NFL: Preseason Predictions and Week 1 Picks

Another year is upon us! The Denver Broncos are the reigning World Champions, and look to repeat with a brand new man under center with the retirement of Peyton Manning. Nope, not Brock Osweiler. And no it’s not Mark Sanchez either.  Another AFC powerhouse in the New England Patriots will also be without their future hall-of-fame quarterback as Tom Brady serves a four game suspension.  Absences and shakeups at the top means a lot can change from last season’s playoff picture.  My team to watch this season will be the Oakland Raiders.

For me, the NFC is where the powerhouses will be in the in the 2016-2017 season.  Carolina is fresh off a Superbowl loss, but were able to keep together their core.  Arizona and Seattle will be there once again in an absolutely loaded NFC West.  Green Bay gets back one of their biggest weapons in Jordy Nelson to go along with what the Packers hope is a reinvigorated Eddie Lacy at running back.  And not to be forgotten are Superbowl vets like Drew Brees and Eli Manning who are looking to regain control of their respective divisions.

NFC Playoff Teams              AFC Playoff Teams

Cardinals                                  Chiefs

Panthers                                   Bengals

Packers                                      Broncos

Giants                                        Colts

Seahawks                                  Jets

Saints                                         Raiders

NFC Championship

  • Cardinals @ Panthers: CAROLINA WINS

AFC Championship 

  • Bengals @ Chiefs: KANSAS CITY WINS

Superbowl XLI

  • Panthers vs Chiefs: CAROLINA WINS

Now that I’ve gotten ahead of myself, here are my week 1 predictions.

Thursday Night Football

  • Panthers @ Broncos: The season kicks off with a rematch of Superbowl XL. Denver will raise their banner, and get their first look at Trevor Siemian at QB.  Cam Newton and company will begin their quest to get back to the Superbowl. The Panthers have put the big loss behind them, and with their core still in tact, they are better prepared for a run than Denver is for their title defense.  The Broncos will still be good, especially if CJ Anderson can continue to grow in the run game.  But I like the Panthers to get the win this time around. CAROLINA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Buccaneers @ Falcons: The battle for the South gets going quickly with a Bucs team with ambitions of not finishing last in their division, and a Falcons team looking to get back to the playoffs. This is going to be a shoot out with two great offenses going head-to-head.  I simply have more trust in Atlanta during the regular season right now, so I’ll take their defense to make the big stop down the stretch over Tampa Bay. ATLANTA WINS
  • Bills @ Ravens: I see both of these teams being better than they were last season, but not by much.  Buffalo has a higher ceiling right now, especially if Tyrod Taylor can figure out his fumbling problem.  He makes pretty good decisions in the passing game, should get more out of LeSean McCoy this season and has a defense capable for being near the top of the league.  Joe Flacco won’t be without back Justin Forsett, who led the team in rushing the past two season, as previously thought since he has re-signed after being cut days ago. Beyond that, I’m not a fan of the Ravens offense past Mike Wallace and Steve Smith Sr.  I’m going with the AFC in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Bears @ Texans: Chicago finished last season in the cellar of the NFC North, while Houston won the AFC South.  I see little evidence to suggest the Bears can get back into relevancy this season, while I think the Texans will lose the division to the Colts once again.  The Bears let Matt Forte walk, as well as the franchise leader in scoring, kicker Robbie Gould. Houston is expected to have their defensive weapon in JJ Watt ready to go, so expect Jay Cutler to feel the pressure all day.  HOUSTON WINS
  • Browns @ Eagles: Both teams will have new starting quarterbacks this season.  Former rookie of the year Robert Griffin III gets a fresh start with Cleveland, while actual rookie Carson Wentz will become the first rookie to start week 1 in Eagles history (ELIAS). The Browns were bottom 10 in total defense and offense last season, resulting in a 3-13 record. Philly hopes their new QB and another year with DeMarco Murray will help get them over the .500 mark and challenge in the East.  Opening at home with these pieces means a week 1 win for the birds.  PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Raiders @ Saints: Week 1 features a matchup of two teams I think will make the playoffs this season. The Saints defense wasn’t anything to write home about a season ago, allowing at least 20 points in every game but two (17 allowed in each of those).  But Drew Brees had another stellar year, leading the league in passing yards.  New Orleans parted ways with the team’s all-time leader in TD receptions, Marques Colston, but expect big things from Mark Ingram.  Oakland gets another year of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper doing big things in the pass attack.  A lot of moves on defense in the offseason has the Raiders poised for a big season.  That being said, I like the Saints in a tight one at home.  But I will not be surprised at all if Oakland steals one at the Superdome either. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Chargers @ Chiefs: Kansas City’s offense never really looks pretty on paper after Jamaal Charles, but they continue to make it work.  Their defense is one of the league’s best and that will carry them again this season.  The opposite can be said for San Diego.  Philip Rivers has a very good group of pass catchers that should give the Chargers a chance in every game.  Their consistency is always questionable on defense, and in a tough AFC West, they’ll need to figure that out.  I really like the Chiefs this season, they return a lot of key pieces off a second round playoff appearance last year. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Bengals @ Jets: Here’s another game with two teams I think will see the postseason.  New York hopes their run game will be revitalized with the acquisition of Matt Forte, while getting even more out of Ryan Fitzpatrick than they did a year ago.  I’ve said it before, but it’s time for the Bengals to take the next step. There’s some concern that Cincinnati is lacking depth at defensive end, but they’ve been able to dominate defensively in the past, and I think they can figure it out. It won’t be easy, but I like the Bengals to get a road win off the jump. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Packers @ Jaguars: Aaron Rodgers has his favorite target in Jordy Nelson back.  If he can get 2013-14 Eddie Lacy back, look out for the Packers once again.  Jacksonville’s offense took a step in the right direction last year, and they were much better at home.  But while the Jaguars are still a few pieces away, the Packers are primed to make a deep run through the NFC once again. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Vikings @ Titans: Coming into the season, I thought this was going to be a very good game against two teams looking to prove themselves.  Minnesota is coming off a playoff year where they lost to Seattle in the Wildcard round… by one point at home.  Tennessee on the other hand are coming off a 3-13 season in which they won their first two games. Offense wasnt exactly their issue, with the 2nd ranked running game.  But losing Marcus Mariota didn’t help. I really like the Vikings, but losing Teddy Bridgewater before the start of the season is tough, and now they look to Sam Bradford to keep them afloat in an always competitve NFC North.  Give me the Titans on the ground with a healthy Mariota in week 1. TENNESSEE WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Dolphins @ Seawhawks: Miami was one of the more disappointing teams a season ago.  They spent a lot of money on defense in the off-season leading up to last year, and it didn’t do much.  The Dolphins allowed the second most yards a game in the AFC.  Add a bottom 10 offense, and you can see why they finished below .500 and last in the East. Miami is a case of just hoping their talent will come together all at once (sound familiar with Miami teams?). Seattle had another good season in 2015, though they didn’t look great in the playoffs after two straight Superbowl appearances.  They lost Marshawn Lynch, but return most of their stars on offense and always have the Legion of Boom to fall back on.  This should be one of the easier wins of week 1 for the Hawks. SEATTLE WINS
  • Giants @ Cowboys: If ever there was a year for the New York Giants to run through the NFC East, it’s this one.  Even in their Superbowl seasons they couldn’t win the division.  But with Tony Romo out, and two rookies starting in Dallas and Philadelphia, the Skins are the only other team returning their starter from a year ago. Yes, Kirk Cousins got his team to the playoffs last season, but Eli Manning was the best QB in that division last season, and if his defense can at least be middle of the pack, and not dead last, this should be an easy return to the playoffs.  Dak Prescott was impressive for Dallas in the preseason, but Big Blue has never had problems playing in the lone star state, and I don’t see it being a problem this season either. NEW YORK WINS
  • Lions @ Colts:The worst defense in the AFC last season belonged to the Colts.  Not having a run game again meant they couldn’t sustain drives the way you’d want to mask that. The hope is veteran back Frank Gore can regain some of his old magic along with keeping Andrew Luck healthy.  As for Detroit, they are another case of talent never panning out for an entire season.  And with the retirement of Calvin Johnson, the Lions lose their most consistent and explosive weapon.  It could be another ugly season in Detroit, while I expect a bounce back from Indy. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Patriots @ Cardinals: New England starts the season without Tom Brady and defensive end Rob Ninkovich due to suspensions.  In an improved AFC East, those 4 games without them could be trouble, especially since im not a fan of their rushing attack. Add a hungry and dangerous Cardinals team, and you’ve got a recipe for a week 1 loss.  Arizona’s depth on offense is pretty impressive, and their defense should be really good again.  A home win to kick off the season is in the cards for the birds. ARIZONA WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Redskins: Washington got some help on defense in the off-season acquisition of Josh Norman, but I still don’t think it’s going to be enough.  The skins do get a break on defense since Pitt will be without top flight running back Le’Veon Bell who is suspended to start the season.  But the Steelers have more than enough big play threats and I don’t know if Kurt Cousins can replicate what he did last season. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Rams @ 49ers: Blaine Gabbert gets the starting job in San Francisco as that organization looks to distance itself from off-the-field stories.  They open up against a Rams team ready to take the next step.  The newly name Los Angeles Rams biggest issue was inconsistency last season, beating the Cardinals and Seahawks, but losing to the Bears at home.  They’ve got a top flight running back and a better than average defense.  It’s going to be another long season for the Niners. LOS ANGELES WINS

