There are some other interesting matchups this week as the season winds down, including: the Titans five-game win streak takes them to Indianapolis, where they’ll battle the undefeated Colts, while the Saints have an easier road to 12-0 against the Redskins in Washington.
Last week I went 11-5, which takes me to 105-39 overall. Here are my picks for this week:
NY Jets (5-6) @ Buffalo (4-7)
My pick: Buffalo
-I feel like I’m going against the grain a little with this pick, but here’s why I think the Bills will come out on top: both of these teams are coming off a big win, but have lost three of their last four games - though only one of the teams has had some pretty big personnel changes that might be the reason. With the Jets, they’ve got five wins this season, but they’ve been horribly inconsistent this season. The Bills have a new (interim) coach, and a new guy under centre. Since Ryan Fitzpatrick came in at quarterback, Buffalo’s big offseason acquisition, Terrell Owens, has finally started to put up decent numbers. He’s now got touchdowns in two straight games, after putting up just ONE in the previous nine games. A big play or two from T.O. in T.O. could be the difference.
Philadelphia (7-4) @ Atlanta (6-5)
My pick: Philadelphia
-The race for playoff spots in the NFC doesn’t seem to be as intense and wide open as in the AFC, but this is one of those games with big playoff implications – the wild card Eagles taking on the Falcons, who are one of two teams that are one win back of that spot. The Falcons need this win to keep pace, but they’ll be doing so without star running back Michael Turner, who has a high ankle sprain On the other side of the ball, DeSean Jackson, Philly’s top wide receiver, is out with a concussion. I’m giving the edge here to Philly because both teams need this game, but the Eagles have the tools right now to come out on top. Not having Turner’s 10 touchdowns and rushing ability will be a big loss for the Falcons – I bet they’re wishing he rested against Tampa last weekend.
Tampa Bay (1-10) @ Carolina (4-7)
My pick: Tampa Bay
-If there was ever a game that was gift-wrapped for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s this weekend’s tilt with the Panthers. Carolina QB Jake Delhomme is out with a broken finger and their leading rusher, DeAngelo Williams, is questionable with a sprained ankle (he missed three straight practices, which makes me doubt he’ll be in the lineup). In the four games that Josh Freeman has been under centre for the Bucs they are 1-3, with only one of those losses by more than three points (and it was against the Saints, go figure). Well, the Panthers aren’t the Saints and they’re hurting right now – and Tampa has got to be playing with a bit more confidence given their latest results.
St. Louis (1-10) @ Chicago (4-7)
My pick: Chicago
-Jay Cutler has a chance to forget, if only for a week, about his pretty woeful season with the Bears this season against the 1-10 Rams and their 22nd ranked pass defense. Cutler is a more generous QB on the road (17 interceptions), but plays much better at home with eight TD strikes and just three INTs. The Bears have lost four straight, but those losses have all come against quality opponents. The big thing for the Bears will be stopping the run – Steven Jackson leads the NFC with 1,120 rushing yards. That’s really St. Louis’ only threat though.
Detroit (2-9) @ Cincinnati (8-3)
My pick: Cincinnati
-The AFC North leading Bengals can put a stamp on things with a win over the Lions this weekend, and their run game will get a big boost with the expected return of Cedrick Benson. Cincinnati is 4-1 in their last five, with a disappointing loss to the Raiders two weeks ago being their only loss during that span. After an exciting with over the Browns, Matt Stafford threw four picks in a Thanksgiving loss to Green Bay last week. The Lions just don’t have the depth to compete with the Bengals, unless Cincinnati decides to take them lightly.
Tennessee (5-6) @ Indianapolis (11-0)
My pick: Tennessee
-Okay, before you tell me I’m wrong, here’s why I think the Titans can pull it off: Last week the Colts had to erase a 17-point first half deficit for an eight-point win over the Texans; in the four weeks before that, they won by four or less in each outing. If the Titans, who have won five in a row, can keep the game close, Vince Young has shown he can pull off the late-game heroics. Chris Johnson is gunning for his seventh game with at least 125 yards, which would be an NFL record. The Colts might end up blowing the Titans out, but Tennessee has shown me that they’re a different club and they’re playing with all kinds of swagger right now.
Houston (5-6) @ Jacksonville (6-5)
My pick: Jacksonville
-Both teams are coming off a loss, but the Jags are 4-1 at home this season and have won three-of-four coming into this weekend’s important matchup with the Texans. As always, the Jaguars success will be dependant on the success of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has found the endzone 13 times this season. This game will basically be about Houston QB Matt Schaub’s production vs. Jones-Drew’s production. Whoever contributes more over the course of the game will win it for his team.
