I had a solid, 12-4 mark in Week 14. Any time division opponents play, you can throw stats and trends out the door and that was the case with Philadelphia’s victory over the New York Giants and Carolina’s win over Tampa Bay. San Francisco’s upset victory over the New York Jets was, of course, a surprise to almost everybody. And for the third straight week, I’ve picked the Packers and they’ve lost… and I’m loving being wrong about them!
Here’s a look at this week’s matchups and how I think they’ll play out.
Originally published Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.
Last Week: 12-4
This Week: 10-6
New Orleans (7-6) at Chicago (7-6)
You can tell the difference between the NFC North and South when one division’s No. 4 team has the same record as the other division’s No. 2 team. The Saints come to town and are definitely a scary football team. Even outdoors, New Orleans’ offense can put up big numbers. However, this is the first game all season the Saints will be playing a night game outdoors. Their two previous prime time games were both played in the friendly confines of the Superdome. Not to mention, this will be the coldest game of the season the Saints have played in as their only road game in the past three weeks was in the warm weather of Tampa Bay. As we’ve seen the past two years, the Saints struggle in these conditions and that definitely plays to the Bears’ advantage. With their season on the line and the 4th phase in their corner, I think the Bears make a statement on national TV and keep pace with the Vikings in the NFC North.
Prediction: Chicago 24, New Orleans 23
Actual Score: Chicago 27, New Orleans 24
Tampa Bay (9-4) at Atlanta (8-5)
This is the second consecutive divisional road game for the Buccaneers, but the Falcons should be a little easier than the Panthers were. Matt Ryan could be under distress all game against the Bucs’ tough pass defense. The Bucs don’t have as good a run defense, though, so for the Falcons to win, they’ll need a heavy dose of Michael Turner.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 21
Actual Score: Atlanta 13, Tampa Bay 10
Washington (7-6) at Cincinnati (1-11-1)
The Redskins have struggled as of late because of injuries to Clinton Portis, but I think this week they get back on track against a meager Bengals team.
Prediction: Washington 21, Cincinnati 14
Actual Score: Cincinnati 20, Washington 13
Tennessee (12-1) at Houston (6-7)
Houston’s been playing well lately and with Matt Schaub healthy, they’re a dangerous team. But their defense hasn’t played well all season and the Titans’ duo of backs should be able to control the clock and rack up big numbers against the Texans’ No. 24 run defense.
Prediction: Tennessee 26, Houston 18
Actual Score: Houston 13, Tennessee 12
Green Bay (5-8) at Jacksonville (4-9)
Well, I picked them three straight weeks and they’ve lost all of them. Why mess with a good thing? The Packers should head into Jacksonville, run the ball well and play good defense en route to a victory.
Prediction: Green Bay 24, Jacksonville 21
Actual Score: Jacksonville 20, Green Bay 16
San Francisco (5-8) at Miami (8-5)
San Francisco has won two straight and three of their last four. I expect them to remain competitive the rest of the season, but I don’t know if they can waltz into Miami and upset an even more competitive Dolphins team. I think Miami runs the ball effectively and comes out with their 9th victory of the season.
Prediction: Miami 23, San Francisco 20
Actual Score: Miami 14, San Francisco 9
Seattle (2-11) at St. Louis (2-11)
Two 2-11 teams battling for 3rd place in the NFC West. Seattle wins on the road. If I’m wrong… who cares?
Prediction: Seattle 24, St. Louis 19
Actual Score: Seattle 23, St. Louis 20
Buffalo (6-7) at New York Jets (8-5)
The Bills have dropped two in a row and six of their last seven. The Jets have also lost two straight. At home with their No. 4 run defense, I think the Jets shut down the Bills, leaving Buffalo with a 2-8 record since starting the season 4-0.
Prediction: New York Jets 24, Buffalo 14
Actual Score: New York Jets 31, Buffalo 27
San Diego (5-8) at Kansas City (2-11)
Kansas City should give the Chargers a run for their money, but I don’t think their defense can hold San Diego’s offense enough to keep up in scoring. It should be a high-scoring game assuming the weather holds up.
Prediction: San Diego 26, Kansas City 20
Actual Score: San Diego 22, Kansas City 21
Detroit (0-13) at Indianapolis (9-4)
I never thought it’d be possible to see an undefeated team and a winless team in back-to-back seasons, but with Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Green Bay left on the Lions’ schedule, it just may happen. The Lions are not going to go into Indianapolis and upset the Colts, who have been on a 6-game winning streak.
Prediction: Indianapolis 28, Detroit 17
Actual Score: Indianapolis 31, Detroit 21
Minnesota (8-5) at Arizona (8-5)
All Bears fans need to be tuned into this game. Two Vikings wins or two Bears losses in the final three games would equal a Vikings division championship. Which means, if the Vikings were to win this game, they would have to lose their two remaining games — both at home — for the Bears to have a shot at the division. That’s possible, but not probable. This game is made for the Cardinals because they don’t run the ball very well and that’s what the Vikings are good at stopping. Where the Vikings struggle is defending the pass and I think the Cardinals have success through the air all day long. Offensively, the Vikings can’t rely on Tarvaris Jackson, so Adrian Peterson has to have a big game.
Prediction: Arizona 27, Minnesota 20
Actual Score: Minnesota 35, Arizona 14
Pittsburgh (10-3) at Baltimore (9-4)
I’m an old-school guy and I love defensive matchups and this one features the No. 1 (Pittsburgh) and No. 2 (Baltimore) defenses. Pittsburgh is also No. 1 in pass defense and No. 1 in run defense while Baltimore is No. 2 is pass defense and No. 3 in run defense. If you have the ability to set up two TVs next to one another, I highly recommend tuning one of them into the Vikings-Cardinals game and the other one into this one. I think this game will turn on whichever defense makes the bigger play. I like the Ravens to pull one out at home and pull even in the standings.
Prediction: Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 17
Actual Score: Pittsburgh 13, Baltimore 9
Denver (8-5) at Carolina (10-3)
Carolina has a pretty good pass defense and they’re going to need it against Denver’s No. 3 passing offense. The Panthers also run the ball efficiently and effectively with the duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who combined for 301 yards last week against Tampa Bay. That’s astounding. I think the Panthers win again at home.
Prediction: Carolina 27, Denver 24
Actual Score: Carolina 30, Denver 10
New England (8-5) at Oakland (3-10)
God bless Matt Cassel, who lost his father this week. I have a feeling Cassel with have an inspiring performance much like Brett Favre did against Oakland after he lost his dad years ago. I think the Patriots win this one handily.
Prediction: New England 28, Oakland 13
Actual Score: New England 49, Oakland 26
New York Giants (11-2) at Dallas (8-5)
The Giants have already clinched the division, so this game loses a little bit of importance as far as TV ratings go. But it’s still a classic NFC East matchup and the Giants aren’t going to lay down in it. However — and I hope I’m wrong because the Bears still have a shot at the wild card — I think the Cowboys prevail at home with their backs to the wall.
Prediction: Dallas 24, New York Giants 20
Actual Score: Dallas 20, New York Giants 8
Cleveland (4-9) at Philadelphia (7-5-1)
What a bad choice for a Monday night matchup this was. Then again, the NFL ridiculously made the mistake of scheduling Cleveland five times in prime time. Had the Browns had one healthy quarterback — and I’m not talking about Ken Dorsey — this may have been closer. But with Philly still in the playoff hunt, they’re going to come after the Browns all night.
Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Cleveland 16
Actual Score: Philadelphia 30, Cleveland 10