Last week I finished with a 10-6 record in my NFL predictions, missing on Washington, Miami, Houston, New York [Giants], Oakland and Cincinnati.
– Washington played the spoiler for Philadelphia in a well-played game. This is the perfect example of the unknown with divisional games. It’s two teams that don’t like each other and know each other better than you know yourself. This week could feature a couple of these sorts of outcomes.
– I was so close with Minnesota. The Vikings, despite their loss to Miami, are improving this season. They will be dangerous in the coming years.
– Houston thoroughly outplayed the Ravens. Joe Flacco didn’t look good while Houston proved, yet again, that quarterback isn’t the most important position to them considering their run game and defense.
– New York has decided to lean heavily on Odell Beckham Jr. Good decision.
– I told you Oakland could do it. That’s two Raiders upsets that I called, but didn’t pull the trigger. I have nobody to blame, but myself.
– Cincinnati played the perfect game that I outlined in my pick. I also said that “perfect game” was highly unlikely and that this Cincinnati has some of the best – if not the best – talent in the NFL. If this is game they needed to kickstart a realization of that talent… watch out.
No byes as the regular season nears it’s end. The gif this week is from the Seattle and Arizona game. Marshawn Lynch is an interesting personality with the media (apparently very smart and nice guy), but he has the incredible ability to just take over games.
Sunday, 12/28 – 1:00 pm ET
Cleveland Browns 7-8 @ Baltimore Ravens 9-6
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore needs a win to this game to make the playoffs and Cleveland’s once promising season has come to a sudden halt. Connor Shaw is the rookie quarterback for the Browns this week and star receiver Josh Gordon is once again suspended. Cleveland was unlikely to pull this off even with their starter(s) at quarterback and Gordon. Baltimore will win. Joe Flacco may not have a great game, but he won’t need to do much with the Cleveland offense likely resembling a chicken with it’s head cut off.
Dallas Cowboys 11-4 @ Washington Redskins 4-11
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
This one will be a close, back and forth slugfest. Dallas doesn’t need this game for a playoff berth, but they will play it out with an outside shot at a first-round bye still in the cards in addition to their deep-rooted hatred for Washington. Dallas will, again, lean heavily on the run game (perhaps more Joseph Randle and company rather than DeMarco Murray) and then allow Tony Romo to pick his spots in the passing game. This will be close and Washington is more than capable of winning this, but I’m taking the Cowboys.
Indianapolis Colts 10-5 @ Tennessee Titans 2-13
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis is playing for seeding and Tennessee is playing for pride. Pride won’t make up the talent discrepancy between these two teams though the Colts do have concerns heading into the postseason. Look for Indy to feature a rare power run game in hopes they can figure it out before they play in the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints 6-9 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-13
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
This was a thoroughly disappointing season for New Orleans and now they travel to Tampa Bay with nothing to play for. I think the Saints could walk through the motions and still win this based on their talent alone, but there is a reason New Orleans is 6-9 after all. I expect to see Mark Ingram play well and Drew Brees throwing the ball around with little resistance.
Philadelphia Eagles 9-6 @ New York Giants 6-9
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
This game means nothing for the playoff picture with Philadelphia squandering their opportunity with their road loss to Washington a week ago. Now they are traveling to play “The Odell Beckham Jr. Show”. Beckham Jr. has been lights out and I expect this week to be no different. That said, I like the Eagles. Washington’s defense is underrated and the Eagles offense is perhaps a little overrated, but Philly should have enough firepower to move against New York. If New York wins, it is because of Beckham Jr. single-handedly carrying the team.
Buffalo Bills 8-7 @ New England Patriots 12-3
Prediction: New England Patriots
Don’t let the records fool you, New England nows the value of entering the postseason hot and this week is at home, in December. That means a New England win. The Buffalo offense is the difference here. I don’t expect them to do much while the Patriots offense meticulously spends the game figuring out the Bills defense.
