NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Round Picks

The second season is here. We have the match-ups, we have the times. The NFL Playoffs are here.  It was an interesting regular season, that saw one division finish under .500, while another sent 3 teams to the playoffs. The rookie wide-receiving class was one of the best we’ve ever seen.  Two of the teams with the longest playoff droughts (Buffalo and Cleveland) both had chances for much of the season to snap said postseason ruts, but neither could. Tom Brady proved he wasn’t done, Aaron Rodgers continues to climb up the ladder and JJ Watt can do no wrong.  How about the defending champs with a chance to repeat? Not to mention all the off-the-field issues. The regular season was full of intrigue, and the playoffs promise to be just as entertaining.

As for my regular season picks record, I ended at 165-90 after a 10-6 week 17, which is pretty good if I do say so myself.

Before we get to my first round playoff picks, let’s see how my preseason predictions for playoff teams went.

NFC Playoff Teams

  • Eagles, Packers, Seahawks, Saints, Panthers, 49ers

(I got the NFC North and West winners right, but I had Carolina in as a wildcard. Not bad, not great.)

AFC Playoff Teams

  • Broncos, Patriots, Colts, Bengals, Ravens, Chiefs

(I was a lot better here, missing on the Steelers and where the Bengals would end up).

Saturday Games

  • Cardinals @ Panthers: It’s the NFC 4-5 match-up that pits an 11-5 West team versus the 7-8-1 South Champions, and the first meeting between the two teams since October 2013. Arizona was the class of the NFC for much of the season following a 9-1 start, but the loss of starting QB Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton saw them close the regular season losers of 4 of their last 6.  They lost possible home-field, a bye and the division they were running away with and now they have to open up on the road, where they were .500 in the regular season.  Carolina is hot and holds the momentum of a 4-game win streak into the playoffs.  Cam Newton seems revitalized after early season injuries and escaping a car accident. The Panthers run game is better than the Cardinals.  Arizona’s defense has been huge all season, while the Panthers has come on of late.  The biggest difference is at QB with Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals 4th stringer, vs Newton.  Midway through the season there was a chance of seeing the Superbowl host city’s team playing the big game, now I see a 1st round knock out. CAROLINA WINS
  • Ravens @ Steelers: AFC North foes meet for the 3rd time this season in a 3-6 match-up.  These two teams split the season series, each winning in blowout fashion.  Pittsburgh reeled off 4-straight wins en-route to the division title, whereas the Ravens needed everything to fall right in week 17 for them to make it in.  The Steelers boast the 2nd ranked offense in the league, who will be up against the Ravens 8th ranked defense.  With rain in the forecast, the ground game becomes even more important.  Pittsburgh could be without their great back Le’Veon Bell, who finished the season 2nd only to DeMarco Murray in rush yards with 1,361.  Baltimore has the 5th leading rusher in Justin Forsett, so this one is going to be fun to watch in the trenches.  If the rain isn’t too bad, Ben Roethlisberger holds the advantage in the air over Joe Flacco. Both teams have won a Superbowl in the past 6 years, so neither will be scared off by the bright lights. I think this will be a close one, but give me the home team to take this one.  PITTSBURGH WINS

Sunday Games

  • Bengals @ Colts: The AFC 4-5 game starts things off early on Sunday with two teams that were in the playoffs a year ago.  Cincinnati lost their chance to host a game in week 17, and now look to snap their 3-straight one-and-done playoff streak on the road.  Indianapolis had been struggling despite locking up back-to-back South titles, but got back on track last week with a big game against Tennessee.  Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton both have something to prove in this game, as both had way too many turnovers in the regular season. That being said, I like Luck better than Dalton in every facet of the game.  Cincinnati’s only real the edge is on the ground with the emergence of Jeremy Hill.  I picked the Bengals to finally advance to the 2nd round, and if they control time of possession they very well could get the road victory.  But I think Andrew Luck is poised to make a run, and because I had them losing to Denver in the AFC Championship game before the season, I’ll stick to that now. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Lions @ Cowboys: The game of the weekend in the NFL pits an 11-5 Detroit team against a 12-4 Dallas team most didn’t see coming.  The Lions finally put all their talent together, but offensive struggles in the 2nd half allowed the Packers to sneak in and steal the division, forcing them to open up on the road.  Most thought the Cowboys defense would be historically bad once again, and while it was still bottom half in the league, they made the stops they needed to.  What really carried Dallas was the three headed monster on offense of Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo, who all broke Cowboy records for yards at their respective positions. Good thing Detroit has the 2nd ranked defense to try and combat Dallas’ 7th ranked offense. Both teams have been regarded as two of the most talented teams over the past 6 years or so, but neither have done much to earn too much praise. So who moves on? Both QBs have been known to commit turnovers in key situations, but Romo hasn’t in a while now. I think the Lions defense finally forces a mistake, while slowing down Murray in the process. It’s going to be close, but I think Detroit finds a way, with Calvin Johnson looking like his old self, to win on the road.  DETROIT WINS
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NFL: Week 17 Picks

The regular season comes down to this, one playoff spot in each conference remains up for grabs, with plenty of seeding to be set.  Three divisions are still unclaimed, including the NFC South, the final spot left unclaimed and all three of those battles are winner-take-all on top of it.  We couldn’t have asked for a better end to the regular season.

In Week 16, I went 10-6 to bring my season total to 155-84.  Here’s my final regular season set of picks. Comment with your thoughts!

