The Broncos are still undefeated at home, and they have not won a home game this season by less than 10 points. They have outscored their opponents at home by a combined total of 296-153. That's a point differential of +143, or an average of +20.4 per game. By comparison, Seattle, who is known for their home field advantage, is also undefeated at home. They have won their home games by an average of 18.7 points. It is every bit as difficult playing in Denver as it is in Seattle.
The Chargers are a nice team, but they're not good enough.
I'm actively rooting for the LolSkins to hold the 1st overall pick that they traded to the Rams for a healthy player who is sitting on the bench to end the season.
This is a difficult game to figure out. The Bears have plenty to play for, but the Browns certainly haven't quit. They should have beaten the Patriots in New England last week, who needed to recover an onsides kick to win.
The Bears' defense is awful. Pretty much any team (the Browns included) are going to score on them. The Bears have allowed at least 20 points in every game. But it's the matchup that I like when the Bears have the ball. The Browns have given up just 4.6 yards per play, which is tied for best in the NFL. I like their chances against the Bears' two playmaking WRs, especially against what could be a rusty Jay Cutler in the cold.
Here's an NFL oddity this season: The Colts might be the worst team to win their division this year (with strong competition from the NFCN for that dubious honor). They're also the first team to clinch their division.
The last time these two teams played, the Dolphins held the Pats to just 252 yards, and this time around, there's no Gronk. If the season ended today, the Dolphins would lose a tiebreaker to the Ravens for the 6th and final wildcard spot.
The Pats have plenty to play for themselves, as they're trying to keep the Bengals at bay and hang onto the 2 seed.
Since their bye week, the Dolphins have had strange efforts on defense. They either give up less than 300 yards, or over 400:
I'll bet on a good Dolphins defensive effort against a team that is missing its best weapon on offense (Brady aside).
No Adrian Peterson? And now Matt Cassel is starting? Aaaand maybe not even Toby Gerhart?
It's a trap!
Any coach is going to say that they are only focused on the next opponent. The trick is getting the players to buy into that mentality, and it appears that they have.
"The last 5 games," explained LeSean McCoy, "we've been focused on that opponent, that week. The biggest thing we stress each week is just, whatever game, whatever opponent you have, let's just be 1-0 that week. We're not looking down the line at the Cowboy game or our record. We just want to keep winning and control our own destiny."
I don't think the Eagles will be sleeping on the Vikings, even though it may appear to be a favorable matchup.
Here's what Giants owner John Mara said before the Giants were set to take on the Cowboys a couple weeks back, via Tom Rock of Newsday:
"We were all disappointed and surprised by the slow start," the Giants' president and CEO said Thursday. "I am proud of the way this team stuck together. We always want to play meaningful games around and after Thanksgiving, and that's exactly what we have this Sunday in MetLife Stadium. I'm proud of the way the team has stuck together. That is a tribute to the head coach and the leadership in the locker room."
Welp... They ain't meaningful anymore. The Giants are mathematically eliminated.
The 49ers just played in the biggest game of their season so far last week, getting an emotional win over a Seahawks team that dominated them earlier in the season. Now they have to make a coast to coast flight to Tampa to take on a Buccaneers team that has won 4 of its last 5 games.
I'll take the Niners, but this is no gimme.
On a side note, the Bucs are the Eagles' friends right now. While a wildcard is very unlikely at this point, it wouldn't hurt for the Bucs to beat the Niners to keep that option alive juuuuust in case the Eagles win the next two but lose in Dallas, and miss out on the NFC East crown.
The Bucs also play the Saints. If they can beat Drew Brees and Co, that would help the Eagles' remote chances of landing the 2 seed.
The Bills have played well in Buffalo, but are 1-6 on the road, where they've been outscored 170-100 this season. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have looked competent recently, and I'll go as far as to say that they were fun to watch last Thursday night against the Texans. I'm hopping right on that Jacksonville bandwagon!
Charles Woodson said the Raiders looked like the Bad News Bears last week, and with good reason. They gave up 37 points to the Jets. Barf.
The Chiefs will lock up at least the 5 seed with a win.
The Panthers are 4th in sacks, 5th in INTs, and 5th in fumble recoveries. Geno Smith vs this Carolina defense is not going to be pretty.
The Cowboys did not force a single punt last week, and according to Tommy Lawor of IgglesBlitz, they're on pace to be the 4th worst defense in the history of the NFL.
And it's not even as if the Cowboys have a potent offense. The Cowboys gain 5.5 yards per play this season. They allow 6.2 yards per play. That is a differential of -0.7, which is tied for 2nd worst in the NFL.
And they're favored by 7. They're probably going to beat the Matt Flynn-led Packers, but a 7 point spread? Really?
Here are the 10 win teams over the last 10 years who have not made the playoffs:
2008: Patriots (11 wins)
The Cardinals may be joining that list.
If the season ended today, the Rams would have the 2nd and 12th overall picks in the draft. Still left on their schedule are the Saints and Seahawks (in Seattle Week 17), although there's a decent chance they may get a disinterested Seattle team locked into the 1 seed.
The Rams will have to limp through the rest of this season with Kellen Clemens at QB, but when it's all said and done, the Rams may very well have 2 picks in the top 10.
It's been fun picking against the Steelers all season, and I won't be stopping now. Pittsburgh is a team on the sharp decline. Here is a list of how old some Steelers will be during the 2014 season:
They have a lot of work to do to try to get younger.
Baltimore is 6-1 at home, and 1-5 on the road. More troubling is that the Week 1 opener in Denver aside, the Ravens have lost to 4 teams on the road with a combined record of 20-32 (.385). In other words, they're not just losing on the road. They're losing to bad teams on the road.