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Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1) at Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
Prediction: Upon rushing for 357 in his last two games, Adrian Peterson’s now on pace to run for 1,611 yards. We should all take a step back and appreciate just how great of a running back he is, especially in today’s pass-first NFL. However, he’ll find running room difficult this week, as he faces a Baltimore defense that ranks No. 6 against the run. In the Metrodome, Peterson could gash any run defense, but the elements come into play outdoors. In Baltimore, the advantage and game goes to the Ravens.
Ravens 27 Vikings 10
Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
Prediction: While the Colts begin to fade, Cincinnati is just making their move. The Bengals are just a game back of New England. The Bengals also defeated New England earlier this year, so they hold the tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record. This is a legitimate possibility and it’s one many talking heads on television are overlooking. Given Cincinnati’s strength at home (5-0), they should have no problem handling the regressing Colts.
Bengals 28 Colts 14
Cleveland Browns (4-8) at New England Patriots (9-3)
Prediction: Jason Campbell is not beating Tom Brady in Gillette Stadium.
Patriots 31 Browns 13
Oakland Raiders (4-8) at N.Y. Jets (5-7)
Prediction: Though they caught a break on the opening kickoff, Oakland deserves credit for putting forth a fight in Dallas on Thanksgiving. In fact, the Raiders are playing hard each week. Meanwhile, the Jets appear dazed and confused. They have no quarterback and their receiving corps is awful.
Raiders 17 Jets 3
Upset of the Week
Detroit Lions (7-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)
Prediction: After a woeful start, Philadelphia’s defense is beginning to elevate its play. They’re allowing 17 points per game over their last six games. Detroit represents a tough test, though. Against Green Bay, Detroit got back on track by running the ball and utilizing an explosive passing game. Defensively, their front four is among the best in football. A strong pass rush combined with a quality offense makes the Lions a dangerous postseason team.
Lions 31 Eagles 27
Miami Dolphins (6-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)
Prediction: As the distraction regarding Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin simmer, Miami’s able to refocus on their playoff push. The Dolphins have quietly played well this season. Ryan Tannehill’s making progress and the defense keeps them competitive. They’re one dimensional on offense, though. They went into the season with a running back committee that included Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. The latter is hurt, while Miller’s been a disappointment. Ultimately, their inability to run the ball will cost them the postseason.
Steelers 27 Dolphins 24
Buffalo Bills (4-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)
Prediction: Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon is playing good football and Buffalo struggles to defend the pass. He and Vincent Jackson should have big days, as the Bills drop their ninth game of the season.
Buccaneers 34 Bills 23
Kansas City (9-3) at Washington (3-9)
Prediction: The Chiefs played well in a losing effort last week versus Denver. They opened up the playbook more, allowing Alex Smith to have one of his best statistical games of the season. They could be a dangerous playoff team, if they’re able to sustain production from their passing game.
Kansas City 23 Washington 14
Atlanta Falcons (3-9) at Green Bay Packers (5-6-1)
Prediction: In the long run, losing Aaron Rodgers may be a good thing for Green Bay. The Packers have one of the league’s top front offices, but they have a tendency to overvalue some of their players. Without Rodgers, the team can get a read on which players are legit, and which ones are pretenders. This could lead to success in 2014. As for 2013, without Rodgers, Green Bay won’t win another game.
Falcons 35 Packers 24
Tennessee Titans (5-7) at Denver Broncos (10-2)
Prediction: I still have reservations about how far Denver can go in the playoffs, but they shouldn’t have any issues dealing with a Tennessee team that’s reeling from the absence of Jake Locker.
Broncos 37 Titans 21
St. Louis Rams (5-7) at Arizona Cardinals (7-5)
Prediction: The Cardinals are a respectable 5-1 at home, but they’ve yet to win a game within their division. Two of their losses within the division have come on the road, though, so Arizona should take advantage of their home turf and get their first win against a division rival of 2013.
Cardinals 23 Rams 16
N.Y. Giants (5-7) at San Diego Chargers (5-7)
Prediction: Neither San Diego nor New York plays much defense, so look for a high scoring game. San Diego still has a chance at the No. 6 seed in the AFC. Behind Philip Rivers, they’ll take a step closer in making that goal happen.
Chargers 30 Giants 20
Seattle Seahawks (11-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
Prediction: One of two marquee NFC games, Seattle travels to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick is 0-2 against the Seahawks as a starter, but both games were played in Seattle. This is his first start against them in San Francisco. The 49ers got a much-needed boost from wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who returned last week from an off-season achilles injury. His presence will open things up for the running game and the other San Francisco receivers. Because of their dominating performance Monday night, everybody is on Seattle’s bandwagon. But the 49ers need this game more than they do. The Seahawks will win the division and probably finish with the No. 1 seed. The 49ers, meanwhile, aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot. This hasn’t been Jim Harbaugh’s best season in San Francisco, but he’ll have his team treating this one as if it’s a playoff game. I don’t think Seattle will have the same urgency.
49ers 19 Seahawks 13
Game of the Week
Carolina Panthers (9-3) at New Orleans Saints (9-3)
Prediction: It’s easy to pick Carolina after watching the Saints lay a dud in Seattle. Good teams always bounce back, though. The Saints are a good team and they have one of the best coaches in the NFL. In addition, they also have one of the best home-field advantages. Drew Brees isn’t one to play back-to-back poor games. He’ll do enough to lead New Orleans over Carolina, though you may see a different result when these teams play two weeks from now in Charlotte.
Saints 28 Panthers 20
Dallas Cowboys (7-5) at Chicago Bears (6-6)
Prediction: There was a time when Chicago’s defense was among the most feared in football, but that‘s no longer the case. The Bears are awful on the defensive side of the ball, while their offense is now carrying the franchise. The combination of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery could just be the best in football. Dallas will score points in this game, as they also have a good offense, but I don’t think they have the defense to stop the new Monster’s of the Midway.
Bears 38 Cowboys 31
Last Week: 11-5
Season Record: 121-70-1