Pittsburgh @ Cleveland – Cleveland’s defense has been a bit maligned of late, but they still have Joe Haden who will be all over Antonio Brown. That opens the way for Emmanuel Sanders to have a monster game if he can handle the pressure, but the real pressure will be on the Pittsburgh offensive line to protect Roethlisberger. When he’s under duress he completes fewer passes and the turnovers come. Both teams are playing for their playoff lives, but I think Cleveland takes a close one at home on a Jordan Cameron touchdown. Pick – Cleveland.
Tampa Bay @ Detroit – A modest two-game winning streak has restored faith in Buc nation, and a trip to Detroit should keep that faith going. Yes, Calvin Johnson still lives there, but Stafford is as turnover prone as ever, especially when he tries to force passes into double coverage. The Tampa defense is adept at making those turnovers, which will be the difference in this game. Bucs steal one on the road to make it three in a row against a porous defense. Pick – Tampa Bay.
Minnesota @ Green Bay – Tolzien wasn’t bad in the loss to the Giants last week, but the defense was totally exposed, something that could be covered up by Rodgers but won’t fly without him. Hopefully he returns next week, because even at home, against a rejuvenated Christian Ponder, the Pack won’t be able to muster up enough points to win it. Pick – Minnesota.
San Diego @ Kansas City – Philip Rivers is the man we thought he was going to be this season. It just took him a little longer to show his true colors. With that being said, the Chiefs are who we thought they were too, losing one to the Broncos that was closer than the final score indicated. But that was on the road, and this one is at Arrowhead, where the Chiefs haven’t lost all season. Charles will have a monster day and the Chiefs roll. Pick – Kansas City.
Chicago @ St. Louis – Well, someone has to win the NFC North, and Chicago did win last week despite its horrible run defense. St. Louis has Zac Stacy and he can pick that defense apart just like Ray Rice did last week. I like Josh McCown but I worry he’s too one-dimensional when playing from behind, which is where the Bears will find themselves this week. The Rams will do enough to take this game behind Stacy. Pick – St. Louis.
Carolina @ Miami – After that impressive win against New England on Monday night, a lot of analysts are saying that Carolina is the team to beat now, and they’re looking forward to its looming matchup against New Orleans. I’m worried the team is doing the same thing, and will come back down to earth against a Miami defense that has been underappreciated of late, but that played rather well last week. I think it continues here, and Miami takes one at home to silence the critics who said they can’t do it. Hartline has a great game and Lamar Miller scores a touchdown. Pick – Miami. (This is my upset special of the week.)
Jets @ Baltimore – If you’re following the pattern, it means that the Jets should win this week, having been blown out by Buffalo in last week’s contest, but they’re in Baltimore where Flacco usually exposes that pass defense. He will do it again in this meeting after that close loss to Chicago last week. It’s that time of year where the Ravens usually find a way to win games they shouldn’t en route to the playoffs. In a must-win, they pull it out here, with Flacco going over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. Pick – Baltimore.
Jacksonville @ Houston – Keenum is your man, Houston. Let’s not get silly and bench him again in favor of Schaub this game. Sure, he’s high risk/reward, but against Jacksonville that’s a perfect combination. Yes, they beat a Tennessee team that they shouldn’t have beaten this year, but they’re coming off a loss to Arizona, and they should lose this one as well. Houston has looked bad in its losses this year, but they’re been relatively good in the close ones. This one will be closer than most think, but Houston takes it at home. Pick – Houston.
Tennessee @ Oakland – The trip cross-country usually does in the East coast teams, but it’s Oakland, who has looked absolutely abject in defeat the past few weeks. Jennings has a good game, but Oakland keeps the losing streak going against Fitzpatrick and the Titans. Pick – Tennessee.
Indianapolis @ Arizona – The Cardinals are looking surprisingly strong lately, with the defense leading the way, especially at home where they are this week. Indianapolis is on a skid, losing games they wouldn’t have lost earlier in the year. The loss of Wayne looms large, and with Richardson being a bust that puts too much pressure on Luck, who has been making mistakes. He continues to make mistakes here, and Arizona sends the Colts into a tailspin. Pick – Arizona.
Dallas @ Giants – The Giants and Cowboys usually split their season series, and the Cowboys dominated the Giants in the first game of the season in Dallas, so the Giants should win here, right? Plus they’re on a four game winning streak and back in the NFC East race. We can count on Eli and company to dismantle Dallas in this one, right? Wrong. Romo knows how to win in New Jersey as he’s done it many times in the past, and the Cowboys can be in control of their destiny if they win this one because they own the tiebreaker against Philadelphia right now. They step up big in this one, Terrance Williams and DeMarco Murray have great games, and they take a game that won’t even be close in the end. Pick – Dallas.
Denver @ New England – I don’t care that it’s at New England, or that Tom Brady has started throwing touchdown passes again, or even the rivalry between him and Manning. What I care about is the amount of points Brady’s Patriots will have to put up to hang within hailing distance of the Broncos. I don’t see it happening. Wes Welker returns triumphant against his former team, and the Broncos win this one on the road. Pick – Denver.
San Francisco @ Washington – This one depends on which team wakes up enough on offense, and whose defense doesn’t let down. Sounds like a recipe for the 49ers to take this one, even on the road going cross-country. Kaepernick isn’t trustworthy in this one as he may lean on Gore once again, but San Fran takes it despite a comeback effort by the Redskins. Pick – San Francisco.