Please “LIKE” us and make COMMENTS!
It all comes down to this
RGIII and the Redskins offense thrashed the Dallas Cowboys defense on Thanksgiving. Now Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s defense that has lost six key players due to injury and one due to an off the field incident, has to find a way to slow down Washington’s red hot pistol offensive system in a winner take all NFC East title game.
Sunday, December 30
1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-9 @ (* -) Atlanta Falcons 13-2 – TV: FOX
Win or lose, the Atlanta Falcons will still head into the postseason as the top seed in the NFC. As for Greg Schiano’s Bucs, things have spiraled downward after sitting at 6-4 in the mix of the playoff race. Since then, the Bucs have lost five straight getting eliminated from contention. I like Schiano’s approach towards these Bucs, but in the offseason, they need to really revamp that horrific secondary of theirs come free agency and draft day. Normally teams that have their seed set up for the postseason tend to rest key starters, but Falcons head coach Mike Smith is taking a different step this time around for the Falcons who’ve been exited from two straight postseasons. “We’re going to play the game to win,” Smith said. “That’s how we’re going to approach it. All games are important, and in terms of the importance, does it have no bearing? It really does because we want to win every time we go out and play.” That’s not good news for Tampa’s secondary going up against Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, a dynamic core of targets for quarterback Matt Ryan to exploit a weak Tampa pass defense. Pick: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17.
N.Y. Jets 6-9 @ Buffalo Bills 5-10 – TV: CBS
I don’t need to ramble about the Jets messy situation anymore, because you know how I feel and who I think is at fault from my previous weekly picks. I’m going to go Bills outlook this time, because they too are one of the more disappointing teams of 2012. I thought this defense with the addition of Mario Williams would improve and that the young speedy talented offensive weapons would blossom. So, it’s time to evaluate head coach Chan Gailey’s future here. He has a great offensive mind, but when it comes to defense, the Bills need to either find a new head coach that can fix it or keep Gailey aboard and hire someone to run the defense. There’s so much uncertainty for both these organizations. Pick: Bills 24, N.Y. Jets 20.
(z -) Baltimore Ravens 10-5 @ (y -) Cincinnati Bengals 9-6 – TV: CBS
Wouldn’t it be something if the Ravens win this game and the Patriots lose their regular season finale to Miami? Both would finish the season at 11-5 with the Ravens clinching the #3 seed by virtue of a tie-breaker over New England because of Baltimore beating them head-to-head early in the season. If this happens, the same two teams in this matchup would play again next week with the Bengals locked in as the 6th seed traveling to Baltimore. That’s the unexpected, especially the thought of New England losing at home to Miami in a meaningful game for seeding. The reality of this game is the fact of Baltimore’s offense getting back to the basics of utilizing Ray Rice between the tackles, working him on screens and option routes. When Ray is doing Ray things, the Ravens need to be taken seriously. Pick: Ravens 24, Bengals 20.
Chicago Bears 9-6 @ Detroit Lions 4-11 – TV: FOX
In their first meeting in week 7, the Bears ran for 171-yards on the Lions defense, and Bears head coach Lovie Smith hopes running back Matt Forte (ankle) will be ready come Sunday to help Chicago exploit Detroit’s run defense again. “His ankle is looking pretty good,” Smith said. “It’s a big football game. They’re all big. You always play guys when they’re healthy and ready to go. Hopefully, that’ll be the case with Matt. He’s pretty encouraged by what’s happened.” I think Forte plays, but I ask myself, can the Bears win this game without a solid running game? I say yes. Detroit’s secondary has given up big plays and Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice will make sure quarterback Jay Cutler gets the football into the hands of his skilled players on quick slants and bubble screens to receivers Brandon Marshall and Devin Hester and option routes to running back Matt Forte. Outside of that factor, Calvin Johnson will get to 2,000-yards receiving. He only needs 108-yards to do it. Pick: Bears 27, Lions 21.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2-13 @ Tennessee Titans 5-10 – TV: CBS
Imagine if you had this matchup last week for your fantasy football super bowl with Titans running back Chris Johnson going up against the leagues last ranked run defense. Hopefully, you don’t have Johnson on your team that lost last week? Sorry if you did. The Jaguars have been far worse than anybody this season at stopping the run and you can bank on Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer to dial 1-800-lots-of-touches-for-Chris-Johnson. The positive for Jacksonville’s future if you’re a Jaguars fan reading this, Justin Blackmon will be a well-polished receiver in this league if the team can find the right quarterback of the future to build chemistry with him. Don’t waste talent. Pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 16.