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: A win doesn’t help either team, as the Pats have already clinched home-field throughout the AFC playoffs, while the Bills are out of the playoff picture.  But as Tom Brady said in his press conference this week, with a bye in the 1st round, they need to make this game count so they stay fresh and ready. I don’t expect the starters to play the whole game, maybe just the 1st half, but I think New England gets the win, their 13th of the season. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Ravens: Baltimore needs a win to keep themselves in the conversation, but if the Chargers win, that’s it.  Cleveland is on their 3rd quarterback after Johnny Manziel’s injury and the ineffectiveness of Brian Hoyer.  THey had a good run, but I don’t think the Browns finish with their first non-losing record since 2007, completing a 2nd half collapse.  I’ll take the Ravens to at least give themselves a chance at the final spot in the AFC. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Bears @ Vikings: Jay Cutler is back under center and looking to finish a down year on a high note.  Minnesota has had an okay season for a team that lost it;s starting QB and all-pro running back early.  If the Vikings get the win, the Bears will finish all alone in the NFC North cellar.  And that’s exactly what I think happens.  MINNESOTA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Redskins: The Cowboys are back in the playoffs after 3-straight seasons of finishing at 8-8, and they have a shot at a first round bye.  With a hand injury to DeMarco Murray, and Tony Romo’s back, they could use it.  A lot has to go right, but they have home-field locked up at the very least by virtue of winning the NFC East. DALLAS WINS
  • Colts @ Titans: Andrew Luck is having the worst season of his young career, and yet his Colts are division champs once again. But the turnovers can’t continue, and if you’re Indy, you want to see a crisp game heading into the playoffs. Seeding is still a factor, but they have home field in the first round, so I don’t think a full game will be played by the starters. That being said, I still think the Colts get a much-needed win to make them feel better before the postseason kicks off. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Jaguars @ Texans: Jacksonville has a lot of pieces, especially on defenses, to make the future look bright. Add to that another top 3 pick, and they could make some noise fairly soon.  A loss would help things along, so while I don;t think they’ll go out and throw the season finale, I also don’t think they win. JJ Watt will look to finish the year strong and add to his MVP caliber campaign. HOUSTON WINS
  • Chargers @ Chiefs: When I looked at this match-up earlier in the week, I had the Chargers winning.  Now that Alex Smith is out for the Chiefs with a lacerated spleen, I’m even more sure that San Diego will lock up the final AFC playoff spot. Philip Rivers and company have had an odd season, but they can wipe it all away with a win and playoff berth, and I think that’s exactly what I think they do. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Jets @ Dolphins: New York has been a disappointment all season, while the Dolphins have been disappointing to close out the season.  We know Joe Philbin will be back for 2015 in Miami, but we don’t know the true fate of Rex Ryan for the Jets. Ryan has had more success than Philbin as a head coach, but they coach in competely different markets so who knows.  All I know is I like Ryan Tannehill better than both Geno Smith and Mike Vick combined, and I saw a better defense all season long for Miami than New York.  So for that, I understand another year for Philbin.  That is also why I think the Dolphins end the season with a win. MIAMI WINS
  • Saints @ Buccaneers: This game means nothing to New Orleans but looking to end the season with a little pride. In a bad NFC South, a playoff perennial squad led by Drew Brees couldn’t even make it to week 17 in contention for the playoffs. As for Tampa, it’s been a lost season from the jump, and here they sit with a chance at the number 1 pick, with only Tennessee in the way, entering action with identical 2-13 records. Give me the Saints to finish the season with a win. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Eagles @ Giants: After being in the lead in the NFC East for most of the season, week 17 finds the Eagles out of the playoff picture and just looking to be a 10 win team that doesn’t make it.  The Giants have turned things around in the 2nd half of the season, and are a different team than when the two played the first time around.  Give me the Giants to finish out the season at 7-9 with another good day from Odell Beckham Jr, the probable Offensive Rookie of the Year. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 4:25PM Games

  • Panthers @ Falcons: The winner is playoff bound. The loser goes home.  Neither team finishes above .500, but will host a tough 10+ win team in the wildcard round. Cam Newton’s health/ability is questionable after his car accident, while Matt Ryan’s offense is scary good.  Neither team’s defense has been impressive this season, so I’m going to go with the home team in this one. ATLANTA WINS
  • Raiders @ Broncos: The Broncos don’t have to win to ensure a first round bye, but you know they want to go into the playoffs strong and not leave things up to chance.  Peyton Manning is coming off one of his worst games ever in week 16, so you know he’s looking to bounce back.  Oakland has all but knocked themselves out of the top draft spot with 3 wins, but they’re still going to be in prime position.  Derek Carr has shown growth, so all is not lost in Raider Nation.  That being said, this is a home game with a week off at stake, give me the Broncos to get the job done. DENVER WINS
  • Cardinals @ 49ers: San Francisco has been a strange team all season, and they’ll be missing the playoffs after a nice streak of success th past few years under Jim Harbaugh.  With signs pointing to Harbaugh parting ways with the Niners sooner rather than later, I think the team plays hard for him one more time.  I just don’t think it results in a win.  The QB situation for Arizona is less-than ideal heading into the playoffs, but their defense can carry them for a while.  Ryan Lindley gets the start over rookie Logan Thomas, with news that Drew Stanton could be back for the playoffs.  They have a playoff spot no matter what, but they more than anyone else in the NFC, really needed that bye week, but their tailspin has coincided with the Seahawks resurgence.  ARIZONA WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: Winner gets the NFC North crown and home-field in the first round. The loser gets a wildcard spot. A first round bye is also in play for the winner of this one, so it’s the biggest game of the weekend. Detroit has been carried all season by their defense, but their potent offense has started to pick it up of late. The Packers are nearly unbeatable at home, looking to go 8-0 at Lambeau, so you know Green Bay wants to avoid going on the road as long as possible in the playoffs as they can.  Aaron Rodgers has more experience in high pressure games than Matt Stafford, and I think that’s the difference this week. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Rams @ Seahawks: The reigning champs started the season off slowly, but they are peaking at the right time, and a win guarantees a first round bye, and they have a shot at home-field throughout, and in 12-man territory that would be huge.  St. Louis has had a respectable season, their defense is formidable and their wins have come against some of the league’s best.  They will make the tough NFC West tougher next season with a stable QB. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bengals @ Steelers: It’s the battle for the AFC North and home-field advantage in the 1st round. Both teams are already in the playoffs, and both could still, with a lot of help, get a bye.  Cincinnati hasn’t been super impressive for most of the season, but in clinching a playoff spot last week, they sure were.  Andy Dalton outplayed Peyton Manning, and the defense stepped up big time.  Not to mention how great Jeremy Hill was out of the backfield.  But Pittsburgh has been coming on strong of late, and their run game is even more dangerous with Le’veon Bell in the backfield.  Ben Rothelisberger looks like his old self, and with this game in front of the black-and-yellow, I’m taking the Steelers to win the most competitive division in football.  Though as I said last week when I picked against the Bengals, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cincy pulls the upset.  I had them finally breaking their 1-and-done playoff streak this season prior to the start of the year, so a huge road in against their division foe wouldn’t shock me at all. PITTSBURGH WINS

NFL: Week 16 picks

After entering week 15 with no playoff spots claimed, we now have 4 locked up.  The Cardinals are the first in the NFC to punch a spot, they can do no worse than a wild card berth.  In the AFC, the Patriots, Broncos and Colts all locked up their divisions last week.  Now with just two weeks left in the regular season, the fight for the 8 remaining spots heats up.  There are 6 teams still in the hunt in the AFC, 3 in the NFC.

Another great week picking for me last week, with my only wrong choices coming in Green Bay and Philadelphia.  The 14-2 record moved me to 145-78.

Thursday Night Football

  • Titans @ Jaguars: Snooze. Can we just get to Friday and assume this game took place? It’s one of the few games this week that has no impact on the playoff push. JACKSONVILLE WINS

Saturday Football

  • Eagles @ Redskins: With their loss to the Cowboys on Sunday Night, the Eagles are now in a fight for a wildcard spot and currently sit out of playoff position behind the Packers and Seahawks. As for the Redskins, their QB carousel is back on RGIII after Colt McCoy went down early against New York.  I the Eagles are simply the better team, so I think they keep themselves in the conversation and get their 10th win. PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Chargers @ 49ers: There were so many off-the-field distractions for the 49ers this season that we can’t really be too surprised that they’re missing the playoffs for the first time in 4 years.  The Chargers need a lot of things to go right in the final two weeks to get into the playoffs, and it starts with a win this week.  Their offense is better than San Fran’s and this is why I think they get the road victory. SAN DIEGO WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Vikings @ Dolphins: Minnesota is just playing out the season at this point, in that realm of do you get to .500 and enjoy it or hope to finish closer to 6-10 for better draft position.  Miami’s two-game slide has all but knocked them out of postseason contention, for they’d have to win out and hope for a lot of losing above the.  If nothing else, the Dolphins a more balanced team, and I think they ensure themselves of finishing no less than .500. MIAMI WINS
  • Ravens @ Texans:  The Ravens control their own destiny for a wildcard spot, currently holding the 6th seed behind the Bengals and Steelers.  Houston is another 7-7 AFC squad that has their playoff hopes hinged on winning out and a whole lot of losing needed.  But they’ve had a successful season ever since winning their 3rd game, after a 14-game losing streak to end last season.  Losing Ryan Fitzpatrick hurts the Texans slim chances, though if we could see the do everything JJ Watt take a few snaps under center, don’t we all in?  Baltimore has been here before, and Joe Flacco knows how to close things out.  BALTIMORE WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: Remember how going into last week we all had the Packers if not 1 in the league, they were one of the best in teh NFL?  Well they are still a top team and a serious threat, but it’s the Lions who sit atop the NFC North and would get a bye in the 1st round if things hold serve. Of course, might know anything til the conclusion of the regular season as far as the division is concerned as the two play in week 17.  But a Detroit win this week, gives them a sure playoff berth, coupled with a Packers loss would make them the champs in the North.  As for their division opponent this week, the Bears are awful and have been all season.  Oh, and did I meantion the not-surprising surprising move of benching Jay Cutler? So give me a road win (and a Packers win) to set up a week 17, winner take all division (and possibly a 1st round bye) in Lambeau. DETROIT WINS
  • Browns @ Panthers: Johnny Manziel take 2. I mean it can’t be worse than last week so there’s that. The two teams are fairly even in their stats, with the Panthers holding the time of possession edge, but the Browns have 2 more wins.  The Browns were shocking everyone early, but have no lost 3 straight and dropped out of the AFC North race.  Carolina, despite their guaranteed under .500 record, still have a shot winning the NFC South and hosting a playoff game.  They know how to win, see last season, so I think that experience lifts them this week.   CAROLINA WINS
  • Falcons @ Saints: The Saints have the edge in the division entering action, but Atlanta holds a 1-0 series lead.  Let’s be honest, there will be no deserving winner of this division and the home game they’d get.  That being said, someone has to win this game and the division.  I like (as I have too many times this season) the Saints at home, simply because Drew Brees and company have been far less disappointing in big games than Matt Ryan and the Falcons. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Packers @ Buccaneers: Another road loss, to another very good defense, has the Packers looking on the outside of the NFC North despite looking like the team to beat in the NFC for a good stretch of the 2nd half of the season. Other than rookie wide-out Mike Evans, everyone in Tampa Bay forgot the season started a long time ago.  Green Bay has been a different team on the road, but the Buccs defense is nowhere near the caliber of the Bills, so give me the Pack with a chance to take the division in the regular season finale. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Chiefs @ Steelers: Kansas City would be the first team out of the playoffs if everything works out as it stands now.  But a win against Pittsburgh would move them into a wild card spot heading into week 17. Both teams have respectable defenses and above average running backs that can change the game with one play.  So where does the advantage lie?  It’s under center with Ben Roethlisberger versus Alex Smith.  I take the former in this huge match-up, in Big Ben’s stadium. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Patriots @ Jets: Raise your hand if you’re shocked that the Pats have a shot to clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs or at least a 1st round bye should Denver win, against the lowly Jets?  To New York’s credit, they did an admiral job slowing Tom Brady down int their first meeting, losing just by 2 in Gillette.  But this is bigger, and it;s not like the Jets got better following that meeting. Give me the AFC East Champs to pick up win number 12. NEW ENGLAND WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Giants @ Rams: It’s another game that has no effect on the playoff race.  St. Louis is playing to finish at .500 for the first time since 2006, while New York just looks to finish strong after a mid-season 7-game losing streak.  The Rams defense has been formidable all year, so look our for them next year when they get another QB in place.  I like how the Giants offense has looked of late, so against my better judgement, give me the road team to pick up win number 6. NEW YORK WINS
  • Bills @ Raiders: The Bills played spoiler for the Packers a week ago, but I don’t see enough help in their future.  But they are playing the Raiders, so I think they get win number 9 to keep themselves in the conversation til the end. BUFFALO WINS
  • Colts @ Cowboys: DeMarco Murray will probably make the start on Sunday despite having surgery on his hand.  But concerns of ball security have to be there. Both teams have been known to lose games in big situations.  Both teams are very good.  Tony Romo is having probably his best stretch run of his career, but in one of the most evenly matched week 16 games, I’m going to take Andrew Luck on the road, even as they have their playoff spot locked up already. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Seahawks @ Cardinals: Arizona’s struggles/injuries at QB the past month have allowed a resurgence from Seattle to get back in the division conversation. A Cardinals win clinches the division and home-field advantage.  But lucky for them, they’ve got the playoff spot locked up, so they have some leeway to figure out the QB situation that other teams wouldn’t.   The Seahawks defense may need a quarter to get to know the Cardinals new starter Ryan Lindley, but I don’t think it’ll be an issue.  Arizona’s own defense has been very good all year, and the only way the Cardinals win, is if they can get to Russell Wilson often. That being said, the legion of boom is alive and well, and that will be the difference. SEATTLE WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Broncos @ Bengals: Would I be surprised if the Bengals stepped up and kept their hold on the division? No.  But I just love how the Broncos are playing right now.  They aren’t as flashy as they were on offense a season ago, but they have a run game and a better defense than the team that lost in the Superbowl.  So I’m going to go on a close game that comes down to either Andy Dalton or Peyton Manning making a play late, and I take the former MVP. DENVER WINS

NFL: Week 12 picks

The playoff push heats up as action enters week 12, and we’ve got a lot more great games this week.

