Its getting about that time, snow falling temps falling and the playoff picture falling into place. There could be as many as five teams clinching playoff berths with wins this weekend and two more could be claimed with a myriad combination of wins and losses. Ill list playoff implications where they are applicable with a direct win by one team. All odds are provided by Westgate sportsbook through ESPN and are for entertainment and comparison purposes only. Just because I didn’t do a full preview writeup doesn’t mean to take the odds, lose and then have your bookies calling me. Most of them know me and Ill tell them where you hide at. Next weeks preview will come out in full on Thursday as a majority of the NFL slate will play on Christmas Eve which falls on a Saturday. The NFL is loath to play games on Christmas and will likely next year have no Monday Night game on Christmas and two games on Christmas Eve
Thursday December 15
Rams (4-9) at Seahawks (8-4-1)
Quest Field, Seattle 8:25 (NBC/NFLN/Twitter)
Seahawks by 14½
Last Week Rams lost to Falcons 42-14 Seahawks lost to Packers 38-10
Playoff Implications Seattle clinches NFC West with win
Fast Fact The Seahawks have rushed for over 120 yards and averaged over five yards a carry in each of the past four games.
Both teams are coming off of awful beatings, but the Rams are in shambles having given Jeff Fisher his walking papers and their puny offense scaring few people. This game is one NBC wishes they didn’t have to show to a primetime audience. The Seahawks are looking to bounce back from a putrid performance in the snow in Green Bay and the Rams will be the perfect tonic, its rare when I call a lock on Thursday but the Rams are lambs being led to a slaughter.
Pick Seattle (Lock of the Week)
Saturday December 17
Dolphins at Jets
MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ 8:25 (NFLN)
Dolphins by 2½
Last Week Dolphins defeated Cardinals 26-23, Jets defeated 49ers 23-17 in OT
Fast Fact Don’t adjust your TV, MetLife Stadium wont have end zone logos for either the Jets or Giants this weekend. With such a tight turnaround between the Saturday Nighter and the Giants Sunday afternoon tilt with the Lions they cant change the logos in time, so they wont have any.
Matt Moore (Is he still in this league?) gets the start for the injured Ryan Tannehill and faces a Jets team that has to be heavy legged after multiple short week cross country flights that sandwiched an overtime win in Frisco. Im thinking that the Dolphins defense will prey on the weak Jets offensive line and that Moore should have enough on the ball to get a close win.
Sunday December 18
Steelers (8-5) @ Bengals (5-7-1)
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati 1:00 (CBS) Flexed from 8:25 start
Favorite Steelers by 3
Last Week Steelers defeated Bills 27-20, Bengals defeated Browns 23-10
Fast Fact Ohio native Ben Roethlisberger has only lost 3 times in his home state, which includes 2 playoff wins in Cincy
The Steelers are not the type of team that the emotionally fragile Bengals need to be facing., its asking a near miracle for them to stay with the Steelers at full strength, much less now As decimated with injuries as the home team is. LeVeon Bell is simply put one of the best running backs in the game, and is hitting his stride. The Bengals despise the Steelers and their rowdy cadre of fans that seem to infiltrate Paul Brown Stadium every year but they can do little to stop a team that is better than them on both sides of the ball and will spare them no quarter as they prep for a Christmas Showdown with the Ravens.
Colts (6-7) @ Vikings (7-6)
US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis 1:00 (CBS)
Vikings by 4
Last Week Vikings defeated Jaguars 25-16, Colts lost to Texans 22-17
Fast Fact This is a meeting of two #1 pick QB’s Sam Bradford (2010) and Andrew Luck (2012)
Both these teams are on the fringes of the playoff picture and a loss could prove to be fatal so look for the intensity to be ratcheted up. The Vikes will be boosted by the return of Adrian Peterson who proclaimed himself healthy from his meniscus tear. The Colts may go down to the wire unsure if their franchise player QB Andrew Luck will be available as he is nursing a bum shoulder and wonky elbow. The Colts are not going to like the noisy atmosphere in Minnesota and whoever pilots the Colts offense will not like the defense that the Vikes are bringing. I think while AP wont be the x factor in the game, his mere presence will keep the Colts defense guessing and give Sam Bradford the luxury of more time. The Vikes may not make the playoffs but their chances don’t get terminated here
Packers (7-6) @ Bears (3-10)
Soldier Field, Chicago 1:00 (FOX)
Packers by 6 ½
Last Week Packers defeated Seahawks 38-10, Bears lost to Lions 20-17
Fast Fact Aaron Rodgers has thrown 17 touchdowns and only one interception in his past 5 games against the Bears
Its going to be Green Bay type cold in Chi-Town but A-Aron has been hot, and though the Bears can play teams tough, they lack that finishing kick. Matt Barkley tries like a scout but invariably finds a way to mess it up. The Packers are fighting for their playoff lives and have no time to fool around with a scuffling Bears squad.
