The playoff picture is becoming pretty clear, as one might expect it to with only two weeks left in the season, but there are still 13 games this week that will affect the playoffs. In seven of those games both teams have playoff hopes, even if some of them are on life-support (Tennessee and Oakland are technically still alive). The amount of parity has something to do with this, but more than anything it's due to smart scheduling by the NFL, loading the end of the schedule with division games and other solid matchups.
Not every intriguing playoff matchup is built the same of course. The loser of the Giants-Packers game will be in a big hole, while the winner of the Rams-49ers game will likely have the inside track on winning the NFC West. Is it fair? No, but it's also not fair that seemingly every basketball player from the Balkans ends up with a super attractive wife, yet it happens and we learn to deal with it.
Last Week: 8-8
Lock of the Week: 13-2
Home Team in CAPS
Panthers (+14.5) over STEELERS
With Polamalu this line makes sense, but he isn't playing. I know Carolina is the worst team in the NFL (Denver might argue that point), but the Steelers are mediocre without Polamalu in the lineup and I can't bet on any mediocre team to cover a spread larger than 2 TDs.
Cowboys (-6.5) over CARDINALS
All you need to know about the Cardinals is that they are so bad that they are mathematically eliminated from contention in the NFC West.
Lions (+3.5) over DOLPHINS
The Lions have won two games in a row against teams with winning records. The Dolphins meanwhile continue to be the worst home team in the league. Which leads me to wonder why Bill Cowher has them on his list. It has to be solely because of weather right? I mean, the Texans and Giants have a lot of championship pieces in place, the Dolphins are average but don't seem to be anywhere close to taking that extra step.
JAGUARS (-7) over Redskins
Rex Grossman looked alright last week, if you weren't paying attention you could say he looked good, but the fact remains that he had three turnovers. I suppose I'm fine with him finishing out the season as McNabb has been pretty bad this year. The McNabb situation has been very interesting overall, he's played poorly, been treated poorly, and handled everything with a great attitude and said all the right things. (This is of course, is exactly what happed with Jason Campbell last year.) Where I think McNabb is getting screwed is not in being benched, but in that people are now saying maybe he's always been overrated. He is 34 now, not the same QB as when he was 27. Let's not say because now he is playing poorly and the Eagles are playing well that it means Rush Limbaugh was right seven years ago.
RAMS (-2.5) over 49ers
These teams seem pretty close and slightly better than the Seahawks, so the winner of this game will probably win the division. The 49ers won by three in San Francisco, I assume the Rams will return the favor, winning by three at home.
BUCCANEERS (-6.5) over Seahawks
The Seahawks have been really bad since beating the Bears in week 5. Since that point they've only beaten the Cardinals and Panthers, who happen to be two of the worst three teams in the league. Against anyone else they've lost by at least 15 points.
Patriots (-8) over BILLS
The Pats looked vulnerable last week, needing a defensive TD and a 71-yard kickoff return TD by a guard to beat the Packers without Aaron Rodgers, but the Packers are a bad matchup for the Patriots. They have a strong defense with an offense built around the passing game. The Bills are slowly starting to fit that mold, but they aren't close enough to scare the Pats yet.
Jets (+1) over BEARS
It came out that Rex Ryan and his wife may have some sort of foot fetish. I'm not here to judge, but, ew. It would have been much funnier, less gross, and more expected if he had a butter fetish. Of course Ryan doesn't really care what people think about him, so none of this matters. What does matter is that the Jets are significantly better than the Bears.
Ravens (-3.5) over BROWNS
Much like last year the Browns looked to be turning the corner for awhile, and then in the end it turned out they weren't very good.
CHIEFS (-5) over Titans
Lock of the Week
Don't let the Titans' win last week fool you, they are still very bad. The Chiefs are 6-0 at home and facing a must-win. They won't lose this week, but next week they should have their hands full. I should have ridden the Chiefs at home all season and I certainly will this game.
Colts (-3) over RAIDERS
I just don't think the Colts are quite ready to hand over this division.
Texans (-3) over BRONCOS
A true case of bad beats deplorable.
Giants (+3) over PACKERS
The Packers are the more dangerous team, but the Giants seem to be the healthier team. It seems like every year one team that really should make the playoffs doesn't get there. The Packers are that team this year.
BENGALS (+7.5) over Chargers
I'm somehow back to not trusting the Chargers after going back and forth for much of the season. I don't have an explanation, but I feel at the least they will make one of their last two games a lot harder than it needs to be.
EAGLES (-14.5) over Vikings
Either a supremely banged up Brett Favre or rookie Joe Webb against Vick. The Eagles could have all four quarters of this game be as productive as their 28-point fourth quarter against the Giants, which by the way, was probably the best game I could have asked to watch in a bar in NYC. People were less than thrilled.
FALCONS (-3) over Saints
The Falcons remain nasty at home, I can't go against them until they give me a reason, plain and simple.