That was a nice bounce back after a straight stinker of a week last time out. The playoff picture is coming slowly into focus. So I have added another line where needed of playoff implications of the game. I won’t add it in if a team needs other things to happen in addition to the win. Odds are provided by ESPN scorecenter and are for entertainment and comparison purposes only. Since I have Christmas shopping still to do, I can’t spare you any loot if you bet these lines and get took.
Sunday, December 8
Falcons (3-9) @ Packers (5-6-1)
Lambeau Field, Green Bay 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Packers by 3½
Last Week Falcons defeated Bills 34-31, Packers lost to Lions 40-10
Fast Fact Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez needs 79 receiving yards to be the fifth receiver and only tight end to surpass the 15,000 yard mark.
This game was originally the weeks Sunday Night matchup but was flexed to a nondescript 1:00 slot. It’s just as well, as no one would care to see the fading Pack and woeful injury addled Falcons tussle in the tundra. Aaron Rodgers may be back for the Packers and that will at least make their offense serviceable. But their defense is still suspect and that is still a troubling facet of a team that was once considered prime playoff material. The Falcons are cheered by the return of Steven Jackson as a solid contributor but they are still not fully capable of beating a good team. As much as I would like to see the Falcons continue to hasten the Packers collapse, I can’t see it happening.
Bills (4-8) @ Buccaneers (3-9)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Buccaneers by 2 ½
Last Week Bills defeated Falcons 34-31, Buccaneers lost to Panthers
Fast Fact The Bills have lost four games by seven points or fewer
Both these teams are on the fast track to nowhere. The Bills threw away chance after chance to win up in Toronto against the Falcons, and all but assured themselves of another non-playoff season. The Bucs showed some promise as of recent but got housed badly by the Panthers last week clinching a losing season for them as well, their third straight. The Bucs had a nonexistent running game against Carolina but I think that they will get their against a notoriously weak Bills run defense. The Bills show promise but I just can’t buy into them winning on the road where they are 1-4 and are not showing any inclination to changing that.
Browns (4-8) @ Patriots (9-3)
Gillette Stadium; Foxboro, MA 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Patriots by 11½
Last Week Browns lost to Jaguars 32-28, Patriots defeated Texans 34-31
Fast Fact Patriots have been outscored 34-7 in the first quarter in their last three games. But have outscored opponents 133-56 in the 2nd half of those same games
Playoff Implications: Patriots clinch AFC East with win
The Browns are regressing badly in spite of inspired play from Josh Gordon who had a monster day in a puzzling loss to the Jaguars. The Pats fiddled around as usual before rallying to beat an overmatched Texans squad. The Browns will probably give the Pats their A-Game and might even take a lead before Tom Brady and the Pats decide the tomfoolery has gone on long enough and roll to the win. As much as I loath to put the lock on a team twice in a row, this is too easy to pass up.
Pick-New England (Lock of the Week)
Lions (7-5) @ Eagles (7-5)
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Eagles by 2½
Last Week Lions defeated Packers 40-10, Eagles defeated Cardinals 24-21
Fast Fact Eagles QB Nick Foles needs one more TD pass without an interception to tie the record for most TD’s to start a season without an interception held by Peyton Manning
Both these playoff contenders would like to get a key win here, Nick Foles is firmly establishing himself as the bona fide starter. The Lions are a solid team provided Matthew Stafford isn’t making bad decisions that lead to turnovers. They have a solid running game and that guy that they call Megatron is pretty decent and could pick on a weak Philly secondary at will. The chances of this delving into a high scoring shootout are high. Though I’m not totally sold on the Lions, I just don’t think Nick Foles can keep this crazy pace up.
Colts (8-4) @ Bengals (8-4)
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Bengals by 6½
Last Week Colts defeated Titans 22-14, Bengals defeated Chargers 17-10
Fast Fact Bengals have averaged 138.3 yards rushing a game, but have yet to have a single player rush for 100+ yards in a game the only NFL team yet to do so.
Playoff implications Colts can clinch AFC South with win
Here we have a game that has a pair of teams that should be playoff bound. The Colts continue to meander through their lightweight schedule and have difficulty with teams that they should blast. Witness their home struggle to put away a clearly weaker Titans squad last week. Meanwhile the Bengals are quietly getting their swagger back after grinding out an ugly but badly needed road win in San Diego. Andrew Luck pilots an offense that can score but is getting banged up on its line, not the best of situations when facing the rugged Bengals defense that is playoff caliber and ready. With the Colts run defense being nothing short of abysmal and the Bengals leaning more on their multifaceted run attack, and the prospects of a cold, icy, gloomy day. The Bengals clearly have the decided edge here.
