Only 3 weeks to go!
Last Week’s Record: 11-5
Year to Date Record: 136-72
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Atlanta Falcons
I guess Jacksonville just needed to face a team in worse shape then they were to get going. The Jaguars scored 41 points last week against Tampa Bay. Now two of those TDs were from the defense, but the offense still put up respectable numbers. Maurice Jones-Drew had one of his best games of the year. That helped take the pressure off of Blaine Gabbert. Jones-Drew won’t find the goings as easy though against the Falcons. The Falcons came back from 16 down in the 3rd quarter to beat Carolina and stay ahead in the NFC Wild Card Race. Matt Ryan has had a solid last two outings, and he’s needed them due to the groin injury that RB Michael Turner is dealing with. Turner has struggled the last 3 weeks. I thought he would break out against Carolina, but that didn’t happen. The Jags defense has struggled against the run in the last month of the season, so if Turner can’t get going here, something might really be wrong. This is a game the Falcons should easily win. They have more talent everywhere and are actually playing for something.
Atlanta 31 Jacksonville 13
Dallas Cowboys vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Cowboys were up 12 in the 4th quarter Sunday night before letting Eli Manning drive down the field twice and take the lead. Then, Dan Bailey’s kick was blocked at the end of regulation giving the Giants the win. The Cowboys defense was a bit of a let down. They blew a couple assignments in the secondary, including one that lead to a wide open TD. Tony Romo also missed a wide open Miles Austin on 3rd down late in the 4th quarter that would have given the Cowboys a 1st down. Is it time for another December Dallas collapse? The Cowboys have now lost two in a row. The good news for Dallas is that they are playing a Tampa Bay team that appears to have packed it in already. The Bucs went up 14-0 early in Jacksonville but then decided to just pack it in the rest of the day, giving up 41 points to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. Raheem Morris has apparently lost his team, which will probably cause him to lose his job. Josh Freeman might throw for a couple TDs, but this appears to be a nice rebound game for the Cowboys.
Dallas 38 Tampa Bay 17
Carolina Panthers vs Houston Texans
Congratulations are in order for the Texans, who clinched their first playoff spot in franchise history last week. They also clinched the AFC South. All of this without their star on defense, their star QB and star WR. T.J. Yates lead a late 4th quarter drive and found Kevin Walter with 9 seconds left for the go ahead TD. The Texans are now playing for a 1st round bye, which is possible with the schedule they have left. The Texans will be without defensive coordinator Wade Phillips for the next two games while he deals with a kidney condition. Hopefully Phillips is ok. The Panthers blew a late lead last week against Atlanta. Cam Newton was shut down in the second half by Atlanta, and he faces a tough Texans defense here. You know the Texans will be focused on shutting down Cam, and they have the players on defense to do it. I expect a big game from the Texans running back combo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate as the Texans roll to victory.
Houston 27 Carolina 21
Washington Redskins vs New York Giants
The Redskins keep giving everyone close games, but they can’t find ways to win. They gave the Patriots everything they could last week but couldn’t get into the end zone in the final seconds. Rex Grossman should have never been benched as the starter. It is quite obvious that he was the better option all along over Jon Beck. Roy Helu is also a nice surprise in the backfield and will be a valuable piece for Mike Shanahan going forward. The Giants finally got a win last week, coming from behind to beat Dallas. The Giants now control their own destiny in the NFC East. Eli Manning has been playing like an All-Pro QB in recent weeks. There are still some holes in the secondary that were exposed by Dallas, specifically on those two long TD passes. The Giants lost to the Redskins in Week One, so you know that will be weighing on their minds. But the Giants are a much better team now than in Week 1. Expect the Giants pass rush to get to Rex Grossman and win here.
NY Giants 28 Washington 20
Miami Dolphins vs Buffalo Bills
What was once a great rivalry has now been diminished in recent years. These two have become the secondary teams of the AFC East. The Bills great start has taken a nose dive with 6 straight losses. The offense is sputtering and the defense can’t stop anyone. The Dolphins fired Tony Sparano this week and lost badly last week after winning four out of their last five. The only intriguing storyline in this game is that J.P. Losman, former Bills QB, might start for the Dolphins here. The Dolphins blew out the Bills in Miami which was the low point of their losing streak in my opinion. Bills rebound with a win here.
Buffalo 21 Miami 17
Seattle Seahawks vs Chicago Bears
I haven’t included them in my playoff race because it is still a long shot they make it there, but the Seahawks are playing some good football right now. They tore apart the Rams on Monday night and now sit at 6-7. They need to win out and hope either Atlanta or Detroit loses out as well. Marshawn Lynch has been on fire lately, scoring a TD in 7 straight games. Lynch faces a tough match-up against Chicago, who shut down the Broncos for 56 minutes last week. The problem the Bears have is their offense, which hasn’t done anything in the last couple weeks, scoring 13 total points. Marion Barber is taking a lot of heat for last week, with him going out of bounds in the 4th quarter with the Broncos having no timeouts, then fumbling in OT. Barber should be focused on having a good game this week. But can Caleb Hanie finally have a good game against a so-so Seattle defense? The Bears are now a game back of the Falcons and Lions and need this game with the Packers next week. This is more of a toss up than you think. I think the Bears find a way to win this one in a close game.
