The circus that has been Mike Shanahan, RG3 and Dan Snyder this week will come to a head when 3-10 Washington takes on the 3-10 Falcons. Kirk Cousins will get the start while the decision to shut down RG3 for the season remains. I have no knowledge of the situation whatsoever, but the way Shanahan presented the decision, it sounds as if he is a coach that is planning to be back next season. While I do agree an offseason will be invaluable as it relates to RG3’s progression, I would rather see the Redskins limit all his plays to the constraints of the pocket and make him develop that skill set over the course of the next three games. Tell him, if you scramble, you will be benched. But doing it this way, maybe the Redskins show the rest of the league what they have in Kirk Cousins and potentially recoup some of the draft picks they lost in jumping up to grab Griffin.
Getty ImagesMatt Sullivan
Bears at Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on FOX)
It has been debated in the media all week whether Jay Cutler should get the start over the hot Josh McCown, but Marc Trestman has never wavered on the issue. Every time he addressed the situation, he said that Jay Cutler was his starter and that as soon as he was healthy that he would get the start. Cutler will start his first game since Week 10 and in his absence McCown has had a better completion percentage, more yards per attempt, and a better touchdown to interception ratio. With the Bears tied with the Lions for the division lead and just half a game ahead of the Packers, it will be interesting to see how short a leash Cutler has if he shows any rust. The Browns have the seventh-best total defense but just the 19th-best scoring defense.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Texans at Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on CBS)
The Texans have lost a franchise-worst 11 straight games and currently own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. On the other hand, the Colts have clinched the AFC South, but have not been without their own issues. After starting the season 6-2, the Colts have lost three of their last five and have been outscored 114-24 in the first halves of their last six games. Andrew Luck is coming off a career-high four touchdown passes against the Bengals but it was done while trying to play catch up from an early 21-point deficit. The good news for the Colts and the bad news for the Texans is that Luck has never lost back-to-back games in the NFL. In fact, the last time he lost two games in a row was as a redshirt freshman at Stanford in 2009.
Getty ImagesThomas B. Shea
Patriots at Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on CBS)
The Dolphins have a top-10 scoring defense and Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon offer one of the best pass-rushing combinations in the league. The Dolphins have picked off Tom Brady more than any other team in the NFL with 19, but Brady is still 17-6 against them. Brady has yet to throw more than one pick in a game this season but he will once again be without his favorite and most reliable target, Rob Gronkowski. With Gronk in the lineup, Brady’s numbers jumped from 228 yards per game to 372 and his passer rating went from 74.9 to 107.4. There is no doubt that Brady will once again have to reinvent this passing attack, but if there is anyone that can do it, it is Brady. The Patriots can now win out and earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC with the Broncos loss on Thursday night. It’s not often that you will see the Patriots allow such an opportunity to pass them by.
David Butler II-USA TODAY SportsDavid Butler II
Eagles at Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on FOX)
LeSean McCoy set a franchise rushing record in nearly a foot of snow last week against the Lions and this week he will get to play in a dome that is perfect for his jump-cutting style. The Vikings are the second-worst defense and McCoy leads the NFL in rushing with 1,305 yards and nearly 135 scrimmage yards per game. The Eagles are 5-0 this season when McCoy gets 26 or more touches and just 3-5 when he doesn’t. Look for a heavy dose of McCoy and then strategic shots down the field to DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. The two are second and fifth in the NFL when it comes to yards per catch. The Eagles are just too much for the Vikings to handle, especially without the ball-controlling Adrian Peterson in the backfield. I like the Eagles big in this game.
Getty ImagesMaddie Meyer
Seahawks at Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on FOX)
Russell Wilson has been sacked one or fewer times in four of the last five games, but the Giants have four-plus sacks in four of the last six games. The surge in quarterback pressures has been led by Justin Tuck, who has tallied seven sacks in the past three games, but Jason Pierre-Paul has just two sacks for the entire season. If the Giants can get both players cranked up, they have a chance for the upset of the weekend as the Seahawks will have to travel cross-country and still play at the 1 p.m. time slot. While Wilson is tied with Ben Roethlisberger for most wins by a QB in his first two seasons, he is a pedestrian 8-7 in road games. With that said, I still think the Seahawks are the best team in the NFL, but this is a tough task for this this weekend.
Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
49ers at Bucs (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on FOX)
The 49ers, like the Seahawks, have the tough task of traveling east while still having to play in the 1 o’clock time slot. The Niners currently hold the sixth seed in the NFC and are 8-2 in their last 10 games. Those two losses have come by a combined four points to the Panthers and Saints, who are a combined 19-7. Because of that, it could be argued that San Francisco is the hottest team in the NFL right now, particularly coming off its win against the Seahawks last week -- but they are still just the 28th-ranked offense and have the fewest passing yards per game of all NFL teams. Defensively, they are surrendering just 13 points per game since Week 4 and should take advantage of the Buccaneers, who own the third-worst scoring offense in the league. I’ll take the 49ers, but it won’t be a blowout.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
Bills at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on CBS)
With the loss last week, the Bills have guaranteed themselves a ninth straight losing season. It’s been quite the opposite for the Jaguars recently. While they too will post another losing record, they have won three in a row and are tied with the Patriots, Bengals and Ravens for the longest active winning streak in the AFC. Yes, you did read that correctly. The Jaguars have started to figure it out offensively and have scored 115 points in their last five games -- pretty impressive considering they scored just 86 in their first eight games. I like the way Gus Bradley is developing this team and I like the Jaguars to continue the momentum this weekend against the Bills.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
Chiefs at Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS)
Whether it’s fair or not, the knock on Alex Smith has always been that he is the proverbial game manager and he can’t shoulder the team and pass it to a victory. Well, the Chiefs have lost as many as they have won in the past six weeks, but Smith has proven that his team is much more than a solid defense. During their 3-3 run, Smith has improved his completion percentage, passing yards per game, touchdown to interception ratio and passer rating. But rather than going undefeated like they did in the first seven weeks, they are just an average, .500 team. The Chiefs are coming off a complete beatdown of Washington last week and there is no reason to believe they won’t do the same against the Raiders.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
Jets at Panthers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS)
Santanio Holmes may have stated the obvious this week that the Panthers’ most glaring weakness is in their defensive secondary. That said, Carolina is still the fourth-best team in terms of takeaways while the Jets and Geno Smith are second in turnovers. Additionally, the Panthers are the best scoring defense in the NFL while the Jets have the second-worst scoring offense, despite the fact that they scored a season-high 37 points last week against the Raiders. On the flip side, it will be fun to watch how the Panthers rushing attack handles the stellar inside presences of Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cam Newton leads the team in rushing this week as they try and get to the edge rather than force it up the gut. This game has the chance to be a blowout, but the Jets defense has the ability to keep it close. Regardless, I like the Panthers to win out and that obviously starts with this game.
Getty ImagesAl Bello
Packers at Cowboys (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX)
Can the Cowboys avoid another late-season collapse? In 2011, the Cowboys entered the stretch at 7-4 but lost four of their last five and failed to make the playoffs. In 2012, the Cowboys were 8-6 but lost their final two games and once again missed the playoffs. This year, the Cowboys are 7-6 and held the division lead just two weeks ago. The Cowboys got demolished by the Bears last week to continue to spiral downward in the month of December. Tony Romo is 12-17 in his career in December or later and his passer rating is nearly 15 points below his November numbers. Romo won’t have much of an excuse on Sunday as the Packers have allowed 400-plus yards in four of the last six games and hasn’t held an opponent under 21 points since they faced Brandon Weeden in Week 7. I like the Cowboys to hold serve at home, but if Aaron Rodgers makes his return, then all bets are off.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Cardinals at Titans (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX)
The Cardinals are a surprise 8-5 and just one game out of the NFC playoff picture. Even more surprising, Arizona has outgained its opponents in six straight games and Carson Palmer has the second-best completion percentage in franchise history. With the resurgence of Palmer and the balanced attack of Andre Ellington and Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals are just as dangerous as anyone but they haven’t been all that impressive on the road this season. Compared to 6-1 at home, they are just 2-4 on the road and have scored just 18.7 points per game and maintain a minus-4 turnover differential. The Titans have lost four of five and are just 1-3 since Jake Locker went down with an injury. I’ll take the Cardinals on the road.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Saints at Rams (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX)
Much has been made about how the Saints are a different team on the road than they are at home. Looking at the statistics and the wins and losses, that is true, but just like Drew Brees is a perfect 7-0 at home, he is also a perfect 8-0 when playing in a dome. A win clinches a playoff position for the Saints, but I don’t think they will just win, I think they will put on a show in St. Louis. They are tired of hearing the road talk and this presents them a great opportunity to hush their critics -- at least for a week, because then it’s off to Carolina again in Week 16. But all the Saints have to do is win out otherwise and a loss to the Panthers won’t mean a thing; they will still win the South because of the tiebreaker. This isn’t the trap game that it looks like on paper. I like the Saints big in this match-up.
Getty ImagesRob Carr
Bengals at Steelers (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC)
Marvin Lewis is 7-14 against the Steelers, but has won two straight and a victory here would be the first time the Bengals have beaten the Steelers in three straight games since Boomer Esiason was the QB from 1988-1990. The Bengals can clinch the AFC North with a win and a Ravens loss. The Steelers, on the other hand, are in real danger of missing the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 1998-2000. Andy Dalton snapped out of a horrendous four-game stretch last week against the Colts with three touchdowns and no interceptions. I think he will have a similar performance this week against the 24th-ranked passing defense, but the Steelers will put up some points of their own. I like the Steelers at home, but I’m not overly confident about it.
Getty ImagesMatt Sullivan
Ravens at Lions (Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Matt Elam, a rookie with just two pass break-ups and no interceptions in 13 games this season may have made the dumbest comment of the season this week. He called Calvin Johnson “old.” Johnson is coming off a nearly record-breaking season in terms of yards and is on pace to put up his second-highest yardage total this season. His 12 touchdowns receptions are just four behind his season best of 16 in 2011. That is a pretty bold statement from a player that will probably not even be matched up with Johnson all game and only makes it more difficult for his teammates to back up his talk. Both of these teams need a win to keep pace in the playoff picture, but I like the Lions at home. I just don’t think the Ravens have the offensive firepower to keep pace with Johnson, Reggie Bush and Matt Stafford.