It's getting cold out there, and it's now the time of year where the weekly NFL slate will feature an odd mix of edge-of-your-seat games between playoff-bound teams (i.e. New England at Chicago) and games that make you say "holy shit, I can't believe this is actually professional football," (i.e. Denver at Arizona). Home teams in CAPS.
JACKSONVILLE (-3.5) over Oakland
The Jags can run the ball (150 ypg, including 258 last week), and like I've said before - if you can run the ball, you can do pretty much anything you want. Jacksonville needs this game to keep pace with the Colts in the AFC South and maintain their hopes of securing themselves a blacked-out home game on Wild Card Weekend. The Raiders baffle me week in and week out, seemingly with alternating great performances and miserable performances. Especially this late in the year, the 1pm East Coast game for a team from out west is not a factor to be ignored. Interestingly, both of these teams have a tight end named Zach Miller.
Atlanta (-7.5) over CAROLINA
The Panthers appear to have their running game back, but the ability to put four solid quarters together is something that just hasn't been there this year. Atlanta is in the driver's seat for homefield throughout the playoffs in the NFC and doesn't seem likely to trip up here. From the few games I've seen Atlanta play this year, they do a good job of minimizing their mistakes, and mistakes are the only way that Carolina would have a chance in this game. If the Falcons are as good as they're supposed to be, they win it by 17 points or so.
Seattle (+5.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
I was all set to take the Giants -3 in Minnesota, but I like to know a team will actually be able to get to the game before I pick them. The long and the short of this dogcrap NFC West game is that San Francisco shouldn't be a 5.5-point favorite to anybody, let alone a team with a record two games better than them and who has already taken them to the woodshed this year. Oh, (sarcasm ahead) that's right, it must be because Alex Smith has been restored as the starting quarterback! I'm not exactly a believer in the 6-6 Seahawks, but they're good enough to at least make this a field goal game.
SAN DIEGO (-9.5) over Kansas City
I liked this game at -7 when there was a chance Matt Cassel would play, so I'll stick with it at -9.5 now that Cassel is most likely out after having an appendectomy this week. The Chiefs' defense doesn't play nearly as well on the road as they do at home, and if they do have to turn to Brodie Croyle, he's 0-9 for his NFL career as a starter. That's enough to make me back the Chargers one more time.
DALLAS (+3.5) over Philadelphia
I've been reluctant to get on the Jason Garrett bandwagon to this point because in my opinion he was as almost much to blame as Wade Phillips was for the team's 1-7 start, but to say the team hasn't turned around in a big way under his watch would be ignorant. If Mike Jenkins can cover DeSean Jackson like he did in all three meeting last year, then it may give DaMarcus Ware a chance to get in Michael Vick's face once or twice. Asante Samuel will not be playing for the Eagles, which would be huge if Dez Bryant didn't break his ankle last week. If they are going to win, Dallas will need to run the ball like they did last week against Indy and especially like they did in the last two meetings of last season against the Eagles. I really don't know if the Cowboys have a great chance, but I'm just glad this team is still watchable. Give me the 3.5.
Last Week : 2-3-0