Chicago 19 Seattle 14
New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings
New Orleans was given a scare last week against Tennessee. The Saints struggled to get going on offense until late in the second half. But Drew Brees found a way to get going in the second half and he brought the Saints back to victory. Now the Saints have an opportunity at a 1st round bye with the 49ers loss last week. While the Saints are on the road, they will be right at home playing in a dome. Expect the Saints defense to bring a heavy blitz package at Joe Webb, who will likely be starting for the Vikings. Webb lead the Vikings back against Detroit, and probably should have won the game for them. But the referees missed a face mask call on the last play of the game. Webb is a duel threat in the backfield who can pass and run. The Vikings also have Percy Harvin who has become just as dangerous as Adrian Peterson in recent weeks. And the Vikings may get Peterson back this week. That’s a dangerous combination. The Saints defense can be scored on, and the Vikings will put some points up. But Drew Brees should absolutely pick apart the Vikings depleted secondary, and that is why the Saints win a high scoring affair.
New Orleans 35 Minnesota 24
Cincinnati Bengals vs St. Louis Rams
The Bengals surprisingly good season seems to be falling apart. They have lost 4 of their last 65. Now all of those losses are against playoff bound teams, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt any less. The offense has been shut down. Andy Dalton is starting to look more like a rookie QB. And the defense has looked less intimidating since CB Leon Hall was lost for the year with an injury. The good news for the Bengals is that they play an even more beat up St. Louis Rams team this week. Sam Bradford is banged up because his offensive line is a patchwork line, and that is putting it nicely. The defense is even worse. I think they are pulling people off of the street to play cornerback for them at this point. The Rams were steam rolled last week in Seattle and it doesn’t look like it will get better anytime soon. They play Pittsburgh next week before finishing the season with San Francisco. At this point, I would just rest Bradford for the rest of the year. The Bengals need this one to stay in the AFC Wild Card Race, and I think they get it against a really bad Rams team. The countdown to Steve Spagnuolo’s firing continues.
Cincinnati 26 St. Louis 13
Tennessee Titans vs Indianapolis Colts
The Titans came oh so close to pulling off a big upset last week, but Jake Locker couldn’t get the ball into the end zone in the final seconds and the Titans lost a heart breaker. The good news for the Titans is that Jake Locker showed a lot of promise against a good Saints defense. Chris Johnson should have a field day here against a bad Colts run defense. Locker and Hasselbeck both missed practice on Wednesday, so who starts will remain a mystery. My guess is that Locker will go. Hasselbeck didn’t look too good when he came in for that one snap in the 4th quarter against the Saints. What else can we say about the Colts at this point? They appear destined for a draft date with Andrew Luck, and may be done with Peyton Manning if they think Luck can start immediately. The Cotls can hang with the Titans for a bit, but the stingy Titans defense prevails in the end.
Tennessee 23 Indianapolis 13
Green Bay Packers vs Kansas City Chiefs
And the Packers keep rollin, rollin rollin, rollin. Is there anything right now that will stop the Packers from going 16-0. Well, it may be themselves. With a win this week, the Packers clinch home field throughout the NFC Playoffs. They had a bit of a scare last week, with Greg Jennings suffering a knee injury that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season. If the Packers win this week, will they start to rest players? Aaron Rodgers has already hinted at a plan being in place. I guess we will have to wait and see. The defense still has some flaws, but they can come up with big plays. The Chiefs fired Todd Haley this week and look ready for an organizational shake-up. The Chiefs have a talented squad when healthy. A good coach who knows how to use Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, and Matt Cassel when healthy can succeed in Kansas City. Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, this week will be a long week as the Packers continue their dominance over the NFL with a win here.
Green Bay 41 Kansas City 10
Detroit Lions vs Oakland Raiders
This is a big game for both teams. Lets start with the Raiders. Oakland has been blown out the last two weeks and haven’t been able to stop anyone on defense. Carson Palmer has cooled down after a slow start. The Raiders could really use Darren McFadden. It would give them a two headed attack at running back. Now the Raiders are a game out in not only the AFC West, but the AFC Wild Card race as well. The Lions escaped at home last week against the Vikings. Matthew Stafford found his rhythm last week and used weapons outside of Calvin Johnson to take advantage of the Vikings. The Lions get Ndamukong Suh back this week. Lets see how long he can go before doing something stupid. Suh does greatly help the Lions front 7, and they should be able to pressure Carson Palmer and stop the run. The Lions secondary isn’t the greatest, but Palmer doesn’t have the weapons to exploit their weaknesses. I like the Lions to win here. They have a better defense that can shut down the Raiders struggling offense.