98-63 after 11 weeks. Here are my next batch of picks.  It’s the Panthers and Steelers on their bye this week.

Thursday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Raiders: It’s not a good game, but we have an AFC West match-up to start week 12.  The Chiefs are feeling pretty good about themselves as they are tied for the division lead with the Broncos.  The Raiders are… well… the Raiders.  Their march to history continues. KANSAS CITY WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Browns @ Falcons: Atlanta is somehow leading the NFC South despite a 6-game losing streak this season.  Cleveland is still in the playoff conversatgion, but hurt themselves with a loss against Houston a week ago.  I like what Cleveland does better than Atlanta.  THey are more consistent on both sides of the ball.  So despite this being a home game for the Falcons, give me the Browns on the road.  CLEVELAND WINS
  • Titans @ Eagles: Philly is coming off an ugly road loss to the Packers, while the Titans are coming off a home loss to the Steelers.  Mark Sanchez has been okay filling in for Nick Foles, but needs more from the run game. I think Tennessee is a good remedy for their ills, so give me the home team in this one. PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Lions @ Patriots: What a great early match-up.  The Pats have rebounded from a slow start to being one of the two, three best teams in the league.  The Lions have cooled off a bit after a slow start, specifically on offense.  Detroit will need their top rated defense on the road to slow down the Pats, and they very may well do so.  But I still like the Pats in a close one at home. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Packers @ Vikings: The Packers are hot… at home.  They’ve got a lot of games left on the road and have been a different team away from the Frozen Tundra where they look unbeatable.  Minnesota has a good season without Adrian Peterson in the back field, and starting a rookie QB in Teddy Bridgewater for the majority of the season.  They’re home so Minnesota won’t go quietly, but I can’t pick against MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers here. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Jaguars @ Colts: The Jaguars are just looking to the draft and the off-season at this point, while the Colts look to rebound off a blowout loss to the Pats in week 11.  Andrew Luck is having a fantastic season, but needs more out of the run game, which was hurt this week when Ahmad Bradshaw was placed on IR.  But with seeding to play for, I expect Indianapolis to have a fairly easy time with Jacksonville at home. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Bengals @ Texans: Cincinnati is lucky to still hold a lead, however slim, in the AFC North.  But they can’t have any more let downs, even against a pretty good team like they play this week. JJ Watt is keeping Houston in the conversation and with this game being in Texans territory, the Bengals have their work cut out for them, though I do like them to get a big road win. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Jets @ Bills: It’s a big game for the Bills, but this isn’t even happening when it’s supposed to!  Crazy snowfall in Buffalo has forced the game to be moved to Monday… in Detroit! I like the possible playoff team even after the Jets finally picked up a win before their bye.  The run game for the Bills finds ways to get the job done even with injuries, and Sammy Watkins has been one of the most impressive rookies in the league.   BUFFALO WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Bears: This is maybe the worst game of the week.  Both teams are bad despite many thinking both would challenge for the playoffs.  The Bucs don’t do anything well except when they decide to throw the ball in the direction of rookie standout Mike Evans.  As for Chicago, they finally snapped a long losing streak last week against the Vikings, but even that one wasn’t super impressive.  Alshon Jeffery is questionable for the Bears, but they have better offensive weapons even without him than Tampa Bay, so I think they pick up a 2nd straight victory. CHICAGO WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Cardinals @ Seahawks: How big is this game? An Arizona win goes a long way to locking up the NFC West, and makes the Cardinal the first team in the NFL to get to 10 wins.  A Seahawks win keeps the door in the division open, and keeps pressure on teams like the 49ers, Cowboys and Packers for a Wild Card spot. Going straight off those reasons, you’d say Seattle needs this game way more than Arizona.  But the Seahawks are the defending champs and know what it takes to put a run together.  The Cardinals have been around the playoff picture of a few years now, but with a young QB at the helm, this win would do huge things for their confidence.  Arizona has been consistently good and don’t have any off-the-field issues clouding things. So I’m taking a chance with the red birds in 12 man territory.   ARIZONA WINS
  • Rams @ Chargers: St Louis has made it tough on most opponents this season, despite having a tough schedule and losing Sam Bradford in the preseason.  I mean look at the Rams wins over Seahawks, 49ers and the Broncos last week.  As for the Chargers, they finally got a win after a rough stretch.  I think they build off that and keep pressure on the top heavy AFC West. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Dolphins @ Broncos: This is a huge game with playoff implications.  Miami took a big step a week ago with a win over the Bills to break a tie with them, while Denver took a big step back against the Rams.  I like what the Dolphins have done all year, but I can’t see Peyton Manning having a second straight bad game, and the Broncos are so much better at home.  DENVER WINS
  • Redskins @ Niners: Like many slow starters, the 49ers have rebounded and fought their way back into the playoff hunt.  Washington continues to struggle and have questions about RGIII.  So give me the home team to stay on pace in the West. SAN FRANCISCO WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Cowboys @ Giants: Every-time questions have surfaced abut Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin, the Giants have rebounded and went on long runs.  They’d have to win out and hope for a lot of help for that to happen this year, but with many of their remaining games at home, and a softer schedule added to games with the Eagles and this week’s opponent, never say never.  But they have to start with a win over the Boys.  The defense has to find a way to stop DeMarco Murray, who’s rested after their bye.  And Manning needs to look like the guy from the 49ers game that drove down the field like no one was trying to stop them in their opening drive, and not the guy who ended up with 5 interceptions.  Something that could help is getting Rashad Jennings going in his second game back.  I keep going on faith and I’m taking another big leap taking the G-men here in week 12. NEW YORK WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Ravens @ Saints: Both teams need this game big-time. Baltimore is playing in the most competitive division in football, with all teams with at least 6 wins through 11 weeks.  New Orleans is surprisingly in the worst division, with no teams over .500.  and they find themselves behind the Falcons, a team that lost 6 straight at one point this season.  So while I think the Ravens are a better overall team, I think Drew Brees and company find a way at home to turn things around. NEW ORLEANS WINS

NFL: Week 10 Picks

Week 10. I cannot believe we are here already.  The playoff picture is starting to form, putting importance on many of the games this week.

