Ed: Looks like I did all right again last week, but only just ahead of Jazz. I went 5-2, with only the Eagles and Cowboys letting me down. That brings my season to 59-41, a respectable record, but time’s running out to catch Jazz for the regular-season win. Besides, I have to stay hot in these picks because the temperature today will be -10º … as a high.
Jazz: Last week came down to the Giants game, with their unexpected (by me, anyway) victory over the Cowboys letting the week slip away from me. Still, I managed to go 4-3 and inched further above the .500 mark to 61-39. But with Ed breathing down my neck for the season totals I’d best get moving on some better picks. Three weeks to go so my fingers are crossed.
Ed: All right, let’s get down to steel tacks. Pittsburgh travels to Cincinnati (1 pm ET, CBS), and even manages to be favored by a field goal. They’ve won four in a row to retake the AFC North lead, while the Bengals are on a two-game win streak of their own. Le’Veon Bell will make the difference for a 28-23 Steelers win. The Vikings take on the Colts in Minnesota (1 pm, CBS), where they’ve only lost two of their six games. It should be a close game, but the Vikes should hold on at home in a defensive battle, 20-14, especially with Adrian Peterson expected to return. The Jets played last night, so we’ll dispense with that call for this week, which should be a relief to Jazz.
Jazz: Since the Jets played last night and once again managed to get their butts kicked they saved me another assured loss this week. (We also lost our 4th QB to injury. #sigh) The last time the Steelers played the Bengals they did not have Le’Veon Bell and Big Ben put up some pretty lethargic numbers. And they still managed to win. This time around Ben is looking much sharper and Bell is back. Pittsburgh wins this one 34-21. The Vikings are supposed to have Adrian Peterson back this week and that should give them some additional flexibility on the ground, added to the impressive completion percentage that Sam Bradford has run up. The Colts are no pushovers,but I’ll take the Vikings 30-24.
Ed: Let’s pick five more to keep things even … or, um, odd actually:
- Packers at Bears (1 pm, Fox) – Normally this would be a blockbuster game, but Da Bears are banged up and far out of the picture in the NFC North. The Pack needs this win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and Green Bay should sweep the series with a 31-17 win.
- Lions at Giants (1 pm, Fox) – The Giants have gotten fat off of sub-par teams, but they did manage to hand the red-hot Cowboys their only two losses of the season. Detroit and New York match up pretty well against each other, but the Lions are on a five-game winning streak. I’ll take the Lions over the Giants 27-24, maybe in OT. Should be a really good game.
- Patriots at Broncos (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Pats have won eight of their last nine, and would have blown out the Ravens last week had it not been for some really bad special-teams plays. The Broncos have struggled a bit of late and haven’t beaten a winning team in weeks. Brady chalks up another record win today in a 35-21 romp.
- Buccaneers at Cowboys (8:30 pm, NBC) – Yes, I know the Cowboys lost to the Giants last week and the Bucs have a five-game win streak that includes the Seahawks and the Chiefs, both playoff bound. I’m still not picking against Dak Prescott, especially at home. Dallas’ offense and defense both outrank Tampa Bay’s too. Cowboys 27-19 over the Bucs.
- Panthers at Redskins (8:30 pm Monday, ESPN) – Doesn’t it seem odd that it’s the Panthers coming into this game below .500, and Washington vying for a playoff berth? The Panthers get Luke Kuechly back on defense, and Cam Newton’s cleared to play despite a sore shoulder. I have a hunch Carolina’s ready for an upset. Panthers 31-27 over the Redskins.
- Packers at Bears (1 pm, Fox) – This is going to be a brutally cold game with wind chills well below zero. There will be a chill over Chicago as well, because they’ve slid out of playoff form. Should be a classic, freezing win for the Packers 24-19.
- Lions at Giants (1 pm, Fox) – The Giants burned me last week but I never seem to learn. Stafford banged up his throwing hand last week and the conditions promise to be brutal, so this looks to be more of a ground game. In those conditions the Giant’s 7th ranked defense will be enough to handle the Lions. New York wins 24-20.
- Patriots at Broncos (4:25 pm, CBS) – I’m too disgusted with the Patriots to even describe this game, though I think the mystique has been broken and they will collapse again in the playoffs. They’ll win today, though, in a nauseating 24-17 victory.
- Buccaneers at Cowboys (8:30 pm, NBC) – Dallas is the favorite by a full touchdown but we shouldn’t forget the sad performance the Cowboys turned in last week. Meanwhile Tampa Bay is on the bubble and trying to lock down a playoff slot. Even in front of a home crowd, Prescott isn’t a sure thing this week. I’m going to take a HUGE flyer here and take Tampa Bay in a massive upset 21-15.
- Panthers at Redskins (8:30 pm Monday, ESPN) – Washington is the favorite here for a reason and it’s a season’s worth of data showing that the Panthers were heavy on potential this year but couldn’t put the pieces together. They’ll drop another one on the road in a low scoring, 17-9 Redskins victory.