Ed: The NFL season is coming down to the wire now, and like every year, the playoff picture is as clear as pea soup on a San Francisco morning. My record this season is a lot clearer, with a 5-2 mark last week moving me up to 70-33 overall for 2014. In my fantasy league, though, I got beaten like a drum in the first round of the playoffs, so I’m competing for the bronze the next two weeks against Outside the Beltway’s Doug Mataconis. With my problems at running back, I don’t anticipate much of an improvement, either.
Jazz: My beating at Ed’s hands wasn’t nearly as bad as other recent outings last week (or at least I’ve built up a tougher hide) when I went 4-3 for a season record of 48-55. But at least I did better than .500 on the week. I don’t even want to talk about the fantasy league. Cam Newton put the last nail in my coffin, I fear. The man should drive more carefully.
Ed: Speaking of improvement, how ’bout those Steelers, eh? They host the Kansas City Chiefs today (1 pm ET, CBS) in a must-win game for both teams. The Steelers have a suspect secondary, but the Chiefs don’t have much of a passing game, and their run defense is near the bottom of the league. Pittsburgh over KC 27-17. The Jets host the Patriots today (1 pm, CBS), and … well … ‘nuf said. Pats 38-13 over the Jets. The Vikings travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins, who have a .500 record at home. The Vikes are improving, but still not a road team. Expect this to be a good game to watch, but Fins top Vikes 23-20.
Jazz: Pittsburgh did well for me last week and they come into today’s game a 2.5 point favorite, but the Chiefs love playing the spoiler. I’ll take one last shot at stealing one from Ed on an upset and take Kansas City 24-17. The Patriots always choke against New York teams when the chips are down and they need today’s game to secure a 1st round bye. So I’ll count on the Jets to win back to back games (particularly when we already blew our 1st round draft pick) and beat New England 21-10. I agree with Ed that the the Dolphins are on a roll and can handle Minnesota. Miami over the Vikings 30-21.
Ed: Let’s take a look at some of the key games today and tomorrow:
- Falcons at Saints (1 pm, Fox) – It’s difficult to believe that a matchup between a 6-8 home team and a 5-9 visitor has playoff potential, but this is the NFC South, and no winning record is possible in this division now. The Saints are 3-4 at home, but the Falcons are 2-5 on the road. Nawlins has improved recently, and Drew Brees should pick apart the Falcons secondary at will. Saints 37-27 over the Falcons.
- Colts at Cowboyas (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Colts have won four in a row, but over struggling teams, while Dallas beat Philly last week to take charge in its division. This game means more to Dallas than Indy, which has clinched its division already. Dallas plays weaker at home, but I’ll go with the Cowboys in a 27-23 win.
- Seahawks at Cardinals (8:30 pm, NBC) – Normally I’d pick the Cards to win their eighth home game, but they’re down two QBs now and didn’t exhibit much of an offense last week against the Rams. The Seahawks aren’t that tough on the road (4-3), but this time they may not need to be. Seattle 31-20 over Arizona.
- Broncos at Bengals (8:30 pm Monday, ESPN) – All the Steelers need to do is win out today and next week against the Bengals at home. A Bengals loss here would make it even easier for the Steelers. Denver’s too complete a team for the Bengals even at home, I believe, which will make this Steelers fan happy. Broncos 33-24 over Cincinnati.
- Falcons at Saints (1 pm, Fox) – Drew Brees will be the key to this game, and while he disappointed early he’s had a hotter hand lately. Saints over Falcons 34-24.
- Colts at Cowboyas (4:25 pm, CBS) – Dallas is a minor favorite over Indianapolis today and for good reason. The Cowboys have put on a good show this year.. far better than I’d have expected, but the Colts’ D should be able to shut down their passing game if they can muster the same kind of determination they showed a few weeks back. I’ll go with the minor upset here and take the Colts in a low scoring game 17-10.
- Seahawks at Cardinals (8:30 pm, NBC) – The Seahawks are better at home, but Arizona’s defense is in disarray at this point and won’t come up with enough magic for Seattle’s D. Seahawks should secure this one easily 27-21.
- Broncos at Bengals (8:30 pm Monday, ESPN) – I think I’ve learned my lesson in terms of picking against Denver and this week they play the Bungles. Are you kidding me? Broncos win easily 37-14.