Jacksonville Jaguars 3-12 @ Houston Texans 8-7
Prediction: Houston Texans
Jacksonville has been playing hard, particularly during the second half of the season, but I’m taking Houston. Even with Case Keenum at quarterback, the Texans have the rushing attack to move the ball, setup easy throws and then rely on their top-notch defensive unit.
San Diego Chargers 9-6 @ Kansas City Chiefs 8-7
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego’s win last week was impressive. The comeback, on the road, against San Francisco, kept their season alive, but this week is where I think it ends. Kansas City is a hard, hard place to play. The Chargers win, and they’re in. The Chiefs win, and they are looking for some help, but this is clearly a big game for both teams. A home game at Arrowhead is the deciding factor for me picking this game.
New York Jets 3-12 @ Miami Dolphins 8-7
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
With both teams out of the playoff picture, this could really go either way. You don’t know where player’s minds are and if they are fully motivated, but I like the Dolphins. Miami had a great season and showed great promise moving forward. I expect them to want to finish the season on a strong note. The Miami defense will be stifling.
Chicago Bears 5-10 @ Minnesota Vikings 6-9
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings
I nearly had Minnesota a week ago, so I’m taking them again. This is a good team. Teddy Bridgewater has had a solid rookie year and the defense is young, talented and playing well. A home win in the season finale would be a great finish. I think the Minnesota defense will limit the Bears offense while Bridgewater moves the ball well through the Chicago defense.
Sunday, 12/28 – 4:25 pm ET
Oakland Raiders 3-12 @ Denver Broncos 11-4
Prediction: Denver Broncos
Denver isn’t perfect, but Oakland doesn’t have the personnel to replicate what Cincinnati did to them last Monday night. Denver is winning this one.
Arizona Cardinals 11-4 @ San Francisco 49ers 7-8
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers
Arizona’s defense will suffocate the 49ers on offense, but I just don’t think the Cardinals can get enough from their own offense. Logan Thomas is a great prospect at quarterback for the Cardinals, but the rookie will be out of his depth this week. He has size, speed, and raw physical throwing ability, but there is a lack of accuracy and NFL playing experience that will be his undoing against the 49ers defense. Arizona’s offense may show some life with Thomas making plays, but it won’t be enough.
Detroit Lions 11-4 @ Green Bay Packers 11-4
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
Detroit isn’t winning in Green Bay. I’ll watch because I’m curious is Detroit can even make it a close game, but I’m doubting they can beat the Packers in the end. The deciding factor will be Matthew Stafford at quarterback for the Lions. We know what Aaron Rodgers brings to the table, but we aren’t sure what we will get from Stafford. To me, he is a more physically gifted version of Andy Dalton. A little too reliant on their star receiver to find success. We will see.
St. Louis Rams 6-9 @ Seattle Seahawks 11-4
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis always has a chance against their divisional opponents, but this one is easy. Seattle is playing some of the best football in the league and is playing at home with a first-overall seed available in the NFC. St. Louis doesn’t have an offense capable of challenging the Seahawks.
Carolina Panthers 6-8-1 @ Atlanta Falcons 6-9
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
There is something about the NFC South playing on the road for divisional games. They seem to have a knack for it or something. The other thing here that will help the Panthers is Atlanta’s poor defense. They played well in their win over New Orleans a week ago, but I don’t think we will necessarily see a repeat performance against Carolina. Look for Jonathan Stewart to play well and come up big for the Panthers.
Sunday, 12/28 – 8:30 pm ET
Cincinnati Bengals 10-4-1 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 10-5
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati did exactly what I said they would have to do to beat Denver last week in impressive fashion. Winning on a big stage against a big opponent lifts the pressure off Cincinnati’s heads for a while, but now they must do it again against Pittsburgh. Cincinnati plays better at Heinz Field than at home against the Steelers and still fields one of the best rosters in the league in terms of raw talent. I have said all year that I felt Cincinnati and Pittsburgh would split their series and I’m sticking to it. Andy Dalton won’t be asked to do much. Expect this game to come down to the explosive offense of Pittsburgh and the run game of the Bengals. I think the Bengals pull it out late in a tight one.