Last week was the round of fixtures that proved that nobody can really predict what will happen on any given Sunday in the NFL. Green Bay lost unexpectedly in Kansas City against the Chiefs, ending their shot at a perfect season. Indianapolis spoiled their own record by actually winning a game, against playoff hunting Tennessee. The Giants, coming off their win over Dallas the week before, were considered huge favourites for their home game against the Redskins, but lost heavily. With Baltimore and Pittsburgh both losing – the latter mainly due to their Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, having restricted movement from a leg injury he had picked up the week before – the AFC North race remained tied between the two going in to the final two weeks of the regular season. The Patriots, who won in Denver and ended Tim Tebow’s winning streak, are now the favourites to win the top seed in the AFC and therefore ensure home-field advantage through to the Super Bowl.
This week sees a matchup of the two New York teams as the Jets and Giants meet at MetLife Stadium – New Jersey; the Packers will lock up the number 1 seed if they beat the Bears on Christmas Day, or if the 49ers lose in Seattle on Saturday; New Orleans will win the NFC South if they beat Divisional rivals the Falcons on Monday Night Football; and the Cowboys can put the final nail in the coffin of the Eagles season.
Last week, 12-4; Season, 124-100
Home teams in bold
Texans -5.5 over Colts – The Colts won’t want to mess up their chances of getting the number one pick in the draft and are not risking the ignominy of an 0-16 season.
Broncos -3.5 over Bills – Denver’s defence looked terrible against the Patriots, but Fitzpatrick is not playing at the same level as Tom Brady is right now.
Cardinals +4.5 over Bengals – Arizona have been quietly been putting together an impressive run of games and are still in the hunt for a Wild Card spot – though a win for Atlanta and Detroit in either of their last two games would eliminate them.
Ravens -13.5 over Browns – This is Cleveland’s Superbowl – playing the team that moved away from their city in 1996 to Baltimore, but the Ravens need to show they are a legitimate contender after last week’s thrashing by San Diego.
Titans -7.5 over Jaguars – Tennessee played really badly in their loss to the Colts last Sunday, but the Jaguars were even worse in their thrashing to the Falcons.
Raiders +0.5 over Chiefs – Kansas City still has an outside shot at winning the AFC West, but they would need help from Buffalo and Detroit as well as winning out their last two games. Last week’s win over the Packers was an impressive performance, but I think it will be a one-off for the Chiefs.
Rams +15.5 over Steelers – Picking St. Louis on the assumption that Roethlisberger either a) doesn’t play or b) does and is bad as he was against the 49ers.
Patriots -10.5 over Dolphins – Miami often causes New England problems, but the Patriots have the Number 1 seeds in their sights and will take care of business at home.
Redskins -6.5 over Vikings – Washington’s win over the Giants was impressive and completed a season sweep for the Redskins over their divisional rival. While they are trying to pick up momentum for next season, Minnesota still has an outside shot at getting the number 1 pick in the draft and will not be especially motivated for this game.
Giants +2.5 over Jets – The battle of Snoopy Stadium – both teams really need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, neither looked like a team heading for the post-season last week in their losses to the Redskins (Giants) and Eagles (Jets). Taking the Giants and the points just because I have no idea which version of Eli Manning or Mark Sanchez will show up.
Panthers -7.5 over Buccaneers – Tampa Bay has been awful, hard to believe they were 10-6 last season. Meanwhile Carolina’s Quarterback, Cam Newton, looks like a lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Chargers +2.5 over Lions – San Diego’s usual late season charge for the playoffs continues – it seems bizarre that they never look like a good team until the calendar turns to December – but last week’s demolition of Baltimore showed they are a force to be reckoned with in the last two weeks. Detroit needs just a win here or in the Week 17 matchup against Green Bay – when the Packers will be resting their starters for the playoffs if they have the top seed in the NFC locked up – to earn their first playoff berth since 1999.
Cowboys -2.5 over Eagles – Dallas are back in the driving seat in the NFC East and could lock up the division if they win here, and the Jets prevail over the Giants. If New York, the Cowboys and Philadelphia all ended up 8-8, the Eagles would win the tie-breaker and win the division – but I do not see them winning this game and they will finally be eliminated from contention.
Seahawks +2.5 over 49ers – A division that was last year won by a 7-9 team, the NFC West could have 2 playoff teams this time around as both Seattle and Arizona could get a Wild Card spot. The 49ers are still in the mix for a first round bye and took advantage of a depleted Steelers lineup to win on Monday Night, but the short turnaround for them, and a potentially raucous home crowd in Seattle could be their undoing this week.
Bears +12.5 over Packers – This is a pick based on my opinion on the 49ers game – I think Seattle will win that, thus the Packers will have clinched the number 1 seed in the NFC before they take the field on Christmas Day and thus will rest players.
Saints -6.5 over Falcons – No team in the league is playing better than the New Orleans Saints right now, and Drew Brees has made the MVP debate an actual discussion, when a few weeks ago it seemed Aaron Rodgers was a runaway favourite (though I would of course, still give it to the Packers’ QB). Atlanta normally plays New Orleans close, but I think they will lose by more than a touchdown this time around.