I went 7-6 a week ago to bring my season picks record to 82-51 (which puts me 72nd on my Yahoo picks page, so not too shabby!).  Another 6 teams are on their bye this week: the Texans, Vikings, Patriots, Colts, Chargers and Redskins.

Thursday Night Football

  • Browns @ Bengals: This isn’t the easy Bengals win you probably thought it would be when the schedules were released before the season.  Both teams enter action looking for their 6th wins.  That being said, I think Cincy gets this one at home to maintain their lead in the AFC North. AJ Green is back, giving Andy Dalton a nice 1-2 punch with the emergence of Mohammad Sanu. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Chiefs @ Bills: It’s a match-up of two teams on the outside looking in in their respective divisions.  The winner could hold the edge for an AFC Wildcard, making this one of the biggest games of the week.  I love Buffalo at home despite all the injuries at running back.  Their defense has done a good job holding teams scoring down, especially at home. BUFFALO WINS
  • Dolphins @ Lions: Another game of two possible playoff teams taking place in Detroit.  Miami is coming off a very dominant win over a once hot Chargers team, while the Lions had their bye after a win in London two weeks ago. Detroit’s defense has been up to the task of stopping any and all offenses so far, and I while I see this being a close game, I think the Lions find a way at home. DETROIT WINS
  • Cowboys @ Jaguars: Possibly no Tony Romo for Dallas hurts, but they’re facing one of the worst teams in the league. So who gets the win in London?  I think the boys continue to ride DeMarco Murray, limiting the chances for Brandon Weedon to mess things up to badly in Romo’s place. DALLAS WINS
  • 49ers @ Saints: Both teams need this one if they want to make the playoffs.  New Orleans is back atop the division and have been playing better of late.  The Niners have been inconsistent, particularly on offense.  And for that reason, I think the 49ers can’t outscore New Orleans on the road. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Titans @ Ravens: Tennessee is just coasting through the season.  Baltimore has been up and down, but there’s way more upside to this team despite losing their starting running back in Ray Rice early.  Give me Joe Flacco to have a big game at home and keep the pressure on everyone in the North. BALTIMORE WINS 
  • Steelers @ Jets: If the Steelers were playing almost anyone else this week, I would say their hot streak would come to an end.  But the Jets defense is atrocious, and their offense would never be able to pick them up in a shoot out with Pitt.  So let’s make it 9 straight losses for New York.  PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Falcons @ Buccaneers: Nothing like a bottom half of the NFC South battle… Neither team is good, but Atlanta holds the advantage offensively, so I see them snapping their 6-game slide.  ATLANTA WINS

4/4:25 PM Sunday Games

  • Broncos @ Raiders: Peyton Manning was embarrassed a week ago.  And now they play the worst team in baseball? Yeah this one is an easy one to pick. DENVER WINS
  • Giants @ Seahawks: New York can’t do anything right these days. Eli Manning hasn’t thrown an interception since their win over the Redskins, and has only thrown 5 all season, and yet here they sit at 3-5.  Now they head to Seattle to take on a 5-3 Seahawks squad that may not be clicking like it did last year, but has always been a tough play for the Giants.  Do I think the Giants have a shot, yes. But not a good one. SEATTLE WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: Could this be an upset alert? Absolutely.  St. Louis has shown they aren’t scared of anyone.  But Arizona is getting healthy, Patrick Peterson is finally looking like the top flight cornerback he is and they’re home.  Oh and that defense is just better than you.  So I don’t think they’ll necessarily run away with this one, I also think Arizona gets another win on Sunday.  ARIZONA WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bears @ Packers: Capping off the Sunday of action is an NFC North match-up between what I think is the 2nd best team in the conference in the Packers and one of the biggest disappointments in the league in the Bears. Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate once again, Jordy Nelson is back and the frozen tundra is a hard place to play.  All of that added to Chicago’s struggles on and off the gridiron all add up to a Packers victory. GREEN BAY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Panthers @ Eagles: Carolina really needs this one.  And if they were ever going to get a win over Philly, this is the time to do so with injuries for the Eagles on defense and at the QB position.  But Philly is home, and Mark Sanchez knows how to manage things when he has an actual offensive line.  So I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers can stop their skid on the road, but I don’t think it will.  PHILADELPHIA WINS

NFL: Halfway to the Finish Line… Who are the pretenders, and who are the contenders?

I cannot believe we are here already. 9 weeks down. The playoff picture is starting to take shape.

So who has themselves in prime position, who has work to do and who is on the clock?  Here is a breakdown by division of how all 32 teams look midway through the season.

AFC EAST (Remember when we all thought Tom Brady was done?)

  1. New England Patriots (7-2): Since being blown out in week 4, the Pats have won 5 straight, 4 of those by double digits.  They made easy work of the of 3 teams that could be in the playoffs, including a 22-point victory over the Broncos last week.  Tom Brady is top 5 in passing yards in a season where Rob Gronkowski came in off injury and Julian Edelman was leading the team in receiving yards early.   It took a couple weeks for them to figure things out, and now here they are, atop the AFC once again.  It’s almost like in the NBA when everyone calls out the Spurs for being too old, and they go and win the championship.  Maybe we should stop underestimating Brady and Belichick?
  2. Buffalo Bills (5-3): They’ve lost their top running back, their 2nd back is banged up and yet here they are, fighting for a wild card spot.  A big reason why is their defense.  They’re 6th in points per game in the league and are a +7 in turnover differential.  Add to that a steady progression from rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a big play threat, the ability to close out games and decent production from QBs EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton (yes that Kyle Orton).  If this team wants to stay in the conversation, they have to continue their strong defensive presence and get Fred Jackson back.
  3. Miami Dolphins (5-3): Ryan Tannehill has taken a step.  It’s in the right direction, but I’m not ready to say it’s a step that puts him in the next tier of quarterbacks step yet.  His decision making has gotten much better, as has his accuracy, all things you want to see as your franchise starter gets older.  Losing Knowshon Moreno was big, but Lamar Miller has done a good job picking up the slack.  They find ways to win, and just demolished the once high flying Chargers to the tune of 37-0.  Like the Bills, their defense is where they make money, and of the two teams, I think they have a better shot at a wild card spot coming off an 8-8 record a year ago.  They’re no worse than a season ago.
  4. New York Jets (1-8): 8 straight losses with no hope on the horizon.  Geno Smith is on the bench. Eric Decker hasn’t been the addition they hoped for.  Their defense has been awful and the run game has been abandoned.  Things are so bad for the Jets that fan put their money together to buy a “Fire Idzik” billboard (their GM).  Could Rex Ryan be out at the end of the season?  Time will tell, but they’re fighting hard for a very high draft pick, and not the playoffs like I thought they would be this season.