(z -) Houston Texans 12-3 @ (y -) Indianapolis Colts 10-5 – TV: CBS
Lucas Oil Stadium will have an electrifying crowd on hand with the return of head coach Chuck Pagano back on the sidelines, after battling for three months with leukemia. “I feel great, my weight is back, my energy is back and again, it’s just a blessing to be back here,” Pagano said. Interim coach Bruce Arians led Indianapolis to victories in eight of their last ten games during Pagano’s fight with leukemia. “He’s always been our head coach,” Arians said of Pagano. The Colts have been an amazing story this season. They lose their franchise all-time great quarterback, they draft a rookie quarterback and their new head coach wins his battle against leukemia with his team making it to the postseason. God bless you coach, your days will only get better for you and your team down the road. That’s the heart felt truth, the key factor of this game is Houston’s J.J. Watt that had 3-sacks and 6-tackles for a loss in their first meeting, and receiver Andre Johnson couldn’t be slowed down by the Colts suspect secondary catching 11-passes for 151-yards and a score. I think Houston’s defense wins the turnover battle and capitalizes with game-outcome-determining scores. Pick: Texans 30, Colts 24.
Carolina Panthers 6-9 @ New Orleans Saints 7-8 – TV: FOX
I give both teams here two thumbs up for effort. Both of them will be absent come playoff time, but are still playing like they have something to gain. Saints quarterback Drew Brees needs 219-yards passing to reach the 5,000-yard passing mark and only 1-touchdown pass to reach the 40-touchdown pass mark for the second consecutive season. I say he has a 99.9% chance of doing that to close the Saints season at 8-8, after losing their first four games. So thank God playoff teams that you won’t have to face Brees and a well-oiled Saints offensive machine. Pick: Saints 44, Panthers 31.
Philadelphia Eagles 4-11 @ N.Y. Giants 8-7 – TV: FOX
Although Eli Manning and the Giants offense is known for making big plays in big games, the vital part of the Giants success has been the outstanding play of their talented defensive line that features Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul. That part of the team has vanished and the secondary is getting torched this season. The defense hasn’t got enough stops or turnovers for the offense to capitalize on over the past two weeks in both of their blowout losses. Luckily, the Giants still have a chance to make the playoffs if they win and Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas all lose this weekend. So they have a remote chance. If the Giants are to beat an Eagles team that will be in spoiler mode with the return of Michael Vick (concussion) at quarterback, the Giants talented defensive line needs to step up. The Eagles defense has been a dismal group and I like the Giants offense to finally have an efficient solid game to outscore their opponent in an offensive battle. N.Y. Giants 30, Eagles 27.
Cleveland Browns 5-10 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 7-8 – TV: CBS
As the tick-tocks on the clock in the fourth quarter come down to the final seconds at Heinz Field, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam decides what he wants to do come Monday morning on the Browns coaching future with Eagles head coach Andy Reid set to part ways with Jeffrey Lurie. That would be one of the good routes for Haslam to proceed to with Andy Reid needing a fresh new start with a young team that has potential of making some noise in the near future. Pick: Steelers 24, Browns 17.
4:25 PM ET
Oakland Raiders 4-11 @ San Diego Chargers 6-9 – TV: CBS
Poor Philip Rivers, a talented quarterback that’s ended up on the losing side of things for two straight seasons wondering who his next head coach will be with Norv Turner expected to be fired come Monday morning. In the offseason, the Chargers need to re-tool their offensive line and find Rivers a top-tier receiver for him to throw the ball to. The Raiders have a talented running back with Darren McFadden, but injuries have to make you wonder if he’s a franchise back or not. Here’s why I like San Diego to win this game: Defensive coordinator John Pagano should be back in 2013 to coordinate the defense. His stunts and blitzes have worked tremendously at times this season, especially last week sacking Jets quarterback Greg McElroy 11 times. They should be able to do the same going up against a putrid Raiders offensive line. Pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 17.
Arizona Cardinals 5-10 @ (x -) San Francisco 49ers 10-4-1 – TV: FOX
The 49ers could’ve done themselves in on getting a first round bye losing last week in Seattle. A win or a Seattle loss would clinch the NFC West, but in order to get a first round bye, the 49ers need to win and Green Bay needs to lose to Minnesota. Without Justin Smith (triceps) on the opposite side of Aldon Smith, Smith struggled to be much of a factor. Justin Smith not only is a solid pass-rusher, he’s dynamite of drawing up attention on his side that frees up Aldon Smith. The 49ers will need them both in the playoffs for the defense to continue getting after the quarterback. Justin Smith’s status is questionable, but they catch a break going up against the worst offensive line the Arizona Cardinals sport. Get some rest big fella, because I don’t think your team will end up with a first round bye. Pick: 49ers 27, Cardinals 7.
St. Louis Rams 7-7-1 @ (x -) Seattle Seahawks 10-5 – TV: FOX
Things would’ve been much brighter for Pete Carroll’s team to win the NFC West had the 49ers not held off a near comeback scare from the Patriots on Dec. 16. Had that happened the Seahawks would be in first place and a chance to host a home wild card game come playoff time. So they’ll most likely be traveling to the winner of the NFC East title game. And does anyone know the Rams record in the NFC West is 4-0-1? Oh those pesky Jeff Fisher coached Rams I tell ya. I think they make things interesting giving us a good glimpse of the future. Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis battling over the next three seasons, makes the NFC West worth watching. Pick: Seahawks 24, Rams 19.
