With just four games remaining in the regular season, the playoff race will really heat up this week. The national spotlight will be on the NFC, where we get two matchups between a division leader and the current Wild Card team. Not to mention tomorrow night’s meeting between NFC East-leading Dallas and Chicago, who are only a game behind Detroit in the NFC North.
AFC Playoff Picture: (1) Denver, (2) New England, (3) Indianapolis, (4) Cincinnati, (5) Kansas City, (6) Baltimore
Other than Indianapolis-Cincinnati and possibly Baltimore, I think the AFC playoff positions will remain largely the same this week.
NFC Playoff Picture: (1) Seattle, (2) New Orleans, (3) Detroit, (4) Dallas, (5) Carolina, (6) San Francisco
Over in the NFC is a completely different story. Based on current playoff seeding, we get:
- #5 Carolina vs. #2 New Orleans
- #1 Seattle vs. #6 San Francisco
- #4 Dallas vs. #9 Chicago
- #3 Detroit vs. #7 Philadelphia
Throw in some possible snow in Philadelphia and Chicago and we have exponential entertainment.
Coverage Maps (courtesy of 506 Sports)
Thanks to Washington (deservedly) not in primetime this week, we’ll get them hosting Kansas City over Indianapolis-Cincinnati over on CBS. For Fox’s doubleheader, we’ll see Detroit-Philadelphia and Seattle-San Francisco. No complaints there.
Now let’s pick. Last week I went 10-6, bringing my season record to 127-66
Jacksonville over Houston
The freefall of the Houston Texans has culminated in the firing of head coach Gary Kubiak. Regardless, you have to respect the Jags for not settling for the first overall pick.
Cincinnati over Indianapolis
A great matchup of division leaders. I’ve really soured on the Colts as of late and will take Cincinnati here. The forecast is calling for inclement weather, which should place more emphasis on the running game. I’m taking Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in that battle every time.
Green Bay over Atlanta
Who could have foreseen this being such a meaningless game before the season? Both teams have been ravaged by injuries to key players and are playing for next season at this point. Playing at home and against such a poor pass defense, Matt Flynn should play a relatively mistake-free game and (hopefully) just pound the Falcons defense with Eddie Lacy.
New England over Cleveland
I don’t think this one needs much explanation. Tom Brady and company are facing a good secondary, but they should ultimately win out on offense and find a way to slow down red-hot receiver Josh Gordon on defense with Aqib Talib.
New York Jets over Oakland
The Jets have been disastrous on offense lately, but I think this will be one of those games in which their defense keeps them in it.
Philadelphia over Detroit
A few notes here before I get into the pick: I think Nick Foles throws an interception this week and I also think that Calvin Johnson has a good game. I’m still taking the Eagles in a close one because of the weather. Joique Bell can certainly get it done on the ground, but not like LaSean McCoy. I think that will be the difference.
Pittsburgh over Miami
I refuse to give up on these Steelers for some reason. They can certainly move the ball on offense, but the question mark will be their lackluster defense against Miami’s receivers. I think they do enough to win this week.
Tampa Bay over Buffalo
You wouldn’t know it by looking at their record, but the Bills are still fielding a pretty strong defense. They do most of their damage in the front seven with Marcell Dareus,, Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, and rookie Kiko Alonso leading the charge. The matchup to watch today though will be Darrelle Revis versus Stevie Johnson in what used to be a great battle within the AFC East. But with Buffalo’s lack of offensive success, I’m taking the Bucs.
Kansas City over Washington
There are other reasons for this pick besides the Kansas City pass rush and Washington’s struggles. During their three-game losing streak, the Chiefs have actually produced a nice vertical passing game. If they can couple that with their run game, they could end this one early.
Baltimore over Minnesota
For some reason, I have no interest in seeing this game. I hate seeing Adrian Peterson‘s talent being wasted on such a poor team and I hate seeing the Ravens offense period, especially with their Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce M.I.A. in the backfield.
Denver over Tennessee
The Broncos receivers versus Tennessee’s secondary is actually a great matchup. Both Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty are having great seasons in coverage. But the Titans will still need points to stay in this game and I don’t see them putting up enough.
Arizona over St. Louis
I think that the pass rush of St. Louis will make this a closer game than most expect. But I also think that the Cardinals defense has talent on every front and won’t allow many points.
New York Giants over San Diego
Somehow this is Eli Manning‘s first meeting with the team he turned down back in 2004. I think he leads them to a win here today thanks to San Diego’s terrible corners and overall poor secondary, outside of Eric Weddle.
San Francisco over Seattle
The Seahawks are the best team in football as far as I’m concerned. But the recent rivalry between Seattle and San Francisco has boiled down to who’s at home. This time it’s the Niners and I think they do just enough today to win.
(NOTE: I’ve been going over countless matchups and scenarios in my head all week and couldn’t agree on a pick. This is the best I could do.)
New Orleans over Carolina
I’m in a similar spot here with Carolina. I think they can certainly go into New Orleans with the way they’re playing and come out with a win (keep in mind that they swept the Saints last season), but I hesitate to pick against New Orleans in the dome. Their defense should keep Cam Newton in check and move to 10-3.
Chicago over Dallas
Dallas’s issues in pass coverage will be on display this week. Whether it’s Jay Cutler or Josh McCown — who is expected to start again this week — both should be able to find Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall. Bears win a close one.
Record (Week): 14-2
Record (Season): 141-68