I don’t think I’ve successfully picked either one of these teams all season. And now they go head to head. The Dolphins inexplicably got blown out at home last week by the crappy Titans. The Bills inexplicably showed up on the road against the Patriots and nearly beat them. Go figure. The temptation here is to go with the Dolphins, who are probably the better team. But a Thursday night game, at home in Buffalo…tough to go against the Bills. The season is pretty much lost for either team with a loss, if it isn’t lost already.
Bills 24, Dolphins 22
BENGALS (-3.5) AT CHIEFS
The Chiefs certainly are spinning last week’s overtime loss to the Steelers as a big turning point in their development. I’m not buying it. The truth is, most teams in the NFL would have pounced on a Big Ben-less Steelers team in the second half and buried them. Not the Chiefs, who don’t have the firepower to do so, don’t have a quarterback to do so, and don’t have an offensive coordinator creative enough or brave enough to do so. Nice, gutsy win by the Bengals team last week to put away the suddenly reeling Giants. The Bengals (4-5) have a chance to get to .500 and they will get there. The guess here is that the Chiefs will tease their fans by keeping it close but another huge mistake late by Matt Cassel dooms them.
Bengals 16, Chiefs 13
CARDINALS (+10.5) AT FALCONS
Yes, this is a big spread by NFL standards but one would think the Falcons, coming off a loss that ended their dreams of 16-0, will be relaxed and ready to hammer someone. The Cardinals are in the path of the storm. Falcons 33, Cardinals 13
BROWNS (+7.5) AT COWBOYS
Great win by the ‘Boys last week on the road at Philly, meaning they can pretend their season isn’t lost yet. They’re probably thinking this should be a lay-up against the 2-7 Browns. But Cleveland can be pesky and they keep it close here.
Cowboys 24, Browns 17
EAGLES (+3.5) AT REDSKINS
With Michael Vick hurt, it looks like Eagles fans will get their wish and 6-foot-6 rookie Nick Foles will get the start. Interesting matchup with two rookie quarterbacks squaring off. Normally it would be tough for a rookie to start on the road but the Redskins’ defense is soft, and the Eagles will have a chance to get their running game going. That will keep it close but in the end, RG3 makes one big play to set up the winning field goal.
Redskins 20, Eagles 17
PACKERS (-3.5) AT LIONS
I keep saying the Lions’ season is on the line, but this time I really mean it. The Packers will get everything the Lions got. The Packers are rested after the bye week, but they keep losing major players – this time it’s Clay Matthews. Without a pass rush, the Packers will have trouble defending against Matt Stafford and Megatron. Packers find a way, though, to squeak one out and the Lions start thinking about 2013.
Packers 30, Lions 27
BUCS (-1.5) AT PANTHERS
Bucs are really playing some good football right now, getting contributions from all three phases. Not so much for the Panthers, whose nightmare season continues. Expect another soft-spoken, reflective, post-game press conference from Cam Newton.
Bucs 20, Panthers 12
JAGS (+15.5) AT TEXANS
OK, this spread is the equivalent to about a 31-point spread in college. Almost everyone I know is backing off the Texans simply because it’s really hard to bomb another team in the parity-driven NFL. But come on, the Jags are helpless.
Texans 34, Jags 10
JETS (+3.5) AT RAMS
Well, the Jets have all kinds of problems these days. Mark Sanchez is under fire again, as is coach Rex Ryan. And trust me, this is a game that Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wants desperately. Schottenheimer was the target of a lot of fan and media abuse when he was the Jets’ OC — all that abuse proved to be misguided. Look at the Jets’ offense now. This is the time to bury the reeling Jets, and the Rams do so while having some fun. Rams 27, Jets 10
SAINTS (-4.5) AT RAIDERS
The Saints pretty much proved they are back by ending the Falcons’ 16-0 dream last week. There are still major defensive issues with the Saints, but they can hide those against the bumbling Raiders. Saints 38, Raiders 21
COLTS (+9.5) AT PATRIOTS
Two 6-3 teams square off and one would expect a tightly contested, tug of war. Vegas isn’t buying it – Pats are big favorites here. Pats got their bi-annual scare from the Bills last week and should be ready to smack someone. Andrew Luck has done a magnificent job with the Colts so far, but they get humbled this week.
Patriots 31, Colts 17
CHARGERS (+7.5) AT BRONCOS
The Chargers are about to disappear off the map. The Broncos can almost wrap up the division with a win here, and they won’t let off the gas. Broncos 41, Chargers 23
RAVENS (+3.5) AT STEELERS
Tall order for backup Byron Leftwich to step in against a big rival like the Ravens. Baltimore hit on all phases last week in the blowout of the Raiders and they carry that momentum into Pittsburgh.
Ravens 19, Steelers 14
BEARS (+5.5) AT 49ERS
This may end up being a battle of the backups with each playing against a great defense. This might be one of those first-team-to-score-wins games. Could be fun to watch. Seriously.