Well that’s it.  Time to sit back, relax and wait for kickoff! Enjoy week 1 everyone.

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NFL: Week 17 Picks

The final week of the regular season is upon us, the Panthers are undefeated no longer and there is still a lot to decide for the postseason.  There are two spots left up for grabs, both in the AFC, but seeding isn’t even close to set yet.  We still don’t know who wins the NFC North and we don’t know who wins the AFC South.  Three different teams can finish with the number 1 seed in the AFC, while two teams have a shot in the NFC.  So sit back and enjoy what is essentially the first week of the playoffs!

I went just 7-9 in my picks last week, making my season total heading into the final slate of games 134-106.

Sunday 1PM games

  • Jets @ Bills: It’s simple for the Jets. Win and you’re in. New York has won five straight and are back to doing what got them out to a quick start to the season.  Buffalo has been up and down all season, and the money they put into the defense didn’t pay off. There are other ways for the Jets to get into the playoffs if they lose, but with a shot to get in against their former coach, I’ll take Gang Green on the road. NEW YORK WINS
  • Patriots @ Dolphins:  New England’s loss to New York in week 16 means they still have something to play for this week, and that’s the number 1 seed in the AFC.  They need to win and they get it.  If they lose, and the Broncos win, Denver gets it.  Miami is playing for pride and to play spoiler.  But they won’t.  The Patriots injuries are concerning, but Tom Brady in a most win situation and a chance to have the AFC go through Foxborough? I like those odds.  NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Saints @ Falcons: This wasn’t the season I thought we’d see from New Orleans.  I thought they’d bounce back from a down 2014-15 season, but an 1-4 start was too much to come back from, though they tried, getting themselves to .500 at 4-4, before the wheels fell off.  The defense was never there for the Saints.  It’s been an even stranger year for the Falcons, who got off to a fast 6-1 start, then went on to lose six straight.  Now they’ve won two straight, including ending the Panthers undefeated season.  They were eliminated from playoff contention thanks to the Vikings win on Sunday night, but they can salvage the season and finish at 9-7, which i think they do in front of their fans. ATLANTA WINS
  • Ravens @ Bengals: A win secures a first round bye for the Bengals, which is always big, but for a team that has been bounced in the first round four straight years, would be huge. Baltimore was plagued with injuries all season, and are just looking to end the season on a high note.  Cincy is coming off a tough OT loss to Denver, but AJ McCaron showed he can succeed while Andy Dalton gets better.  At home, with that defense, I am taking the Bengals to give themselves a shot at the bye. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Steelers @ Browns: Pittsburgh can still make it to the playoffs, but they need to win and they need help.  Good thing for them is they are playing the Browns, who can still finish with the worst record in the league.  And continuing issues at QB leaves Cleveland with another off-season of questions ahead.  Give me the road team to end on a high note, even if they don’t make the playoffs. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Jaguars @ Texans: Houston doesn’t have to win to take the AFC South crown, but you always want to take the division, not back into it.  They get a tough match-up in Jacksonville, who has shown the ability to score in the second half.  But the Texans defense at home with a chance to punch their own ticket will be too much for the Jags to handle. HOUSTON WINS
  • Titans @ Colts: Indianapolis needs to win this game and get a whole lot of help if they’re to win the South.  But as I have already picked the Texans, I don’t think they get there.  However, they will win this final game of the year.  Tennessee benefits more from losing, plain and simple. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Redskins @ Cowboys: The Redskins already have the division and can’t finish anywhere but fourth in the NFC.  But capping off the season on a four-game win streak and a 9-7 record will further validate their being in the playoffs. Dallas will want to finish on a high note, but they’ve put so many key people on IR that even if the Skins take it easy and rest most of their players,  I can’t see the Boys winning their season finale. WASHINGTON WINS
  • Eagles @ Giants: The loser finishes the season in third place in the NFC East, despite both leading the division at different parts of the season. New York had a clear path to the division, had they played better in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter this season.  Good teams finish, and they weren’t able to consistently enough. 7 of the Giants 9 losses were by one score. As for the Eagles, they never got their running game going, and Sam Bradford was a turnover machine.  The Eagles destroyed their NFC East rivals at home in their first meeting of the season, so I’ll take the Giants to finish with some pride and return the favor to end both their seasons. NEW YORK WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The loser gets the NFC North cellar all to themselves, a far fall for the 11-5 Lions of a season ago.  Both teams have played better here in the second half of the season, just good enough to fall closer to the middle of the pack record wise in the league. So who avoids the basement? I like the Lions on the road to finish strong and take a three-game win streak into the off-season. DETROIT WINS

