Ed is still tied up on unfortunate personal business this weekend, but the NFL must grind on and traditions must be upheld, so I’ve been er… volunteered to step up to the helm again. But since we can hardly blame Ed for his absence, allow me to kick things off with the expected Pollyannish prognostication and set things up for Pittsburgh. Based on nothing more than their compared records, the Steelers could really have their hands full as they host the Dolphins today, but recent trends make me think otherwise. Antonio Brown has been burning up the secondary for Big Ben Roethlisberger and Miami still has trouble with the pass. Their recent performances don’t inspire much confidence on the ground side of the game, either. The Vegas line has the Phins down by 3, but I think the Steelers will blow things open a bit wider. Pittsburgh over Miami, 27-17.
Of course, we couldn’t have me doing this gig without bringing up my long suffering Jets. While still mathematically in the wild card hunt, even I have been forced to concede that I’ve got a better chance at winning a Pulitzer this year. Still, Gang Green is playing Oakland today, a team which should – in theory – be completely beatable. The Jets are sticking with Geno Smith for reasons which I can’t begin to explain, but on the plus side, their injury chart is down to essentially zero. Even the betting line has the Jets up by 3, so I’ll cross my fingers and call for a low scoring, error filled victory for New York, 13-6 over the Raiders.
Thanksgiving week gave Ed very little to be thankful for, combining his various picks from turkey day and Sunday for a 4 out of 9 record. Let’s try to lift his spirits by doing a little better this week.
- Colts at Bengals (1 pm, CBS) – Cincinnati and Indy have matching records, but seasonal momentum looks like the story here. The Colts have been falling apart on offense with poor performances by Andrew Luck in several outings, much to the destruction of my fantasy league team. The Bengals are still undefeated at home, and I don’t see that changing today, beating up on the Colts 30-17.
- Falcons at Packers (1 pm, F0x) – The Pack will start Matt Flynn who should see his fortunes improve against a depleted Atlanta pass defense. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan will probably spend some time on his backside as Green Bay’s pass rush has been improving. The Packers haven’t been doing well at home this season, but the weather is turning ugly and the Lambeau Field magic will make a comeback. Packers over Atlanta, in a low scoring, defensive showdown, 17-9.
- Giants at Chargers (4:25 pm, Fox) – All the sports pundits have been quick to write off the hapless New York Giants, and they’ve certainly given them plenty of reason to feel that way. But it’s December and we’re all allowed to expect a few miracles. The Vegas line has the Chargers up by a few, but I’ll go with the upset and say that New York will unplug the Chargers in a close one, 30-27.
- Panthers at Saints (8:25 pm, NBC) – At the beginning of the season, if you’d asked me what this match-up would look like, I’d have laughed. The Saints should have been an overwhelming favorite. But the Panthers have grown into essentially the premier defense in the league. Still, the Saints have a remarkable record playing Sunday night games (9-3) and the Superdome is a huge advantage. This one should be close, but the Saints will manage to beat the Vegas line which has them up by 3, beating the Panthers in a 27-23 race.
- Cowboys at Bears (Monday 8:40 pm, ESPN) – The Monday night match-up has two strong offenses and two struggling defenses facing off. Given their uneven performances, it’s a tough one to call but should make for a high scoring, big play battle that will be fun to watch. Tony Romo is doing well, but it won’t be enough to shut down Da’ Bears. Chicago over Dallas 41-31.