Last Week: 13-3
Titans @ Jaguars
Even fans of the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars must be rooting solely for draft position at this point. I can’t imagine either team truly wanting to win this game. What’s the incentive? With Clipboard Jesus taking the reins in Tennessee, the chances of a Jaguars win increased exponentially. The rule for Thursday Night Football is the home team holds an advantage, but greater priority is given to the team with a better quarterback. In this case, Blake Bortles is actually better than Chaz Whitehurst.
Win: Jacksonville Jaguars
Eagles @ Redskins
RG Knee is back in action for Washington, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. In the final weeks, teams with playoff implications on the line just have more motivation to win. Mark Sanchez has been floundering for Philadelphia, but Nick Foles is not walking through that door so Mr. Butt Fumble presents the only hope for the Eagles. Chip Kelly will certainly scheme around Sanchize and try to put him in the best position for Philadelphia to reach the playoffs. It’s unlikely they’ll conquer Dallas and the division.
Win: Philadelphia Eagles
Chargers @ 49ers
Jim Harbaugh doesn’t give up. But I fear the entire 49ers franchise has given up on Harbaugh and the rest of this season. Colin Kaepernick still has potential, but Harbaugh isn’t getting significant enough production out of Daddy Long Legs. Without a real home-field advantage in the Stadium That Denim Built, San Francisco will struggle against a competitive Chargers team. If this was a typical mid-Sunday matchup, I think most 49ers players would be comfortable laying an egg, but they’ll look to spoil San Diego’s playoff chances in a primetime game on the unusual Saturday night timeslot.
Win: San Diego Chargers
Lions @ Bears
Chicago fans are pleading to fast forward through the end of the season. Smokin’ Jay has officially been benched and Marc Trestman is suffering through his final days as a head coach. It’s clear Marc Trestman could be a gifted offensive coordinator, but he probably doesn’t have what it takes to lead an entire football team. The dysfunction has definitely gone past the boiling point of a nuclear reactor, and there’s no going back to Jay Cutler now. Welcome to the Jimmy Clausen era! How loud do you think Linkin Park was playing in Clausen’s car on the way to Soldier Field? Detroit can ill-afford to lose such a juicy matchup.
Win: Detroit Lions
Vikings @ Dolphins
Minnesota and Miami are two competitive yet incomplete teams. This will be a woefully boring game with plenty of stalled drives due to competent defenses and inconsistent QB play. The Dolphins earn the advantage with a stronger supporting cast even if the Vikings have the better head coach.
Win: Miami Dolphins
Falcons @ Saints
Is this a mirage or might the Saints have actually removed their collective heads from their asses? Atlanta is aggressively mediocre, but the key to that aggression is Julio Jones. If Jones can play and move reasonably well, then the Falcons have a chance to once again salvage their season. But with all of the issues on Atlanta’s defense, New Orleans could just run the ball down the throat of the Falcons.
Win: New Orleans Saints
Patriots @ Jets
Would it surprise you if I predicted a New York Jets win? It would surprise me as well. It isn’t happening. Despite the strong Jets defense, Geno Smith is still at QB so there’s no way New York will stumble into another unwanted win against a Patriots team intent on keeping home-field advantage in the AFC.
Win: New England Patriots
Chiefs @ Steelers
Has Alex Smith thrown a TD pass to a WR yet? Pittsburgh is a fantastic destination for opposing QBs to enjoy the holidays, but the Chiefs don’t figure to be the type to take advantage. While I hate the Steelers, Le’Veon Bell is becoming an unstoppable force. As long as Rapistberger keeps plays alive and protects the ball, Pittsburgh should convert on enough 3rd Downs to limit any possible danger from Kansas City. Of course, this is also the same Steelers team that routinely screws up winnable games like this one.
Win: Pittsburgh Steelers
Packers @ Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has nothing to play for while Green Bay needs to rebound and regain form before the playoffs.
Win: Green Bay Packers
Browns @ Panthers
Johnny Manziel’s debut didn’t go quite as planned. But were there any positives that indicate Manziel will do any better against another strong defense? This could go off the rails quickly for John Football. I don’t think Cam Newton will be anywhere close to 100%, but he’s capable of throwing from the pocket. It would not be shocking if Newton performed in similar fashion to Donovan McNabb’s broken ankle game. Carolina needs to keep Cam healthy, but Newton is the type of mobile QB that can be successful long-term because he’s a competent passer that uses his athleticism to extend plays and murder teams in the end zone.
It’s a weapon that’s more impactful as a threat that’s seldom used.
Win: Carolina Panthers
Ravens @ Texans
Welcome back, Case Keenum. Tony Romo’s gun-slinging cousin is back in Houston because the Texans can’t manage to keep a QB healthy. Baltimore doesn’t have the same stellar defense and Joe Flacco doesn’t air it out to the same degree, but the Ravens are at least average at every aspect of football. Against a defunct Texans offense, Baltimore’s well-rounded nature will serve them well over 60 minutes.
Win: Baltimore Ravens
Giants @ Rams
Ugh, what an ugly matchup. I would like to submit a formal request that the NFL combines these two teams and moves the franchise to Los Angeles. It would be so much better. We can salvage the last few years of Eli Manning’s productive career, there’s someone worthwhile in that treasure trove of mostly average RBs, Odell Beckham becomes an even bigger star, and that defense would be unstoppable. As it currently stands, we have a Giants team that’s totally given up on Tom Coughlin and a Rams team that’s just not talented enough offensively to be a playoff contender. Side with the better defense when all else fails.
Win: St. Louis Rams
Colts @ Cowboys
No one can reasonably expect DeMarco Murray to be his usual force of nature. Without his ability to control drives, Dallas will need Tony Romo to hit Dez Bryant early and often. Indianapolis’ defense is ripe to be ripped open, but Andrew Luck will keep the game close. If T.Y. Hilton can outperform Dez Bryant, that will likely indicate an Indianpolis win. Never discount Luck’s ability to pull the proverbial horseshoe out of his ass, but Dallas has so much to lose with a defeat to the Colts. Dallas is a contender, not a pretender.
Win: Dallas Cowboys
Bills @ Raiders
Buffalo against Oakland is such a festering pile of shit matchup. I don’t know if the product gets more watchable if you merge these two franchises, but it wouldn’t hurt to get rid of one of these depressing wastelands of football. Buffalo is NFL Siberia while Oakland is NFL Alcatraz. You can survive the cold nothingness of Siberia, but you cannot escape Alcatraz and live to tell about it.
Win: Buffalo Bills
Seahawks @ Cardinals
Arizona is transforming even more into The Walking Dead with the injury to Drew Stanton (Carl). But the Cardinals do not have enough healthy bodies to fight off the swarming Seahawks. If this game was in Seattle, there’s a genuine chance it would be 50-0. Arizona has a distinct home-field advantage, but it doesn’t mean as much without the talent to make the noise matter. Arizona’s only chance is probably a punt return TD. If Seattle has a pick-6, then the spirit of the Cardinals will be broken.
Win: Seattle Seahawks
Broncos @ Bengals
Jeremy Hill poses a serious threat to Denver’s defense. The Broncos do not have a stout run defense, and Cincinnati could do real damage pounding the gates with Jeremy Hill and attacking the walls with Gio Bernard. If Peyton Manning remains limited with an injury, Denver will need C.J. Anderson to carry the offense once again. I’d rather save those larger loads for the playoffs when the stakes are more important. Denver would do well to maintain the No. 2 seed, but the Broncos don’t have much hope to supplant the Patriots to make the AFC playoffs run through Mile High. Peyton can and will win on the road.
Win: Denver Broncos