Kansas City (12 - 5) 27 @ New England (12 - 4) 24: The Patriots faltered down the stretch, partially due to injuries to key skill players and the offensive line. Justin Edelman and Rob Gronkowski will play, but neither one is necessarily 100%. The keys to the game will be the Chiefs being able to generate a pass rush against the Pats, forcing Brady to get rid of the ball quickly, and New England pressuring Chiefs QB Alex Smith into making some sloppy plays. The Patriots are 5 point favorites, but I like the momentum the Chiefs have. Their defense is stout and even though they have some guys back, the Patriots are still nursing some injuries. Have the Pats continually found ways to win these games over the years? Absolutely. But not today.
Green Bay (11 - 6) 17 @ Arizona (13 - 3) 30: Until the Cardinals stunk it up against the Seahawks in their regular season finale, most experts agreed that they had the most talented roster in the NFC, if not the entire league. But it was an ugly and uninspired 36 - 6 loss, prompting many to question their earlier assessment. Meanwhile, the Packers feasted on an inexperienced playoff team in Washington and head to the desert with some renewed confidence. Unfortunately for them, the Cardinals' personnel hasn't changed from the team that drubbed Green Bay 38 - 8 to cap a nine game winning streak just three weeks ago. Can the Pack change that outcome? Possibly. Will they? Probably not.
Seattle (11 - 6) 20 @ Carolina (15 - 1) 31: In week 6, the Panthers went to Seattle and pulled out a come from behind victory to run their record to 5 - 0. They've only had one loss since, but after falling to 2 - 4 after the loss to Carolina, Seattle is almost as hot, winning nine of eleven to get a chance at revenge. Despite their appearances in the division round and 26 wins between them, these two teams each recorded only four W's against teams with winning records, and two of Seattle's were against the same team, the Vikings. That means the Seahawks only beat three teams with winning records. I think a rested Panthers' defense, led by cornerback Josh Norman and linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, will make it difficult for what is probably a tired Seattle offense to make many big plays. On the other side of the ball, Cam Newton has blossomed into an elite quarterback and probably the leader for the MVP. Even though Carolina hasn't traditionally had a big home field advantage, the biggest edge they get this week is that their stadium is almost 3000 miles from Seattle.
Pittsburgh (11 - 6) 23 @ Denver (12 - 4) 27: The Broncos are one of the unlikeliest and least dominant conference front runners in a long time. They have an awesome defense, but Peyton Manning looks, well, how can I say it? He looks like a 38 year old guy trying to play what is probably the most important position in professional team sports. He led Denver to a big win against the Chargers to end the season, but he only threw the ball for 69 yards. When these teams last met in week 15, a balanced Denver attack had them in the lead after three quarters, before a Steeler comeback secured the game in a must win situation for Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown had 16 catches for 189 yards and a pair for scores, but he won't be in Denver Sunday night. A more troubling stat for the Steelers is the 24 yards they were held to on the ground by the Broncos defense. With Brown out at receiver, running backs Bell and Williams on the sideline and Big Ben nursing an injured shoulder, it doesn't look good for Pittsburgh. I've been saying for weeks that if the Steelers got into the playoffs they would be dangerous, but not this group. Too many injuries and a rested Peyton Manning for Denver point to a win for the home team and hope for one last season of glory for their fabled QB.