AFC NORTH (Who would’ve thought all these teams would be above .500?)

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1): They’ve been inconsistent since coming out of their week 4 by with a record of 3-0.  Inconsistency is bad in any sport, but it’s very bad for Cincy this year, as they can’t afford a slip in the only top-to-bottom over .500 division in football.  Andy Dalton has shown flashes of deserving the big 6-year $115 million contract he got in the off-season.  But again, inconsistency is an issue.  Hopefully AJ Green is over his injury issues, because everyone knows how lethal he is in the passing game, and putting a confident Mohammad Sanu, who stepped up for Green in his absence, next to him is huge.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3): 12 TDs in two games. Historic numbers.  That’s what Ben Roethlisberger and company have put up of late to get back into the division champion conversation.  Pittsburgh is still very inconsistent.  They started out 3-3, and despite their 3 game win streak, the Steelers defense is nowhere near the “steal curtain” of old. It’s more like a bead curtain.  It’s easy to outscore your opponents, until it’s not.  Can they keep it up?  Yes.  Will they?  Who knows.
  3. Cleveland Browns (5-3): So… we all saw this coming right?  The Browns are 2 games over .500 despite not getting much from Ben Tate on the ground, an oft injured Jordan Cameron and a QB controversy heading into the season.  They’ve been impressive, finding ways to win games late that they would’ve lost in years past.  Brian Hoyer has gotten better at late game decision making and has his team looking at winning it’s most games in a while.
  4. Baltimore Ravens (5-4): After looking like they’d turned a corner, Baltimore has lost two straight in the division, finding themselves momentarily in the basement.  The positive for this team?  They have games left in the division and it’s close, so it won’t take long to jump back into the top.  But they can’t be so inconsistent on defense.  The offense without Ray Rice hasn’t really skipped a beat, so if they can get some more stops, they will be in it til the end.

AFC SOUTH (Indianapolis is starting to pull away)

  1. Indianapolis Colts (6-3): After an 0-2 start, the Colts have righted the ship in a huge way.  Andrew Luck leads the league in passing yards, with a healthy 3,000 plus already! So you wouldn’t be surprised to know they have the best total offense because of it,which has helped cover up their middle of the pack total team defense.  Those numbers are a bit skewed at 18 after allowing over 600 total yards to Pittsburgh in week 8, but it is what it is.  They already beat Houston once, so in affect have a 3 game lead, and with how they’re playing, I think they’re easily on their way to another division crown.
  2. Houston Texans (4-5):  The good news?  JJ Watt is a beast and they’ve already doubled their win total from a year ago.  The bad news. they are in the same division as the Colts, and Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the greatest replacement for Matt Schaub, which has led to him being benched in favor of Ryan Mallett.  But they are still in the conversation without any real production out of number 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, so there is room for improvement.  Add better days from offensive weapons Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, and I see them hovering around .500 the rest of the way.
  3. Tennessee Titans (2-6): They’re in the bottom third of the league on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football. So frankly, I don’t know how they have two wins (one of which came against Jacksonville).  Two of their losses were by a combined 3 points, which shows a lack of late game execution, which reeks of bad coaching and bad personnel.  Delanie Walker might be the lone guy that’s having a representative season for Tennessee.  And after a 7-9 season a year ago, there was a place for improvement, and they haven’t and look like they won’t even get back to a similar record this year.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8): They’re not good, but I have to give the Jags some credit.  They aren’t rolling over on a weekly basis.  They took down the Browns for their first win in wee 7. Things weren’t made easy for the Bengals and Dolphins following that win.  Denard Robinson has proven to be a very good starting running back and Blake Bortles has shown some glimpses as the 4th pick in the 2014 draft.  So while the record will again put them in the running for a top pick, there are at least signs of talent at skill positions in Jacksonville.

AFC WEST (Denver might start to run away with this one)

  1. Denver Broncos (6-2): Peyton Manning is still really good, but even he couldn’t lead his team past the red hot Patriots.  But at 6-2, they’re still in prime position to make a deep playoff run despite a very difficult schedule.  The difference between last year’s Broncos and this year’s… the defense.  A bad showing against New England not withstanding, off-season acquisitions are doing big things for this team on both sides of the football.  This offense is so good, Wes Welker is now the 4th option. Think about that.  I’m not worried about this team, and even though they haven’t run away with the division, the Chargers have dropped and they can do no worse than tying the season series with both them and the Chiefs.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3): The defense hasn’t allowed more than 26 points in a game, and that came week 1.  Jamal Charles continues to have the ability to break out on any day.  Alex Smith isn’t lighting up the stat sheet, but he’s done enough to keep them in the conversation in the division.  This team was never going to repeat the 9-0 start from a year ago, but they’ve responded from a slow start, and can still make a play at a wild card spot, if not the division.
  3. San Diego Chargers (5-4): This team was 5-1 and looked like a top 2, top 3 team in the league.  Now they’re on a 3-game slid that’s seen them score 3 TDs in the past 8 quarters of football.  The defense can’t live up to that, but it’s hard to outscore 35-plus point efforts as well.  So if this team wants to get back in the conversation, both sides of the football need to improve and fast.
  4. Oakland Raiders (0-8): They may never win again.  This team has yet to show me any reason to ever pick them.  Charles Woodson called it early, and it never sparked a fire.  They’re the worst team in the league, but could always fall into a win, and could lose that title to a Jets or Jaguars team.  But I doubt that happens.

NFC EAST (Is this division really as “strong” as the records suggest?)

