What a slate of games this week! The Bucs are going to Atlanta (where the Falcons are 5-1 this year) in a game that has major NFC playoff implications.
Every game featuring an AFC East team will be hard-fought, with three teams trying to emerge from the 8-5 logjam in front. The Vikings must beat the Cardinals in the Arizona desert to stay one step ahead of the Bears, who edged the Saints on Thursday night, in the NFC North.
The Steelers look to lock down the AFC North in Baltimore. The Giants can wrap up the NFC East with a win over the Cowboys. With that said, let’s get to the predictions.
Oh—one last thing: I'm 60-27 in my NFL picks this year.
I predicted this game wrong. Chalk up a rare Thursday night loss for me.
Both teams need this win badly. Tampa Bay can't afford to get into a shootout, but the Panthers just gashed their run defense, and the Falcons' running game isn't much easier. Plus, NFC South teams are 24-2 at home this year.
But the Bucs should be extremely focused. Even so, I look for the Falcons to score just enough to beat the Bucs.
Even though the Redskins have been playing pretty poorly lately, the Bengals are just bad. Plus, Clinton Portis is coming back this week, and he should be able to help the Redskins get back to their early-season form against one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson was held to just 4 catches for 55 yards last week against Green Bay's tough pass defense.
There's no reason to expect much more out of him going against Cortland Finnegan, and Steve Slaton can only do so much. Look for the Titans to win convincingly.
Jacksonville is built on running the ball, and Green Bay can't stop the run. However, the Packers throw well but the Jaguars are better at stopping the pass than the Pack is at stopping the run.
I look for the Jaguars to win behind their running duo of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.
Veteran Chad Pennington should be able to put some point on the board for the Dolphins, and Miami's defense shouldn't have a lot of trouble containing the 49ers.
Look for Julius Jones to gash the Rams' defense and for Donnie Avery to make a couple plays for St. Louis. But a good RB is better than a good WR, especially when the receiver doesn't have a good QB to throw to him.
The Bills have been on the downslide for the longest time, and the Jets need this win to stay in the AFC East race after dropping games to the 49ers and Broncos in the last two weeks.
Expect the Jets to come out firing and beat the reeling Bills.
LT always seems to have good games against the Chiefs, and there's no reason to believe this time will be any different. Plus, Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson have formed a formidable passing duo lately.
Hmm, I wonder who'll win this game. The surging Colts, led by back-to-form QB Peyton Manning and the passing game, or the hapless Detroit Lions, who would probably give up 200 rushing yards to a rushing attack as bad as the Colts.
The Vikings can't pass, and the Cardinals stop the run decently well. Plus, the Vikings can't defend the pass. Expect the Cardinals to emerge from this game 9-5.
This game is enigmatic. Both teams are built the same way and have the same strengths. But I'll go with Pittsburgh because of its edge in experience.
The Panthers are 7-0 at home, and they made a statement about the explosiveness of their rush offense against Tampa last week.
In addition, the Broncos' rush defense is terrible. Granted, the Broncos are very good at the deep pass, and the Panthers can't defend that, but I still don't see Denver winning with their passing game.
Matt Cassel should have either Randy Moss or Wes Welker open most of the day, and the Pats might even be able to run it effectively against a terrible Oakland run defense. Don't expect the Raiders to score much.
The Giants didn't play well last week against the Eagles after dealing with the Plaxico incident. The Cowboys still won't have Marion Barber, and the Giants will be without Brandon Jacobs again.
However, the Giants can afford to lose Jacobs with Ward and Bradshaw backing him up. The 'Boys aren't nearly as good without Barber keeping the defense honest.
Tony Romo will have to come up big against a stout defense, and we all saw what happened against the Steelers last week.
Plus, Romo and the Cowboys can't seem to win late in the season.
The Browns are going nowhere fast, and Brian Westbrook should come up big again this week against Cleveland's awful rush defense. Plus, Philly has been one of the most underrated defenses in the league this year. They've been in the top ten for most of the season.