The NFL season is winding down with just three weeks left. Some teams are jockeying for position as the top playoff seeds while others are fighting to make it in. In the AFC it looks like we know the top five seeds, but that sixth seed is a battle between the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers with the Jets, Titans & Steelers having a chance to get in there too. Every game is critical for them at this point.
I think the NFC playoffs will feature the six teams that are in place right now (Seahawks, Saints, Eagles, Lions, Niners, Panthers), but if anybody slips up too much then other teams like the Cardinals, Cowboys, Bears and Packers are ready to pounce. It's a fun time of the year if you're a NFL fan.
Before we get to this week's games, here are some thoughts on the Thursday game.
San Diego 27 - Denver 20: What? Is that right? Yes it is. I watched the game and the Chargers really took it to the Broncos with a sound game plan by controlling the clock. That's how you beat Denver. The Chargers offense had the ball for 38:49. Any time a team has it that much they're usually going to win. Their run game was dominant (177 yards rushing to just 18 for Denver) and the defense was aggressive all night long while also preventing the Broncos from making big plays down the field.
If you're a Broncos fan, chalk it up to it being a Thursday game and that the Chargers play them tougher than anybody. They can bounce back, but the defense has to be better if they're going to make it to the Super Bowl because you know other teams are going to follow this same game plan. If they don't make stops they'll be going home before the Super Bowl. Also, if you're a fantasy football player with Broncos players on your team I bet you're pretty angry right now. I am too.
Last week straight up: 12-4. Season: 134-73-1 (.647)
All game times are in the Eastern time zone.
Washington (3-10) at Atlanta (3-10) 1:00 pm
Two awful teams that were in the playoffs last year, so it's a tough game to call. I'm going Falcons because with Matt Ryan at QB they have somebody that's pretty good back there while the Redskins are starting Kirk Cousins while playing for a coach in Mike Shanahan that's likely going to get fired in three weeks. Falcons 27-17
San Francisco (9-4) at Tampa Bay (4-9) 1:00 pm
It's hard not to like the Niners since they are as healthy as they've been all year and peaking at the right time after a big home win against the Seahawks (their third straight win). Don't sleep on the Bucs, though. They've won 4 of 5 and that defense has really turned it around. I like the Niners by a field goal, which means the Bucs cover the 5.5 points. Even though the Niners offense is better with Crabtree back and Kaepernick looks more comfortable in the pocket, the Bucs should keep it close as long as they don't turn it over much. 49ers 20-17
Seattle (11-2) at N.Y. Giants (5-8) 1:00 pm
I think the Giants offense is going to struggle mightily in this one. They can score on bad defenses like the ones in their defense, but not on a team like the Seahawks. Look for the Seahawks to bounce back after a tough road loss in San Fran a week ago. I think they'll finish off the year with three wins, a 14-2 record and the first round bye with that home field advantage that will really help them get to the Super Bowl. Look for that Seahawks offense with Wilson, Lynch and company to have a big game as well. Seahawks 31-13
Philadelphia (8-5) at Minnesota (3-9-1) 1:00 pm
It seems like an easy pick going with the Eagles here, but this is the NFL. Nothing is ever easy. The Vikings offense will likely struggle since Adrian Peterson is probably out and without him they're going have a tough time moving the ball. I love that Eagles offense with Nick Foles doing a great job throwing the ball and LeSean McCoy had a huge game running it last week. The Eagles have won five in a row. They're going to make it six. Eagles 37-14
New England (10-3) at Miami (7-6) 1:00 pm
Home upset alert! I'm going Dolphins. No disrespect to the Patriots, but they've played in three nailbiters in a row with two wins by 3 points and last week's miraculous one point comeback win against the Browns, who choked. I like the Dolphins offense of late with Ryan Tannehill looking very confident in the pocket, spreading the ball around and making key plays. I think the Pats offense is going to miss Rob Gronkowski more than they might say. Look for Tom Brady to throw to Shane Vereen out of the backfield more, but I don't know if they will score enough against a Dolphins team at home in a must win situation. Of course the Dolphins are the team that I feel like I've been wrong on the most all year, so I could be way off too. Dolphins 31-27
Buffalo (4-9) at Jacksonville (4-9) 1:00 pm
It's another game with two bad teams not going anywhere. At least the Jags have been able to win some games after their 0-8 start. Their current 4-1 run in their last 5 shows that they have some talent there and it's going to take some time for them to develop. It's hard to pick the Bills since they have just one win in their last six. Give me the home team. Jaguars 23-17
Houston (2-11) at Indianapolis (8-5) 1:00 pm
The Colts are 2-3 in their last five, so it's safe to say they are reeling a bit. The offense clearly misses their best WR Reggie Wayne, who tore his ACL. He opened up the field for the others because he could draw defensive attention. Without him there, Andrew Luck is having a tough time passing the ball. Lucky for the Colts, their division is awful. Their opponent this week is proof of that. The Texans are falling apart in every area despite having some talented players on the team. The Colts need to use this game to get themselves right before the playoffs. I think they'll do just that. Colts 27-17
Chicago (7-6) at Cleveland (4-9) 1:00 pm
