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December in the NFL means division championships and playoff jockeying. Carolina can clinch the NFC South with a win and New England, Cincinnati, Denver and Arizona can all but assure division titles with wins.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
The Lions suddenly are playing to their potential and they owe it all to the Packers. Detroit defeated the Packers at Lambeau Field a month ago and they haven’t lost since. Green Bay has lost four of their last five and finds itself a game behind division leader, Minnesota. I like the way Detroit is playing, the Lions keep the Packers at bay.
Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills
Houston has found a defense; they’ve allowed the fewest points since week eight. Brian Hoyer has taken the reins of the offense and led them to four wins in a row. Buffalo lost a pair of hard fought games to the Patriots and the Chiefs. The Bills are still searching for offense, a game against J.J. Hardy and the Houston defense is nowhere to find one. The Texans continue to roll.
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
No one wants to face the Bears at this point in the season, particularly a team that has nothing to play for. San Francisco hasn’t given up on the season, demonstrated by how they battled the Cardinals before losing 19-13. Chicago’s last three losses have been by a combined nine points. The Bears are playing well on both sides of the ball and they will get to .500 with a win over San Francisco.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Cincinnati can take another step toward the best record in the AFC with a win over the Browns. The Bengals are tied with Denver, a game behind the Patriots. Cincinnati snapped a two game losing streak with a win over St Louis. Cleveland fought hard against the Ravens but found a new way to lose on a blocked field goal attempt. Cleveland is the worst team in the league and deserves to continue losing in order to earn the first pick in the draft. Cincinnati rolls over the Browns.
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
Baltimore has a number of young players trying to earn roster spots for next season and veterans playing for pride. They won in exciting fashion over the Browns with Matt Schaub running the offense. Miami fired their offensive coordinator Bill Lazor with the hope of turning around a struggling offense. That won’t be enough as the Ravens win and stay in playoff contention, mathematically.
Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings
Bridgewater has played well all season, but he’s taken a pounding along the way. The Vikings will have to rely on Petersons legs against a stout Seattle defense that seems to have found its stride in the last few weeks. The loss of Jimmy Graham won’t have as big an impact of the Seahawks offense as Russell Wilson can now spread the ball around. Seahawks continue to win.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
The Panthers are the league’s only undefeated team. Newton continues to lead an offense that finds multiple ways to put points on the board. Carolina’s defense is what puts the Panthers over the top. New Orleans has no idea how to play defense. Brees will give them a chance to score points, but those will be few against the Carolina wrecking crew. Panthers move to 12-0.
New York Jets at New York Giants
The battle of New York has playoff implications for both teams. The Jets, at 6-5 are looking at the AFC wildcard, while the Giants, at 5-6, have a shot at the division title in the NFC East. The Jets are coming of a thrashing of the Dolphins and the Giants got thrashed by Washington. The Jets have lost their last five games against the Giants. Make it six, the Giants win and stay alive in the East.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
Arizona may be the most balanced team in the NFL and they continue to fly under the radar. At 9-2 they are the second seed in the NFC. One of their two losses came at the hands of the Rams in Arizona, where the Cardinals had trouble mustering any offense; they kicked five field goals in the defeat. St. Louis is a different team at this stage of the season. The Rams have lost four straight games and cannot figure out a way to put points on the board. There is speculation about the future of head coach Jeff Fisher due to the team’s poor play. Arizona is too much for the Rams.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta has dropped five of its last six games and Matt Ryan continues to throw red zone interceptions. Ryan has 19 turnovers to 16 touchdowns, the worst of his career. The falcons already lost to Tampa Bay 23-20, earlier in the season. The Buccaneers, at 5-6, are still an outside shot to make the playoffs; a win against the Falcons eliminates a team ahead of them in their postseason quest. Tampa Bay evens their record with a home win.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
Jacksonville’s title hopes took a hit with their loss to Oakland. Tennessee has continued to play like a young team with a rookie quarterback. Both teams continue to make too many mistakes on both side of the ball. This may be the least appealing game on the weekend docket. Tennessee wins in a mild upset.
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
A good old fashioned AFC West rivalry is rekindled. Both teams are playing well and fighting for a wildcard berth. Kansa City is looking for their sixth consecutive win, while the Raiders are trying to reach .500. None of the Chiefs final five opponents have a winning record. The Raiders are 2-3 at home and I don’t think they can beat the Chiefs.
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers
Osweiler has guided the Broncos to a pair of wins in Manning’s absence. Denver has been able to establish a running game behind Osweiler’s ability to run play action. The Bronco defense continues to play at a very high level. San Diego won its third game of the season as they hung on to defeat Jacksonville 31-25. Rivers threw four touchdowns, giving him 23 on the season. Denver is running the offense Kubiak designed combined with a great defense, too much for the Chargers to handle.
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots
Despite all the injuries New England has suffered this season they still have enough talent to beat the hapless Eagles. However, if Gronkowski is out that may be too much for any team to withstand. The Patriots are coming off their first loss of the season, while Philadelphia has allowed 45 points in its last two losses. Yet, the Eagles are only one game behind Washington and New York in the NFC East. The Patriots will not lose two in a row.
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers
Matt Hasselbeck won his fourth game as the Colts starting QB, allowing Indianapolis to keep pace with division co-leader Houston. Pittsburgh dropped a road game at Seattle and fell three games behind division leader Cincinnati. They may be without Roethlisberger, who self reported a blow to the head and following concussion protocol. The Steelers defense is giving up too many points. Indianapolis wins on the road.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
Hard to believe but this game holds playoff implications. Washington leads the NFC East and the Cowboys are only two games back. Dallas has virtually no offense with the loss of Romo and the Redskins are 5-1 at home. With a lot riding on the game and the traditional dislike these teams have for one and other this contest should be very entertaining. Washington wins at home.