Byes are over, so we have a full slate of games this week, which is highlighted by two big ones: Denver at Kansas City and New Orleans travelling to Seattle in what may end up deciding which teams secure home field advantages in the playoffs. My picks last week were, well, terrible. Let's see what I think will happen this week. I've included my picks for the Thanksgiving games, which were posted in a previous blog.
Last Week: 6 - 7 - 1
Overall: 105 - 69 - 1
Jacksonville (2 - 9) 20 @ Cleveland (4 - 7) 23: This game probably isn't relevant in terms of the playoffs, but the Jaguars have pulled themselves up from the mat to win a couple of games. Cleveland has played pretty well, but has had trouble getting wins lately. I think the Browns defense is tough to get them a win at home.
Tennessee (6 - 5) 27 @ Indianapolis (7 - 4) 24: It was highly improbable a few weeks ago that this game would be for the lead in the AFC South. The Colts were beating everyone and the Titans were struggling. Now, the tables have turned and Indianapolis is playing bad enough to keep owner Jim Irsay off Twitter. I've made mistakes by picking against the Titans. I think Indianapolis is beaten up and will just get beaten today.
Chicago (6 - 5) 28 @ Minnesota (2 - 8 - 1) 24: The Bears are a mess, but so is the entire NFC North. The Vikings are out of the playoff hunt and need to make a statement for next season. I look for the Bears to regroup and continue Minnesota's woes.
Miami (5 - 6) 20 @ New York Jets (5 - 6) 21: If the Jets don't get better QB play, they'll end up squandering any chance at making the playoffs. One of the teams competing for the same postseason spot in Miami, who let a close one get away last week. I'll take the Jets to bounce back.
Arizona (7 - 4) 27 @ Philadelphia (6 - 5) 26: This is one of the marquis games of the week. Both teams are playing well, especially Arizona. The Cardinals have gone largely unnoticed, playing away from the east coast and in the same division as San Francisco and Seattle. I'll go with the visitors in a mild upset.
Tampa Bay (3 - 8) 20 @ Carolina (8 - 3) 28: Cam Newton has finally figured out how to win close games. The Bucs arrive in Charlotte on a three game winning streak and a new swagger that is inconsistent with a 3 - 8 record. The Panthers are tough to beat, and I'll take them to step up in this one.
New England (8 - 3) 30 @ Houston (2 - 9) 21: The Texans are a huge disappointment this season and will have a tough time taking on a Patriots team that has a good shot at home field advantage in the AFC. I look for Brady and company to prevail on the road.
Atlanta (2 - 9) 24 @ Buffalo (4 - 7) 28: The Falcons are barely competitive at home, so I don't see much chance for this banged up squad to top a Bills team that's probably better than their record would indicate.
St. Louis (5 -6) 23 @ San Francisco (7 - 4) 27: The 'Niners got a much needed win against a bad Washington team last week. The Rams have found some offense to win their last two after dropping three in a row. I'd like to take the Rams here, but San Francisco is getting healthy and should be able to make enough stops to frustrate St. Louis.
Denver (9 - 2) 27 @ Kansas City (9 - 2) 20: Two weeks ago, the Broncos beat the Chiefs in Denver. Both teams are coming off road losses, with Denver's being particularly devastating. I think Denver's the better team, even on the road. I'll take Manning to get ahead and keep his foot on the pedal this time.
Cincinnati (7 - 4) 31 @ San Diego (5 - 6) 27: The Chargers have struggled to get any consistency this year. Cincinnati is coming off their bye week, heading west to try to maintain control of the AFC North. The teams that have given the Bengals fits this season have tough, physical defenses. That really isn't what the Chargers are all about.
New York Giants (4 - 7) 21 @ Washington (3 - 8) 24 : With Dallas' win on Thanksgiving, neither of these teams really has much of a chance in the NFC East. It's a rivalry game and I look for RGIII to play better than he did a week ago.
New Orleans (9 - 2) 27 @ Seattle (10 -1) 28: Seattle is almost unbeatable at home. Add in some bad weather and the Saints are clearly in for a big challenge Monday night. I'd like to go with New Orleans in a game that could decide home field advantage in the NFC, but I'll stick with the Seahawks to get the win at home.
Green Bay (5 - 5 - 1) 27 @ Detroit (6 - 5) 30: Matt Flynn will start at QB for the Packers as they try to surpass the Lions in the NFC North, where every team is struggling. Flynn is serviceable in the absence of Aaron Rodgers, but Green Bay is not even close to what they are when Rodgers is in the lineup. Meanwhile, the Lions have succeeded in losing their last two games, both of which they should have and could have won. Instead, they find themselves in a dogfight with the Packers and the Bears for the division lead, one that will probably go down to the final weekend of the season. The Lions just have too much talent offensively to have fallen the last couple of weeks. And Green Bay has gone 0 - 3 - 1 since Rodgers went down. In the first game between these two, the Pack dominated in a 22 - 9 win at Lambeau Field. This time, however, they have to travel to Detroit on a short week without their Pro Bowl QB. Something has to give, as neither of these teams has a win in its last two games. I'll go with the home team on Thanksgiving, but only because someone has to win...or do they?
Oakland (4 - 7) 24 @ Dallas (6 -5) 27: The Cowboys are difficult to predict, as are the Raiders. But Dallas has more talent and generally plays well through November. But Oakland runs the ball very well, McFadden will be in the Raider lineup and Terrell Pryor can also run on the Cowboys. It has pretty much come down to a race between Dallas and Philadelphia in the NFC East, so Dallas knows this is its best chance in a while to win the division. Although I think they're perfectly capable of stubbing their toe today, it's unlikely as they play Thanksgiving host to Oakland on a short week. The keys to the game will be for Dallas QB Tony Romo to keep from turning the ball over and for their defense to at least contain, if not stop, the Raider running game. If the Cowboys get behind and Romo is forced to make plays, they could be in trouble since Oakland has the ability to control the ball and shorten the game. In the end, I'll take Dallas to hold off the Raiders.
Pittsburgh (5 - 6) 23 @ Baltimore (5 - 6) 17: After falling to 2 - 6 and seemingly out of the playoff race, the Steelers have rebounded with three victories in a row, putting themselves into position to challenge for the AFC North title. The Ravens have relied totally on their defense in an up and down season following their Super Bowl title. QB Joe Flacco has been abysmal, completing less than 60% of his passes while throwing for 14 TD's and the same number of interceptions. I think the Steelers are rounding into form, while the Ravens continue to sputter on offense. In their previous meeting, Pittsburgh eeked out a 19 - 16 win. Since then, Pittsburgh has raised their game to another level, while the Ravens have stayed about the same. Even on the road in a short week, I'll take the Steelers to prevail in a dogfight.