Pick Green Bay
Jaguars (2-11) @ Texans (7-6)
NRG Stadium, Houston 1:00 (CBS)
Texans by 6
Last Week Jaguars lost to Vikings 25-16, Texans defeated Colts 22-17
Fast Fact The Jags have lost their last meetings with the Texans and Blake Bortles has thrown a pick-six in each of the last three meetings.
The Jags are a hot mess and everyone they play just sits back and waits for the inevitable screw up. It might be a Bortles pick six or a glaring defensive lapse, but it happens. Their passing defense is vastly underrated but that means that teams will run the ball with impunity. The Texans ran wild in their first meeting, I don’t think that they’ll deviate from a game plan that has proven workable.
Browns (0-13) @ Bills (6-7)
NewEra Field; Orchard Park, NY 1:00 (CBS)
Bills by 10
Last Week Browns lost to Bengals 23-10, Bills lost to Steelers 27-20
Fast Fact The Browns are the first team since the advent of the 16 game schedule to be underdogs in each of their games.
The spectre of an 0-16 haunts the Browns like Bob Marley or the Christmas ghosts in a Christmas Carol. They will get not an ounce of charity from a Bills squad that even though are playing out the string are looking for someone to beat up. The Bills are simply better on both sides of the ball and will roll to a fairly easy victory
Eagles (5-8) @ Ravens (7-6)
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore 1:00 (FOX)
Ravens by 5½
Last Week Philadelphia lost to Washington 27-22, Ravens lost to Patriots 30-23
Fast Fact The Ravens are tied for lead the NFL in takeaways, are second in interceptions and fourth in ppg allowed
Given the state of the weak Eagles offensive line putting the Ravens hard hitting defensive unit against them is akin to waving a steak in front of a hungry pitbull. Its gonna get tore up. The Ravens so-so offense will be able to get theirs against a Eagles defense more leaky than an old roof. Needing a win ahead of a showdown game in Pittsburgh the Ravens will not trifle with their regional rival and make this aviary fight fairly one-sided in a hurry.
Titans (7-6) @ Chiefs (10-3)
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City 1:00 (CBS)
Chiefs by 5 ½
Last Week Titans defeated Broncos 13-10 Chiefs defeated Raiders 21-13
Playoff Implications Chiefs clinch playoff berth with win
Fast Fact Titans have not lost a game by double digits this season
The Titans are quietly winning games with a running game that is super underrated and the Chiefs are not particualry adept at stopping the run. But the thing is this about the Chiefs is that they win ugly games. They get that one big play and then settle back into their Eeyore like bland demeanor play. Alex Smith will never be the QB poster boy but he quietly gets the job done and gets wins, which Im thinking he will here.
Lions (9-4) @ Giants (9-4)
MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ 1:00 (FOX)
Giants by 4 ½
Last Week Lions defeated Bears 20-17, Giants defeated Cowboys 10-7
Fast Fact These are longtime NFL member frnachsies, that youd think have played each other often, but this is only their 44th all time meeting, the G-Men have played the Browns and Steelers each more
The Lions keep winning the close ones, but I think they might have run out of luck. Hampered by Matthew Stafford bum finger, the Lions offense might get sluggish. Playing the sluggo type team the G-Men are they might not get out of a 4th quarter defecit. Its looking like a nasty day in the Jersey swamplands a game that is better suited for the Giants roughhouse defense
Pick-New York Giants
Saints (5-8) @ Cardinals (5-7-1)
University of Phoenix; Glendale, AZ 4:05 (FOX)
Cardinals by 2½
Last Week Saints lost to Buccaneers 16-11, Cardinals lost to Dolphins 26-23
Fast Fact The #1 ranked offense (Saints) faces off against the #1 ranked defense (Cards) the first time that a meeting like this is with two teams with losing records.
This matchup of two underachieving teams starts the late slate of games. Drew Brees has fell off from his high powered numbers. I really don’t trust either team. The Saints are notoriously inconsistent on offense and just plain bad on defense. The Cards running game is good when the offensive line holds up but Carson Palmer has regressed to the point of unreliability. It’s a toss up game at its worst. Ill go with the home team with high reservations.
