Here at this week's NFL picks. As always, they are against the spread.
Dolphins (-3) at Bills (+3) -- After what the Dolphins were able to accomplish against the Patriots last week, a 24-20 win, and given their current three-game winning streak, it would seem plausible that Miami could split its season series with Buffalo, which has lost two of its last three.
My pick: Dolphins
Saints (+3) at Panthers (-3) -- Didn't you get the message loud and clear two weeks ago? The Saints have the Panthers figured out. In Week 14, New Orleans became the first team to score 30 or more points on Carolina this season. Mistakes will surely be corrected, but a win for the Panthers won't come easy.
My pick: Saints
Vikings (+8) at Bengals (-8) -- Do you believe in Matt Asiata, Matt Cassell, and the Minnesota Vikings sans Adrian Peterson? They certainly put on a fantastic show last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, a 48-30 win. But this week they face a more stout defense (7th overall against the pass, 5th overall against the run) and what I'll term a more stable offense. There's no reason that the Vikings should win this game, especially because this week they won't surprise anybody, but they should at least be competitive.
My pick: Vikings
Broncos (-10.5) at Texans (+10.5) -- The Texans have lost all spirit, losing their 12th straight game last week. This Broncos team, motivated by the possibility of home field advantage throughout the playoffs, will not show any mercy.
My pick: Broncos
Titans (-5) at Jaguars (+5) -- Consider pride the top factor in this contest. The Titans were 4-4 when the lowly Jaguars, 0-8 at the time, came to visit them. Tennessee lost that game to what was then considered the worst team in the NFL. Now with the Titans, at 5-9, and the Jaguars, at 4-10, finish their season series in Jacksonville with a win for either opponent likely determining which team finishes second or third in the AFC South. If their first game is any indication, 29-27 Jacksonville, it'll be close. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is questionable with a hamstring injury.
My pick: Titans
Colts (+7) at Chiefs (-7) -- The Chiefs may see a boost on defense with the return of outside linebacker Justin Houston (11.0 sacks), who has missed the past three weeks a dislocated elbow. They're coming off their most productive offensive outing, a 56-31 thumping of the Oakland Raiders. The Colts, who have already locked away the mediocre AFC South, are coming off a resounding 25-3 win over the Houston Texans. But the Colts' 27th ranked rushing defense (128.9 yards allowed per game) will have problems with Chiefs' Jamaal Charles (1,181 yards, 11 touchdowns).
My pick: Chiefs
Browns (+2) at Jets (-2) --This is precisely the kind of matchup the Browns need to snap their five-game losing streak. With the ninth best passing defense and eighth best rushing defense, Cleveland matches up well against a Jets team that has become too one-dimensional. With New York's reliance on the run, and Geno Smith's penchant for turnovers (21 interceptions, 4 fumbles), a focused Cleveland team could wipe the floor with the Jets.
My pick: Browns
Buccaneers (+4) at Rams (-4) -- The Buccaneers (4-10) have won four of their last six games, falling to the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers expectedly. The Rams (6-8) had a surprising win over the New Orleans Saints last week, adding to a season of surprise wins against the Colts, Bears, and, to a lesser extent, the Texans. With St. Louis being at home and with Tavon Austin (ankle) and Daryl Richardson (thigh) questionable to return, St. Louis could get just enough of a boost to topple another good team.
My pick: Rams
Cowboys (-3) at Washington (+3) -- For the Cowboys to have a shot at the NFC East division title, they have to win out. Beating Washington, a team Dallas defeated 31-16 in Week 6, is just one step closer to that goal. But the Cowboys also have to win out to likely make the playoffs, with wildcard seeds likely going to the San Francisco 49ers (10-4) Carolina Panthers (10-4), thanks to weaker divisions in the NFC North and East. The Arizona Cardinals (9-5) are in the hunt, too. So the Cowboys have plenty of motivation to win or be eliminated from postseason contention.
