This weekend's games represent the start of the final quarter of the 2013 NFL season. Despite losing to the Patriots, the Denver Horsefaces appear to be a sure bet to earn the top seed in the AFC playoff tournament, as they face four sub .500 teams down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Patriots have the Browns at home this week, then tough back to back road games, @ Baltimore and @ Miami...before closing the regular season with the Buffalo Bills in Foxborough. Considering New England's injury situation, earning a first round playoff bye is a must.
Here are my picks, with the "Game of the Week" being:
1.) (9-3) Carolina Panthers (+3.5) @ (9-3) New Orleans Saints: This winner of this game will likely win the NFC South. The winner also will have the inside track for the #2 seed, and a bye week in the NFC playoff tournament. One thing is clear...the Saints cannot beat the better teams on the road. They are a far better team when their play in their dome sweet dome. The Panthers are on a huge winning streak, and are coming off an impressive beat down over the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Saints are on a short week, after getting manhandled Monday night in Seattle. I really like that Carolina defense: PICK: Panthers;
2.) (2-10) Houston Texans @ (3-9) Jacksonville Jaguars (+3): How many times do you see a (2-10) team go on the road to play a team with a better record...and yet they are favored? Sorry Antonio Smith, but rumor has it that the Jaguars have actually scouted and prepared to play your sorry team: PICK: Jaguars;
3.) (9-3) Kansas City Chiefs @ (3-9) Washington Redskins (+3.5): The Deadskins are the tonic the Chiefs need to cure their three game losing streak. Washington football fans must be tickled pink knowing that their team's #1 draft choice, both this year and next, belongs to the St. Louis Rams: PICK: Chiefs;
4.) (3-8-1) Minnesota Vikings (+7) @ (6-6) Baltimore Ravens: The Buzzards are rounding into form just at the right time. They look like a great bet to secure the 6th and final AFC playoff spot. They are especially tough on their home field: PICK: Ravens;
5.) (4-8) Cleveland Browns (+11.5) @ (9-3) New England Patriots: If Jason Campbell were healthy, and able to start this Sunday at QB for Cleveland, I'd strongly consider taking the Browns and the 11.5 points. But, with Campbell still awaiting clearance from doctors regarding concussion symptoms, Alex "Tick Shot" Tanney will likely start this week. Tanney is the guy who did the video of throwing passes through a basketball hoop, and making long, accurate passes to hit a distant target. If he starts, it will be interesting to see just how accurate he is when there are 300 pound guys trying to get at him, and rip him to shreds. The weather forecast is for a cold, clear, 34 degree day, this Sunday. Don't know if the Pats can cover such a large spread: PICK: Patriots;
6.) (4-8) Oakland Raiders (+3) @ (5-7) N.Y. Jets: The Jets are what we think they ought they would be, at the start of the season. Nice of the Jets to extend holliday greeting to the Raiders, by allowing Geno Smith to serve up another batch of turnovers: PICK: Raiders;
7.) (8-4) Indianapolis Colts (+5.5) @ (8-4) Cincinnati Bengals: A Colts win would be a greater benefit to the Patriots, than a Bengals win. Why? Because the Bengals hold the playoff tie-breaker advantage over New England, thanks to their 13-6 Week 5 win over the Pats. But, the way that the Colts are playing of late: PICK: Bengals;
8.) (7-5) Detroit Lions (+3) @ (7-5) Philadelphia Eagles: You have to like what QB Nick Foles is doing in Philly. Though the Lions smoked the Rodgers-less Packers on Thankgiving Day, their are unbelievably inconsistent. If Patriot fans think that their team has turnover concerns, they should take a look at films of the last few Lions' games: PICK: Eagles;
9.) (6-6) Miami Dolphins (+3) @ (5-7) Pittsburgh Steelers: Thank God that that ridicuolous Bullygate "scandal" as died down, at least for the time being. Coming off a pounding of the wingless Jets last week, the Dolphins are beginning to believe again. The Steelers are playing much better ball since their Foxborough meltdown, and gave the Ravens all they could handle last week in Baltimore. This should be a good, tough, physical game. Mike Wallace returning to Pittsburgh should be an an interesting side-show. Can Miami's defense steal this one from the Steelers? They'll have to sack Big Ben early and often, to do so: PICK: Dolphins;
10.) (4-7) Buffalo Bills (+2.5) @ (3-9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Though the Bucs were pounded last week in Carolina, the Bills are not the Panthers. Tampa has been playing better of late, while Buffalo seems content to run out the clock on this season. Having to play "home games" in Toronto will tend to dampen anybody's enthusiasm: PICK: Buccaneers;
11.) (5-7) Tennessee Titans (+12) @ (10-2) Denver Broncos: Tennessee blew a golden opportunity to challenge the Colts for supremacy in the woeful AFC South last week. This week, they'll play the part of the Washington Generals to the Horsefaced Globetrotters in the Mile High city: PICK: Broncos;
12.) (5-7) St. Louis Rams (+6.5) @ (7-5) Arizona Cardinals: Thanks to the RG III trade with Washington last year, no NFL team has a brighter future than the Rams. They own the Deadskins' #1 draft choice, this year and next. If they make the right selections, the Rams could be downright scary in a couple of years. Just what the NFC West needs...another rough, tough, physical team, that can dominate on any given Sunday. Like most dome teams, the Cards are a much better team at home, than on the road: PICK: Cardinals;
13.) (5-7) N.Y. Giants (+3) @ (5-7) San Diego Chargers: The Giants are finally playing respectably. Kudos to Tom Coughlin for turning his team around, after a disasterous start. The Chargers are like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're going to get: PICK: Giants;
14.) (11-1) Seattle Seahawks (+2.5) @ (8-4) San Francisco 49ers: Drew some serious consideration for "Game of the Week". Both teams appear to be peaking. This game should turn out to be a war: PICK: Seahawks;
15.) (3-9) Atlanta Falcons (PK) @ (5-6-1) Green Bay Packers: Here's a chance for the Falcons to extract a measure of revenge on the Packers, by knocking them completely out of the playoff picture. It's also an opportunity for them to save their coaches' job. The Packers must win this game if they hope to salvage their season: PICK: Packers;
16.) (7-5) Dallas Cowboys (PK) @ (6-6) Chicago Bears: Huge Monday night game for both teams. Bears' QB Jay Cutler may return. Dallas needs to continue to win in order to starve off the charging Philadelphia Eagles, in the NFC East: PICK: Bears.
BEST BETS: Jaguars, Chiefs, Raiders (Jets suck!), Broncos.
As always, your comments and predictions are welcome. Have a great day, my friends!