There's some controversy in Chicago this week because Jay Cutler is back at QB after dealing with an ankle injury. Josh McCown played really well there while Cutler was out (especially last week) and there's a concern with Cutler back the offense could struggle. I think that concern is legitimate, but I can understand coach Marc Trestman going back to Cutler. He shouldn't lose his job because of an ankle injury. I think their loaded offense with Forte, Marshall, Jeffrey & Bennett should continue to produce. It's the Bears awful defense (especially against the run) that will cost them a playoff berth. The Browns lost two close games back to back. How about one more? Sure. Bears 30-27
Kansas City (10-3) at Oakland (4-9) 4:05 pm
I was thinking of picking a home upset here, but the Raiders are just too bad on defense for me to pick them over a good team. They gave up 37 points to the offensively inept Jets last week! Good luck stopping Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles and company when they're focused on a long playoff run. That 37 number looks pretty good too. Chiefs 37-17
N.Y. Jets (6-7) at Carolina (9-4) 4:05 pm
This should be a blowout. The Panthers are pretty mad after getting their asses kicked in New Orleans last week. Lucky for them, the inconsistent Jets offense is coming to town. I give Rex Ryan a lot of credit for coaching this team to six wins because I expected about three this year. The Jets are 2nd in rush defense, so look for the Panthers to try to air it out a bit more. I think Cam Newton will have success doing just that. Panthers 27-7
Green Bay (6-6-1) at Dallas (7-6) 4:25 pm
I really hate picking this game because I have a tough time going with a below average QB in Matt Flynn on the road. He's not good enough for me to pick him to win. If Aaron Rodgers was playing (it's not expected that he will) I would definitely pick the Packers. I'm leery of Dallas. Why? That defense is atrocious. They're last in the league against the pass and 28th against the run. The 426.9 yards per game they give up is one of the five highest totals in the history of the NFL. They are an all-time bad defense. I'll still pick them just because I think the Packers offense will struggle, maybe Flynn throws a couple of picks and the Cowboys offense should have a successful day too. Plus, Dallas is 5-1 at home. They're comfortable there I still like the Eagles to win the NFC East, but I am picking the Cowboys to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. Cowboys 31-24
Arizona (8-5) at Tennessee (5-8) 4:25 pm
I haven't watched much of either team this year because they can be boring to watch. However, I know the Cardinals defense is legit. I think the Titans are going to struggle to score against them because their offense lacks explosiveness and players that can make big plays (sorry Chris Johnson). It will likely be a low scoring game with the Cardinals winning thanks to that aggressive defense they have. Cardinals 20-17
New Orleans (10-3) at St. Louis (5-8) 4:25 pm
This should be a win for the Saints. They're comfortable in a dome. I know that sometimes they struggle on the road, but they should win this game. My Rams have issues in the passing game. I often wonder where they might be if Sam Bradford didn't tear his ACL because he was on his way to 30 TDs this season. Instead, I have to watch Kellen Clemens struggle week after week. The Rams defense may cause some problems for Drew Brees & company at times, but I don't think they can sustain it. With the Saints offense looking strong due to guys like Colston & Graham staying healthy they're tough to beat. Saints 33-20
Cincinnati (9-4) at Pittsburgh (5-8) 8:30 pm
The Steelers had a shot to compete for a playoff spot, but close losses to the Ravens and Dolphins (keep your foot in bounds, Antonio Brown!) likely ended that for them. There's still a chance - I just think it's unlikely. The Bengals are one of top three teams in the NFL yet I don't think most fans know a lot about them. Andy Dalton had a monster game last week against the Colts (3 Pass TD, 1 Rush TD) as they blew them out. I like the balance they have on offense with two solid RBs, a star WR in AJ Green with skilled complementary pieces and the OLine is better than most. Defensively they are 7th against the pass and 5th against the run. What I'm getting at is they're a very balanced playoff team that has a legitimate shot of winning some big games in the playoffs. The only thing that hurts them is they haven't gone very deep in the playoffs in over 20 years, so it will be interesting to see how far they can go. For this game I like them to win because I think the Steelers offense may struggle a bit while the Bengals should find success putting points up on the board. In week two the Bengals won 20-10. I think it will be a bit closer this time. Bengals 23-17
Baltimore (7-6) at Detroit (7-6) 8:40 pm (MON)
They have the same record, yet the Lions are favored by 5.5 points. Usually home field advantage gives you three points, so the oddsmakers are saying the Lions are the better team even though the Lions have lost 3 of 4 while the Ravens have won 3 of 4. Confusing isn't it? That's likely because the Ravens are a tough team to figure out. I can't really trust the Ravens to pick them on the road. Their next two games vs. the Pats and at the Bengals won't be easy either.
I'm going with the Lions because that offense is explosive at home. The Ford Field dome helps them. I live two hours from Detroit and I can tell you it's been ridiculously cold all week. They're an indoor team that benefits from that playing environment. After last week's snow game loss, I expect the Lions trio of Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush to perform very well this week. They know how important it is to keep their spot atop the NFC North rankings. I think they'll get the job done. Lions 31-23
That's all for me this week. Enjoy the games and good luck to you.