49ers (1-12) @ Falcons (8-5)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta 4:05 (FOX)
Falcons by 13½
Last Week 49ers lost to Jets 23-17 in OT, Falcons defeated Rams 42-14
Fast Fact The Falcons have score 40 or more points a league best four times this season
It’s a good thing that this game is being shown to a small part of the country. This is a massacre in the making. Combine a hapless 1-12 49ers team finding new and exciting ways to lose, one that gives up 30.2 points a game easily the leagues worst. Mix in an 8-5 Falcons team with a bunch to play for that scores points at rapid clip (32.9 is the leagues best) Sit back and enjoy the fun. Even with a late start, this west coast team is walking into a beatdown.
Patriots (11-2) @ Broncos (8-5)
Sports Authority Field @ Mile High, Denver 4:25 (CBS)
Patriots by 3
Last Week Patriots defeated Ravens 30-23, Broncos lost to Titans 13-10
Fast Fact Tom Brady is 2-7 in Denver
Playoff Implications Patriots clinch AFC East and first round bye with win
Heres a flip for you, Tom Brady is NOT going to be the deciding factor in this high stakes matchup. The Pats much improved running game should be a big factor in this one. The Broncos were looking like a real contender but have fallen off so badly that they are looking more like a playoff one hitter quitter. The Pats are, despite injuries, built for a deep run and the pickup Michael Floyd (in spite of his DUI charge) should grind out a win here and further lock in their playoff seeding.
Raiders (10-3) @ Chargers (5-8)
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego 4:25 (CBS/NFLN)
Raiders by 3
Last Week Raiders lost to Chiefs 21-13, Chargers lost to Panthers 28-16
Fast Fact Raiders lead the NFL with a +15 turnover margin
Playoff Implications: Raiders clinch playoff berth with win
My late father despised the Raiders and detested their fans who invaded San Diego yearly. He would be equally disapproving of the Raiders return to prominence in the AFC West. Unfortunately The Chargers are a MASH unit with an injury list too long to even start to mention. Point blank the Raiders are better on both sides of the ball, they know it and worse still the Chargers know it. This could very well be the last time the Raiders and Chargers clash in San Diego and my pops would be none to happy to know that.
Buccaneers (8-5) @ Cowboys (11-2)
AT&T Stadium; Arlington, TX 8:30 (NBC) flexed from original 1p start
Cowboys by 7
Last Week Buccaneers defeated Saints 16-11, Cowboys lost to Giants 10-7
Fast Fact The Bucs have allowed 12.8 ppg during their 5 game win streak and opponents have scored just six touchdowns in that span.
The NFL couldn’t flex to this game fast enough to get out of an ugly Steelers-Bengals game. They couldn’t get the Pats-Broncos game as CBS enacted it game protection so instead they decided to give more primetime love to their original media darling Pokes. The Bucs become the beneficiary of the flex rule that allows in the NFL scheduling policy’s words “surprise teams a chance to play their way on to the primetime stage.” The Bucs have quietly played their way into playoff contention with the robust play of Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and a rock solid defensive unit that will be a good test for Dak Prescott and the Pokes who are coming off their 2nd loss of the season another tough loss to their divisional rivals. But something keeps telling me that the Pokes are more fragile than they let on. Dak Prescott might not have another “bad game” but the Bucs will take full advantage of an extremely rare primetime spotlight and spring the upset, furthering the whispers of the probability of a Romo return
Pick-Tampa Bay (Upset of the week)
Monday December 19
Panthers (5-8) at Washington (7-5-1)
FedEx Field; Landover, MD 8:30 (ESPN)
Washington by 6 ½
Last Week Panthers defeated Chargers 28-16, Washington defeated Philadelphia 27-22
Fast Fact Though Washington leads the all time series 7-5, the Panthers have won the last four meetings.
Washington remains in the thick of the playoff race, edging Philly to stay in shouting distance of the G-Men and Pokes in the NFC East race but they have no margin for error. The Panthers are in even more dire straits as a loss would finish their flickering playoff dreams. Kirk Cousins continues his solid play and has made the offense a handful to defend. Meanwhile weakened by the defection of Josh Norman to this very same Washington squad and the uncertain status of Luke Kuechly the Panthers are full of questions. They looked solid in thumping the Chargers but beating Washington at home is a different cat altogether. Cam Newton always looks like hes about to throw a tantrum now and the Panthers are a shadow of the 15 win juggernaut they were last year.
Last Week 11-5 (Lock correct, Upset Incorrect)