Last Week: 12-4
Dallas @ Tampa Bay
If the Cowboys don’t wake up this week, it might be over for them. The Buccaneers look like they’ve flat out quit on the season after their disgraceful showing against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Dallas has let two winnable games slip away in a row, and have fallen out of first place. Even though the Cowboys have a history of December collapses, I have to believe that they handle the lifeless Bucs easily.
Miami @ Buffalo
It’s a little surprising that the Dolphins decided to fire Tony Sparano with three weeks remaining. Though he was still likely gone at the end of the season, the team had been playing much better over the last month with the exception of last Sunday’s effort against the Eagles. With Miami disorganized after the Sparano firing, I think the Bills put together one of their better efforts at home for a victory.
Seattle @ Chicago
The Bears have gone into a complete freefall without their top offensive stars Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. In the last two games, they’ve scored only 13 points. Replacements Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber have underachieved and committed costly mistakes that are pushing Chicago out of the playoff picture. Seattle has played well in recent weeks, and still believe they have a chance at the playoffs. Things look grim in Chicago, and even though the game is at home, I can’t see the Bears putting up more than 14 points, which will make it very difficult for them to win.
Carolina @ Houston
If football gods exist, they’re doing everything in their power to test the resolve of the Texans. They’ve lost two quarterbacks, a star receiver, a star defensive end, and now they’ll be without defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who needs to undergo a medical procedure. Luckily for Houston, they’ve got a favorable matchup this week against Carolina. The Panthers can score, but can’t stop anyone on defense. The Texans will lean heavily on their running game this week, and if the defense can continue to perform well without Phillips, I like the Texans at home.
Tennessee @ Indianapolis
Another week, another loss for the Colts. The Titans are still in the playoff picture, and have something to play for, which spells doom for Jim Caldwell’s bunch.
Green Bay @ Kansas City
Another week, another win for the Packers. Green Bay continues to look unstoppable, and Kansas City fans won’t even want to bother tuning in to this inevitable slaughter.
Pick: Green Bay
New Orleans @ Minnesota
Things are really getting ugly in Minnesota. The season has been a complete disaster, and last week the team had to pull rookie Christian Ponder because of his poor play. The Saints come into town fighting with the 49ers for a first-round bye, and they’ll have no trouble outscoring the Vikings.
Pick: New Orleans
Washington @ New York Giants
The Redskins put out their best effort against the Patriots last week, but Rex Grossman’s chronic turnover problem proved to be their undoing once again. They’ll face a Giant team that is coming off of two strong performances, rallying to take first place away from the Cowboys last week and giving the undefeated Packers their strongest challenge of the season two weeks ago. The Giants control their own destiny, and won’t letdown at home.
Pick: New York
Cincinnati @ St. Louis
The Bengal playoff hopes took a serious blow last when T.J. Yates threw a touchdown pass in the final seconds of regulation to upset Cincinnati at home. The Bengals started out strong, but a grueling schedule has taken a toll on the team in the last five weeks. They aren’t out of the playoff hunt yet though, and shouldn’t have any trouble from a St. Louis team that looks completely lost at the moment.
Detroit @ Oakland
The Carson Palmer trade hasn’t been working out for the Raiders. Palmer has made a number of critical mistakes, and Oakland has fallen a full game behind the Denver Broncos in the AFC West. The Lions are in the mix for the final NFC Playoff spot, but they haven’t been playing well themselves in recent weeks. I don’t trust either team, but I trust the Lions and their potent offensive more than I trust Palmer and his turnover problems.
Cleveland @ Arizona
The Cardinals have been playing better lately, and have risen their record to 6-7. Last week’s upset of the 49ers could do a lot for the confidence of this team, and should carry them to victory over a Cleveland team that just can’t get anything done on offense.
New England @ Denver
This week, we find out just how legitimate Tebowmania is in Denver. I’ve said all along that I believe it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors, and I don’t believe that the Broncos will have nearly enough tricks to keep up with Tom Brady.
Pick: New England
New York Jets @ Philadelphia
It’s incredible to me how some Philadelphia fans are still clinging on to hope that this team can still make the playoffs. Reality check? The Eagles didn’t look impressive at all in their win over the Dolphins. Michael Vick continues to play a reckless style of football, making mistakes and exposing himself to injury. The Jets have the defensive talent to frustrate Vick, shutdown his receivers, and create turnovers against an erratic offense. Also, the Eagle defense isn’t capable of sustaining the effort they put out against Miami last week. Expect another frustrating home loss for Philadelphia.
Pick: New York
Baltimore @ San Diego
The Ravens are looking to cement their hold on the AFC North, while the Chargers are in the midst of making their annual December run at the playoffs. Baltimore has played well over the last month, but I feel that this trip out west is a trap game for them. San Diego normally plays their best when there are no expectations on them.
Pick: San Diego
Pittsburgh @ San Francisco
Possibly the most interesting matchup of the week (and easily the most interesting Monday Night Football game in about a month), two of the better defenses in the league will battle one another. I give the edge to the Steelers here because they’ve had extra time to prepare, and I have faith the Pittsburgh offense will be able to put up some points on San Francisco, while on the other hand I have very little faith in Alex Smith to the same.