(z -) Green Bay Packers 11-4 @ Minnesota Vikings 9-6 – TV: FOX
Adrian Peterson needs 207 to tie and 208-yards rushing to break Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. Dickerson respects Peterson as a great player, but doesn’t want his record to be broken and he shouldn’t like anyone else wouldn’t. “I don’t want him to break it,” Dickerson said. “I’ll be honest. I don’t want to see it. If anyone ever broke it, and if my son played football, I’d want my son to break it. But that’s it, no one else. Again, he’s a phenomenal player, and seems like a good dude. If a player was to break it, I’d probably want it to be Adrian, but I like having the record. I don’t think it’s going to be broken.” The Packers defense doesn’t want to be the defense that allowed their division rival have a player break a record against them also. That’ll be a big motivational tool for the Packers who clinch a first round bye with a win. That’s what the Packers defense will be focusing in on, limiting Peterson from running wild and forcing Christian Ponder to beat them through the air. Advantage Aaron Rodgers in this case, to make key improvising throws against a solid Vikings pass-rush. That’ll be the big difference maker late in the game. Pick: Packers 27, Vikings 20.
Miami Dolphins 7-8 @ (z -) New England Patriots 11-4 – TV: CBS
When the general speaks, his team listens. “We’ve got to do a better job,” quarterback Tom Brady said Monday during his weekly appearance on WEEI radio. “We’ve got some pretty important weeks of football ahead, and that’s when we really need to play our best.” Enough said. The Patriots can only hope Indianapolis defeats Houston to get a first round bye, because you can’t bank on Kansas City pulling off the upset in Denver. Pick: Patriots 34, Dolphins 17.
Kansas City Chiefs 2-13 @ (z -) Denver Broncos 12-3 – TV: CBS
How do you run for 352-yards as a team and still lose the game like Kansas City did last week? The Chiefs have a threat at running back with Jamaal Charles. Denver’s defense has improved majorly against the run from last season, a key part of their success on the defensive end that has put opposing quarterbacks in third and long situations, putting their pass rush in position to rush off the edge and force turnovers. The matchup doesn’t look good for Kansas City’s passing game that combined between Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn at quarterback only has 8-touchdown passes and 20-interceptions. Denver will get a first round bye, but could end up clinching home field if Houston loses to Indianapolis. Pick: Broncos 34, Chiefs 13.
Sunday Night Football in America 8:20 PM ET – TV: NBC
Dallas Cowboys 8-7 @ Washington Redskins 9-6
Washington’s rookie sensation Robert Griffin III burned the Dallas defense on Thanksgiving throwing 4-touchdown passes, completing 19 of 27 passes for 304-yards defeating Dallas 38-31. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied Dallas after trailing 28-6, but came up short in that game. Although RGIII has stolen the spotlight, Tony Romo has thrown 10-touchdown passes and only 1-interception since Thanksgiving. Romo’s 4-touchdown performance came up short last week in their loss to the New Orleans Saints. RGIII (knee) returned and played his continuous big play role dissecting the Eagles defense to help the Redskins win their sixth straight contest. Despite all the hype circulating around his team, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan knows the recent success of his football team wouldn’t matter unless they win the biggest game of the season. “Everything we’ve been working for comes back to this weekend, taking advantage of what we’ve done over the last six weeks,” Shanahan said. “It really doesn’t mean anything unless we take advantage of our game versus Dallas.” Cowboys team owner and general manager Jerry Jones was marveled by Griffin’s performance against his team on Thanksgiving and knows the boys need to do a much better job in order for Dallas to avoid failing a winner take all divisional title game for the second consecutive season. “I’ll say it again: I was awed with what he did to us in the second quarter out here in Cowboys Stadium,” Jones said. “I certainly think that’s the type of player we’re playing against and team we’re playing against.” Here’s my inside key factors of this matchup: Rob Ryan needs to force Washington to move the football methodically, keeping a safety over the top and not blitz often. The Redskins offensive line is great at picking up the blitz and that can leave your defense hand-cuffed with a miss-match on screens, deep passes or crossing routes. The Redskins exploited that in their first meeting. Washington needs to continue to pound the rock with running back Alfred Morris, keeping RGIII in favorable passing downs for high-percentage passing opportunities. I like Dallas’ chances to throw against a suspect Redskins pass defense, but when you have a consistent running game like Washington’s, you have a better chance to control the tempo and keep your offense in position to be more well-balanced that will give you a favorable one-on-one matchup for your quarterback to exploit. Pick: Redskins 24, Cowboys 20.
(z -) Clinched Division
(y -) Clinched Wild Card
(x -) Clinched Playoff Berth
(* -) Clinched Division and Home Field