Denver (7-4) @ Kansas City (3-8)
My pick: Denver
-The Broncos need this win to retain their spot as the holder of one of the AFC wild card spots – they snapped a four-game losing skid last week with a win over the Giants and must build on that this week. Thankfully, they’re up against a Chiefs team with more losses than Denver has wins this season, who are coming off a grade “A” butt kicking at the hands of the Chargers last week. Prior to that though, KC had put together a string of two straight wins, including an OT victory over the Steelers. In order to win this one though, the Broncos need contributions from all sides, because they’ve still lost four-of-five here and aren’t out of the woods just yet.
New England (7-4) @ Miami (5-6)
My pick: New England
-I like Miami and I’m a big supporter of Ricky Williams, but I think in this case you just can’t keep a team like New England down for long. They’ve uncharacteristically lost two of three (that one-pointer to Indy and a big one last week to the Saints), and you know they’ll be looking to make a statement in Miami this weekend. The Dolphins could be without a key piece of their defense, with Joey Porter nursing a sore knee, which will only make things harder for a club that needs to keep winning to stay in the thick of the wild card chase. If it comes down to a battle between Chad Henne and Tom Brady, I think you’ve got to give it to the Pats.
Oakland (3-8) @ Pittsburgh (6-5)
My pick: Pittsburgh
-The Pittsburgh Steelers need to break out of this three game skid if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive – though if they played in the NHL they’d be 0-1-2 in that stretch after losing in back-to-back overtime games against Kansas City (who they should have beat) and Baltimore (without Ben Roethlisberger) – despite starting both overtimes with the ball. Statistically speaking, the Steelers should pump the Raiders, but Oakland has had a knack for winning when they shouldn’t this season (that is, when they actually win) – beating both Philly and Cincinnati since week six. Big Ben is expected to play this week after sitting out last week due to a concussion. As long as he and Hines Ward have actually patched things up, the Raiders shouldn’t be a problem.
New Orleans (11-0) @ Washington (3-8)
My pick: New Orleans
-The Colts have to play the upstart Titans this week, while the other 11-0 team gets the 3-8 Redskins – is that fair? Whatever the case, the Saints are coming off a huge win over the Patriots last Monday, which you know has them feeling even more confident coming into this week. They have to make sure they don’t take Washington too lightly though, like they maybe did with St. Louis a few weeks back.
San Diego (8-3) @ Cleveland (1-10)
My pick: San Diego
-The Chargers seem to be only getting stronger as the season goes on – they’re coming off a 43-14 win over KC; before that they beat Denver by 29 and put up 31 against the Eagles. So it’s safe to say they’re on fire right now with six straight wins, and they’re up against a team with just one win this season in the Browns. LaDainian Tomlinson has really picked up in the second half of the season with five touchdowns in his last three games – look for him to continue that against a Cleveland side that’s giving up almost 160 rushing yards per game on average this season.
Dallas (8-3) @ NY Giants (6-5)
My pick: Dallas
-Since 2006, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t been very good in the month of December, but that stat really doesn’t actually mean anything at all to me. This is a game between a Cowboys team that has won six-of-seven against a Giants club with one win in their last six games – Tony Romo is flying high, Eli Manning is supposedly battling some kind of injury and is slumping quite badly. The Giants offensive line is hurting bad right now, giving up a lot of sacks in the last six games – unless they turn that around, they’ll have a tough time beating a fairly strong Dallas side.
San Francisco (5-6) @ Seattle (4-7)
My pick: San Francisco
-The 49ers have won two of three which put them right into the hunt for the playoffs – they spanked the Jaguars last week and Chicago two weeks ago. The Seahawks are better at home than on the road, and are coming off a win over the Rams; but I think Frank Gore could be the game breaker for the Niners.
Minnesota (10-1) @ Arizona (7-4)
My pick: Minnesota
-It’s hard to imagine the Vikings losing – that’s how good they’ve been. Brett Favre is killing it this season, he’s got his receivers on the same page as him, their running game is solid and their defense has been taking care of business so far. Arizona has had its struggles at home this season and QB Kurt Warner is questionable with a concussion – that could be a big blow to their offense. Either way, I like Minnesota in this game.
Baltimore (6-5) @ Green Bay (7-4)
My pick: Green Bay
-The Packers need this win just as much as the Ravens do, but home field should be the advantage they need to get them the win. Aaron Rodgers led the Pack to a win over the Lions last week, while Baltimore beat Pittsburgh in overtime. Rodgers is a stronger QB than Flacco, and that could be what it could come down to on this night.