Jeffrey Flanagan gazes into his crystal ball and predicts this weekend's NFL games.
By JEFFREY FLANAGAN FS Kansas City
LAST WEEK STRAIGHT UP: 13-1 SEASON: 106-53-1
LAST WEEK VS. SPREAD: 6-8 SEASON: 77-82-1
TEXANS (-3.5) AT LIONS
Traditionally, this is the Lions' Super Bowl. A national television audience sees them at home, and they play out of their minds and pull off a stunning upset. Not any more. The Lions are in free fall. Matt Stafford can't seem to complete the simplest of throws. All the promise the Lions held at the season's start has vanished, and the Lions now know that even if they run the table it might not be enough because they are 0-4 in the division. The Texans had their letdown game last week, and it was a huge letdown, but they escaped with a win. They'll gear back up here and show the nation they're the best in the AFC.
Texans 30, Lions 21
REDSKINS (+3.5) AT COWBOYS
A toughie because you never know what to expect from the Cowboys, who probably should have been upset at home last week against the Browns. No matter, what we do know is that the Cowboys are vulnerable. I don't put much stock into the Redskins' rout of the fading
Eagles, but it would seem RG3 would love to put on a show in Big D and in front of the nation. The Cowboys, though, likely will pull off some lucky ending to continue to save their season.
Cowboys 27, Redskins 24
PATRIOTS (-6.5) AT JETS
All my instincts suggest that the Patriots should just blow the doors off the Jets. But, the Jets did surprise a lot of people (me included) with a solid road effort against an improving
Rams team. And for whatever reason, the Jets always get fired up to play the Patriots and play them close. This should be no different. Don't be shocked if the Jets even pull it out.
Patriots 23, Jets 17
BRONCOS (-10.5) AT CHIEFS
A big line here but the Chiefs have given no indication they can stand up to anyone, let alone
Peyton Manning and the confident
Brady Quinn gets the start for the Chiefs, so get ready for checkdown pass after checkdown pass. As if the Chiefs didn't have enough problems, they're beat up everywhere – on the offensive line, at wide receiver, on the defensive line, and so on. I simply can't see a scenario where the Chiefs keep this close, unless the Broncos simply look past them. Don't think Peyton will let them do that, considering it's a division game. This one gets real ugly.
Broncos 38, Chiefs 13
SEAHAWKS (-2.5) AT DOLPHINS
Clearly, the Seahawks are the better team here. But this is a long, long trip, and the
Dolphins are due to put together a decent game after a month of clunkers. Two rookie quarterbacks square off, and
Russell Wilson is the better one at the moment, but he has not played well on the road. The Dolphins find a way.
Dolphins 20, Seahawks 17
RAIDERS (+7.5) AT BENGALS
It's tempting to think the freaky Raiders might show up here and scare the Bengals. But the Raiders have been bombed the last two weeks and if they get down early, they will quit. The Bengals are on a mini-roll, and they keep it going.
Bengals 23, Raiders 13
TITANS (-2.5) AT JAGS
Should we believe the Jags are much better with
Chad Henne starting at quarterback? Yep. The Jags do have some weapons, and it just takes someone to get them the ball consistently. Maybe Henne is that guy. But the problem is, the Jags probably used all their bullets up last week in the overtime loss to Houston. The Titans run the ball effectively and run away from the Jags.
Titans 27, Jags 14
STEELERS (-1.5) AT BROWNS
Charlie Batch? The Steelers are down to their third-string quarterback, and that still might not be enough of an advantage for the Browns. The Browns are improving, though, and maybe they get over the hump here.
Browns 13, Steelers 12
BILLS (+3.5) AT COLTS
Pretty evenly matched game. The Colts are probably still in shock after getting routed at New England, and that hangover may last well into this game. The Bills are capable of giving teams fits. This one goes down to the wire.
Colts 24, Bills 21
FALCONS (pick 'em) at BUCS
Matt Ryan threw five interceptions and yet the Falcons still beat the Cardinals. Tampa Bay certainly is improving but there is still a talent gap between these two teams.
Falcons 27, Bucs 24
VIKINGS (+5.5) AT BEARS
Jay Cutler was hurt, the
Bears have to be stunned they got so manhandled by San Francisco. The Bears' defense – the strength of the team – got lit up. And remember, the Vikings handled the
49ers pretty easily. Cutler is back, and that should give the Bears the overall edge, but I think this one will be close.
Bears 20, Vikings 16
RAVENS (pick e'm) AT CHARGERS
OK, the Ravens are clearly the better team here. But, can anyone stand watching that Ravens' offense? That conservative approach worked last Sunday night against the Big Ben-less Steelers, but it won't work if the other team engages them in a shootout. The Chargers put together their one last big game of the season.
Chargers 27, Ravens 16
49ERS (-1.5) AT SAINTS
Very interesting matchup. The
Saints are on a big roll, and have all the motivation in the world. But this is not a great matchup for them. The 49ers will not let
Drew Brees throw his deep ball, and Brees may get frustrated having to dink and dunk. On the other side, the 49ers should have little problem against a shaky Saints defense, especially if they could light up the Bears.
49ers 24, Saints 21
RAMS (+2.5) AT CARDS
A good matchup for the Rams. The Arizona offense is horrible, and the Rams' defense should rebound in a big way.
Sam Bradford will have his troubles against a pesky Cardinals' secondary, but if the Rams can get a running game going, they should survive here for a big road win.
Rams 16, Cardinals 10
PACKERS (+2.5) AT GIANTS
Big game here for both teams, and a rematch of last year's playoff matchup in which the Giants ended the
Packers' dream season. The Packers will be highly motivated and will treat this like a playoff game. The only problem is, they're short-handed everywhere. No
Charles Woodson, no
Greg Jennings, and maybe no
Clay Matthews. No one is quite sure what is wrong with the Giants, but they will ramp up for this one. The Packers have won five straight and they steal this one in the end.
Packers 30, Giants 28
PANTHERS (+2.5) AT EAGLES
Whew. What a snoozer. The Eagles have pretty much quit. At least the Panthers are still trying.