Detroit 28 Oakland 21
New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos
It is every media outlets dream match-up. Brady vs Tebow. The two golden boys of the NFL. After a few weeks in which the Patriots defense looked like they’ve righted the ship, it looks like they have gone back to their bad ways. They let the Redskins score 27 points last week and stay in the game until the end. The good news is that the Patriots still have Tom Brady, and his new favorite weapon Rob Gronkowski. Grownkowski has already set the single season TD record for tight ends. I bet the Pats try to get him to 20. The Broncos defense is good at stopping tight ends but Gronkowski just seems like an unstoppable machine right now. Meanwhile in Denver, Tim Tebow just finds ways to win. That is apparently all he does. Now, Tebow played horrible last week until the final 4 minutes. The Broncos defense deserves a lot of credit, as well as kicker Matt Prater for hitting a 59 yard field goal like it was nothing. The Broncos defense is good enough to contain Tom Brady, but is Tim Tebow good enough to score on a bad Patriots defense? I think so. Tebow will run the ball well, and he should have his best passing game of his career against the worst pass defense in the league. This will be close, but I can’t bet against the Broncos right now. They win a thriller.
Denver 30 New England 28
New York Jets vs Philadelphia Eagles
At the beginning of the season this looked like a potential Super Bowl preview. Now, the Eagles are just looking to play spoiler. And they may very well do that. The Eagles looked very good last week against Miami. They are a different team with Mike Vick at QB. He made some big plays finding DeSean Jackson. LeSean McCoy has been a stud for the Eagles, but he may find tough sledding here against a stout Jets run defense. The Eagles defense finally showed up last week, sacking the Dolphins QBs nine times and forcing 3 turnovers. Mark Sanchez actually struggles when there is less pressure on him, so the Eagles might be better off dropping back into coverage. The Jets now control their own destiny in the AFC Wild Card race. Win out and they get in. But this is a tough game. The Chiefs last week were a cake walk, but the Eagles still believe they have a shot at a playoff spot in the NFC, so they won’t stop fighting. If the Eagles get some turnovers off of Sanchez, then they can win this game. Safety Jim Leonhard is a big loss for the Jets, and it leaves them vulnerable to big plays, especially against DeSean Jackson. I like the Eagles here. The Jets win in December, but this isn’t the same Jets team from recent years.
Philadelphia 33 NY Jets 27
Cleveland Browns vs Arizona Cardinals
The Browns are finally in the news this week but for all the wrong reasons. The team let QB Colt McCoy go back into the game last week after suffering an obvious concussion at the hands of James Harrison. The Browns were doing terrible even with McCoy in the game. He probably won’t play this week. That won’t help a stagnant Browns offense get any better. The Browns may very well need a QB in next year’s draft if McCoy isn’t the answer. The Cardinals have won three in a row, and just like the Seahawks have a very outside shot of making the playoffs. The offense is finally playing better because they know how to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald now, and the defense is actually stopping teams and causing turnovers. I like the Cardinals to keep rolling here and continuing their late playoff push.
Arizona 24 Cleveland 12
Baltimore Ravens vs San Diego Chargers
Speaking of teams making a late playoff push, let me introduce you to the San Diego Chargers. At 6-7, the Chargers are also two games out of the last Wild Card spot in the AFC as well as the AFC West. Phillip Rivers is 22-2 as a starter in December and has finally played like the old Phillip Rivers from years past. He has a healthy array of weapons at his disposal. The defense gained some confidence last week against the fading Bills. The question is: Is all of this too little, too late? This game will be the test. The Ravens are 10-3 and in a fight to lock up the top seed in the AFC. The Ravens, in my opinion, are the best team in the AFC. They have the best all around team in the AFC. Ray Rice is a threat to break a big run at any time, the offensive line is solid, and the defense is as good as it has been in recent years. Joe Flacco has also improved in recent weeks after struggling mid-way through the season. The Ravens are clicking all around and seem poised to make a serious Super Bowl run this year. I like the Ravens better here. They are a better team than the Chargers and the defense can force Phillip Rivers into making turnovers.
Baltimore 24 San Diego 20
Pittsburgh Steelers vs San Francisco 49ers
If you like defensive struggles, then this is the game for you. These two teams may not total 20 points. The 49ers have been struggling offensively in recent weeks. The majority of their points have been on field goals. Alex Smith, while playing better this year, has struggled mightily in recent weeks. Even Frank Gore will struggle in this one. The Steelers defense is just as tough as the 49ers, and the 49ers offense is struggling. Pittsburgh may be without QB Ben Roethlisberger this week. He suffered a high ankle sprain against Cleveland. Big Ben is one tough son of a gun, and I would expect him to play on Monday night. The 49ers defense will know he is hurt, and I would expect heavy pressure from the 49ers. But even with the pressure, I would expect the Steelers to make one big play in the passing game that will burn the 49ers, and that gives them the victory here in a very low scoring affair.
Pittsburgh 13 San Francisco 9
My Vegas $$$ Picks
Last Week’s Record: 3-1
Year to Date Record: 34-21-1
Green Bay -13.5 at Kansas City: Is any explanation really needed?
Denver +6.5 vs New England: How do you bet against Tim Tebow?
Arizona -6.5 vs Cleveland: The Browns can’t score on offense.
Buffalo Pick vs Miami: No line, but I like the Bills this week for some reason.
Until Next Time,
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka