The Patriots will face the Texans in a hotly-contested week 14 matchup.
Week 13 is in the books, and Week 14 is now upon us.
Another full slate of games is on the docket, several of which have serious playoff implications. The Monday Night Football showdown between the Houston Texans and New England Patriots is sure to draw the headlines, but divisional matchups such as Chicago versus Minnesota could have a lasting effect on the wild card race as well.
There are a handful of games that appear even on paper. Let's take a closer look at some of the tougher games to pick this week.
The Chicago Bears are firmly entrenched as a playoff team at 8-4, but the Packers own the tie-breaker atop the NFC North. Chicago needs a win to keep pace with Green Bay before their Week 15 showdown next week.
The Vikings started the year 5-2, but they have since lost four of their last five contests.
Chicago is likely headed for the postseason either as the NFC North champion or as a wild card, while Minnesota desperately needs a win to keep its playoff hopes alive.
As a member of the Chicago Bears, quarterback Jay Cutler is 5-1 in six career starts against the Vikings. He's thrown 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions in those games, while averaging just over 217 yards. So if past statistics offer any indication of what might play out on Sunday, Cutler and the Bears should fare well.
Minnesota is the home team, and I think this will be a close game, however, the Bears are simply a better team than the Vikings. I think the line is dead-on, but I'll take the more-talented Bears in this one.
Pick straight-up: Chicago
Pick ATS: Chicago (-3)
Following a road loss to Atlanta on Thursday night, the New Orleans Saints' playoff hopes have all but evaporated. If the Saints are going to sneak into the postseason, they'll likely need to win all four of their remaining games.
The Giants, on the other hand, appear poised to go on yet another late-season run into the playoffs. Eli Manning has bounced back from a shaky few weeks prior to the bye, and he's back to playing at an elite level.
Manning should enjoy a field day against a weak Saints secondary, while the Giants' pass rush should be able to pressure Drew Brees and force him into some bad throws.
Brees is coming off a five-interception game against the Falcons, but I think he'll keep this game close. If the Saints can keep Brees upright, there are holes in that Giants secondary to be exploited. New York will win the game, but it should be a shootout.
Pick straight-up: NY Giants
Pick ATS: NY Giants (NL)
Baltimore is fortunate to be 9-3 right now.
Five of Baltimore's 10 wins have been by three points or fewer. The ball has bounced the Ravens' way up to this point, but it will be interesting to see whether or not their luck continues as the playoffs draw near.
Baltimore's trend of close games suggests that the Ravens are a resilient bunch. On the other hand, Washington has played in only two games decided by three points or fewer this season. The Redskins are 1-1 in those two contests.
Playing at home, Washington figures to give Baltimore a competitive game this week.
The Ravens are overdue for a close loss, and I think the Redskins are poised to pull of the home upset this week. Baltimore's rush defense has not been up to its usual elite level, so Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III should enjoy a productive afternoon.
Pick straight-up: Washington
Pick ATS: Washington (-1)
This game won't receive a ton of national attention. However, a compelling case can be made for either team to come out with a win.
Playing at home, the Bills are slightly favored in this contest. Buffalo's passing game hasn't been great this year, but running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson provide stability to the Bills' offense.
The Rams have been better on offense this season, but they rank just 28th in the NFL in scoring offense. St. Louis may be able to improve their 18.4-points-per-game average against Buffalo's porous defense.
The Bills have the 29th-ranked scoring defense in the league, allowing 28.1 points per game. They can expect a heavy dose of Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson, as they're allowing opponents to grind out an average of 139.2 yards per game on the ground.
This is an extremely tough game to call. An easy case can be made for the Bills, but the Rams' defense is so much better than Buffalo's. And for that reason, I'll take the Rams in a close game here.
Pick straight-up: St. Louis
Pick ATS: St Louis (+3)
Neither the Patriots nor the Texans have lost since Oct. 14.
This week, the two AFC powerhouses will play in the national spotlight on Monday Night Football. On paper, these two teams appear just about even.
Houston boasts one of the strongest, most physical defenses in the league, while New England has been the most consistently explosive offense in football. If the Patriots can contain J.J. Watt, Tom Brady could expose the Texans secondary much like Aaron Rodgers did earlier this year.
With only one loss on the season, the Texans are poised to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC. If the Patriots have any hope of earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they absolutely must win this game.
Playing at home with playoff implications on the line, I think New England will win this game. The early point spread favors the Patriots by four, but I would feel comfortable taking the Texans against the spread.
This will be a very close and entertaining game.
Pick straight up: New England
Pick ATS: Houston (+4)