Chiefs (9-3) @ Redskins (3-9)
FedEx Field; Landover, MD 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Chiefs by 3
Last Week Chiefs lost to Broncos 35-28, Redskins lost to Giants 24-17
Playoff Implications Chiefs clinch a playoff berth with win.
Fast Fact Chiefs are the first NFL team ever to win its first nine games then lose its next three.
The Chiefs are tottering badly after starting out so fast. Their once proud defense is getting gashed badly over the last three games but they’re pretty much assured of making the playoffs after such a horrid season last year. The Redskins are just about the opposite, dropping off steeply after such a great season last year. The Chiefs are the better team on both sides of the ball and despite the improved play of RGIII he can’t compensate for the weak play of the Redskins defense.
Dolphins (6-6) @ Steelers (5-7)
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Steelers by 3
Last Week Dolphins defeated Jets 23-3, Steelers lost to Ravens 22-20
Fast Fact Steelers have won five in a row vs. Miami and have won three straight against the Dolphins at home.
The Dolphins continue to hang around on the fringes of the playoff picture in spite of the Martin/Incognito fiasco. They battered the Jets with a solid defensive effort Steelers are another team that is tottering badly, stung by a tough loss to their bitter rivals on Thanksgiving they were further embarrassed by the actions of their coach who got a $100k fine for trying to inhibit a kickoff return. The Dolphins are a team that is hard to figure from week to week but the Steelers are even harder to judge. I’m just not real sold on the Steelers offense and even less on their defense. This is a gut pick, something just doesn’t sit right with me on the Steelers being formidable as usual at home. Their fans often brag on how tough they are with their backs to the wall and point to their matchup with the Bengals next Sunday as their stand and deliver game. This game might make that game a last stand.
Pick-Miami (Upset of the Week)
Vikings (3-8-1) @ Ravens (6-6)
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Ravens by 6
Last Week Vikings defeated Bears 23-20 in OT, Ravens defeated Steelers 22-20
Fast Fact The Vikings are the only NFL team without a road win this season (Yes even Jacksonville has won on the road)
The Vikings are showing some heart and focus in their last three games but they are no good on the road. Their quarterback carousel continues to spin wildly as Matt Cassel will likely get the start this week. While the Ravens defense isn’t as feared as in years past they still are fairly formidable. I still have little respect for Joe Flacco who is playing more like Shane Falco from the movie The Replacements as of late. That said, I just can’t put the sight of the Ravens loading up the box to slow down the rugged running of Adrian Peterson out of my head. I would love to be wrong here but the Ravens at home is tough to pick against.
Raiders (4-8) @ NY Jets (5-7)
MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Jets by 3
Last Week Raiders lost to Cowboys 31-24, Jets lost Dolphins 23-3
Fast Fact Jets QB Geno Smith has completed no more than 9 passes in any of his last four games.
The Raiders keep trying their best but can’t seem to catch a break but it could be worse, they could be spiraling out of control like their hosts are. As bad as the Jets have played as of late, I wonder if it reached its nadir with an absolutely horrid showing against the Dolphins. Will it be Terrelle Pryor or Matt McGloin at QB for the Raiders? The questions still abound over the direction of this offense. The Jets are still a mess but I can’t shake the fact that west coast teams that head east for early games more often than not are dead meat. As much as I detest the grinning, jeering Rex Ryan, the Jets will be the benefactor of this.
Pick-New York Jets
Titans (5-7) @ Broncos (10-2)
Sports Authority Field @ Mile High, Denver 4:05 (CBS)
Favorite Broncos by 11
Last Week Titans lost to Colts 22-14, Broncos defeated Chiefs 35-28
Playoff Implications Broncos clinch playoff berth with win.
Fast Fact Broncos QB Peyton Manning is only 7-6 in games in which the game time temp is below 40, game time forecast temp 17 degrees….brrrrr
The Titans are playing their way out of playoff contention with another lackluster loss to the Colts, while the Broncos bounced back strong to outgun the Chiefs. Though it’s been well documented on Peyton Manning’s struggles in the cold, I just think that he can grind out the yardage against what I think is a suspect Titans defense and their offense is just as inconsistent. The Broncos are looking to salt away a playoff spot and keep their divisional foes further behind.
NY Giants (5-7) @ Chargers (5-7)
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego 4:25 (FOX)
Favorite Chargers by 3½
Last Week Giants defeated Redskins 24-17, Chargers lost to Bengals 17-10
Fast Fact This is the second visit to San Diego by their 2004 #1 draft pick, Eli Manning (Manning was traded to the Giants for their first pick Philip Rivers)
Expect the boo-birds to be out in full force to boo Manning who has been playing a whole lot better after the nightmarish 0-6 start. The Chargers offense is highly suspect as witnessed by their lackluster performance against the Bengals last week. I’m not fond of either of these teams, as their inconsistencies will drive a patient man to tears. You wish the Giants could make better use of their passing game and their running game is so banged up you’re never sure of who is able to be counted on. The Chargers have decent weapons in the passing game but their running game is just as bad as the Giants. I think that the Chargers are decent enough to slog out a win and Manning is way overdue for a head scratcher game.
Seahawks (11-1) @ 49ers (8-4)
Candlestick Park, San Francisco 4:25 (FOX)
Favorite 49ers by 2½
Last Week Seahawks defeated Saints 34-7, 49ers defeated Rams 23-13
Playoff Implications Seahawks win NFC West with win
Fast Fact The Niners have won the last five meetings in San Francisco
Walking tall after their primetime beatdown of the Saints the Seahawks are trying to lock down a division title. Meanwhile the Niners got a solid win against the Rams but are still far back of their rampaging divisional foes. The Seahawks can bully just about every team in the NFC except the Niners who seem to always play them tough…by the bay. Colin Kaepernick is playing better and better every week but he pales in comparison to the dynamic Russell Wilson who has been playing like a beast over the last few games. The Seahawks defense has been playing at a fearsome level and I’m eager to see how the Niners offense can compensate. This is a tossup game in Frisco to be honest. I’m just thinking the Seahawks are overdue for a flat game especially after being so high at home.
Rams (5-7) @ Cardinals (7-5)
University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, AZ 4:25 (FOX)
Favorite Cardinals by 6
Last Week Rams lost to 49ers 23-13, Cardinals lost to Eagles 24-21
Fast Fact Rams RB Zac Stacy has rushed for 348 yards and averaged 5.4 per carry in his last three home games, but only 187 and 3.0 per carry in the last three road games.
Both teams failed at a chances to get big road wins, the Rams still are searching for a real offensive leader while the Cards want everyone to take them seriously as a legit playoff contender. I’m not real sold on either team, but the Cards are a whole lot tougher at home and with an outside chance at being a playoff team, this might be their one chance to really shine. Am I really putting faith in Carson Palmer to win a needed game?
Panthers (9-3) @ Saints (9-3)
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans 8:30 (NBC)
Favorite Saints by 3½
Last Week Panthers defeated Buccaneers 27-6, Saints lost to Seahawks 34-7
Fast Fact Panthers allow a league low 13.1 points per game.
This suddenly high stakes game was smartly flexed to the primetime spot in lieu of the Falcons-Packers game and with good reason. The dynamic Cam Newton facing off against the grizzled vet Drew Brees and both defenses are looking to make big statements. The Panthers stomped the Bucs while Saints took an awful primetime beating in Seattle. The Panthers have passed their first primetime eyeball test but that was in Charlotte. Playing in Nawlins is a big big step up, do I think that the Panthers are tough enough to pass? Yes. Do I think that they will? No.
Monday, December 9
Cowboys (7-5) @ Bears (6-6)
Soldier Field, Chicago 8:30 (ESPN)
Favorite Cowboys by 1
Last Week Cowboys defeated Raiders 31-24 Bears lost to Vikings 23-20 in OT
Fast Fact WR Alshon Jeffery set a Bears record with 249 receiving yards last week
The Bears retire the number of their legendary TE and coach Mike Ditka, but could use the type of stout defense that his teams were famous for. The Pokes come well rested and riding high after storming back to beat the Raiders on Thanksgiving. Both teams sport abysmal defensive units. The Bears bad run defense will certainly mean much running for DeMarco Murray while you can be sure Josh McCown and the aforementioned Jeffery will pick on that woeful Cowboys secondary. This is a tough game to call, but I’m thinking the Bears will make a last stand to stay in the North playoff picture.
Last Week: 11-5 (Lock Correct, Upset Incorrect)