Green Bay @ DETROIT – The Lions have looked abysmal on defense, and Calvin Johnson was essentially shut down last week, so does he come out swinging? Do the Lions still have a pulse? Not if Stafford keeps turning the ball over. Now that the Packers are Matt Flynn’s team (for the moment) I think we see the versatility of the players more than under Tolzien. I like Flynn to throw downfield and get James Jones involved. Jordy Nelson has a good game, and the Packers win on the road. It’s a close one but they take it. Pick – Green Bay.
Oakland @ DALLAS – No one’s giving Oakland a chance in this one, but I like Matt McGloin against the Cowboys’ defense. They actually made Eli Manning look somewhat competent in the second half of the game last week, and they’re lucky they were able to pull it out. They haven’t been particularly good at home, and all their losses have come against non-NFC East opponents. I look for McGloin to be accurate in this one, and Oakland wins a stunner on the road. Pick – Oakland.
Pittsburgh @ BALTIMORE – Baltimore plays better at home, and Ray Rice shreds that Pittsburgh run defense. Sounds like a headline we could hear on Friday morning? Or does Flacco regress against his old foe and find the sledding tough? This game is proving ground for the Steelers as it’s essentially win this one or the playoffs are out of the question for this year, and it’s not too far off to feel the same way about the Ravens’ chances if they lose this one. I think Baltimore finally steps up and beats Pittsburgh at home to, in the words of Jesse Jackson, keep hope alive. Pick – Baltimore.
Arizona @ PHILADELPHIA – Arizona’s defense has been playing magnificently for the past few games, and the Eagles offense has looked tough as well. Something’s got to give here, and Philadelphia finally got its first win at home this season. I think the offense keeps it up and the defense does just enough to take care of Carson Palmer. Eagles win their second in a row at home. Pick – Philadelphia.
Tampa Bay @ CAROLINA – Their winning streak should have come to an end last week, but Miami let them back into it. Tampa routinely plays Carolina well, even in Carolina, and Mike Glennon has done well except for the game last week. I think Vincent Jackson gets back into it and exposes the Caroline defense like Wallace did on Sunday. Tampa stops the Panthers’ winning streak at seven. Pick – Tampa Bay.
Jacksonville @ CLEVELAND – The teams are going in opposite directions, with the Jaguars showing signs of life. They might not even want the number one pick in the draft at this rate. The Cleveland defense has come back down to earth just in time for this matchup. Weeden is back at quarterback, too, which might be good news for Cameron. I see the Cleveland offense picking up the slack and giving Jacksonville another chance at getting that number one pick in the draft. Pick – Cleveland.
Tennessee @ INDIANAPOLIS – These are two underachieving teams. Who wakes up in time for this game? Indianapolis is still too talented to keep getting blown out, but I saw absolutely nothing on Sunday that shows me this is the time to count on them to wake up. Fitzpatrick does just enough against that defense this week to keep Indy down, knocking them even farther down the playoff pecking order. Chris Johnson has a huge game. Hopefully the Colts get it together enough for next week. Pick – Tennessee.
Chicago @ MINNESOTA – McCown vs. Ponder. The matchup makes you salivate, yes? Yeah, I’m thinking you’re just like me and wondering who in their right mind might actually broadcast this contest. This could come down to Forte vs. Peterson, and for the first time ever I like Forte’s chances. I say it’s a close one, but the Chicago running game dominates and they win it on the road against Ponder and the Vikes. Pick – Chicago.
Miami @ JETS – The way this season has been going for both teams, this is it, the game that will decide what happens with their playoff fortunes because both won’t be getting in, and the one who loses this game is pretty much out based on tough schedules for both teams the rest of the way in. In a must-win situation, who do you trust more, Smith or Tannehill? I like what I saw from Tannehill last week against Carolina for the most part. If they keep Wallace involved they win this one going away. Smith turns the ball over before he’s taken out of this one. Pick – Miami.
New England @ HOUSTON – Houston has looked horrible lately, and Keenum doesn’t seem like quite the answer anymore. They have had a hard time running it since Foster’s been out, the defense hasn’t been as tight as earlier this season, and they’re on a massive losing streak. But for some reason I think New England overlooks them, and after that huge win against Denver last week they’re due for an emotional letdown. I see it happening in Houston and the Texans being able to run the ball effectively and neutralize the Patriots on the road. It’s my upset of the week. Pick – Houston.
Atlanta @ BUFFALO – Buffalo has just hands down been playing better than Atlanta, and the Falcons look like they’re ready to fight for that number one pick in next year’s draft. The Bills run it well with Jackson and Spiller this week and shut down Atlanta with its superior defense. This one isn’t even close as Matt Ryan turns it over multiple times. Pick – Buffalo.
St. Louis @ SAN FRANCISCO – Last year the Rams seemed to have the 49ers’ number, but this year I think San Francisco is gelling at the right time, they probably get Michael Crabtree back for this one, and Gore rebounds from a lackluster performance in Washington last week. St. Louis’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, but I think they get exposed here by the multi-faceted nature of the 49ers offense. Pick – San Francisco.
Denver @ KANSAS CITY – Other teams seem to have finally figured out the formula for beating both of these powerhouses, the Denver offense has been less effective, and so has the Kansas City defense. What this game will come down to is who makes the better adjustments. Two weeks ago Denver won because their defense was able to contain the Kansas City offense, but this time around they will need to rely on that offense to be explosive again. Can it happen, and even possibly without Knowshon Moreno? I think it can, that Manning has a bounce back game, and that the Chiefs again can’t keep up. Pick – Denver.
Cincinnati @ SAN DIEGO – Philip Rivers is back! That pass to Abrotuti (or whatever his name is) was brilliant, and he totally exposed that Kansas City defense, so Cincinnati should be a breeze, right? Uh, no. Rivers ran into a Chiefs team that took for granted that they could handle him. They won’t be so lucky against the opportunistic Bengals’ D that has proven it can lock down quarterbacks who had previously been playing well, and they won’t take anything for granted. Andy Dalton exposes this Charger’s defense, and Bernard has a great game. Pick – Cincinnati.
Giants @ WASHINGTON – There is turmoil in Washington, but people forget that the Giants are still not playing well. Their defense looked like gangbusters against some of the worst quarterbacks they could have faced in their four game winning streak, but they were taken down by Tony Romo last week. Both teams are flailing at the moment, but both still have a small chance of still winning the division so they play for that this week. It will come down to who runs the ball better, in my opinion. Alfred Morris was pretty much contained last week and I think he goes off in this game. Andre Brown has been great since coming back from injury, but I think he falters here and Eli has to throw it too much. That’s a recipe for disaster. I think RGIII gets back on track and the Giants lose two in a row. Pick – Washington.
New Orleans @ SEATTLE – The Saints looked pretty ordinary against the Falcons on last Thursday night, but they didn’t have to be supermen to deal with that team. They will have to be running on all cylinders against a Seattle defense at home on Monday night. However, the Seahawks’ D is a bit banged up and that will show here. In the ultimate upset, the Saints win a close on on the road against a hostile Seattle crowd. Pick – New Orleans.