Sunday 425 PM Games

  • Buccaneers @ Panthers: Tampa Bay showed flashes in 2015 under 1st year QB Jameis Winston, staying the playoff race most of the season.  But finishing up the season against the no longer undefeated Panthers is a tough way to go out.  Carolina still has something to play for as they haven’t locked up the number 1 seed, and with the Cards playing at the same time, they can’t go into this one knowing if they can rest players or not.  Either way, I like the Panthers to finish up at 15-1 and force the NFC to come through Carolina en route to Super Bowl 50. CAROLINA WINS
  • Raiders @ Chiefs: Oakland could linger on what could’ve been this season after a decent 4-3 start, but they should be excited for the future, after winning just 3 games a year ago, they stayed in the playoff hunt for most of the season with a young team.  As for Kansas City, they’re the hottest team in the AFC, and are getting the best of Alex Smith.  It’s amazing how the Chiefs got off to such a slow start BEFORE losing Jamaal Charles.  Oakland will make this tough, but I think the Chiefs make it 10 straight heading into the playoffs. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Chargers @ Broncos: San Diego is going to finish with one of the worst records in the league, while Denver can finish anywhere but 4th in the AFC. A win and a Patriots loss would give them the 1 seed.  I think they get the win, but as I think New England wins,  I see the Broncos finishing as the two seedDENVER WINS
  • Seahawks @ Cardinals: Two of the NFC’s best take flight in week 17.  Both teams are playoff bound once again.  Seattle has been on fire in the second half, looking more like the two-time defending NFC Champs they are as each week passes. That was before they looked bad at home against the Rams last week.  As for Arizona, why are we not giving Carson Palmer more praise for what he’s done with the Cardinals? The team is 29-8 with him under center, 19-2 the past two seasons.  They still have a shot at the number 1 seed if the Panthers lose again. This division match-up will have a playoff feel, but I think the home team gets the W. ARIZONA WINS
  • Rams @ 49ers: San Francisco’s season was shaped in the off-season when they moved too many pieces. The defense played better as the season when on, and they got a couple more wins after changing QBs, but they’ve got a lot of work to do if they want to get back to their winning ways.  As for the Rams, they showed their age, defeating some of the league’s best, including a season sweep of the Rams and handing the Cardinals their first loss. This is also a chance for the Rams to finish 8-8 for the first time since 2006, and I think they finish the job. ST LOUIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Vikings @ Packers:  The battle of the NFC North title caps off the regular season slate.  Minnesota has been carried by their defense and rushing attack all season, while Green Bay has been extremely up and down since starting the season 6-0.  The Packers rushing attack has been severely underwhelming, and Aaron Rodgers offensive line hasn’t been doing him any favors. The Vikings will be able to hold time of possession, but as the calendar turns to January and the playoffs, I think we will get the best version of Aaron Rodgers, and the Pack will clinch the division on the seasons final day, as they did two years ago against the Bears. GREEN BAY WINS

NFL: Week 16 Picks

Two more weeks to go, and six of the 12 playoff spots have now been claimed.  Carolina escaped week 15 with their perfect record in tact, the reigning Super Bowl Champs clinched a bye, and the Seahawks continued to show why they are the two-time defending NFC Champs.

Last week I finished at 9-7 to bring my season picks total to 126-91.

Thursday Night Football

  • Chargers @ Raiders: The Chargers played what could’ve been their final game in San Diego last week, and played their best game of the season.  Oakland put up a good fight against the Packers in week 15, thanks to a big game from Amari Cooper, but now the best they can hope for this season is an 8-8 record.  I like what San Diego did last week, finally getting the running backs involved, so give me another Chargers win on Christmas Eve. SAN DIEGO WINS