My pick: Cowboys
Giants (+10) at Lions (-10) -- Despite five turnovers last week against the Seattle Seahawks, all of which were committed by Eli Manning, the New York Giants defense showed it had enough of a backbone to keep the game marginally close given the circumstances. The Giants held the Seahawks to 327 yards on 67 plays, 193 yards passing and 134 rushing. That was following a disappointing 37-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Imagine if Manning, who has 25 interceptions this year to 16 touchdown passes, did not turnover the ball so frequently. The Giants will lose this one to Detroit because the Lions have some motivation to make it to the playoffs, but I believe New York will keep it close.
My pick: Giants
Cardinals (+10.5) at Seahawks (-10.5) -- This is one episode in which the the team fighting for its playoff life, the Cardinals (9-5), may not have enough juice to handle a juggernaut like the Seahawks (12-2). The Cardinals have won seven of their last eight games, including last week's overtime win over the Tennessee Titans. They have the top run defense in the league, allowing 83.2 yards allowed per game. That bodes well for a Seahawks team that has the second best rushing offense (141.0 yards per game). But the common denominator in each of the Seahawks' two losses requires a poor outing from Russel Wilson, including an interception, and seven or more penalties. You simply can't expect or predict that. But you can believe that this Cardinals team will keep it close.
My pick: Cardinals
Patriots (+2) at Ravens (-2) -- Baltimore has taken the last two games from the Patriots, including the AFC Championship last year. But the Patriots dominate the overall series, 7-3, and are 7-1 against Baltimore in the regular season. The Patriots also do a fantastic job of bouncing back after a loss as well. They have the added carrot of their fifth straight AFC East title sticking out in front of them with a win. Wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins are questionable for Sunday's game, which could help given that Josh Boyce is out with an ankle injury.
My pick: Patriots
Steelers (+2) at Packers (-2) -- Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is not expected to play on Sunday and so far that hasn't been a detriment to the Packers. Matt Flynn entered last week's game against the Dallas Cowboys having gone 1-1-1 during his three starts, getting better each week. The Packers' miraculous 37-36 come-from-behind win against the Cowboys was sparked by his solid play. However, the Steelers (6-8) are another animal. They've won four of their last six games, including an impressive victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last week. With the eight best pass defense, I like the Steelers' chances.
My pick: Steelers
Raiders (+10) at Chargers (-10) -- It's obvious that you can't trust the Oakland Raiders (4-10) for any consistency. But when it comes to the Cargers, the Raiders come up with some magic that makes life difficult for their division opponent. Oakland took the first bout in the season series 27-17 in Week 5. But that was the Terrelle Pryor era. He was replaced by Matt McGloin under center in Week 11. McGloin won his first game (against the Houston Texans) and the Raiders have gone 0-for-4 ever since.
My pick: Chargers
Bears (+3) at Eagles (-3) -- With Jay Cutler back in the starting lineup, the Bears (8-6) squeaked out a 38-31 win over the Cleveland Browns last week. That ended any talk about whether Josh McCown should continue to start in his place. But that doesn't answer whether the 32nd ranked rush defense can deal with LeSean McCoy and the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles (8-6). These two teams are on the exact opposite of the spectrum when it comes to the running game, a huge advantage for Philadelphia. LB Lance Briggs is also questionable for the game with a shoulder injury. A win for the Bears clinches the NFC North. The Eagles have a terrible time defending the pass, allowing 291.6 yards per game. They're coming off an embarrassing loss to the Minnesota Vikings. They need this win just as much as the Bears do.
My pick: Eagles
Falcons (+14) at 49ers (-14) -- Atlanta is having the best stretch of its season, winning two of its last three games, including last week's 27-26 win over Washington. But this team with so many deficiencies (32nd overall rushing, 25th against the pas, 29th against the run) probably doesn't have a good chance against a 49ers (10-4) team that is heating up as the season winds down. They're on a four-game winning streak and looking to lock up a playoff spot with a win. That doesn't mean they'll clear a 14-point hurdle though.
My pick: Falcons
Last week: 8-8