Most teams are beginning the second half of the season this week, with the cream of the league beginning to rise to the top. New England has a bye following their big win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but they've clearly positioned themselves as a top contender in the AFC. The AFC North is a logjam and could go down to the final weekend, while the NFC North lacks a team with a winning record.
Cleveland (5 - 3) 24 @ Cincinnati (5 - 2 - 1) 27: (From an earlier post): All of a sudden, the AFC North is a real dogfight. The four teams in the division are separated by just a game and a half as we get to the second half of the season. A Bengals' win would give them a sweep of the rest of the division in their first meetings, and put them a leg up in the tiebreaker. Both of these clubs have won their last two, looking to maintain some momentum. Statistically, they're similar, but the Bengals' two losses were blowouts to New England and Indianapolis, both on the road. Cincinnati is a different team at home and I expect them to keep that trend going tonight.
Kansas City (5 - 3) 24 @ Buffalo (5 - 3) 20: This is a good test for both teams as they begin the second half of the season. The Bills are a surprise, the Chiefs aren't. I'll go with the road team here.
Miami (5 - 3) 24 @ Detroit (6 - 2) 27: The Dolphins have suddenly emerged as a playoff contender in the AFC. Detroit is supposed to have Calvin Johnson back in the lineup, not a good sign for Miami.
Dallas (6 - 3) 27 vs. Jacksonville (1 - 8) 17 in London: Tony Romo is listed as probable, but it shouldn't make a difference in who wins, just in the final margin of victory.
San Francisco (4 - 4) 24 @ New Orleans (4 - 4) 30: A tough pick, but the homestanding Saints have taken the lead in the beleaguered NFC South. The Superdome is always a difficult place to play, but especially when the home team is on a roll.
Tennessee (2 - 6) 24 Baltimore (5 - 4) 27: The Ravens find themselves in last place in the very competitive AFC North, so they need to win one the're supposed to keep pace. They should be able to do that against a Titans team that hasn't been able to generate any momentum this season.
Pittsburgh (6 - 3) 30 @ New York Jets (1 - 8) 20: Can Big Ben maintain the incredible passing pace of the last two weeks? The Jets are pretty much done for the season, so I think he can.
Atlanta (2 - 6) 27 @ Tampa (1 - 7) 26: Even though these teams are hopelessly under .500, a run could get them into contention in the division. It's time for Atlanta to start winning, or Falcons' head coach Mike White will be looking for a new home after the season.
Denver (6 - 2) 27 @ Oakland (0 - 8) 17:I expect the Broncos to bounce back, but it won't be a cakewalk against winless Oakland. The Raiders don't look like a team that will go 0 - 16, but I doubt they'll break through today.
St. Louis (3 - 5) 16 @ Arizona (7 - 1) 24: The Cardinals can put their stamp on the division this afternoon. The Rams are tough, but Arizona has too much speed, especially playing at home in the desert.
New York Giants (3 - 5) 24@ Seattle (5 - 3) 30: The Giants have the knack to suddenly show up and play a great game. Maybe that will be today, but it still won't be enough to take down the Seahawks at home.
Chicago (3 - 5) 23 @ Green Bay (5 - 3) 31: Bears' QB Jay Cutler has never won in Green Bay, and the way Chicago is playing doesn't give any indication that his first one will be today. The Packers have caught fire, and are playing great with the exception of last week's performance at New Orleans.
Carolina (3 - 5 - 1) 21 @ Philadelphia (6 - 2) 31: The Eagles are poised to keep their lead in the NFC East. The Panthers just haven't been hitting on all cylinders and Philadelphia isn't a great place to play when you need a tune up.