Jazz: I went 6-1 for the second week in a row (stupid Steelers) bringing me to 66-39 on the season. Not bad if I do say so myself, but it also coincidentally was just enough to catch up to Ed. So after fifteen grueling weeks, we are precisely where we started, with only two weeks to go. The interesting phenomenon this week, and one which only happens every four years or so on average, is that it’s time for the Hot Air Not So Super Bowl. The Jets play the Steelers, so our two favorite teams will duke it out for bragging rights, at least on this web site. I’m sure the Jets will do… fine.
Ed: You know you had a bad weekend calling games when your competitor congratulates you on your work-avoidance skills. I did go 4-3, but that’s not good enough in crunch time. Now, with two weeks to go, it’s like starting from scratch. A few of the NFL teams have the same experience this week and next too, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Jazz: As mentioned above, the Jets host the Steelers (1:00 pm, CBS) in what seems to be a must-win game for Pittsburgh if they want a shot at the second wild card slot. (Either Buffalo or New England will almost certainly lock up the first with the other winning the AFC East.) The Jets have always loved to play the spoiler, but despite stringing together a few wins, the injuries have simply been too much and Sam Darnold is back to looking tentative when he gets rushed. I’d love to go with the home team here, but I’ve got a competition against Ed to try to win and I can’t give away points on a sympathy vote. I’ll take the Steelers over the Jets 24-16. The 10-4 Vikings host the 11-3 Packers on Monday night (8:20 pm, NBC) with a shot at taking the NFC North if they also beat the Bears next week. This should be an epic showdown. Minnesota may be one game behind Green Bay, but they put more points on the board and are stingier on defense. Also, they’re undefeated at home this year. Put that all together and I’ll go with the Vikings over the Packers 31-21.
Ed: The Steelers certainly know that each week is now its own season. If they lose in New York today, they will have to beat the Ravens in Baltimore to have any shot at the playoffs. Duck Hodges has to rebound from a less-than-stellar game last week, and the rush-by-committee Steelers are going up against the #2 rush defense in the league. Still, the Steelers’ D gives up a TD less per game, and the Steeler’s O scores almost two points more a game, too. Steelers over Jets 27-17. It’s a similar issue between the Vikings and Packers too, with Minnesota slightly better on points on both sides of the ball. If this was being played in Green Bay, I’d go with the Pack, but in Minneapolis I’ll also take the Vikings over Packers, 28-23.
Jazz: Here are five more games to while away the rest of Sunday.
- Saints at Titans (1:00 pm, FOX) – The Saints have been a safe pick most of the season, but Tennessee has really been playing better than their record would indicate and they’ve surprised good teams before. I think they’ll keep it close, but in the end I think it will be the Saints over the Titans 33-30, possibly in overtime.
- Giants at Redskins (1:00 pm, FOX) – This exciting battle for last place in the NFC East is only being picked because it should be close enough to be exciting. The Redskins are a two point favorite and both teams have put the same pathetic number of points on the board this year. But the Giants allow fewer for the other side. I’ll take the upset for the home team since I couldn’t pick my Jets and take the Giants over the Redskins 27-21.
- Bengals at Dolphins (1:00 pm, CBS) – The Dolphins are favored to win a game for the first time all season and Cincinnati has every reason to not mind losing. (They’re leading the hunt for the number one draft pick next year.) Still, the Bengals defense has been rebounding just as the Dolphins have been looking as if they’ve finally hit rock bottom and broken out the pickaxes and dynamite. I’m going with the upset and taking the Bengals over the Dolphins 17-13.
- Cowboys at Eagles (4:25 pm, FOX) – These two teams with .500 records are somehow tied for first place in the very lethargic NFC East. Neither gives their fans much hope for the postseason, but Dallas should regain their poise yet again and squeak one out. Cowboys over Eagles 17-14.
- Chiefs at Bears (8:20 pm, NBC) – It’s a slow week with yesterday burning up some games, so we’ll pick the Sunday night matchup. What is there to say about it? Not much. Kansas City continues their cruise toward the postseason. Chiefs over Bears 34-14.
- Saints at Titans (1:00 pm, FOX) – The Saints have clinched their division but need to keep winning to get that prized #1 seed in the playoffs. The Titans are playing well, but not well enough to beat a motivated New Orleans, even at home. Saints 31-24 over the Titans.
- Giants at Redskins (1:00 pm, FOX) – This is what happens when we let Jazz pick the games. I kid, I kid, but he’s right that this might be a fun game to watch. The Redskins give up three fewer points per game but the Giants score five more points per game. However, the Redskins beat a couple of competitive teams (Lions and Panthers) before losing to the Packers and Eagles by fifteen points combined. Playing in their home finale, I’ll take Redskins over the Giants 21-16.
- Bengals at Dolphins (1:00 pm, CBS) – The Bengals score the least points a game in the league. Miami gives up the most points per game in the league. They’re both on two-game losing streaks. In this case, one has to think that the only consideration left is home-field advantage. Or a mercy rule. Maybe these two teams aren’t all that into the last two weeks. Anyway, Miami 22-17 over the Bengals.
- Cowboys at Eagles (4:25 pm, FOX) – The Cowboys looked like the team they should have been all season last week, but they were playing at home against an inconsistent Rams team. They haven’t beaten a .500-or-better team on the road this season, and Philly is 4-3 at home. Still, though, I have a feeling that Dallas might have more left in the tank than Philly. Cowboys over Eagles, 27-20.
- Chiefs at Bears (8:20 pm, NBC) – Da Bears have been up and down this season, but the Chiefs have mainly found ways to win through adversity. The problem for Chicago is offense — Kansas City has one, and they pretty much don’t, only scoring 18.3 points per game, almost ten points less than the Chiefs. Da Bears have the third-lowest PPG on defense, but KC’s D only allows two more points per game than Chicago’s. Moreover, their pass defense is only middling, and they have to stop Patrick Mahomes. Even at home, that’s not going to happen. Chiefs 31-20 over Da Bears.