season. New Orleans has locked up a playoff spot, but look for them to try and make a statement this weekend.
St. Louis (1-13) @ Arizona (9-5)
My pick: Arizona
-The Cardinals bounced back after a disappointing loss to San Francisco with a win over the Lions last week – look for them to do the same against the lowly Rams this week. They bounced back in a way too – losing 16-13 after a 47-7 loss the week before, but I don’t think they’ve got enough to beat Arizona…unless the Cards just fall apart again.
Detroit (2-12) @ San Francisco (6-8)
My pick: San Francisco
-The Niners have been unable to string together consecutive wins since the first two weeks of the season and blew another shot at doing just that last weekend in a 27-13 loss to the Eagles. I think they’ll be able to handle the Lions though, so maybe they can end the season with a shot at back-to-back wins!
Denver (8-6) @ Philadelphia (10-4)
My pick: Philadelphia
-The Eagles have been a force to be reckoned with in the NFC East, winning five in a row to capture their divisional title. Donovan McNabb has been on fire as of late, and the team will get a boost this weekend with Brian Westbrook back in the lineup, even if his role is limited.
NY Jets (7-7) @ Indianapolis (14-0)
My pick: Indianapolis
-The Colts may end up resting some of their starters this weekend, but the Jets showed why their record isn’t better than it is last weekend by doing what they’ve done all season long – turning the ball over too many times. Mark Sanchez has looked good at times this season, but until he takes care of that side of his game, he won’t reach his potential.
Dallas (9-5) @ Washington (4-10)
My pick: Dallas
-As bad as they’ve been in December, the Cowboys need to pull it together for this weekend’s match up with the Redskins. Right now they’ve got one of the wild card spots in the NFC, but they need to put some points on the board to stay there. The Cowboys are coming off a win over the Saints, which I’m sure they hope was them turning the page on a rough month.
Minnesota (11-3) @ Chicago (5-9)
My pick: Minnesota
-In their last game, the Vikings fell flat against the Carolina Panthers and since then, there has been all kinds of news about a rift between coach Brad Childress and QB Brett Favre. Both sides have downplayed the issue, and you know they’ll both be hoping the team looks like it did before last week. The Vikings have played great for most of the season, I think they’ll get past all this and finish strong.