Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons already have everything in place for an ideal postseason run; the #1 overall seed and a first round BYE. The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through the Georgia Dome. With this being said, one would think that the dirty birds would have nothing to play through (which is true). They could get wreaked by 45 points and will still have the #1 seed, but there is a good chance that Mike Smith will have his guys playing hard through the end of the year. First, that is Smith’s style as a coach. Second, a two week rest for Matt Ryan and company could throw them out of rhythm right when they need to be on top of their game. This is what happened to them back in 2010 and what happened to the Packers last season. Because the Falcons might be playing their starters, that makes it pretty easy to pick them in this situation. Not to mention, the Bucs are on a real cold streak right now. Going down to Atlanta does not seem like a fun road trip for Tampa Bay.
Atlanta 31, Tampa Bay 10
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
These two offensively challenged teams will be meeting for the first time since Week 1 where the Jets threw up 48 points. It is pretty safe to say that a Greg McElroy lead offense will not be grilling a 40-burger on any defense. Therefore, that shapes this game up to be one where points will be at a premium. In these types of games it generally comes down to one player, one who can make a game-changing play to tilt the scales in the favor of one side. In this match-up that playmaker has to be CJ Spiller. This guy has Chris Johnson-like potential on every single play and has the ability to throw up gaudy numbers. Look for him to have a big day in a game that not many people outside of the New York/New Jersey area will care about.
Buffalo 17, New York 10
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Since the Ravens cannot earn a seed higher than #3 and the Bengals are locked into the #6 seed, there will not be much to play for in this game. Unlike the Falcons, each of these teams may consider resting quite a few of their starters with the idea of preserving them for the playoffs. Also, there is a slight chance that these two teams could face off in the first round during the playoffs so neither will want to show the other anything too flashy. This game could really go either way, but the Ravens could pull away with a win since there is a slight chance that they could make the leap to the #3 seed.
Baltimore 24, Cincinnati 17
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
It is very tempting to go with the Lions here since they will be playing the all too familiar role of spoiler at home. However, the Chicago Bears really need to be able to bag this one because Detroit is the type of team that they were built to beat. They throw the ball a lot and have a tendency to squander drives deep in opponent’s territory; this plays right into Rod Marinelli’s hands. They need to be able to play with intensity in what has become a must-win situation. They returned to form against the Cardinals last week, so maybe that gives them the amount of confidence necessary to get the job done in the Motor City. This is a soft pick, but the Bears will win in a nail-biter of a game that ends on a Matthew Stafford pick.
Chicago 27, Detroit 21
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts
After getting thrashed at home by the Minnesota Vikings, Gary Kubiak would probably like his team to have a statement game as Houston charges into the playoffs. And after seeing the performance (or lack thereof) by the Colts defense against the run last week, it is quite hard to pick them when they are playing a team that runs the ball more often than they pass it. Indy surrendered 352 yards on the ground to one of the worst offenses in the NFL (Kansas City) and they have been shredded on more than a couple of occasions at times this season. It has been apparent for a while that the defense is the weakest link of this team. Fully expect the Texans to run a lot of stretch plays and/or pitches that get their runners on the edge of the field, for that is where the Chiefs and a lot of other teams have had success against Greg Manusky’s unit. By the way, that is the one thing that the Texans do better than any other team in the NFL.
Houston 30, Indianapolis 22
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
This game has the potential to be a shootout. Cam Newton has been playing great lately and Drew Brees is coming off of his best performance of the season. The two teams collide in a stadium that the Panthers have not won in since 2008. It should be fun to see what Joe Vitt has his team do in his finale as the Saints interim head coach. This could also be the last game for Ron Rivera with the Carolina Panthers, so both will be looking to end the season on a high note. If Drew Brees can play like he did last week then this will be a cakewalk for New Orleans. There is a very good chance that Brees will throw for a few scores and 300+ yards in this one making a win for the Panthers a pipe-dream. Despite a down year, the former Super Bowl MVP has played extremely well at home vs. NFC South foes during this campaign. Therefore, it will be the Saints who emerge from this one triumphant.
New Orleans 34, Carolina 28
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants
The Giants are heading south, fast. This December nose-dive is reminiscent of what the Cowboys do every year. Eli Manning has been playing like an average QB over the past few weeks and the New York secondary continues to be exposed quite frequently. Philly fans can relate to this pain, because they have had to live it all season long. With great change on the horizon in the City of Brotherly Love, it is important for key players to try and endear themselves to the fans by having a nice game. This could very well be the final game that Andy Reid coaches, so he should be motivated to ruin the Giants season, much like they did back in 2010 during the miracle at the New Meadowlands. As of right now, it appears as if Michael Vick will get a chance to play one last game as a bird before he hits the road along with others. With this in mind, he will probably try his best to play very well. With Eagles players being motivated along with the car-crash that has become of the New York Giants’ season, it feels appropriate to go with Philly here. They have still yet to lose in the New Meadowlands.
