Week 15 was tough on me and I finished with a paltry, 10-6 record. Atlanta and Tampa Bay was a toss-up and I went with the road team, but Atlanta pulled off the win. I still can’t believe how flat Arizona came out against Minnesota. I would have had the Baltimore game correct had a bogus goal line play at the end of the game not been ruled incorrectly in favor of Pittsburgh. It wasn’t that surprising to see Houston pull off the upset over Tennessee, though. But it was definitely unusual to see Cincinnati take care of Washington. And for the fourth straight week, I picked the Packers to win and they lost. Maybe I’ll pick them again to beat the Bears.
Here’s a look at this week’s matchups and how I think they’ll play out.
Originally published Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.
Last Week: 10-6
This Week: 9-7
Indianapolis (10-4) at Jacksonville (5-9)
We’ve come a long way since the Colts lost by a field goal to the Jaguars in Week 3 in Indianapolis. The Colts have since improved dramatically and are on a 7-game win streak. The Jaguars may have pulled off a close one against the Packers last week, but I don’t see their defense stopping the Colts’ offense in this one.
Prediction: Indianapolis 23, Jacksonville 17
Actual Score: Indianapolis 31, Jacksonville 24
Baltimore (9-5) at Dallas (9-5)
These are the games you can get jacked up about. Two of the better teams from their respective conferences each are four games over .500 and yet either one might not make the playoffs. The Cowboys hit a rough patch in the middle of the season with Tony Romo hurt and team infighting. But they’re 4-1 since their Week 10 bye week. As well as Baltimore has played, I think Dallas survives at home.
Prediction: Dallas 20, Baltimore 17
Actual Score: Baltimore 33, Dallas 24
Cincinnati (2-11-1) at Cleveland (4-10)
I always laugh at games between these two teams. Two woefully bad Ohio teams that always seem to give the fans a show. A couple years ago, these teams combined to put up more than 100 points. That’s not likely in this one. As much as I hate the Browns, they should win this one at home.
Prediction: Cleveland 21, Cincinnati 17
Actual Score: Cincinnati 14, Cleveland 0
New Orleans (7-7) at Detroit (0-14)
Can the Lions win their last home game of the season? They have two chances to prevent an 0-16 season; this week at home or next week in Green Bay. I’d say the the outlook definitely favors the former over the latter. But the Saints will be playing in conditions like they do at home, not the cold weather they were up against in Chicago last week.
Prediction: New Orleans 30, Detroit 21
Actual Score: New Orleans 42, Detroit 7
Arizona (8-6) at New England (9-5)
The Cardinals should feel lucky they wrapped things up two weeks ago, because after being pounded by the Vikings at home last week, they get the honor or being smacked around by the Patriots in New England this week.
Prediction: New England 27, Arizona 17
Actual Score: New England 47, Arizona 7
Pittsburgh (11-3) at Tennessee (12-2)
In a potential playoff preview, I think the Titans’ defense will be the key factor in this game. Both teams should have their bouts with tough run defenses. But if the Titans can get after Ben Roethlisberger and clamp down on the receivers, I think Tennessee wins this game. I’m guessing they do.
Prediction: Tennessee 20, Pittsburgh 17
Actual Score: Tennessee 31, Pittsburgh 14
San Francisco (5-9) at St. Louis (2-12)
I don’t have much to say about this one. The 49ers are becoming a competitive team again and the Rams have a lot of off-season work to get done. I’m predicting the 49ers will win, but, does it really matter which one of these teams comes up victorious?
Prediction: San Francisco 26, St. Louis 19
Actual Score: San Francisco 17, St. Louis 16
Miami (9-5) at Kansas City (2-12)
I’m awfully tempted to pick the Chiefs in this one. They have the homefield advantage plus the weather edge, and their offense is pretty underrated. But the Dolphins have surprised all season and the Chiefs’ defense can’t stop anybody. Miami should run the ball effectively and control the clock.
Prediction: Miami 23, Kansas City 17
Actual Score: Miami 38, Kansas City 31
San Diego (6-8) at Tampa Bay (9-5)
Tampa Bay has dropped two in a row and have gone from division leaders to clinging to a wild card spot. Up against a disappointing Chargers team, I think the Bucs will win this one at home and maintain their position in the playoff race.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 20, San Diego 14
Actual Score: San Diego 41, Tampa Bay 24
Buffalo (6-8) at Denver (8-6)
The Bills have dropped three in a row and have gone 2-8 since beginning the season with a 4-0 record. Denver picks up the victory and, with it, the AFC West division title.
Prediction: Denver 27, Buffalo 17
Actual Score: Buffalo 30, Denver 23
New York Jets (9-5) at Seattle (3-11)
Two old friends meet up for the last time as the Jets try to inch closer to the playoffs. Brett Favre, who likely won’t play another season, will face his former coach, Mike Holmgren, who is leaving his post as Seahawks coach. The Jets have been winning in spite of Favre rather than because of him, at least lately. But against a bad Seahawks defense, I can see him doing much better.
Prediction: New York Jets 27, Seattle 20
Actual Score: Seattle 13, New York Jets 3
Houston (7-7) at Oakland (3-11)
With as well as the Texans have played the last few weeks, I expect them to roll over the Raiders in this one. The Texans should be able to run the ball effective against the Raiders’ bad run defense and control the clock.
Prediction: Houston 24, Oakland 16
Actual Score: Oakland 27, Houston 16
Atlanta (9-5) at Minnesota (9-5)
This is the game all Bears fans better be watching. It’s the 3 p.m. game on FOX in the Chicago market. We’ll know after it’s over whether Monday night’s matchup against the Packers will still hold playoff implications. We’ve seen both of these teams already, so we know what they’re about. Both teams run the ball exceptionally well and both have 2008 Pro Bowl running backs. My belief is that the Vikings win this game. But for the sake of the Bears, I’ve got everything riding on the Falcons.
Prediction: Atlanta 23, Minnesota 20
Actual Score: Atlanta 24, Minnesota 17
Philadelphia (8-5-1) at Washington (7-7)
This NFC East battle doesn’t hold as much weight as it usually might. The Eagles are on the outside looking in, but still have a slim shot at the playoffs. As for the Redskins, they’ve been struggling lately and just lost to the Bengals. Say no more.
Prediction: Philadelphia 23, Washington 16
Actual Score: Washington 10, Philadelphia 3
Carolina (11-3) at New York Giants (11-3)
What game could be better than a Sunday night matchup pitting the NFC’s top two teams against one another for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs? Carolina has been playing as well as any team in the league right now, and Brandon Jacobs is questionable for the Giants, but I think experience plays an important factor for the Giants.
Prediction: New York Giants 22, Carolina 20
Actual Score: New York Giants 34, Carolina 28
Green Bay (5-9) at Chicago (8-6)
Hopefully, the Bears will still be in the chase for the division title when they play this game, and we’ll know for sure before they take the field. But even if it’s out of the question, this game still has big meaning. It’s Bears-Packers and the Bears have a whole heaping can of revenge they need to open up on the Cheeseheads. Monday’s temperature is forecasted in the single digits with a “feels like” temperature in the negative teens thanks to strong wind gusts. Hopefully history repeats itself and the Packers want nothing to do with this game. But what would be even better is if they did come to play and the Bears smacked them around for 60 minutes anyway. Either way, I don’t see the Bears losing this game with a 10-6 record in sight.
Prediction: Chicago 23, Green Bay 17
Actual Score: Chicago 20, Green Bay 17