Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay has won 21 of its last 24 meetings with the Lions, including 12 of the 13 meetings since Mike McCarthy was named the Packers' head coach. Detroit has not won at Lambeau Field since Dec. 15, 1991, two weeks after Aaron Rodgers celebrated his eighth birthday. Not sure what Rodgers got when he turned 8, but facing the Lions' banged-up secondary is a belated birthday present this year.
Pick: Packers 33, Lions 27
St. Louis Rams at Buffalo Bills
The Bills could be catching the Rams at just the right time. After playing the heavily favored 49ers to a tie in Week 10, the Rams lost at home to the Jets by two touchdowns. Coming off a 16-13 overtime win over the 49ers last week, Jeff Fisher should have his team ready to face a Bills team that has been forced to reshuffle its offensive line. Right tackle Chris Hairston landed on injured reserve this week and center Eric Wood is out indefinitely with a partially torn MCL. The Bills may have improved on defense, but their 30th-ranked run defense will have its hands full with a Rams rushing attack that had averaged 133 yards in the seven games prior to last week's game against the 49ers.
Pick: Rams 20, Bills 16
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy isn't a fan of the "team down the street," which he happens to think his team is better than, even though the Falcons have won the last five meetings between the two teams and eight of the last 10 games overall.
"There's a point where you know you're better than someone. We just didn't pull it out," Hardy said on Wednesday via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. "I'm trying to mess up their whole playoff experience. I want them to go home sick in the stomach, mad about life, a couple depression issues, all types of things…It's going to be a long day from my point of view. I'm coming."
It's impossible to agree with Hardy, but what's he supposed to say? Given a choice, I'll always take overconfidence over bland pleasantries any day.
Pick: Falcons 30, Panthers 21
Dallas Cowboys at Cincinnati Bengals
With a groin injury sidelining nose tackle Jay Ratliff, Cowboys opponents have run for 332 yards and three touchdowns the last two weeks. Ratliff did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday and may not be available against the Bengals, who have found their running game during their current four-game winning streak. Free-agent addition BenJarvus Green-Ellis has topped 100 yards in the last three games as the Bengals are averaging close to 180 yards on the ground.
Pick: Bengals 23, Cowboys 20
Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns
Things got a little nasty this week as Browns left tackle Joe Thomas accused current Chiefs and former Browns running back Peyton Hillis of being preoccupied with his contract status during the 2011 season (Hillis was), with Hillis firing back that Thomas was acting like "a crazy ex-girlfriend" (Thomas wasn't). The Browns are not missing Hillis as first-round pick Trent Richardson has 827 rushing yards on the season, including 479 over the last five weeks, with seven rushing touchdowns and a team-high 44 receptions..
Pick: Browns 20, Chiefs 10
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have dominated the series, winning 22 of the 35 meetings between the two clubs, including 15 of the last 19. Even without Peyton Manning, the Colts' first win during their 2011 season came against the Titans on Dec. 18, 2011. One year later, the Colts are 8-4 and knocking on the door of the postseason with No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck entering Week 14 with an AFC-high 3,596 passing yards. Both Luck and Jake Locker could put up lofty passing numbers as the two teams rank 29th (Titans) and 30th (Colts) in Football Outsiders pass defense DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).
Pick: Colts 28, Titans 17
New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars
Three days after benching Mark Sanchez during a 7-6 win over the Cardinals, Jets head coach Rex Ryan made the decision to start Sanchez for this Sunday's game against the Jaguars. Ryan maintains that the decision to start Sanchez had nothing to do with finances — Sanchez is earning $11.75 million in 2012 and his $8.25 million base salary in 2013 is fully guaranteed — but that had to have been at least one of the factors in the decision. Had the Jets started Tim Tebow in Jacksonville, they'd be inviting a (another) mutiny into the locker room and would have to either trade Sanchez (which would be impossible to do given the size of his contract) or further "un-ruffle" his feathers next offseason. Giving Sanchez another four games to show some flicker of hope that he can be the franchise quarterback for the long term was the right call.
Pick: Jets 12, Jaguars 11
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings may be 6-6 and mathematically alive for the playoffs, but having lost five of their last seven games, they may have waved the white flag (on loan from the Browns' public relations dept.) when they placed wide receiver/return specialist Percy Harvin on season-ending injured reserve this week. The 8-4 Bears will be without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, but there is still enough firepower on that side of the ball to shut down the Vikings offense.
Pick: Bears 27, Vikings 20
San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers may still end up kicking themselves for their 20-14 loss to the Browns in Week 12, but at 7-5, they remain in the playoff hunt just in time for Ben Roethlisberger to return for the final month of the regular season. Getting to 8-5 shouldn't be a problem with a reeling Chargers team coming to Heinz Field this Sunday. The Steelers have won seven of their last eight against the Chargers, who will be getting a new head coach and general manager next offseason.
Pick: Steelers 23, Chargers 16
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A testament to the excellent job that Greg Schiano has done this season: According to salary data maintained by Shutdown Corner, the Buccaneers have a league-high $35.4 million in 2012 payroll on their injured reserve list. The Eagles are second with $24.6 million. The Buccaneers are 6-6 and remain alive in the NFC playoffs, while the Eagles are 3-9 and are playing out the string before making changes at head coach and starting quarterback in 2013. His approach to the "Victory" formation needs to be revisited going forward, but Schiano is a heck of a coach who will get the Buccaneers into the postseason in the near future.
Pick: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 17
Baltimore Ravens at Washington Redskins
With the exceptions of the season opener against the Bengals and a Week 10 win over the Raiders, the Ravens were not exactly blowing the doors off their opponents this season. If narrow wins were a concern, losing at home to a Steelers team starting their 37-year-old No. 3 quarterback should lead to full-blown panic as the Ravens begin a brutal four-game schedule to close out the regular season. First up is the Redskins and Rookie of the Year favorite Robert Griffin, who should test a Ravens defense already playing without inside linebacker Ray Lewis and could potentially be without Terrell Suggs, who will be a game-time decision with a torn biceps.
Pick: Redskins 21, Ravens 20
Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers
There's never a good time for a team to lose a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle, but the Dolphins placing Jake Long on injured reserve with a triceps injury is not going to make their cross-country trip to face the 49ers any easier. The 49ers have 30 sacks on the season, including 21 over the last six games. Replacing Long at left tackle is former Stanford left tackle Jonathan Martin, a second-round pick who has played right tackle this season. Forty Niners defensive end Justin Smith referred to Martin as "serviceable," but that match-up isn't the one to watch. Aldon Smith vs. Nate Garner is and it could get ugly if the Dolphins don't put an extra guy on that side.
Pick: 49ers 21, Dolphins 10
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants
Drew Brees has never lost to the Giants, winning all four of his starts while completing 79 of 122 pass attempts for 1,055 yards with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Brees has been intercepted seven times over the last two weeks, which could be an issue against a Giants defense that has 18 interceptions on the season and is +14 in turnover ratio, tied for the highest in the NFC.
Pick: Giants 24, Saints 23
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
The Cardinals offense hit rock bottom against the Jets last week, totaling just 137 yards and going 0 for 15 on third downs while rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley passed for just 72 yards on 31 attempts. Things won't get any easier against a Seattle defense that has 17 of their 30 sacks in their five home games thus far this season.
Pick: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 13
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