The NFL season is drawing to a close and it’s weird to think it in that way because it feels like the season just began. Yet here we are with three more weeks until the wild card round begins. Every game is meaningful this week with a full spate of important divisional games that will settle a lot of playoff races. So let’s get started, shall we?
49ers at Seahawks
After a rush of early movement, the line for this game has stayed close to the -10 number. I said earlier this week that I don’t think San Francisco is that much worse than Seattle so I think this game will be close. Then again, this is coming from a guy who has gone 4-12 in the last two weeks so now maybe the right time to just fade every pick I make. I won’t take it against any of you because I’d probably to the same.
Prediction: Seahawks 30, 49ers 21
Broncos at Chargers
There’s a lot on the line in this game for both teams. If Denver wins, it takes the AFC West title. If San Diego wins, it remains in the hunt for one of the two AFC wild card spots and pulls within one game of the division title. It’s unlikely that San Diego can catch Denver for the division crown, but that wild card is important. Right now, the spread on the game is at -4 for the visiting team after opening at -3.5. The public will be heavy on the Broncos, but I think San Diego pulls this out and wins outright. I’m convinced that something’s bothering Peyton Manning and it’ll likely manifest itself at some point in the game. Give me the Chargers to win the game outright at home.
Predictions: Chargers 27, Broncos 24
Bengals at Browns
The line movement for this game opened with Cincinnati as -1 favorites, but once Cleveland named Johnny Manziel the starter, a rush of bets on the Browns immediately swung the line on the other side with the Browns now the -1 favorites. Some books still have it at pick ‘em but I expect every book to have the Browns as favorites as more public bets come pouring in. I like Cincinnati in this game, though. I’m interested to see how Manziel does, but I don’t think he’s still in sync with his receivers to make a big difference. It’s going to be close and he’s going to have some moments, but the Bengals should take this game late.
Prediction: Bengals 23, Browns 21
Texans at Colts
The Colts are in a similar position with the Broncos. Win this game and they win the AFC South. That’s about all the motivation they need to put a pasting on the Houston Texans. The line opened with the Colts favored by six points, but a lot of books have pumped that number up to as high as a full touchdown favorite. I don’t see Indianapolis messing around in this game so even with the boost in the spread, the Colts should be able to take care of business at home and clinch the AFC South title.
Prediction: Colts 34, Texans 20
Steelers at Falcons
I really can’t figure out the NFC South. Then again, everybody seems to of the same sentiment. Right now, the Falcons are in control of their fate in the division. Win out and they’re in, so any hiccups would make it tougher for them to win. But I’m not trusting the Falcons to handle their business against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has been bumped up as -2 favorites after opening as -1 faves. The Steelers are involved in their own division chase so both teams will be feeling that sense of urgency. In cases like this, I like going with the tougher team and in this case, it’s the Steelers.
Prediction: Steelers 24, Falcons 16
Buccaneers at Panthers
Here are two more NFC South teams that are improbably still in the division race despite one team being 2-11 and the other being 4-8-1. Go figure. The Panthers actually opened as -5.5 favorites but that number was dropped to -3 after Cam Newton’s car crash earlier this week. The Carolina QB is expected to miss this game, which explains why books dropped the number to just a field goal. It’s always tough making a pick between two mediocre teams but with Newton’s absence, I see Tampa Bay capitalizing and scoring an upset, if you can even call it that.
Prediction: Bucs 23, Panthers 20
Cowboys at Eagles
As expected, the line has stayed true to -3 after opening at the same number. Two teams tied for first place in the NFC East. Whoever wins this game likely wins the division. That’s why I’m going with who I think is the better of the two teams. They showed as much during their Thanksgiving game two weeks ago and I expect more of the same this time around. Give me the Eagles to win and cover a close one.
Predictions: Eagles 28, Cowboys 23
Dolphins at Patriots
This is one of the most interesting games of the week because of what’s at stake for both teams. New England can go one step closer to winning the AFC East if it can dispose of the Miami Dolphins as -7.5 favorites. It still needs a Bills loss to do that, but you can still expect them to treat this game with a sense of urgency because the number one seed in the AFC is still on the line. The Dolphins are a tough match-up for the Patriots, even beating New England in Week 1 at Miami. That said, I expect to see the Patriots at their best for this game. Call it a revenge game or just them being the better team, but I think the Pats win and cover this game easy.
Prediction: Pats 30, Dolphins 20
Week 14: 2-6