A couple of upsets derailed my predictions last week. First, Carolina destroyed the Giants at home. Then, Tampa Bay slipped by the Saints. Next, Colts coach Jim Caldwell pulls a boneheaded move — in my opinion — by benching his starters for most of the second half and the Colts’ undefeated season ended after losing to the Jets. Finally, the Bears upset the Vikings on Monday night. That last loss I’ll gladly accept on my record.
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: 12-4
Indianapolis Colts (14-1) at Buffalo Bills (5-10)
I sat and watched the Colts’ lousy second-half performance by the team’s second-stringers last week against the Jets. The Colts will be playing their backups again this week and as weird as I feel picking them, I’m going with the home Bills.
Prediction: Buffalo 20, Indianapolis 14
Actual Score: Buffalo 30, Indianapolis 7
New Orleans Saints (13-2) at Carolina Panthers (7-8)
The Saints wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs by virtue of the Bears’ victory over the Vikings last Monday night so I don’t know if New Orleans will play its starters much. Regardless, I like the way the Panthers have been playing and don’t like how the Saints have fared.
Prediction: Carolina 24, New Orleans 17
Actual Score: Carolina 23, New Orleans 10
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8) at Cleveland Browns (4-11)
I usually get Jaguars games wrong because they’re so darn unpredictable, so I’m not going to waste much time breaking down this game. I think Jacksonville has more talent, hence, I’ll pick them.
Prediction: Jacksonville 21, Cleveland 20
Actual Score: Cleveland 23, Jacksonville 17
New England Patriots (10-5) at Houston Texans (8-7)
Tom Brady and the other Patriots starters supposedly will play, but for how long is anybody’s guess. I think back to last year and remember how inspired the Texans played in their season finale and I’m expecting another effort like that here.
Prediction: Houston 27, New England 20
Actual Score: Houston 34, New England 27
New York Giants (8-7) at Minnesota Vikings (11-4)
The Vikings haven’t lost at home and I’m not sure if they’ll rest their starters or not, but I think they’re deep enough and the Giants have played poorly enough that the Vikes will stay perfect there.
Prediction: Minnesota 23, New York Giants 17
Actual Score: Minnesota 44, New York Giants 7
San Francisco 49ers (7-8) at St. Louis Rams (1-14)
The Rams picked up one lousy win this season against the lowly Lions. If St. Louis wins this week and Detroit loses, the Rams will not get the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. I’m not saying the Rams are trying to get the first pick, but I’m saying they’ll end up with it.
Prediction: San Francisco 20, St. Louis 13
Actual Score: San Francisco 28, St. Louis 6
Atlanta Falcons (8-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-12)
Atlanta is trying to finish its second consecutive winning season, which would be a first in franchise history. Tampa Bay is coming off its upset win over New Orleans. I find it hard to pick the Bucs at home when they’re lacking much talent, though.
Prediction: Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 14
Actual Score: Atlanta 20, Tampa Bay 10
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (7-8)
The Steelers need help in order to make the playoffs but they have to take care of business first. I think they’ll do just that in Miami.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, Miami 17
Actual Score: Pittsburgh 30, Miami 24
Chicago Bears (6-9) at Detroit Lions (2-13)
Fresh off a huge Monday night victory over the Vikings, I think the Bears will ride that momentum and confidence into a convincing, season-ending win in Detroit.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Detroit 17
Actual Score: Chicago 37, Detroit 23
Philadelphia Eagles (11-4) at Dallas Cowboys (10-5)
This is what I like to see. Eagles-Cowboys, NFC East rivalry, for all the marbles. If it were in Philly, I’d take the Eagles in a second. Still, I like Philadelphia’s chances of securing the division title on the road.
Prediction: Philadelphia 30, Dallas 24
Actual Score: Dallas 24, Philadelphia 0
Kansas City Chiefs (3-12) at Denver Broncos (8-7)
I don’t expect the Broncos to choke away their playoff hopes after starting the season 6-0. They don’t control their own destiny, but I doubt they miss the playoffs by losing to the Chiefs.
Prediction: Denver 24, Kansas City 14
Actual Score: Kansas City 44, Denver 24
Baltimore Ravens (8-7) at Oakland Raiders (5-10)
With a win-and-in scenario, I think the Ravens will be extremely focused and will not lose on the road to the Raiders with the playoffs on the line.
Prediction: Baltimore 23, Oakland 13
Actual Score: Baltimore 21, Oakland 13
Tennessee Titans (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (5-10)
Just imagine, if the Titans hadn’t lost their first six games, we could have been looking at a potential playoff-clinching game here. I still think they come out and run all over Seattle, though.
Prediction: Tennessee 24, Seattle 16
Actual Score: Tennessee 17, Seattle 13
Washington Redskins (4-11) at San Diego Chargers (12-3)
Interesting game to predict here. Are the Redskins bad enough that they won’t be able to beat the Chargers’ backups. The Chargers are supposed to play their starters for a little bit and I think that may be enough to keep their win streak intact.
Prediction: San Diego 20, Washington 17
Actual Score: San Diego 23, Washington 20
Green Bay Packers (10-5) at Arizona Cardinals (10-5)
This could be a preview of the first round of the playoffs. That means we could see a lot of vanilla plays and a lot of backups. I’m going to go with the Cardinals simply because they’re at home. This is virtually an unpredictable game otherwise.
Prediction: Arizona 24, Green Bay 20
Actual Score: Green Bay 33, Arizona 7
Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) at New York Jets (8-7)
Thomas Jones versus Cedric Benson, both running well for playoff-caliber teams and neither one in a Bears uniform. Oh, the irony. It should be fun to see them duel and I have to give the edge to the Jets because they still have to earn a playoff berth. The Bengals may rest Carson Palmer for some or most of the game.
Prediction: New York Jets 23, Cincinnati 17
Actual Score: New York Jets 37, Cincinnati 0