Philadelphia 20, New York 17
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
It is hard to imagine that the Steelers will be playing in their last game until the 2013 season, but for Pittsburgh fans this has become the ugly truth. A lot of people turn to the Week 12 game that these two teams had and think of it as the turning point for the season. Remember, this was the game where the Charlie Batch lead offense turned the ball over eight times (tied for most in the NFL this season) and the Browns walked away with a 20-14 victory. Anyways, that was five weeks ago and you had better believe that the Steelers will be playing in a really pissed off mood this Sunday and even with that loss, they have still dominated the Browns over the past two decades (losing only seven times). They should steamroll Cleveland at home and finish the year at 8-8.
Pittsburgh 28, Cleveland 7
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans
The first time these two teams hooked horns this season, it was the Jags who walked away victorious. This time around it should be the Titans who lay it to Jacksonville in the Music City. Chris Johnson will go bananas; rushing for 150+ yards and at least two scores. Tennessee really does need to consider picking up a bruiser-back because CJ2K cannot continue to tote the load as he gets a bit older.
Tennessee 20, Jacksonville 12
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
If Peyton Manning loses to the Kansas City Chiefs, that will be the day that the Oakland Raiders stop committing stupid penalties. In other words, there is no way the Broncos are going to lose this game any time soon. Denver did have a bit of trouble the first time these two teams faced off, but this time the game will be played in the Mile High City. Eleven straight wins looks like a practical shoo-in for John Fox and the Broncos.
Denver 38, Kansas City 3
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Mike McCarthy has to be pleased with the way that his team has played over the past month. Because of their efforts, they can be rewarded with a first round BYE in the playoffs with a win this Sunday in Minnesota. That is, however, easier said than done. Just ask six out of seven opponents that the Vikes have downed in Mall of America Stadium this year. The crowd noise will be a big factor since a playoff spot is on the line and Adrian Peterson will be vying to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. This will cause the game to be much closer than many may anticipate, but at the end of the day a good running game will never get the job done vs. an Aaron Rodgers-quarterbacked offense. This guy is just too good, and the Pack does have a lot to play for as well in this game. Plus, they are suddenly no slouches in the running game either.
Green Bay 23, Minnesota 20
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
For whatever reason, the Dolphins seem to always play the Pats tough. But, a December game in Gillette Stadium seems to be too steep of a hill for this young team to climb. The Patriots also need to get back on the ball after looking bad against the Jaguars last week. This is a team that is sitting pretty at the moment, but is not one bit happy with it. Being the perfectionist that he is, Tom Brady will be looking to carve open the ‘Phins defense (much like he did during the first game of the 2011 season). This unit has been had on more than a couple of occasions this year. The Pats should pick up the win here, even if they do not put forth a stellar effort that New Englanders are used to seeing.
New England 42, Miami 24
Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers
When a mule is faced with two equally desireable piles of hay, it starves to death. That story rings true with regards to this game. In other, more understandable words, you just have to pick one. Let’s go with the Chargers here. Maybe Norv Turner can save his job, yet again, with a win over the listless Raiders.
San Diego 17, Oakland 7
St Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
Common sense would dictate that the Seahawks will walk away with a win here and a perfect 8-0 record at home this year. After smoking the 49ers last week, it seems plausible to say that Seattle is the hottest team in football. Although, Jeff Fisher always has his team ready to play and it may be redundant to say this but the Rams always play NFC West opponents really tough. This will not be a walk in the park for Pete Caroll, but it is a game in which the ‘Hawks should win. This one will be surprisingly low scoring.
Seattle 12, St Louis 7
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers
It is obvious that if you do not have a quarterback in this league, then you will find it increasingly tough to win games. Thus is the tale of the Arizona Cardinals’ season. They crop of QB’s have not thrown a TD pass in six straight games, and now they will be facing one of the better defenses in the NFL (despite their horrendous showings in the last six quarters of football). It is really tough to imagine this game ending in any other way besides a San Fran blowout. Yet again, the Cardinals will be held to a low-output of points.
San Francisco 23, Arizona 6
Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
It is very hard to pick the Cowboys in this type of a game. They have choked in this situation too many times over the last few years. They may be playing a little better than usual for this time of year, but that does not help their case at all. RGIII should find some gaping holes in the secondary that was exposed yet again last week vs. Drew Brees. Plus, Griffin has already seen this defense once before (and liked it). With experience comes great skill and all of America will see this youngster shine in the primetime light as he takes his team to its first playoff berth since 2005. As mentioned above, the Cowboys have done nothing over the past couple of years that would lead anybody to believe that they would finally be able to win a game that is for all of the marbles. This could turn into a shootout as well, and in those types of games it is usually the home team that finds a way to win. How about a repeat score from the first time these two teams met this year (back on Thanksgiving).
Washington 38, Dallas 31