I want to start off by asking everyone to please take a moment to pray for the victims and those affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut Friday morning. Most all of us cannot fathom what those affected are going through right now as the entire nation tries to comprehend this terrible tragedy…
The New York Jets, New York Giants and New England Patriots will all be wearing decals to pay tribute to the victims of the shooting. There will be a variety of other actions taken across the league to pay tribute.
Now to get to what you’re here for… Last week I finished 10-6. I missed on picking the Buccaneers, the Bills, and the Bengals. I also thought Atlanta would win in Carolina. I thought Pittsburgh would handle a reeling Chargers squad and, once again, chose the Saints with no luck. This week has been labelled as “Showdown Sunday” for good reason with a wide variety of these games having playoff implications.
Thursday, 12/13 – 8:20 pm ET
Cincinnati Bengals 7-6 @ Philadelphia Eagles 4-9
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
I think Cincinnati wins a crucial game in Philly. The Eagles are still starting rookie QB Nick Foles and RB Bryce Brown as their key offensive playmakers. Brown has a chance to be a factor, but Foles has a tough matchup against a Bengals defense that has really come around in the second half of the season. On offense, Cincinnati is very dangerous and the Eagles are prone to huge mistakes in the backend of the defense. Bengals WR A.J. Green should be able to put together a solid game and I think the Bengals ability to move the ball and limit Foles’ effectiveness will be the deciding factor in what figures to be a surprisingly close game.
Sunday, 12/16 – 1:00 pm ET
Green Bay Packers 9-4 @ Chicago Bears 8-5
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
I like the Bears… I do, but I’m just not sold on them beating the Packers who have shown an ability to win in a variety of ways this season. Green Bay is using a running game more than in years past (and early in the season) and a decent run game with the Packers passing attack should be enough to move the ball in a game I expect to be another defensive struggle like Week 2 (23-10). Chicago will play well and be in the game until the end, but I just can’t trust Chicago to beat Green Bay until they prove they can with a lot on the line.
Indianapolis Colts 9-4 @ Houston Texans 11-2
Prediction: Houston Texans
I thought Indianapolis was capable of a season like this and they have looked really good. However, when I thought they could do this, I compared them to the Cincinnati Bengals from last season and that team was unable to beat playoff caliber teams, but was more than capable of beating the rest. I think the Colts are a similar team. I think QB Andrew Luck will play well, but the Colts just have too many holes compared to the Texans. Houston is also fuming following their devastating loss to the New England Patriots last week.
Denver Broncos 10-3 @ Baltimore Ravens 9-4
Prediction: Denver Broncos
This is a huge game for these team’s playoff implications, playoff seeding and the playoff hopes of the AFC wildcard teams. I think Denver wins. I know Baltimore is at home and I know QB Joe Flacco plays very well at home, but this is a game against a Broncos team that is on a mission with an underrated defense, a solid run game and, of course, QB Peyton Manning. As good as the Ravens are, they are incomplete and I think we see that more than ever this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2-11 @ Miami Dolphins 5-8
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
This is one of those games this week that don’t mean anything for the playoffs, but you already knew that. I like Miami. They have played well this season and… well… they are playing the Jaguars. Jacksonville has only two wins for a reason and this week they are playing on the road too. I expect Miami QB Ryan Tannehill to play well against a poor Jacksonville defense (31st overall).
Washington Redskins 7-6 @ Cleveland Browns 5-8
Prediction: Cleveland Browns
Redskins QB, Robert Griffin III, is not playing. I know RG3 is not the only player suiting up for Washington, but he is the heart of this team already in his first season. Now enter QB Kirk Cousins, another rookie. Cousins is a solid talent who should play well enough to win the game, but – I can’t believe I’m saying this – I think Cleveland is going to play well enough to win the game. Cleveland has been on fire in recent weeks (albeit against the likes of Kansas City, Oakland and an injured Pittsburgh team). They are playing at home and their talented defense should be enough to keep their offense in the game and, luckily for Cleveland, Washington’s defense isn’t perfect.
