Jazz: My hopes for a breakout week were dashed when I once again went a meager 4-3 for a season record of 57-41. I’m almost within breathing room of an above .500 season, but I’ll definitely need to avoid a total flop. Can I stay ahead of Ed and take the regular season trophy? Hope springs eternal but is often thwarted. The great news for last week is that the Jets somehow beat the equally pathetic Bills. This week they faced a significantly more formidable opponent, but thankfully they did it yesterday so I didn’t have to pick the game.
Ed: Can you stay ahead of me, Jazz? I went 3-4 last week, so … yeah, I think you might manage that. I’m at 52-46 for the year and about to get lapped. So much for those Hail Mary picks, although I want to point out that I was astute enough to take Da Bears against the Rams last week. I might have to rest on that laurel for the next three weeks.
Jazz: The Steelers travel to play the New England Cheatriots (4:25 pm, CBS) in one of the bigger matches of the week. The Patriots used to be seen as invincible, but they’ve managed to drop some games against lesser teams. They managed to lose to the Dolphins last week in the Miami Miracle. If the Dolphins can beat them, can’t the Steelers? I think the magic is back for Pittsburgh. The Pats are the favorite but I’ll take the upset and say New England loses two in a row heading into the post-season. Steelers win it 31-27. The Vikings host the aforementioned Dolphins as a one touchdown favorite (1:00 pm, CBS) as a strong favorite. The Phins pulled out some magic to beat the Patriots, but I believe their mystical powers run out this week. I’ll take the Vikings 31-19.
Ed: The Steelers have dropped three in a row, and now James Conner is walking with a limp. Conner and Ryan Switzer are doubtful for a game against the Pats, who may not be playing at their peak these days but at least are playing better than the Raiders. Ah well. I’ll take the home-field advantage and the Steelers’ tendency to play at the level of their competition and predict a Pittsburgh win, 27-24. The Vikings just fired their OC after a dreadful performance on the road against Seattle, and they’re home to face the lucky-but-mediocre Dolphins. Miami’s 29th on defense and also 29th on offense, while Minnesota is far better on both and at home. Vikings 35-16 against Miami.
Jazz: We’ll need five more games to fill up our card of seven. Here they are.
- Titans at Giants (1:00 pm, CBS) – Believe it or not the Giants are still not technically out of the race. Of course, this is a must-win game against a team that can win or lose in any given week. I’m going with the home team and giving this one to the Giants 17-12.
- Cowboys at Colts (1:00 pm, FOX) – The Colts are a slight favorite against the Cowboys and that’s not a crazy call even on the road. But the Dallas secondary is suspect and I’m going to go with the Colts for a home win in a close one, 24-17.
- Seahawks at 49ers (4:05 pm, FOX) – Seattle still has a shot at the wild card and has been variously inspiring and disappointing. Can they salt away one more win against the frequently hapless 49ers? You bet they can. Seahawks take this one 27-24.
- Eagles at Rams (8:20 pm, NBC) – Can the Eagles make it back to the big game? At this point they’ll need to prove it by making it past the Rams. Nick Foles has done an amazing job, but I’m afraid that Los Angeles has too much in the tank for them. I’m going with the Rams 33-26.
- Saints at Panthers (Monday, 8:15 pm, ESPN) – The Saints are looking to lock up home-field advantage at this point. They’ll take a strong step on Monday night, beating the Panthers with a road win, 27-20.
- Titans at Giants (1:00 pm, CBS) – The Giants have won four out of their last five games, an impressive run for a squad that dropped seven of their first eight and looked like they were falling apart. The Titans have won four of their last six, but they’ve lost their last two road games. Still, I think they found a key part of their identity last week with Derrick Henry, and the Giants are only 22nd against the run. I’ll take Tennessee in a thriller, 28-24.
- Cowboys at Colts (1:00 pm, FOX) – The Colts are on a big streak too, winning six out of their last seven to vault into wild-card competition. Two of their wide receivers are questionable, though, which might slow down their passing attack. Dallas has a stingy defense, and even their “questionable” secondary is part of the 9th-ranked passing defense. I’ll pick the visitors in this one too, with Dallas prevailing in a close 24-21 game.
- Seahawks at 49ers (4:05 pm, FOX) – Seattle just beat the 49ers like a bongo drum at home two weeks ago, part of a four-game win streak. San Francisco plays tougher at home, but they won’t be tough enough. Seahawks soar, 35-24.
- Eagles at Rams (8:20 pm, NBC) – Philly’s ranked 25th in defense, lower than the Rams, and LA has waaaayyy more offense than Nick Foles and the Eagles will muster on the road. The Rams will put up a boatload of points, and the Eagles will barely clear the ground. LA 42-20 over the Eagles.
- Saints at Panthers (Monday, 8:15 pm, ESPN) – Their offenses are only two ranks apart (7th and 9th, respectively), but New Orleans scores ten more points a game. Their defense is a little better too, giving up four fewer points per game. Home field makes some difference but not enough to make up that eighteen-point potential gap. Saints 33-21 over the Panthers.