It is the playoff run, but unfortunately for the NFL the postseason is pretty much set. Very few teams are still in contention, so that means that a lot of the games this weekend will be pretty close to meaningless. Some teams still do have an outside shot, but they have to run the table the rest of the way and get some help. One interesting scenario involves the New England Patriots. While they have wrapped up everything they need for the postseason, the question remains as to whether they want to rest their players, or go for an undefeated season. My guess is they will go for the latter, as they will get at least a week's rest prior to their first game. This weekend could be very interesting, so let's get started.
As always, home team in CAPS.
Pittsburgh 8 1/2 ST. LOUIS
The Steelers are reeling, and they might not even win the division. The Rams have been lousy all year. The Steelers need this game very badly, and they better show up to play. They way they are playing right now they won't get too far in the playoffs anyway. I will take them here.
Dallas 11 CAROLINA
If the Cowboys don't wake up, they might lose the top seed in the NFC. Terrell Owens mouthing off again doesn't help. The Panthers have an outside shot at the postseason, but it is very unlikely. Tony Romo might be hurt, but he might get hurt more if the Cowboys lose the top seed. They should be able to win here.
Cleveland 2 1/2 CINCINNATI
When this game was put on the schedule, most would have thought the Bengals would be the ones fighting for the playoff position, but it is the Browns who are in that situation. They are clearly the biggest surprise this year, and will be headed to the postseason. The Bengals have been bad, and they had another bad loss last week. They will lose here too. The Browns have too much on the line, and they have come up big all year. I expect the same this week.
Green Bay 9 CHICAGO
This turns out to be a bigger game for the Packers than originally thought, as they now have a chance at the top seed. So they have something to play for, unlike the Bears, whose season unofficially ended a few weeks ago. The points are high but I don't see the Packers not covering here, especially against a division rival.
INDIANAPOLIS 7 1/2 Houston
The Colts really have nothing to play for. They have locked up the number two seed and cannot get the number one, so they will likely rest a lot of their players. The Texans have been playing hard all year, and were in postseason contention. Next year is when they might advance. Even with the starters likely not playing a whole lot, I like the Colts to cover here.
DETROIT 5 Kansas City
I guess Jon Kitna was wrong with his 10 win prediction. The Lions have finished very poorly. As for the Chiefs, they have been poor all year. I'll take the Lions at home.
NEW ENGLAND 22 1/2 Miami
This is a tough game to call because the Patriots, in a way, really have nothing to play for. The Dolphins finally won last week, but they might have some motivation to finish the season strong. The Patriots I am sure want to finish undefeated, but their main goal is to get ready for the postseason. This should be a good tune up, but I think the points are too high. I'll take the Dolphins to cover the high point spread.
New York Giants 3 BUFFALO
The Bills postseason hopes ended last week, and if the Giants don't get their act together, they might not make it to January. They should though, but they won't get far if they continue to play they way they have been lately. The Bills really have nothing to play for, so the Giants should win this game. Actually, they better win this game.
JACKSONVILLE 13 Oakland
The Jaguars have quietly been playing very well lately, and are already in the postseason. They are likely going to stay the fifth seed though, so in a way this game to them is meaningless. They do want to keep their momentum going, and there is no better team than the Raiders to do that. Oakland hasn't really been terrible all year, but they aren't going to win this game.
NEW ORLEANS 3 Philadelphia
The Saints still have a chance at the playoffs, and that is surprising considering the start they had. The Eagles have to run the table and get a lot of help to get to January, which isn't likely. I like them here though. The Eagles have Donovan McNabb back, and the Saints haven't won a big game all year. The Eagles are the perfect spoiler team.
SEATTLE 7 Baltimore
The Seahawks had been playing well until they lost last week. The Ravens are in an absolute free fall, especially after losing to Miami last week. They have nothing at all to play for, and even playing for pride is probably out of the question for them now. Seattle has a playoff seed on the line, so they have a reason to win. I like them here.
TENNESSEE 9 New York Jets
The Titans do have a shot at the playoffs, but they have to run the table and get help. They have a favorable schedule though. The Jets are a good way to start, who are pretty much done after last week's game. I don't see them providing much competition for the Titans, who absolutely need to win here.
Tampa Bay 7 SAN FRANCISCO
The Buccaneers are another surprise team, and they are heading to the postseason as a division winner. The 49ers have been a surprise too, but in a negative way. They were expected to be a lot better, though they have had some injuries. The Bucs have a higher playoff seed to worry about, so they should be able to take care of the 49ers here.
SAN DIEGO 8 Denver
The Chargers are getting hot at the right time, while the Broncos, really, have never been hot. The Chargers do have a playoff seeding to concern themselves with, and I don't see the Broncos providing too much competition for them this week.
GAME OF THE WEEK
MINNESOTA 6 1/2 Washington
The Vikings are likely headed to the postseason, while the Redskins are hanging on by the thinnest of margins. They have been playing well lately though, and likely motivated. I would like to take the Redskins here, but I don't see how they can beat a very hot Minnesota team right now. This will be the Redskins last chance. They aren't going to have one next week.
STINKER OF THE WEEK
ARIZONA 4 Atlanta
There were a lot of games to choose from this week, but I picked this one because both teams have been bad all year ( kind of like my record when it comes to picking these games ). I'll take the Cardinals at home, and probably easily.
Record for Week 15: 7-9 ( 10-6 without spread )
Record Through Week 15: 102-113-9 (139-85 without spread )
Game of Week Record: 10-5
Stinker of Week Record: 6-9
Jim Poore has been a long time contributor to Patriots Insider with his weekly picks column. Let him know what you think. Email him here: