NFL Week 14 is where a huge chunk of the playoff picture will become a lot clearer.
Even with the win against the Jets on Monday, the Patriots and Jets are tied as far as the season series goes, so the Patriots can't rest on their butts—not that Bill Belichick would let them.
The Colts face a must-win versus the Tennessee Titans, Eric Mangini's job may hinge on whether or not the Browns beat Buffalo this weekend, and the Eagles face the surging Dallas Cowboys.
Had a great week coming in, finishing 12-4, so I'm looking to continue the hot streak. Not only did I have a good week, I correctly predicted the final score of the Ravens/Steelers game.
Last Week: 12-4
Peyton Manning has been pressing the last few games and throwing like a rookie, locking on to his receivers and making the defenses' job easy.
Even Manning is aware of this, and after the last two weeks, expect that to change. The Colts may have Joesph Addai back, finally, so that means the Colts can get some kind of running game going again and take the pressure off Manning to do everything.
The Titans are a mess, and looking at any of their stats at the moment is an exercise in futility due to injuries and personnel changes.
While Colts head coach Jim Caldwell has let the team's discipline lapse, I think that if players returning from injuries happens, as predicted, the Colts can win.
Colts 24 Titans 10
Jon Gruden's son said in an interview the other day his father is waiting for the job in Cleveland or San Francisco to open.
Mike Holmgren may take advantage of that in the offseason if the Browns lose to the Buffalo Bills.
The Browns are 5-7 with four games remaining. They've lost five games in the fourth quarter, two of those games on the last play, one in overtime. The Browns have won their last two games, both of them very close.
The Buffalo Bills are playing for a draft slot now, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing for a starting job next year.
The Browns handcuffed Jake Delhomme versus Miami last week to keep him from throwing the game away. The problem is that allowed the Dolphins defense to crowd the line and shut down Peyton Hillis.
So the Browns have a problem since Colt McCoy still isn't healthy, and the coaches obviously no longer trust Delhomme, and seem unwilling to start Seneca Wallace.
The Bills are the best "Bad" team in the NFL and almost snuck out wins against the Ravens and the Patriots this season.
My Call: The Browns bench Delhomme after two first-half interceptions, rally in the second half for the win.
Browns 20 Bills 17
The Atlanta Falcons are the most complete team in the NFL at the moment.
The Panthers belong in the NFC West.
(Puts on Mike Ditka wig, sunglasses and moustache)
"Ahhh Falcons 348, Panthers negative seven."
Falcons 42 Panthers 6
This is a picture of the referees begging Ben Roethlisberger to quit scoring on the Bengals.
Like the previous slide, I don't know what to break down here. The Steelers are one of the best teams in the league, and the Bengals can't even stop themselves from jumping offsides on 4th-and-2.
Steelers 31 Bengals 10
The Giants had a bit of a rough time in November, but that's not unusual with Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning.
The bottom line here is the offense is scoring, and the defense is one of the best in the league, ranking second in pass defense, seventh in rush defense and second in yards allowed.
The Vikings are a new team under Leslie Frazier, and Sidney Rice returned to the field last week and caught two touchdown with 105 yards to back that up.
But if Brett Favre starts, his aching ankle and shoulder won't be a match for the Giants defense, and Tarvaris Jackson threw three picks against Buffalo.
The main thing to take into consideration here is that the Giants aren't the Buffalo Bills.
Giants 28 Vikings 20
The emergence of James Starks last week gives the Packers a chance to have a running game again, and Aaron Rodgers already has the passing game firing on all cylinders.
Drew Stanton is quarterbacking the Lions, and that's about all you can say. Calvin Johnson is one of the best receivers in the league, but Stanton is a third-string quarterback for a reason.
On the defense, you have Ndamukong Suh, so Rodgers is going to have to be aware of him, but the Lions are going to have to worry about Clay Matthews.
This is a mismatch, and the only chance the Lions have is if the Packers decide to throw another penalty party.
Packers 35 Lions 13
The Jacksonville Jaguars are the team that won't go away in the AFC South. No one thought they'd be leading the division right now, but there they are.
The Raiders also are playing much better than most analysts predicted coming into the year.
So you have two teams who are slightly unpredictable, who have good running games and quarterbacks that are streaky with a touch of inconsistency in Jason Campbell and David Garrard.
So let's look at the run defenses.
The Jaguars are ranked 17th against the rush while the Raiders are ranked 23rd against the rush. Advantage Jacksonville.
The Jaguars have home-field advantage, except nobody shows up for Jaguars games, and you might see more Raiders fans in the stands than Jaguars fans. Advantage Oakland.
This game is going to come down to the Raiders ability to stop Maurice Jones-Drew, and whether the "good" David Garrard shows up.
Raiders 28 Jaguars 21
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are fighting for a Wild Card spot, an uphill battle in the NFC South with the Falcons and Saints ahead of them.
The Redskins are trying to figure out if they're rebuilding or just blowing everything up.
Donovan McNabb is no longer a reliable starter this year, and his backup is Rex Grossman, so McNabb is safe in the starting role despite his benching earlier this year.
The Bucs tend to beat teams with losing records, but this is a home game for the Redskins.
Between Josh Freeman's fourth quarter heroics and LeGarrette Blount's huge drive to prove every team in the league was wrong about him, this game should go in the Bucs favor.
Tampa Bay 34 Redskins 21
This should be an easy win for the Saints, facing an NFC West team. But the Saints have had a difficult time beating bad teams this year and look like they could win their division.
Sam Bradford has completely changed the culture in St. Louis, and this team believes it can win every game.
The Saints are well aware of their Super Bowl hangover and have been playing better since losing to the Cleveland Browns in Week 7.
Plus, the game is in New Orleans, so there's a huge home-field advantage there.
Saints 30 Rams 17
We have two NFC West teams facing each other, and the Seahawks and Rams are tied atop the division with 6-6 records.
The 49ers are another team falling apart at the seams as bad coaching decisions, poor on-field play and injuries have turned what was supposed to be a playoff-bound team into a mess.
Alex Smith returns to action this week, returning from a shoulder injury, and Troy Smith gets to return to the bench after a few uneven performances.
Smith knows his job is on the line, and he'll play like it.
The Seahawks are a team in transition, and Pete Carroll knows his defense is bad, and his offense isn't much better.
49ers 17 Seahawks 10
Can the Bears defense stop the suddenly surging Patriots offense?
Can Bill Belichick get to Jay Cutler?
Yes and Yes.
The Bears offensive line has been suspect all season and gave up 19 sacks in a three-game stretch at one point this season.
The Bears defense, though, is elite, and the Patriots are going to have a hard time scoring against it. The Bears stop the run, are very good against the pass and are ranked third in the league in points and yards allowed.
Bill Belichick and his Defense of Doom is going to kill Jay Cutler, and that will be the difference in the game. Cutler may fake an injury just so he can stop getting sacked. That's how ugly I think this game is going to get.
Patriots 17 Bears 6
The Jets took one heck of a butt-whoopin on Monday night versus the Patriots.
The Dolphins lost a close game in the last minute to the Cleveland Browns.
The Dolphins no longer have any confidence in Chad Henne, but they have no other alternative.
The Jets lost Jim Leonhard for the season after he broke his leg at practice, which probably contributed greatly to the lopsided loss.
With another week of practice for the Jets with Leonhard gone, there should be a lot better communication.
As for the Dolphins, they're better on the road than at home, but that's probably not going to matter this week as an angry Jets team vents their frustration on Miami.
Jets 24 Dolphins 10
What do you do here?
The Broncos just dumped Josh McDaniels, and the team probably is better for it.
The Cardinals quarterback options are Derek Anderson, who's awful, or John Skelton, who has only played one-half of a quarter in the NFL.
The Cardinals have no offense, no defense and no direction at the moment as everything fell apart this year. Their season is over; it's just a matter of playing out the string.
But the Broncos season also is over, and everyone gets to audition for their job again. That being said, the Broncos have had a pretty potent offense, with the exception of last week, and new coaches assuming duties midseason this year only have lost one game.
Broncos 21 Cardinals 17
This is a classic division battle between the Chiefs, who are the most improved team of the year, and the Chargers, who are one of the most disappointing teams of the year.
The easy pick is to just take Kansas City because of the Chargers problems, especially on special teams.
The Chargers lost the first game this year to the Chiefs 21-14, and Jamaal Charles ran for 92 yards in that game.
Philip Rivers threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns that week, and the game was competitive. But the Chargers have begun finding new ways to lose every week, and a loss on Sunday pretty much ends any chance of even getting a Wildcard.
The Chiefs know the Raiders are nipping at their heels and losing to the Chargers just muddies the water up more, so they may play better than they did last week against the Broncos.
Chiefs 28 Chargers 24
A few weeks ago, this pick would've been a few lines, a snarky comment and a prediction of an Eagles victory.
Not so anymore as the Cowboys under Jason Garrett find new ways to win games, harrass quarterbacks and generally make the life of opposing coaches much tougher.
Fact: Michael Vick is playing like a man possessed and he can run, throw, hurdle, scramble, shuffle, lateral and just about anything else you can think of.
Fact: Mike Jenkins is awful and should be taken out and given swirlies by Dallas fans immediately. No one has done more to hurt the Cowboys' defense this year than Jenkins.
Fact: The Dallas offense moves the ball.
Fact. The Eagles defense is ranked 17th against the pass.
Dallas has home-field advantage, but the Eagles stakes in this game are much higher, and this could be the week the Cowboys' luck runs out.
Eagles 35 Cowboys 31
The Texans proved last week they'll play a good team in primetime and not roll over. The defense, which pretty much has been absent this season, gave a good showing against the Eagles.
But the Ravens are mean, tough and barely lost to the Steelers.
The Ravens know they can't lose another game because the Steelers probably aren't going to lose to the Bengals this week.
Matt Schaub is a great quarterback with a great supporting cast, including Andre Johnson and Arian Foster.
It won't be enough, and the Ravens shut them down on their way to trying to recapture the AFC North crown.
Ravens 30 Texans 20