Chicago Bears vs Houston Texans – Although the Bears have won three straight (two in the overtime period) and are currently in a tie for the division title, I was far from impressed with their put the ball to Matt Forte's hands offensive system. Does anyone actually work with quarterbacks on mechanics any more in the NFL? The streaky Texans, who had been working on a four game winning streak, played poorly and were upset last week by the Raiders, but are a much better club at Reliant Stadium (5-2) than they are on the road (2-6). The Bears offensive front had a difficult time protecting Kyle Orton over the last month of the season and it won't get any easier this week against a club that features Mario Williams. I like the Texans in what I would consider a mild upset.
Texans 23 – Bears 16
New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills – The Bills have lost seven of the past nine games, including four at Ralph Wilson Stadium and are about to taste defeat at home for their ninth loss of the season. The Patriots on the other hand have won three straight games and although they are currently in a tie with Miami for first place will needs to have a number of things go right if they are to advance to the playoff round. Defensively, I just don't think the Bills have the personnel to hold off a potent offense led by first year starter Matt Cassel and two thousand yard receivers. Offensively, after a great start, the Bills have really struggled to generate much in the way of offense. Unless the weather plays a major role, I just don't think the Bills have the necessary personal to upset the Patriot's apple cart
Patriots 31 – Bills 17
Kansas City Chiefs vs Cincinnati Bengals – Both teams have combined for just fives wins on the season and I'm certain the fans in both cities will be glad to see the nightmare finally come to an end. The Bengals have actually won two straight games over the offensively challenged Redskins and Browns and playing at home this week leads me to believe that they will enter the off season on an impressive three game. As a side note, I would be very surprised if the fans in the Queen City ever see Chad Johnson in a Bengals uniform beyond this Sunday's contest with the Chiefs.
Bengals 17 – Chiefs 13
Tennessee Titans vs Indianapolis Colts – I had a number of people over the last month of the season, tell me that they believe the Colts are the team to beat when the NFL's second season begins next week. With wins in eight straight contests, one could certainly make a case for the Manning led club, but I'm really have some question about their ability to both run the football and most importantly stop the run. I'm also concerned about them having to win there straight games on the road in order for them to advance to the Super Bowl
Titans 20 – Colts 17
New York Giants vs Minnesota Vikings – The Giants under head coach Tom Coughlin are an "old school" type franchise and even though they have clinched the home filed advantage throughout the playoffs, don't look for them to lie down and not compete versus the win and their in Vikings. What is of concern is the Giants defensive play in the second half of the season. They will need to be on their game as the Vikings feature the top running back in the league (1,657 yards) and one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league in Tarvaris Jackson. If the Vikings are as careless with the football as they were against the Falcons last week (seven fumbles), they will be hard pressed to defeat the defending Super Bowl Champions, but there is too much riding on this one for the Vikings to repeat that disappointing performance.
Vikings 24 – Giants 16
Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers – This one could turn out to be down right ugly! The Browns, who have not scored an offensive touchdown in five games, are literally down to their fourth team quarterback (Bruce Gradkowski)! The Steelers lost last week's conference showdown battle versus the Titans. Look for the Steelers to break on top early, thus allowing them the opportunity to rest some walking wounded. Sorry Browns fans, but like last week, I just don't see how this club (Browns) can muster the offensive consistency to put points on the board. It'd going to be a long winter down on the lake.
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 – Browns 3
Oakland Raiders vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs, who just three weeks ago appeared to be a shoe-in to capture the NFC South division title, have lost three straight games and now must win and depend on the Eagles to defeat the Cowboys in order for them to qualify for the final playoff birth. The Bucs have defense, their heart and soul in the early goings has played poorly in their three straight defeats (92 points). The Buccaneers may well find a way to qualify for that coveted final spot, but based on their play of late, they'd have a difficult time beating the University of South Florida.
Tampa Bay 34 – Raiders 17
Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers – I actually picked the Lions to defeat the Saints last week! What could I have possibly been thinking? Well as much as I would like for Rob Marinelli to avoid the dubious distinction of being associated with the worst single season record in the history of the NFL. He sue doesn't deserve this fate. The Packers (5-10) have got to be very disappointed with their season and a great deal of work must be done to avoid a repeat next season. The game will have no impact on the final standing or for that matter the draft, but I have a sneaky feeling that late in the afternoon, millions of fans will be transfixed on the outcome of this football game. I'm not going to make the same mistake two weeks in a row; I think the Lions will be competitive early, but in the end I see the Packers winning this one easily.
Packers 37 – Lions 16
Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints – In spite of winning 11 games on the season, the Panthers who have already qualified for the playoffs now find themselves needing a win on the road in order to capture the NFC South title. A loss and Falcons victory would drop the drop the Panthers from the second to fifth seed in the NFC six team playoff picture. The Saints are coming off their best offensive and defensive showing of the season, and would like nothing better than to rain on the Panthers parade. I think it will be a very highly contested affair, but in the end I just don't think the Saints have the answers to the Panthers two headed ground game and Steven Smith on the outside.
Panthers 28 – Saints 23
St. Louis Rams vs Atlanta Falcons – Well at least the Rams didn't just mail it in either of their highly contested losses to the Seahawks and 49ers, but close as we all know only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The Falcons are on a mission and most importantly believe in themselves. Every step of the way, I have waited for this young Falcons squad to self destruct, but the day just never arrived. I still don't believe that the birds have what it takes to go all the way, but don't be surprised if they advance to the conference championship game.
Falcons 33 - Rams 16