There are a lot of games with head to head match-ups that have playoff implications for both teams involved. In the AFC, a number of squads are hanging by a thread, with the Chiefs and Patriots just a victory away from clinching berths in the postseason, joining Denver and Indianapolis in the party. The NFC only has one team in so far, but the top six look good to continue their drive to the playoffs, with only Arizona a possible spoiler. Even though Detroit leads the NFC North by virtue of a tiebreaker, the race is still wide open with Chicago and Green Bay giving chase. I've taken some real chances with my picks this week, so I'll either go 12 -4 or tank with something like 7 - 9 or 6 - 10.
San Diego (6 - 7) 20 @ Denver (11 - 2) 31: The Chargers are still alive in the playoff picture, but it's a long shot. Having to go into Denver on a Thursday night to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos won't make the job any easier. San Diego has been inconsistent all season, so maybe they'll give Denver a good tussle. But in the end, the Broncos should win this one.
Washington (3 - 10) 24 @ Atlanta (3 - 10) 30: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has apparently benched RGIII for the rest of the season to save him further injury. With Washington eliminated from the playoffs and after they seemed to quit on Sunday, Shanahan's own job is clearly in jeopardy. Even if he's around to coach the last season of his contract, I'm pretty sure there will be a number of changes in the Redskins organization in the offseason. As for this game, neither of these teams has come close to preseason expectations. Backup Washington QB Kirk Cousins can definitely lead the 'Skins, but I don't think the defense can stop a Falcons team that wants to show its home fans that it can still win.
Chicago (7 - 6) 27 @ Cleveland (4 - 9) 21: The Bears put a big hurting on Dallas last week and the Browns have dropped seven of their last eight games. Chicago seems to be getting some offensive momentum behind backup QB Josh McCown. Starter Jay Cutler is recovering from an injury and may start Sunday, but either way, I think the Bears can stop the Browns.
Houston (2 - 11) 23 @ Indianapolis (8 - 5) 31: The Texans haven't had much of a season, and after last week's game, head coach Gary Kubiak was fired. The Colts have clinched the AFC South title, not a great feat considering the weakness of the division. I doubt Houston has the ability to go into Indianapolis and defeat the Colts.
New England (10 - 3) 24 @ Miami (7 - 6) 27: The Patriots are still in the running for top seed in the AFC and are one victory away from clinching the AFC East. But Miami has shown the ability to play tough and it's probably time for Tom Brady's good fortune to run out.
Philadelphia (8 - 5) 27 @ Minnesota (3 - 9 - 1) 24: The Eagles are winners of five straight and are in command of the NFC East. Minnesota suffered a brutal loss at Baltimore on Sunday and will be trying to rebound against Philadelphia. Adrian Peterson looks like he'll play this week, but I'm not sure the Vikes will be able to stop LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Eagle offense.
Seattle (11 - 2) 31 @ New York Giants (5 - 8) 20: Seattle lost a tough one at San Francisco Sunday and now has to head east to face the Giants, who are now eliminated from playoff consideration. Although the Seahawks are not as good away from home, they're still very good wherever they play. This would be a huge upset for the Giants, but I just don't see it happening.
San Francisco (9 - 4) 20 @ Tampa Bay (4 - 9) 24: After starting 0 - 8, the Bucs have gone 4 - 1, probably saving coach Greg Schiano's job in the process. Now the 'Niners come to town still trying to lock down a playoff spot. Despite their victory over the Seahawks last week, I'm not sold on the strength of San Francisco, especially on the road. Tampa Bay has a lot to play for, despite their record and being eliminated from playoff consideration. I like the Bucs here, with no real logic to back it up.
Buffalo (4 - 9) 21 @ Jacksonville (4 - 9) 27: Okay, this is one of those late season "who cares" games featuring two teams out of the playoff running. But at last check, they haven't cancelled the game, so I have to make a pick. I'll take the home squad in a coin flip. Like who's paying attention anyway, right?
Kansas City (10 - 3) 23 @ Oakland (4 - 9) 24: This is one of those old rivalries borne out of the AFL. These two teams just plain hate each other, even though the players on the rosters today probably have no idea of the history. The Chiefs dusted the 'Skins last week, but I just have a feeling this one is a trap game for them. I have no football reason for this one, except the NFL is full of surprises.
New York Jets (6 - 7) 20 @ Carolina (9 - 4) 27: Which Geno Smith will show up in Charlotte on Sunday? Will it be bad Geno, in which case Carolina runs away with the game, or will it be good Geno, in which case the Jets' defense plays inspired defense and stops Cam Newton on their way to a Jets victory? This is a much tougher pick than it appears, but I have to stay with the home team to make enough plays on both sides of the ball to get the win.
Green Bay (6 - 6 - 1) 27 @ Dallas (7 - 6) 31: The Cowboys really stunk it up in cold weather in Chicago Monday night. The Packers are probably still without QB Aaron Rodgers and Dallas returns home looking to stay in the NFC East race. I'll reluctantly go with the 'Boys to hold serve in their own stadium.
Arizona (8 - 5) 28 @ Tennessee (5 - 8) 17: The Cardinals still have a lot to play for, while the reeling Titans have lost four of their last five. Arizona still controls their own destiny in the playoff hunt, despite being on the outside looking in at the moment. At this time of year, I'll stay with the teams that still have something to play for.
New Orleans (10 -3) 27 @ St. Louis (5 - 8) 30: The Saints aren't a particularly good road team, and the Rams have shown they can play well at home. I'm going to make another outrageous pick here and go with the home team to shock New Orleans and put their division title hopes in jeopardy.
Cincinnati (9 - 4) 20 @ Pittsburgh (5 - 8) 23: The Steelers were within a couple of inches of still being relevant in the playoff race, but now they're on life support. This is a division rivalry, and although I like the Bengals, I can't help but think the Steelers have some surprises for the team that will in all likelihood win the AFC North.
Baltimore (7 - 6) 17 @ Detroit (7 - 6) 27: This is a big Monday night game for both teams. The Lions are trying to stay out in front in the NFC North, while the Ravens are attempting to gain control of the last wild card spot in the AFC. That Baltimore defense has been stifling, even though the offense hasn't been able to make much happen. Something tells me Baltimore just can't keep winning without some offensive output.