After a dismal 7 - 7 last week, I need to rebound during a week with a lot of close and compelling match ups, highlighted by the Chiefs visit to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Several teams are in must win situations, including Washington and New York in the NFC East, plus probably the Chargers, who face similarly positioned Miami. The weekend will end with the red-hot Panthers hosting New England, coming off a bye. Here are the picks.
Overall: 89 - 57
Indianapolis (6-3) 31 @ Tennessee (4-5) 23 : (This pick was published in a blog on Thursday.) Both teams are coming off crushing losses, with the Colts getting pummeled by the Rams. Tennessee gave the Jaguars their first win of the season. I don't know about the Colts. They've beaten San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, but they've scored only 37 points in losses to Miami, San Diego and St. Louis. Which team will show up tonight? It's hard to say. Tennessee's loss to Jacksonville was devastating for the Titans, not just because the Jags came into the game with a winless record, but because it dropped Tennessee to 4 - 5 as opposed to 5 - 4, putting them into an even greater must win situation if they drop this game to the Colts. Without starting QB Jake Locker, I think it will be difficult for the Titans to defeat the Colts, even though Indy heads on the road with a short week. I'm going with the notion that Indianapolis is too good of a team to lose two in a row to teams they should beat.
New York Jets (5-4) 23 @ Buffalo (3-7) 16: The Jets were left for dead at the beginning of the season, and now they can play their way back into the AFC playoff picture. I think they'll do it.
Baltimore (4-5) 19 @ Chicago (5-4) 24: This is a critical game for both of these teams. The Ravens are still in the hunt in the AFC North, while the Bears are trying to hang in there in the NFC North. Baltimore is not a great road team, so I'll go with Chicago.
Cleveland (4-5) 17 @ Cincinnati (6-4) 27: The battle for Ohio has real implications for the AFC North. The Bengals blew a chance at Baltimore last week to take control of the division. I think they have too much for the Browns.
Washington (3-6) 27 @ Philadelphia (5-5) 24: I have a hard time picking against my Redskins, but the Eagles are hitting on all cylinders behind QB Nick Foles. A Washington loss and the season's pretty much over. I can't help myself. I'm going with my heart.
Detroit (6-3) 30 @ Pittsburgh (3-6) 20: The Steelers are trying desperately to hang on and stay relevant in the AFC North. The Lions can maintain a stronghold on the NFC North with a win. I just don't see Steelers, even at home, being able to contain Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson and score enough to win.
Atlanta (2-7) 21 @ Tampa Bay (1-8 ) 24: The Falcons are in disarray and the Bucs are looking to build on their win against the Dolphins. I'll take the home team in this one, mainly because Tampa Bay can play defense.
Arizona (5-4) 27 @ Jacksonville (1-8) 16: The Jags got their first win last week at Tennessee, but the Cardinals are still in the playoff hunt. Jacksonville just isn't good enough to win two in a row.
Oakland (3-6) 20 @ Houston (2-7) 23: Who really cares how this one turns out? I guess the Texans and Raiders do. I haven't been paying much attention to the bottom feeders, so this is a coin flip for me. When in doubt, take the home team.
San Diego (4-5) 30 @ Miami (4-5) 24: These two teams are struggling to stay alive in the AFC playoff hunt. The Dolphins are still embroiled in the Jonathan Martin controversy and coming off a loss to the formerly winless Buccaneers. The Chargers should really have a much better record than they do.
San Francisco (6-3) 20 @ New Orleans (7-2) 27: This is one of the three marquis games of the week. The Saints are coming off a big win over the Cowboys, while the 'Niners have to go on the road after a disappointing loss at home to the Panthers. The Saints are very difficult to beat in the Superdome, so I'll take them to win in their own building.
Green Bay (5-4) 19 @ New York Giants (3-6) 24: This is another tough pick. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, this would be a no-brainer for the Packers. But without him, and with the Giants on a roll, I think Manning can lead New York to a victory, even if they aren't a particularly good home team.
Minnesota (2-7) 17 @ Seattle (9-1) 30: The Vikings are in for a long afternoon in Seattle. The Seahawks are almost impossible to beat at home, and the Vikings might not have enough weapons to pull the upset.
Kansas City (9-0) 21 @ Denver (8-1) 24: Neither of these teams has beaten anyone of note yet, with the Broncos losing to Indianapolis for their lone loss. Peyton Manning was hobbled this week, but should be ready to go. This is a big game in the AFC, and I'll go with Denver to hold off the Chiefs despite Kansas City holding the Denver offense in check.
New England (7-2) 23 @ Carolina (6-3) 27: The Panthers have come alive and found out how to win. Cam Newton is playing well and their defense is making it difficult for opponents to score. I know the Patriots have found a way to keep winning, despite injuries on offense. I like Carolina at home in a big Monday night game.