Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh's season is in a state of crisis after losing four straight games. Good news for Pittsburgh...Cleveland has lost more than four in a row.
Pittsburgh 28 (-9.5), Cleveland 10
Tennessee vs. St. Louis
The NFL's two leading rushers will go at in this one and Chris Johnson is in no danger of being passed by Steven Jackson. Johnson will be close to 1,700 rushing yards by the time this game ends, putting him a fairly good position to break Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record. St. Louis will help him and help the Titans make a last-gasp effort at the final playoff spot (not entirely impossible).
Tennessee 34 (-12.5), St. Louis 7
Baltimore vs. Detroit
Baltimore is in an almost identical situation as their division rival Pittsburgh. They stand at 6-6 and face a dismal opponent this week. A win by both teams could set up a Steelers-Ravens matchup at Heinz Field for the final playoff spot in two weeks. Baltimore shouldn't have any problems against the Lions, especially at home trying to keep playoff aspirations alive.
Baltimore 27 (-13.5), Detroit 9 (Lock of the Week)
Chicago vs. Green Bay
To think that Chicago was picked as a potential contender as the season began. The story has been disappointment, disappointment, and disappointment.
Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay have been pleasant surprises for the cheese heads up in Green Bay. Rodgers might be the hottest QB in the league right now, and in case nobody's noticed, the Bears defense stinks. Rodgers has another big game against their weak pass defense.
Now for my almost weekly "Jay Cutler stinks" rant. People seem to think that this Cutler is completely different from the one in Denver last season. In fact it's almost the exact same player. He threw interceptions by the bunches in Denver and blew several big games for the Broncos last year. He is not a smart player at all (doesn't seem too bright off the field either). Sorry Chicago fans, but Cutler won't be anywhere near the guy you thought you were getting.
Green Bay 31 (-3.5), Chicago 16
Atlanta vs. New Orleans
Matt Ryan is likely out for this game as well. Even if Michael Turner plays, he will surely be slowed by injury. The Saints roll into the Georgia Dome at the most opportune time and will improve their record to 13-0 rather easily. What looked like a major steppingstone a few weeks ago, now looks like nothing more than a road game against a very average Falcons offense with a bad defense. Brees is going to go off.
New Orleans 38 (-9.5), Atlanta 14
Jacksonville vs. Miami
These two teams are fighting for their playoff lives (probably in a one-third empty Jaguars stadium). The Jags have had a slightly crazy season, but find themselves in a very good position to make the playoffs if they can win this game. This is a team that lost 41-0 to Seattle! If Jones-Drew is allowed to run loose then the Jaguars will win this game. He will run loose.
Jacksonville 17 (-2.5), Miami 13
Houston vs. Seattle
Houston was once 5-3 and likely headed towards the playoffs a few weeks ago. Now they have the same record as the lowly Seahawks (5-7). If Gary Kubiak remains employed at the end of the year then Texans fans should riot. His team has faded down the stretch in too many games this year. Yeah, it's really not the coach's fault, but somebody's got to go, and it's Kubiak.
The Texans will win this game at home against a below average Seahawks, despite losing Steve Slaton for the season with a most likely precautionary designation to the injured reserve because of numbness from a neck injury. Even if Rex Grossman plays, Houston will win (but the score would be closer).
Houston 27 (-6.5), Seattle 17
Minnesota vs. Cincinnati
This is exactly the kind of game that Cincinnati gets up for: A road game against a tough opponent. Maybe going to Baltimore and Pittsburgh and winning doesn't seem so tough now, but Minnesota couldn't win in Pittsburgh. Benson is the type of back that can really wear the Vikings' front four down and open up the big play for Palmer and Ochocinco. It wouldn't be shocking if Peterson turns in another stinker here either. This will be a great game.
Cincinnati 23 (+6.5), Minnesota 20 (Game of the Week, Upset of the Week)
Tampa Bay vs. New York Jets
Josh Freeman is struggling from rookie quarterback syndrome, throwing a generous amount of interceptions. "Hey Josh, it's not Christmas yet. The DB's don't need those gifts you are giving them." The Jets forced Jake Delhomme to throw five picks a few weeks back and tortured Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. Not looking like a good day for Freeman.
New York 20 (-3.5), Tampa Bay 3
New England vs. Carolina
This is the type of game Carolina might get up for. I'm a lifelong Panthers fan and speaking from watching them, they tend to play just as well on the road as at home, so that shouldn't be a huge factor.
DeAngelo Williams has had a full week to rest his sore knee and should provide his usual services up in Foxbrough. Matt Moore is the key for Carolina. Despite playing on the road, he gets to have Steve Smith matched up with terrible corners. He hit him deep for 66 yards last game, if he can hit No. 89 on a few bombs this could be a game.
New England will win, but the Panthers will make it a close one.
New England 28, Carolina 21 (+13.5)
Kansas City vs. Buffalo
Ugh...are there any two teams that are less exciting to watch? When Jamaal Charles and a mid-30s Terrell Owens are the most exciting players on the field it's never good. Buffalo will win in a very boring game.
Buffalo 20 (-0.5), Kansas City 14
Indianapolis vs. Denver
Feels like a fourth-quarter comeback win for the Colts. It's hard to trust Kyle Orton against that very opportunistic defense of Indianapolis, especially in the fourth quarter. I've seen Indy play many times this season, and they always make big defensive plays late in games. That's what I see this game coming down to...a big turnover.
Indianapolis 28, Denver 24 (+7.5)
Oakland vs. Washington
Oakland is coming off of a big win. What does that mean? Big letdown week. Washington's defense is quietly very good, particularly against the pass, which is how the Raiders won the game last week. No way that Bruce Gradkowski burns another defense this week. Jason Campbell is playing very well lately as well. He will have another decent game in Oakland.
Washington 17 (-1.5), Oakland 3
Dallas vs. San Diego
December spells disaster for Dallas. December is practically a month-long celebration for the Chargers, who have been fabulous finishers since Phil Rivers has been on-board. Rivers has had a very great, under-the-radar year yet again. He's so good at short and deep passes and might only trail Peyton Manning in two-minute drill skills right now. He's not developing into a great quarterback; he already is one. Don't bet against San Diego down the stretch, especially against the Cowboys in December.
San Diego 30 (+3.5), Dallas 24
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia
My initial pick was New York, but Philly has too many things going for them. Eli is horrible in cold, windy conditions, Brandon Jacobs stinks, and their pass defense stinks. The Giants really should have lost to Dallas last week.
Philadelphia gets DeSean Jackson back, who can break a 60-yard touchdown in the blink of an eye. Philly is really clicking right now too. Just like in the playoffs last year, the Eagles will come walking out of Giants Stadium victorious.
Philadelphia 24 (+0.5), New York 16
San Francisco vs. Arizona
Arizona is a better team this year than last season when the almost won the Super Bowl. Their defense is very underrated with guys like Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, and Adrian Wilson stuffing the run, and fast, young corners in Rolle and Rodgers-Cromartie defending the pass decently as well.
While San Francisco may have found out that Alex Smith is a keeper, they haven't found out how to make the playoffs in quite a while. They won't be playing in January this year either.
Arizona 27 (-3.5), San Francisco 17
Game of the Week: Minnesota against Cincinnati
Upset of the Week: Cincinnati over Minnesota
Lock of the Week: Baltimore over Detroit
Last Week: 9-7 (vs. spread: 6-10)
Overall: 121-71 (vs. spread: 104-88)