We've got two potentially epic matchups this weekend—Titans-Steelers and Panthers-Giants—both of which have a major impact on how the playoff seedings in each conference take shape. Let's get onto the predictions for those games, among others.
Oh—and FYI—I'm 71-32 in my NFL picks this season.
I picked the Colts before the game started last night.
The Ravens face another strong defense this week after struggling to get any points against the Steelers a week ago, and the Cowboys have more talent and experience offensively than Baltimore.
I've got a gut feeling that the Bengals win this game. Maybe it's because they just won their first game since Nov. 2, against the Jags, whereas the Browns have lost four straight since barely squeaking out a 29-27 victory over the Bills on Nov. 17.
Time is running out for the Lions to salvage a win from this season...but they'll need to do it next week, because Drew Brees is gonna throw for 400 yards and six touchdowns against them.
The Cardinals seem to be content to stay on auto-pilot until the playoffs, but the Patriots, in a three-team logjam in the AFC East at 9-5, still have everything to play for. Look for the Patriots to come out firing and blow the Cardinals out of Gillette Stadium.
In a matchup that will decide who gets the No. 1 in the AFC playoffs, I like the Steelers, because they still have their whole defense intact. Plus, the Titans' offense looked really off last week against the Texans.
And Tennessee is the AFC's Cardinals...a team that has already clinched a playoff spot but have decided to take the rest of the regular season off in hopes that they can get that energy back just in time for the playoffs.
Real smart...and stand-up coaching by Jeff Fisher!
The 49ers are perhaps the NFL's most underrated team since mid-November. They're only 3-3 since Nov. 10, but the only game that SF didn't really compete in was against the Cowboys.
And, three of their four wins have come late in the season. Meanwhile, the Rams suck, as always. I like the 49ers in this one.
As long as the Dolphins can stay within two possessions' worth of points of the Chiefs, they should win no matter what, because the Chiefs can't finish. That was especially evident after they let go of a 21-10 lead with less than two minutes left against the Chargers and lost 22-21.
Not that the Dolphins won't blow Kansas City away anyway.
The Bucs need to win this game just to stay in the wild-card race. But I think they lose. They will need to get consistent pressure on Philip Rivers, who is perhaps the most underrated QB in the league outside of San Diego, but both of Tampa's starting DEs are injured, and their statuses for the game are not looking good.
In addition, outside linebacker and defensive catalyst Derrick Brooks has a rib injury that may keep him out, too.
Fortunately for the Bucs, however, QB Jeff Garcia is expected to start. Even playing hurt, he should make a real difference.
Even though Garcia is playing, with all their injuries, the Bucs lose in a shootout.
Injuries to key Broncos give J.P. Losman and the Bills a chance to play spoiler. The AFC West could get even more interesting once this week is over, as I have the Chargers (6-8) winning and the Broncos losing.
The Jets must win this game to stay in the AFC East race. Their chances of doing that look good, as all the Seahawks can do is run the ball with Julius Jones, but the Jets have one of the best run defenses in the league.
The Texans have suddenly won three straight, mostly because of Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton. But Johnson will be covered by Nnamdi Asomugha, arguably the best corner in the game.
However, Slaton will probably be able to do enough on the ground to get his team the win.
I like the Vikings because of their superior run defense and mobile quarterback in Tarvaris Jackson, who made some great throws against the Cardinals last week, too.
The Eagles are getting great production from both Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook at the right time—and surging because of it—while the Redskins are still tanking.
The Giants have lost two straight, whereas the Panthers have won three in a row. The Giants will not have Plaxico Burress and maybe not Brandon Jacobs or Derrick Ward.
But even if either back plays, neither will be close to 100 percent. Hell, even Ahmad Bradshaw has been practicing through a neck injury this week. The biggest strength the Giants have right now is their defensive line, but Pro Bowl DE Justin Tuck and run-stopping DT Fred Robbins are both in doubt for this game.
With such an injury-riddled Giants team that is sinking, too, the Panthers should capitalize for a playoff spot, home field-clinching victory.
The Bears still have a shot at the NFC North title, or at least a wild-card berth. The Packers don't, and Aaron Rodgers is still learning how to win. Even if the Packers look like they're in position to win it, chances are the Bears will be able to swoop in and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Plus, having Matt Forte against one of the NFL's worst rush defenses helps to free up Kyle Orton against one of the NFL's toughest pass defenses.