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2): They’re well on their way to a possible 2nd straight division crown.  But a couple of big injuries in week 9 could derail their Superbowl aspirations.  Nick Foles is set to be out 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone, while DeMeco Ryans is out for the season with a torn Achilles.  The latter could prove more costly, as Philly at least has a backup QB in Mark Sanchez who has proven he can help lead a team deep into the playoffs.  But if they want to survive the injuries, the run game has to pick up the slack.  So this team will only go as far as LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles can run, in conjunction with Sanchez limiting the mistakes.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (6-3):  Just when you thought this might be their season, Tony Romo goes down.  DeMarco Murray is on a record pace on the round, but with his injury history, how much more can you ask from him?  Brandon Weedon wasn’t horrible with Cleveland, but you’re not going far with him either.  You’ve got to hope you can get Romo back after the bye week in week 12, while hoping teams like the Packers, Panthers, Seahawks or 49ers don’t get hot and steal a wildcard spot.
  3. New York Giants (3-5): The G-men were feeling good about themselves after a 3-game win streak that saw them score 30-plus to get them above the .500 mark at 3-2.  But it’s been downhill from there.  Eli Manning hasn’t thrown an interception since week 4, and has just 5 all season. But the injuries are piling up and Manning has no real deep threat.  They’ve put themselves behind the 8-ball, but with games left with both the Eagles and Cowboys at home, to go with some softer games in the 2nd half, it’ll be tough, but they don’t have any wiggle room if they want to make a real run for the playoffs.
  4. Washington Redskins (3-6): RGIII came back, for better or worse and it didn’t make them better.  The former Rookie of the Year looked slow and out of it in his return, and I didn’t understand bringing him back when they did.  Colt McCoy (yes he still exists) looked pretty good and got them a win against Dallas. I would’ve run him out there again.  They’re the worst team in the division, even with how banged up the Giants are.

NFC NORTH (This was always going to be a fight between Detroit and Green Bay)

  1. Detroit Lions (6-2): They boast the best team defense in football.  You’ve been looking for this team to put all their talent together for a while now, and this seems to be the year, led by the D.  But that being said, their offense has been off lately. Calvin Johnson has missed time, the run game isn’t what you want and they’ve played games using their 4th string tight-end.  But when your defense is top 5 in rushing and passing defense, it tends to hide offensive question marks.  If they can get Megatron healthy, this team is going to be very dangerous in the playoffs.
  2. Green Bay Packers (5-3): They might be in 2nd place, but they’re the best team in this division.  Green Bay got off to a slow start, but while defense has carried the current leader, the Pack is a much more balanced team.  Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate again.  And if Eddie Lacy could ever be the consistent threat they need on the ground, I don’t know how you beat this team.
  3. Chicago Bears (3-5): You boast probably the best wide-receiver combination in football to go with a top 5 running back, and yet they find themselves under .500.  The defense, aside from allowing a 51 spot to New England in their last game has been pretty good.  The issue is on offense, where there is questions of a lack of trust between Jay Cutler and his targets of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.  And when there is questioning of each other in the media, it’s hard to recover from.
  4. Minnesota Vikings (3-5): considering they lost their starting QB and their All-pro running back early on, Mike Zimmer has his team competing.  Even with Matt Cassell and Adrian Peterson, I don’t think this team would be much better than 3-5, but they’ve learned that Teddy Bridgewater is a capable starter.  In a tough division like the North, at least they’ve shown they can play with teams outside.  Now they just have to figure out how to make games in the division close.  And with how bad Chicago looks, finishing 3rd is in the realm of possibility, especially with two left against the Bears.

NFC SOUTH (The most disappointing division in football?)

  1. New Orleans Saints (4-4): It’s been a long trek back to .500 for the Saints after an 1-3 start.  Drew Brees’ low is 17 points scored… that on the road against the Cowboys.  So the offense has been pretty good.  But this team is only going to go as far as the defense.  They are very lucky to be in a division having a down year top-to-bottom.  Having a game up on Carolina already for me gives them a clear path to the division crown.
  2. Carolina Panthers (3-5-1): So I think their defense forgot how to play… well defense.  Carolina finds itself top 3 in points allowed and the bottom 3rd of the league in total yards allowed.  Add to that, a banged up Cam Newton, and an offense that finds themselves in similar spots in offense as defense.  All ingredients for a below .500 record.  And nothing I’ve seen of late has me thinking they can rebound in the second half of the season here.
  3. Atlanta Falcons (2-6): Remember when this was a good team?  Yeah, neither do I. A 2-0 start, the Falcons look like the 2013-14 Texans that finished the season on a 14-game skid. You know, minus the loss of a quarterback.  Matt Ryan has been healthy, and has had enough weapons to get some wins here.  The issue is on defense.  Their secondary is basically swiss cheese, and the front 7 isn’t any better.  I do think they’ll find a way to win again this season, but it might not be more than once or twice.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7): Ugliness. I thought they’d be a playoff team.  Nope.  A rotating door at quarterback has shifted back to Josh McCown.  Doug Martin looks like he’s never ran a football.  The defense is atrocious.  Vincent Jackson seems to forget that he’s a load and can out muscle any secondary player.  It’s just bad for the Bucs.

NFC WEST (Arizona far atop the hill, just like we all thought… right?)

  1. Arizona Cardinals (7-1): I give you the best team in the NFC, and it’s not really even close.  They swept the NFC East that currently holds 2 of the 4 best records in the conference.  They survived a couple weeks without their starting quarterback.  Not to mention they’re getting healthy and are consistent on both sides of the ball.  Arizona’s only real issue is that they still have two match-ups with the defending champs, but with how they’ve played, there’s no reason they shouldn’t at least split with them and maintain their led in the division.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (5-3): For a team that entered the year as defending champs, they look nothing like a team capable of a repeat.  Russell Wilson is leading one of the worst passing offenses in football.  Marshawn Lynch is a shell of himself. Percy Harvin, a dynamic offensive weapon, was so distracting they traded him for nothing to the Jets.  And the Legion of Boom has been disappointing to say the least.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (4-5): This team is a mess.  Between off-the-field issues and a lack of a run game to help take pressure of Colin Kaepernick who has his team in the bottom half in passing offense, they find themselves on the outside looking in.  Rumors that Jim Harbaugh is leaving don’t help.  Their only bright spot is their team defense, ranked 2nd in total yards allowed.  What they need is to take advantage of 3 games left with the teams ahead of them, and for Kaepernick to figure some things out offensively, particularly in the red zone.
  4. St. Louis Rams (3-5): I have to give them credit, they don’t quit.  They’ve shown glimpses with getting big leads early over the Cowboys and Seahawks, but then they regress to a 3-5 team by losing both of those leads.  Now they look to play spoiler (as they did against San Fran this week).  Losing your starter just before the season starts is tough.  If they could’ve executed better down the stretch of games, they could be in the conversation for 2nd in this division with a down year from the champs and niners.