Minnesota Vikings 7-6 @ St. Louis Rams 6-6-1
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings
Why do I like Minnesota? RB Adrian Peterson. I think he will continue his incredible season against a solid Rams defense because it really doesn’t matter who he is playing. I think St. Louis will play well, but Minnesota is coming off a huge win over Chicago and Minnesota knows they need this game desperately to keep in the playoff picture. Vikings QB Christian Ponder needs to play well this week though.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-7 @ New Orleans Saints 5-8
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This has the makings of a shootout. Last time these teams met, the Saints beat the Bucs 35-28 with it coming down to a last-second attempt by Tampa (they actually scored, but a penalty prevented the tie). I think in round two Tampa wins the shootout. Their offense has slowed a little in the last three weeks, but they still have the playmakers and a fabulous matchup against the 32nd-ranked overall defense. Don’t get me wrong, New Orleans will score points – Tampa has the worse pass defense in the league – but I just think Tampa walks away with the road win.
New York Giants 8-5 @ Atlanta Falcons 11-2
Prediction: New York Giants
I think the Giants win on the road this week. Atlanta is a great team, but they have holes. Their defense isn’t intimidating, their offense has looked surprisingly inconsistent this season and they have struggled against the top teams in the league. Atlanta is very good at home, but the major factor here to consider is Giants RB David Wilson. He is playing in place of Ahmad Bradshaw and Wilson has the speed and playmaking ability to support the passing game, which could take pressure off QB Eli Manning. I just think this is one of those games where one team is traditionally great come the holidays (New York) while the other traditionally disappears in December (Atlanta).
Sunday, 12/16 – 4:05 pm ET
Seattle Seahawks 8-5 @ Buffalo Bills 5-8
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
At the beginning of the season, I thought Seattle was a team that was nearly elite at home, but would struggle on the road. As the year has gone along, Seattle has proven they can win on the road and I’m not really afraid of Buffalo. Buffalo’s offense is their “strength” and it should be neutralized by the Seahawks defense. Seattle should be able to pull out the win, but don’t expect another 58-0 beat down like last week against the Cardinals.
Carolina Panthers 4-9 @ San Diego Chargers 5-8
Prediction: San Diego Chargers
I’m riding the Chargers momentum this week. Carolina is coming off a big win against Atlanta too, but that was in Carolina and divisional games are traditionally much closer anyway. San Diego is coming off a win on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers and now they are at home. I think San Diego will play well enough to win this one.
Detroit Lions 4-9 @ Arizona Cardinals 4-9
Prediction: Detroit Lions
Arizona is a mess. They have lost 9-straight after starting 4-0 and there is no reason to think that ends this week. Detroit isn’t elite by any means, but they are the better team and they should win comfortably.
Sunday, 12/16 – 4:25 pm ET
Kansas City Chiefs 2-11 @ Oakland Raiders 3-10
Prediction: Oakland Raiders
This is just an awful game on paper. I think Oakland has a more consistent offense to put up some points, but Kansas City – if they ride RB Jamaal Charles – will move the ball on the Raiders poor defense. I just think Oakland pulls this one out.
Pittsburgh Steelers 7-6 @ Dallas Cowboys 7-6
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
Contrary to the game above, this is a huge game for the playoffs. Dallas needs this win desperately and Pittsburgh wants this win to keep pace with Cincinnati for the final wildcard spot. Dallas always struggles at home and, against a good team like Pittsburgh, it could be the deciding factor. However, I think Cowboys QB Tony Romo continues his “under the radar” solid season and if he gets some help from his team around him, Dallas should win this game and remain in the NFC playoff picture.
Sunday, 12/16 – 8:20 pm ET
San Francisco 49ers 9-3-1 @ New England Patriots 10-3
Prediction: New England Patriots
This is a huge matchup. San Francisco has a top defense against the best offense in the league at New England. I think New England wins this one. New England is on a 20-game home win streak in December and the Patriots certainly aren’t suddenly going away. This may be one of their most balanced and talented teams they have had in years. I think the 49ers lose this one and I also think we may begin to hear questions about San Fran QB Colin Kaepernick after this one.
Monday, 12/17 – 8:30 pm ET
New York Jets 6-7 @ Tennessee Titans 4-9
Prediction: New York Jets
The Jets are technically still in the playoff hunt… somehow and I think they win this week to stay “in the hunt”. The Titans defense is awful, particularly against the run, which is all the Jets are doing these days. The Jets defense isn’t terrible and should be enough to win this one. New York traditionally wins these games that they should win.