After missing just two games in Week 8, I went 8-5 last week. Tampa Bay’s victory over Green Bay, the Giants’ fourth-straight loss against the Chargers, Cincinnati’s win over Baltimore, Tennessee’s victory over San Francisco, and Dallas’ win over the Eagles were the games that tripped me up.
Here’s a look at this week’s matchups and how I think they’ll play out.
Full predictions will come Saturday.
Last Week: 8-5
This Week: 7-8
Chicago Bears (4-4) at San Francisco 49ers (3-5)
The 49ers may have Alex Smith under center, but they have Frank Gore carrying the rock. Jay Cutler should be able to keep the Bears in this game against a bad 49ers pass defense, but the way the Bears have been playing defense lately, I don’t think they can stop anybody. I need to see them do it first.
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Chicago 21
Actual Score: San Francisco 10, Chicago 6
Atlanta Falcons (5-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-5)
Carolina has played better as of late but with the Falcons pressured to win to stay ahead of the game in the wild card hunt, I like Atlanta on the road. They run the ball well and Carolina is near the bottom third of the league at defending against it. The Panthers do defend the pass well, so that should keep things close.
Prediction: Atlanta 24, Carolina 20
Actual Score: Carolina 28, Atlanta 19
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7) at Miami Dolphins (3-5)
The Buccaneers surprised their fans with an upset over the Packers last week, but the “Buc” stops there — pun intended. Miami has played well at home and their No. 4 rushing offense should be able to run all over the Buccaneers’ No. 30 run defense.
Prediction: Miami 27, Tampa Bay 17
Actual Score: Miami 25, Tampa Bay 23
Detroit Lions (1-7) at Minnesota Vikings (7-1)
The Vikings cannot let this be a trap game for them, but to what exactly would they be looking ahead? Next week against Seattle? The following week against the Bears? Minnesota has had two weeks to prepare for this game and they should roll over the Lions at home.
Prediction: Minnesota 30, Detroit 13
Actual Score: Minnesota 27, Detroit 10
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) at New York Jets (4-4)
I don’t know how the Jaguars picked up four victories this season. Sort of a head-scratcher. The Jets have been up and down this year, but I like their talent at home in this one.
Prediction: New York Jets 23, Jacksonville 17
Actual Score: Jacksonville 24, New York Jets 22
Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
The Bengals have a good football team. But they’re also contenders for the crown of “most overrated team in the league.” This is not the same Steelers team that the Bengals beat back in Week 3. One of Cedric Benson’s worst performances came against the Steelers. Ditto for Carson Palmer. The Steelers rarely lose at home and are playing as well as any team in the league right now.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 21
Actual Score: Cincinnati 18, Pittsburgh 12
New Orleans Saints (8-0) at St. Louis Rams (1-7)
One of the league’s finest will take on one of the league’s ugliest. Should be a fun day for Saints fans. I’m not saying the Rams can’t win, because we’ve seen crazier things happen. But we’ve also seen the Saints have the ability to pick up comeback wins after trailing by big deficits this year. If this were a high school game, we’d get a running clock by halftime.
Prediction: New Orleans 41, St. Louis 15
Actual Score: New Orleans 28, St. Louis 23
Buffalo Bills (3-5) at Tennessee Titans (2-6)
Have the Titans finally remembered how to play football after winning their last two games? The victories have come against two bad opponents, but that’s got to count for something. I think the Titans’ ability to run the ball — they’re ranked No. 2 — paired with the Bills’ inability to stop the run — they’re ranked dead last — gives Tennessee the edge.
Prediction: Tennessee 23, Buffalo 16
Actual Score: Tennessee 41, Buffalo 17
Denver Broncos (6-2) at Washington Redskins (2-6)
I think defenses have started to figure out Kyle Orton and the Broncos’ offense. If they haven’t, they will shortly after reviewing game film of the Broncos’ two losses in as many weeks. But the Redskins are a bad football team, so Denver should be able to win this one on the road.
Prediction: Denver 20, Washington 14
Actual Score: Washington 27, Denver 17
Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) at Oakland Raiders (2-6)
How’s a guy to choose between two bad football teams? I’m flipping a coin. Tails? I’m going with the Raiders. Both of these teams are terrible defending the run, but the Raiders actually have a decent pass defense. I’ll take that plus the home field advantage.
Prediction: Oakland 20, Kansas City 17
Actual Score: Kansas City 16, Oakland 10
Seattle Seahawks (3-5) at Arizona Cardinals (5-3)
The Cardinals haven’t done so well in home games this year but the Seahawks are far from legitimate contenders. Following last week’s pummeling of the Bears, I think Arizona has sort of found itself and will cruise in this one.
Prediction: Arizona 28, Seattle 17
Actual Score: Arizona 31, Seattle 20
Dallas Cowboys (6-2) at Green Bay Packers (4-4)
This is a game where I otherwise might have gone against my instincts and predicted the Packers to win. They’ve got a great offense, save for their line, and an opportunistic defense, ranked No. 4 in the league. But the Cowboys have been playing really well the past month of the season and are ranked No. 11 in sacks. I think that Packers offensive line might be their undoing.
Prediction: Dallas 27, Green Bay 20
Actual Score: Green Bay 17, Dallas 7
Philadelphia Eagles (5-3) at San Diego Chargers (5-3)
The Chargers have the No. 7 passing offense but the worst rushing offense in the league. Who would have ever thought that back during the days when LaDainian Tomlinson ruled the league? I like the Eagles to bounce back with a road victory.
Prediction: Philadelphia 24, San Diego 21
Actual Score: San Diego 31, Philadelphia 23
New England Patriots (6-2) at Indianapolis Colts (8-0)
Not only the best game of the week, but it could wind up being the best game of the year when all is said and done. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will forever be linked together as this era’s best quarterbacks and they’ve had some historic matchups. The Patriots began the season slow but have since been on fire. The Colts lost a couple defensive backs and Brady could exploit that. As much as I don’t want to, I’m going with the Patriots.
Prediction: New England 23, Indianapolis 20
Actual Score: Indianapolis 35, New England 34
Baltimore Ravens (4-4) at Cleveland Browns (1-7)
The only thing of interest to watch in this game is the opening kickoff, to see if Cleveland fans really go through with their planned protest. Or, if you’re one of those people who slow down to look at car accidents, this might tickle your fancy. The Ravens, fresh off a division loss to the Bengals will be playing much better football this week against an inept Browns team.
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Cleveland 14
Actual Score: Baltimore 16, Cleveland 0