Saturday Night Football

  • Redskins @ Eagles: It’s that time of year.  No more College Football, so we Football on Saturday Night! You get excited remembering that, than I remember we have to watch Washington and Philadelphia battle it out for the NFC Least. The Skins sit alone atop the division, but need to win one of their two final games to hold on to the crown.  Washington is the better team, whatever that means in this division, and should get the victory to lock up the division this week.  WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Patriots @ Jets: New England already has the division and first round bye locked up.  They can still lose the number 1 seed, so they still have a lot to play for in week 16.  New York currently sits just outside of a wild card spot, despite starting the season with a 4-1 record and being on a four-game win streak.  These two know each other well, and played a close one in week 7.  I think this will be another close affair, but I like the Patriots to take the season series and possibly wrap up the number 1 spot in the AFC. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Texans @ Titans:  Houston sits in the drivers seat in the AFC South after a week 15 win over the Colts.  Both teams will start backups in week 16, a big story of the South this season. The Texans are unsurprisingly being carried by their defense, and I expect that to be the case again this weekend.  I like Houston to win this game and the division, while Tennessee looks to secure the number 1 pick. HOUSTON WINS
  • Browns @ Chiefs: Cleveland would get the number two pick in the draft if things stay as is through the final two weeks of the season.  Kansas City has higher hopes, as they have not only gotten themselves into wild card position, but are just a game back of the Broncos for the AFC West. The Chiefs are far-and-beyond the better team, and I expect them to make it nine wins-in-row. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Colts @ Dolphins: Before the season I like the Dolphins to challenge for a wild card spot, and the Colts to make the Superbowl.  Now as the regular season winds down, Miami is in line for a top 10 pick, while Indianapolis could finish under .500 and miss the playoffs entirely. I could see this being a low scoring game based on the inconsistencies of both offenses, so I am going to take the home team to leave a less than bitter taste in their mouths this off-season.  MIAMI WINS
  • Jaguars @ Saints: Jacksonville hasn’t been consistent in any phase of the game this season, but neither have the Saints.  The Jaguars have shown they can score in bunches, and New Orleans has shown they can’t stop anyone.  With the possibility of no Drew Brees this week, I like the road team to pick up their sixth win of the season. JACKSONVILLE WINS
  • 49ers @ Lions: Neither team has had the season they thought they would.  I’m more surprised by what Detroit has done returning most of their players from a year ago.  San Francisco made too many changes in the off-season coupled with poor play from Colin Kaepernick to compete in the NFC West.  That being said, Detroit has played a lot of better of late, and that is why I’m going with the Lions in this match-up. DETROIT WINS
  • Cowboys @ Bills: Two disappointing seasons, but for different reasons. Injuries have Dallas set to finish the season with a great draft pick in preparation for the return of Tony Romo next season. The running game hasn’t been what the Bills wanted it to be this season, and their defense really disappointed. That being said, I like Tyrod Taylor than the Cowboys options at quarterback, so I’m picking the home team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Bears @ Buccaneers: Two teams out of the playoff picture square off in Florida this weekend.  And neither team can finish above .500, the Bucs should feel a lot better than the Bears when this season comes to a close.  Jameis Winston showed flashes in his rookie season, and this team stayed in the playoff conversation until last week.  Chicago has now put up back-to-back disappointing seasons, and haven’t been over .500 in three years.  A year after getting the number 1 pick, Tampa has at that mark, and I think they give themselves a shot in week 17. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: One more win, or one more Cardinals loss will give the undefeated Panthers the number 1 seed in the NFC.  They nearly lost to New York in week 15, playing poor defense and turning the ball over late, things they don’t do.  But they held on, and Cam Newton continued his MVP caliber play. Atlanta finally snapped They will play for an undefeated season in week 17. CAROLINA WINS
  • Giants @ Vikings: New York needs to win out and a lot of help if they want to make the playoffs. Minnesota controls its own destiny, hlding a two game lead for the final NFC wildcard spot.  Win one of the next two, and the Vikings are in.  However, Eli Manning has been so good throwing the ball of late, that they hold the advantage there over Minnesota.  But without his most reliable weapon in Odell Beckham Jr, who knows.  With that being said, you always want to clinch earlier, and with a chance to do so at home, I like the Vikings to run all over the Giants defense. MINNESOTA WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Rams @ Seahawks: Russell Wilson is having the best season of his career, which is impressive for a guy who’s taken his team to the past two Super Bowls. The Rams have a shot at .500 for the first time since 2006, but I don’t think they get there.  The offense isn’t high powered enough to keep up with a red hot Seahawks team.  SEATTLE WINS
  • Packers @ Cardinals: Arizona has the division wrapped up, and a win this week would all give them a first round bye.  Green Bay has clinched a playoff spot, but haven’t locked up the division and still have a shot at a bye week.  The Cardinals haven’t lost in a while, and have their run game going.  And while Carson Palmer is fine after injuring his finger in week 15, I’m going to take a leap and pick the road team this week.  GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Ravens: The Ravens are just looking to stay out of the cellar in the the AFC North, while the Steelers are trying to grab a wild card berth. While division games are usually more competitive than non-division ones, there’s no way this version of the Baltimore Ravens keep up offensively with the Steelers, who have scored 30+ in each of their last six games.  A win gives Pittsburgh 10 and keeps them in a wild card spot heading into the final week of the season, a game against the lowly Browns. PITTSBURGH WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Bengals @ Broncos:  Without question the game of the week, maybe the regular season game of the year.  The winner has a clearer path to a bye week in the tough AFC. The loser might not even get a bye week with the Patriots already clinching one.  Cincinnati is without Andy Dalton, but are probably feeling better about themselves than teh Broncos, who are just 3-4 since their perfect start. The Bengals could use the extra week to get Andy Dalton healthy.  As for Denver, their early season success was predicated on their defense, which was no match for a hot Steelers team in a big game a week ago.  And with the Chiefs now just a game out, this game means a whole lot to them as well. So who takes the Monday Night affair?  Give me the Broncos to rebound and get to AJ McCarron. DENVER WINS

NFL: Week 14 Picks

Carolina remained undefeated in week 13, but it took a huge second half to do so.  Meanwhile in the AFC, there’s a three way tie for the best record at 10-2 between Denver, Cincinnati and New England, who managed to lose their second straight game and fall out of a bye if the season ended today.

Lucky for them, and us, we still have plenty of football left.  I moved to 109-82 in my picks this season with a 10-6 mark in week 13.