So if things continue on the track they are, here are my 12 playoff teams as of now:

NFC

– Arizona, Green Bay, Saints, Philadelphia, Dallas (if Romo comes back quickly) and Detroit

AFC

– New England, Denver, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Miami and Baltimore

NFL Picks: Week 7

Another great week in the NFL is in the books.  A tie, a bunch of blowouts and a bunch of shootouts.

My week 6 went 10-6, including a tie between Carolina and Cincinnati. Here are my week 7 picks, 15 games with just the Eagles and Buccaneers on their byes.

Thursday Night Football

  • Jets @ Patriots: It’s an AFC East match-up to kickoff week 7 action.  Before the season I thought this game could be the first in determining the division.  Instead it’s another chance for the Pats to continue to right the ship, and for the Jets to try to snap out of their funk.  I’m going with the former, because New York is just a mess in every facet of the game except the run. NEW ENGLAND WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Falcons @ Ravens: Atlanta continues to be one of those teams with a lot of talent being wasted.  I thought they’d snap out of it at home last week against Chicago, but instead gave up 30 points again.  And with a Ravens team that clicked on all cylinders to the tune of 5 1st half touchdown passes from Joe Flacco up next, all I have to say is yikes. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Titans @ Redskins: Talk about a game I probably wouldn’t accept money to watch.  Tennessee barely scraped by the win-less Jaguars a week ago, while Washington is on a four-game slide.  I think that skid ends for the Skins however, because they’re home and I’ve at least seen some good things from their offense against good teams.  WASHINGTON WINS
  • Seahawks @ Rams: Seattle is looking to rebound off a rare home loss to the upstart Cowboys in week 6, while St. Louis is coming off their 3rd straight defeat.  I don’t see the defending champs losing two straight and though this is a trap game, I think they get the road win on the strength of a bounce back performance by Russell Wilson. SEATTLE WINS
  • Browns @ Jaguars: I had the Browns beating Pittsburgh a week ago, but I didn’t think it would be in such dominating fashion.  The run game was great thanks to a big game from Ben Tate, while Jordan Cameron anchored a big day in the air for Brian Hoyer.  Not to mention the defense holding Ben Roethlisberger to 10 points.  Oh and Jacksonville is bad. CLEVELAND WINS
  • Bengals @ Colts: This is probably the toughest game for me to pick o the week.  Cincinnati has disappointed me, particularity on defense since coming out of their bye undefeated.  They’ve surrendered 80 points in the last two games, a loss and a tie, after just 33 in their first 3 games.  Now they face a high-powered Colts team, that happens to be on a 4-game win streak, on the road. So I am going to go out on a limb and take the Bengals on the road, because if they’re to take the next step, it’s games like this where they have to prove something. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Vikings @ Bills: Minnesota has had its moments this season, as has Buffalo.  Neither team has had consistent offense, rather relying on their defenses to carry them.  The Bills run game is their strength, and it hasn’t even been that great early.  I think both CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson have big days at home to get their team above .500. BUFFALO WINS
  • Dolphins @ Bears: Talk about two inconsistent teams that need a win. At 2-3 and 3-3 respectively, Miami and Chicago are both still in the conversation in their divisions. Both teams are strong in the trenches, but the Bears have the edge in the air, and that’s where I think they win it.  CHICAGO WINS
  • Saints @ Lions: New Orleans enters rested fresh off their bye week after a huge come-from-behind OT win in week 5.  Detroit won in week 6 in large part because of their outstanding defense.  Calvin Johnson is struggling, as is the run game, but it’s easier to take when your D holds the other team to a field-goal.  It won’t be so easy to do so this week, and even though it’s a road game, I’m taking a leap because of a guy named Drew Brees. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Panthers @ Packers: This is a big game in that it could affect playoff seeding in the NFC for one or both teams.  Carolina’s defense is not what we thought it would be.  Green Bay is surging after a 1-2 start.  I think it’ll be a close one throughout, with Aaron Rodgers coming up big late to help the cheese heads move to 3-0 at home. GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Chiefs @ Chargers: Kansas City isn’t fooling anyone this season.  After starting last season with 9 straight wins, their offense just hasn’t been up to snuff this year.  The run game continues to excell, but Alex Smith has the pass game at the bottom of the league.  They’ve kept themselves in games, except for a 41-point game against New England, so there’s still hope.  But with their red hot AFC West counterparts on the schedule, this is going to be a tough one. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Chargers just find ways to win.  Being a home game, I like the Chargers to continue to find ways to win, which will push KC far out for the division and put pressure on the Broncos.  SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Cardinals @ Raiders: Arizona has its QB back, the defense is clicking and the NFC West is a toss up early.  Oh and they get a team on the march for another number 1 pick and a possible date with 0-16.  Oakland did give San Diego all it could handle a week ago, so I don’t think it’ll be easy, but I like the Cards on the road. ARIZONA WINS
  • Giants @ Cowboys: Yes, I know the Giants were manhandled a week ago, while Dallas overwhelmed the defending champs on the road. I also know that DeMarco Murray is a beast and New York isn’t great at stopping the run. But I also don’t think New York is as bad as they looked on Sunday Night.  Not to mention, when these two teams get together, strange things tend to happen.  Eli Manning has had a lot of success in Dallas, and I think he finds a way to get his guys back on track this week. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Niners @ Broncos: What a great match-up on Sunday Night between two of the final four teams from a season ago.  San Francisco has looked better of late after a slow start at 1-2.  But I still have concerns about their offense.  I know their defense can keep them in most any game, but with Peyton Manning just 3 TD passes away from the all-time record of 509, I don’t know how the Broncos don’t get their 5th win of the season. DENVER WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Texans: Pittsburgh is a straight up mess right now.  Sure they’re 3-3 but it’s been ugly, and having been 8-8 the past 2 years, being .500 is nothing special.  Add to that the surprising start of the Browns, the Steelers find themselves in the cellar of the North.  As for Houston, they’ve already surpassed their win total from last season and look a lot better on offense.  So give me the home team to move above .500 and keep pressure on the division leading Colts. HOUSTON WINS