Last week, I finished with an 11-5 mark for the second straight week. Miami’s upset win over the Patriots and the Raiders’ upset over the Steelers were the two biggest surprises for me. Arizona’s victory over the Vikings was also a bit unexpected. Then there was Jacksonville’s victory over Houston and Seattle’s win against the 49ers 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: 11-5
This Week: 12-3
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6) at Cleveland Browns (1-11)
Prediction: No pick.
Actual Score: Cleveland 13, Pittsburgh 6
New Orleans Saints (12-0) at Atlanta Falcons (6-6)
It’s true what they say that each game a team plays toward a perfect season is harder than the previous one and this week is no exception. Even though the Falcons have struggled this year, they’ll give the Saints everything they have. While most analysts look for the week an undefeated goes down, I prefer to ride the horse until he loses.
Prediction: New Orleans 30, Atlanta 23
Actual Score: New Orleans 26, Atlanta 23
Detroit Lions (2-10) at Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
I wouldn’t expect much of a fight from the Lions on the road against a physical Ravens team. Baltimore should run all over the Lions and shut down their offense.
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Detroit 14
Actual Score: Baltimore 48, Detroit 3
Green Bay Packers (8-4) at Chicago Bears (5-7)
The Packers are better in all three phases of the game than the Bears and I haven’t seen anything from Chicago that would indicate an upset victory, even if it is a rivalry game at home.
Prediction: Green Bay 24, Chicago 20
Actual Score: Green Bay 21, Chicago 14
Seattle Seahawks (5-7) at Houston Texans (5-7)
The Texans have been an utter disappointment yet again. They seemingly have had the talent to make a playoff push the past few years and all they can do is hover around .500. They should be able to beat the visiting Seahawks, though.
Prediction: Houston 28, Seattle 21
Actual Score: Houston 34, Seattle 7
Denver Broncos (8-4) at Indianapolis Colts (12-0)
This should be a fun game to watch. Denver’ secondary has been pretty good this year and they’ll be needed against Peyton Manning. Much like I did with the Saints, I’m going to pick Indy until they lose. I’ll take Manning over Kyle Orton in a shootout any day.
Prediction: Indianapolis 23, Denver 17
Actual Score: Indianapolis 28, Denver 16
Miami Dolphins (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5)
I was surprised the Dolphins beat the Patriots last week, but it would not surprise me if they fell to the Jaguars this week. I have predicted almost every Jaguars game wrong this year. They’re two games over .500 but they seem like a bad football team. I’m going to go against my gut instinct, which is to pick the Dolphins, because the Jaguars have been stubbornly inconsistent all year.
Prediction: Jacksonville 23, Miami 21
Actual Score: Miami 14, Jacksonville 10
Buffalo Bills (4-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-9)
The Bills have been playing better ever since they changed coaches. I don’t like that they’re on the road this week, but the Chiefs’ defense has given up the third-most points in the league this year.
Prediction: Buffalo 21, Kansas City 17
Actual Score: Buffalo 16, Kansas City 10
Cincinnati Bengals (9-3) at Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
This is an intriguing matchup for many reasons. First, the Vikings have been the best run defense in the NFL over the last three or four years and are currently second behind the Bengals. Both run games should be neutralized in this one. That presents an interesting Carson Palmer versus Brett Favre duel. If that is the case, I like Favre’s weapons and his home field advantage to put the Vikings over the top.
Prediction: Minnesota 23, Cincinnati 20
Actual Score: Minnesota 30, Cincinnati 10
Carolina Panthers (5-7) at New England Patriots (7-5)
The Patriots were upset by the Dolphins last week. I don’t expect that to happen two weeks in a row, especially with this game at home.
Prediction: New England 24, Carolina 17
Actual Score: New England 20, Carolina 10
New York Jets (6-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-11)
Part of me feels the Buccaneers can pull off the upset. They have home field advantage and have shown flashes of improvement lately. Not to mention, the Jets have been dismal at times. But the Jets have the No. 1 rushing offense and the Buccaneers have the second-worst run defense.
Prediction: New York Jets 24, Tampa Bay 16
Actual Score: New York Jets 26, Tampa Bay 3
St. Louis Rams (1-11) at Tennessee Titans (5-7)
The Titans had won five in a row before suffering a slight setback to the Colts last week. I expect them to get back on that winning bandwagon this week, with a legitimate chance at finishing the season 9-7.
Prediction: Tennessee 27, St. Louis 17
Actual Score: Tennessee 47, St. Louis 7
Washington Redskins (3-9) at Oakland Raiders (4-8)
The Raiders pulled off an upset in Pittsburgh last week and the Redskins nearly did the same over the undefeated Saints. Both teams are playing with confidence, which makes this one difficult to predict. The Redskins statistically match up better, so I’m going with Washington on the road.
Prediction: Washington 20, Oakland 14
Actual Score: Washington 34, Oakland 13
San Diego Chargers (9-3) at Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
The Chargers, outside of the undefeated Colts and Saints, remain the NFL’s hottest team having won their last seven games. I like the chances of their passing game giving the Cowboys’ defense fits.
Prediction: San Diego 23, Dallas 20
Actual Score: San Diego 20, Dallas 17
Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) at New York Giants (7-5)
This should be a tight battle, as most NFC East games are. The Giants came up big with a victory over the Cowboys last week, and I like them to do the same here to make the division race even more interesting.
Prediction: New York Giants 27, Philadelphia 23
Actual Score: Philadelphia 45, New York Giants 38
Arizona Cardinals (8-4) at San Francisco 49ers (5-7)
You can bet the Cardinals have payback on their minds after losing the season opener to these same 49ers. Since then, the Cardinals have gotten better while the 49ers have gotten worse. I like Arizona to win this one on the road, where they’ve been good all season long.
Prediction: Arizona 24, San Francisco 20
Actual Score: San Francisco 24, Arizona 9
- Free Agency: Is Shea McClellin done with Bears?
- Would Jahri Evans make sense for the Bears?
- Super Bowl 50: Peyton Manning, Cam Newton differences plentiful
- Super Bowl 50: Pass rush still most valuable NFL asset
- NFL Predictions: 2015 Week 21 Picks — Super Bowl 50
- Super Bowl Odds: Analyzing the lines for 2016 season
- Bears' Zach Miller seeking big free agent contract
- Cam Newton’s race comments off base, miss the point
- Dave Wannstedt offers solution to defending Carolina Panthers
- Phil Emery joining Atlanta Falcons scouting department