Thursday Night Football

  • Vikings @ Cardinals: Minnesota couldn’t make a move in week 13, losing badly to a streaking Seahawks team. They allowed the Packers to get back into first place.  As for the Cards, they are sitting comfortably in the two spot in the NFC and still have a three game in lead in their division.  Both teams have been solid in all phases all season, but Arizona holds a huge edge in the passing game. Until Teddy Bridgewater can consistently put up big numbers in the air, this team is going to be one dimensional on offense.  And against an above the fourth best rush defense in the league, Minnesota is going to need more from their second year QB.  So as much as I like this Vikings team, I like the home team even more.  ARIZONA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Eagles: Both team are coming off nice wins against playoff hopefuls, while keeping their own playoffs alive.  Philly took down the Patriots, giving them their second loss in a row, a rarity in the Tom Brady era.  Buffalo evened up their record taking down the Texans, who remain tied atop the AFC South.  This is another game where both teams have been inconsistent all season, hence the .500 and below records.  I have a lot more faith in the Bills defense however, so give me the road team to move above .500, while the Eagles drop out of first in the East. BUFFALO WINS
  • 49ers @ Browns: Two of the worst teams in the league square off this weekend in Cleveland.  The Browns currently hold the worst record, with San Fran sitting two games better than them.  The Niners hurt their “chances” at the top draft pick when they took down the Bears in OT.  Neither team has had the season they would’ve hoped for and while both teams have a lot of on and off the field questions, I think the Niners find a way to pull out another game this week.  SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Lions @ Rams: St. Louis started off the season with a lot of promise, but have totally collapsed in the second half.  The opposite can be said for Detroit, who took two months to get a win, and have looked a lot more like the team we expected here the past six weeks or so.  Both enter with 4-8 records, but the Lions are the hotter team, and the more talented team.   DETROIT WINS
  • Saints @ Buccaneers: Early on this season, both of these NFC South teams looked like they’d be in-contention for the number 1 pick.  And while New Orleans still has an outside shot, both teams have shown glimpses of hope.  Tampa Bay knew there would be struggles with a rookie QB, but the number 1 overall pick in Jameis Winston has his team at .500 and in a spot for a possible wild card.  Drew Brees and company had gotten to .500 after a very rough start, and despite a two-touchdown lead on the undefeated Panthers in week 13, the Saints are in the middle of a four-game slide.  So wins this division match-up? While the Bucs running game is one of the best in the league, and the Saints defense hasn’t been anything to write home about, I’m going to go out on a limb here and take the road team to pick up their fifth win this weekend.  NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Titans @ Jets: The Jets needed OT in week 13, but they kept their playoff hopes alive against their stadium mates.  As for Tennessee, they remain in line for another prime draft pick with a 3-9 record. While the Titans have the ability to score in bunches, they don’t have the ability to stop good teams most days. And the Jets are a good team that can beat you in several ways.  That’s why I like the Jets to better their chances at a wildcard berth this week. NEW YORK WINS
  • Steelers @ Bengals: Pittsburgh has been the most resilient team in the league this season, sitting in a playoff spot in the competitive AFC despite stretches with Ben Roethlisberger and their top flight running back Le’Veon Bell.  But they still enter action three games behind the Bengals for the AFC North, and a Cincinnati win this week gives them that crown.  This should be a fun game, and despite two good defenses, could be a high scoring one.  But whether it is a shoot out or not, I think the Bengals get the job done and move closer to a much needed first round bye. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Colts @ Jaguars: Neither team has a winning record, but one team has a shot at a division crown.  Indianapolis, despite a bad start to the season and losing their Pro-Bowl caliber QB remain in a fight for the AFC South crown.  Jacksonville is just playing out the season, preparing for another high draft pick.  Sure the Jags have shown promise, but they’ve also shown how young they are.  Indy and the ageless Matt Hasselbeck have something to prove and fight for, so give me the Colts to move above .500 here in week 14. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Chargers @ Chiefs: San Diego has been a disappointment this season, on both sides of the football, while their counterparts have rebounded from a rough start and find themselves in the playoff hunt. Kansas City has won six straight, and are the second hottest team in the league.  Their defense has been great all season, and now their offense has closed the gap.  They’re playoff vets, and not a team to be taken lightly.  The Chargers can definitely play spoiler with Philip Rivers under center, I just don’t think they will.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Redskins @ Bears: Washington had a chance to take hold of the NFC Least in week 13, instead they lost a strange game to Dallas.  Chicago lost another game late, this time to San Francisco.  If the NFC East wasn’t so bad, this would just be a game between two bad teams looking for better draft position.  Instead, it has playoff implications too.  And while Washington has been a lot better in the second half of the season, I like what the Bears have been able to do in the ground game of late.  So give me the Bears to make things more difficult and hard to define in the NFC East. CHICAGO WINS
  • Falcons @ Panthers: After starting off the season on fire, the Falcons have come crashing back to earth in a big way.  Not only are they on a five-game losing streak they are no behind two teams in the NFC South.  And a road tilt against the league’s last undefeated team isn’t a great confidence boaster.  Cam Newton is playing like an MVP and the defense is playing like champions.  Will Carolina stay undefeated through the regular season? Who knows. But unless Atlanta stops turning the ball over and gets the offense of weeks 1-4 back, the Panthers should stay undefeated another week.  CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Ravens:  Which bird will fly highest in week 14?  That’s easy.  The Seahawks are on fire, while the Ravens wings were clipped weeks ago.  The NFC should be scared with how great Seattle’s offense has looked in recent weeks.  And despite the fact that Baltimore hasn’t been horrible defensively, there’s no way they can compete with what the reigning NFC champs are bringing on either side of the ball, not this year.  SEATTLE WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Raiders @ Broncos: Another week, another win for Denver, who enters week 14 as the two seed in the AFC.  As for the Raiders, who sit two games out of the playoffs, they are just looking to get to .500.  This AFC West match-up should still be a good one, but I don’t think it will end in any other way but with another Broncos win.  Denver’s defense is too good, and the Raiders offense too inconsistent. DENVER WINS
  • Cowboys @ Packers: 4-8 versus 8-4 and yet somehow, both teams have a shot at their division.  It’s the sad state of the NFC East that a Dallas team on QB number 3 can say that, but after Matt Cassel picked up his first win in a Cowboys uniform Monday against the Redskins, they are just a game out.  Meanwhile, the Packers wild finish in Detroit on Aaron Rodgers game ending Hail Mary, coupled with the Vikings loss has them back atop the NFC North.  Both teams want this game, but Green Bay needs it.  The Packers can’t miss the playoffs after tehir 6-0 start, while Dallas should really focus on getting better in the draft and looking ahead to getting Tony Romo back for next season.  Dallas and their fans probably don’t see it that way, but the knowledge they can win this division and be this bad, should tell them a healthy, revamped team in 2016 could go far.  Besides, Rodgers and company have been bad at home lately, something they’re not used to.  I can’t see another letdown for them. GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Patriots @ Texans: It’s a huge AFC battle on Sunday Night with playoff implications on both sides.  As previously mentioned, both teams took unexpected losses in week 13.  After starting 10-0, the Pats are now in danger of losing a bye, as both the Bengals and Broncos enter the week with identical 10-2 records.  Houston is .500 and could have a shot at having the AFC South all to themselves if the Colts fall this week. I though the Pats would come out angry last week, and instead were embarrassed by the below .500 Eagles.  Give me an angry Tom Brady to get back on track and hurt Houston’s playoff chances in week 14.   NEW ENGLAND WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Dolphins: One team still has a shot at the division, while the other has a lot of work to do just to get into the playoff discussion and stay out of the cellar in their own division.  Both teams enter action with 5-7 records. Of New York’s seven losses, six of them have come by one score (18 combined points), meaning if they’d converted even half of those, they’d be 8-4 and be well on their way to the NFC East crown. Instead, they’re in a three way tie for 1st.  As for Miami, they’re up, yet mostly down season has them looking up at everyone else in the AFC East.  I keep doing this every week, but for a team led by a coach/QB tandem that have won championships, in years where they were written off about this time, I’m going with New York one last time to save their season. NEW YORK WINS

 

NFL: Week 13 Picks

I had a very good week 12 picking games, going 12-4 including 2-1 on Thanksgiving and taking the Broncos to end the Patriots undefeated season.  Let’s continue it and improve on my 99-76 season record.

