Picking games for Week 15 of the NFL season has a certain added significance.
Not only could my season record use a boost (it's not pretty), these games will also have a big say in who is playing in the postseason and who is sitting at home.
At least two more division titles can be clinched in Week 15, and six of the 16 games actually feature matchups between teams with winning records. With three games left, the margin for error is nearing zero.
In the following slides, we'll break down and predict each of the games on the Week 15 schedule.
The Bengals could very well win this game on the left side of the defensive line. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap (15 combined sacks in 2012) have the ability to run circles around a suspect right half of the Eagles offensive line.
Pick: Bengals 24, Eagles 17
These are two dangerous NFC teams that can't seem to keep the switch in "on" mode. Both have had baffling lapses.
Playing in the Georgia Dome, where Atlanta is 6-0 this season, makes me want to lean the Falcons' way. But in a must-win game, no matter where it is, I'm taking Eli Manning.
Pick: Giants 31, Falcons 27
Remember when the Bears were 7-1 and running away with the NFC North? Two months later, maybe no team is fading as fast as Chicago.
You wonder if the Bears' beat-up and aging defense has enough horsepower left to handle an Aaron Rodgers-led offense that has suddenly found a running game in December.
Pick: Packers 20, Bears 16
While the Browns are no longer a doormat, the playing status of Robert Griffin III makes or breaks this contest for the Redskins. If he plays, Washington is a good bet. If he can't, the Browns could very easily get to six wins with two games left.
Pick: Redskins 24, Browns 20 (with RGIII); Browns 20, Redskins 17 (without RGIII)
For all intents and purposes, this clash represents an elimination game from the NFC playoffs. To stave off a season-ending loss, St. Louis must find a way to slow down Adrian Peterson. But the Vikings desperately need to get something from Christian Ponder to stay alive. It's possible neither team gets what it needs Sunday.
Pick: Vikings 17, Rams 14
The Dolphins have lost five of six games, but three of the losses have come against playoff teams (Indianapolis, New England, San Francisco). Miami was in each of those games.
Winning out may not get the Dolphins into the playoffs, but building momentum for next season now can pay off next September.
Pick: Dolphins 27, Jaguars 17
A month ago, the Bucs and Saints were surging towards a potential playoff spot in the NFC. Each has now lost three straight games, putting any postseason talk on serious hold.
Sunday essentially works as an elimination game. The Bucs pass defense will continue to let them down, even against a suddenly turnover-happy Drew Brees.
Pick: Saints 34, Buccaneers 31
Losers of two straight games, the Ravens now welcome a Broncos team to Baltimore that has had a few extra days to get ready. Are the Ravens vulnerable for a late-season skid? After Denver, Baltimore must play the Giants and Bengals. Peyton Manning gets his first big road win for the Broncos.
Pick: Broncos 30, Ravens 24
If the cards fall right, there's a chance that Sunday's matchup could be the first of three between the Colts and Texans over the next month. Houston can make sure that doesn't happen by taking care of business over the last three games.
The Texans bounce back from another disappointing prime-time showing with a punch-the-clock performance against the still-learning Colts.
Pick: Texans 27, Colts 16
The Seahawks have been a different team away from Seattle this season, but at least they have the comfort of playing in Toronto. Technically, that reality makes this a road game for both teams.
Russell Wilson and Co. should also have the necessary confidence after coming back to beat the Bears on the road two weeks ago. Buffalo will need a big game from C.J. Spiller to pull off the upset.
Pick: Seahawks 24, Bills 23
The Cardinals have lost nine games in a row, and that streak won't end until there's something better coming from the quarterback position. Fans in Arizona should be in revolt over the product they've been given at the game's most important position. The defense will keep the Cardinals in it at home, but another loss is coming.
Pick: Lions 23, Cardinals 10
Just when you thought a Norv Turner team was dead, the Chargers head coach helps pull off the team's most impressive win of the 2012 season in Pittsburgh. We probably should have seen it coming. This San Diego team will likely make a late run to restart the conversation about Turner's future with the club.
Pick: Chargers 27, Panthers 24
Both teams can ill-afford a loss at this point. The Steelers have the Bengals breathing down their neck, while the Cowboys are one game out in both the NFC East and wild-card races.
Pittsburgh's banged-up secondary is a real issue—one that Tony Romo and Dez Bryant (hurt finger or not) can exploit.
Pick: Cowboys 27, Steelers 24
The only importance this game holds is in next April's draft order. In fact, the Chiefs might be better served to let their AFC rivals have one.
With Kansas City still feeling the aftershocks of the Jovan Belcher tragedy, Oakland sneaks out a win at home.
Pick: Raiders 17, Chiefs 16
I hesitate to call this a potential Super Bowl preview, because Patriots-Texans last week looked like such a good call for the potential AFC Championship Game. New England made quick work of that prediction.
The 49ers are better built to attack the Patriots, but can we really expect Colin Kaepernick to go into Tom Brady's backyard and leave with a win?
Pick: Patriots 27, 49ers 20
Such a wonderful slate of games ends Monday night with a whimper. Believe it or not, the Jets could get one step closer to stealing a playoff spot with a win. Almost unbelievably, three games against teams under .500 gives the Jets a chance to win nine games. Maybe the Titans derail New York's postseason train early and end the madness.
Pick: Titans 20, Jets 17