It is a great week to be an NFL fan.
Showdowns in both the AFC North and East, as well as the NFC South, headline a terrific slate of games.
By Tuesday morning, we should a very clear picture of which teams are contenders and which are pretenders.
Houston Texans at Philadelphia Eagles (Line: Eagles by 8.5): The Texans have to travel to Philadelphia on a short week to take on the Eagles for Thursday Night Football at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles are coming off of a tough loss, but regain the service of Asante Samuel. The Eagles’ offense should not have any trouble moving the ball against the Texans 31st ranked pass defense.
The past few weeks, Michael Vick has looked human. Expect that to change this week as the Eagles should cruise.
Pick: Eagles (-8.5) – Eagles 34 Texans 23
New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals (Line: Saints by 7): The Saints are looking like Super Bowl contenders once again.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bengals are embarrassing themselves on a weekly basis.
I get the feeling that the Saints may look past the Bengals here, as they finish the season against four playoff contenders.
I think the Saints will win, but I like the Bengals to cover the spread.
Pick: Bengals (+7) – Saints 27 Bengals 21
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (Line: Bears by 3.5): The Bears are cruising right now, and the Lions are banged up.
I am curious as to why this line is so close. There is always the chance that the strong defensive front of the Lions gets pressure on Cutler, which could make a game of this.
That being said, the Lions’ offense is too depleted to cover this spread.
Pick: Chicago (-3.5) – Bears 24 Lions 10
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (Packers by 10): This is a really tough call.
On the one hand, the Packers are coming off of an emotional loss on the road; on the other hand, the 49ers have a short week and have to play at Lambeau Field.
I have no doubt the Packers will win this game, but ten points is a bit too much for me lay with the home team. The 49ers are a hot team right now in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Pick: 49ers (+10) – Packers 24 49ers 16
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (Line: ?): The Jaguars and Titans have gone two completely different directions after Tennessee thrashed the Jags on Monday Night Football.
Since that loss and the subsequent loss at Arrowhead, the Jaguars are 3-1 and have put up 20 or more points in each contest. The running game really came to life against the Giants.
As for the Titans, they came out totally flat against Houston. Rusty Smith is not helping matters.
A line has not been posted for this game, but the Jaguars have to be the pick here.
Pick: Jaguars 26 Titans 13
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (Line Chiefs by 9): Nine points is a quite a bit to lay with Matt Cassel and the Chiefs.
The Broncos have had some success in recent weeks slowing down opposing rushing attacks, so the Chiefs could be forced to put the ball in the air.
I love the Chiefs to win this game at home in front of the Arrowhead faithful, but I think Orton and the gang can keep it reasonably close.
Pick: Broncos (+9) – Chiefs 34 Broncos 27
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins (Line Dolphins by 4.5): I am a fan of this Browns team. This game is going to come down to the quarterbacks, both of whom are inconsistent.
I would not say I trust either quarterback, so I am siding with Cleveland, because Peyton Hillis is rolling.
Pick: Browns (+4.5) Browns 23 Dolphins 20
Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings (line: Vikings by 6): The Bills let a great upset slip through their hands on Sunday.
Or should I say, Steve Johnson let a great upset slip through his hands on Sunday.
After a tough loss like that, it is hard to imagine the Bills bringing that same type of fight to Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are playing with some fire since the firing of Brad Childress.
Pick: Vikings (-6.5) Vikings 28 Bills 10
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (Line: Giants by 7) – I love the Giants here.
These Redskins are the same old Redskins. They cannot protect McNabb and they cannot run the ball.
Unfortunately for them, the Giants defense excels at rushing the passer and stopping the run.
Despite the injuries on offense, I expect the Giants to blow the doors off of Washington.
Pick: Giants (-7) Giants 34 Redskins 13
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers (Line: Chargers by 13): The Chargers are the hottest team in the NFL—standard procedure for them during December.
Meanwhile, the Raiders are fading at crunch time. There is no way Oakland will be able to muster anything against the top ranked Charger defense, and I do not expect the Raiders to slow down Phillip Rivers and that offense.
Pick: Chargers (-13) Chargers 41 Raiders 10
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks (Line: Seahawks by 6): The Panthers are starting to show some fire.
I get the feeling that this could be Jimmy Clausen’s coming out party.
The Seahawk secondary is atrocious. They allowed the girly-armed Matt Cassel to throw for four touchdowns.
The one thing that makes me hesitant to take the Panthers is the fact that this game it at Seattle, which represents a significant home field advantage.
Despite that, I like the Panthers to get off the schnide this week.
Pick: Panthers (+6) Panthers 17 Seahawks 14
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals (Line: Rams by 3): The Cardinals humiliated themselves on Monday Night Football, and now they have the tall task of taking on the Rams on a short week.
The Rams should handle the Cards without much trouble.
Pick: Rams (-3) Rams 34 Cardinals 14
Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts (Line: Colts by 5) – The Dallas Cowboys have had new life since the firing of the clueless Wade Phillips and his four chins.
The Colts are traditionally tough to beat at home, but this is not a traditional Colts team.
I like the Cowboys to cover the spread and even pull of a shocking upset here. Tashard Choice and Felix Jones should have their way with this Colts’ defense, taking some of the heat off of Jon Kitna.
I think the decline of Indianapolis is in full swing.
Pick: Cowboys (+5) Cowboys 27 Colts 24
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Line: Falcons by 3): The Falcons are far from a slam dunk away from home; however, the Bucs have not beat a winning team all season long.
The Buccaneers have a tendency to keep games close against the big boys, and I expect that to continue. However, it is tough to bet against this red hot Falcons team in a game with serious AFC South ramifications.
Pick: Falcons (-3) Falcons 27 Buccaneers 23
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (Line: Ravens by 3): Joe Flacco has a monkey to get off his back: He has never beaten Big Ben Roethlisberger.
Both of these teams are struggling with injuries at the moment, especially along the offensive and defensive lines.
The Ravens are my favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and if that is to come true, these are the types of games they have to win.
Baltimore will win this game on the back of Joe Flacco.
Pick: Ravens (-3) Ravens 20 Steelers 13
New York Jets at New England Patriots (Line: Patriots by 3.5): The Jets are a superior football team to New England, in my opinion.
The one thing they lack, however, is Tom Brady and his majestic golden brown locks. In addition to Brady, the Pats have home field advantage on their side.
I initially had the Jets in this game, but I am taking the Patriots. Bill Belichick is 5-0 against the spread in divisional rematch games, in which he lost the first game. This game applies. The Patriots hate being disrespected, they will not lose both games to the Jets.
Pick: Patriots (-3.5) – Patriots 27 Jets 23