Thursday Night Football

  • Packers @ Lions: The Lions are the hotter team heading into this match-up, the second straight Thursday game for both Detroit and Green Bay.  The offense finally exploded in Detroit’s Thanksgiving day win, catching up to the defense they’ve been playing during their three-game win streak.  Green Bay had another poor showing at home against Chicago, after losing their first home game of the season to the Lions a few weeks earlier. Eddie Lacy showed up in week 12, and they’ll need that again whether Rodgers is healthy or not this week.  And I think they’ll get a good game on the ground and get back on track in week 13.   GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Jets @ Giants: It’s the battle for New York. and the winner stays relevant in their respective conferences playoff race.  The Giants have an easier path to the playfofs, as tehy still have a shot at the division.  The Jets are fighting with more teams in the AFC for a wildcard spot, with the Patriots a full four games ahead of them with five to play.  Both teams had high hopes for the season, with the Jets getting off to a fast start, while the Giants needed to catch-up after an 0-2 start.  They’ve had issues closing but as bad as they’ve been defensively, I still like Big Blue to move to .500 and stay on pace in the NFC East. NEW YORK GIANTS WIN
  • Cardinals @ Rams: A promising start to the season for St. Louis has turned into another possible losing season.  Now they play host to the second best team in the NFC.  The Rams degense has the abiloty to keep them in the game, but the offense is just too inconsistent.  Arizona has figured out how to limit mistakes and not play down to their opponents.  Larry Fitzgerald is currently questionable, and Arizona will be without Chris Johnson in the run game, but I can’t see this ending in any other way than with the Cards picking up their 10th win of the season.  ARIZONA WINS
  • Falcons @ Buccaneers:  Atlanta started off the season 6-1 and now they’ve lost four straight.  The offense wasn’t going to keep up the crazy prodction of the first half, but they’ve dropped off too much and now they might miss the playoffs.  Tamapa has been playing a lot ebtter on both sides of hte ball here in the second half, so this won’t be easy for the Falcons.  That being said, I still like the birds to keep themselves in the playoff conversation, and not let the Bucs enter said conversation. ATLANTA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Vikings: This might be my favorite game of the weekend.  It’s huge for both teams.  If the season ended today, both teams would be in the playoffs in the NFC, and would play each other in the Divisional round.  Seattle has been inconsistent all season, but are starting to look like their old selves.  Both teams rely heavily on the run game and their defenses, so expect this game to have a low number of possessions.  It’s also going to come down to the wire, and that’s when someone will have to throw the ball.  And I give the edge to Russell Wilson  SEATTLE WINS 
  • Texans @ Bills:  Buffalo hasn’t been able to stay consistent, while Houston took a while to get off the ground.  The Bills need to continue to run the ball effectively in order to have any shot at winning this game.  But I don’t think they’ll get enough going in the run game with the way the Texans defense has been playing of late. I like Houston to win their fifth straight. HOUSTON WINS
  • Ravens @ Dolphins:  Baltimore needed a special teams miracle in week 12 to beat the Cleveland Browns.  Matt Schaub got a lucky win despite another pick six.  Miami  continues to struggle, has seen multiple coaching changes and sit comfortably in the cellar of the AFC East.  So who gets the win? As bad as the Dolphins have looked at times, I feel the changes and the home setting play in their favor, at least for one week. MIAMI WINS
  • Bengals @ Browns:  One of the best teams in the league versus one of the worst.  The Bengals can’t take that for granted though and I don’t think they will.  Cleveland’s offense had a good day in week 12, but we know who to stop.  Cover Travis Benjamin and hope for the best.  Cleveland has shown they can make plays on defense, but the Bengals hold the edge weapon wise on both sides of the ball, and that’s why they get their 10th win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Jaguars @ Titans: Jacksonville won a close game a few weeks ago on Thursday Night.  Tennessee’s problem hasn’t been on defense. They’ve had trouble getting offensive consistency, let alone back to their explosion of week one.  Jacksonville has been pretty consistent all season in their inability to win the close game. They seem to score big when they allow big, score few, when they allow few.  That being said, I still think the Titans find a way to win their 3rd game of the season. TENNESSEE WINS
  • 49ers @ Bears:  Two of the bigger disappointments face off in Chicago this week.  San Francisco has suffered all season from their massive amount of changes in the off-season.  The Bears picked up where they left off last season, a team that couldn’t stop anyone.  At least the Bears have figured out how to win a respectable amount of games, including a game against the Packers.  Despite how bad they actually are, I think the Bears will move to .500 this week. CHICAGO WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Broncos @ Chargers: Brock Osweiler and company are flying high after knocking off the undefeated Patriots.  Denver boasts the best defense in the league, and found a way to win eight games with an ineffective Peyton Manning.  And now they have a young, hungry QB that made all the throws to take down Tom Brady last week.  San Diego has been bad all season, despite big numbers from Philip Rivers.  They’re two games back in the West and sinking fast.  These two teams know each other very, very well, but it won’t make much of a difference for the Chargers.  Denver is just too good right now. DENVER WINS
  • Chiefs @ Raiders: Another all AFC West battle in Oakland gives us two teams in the race for a playoff spot.  Oakland has been up and down of late, while Kansas City has been all up.  The Raiders are a young team, so their inconsistency isn’t surprising; not to mention they only won three games a season ago and now look to move to .500.  As for the Chiefs, what they’ve done since losing Jamaal Charles is nothing short of amazing.  The defense has shaped up, and Alex Smith continues to manage the game mistake free.  I’ve liked what Oakland has done this season, and it sets them up for next season, but give me KC on the road. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Panthers @ Saints: The league’s only undefeated team takes the show on the road to their division rival.  Carolina has gotten better every week, and now they look to move to 12-0.  New Orleans is the best case for the Panthers to do so against, as the Saints have shown they can’t stop anyone in 2015.  And with an inconsistent offense, this should be an easy one for the Panthers.  CAROLINA WINS
  • Eagles @ Patriots: Philadelphia had a shot at the NFC East for a second straight season, but a couple awful performances in a row have put them in a tough position.  Now they have to figure things out on the road against an angry Patriots team who gained more injuries and their first loss in week 12.  Despite New England’s offensive injuries, they’re by far the better team, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t get back on track in a big way in week 13. NEW ENGLAND WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Colts @ Steelers: Indianapolis is finally on a win streak but have company atop the AFC South.  Pittsburgh finds itself in the thick of the AFC Wildcard hunt despite an alarming number of injuries.  Pittsburgh defense has been pretty good all season, even if they have allowed 30-plus two of the last three weeks.  The Colts have had issues on defense, in addition to their offensive issues.  And because of that, despite better play of late, I’m going with the home team in this game. PITTSBURGH WINS 

Monday Night Football

  • Cowboys @ Redskins: Last season, the Skins were in the cellar, and the Boys were in a fight for the division.  A year later, it’s the reverse.  Washington is on fire, and Dallas is without their quarterback again.   Washington’s defense has been up and down, but Kirk Cousins has taken the starting job and ran with it, helping cover up those problems.  Add that the skins have been a lot better at home this season, and I’ll take the home team to stay atop the East for another week. WASHINGTON WINS

NFL: Power Rankings Heading Down the Home Stretch

And then there was one.  Carolina stands alone as the league’s lone remaining undefeated team after starting the week with a Thanksgiving Day win.  Now that the calendar has flipped to December, the race for the postseason heats up.  Here is my look at the 10 best teams, and who the three worst teams are, as we march towards Superbowl 50.

Top 10 Teams Through Week 12

  1. Carolina Panthers (11-0): I would put them at the top even if New England had remained undefeated. Why? Because Carolina has gotten better every week dating back to late last season.  Early in the season they struggled on offense, but their defense has been on point all year, currently ranked second overall just behind the Broncos. Add a top five run game, an extremely confident QB and a balanced passing attack, and you’ve got the clear favorite to come out of the NFC right now.  There are more experienced teams vying to bring them down, but it’ll be hard to do it before the second round, as they will end the season with one of the two byes.
  2. New England Patriots (10-1):  They’ve been close to a loss for a few weeks, and it took overtime for them to finally get one.  But to write them off as some have after their loss to Denver on Sunday night is ridiculous.  They have suffered a lot of injuries on offense, which is why they have been on a bit of a “slide” of late.  But they still have their most important offense weapon in Tom Brady healthy, and Rob Gronkowski’s injury wasn’t as bad as previously thought.  They could lose a bye with the recent issues, but I wouldn’t put it past them to rally and hold on even with the injuries.  And with a huge lead in the AFC East, something catastrophic would have to happen for them not to make the playoffs. They were knocked down in week 12, but they are still the best team in the AFC until they get knocked out.
  3. Denver Broncos (9-2): It remains to be seen if Peyton Manning has been “Wally Pipped” by Brock Osweiler, but what I do know, is the Broncos offense is finally on par with the defense this season.  Sure the run game has picked up, but it doesn’t hurt when the QB isn’t turning the ball over as much as Manning was before he got hurt.  Not only was taking down the undefeated Patriots great for this team’s morale, it also means they still have a shot at the number 1 seed in the AFC.  They found a way to go 8-0 with a less than spectacular QB performance in the first half.  With a younger, hungry QB, this team could go very, very far this season.  
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-2): A week 12 loss helped turn the tide after a two-game skid ended their run at perfection.  Other than on loss which was due to poor offense, the other poor defense, Cincinnati has been consistently great on both sides of the ball.  They’ve shown the ability to absolutely dominate, and win the close games.  They have a shot a bye, with a game against their biggest competition, Denver, ahead of them.  Andy Dalton  is having the best season of his young career, something he and the organization need to continue through the playoffs after so many first round exits.  Despite being ranked ninth, the run game has been up and down, and they need it to be more consistent.  But they’ve shown they can play with anyone, and look primed to get the second round monkey off their back if they continue doing what they’ve been doing, and stay healthy and hungry.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (9-2): It’s amazing what this team has been the past two seasons with a healthy Carson Palmer.  15-2 as the Cardinals starter, with a TD-INT ratio of 38-12, the 13-year veteran is doing a great job leading this team. Larry Fitzgerald is having a renaissance.  Their two losses were the only two games where they really let down their guard and played down to their opponents, showing when on point, they can be and have beaten everybody.  Arizona boasts the top ranked total offense and fifth defense in the league, proving they are a legit title contender if they can stay healthy.
  6. Minnesota Vikings (8-3): It’s amazing the difference Adrian Peterson has made on this team.  A rejuvenated rushing attack has lessened the pressure on second year QB Teddy Bridgewater, who really hasn’t been impressive at all this season.  This team truly lives by the ground and pound mentality, relying heavily on it’s top ranked rushing offense, and it’s top 10 defense.  They’re better stopping the pass, which is key in the North with the likes of Matt Stafford and Aaron Rodgers.  They’re a game up in the division while currently holding a better division record than Green Bay.  Their last four games are tough, with two against the best of the NFC West, and a week 17 match-up that could determine the division against the Packers.  But if the run game can continue eating up clock, and Bridgewater can find a way to be even a bit better than mediocre, they are in the drivers seat in the North.
  7. Green Bay Packers (7-4): Despite their poor play of late, this team is still a force to be reckoned with.  A bright spot in their Thanksgiving Day loss was the return of Eddie Lacy, who had been a disappointment this season.  Aaron Rodgers found success early on without his favorite target in Jordy Nelson, throwing to the likes of James Jones.  But for some reason, things haven’t clicked on offense for late.  The Packers QB isn’t turning the ball over, but his completion percentage is down and with the absence of a consistent run game, the offense has become one dimensional.  They know how to win, but one big worry for this team right now is Rodgers health.  He said he lost feeling in his fingers against Chicago, so you have to wonder how that will manifest itself going forward.
  8. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5): They’ve won five straight, and are doing exactly what I said they needed to do when I looked ahead to the second half:

    Five of their final eight are against below .500 teams, and the three that aren’t, are the teams ahead of them in the West.  They can move up quickly if Alex Smith can continue to spread the wealth in the pass game and avoid the late turnovers that have plagued him.

    Smith hasn’t been reckless with the football and the team is scoring points in a major way.  When they started 1-5, the most points they’d managed to score were 28 against Green Bay, but they then allowed 38.  During their five-game winning streak, Kansas City has score no fewer than 23 points, while allowing a total of 61 points.  And with the schedule still in their favor down the stretch, and a struggling AFC, this team is primed for a wildcard spot.

  9. Seattle Seahawks (6-5): They’re finally starting to look like the back-to-back NFC Champs that they are.  Russell Wilson had one of his best performances in week 11, throwing for five touchdowns. The defense still wasn’t what it’s been, but if the offense can look even close to what it did last week for the stretch run, they’ll make it to the playoffs in this season’s NFC.  At this point, they’re only competing with two teams for the wild card (Atlanta and Green Bay).
  10. Houston Texans (6-5):  After making the Dolphins look like an offensive juggernaut in week seven, the defense has gotten back on track in a big way.  This team was built around their defense and run game, but the loss of Arian Foster meant the passing game needed to step up.  And after many changes at quarterback, Brian Hoyer has done enough to lock up the job for now.  Four straight wins have put them in a position not only to make the playoffs, but to win the AFC South.  And we’ve seen what JJ Watt can do in the playoffs, so the AFC should be nervous.

Three Fighting for Number 1

30. Tennessee Titans (2-9)

31. San Francisco 49ers (3-8)

32. Cleveland Browns (2-8)

 

NFL: Week 12 Picks

As November comes to an end, the playoff picture is coming more into view.  And that means Thanksgiving Day football! Three games all with playoff implications will get week 12 going.  We still have two undefeated teams in the Panthers and Patriots.  Do I think both stay that way? Keep reading to find out!

I went 7-7 last week, bringing my season pick total to 87-67.  Not bad but let’s do better this week shall we?

Thanksgiving Day Football

  • Eagles @ Lions: Don’t look now by the Lions are playing their best football of the season (not that is saying much for how they played in the first half).  It was never a question of talent with this team.  As for the Eagles, they are reeling.  Detroit is used to playing on Thanksgiving, and with their upswing, I think they’ll walk all over the struggling Eagles. Look for Calvin Johnson, if healthy, to put up big numbers.  DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Cowboys: Carolina enters week 12 as the only undefeated NFC team, while Dallas got their QB and first win in eight games last week, so both teams feel pretty good about themselves heading into a short week.  And while some could argue the Cowboys wouldn’t have lost seven straight with Tony Romo, they are still a work in progress, where as Cam Newton and company are getting better every week.  I think Dallas will give them a run for their money, but I like the Panthers this week on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Bears @ Packers: It’s kind of weird for as any times as these division rivals have played each other, it’s never been on Thanksgiving.  Well, that all changes this week.  The Packers are coming off a much-needed victory last week against the Vikings which put them back atop the NFC North (tied with Minnesota but currently holding the tie breaker).  Chicago had looked better with two straight wins before losing a close one to Denver in week 11.  Green Bay can’t take any opponents lightly the way they’ve played for the past month, but at home, I like Aaron Rodgers to light up the Bears defense.  GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Raiders @ Titans:  The Raiders were starting to figure things out at 4-3, but now they are losers of three-straight and now have two teams ahead of them in the West to go with others in the wildcard race. After clicking offensively for a good part of the first seven weeks, they cant get things going again, and have been inconsistent defensively against teams as hungry as they are.  Tennessee entered week 11 still in the AFC South race despite a 2-7 record.  But they couldn’t muster much against Jacksonville, burying them two games into the cellar.  Oakland is healthy, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t get back on track offensively this week, especially if Derek Carr can find Amari Cooper early an often. OAKLAND WINS
  • Bills @ Chiefs: The Chiefs are on a four-game win streak that has them right in the thick of the wildcard hunt in the AFC.  After weeks one and two when they allowed a combined 74 points, the defense has been great allowing, no more than 18 points in a game. Buffalo enters action with an identical 5-5 record to KC, so this game could make or break a playoff spot.  The offense has picked up for the Chiefs, helping them get back in the race, while the Bills have been extremely up and down this season on both sides of the football. The consistency of Kansas City the past month is why I am taking the home team here in week 12.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Colts: The Buccaneers are starting to round into form, and find themselves just a game behind the Falcons for second place in the NFC South.  Indianapolis is in better position in the AFC South, tied for first.  Whether the Colts win or lose this season, it tends to be a close game.  The Bucs have followed a similar path, though their first game of the season was a big loss to Tennessee, while they blew out Philly a week ago. So it tends to be harder to predict which Tampa team will show up. That being said, watching both teams of late, I actually trust the Bucs more, simply because I didn’t expect anything from them heading int other season, yet here we are, week 12 and they have the same record as a Colts team i picked to make it out of the AFC this season.  So I’ll roll with the road team here. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Giants @ Redskins: It’s a tight battle in the NFC East, with all teams still in the hunt.  New York is coming off their bye with a new (old) weapon on offense in Hakeem Nicks who returns in the place of Victor Cruz who is officially out for the season.  Washington is coming off a blowout loss to Carolina, despite a pretty good showing by the offense. NFC East battles are always interesting and usually close, and I expect nothing less in this meeting. But I like the road team in this one to move back above .500 and take control of the division. NEW YORK WINS
  • Saints @ Texans: New Orleans put a few wins together and started to look like the team we’ve seen make regular playoff appearances… offensively that is.  The defense has been horrendous all season, and they were thoroughly embarrassed before their bye week by the Redskins.  As for Houston, they’ve won three straight to take a share of first place in the AFC South, mostly on the strength of their defense.  And that’s why it doesn’t really matter who the QB for the Texans is against New Orleans, they’re going to win this game with JJ Watt and company. HOUSTON WINS
  • Vikings @ Falcons: This should be a good match-up between two teams that would both be playoff participants if the season ended today.  Both are also coming off losses. Atlanta is actually in the midst of a three-game skid, with their lone win coming against Tennessee.  The offense has just not produced the way it needs to, turning the ball over 16 times in their last six games.  Minnesota was flying high before a frustrated Packers team took them done by three scores in week 11. So who wins on Sunday? I like the Vikings despite being on the road.  I see Adrian Peterson having a big day, killing clock and no allowing Matt Ryan to have the time to get back on track. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Rams @ Bengals: Two straight losses in prime time for the once 8-0 Bengals has them in jeopardy of losing a first round bye if Denver continues to win.  For a team that has lost in the first round four straight years, that would be devastating.  Not to mention they’d done well making the plays late in close games early, and now they’ve failed the past two games, including against a lesser Texans team. That being said, they welcome in a struggling Rams team, who has stopped doing what made them successful early in the season.  Sitting pretty at 4-3 and in second in a tough NFC West, St. Louis has lost three straight thanks in large part to a disappearing act on offense.  Two of their four wins came against the Seahawks and Cardinals, so they have the capability to beat anyone on any given Sunday, I just don’t think they get it done here. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Chargers @ Jaguars: So coming into the season, i you asked me which of these teams would be in a position to compete for a playoff spot, I wouldn’t have said Jacksonville.  But the Jaguars are actually in the conversation.  A lot of would have to happen in the final six weeks, but it’s very possible they steal a wild card at the very least. They’ve been able to do enough to compete in most games, winning four of 10, which puts them a game out of a wild card spot.  As for the Chargers, Philip Rivers has had no help from his defense or run game.  Plain and simple.  That being said, I just don’t like the Jaguars enough to say they’ll move over .500.  Give me the upset. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Dolphins @ Jets:  New York is struggling, Miami is drowning.  This AFC East match-up means a chance to stay in the wild card convo for the Jets, and to get back in it for the Dolphins.  All but two of New York’s games have been decided by a score, while Miami tends to blow out opponents, or get blown out.  So unless Miami comes out guns blazing, I like the Jets to make the play down the stretch, especially if it needs to be a defensive play, to win the game. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 4/425 PM Games

  • Cardinals @ 49ers:  The Cardinals have been consistent all season, which is why they sit as the two seed in the NFC as we had towards the finish line.  San Francisco is just looking forward to next season.  Colin Kaepernick is done for the season.  Blaine Gabbert isn’t the answer.  All of the 49ers off-season losses hurt and they didn’t do a good enough job answering needs.  They can’t score, having hit the 20-point mark just twice this season.  This should be an easy ninth win for the Cardinals. ARIZONA WINS
  • Steelers @ Seahawks: Pittsburgh could’ve folded up and looked ahead to next season a number of times this season, with injuries and suspensions taking superstars away over and over again.  But they didn’t and would be the fifth seed in the AFC.  Seattle has had its struggles both on offense and defense, but the reigning NFC Champs should not be underestimated despite the lack of boom in the Legion of Boom we are used to.  I like the Steelers offense better than the Seahawks at this point, but I am still taking the home team this week to get back above .500.  Look for Russell Wilson to take it to the ground and make some things happen himself. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Patriots @ Broncos: Well, it’s not Brady versus Manning on Sunday night as Brock Osweiler got himself another start after Denver’s week 11 win over Chicago.  So right off the bat, the QB battle favors New England, though it would have anyway this year with an unhealthy and ineffective Manning.  This game will come down to Osweiler taking care of the football, and the defense stopping Tom Brady.  The past two weeks for Brady haven’t been great, but the future hall-of-famer finds ways in the end to keep his team undefeated.  But I think that run ends this week in Denver.  I’ve loved the Broncos defense this season, and if Brady plays the way he has of late, I think they make him pay late. DENVER WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Ravens @ Browns: No Joe Flacco. No Justin Forsett. A very bad season for Baltimore got worse in week 11, losing their two best offensive weapons.  The playoff perennials are just trying to stay out of the basement now.  And I just don’t think they will climb out.  I liked what Johnny Manziel has done since being named the starter, even if it didn’t result in wins. But with Manziel’s off the field issues bumping him out of the starting role, this is a tough game to call.  I was going to take the Browns with Manziel at starting QB, so even though he won’t be this week, I think I’ll stick with them.  CLEVELAND WINS