Note: Home teams in CAPITAL LETTERS
After three gorgeous wins over the Cardinals, Giants and Browns, we thought that the Eagles were on the way to the postseason, but then it turned very, very sour in Washington. To score only three points against the 'Skins is downright embarrassing. It's not as if they went against any of the best defenses in the NFL, such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore, which, by the way, Dallas has done in December. The Cowboys lost to both, but they have had a nice, 2-0 run against the NFC East since the bye week, as well as covering four of the last six. The Birds need a whole bunch to go right to make the playoffs. Looking for a low-scoring affair, with neither team reaching the 20s.
Simple equation here. Win and you're in, for Minnesota, that is. Everything is on the line for the Vikings, and nothing is for New York. The Giants have clinched a bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, and they are bound to rest some folks. Last year, it was a different story, when they were facing the unbeaten squad from New England and let it all hang out in an effort to pin a loss on the Patriots. Another huge factor in that fabulous game, which the Giants lost, 38-35, was the fact that it was a home game for the New Yorkers. Big difference. Now, on the road, the defending Super Bowl champs will look to rest some of the walking wounded (such as running back Brandon Jacobs, wide receiver Domenik Hixon, defensive end Justin Tuck and defensive tackle Fred Roberts). With NFL leading rusher Adrian Peterson carrying the mail, Minny will deliver a best-bet victory en route to the NFC North crown.
Look at the way these teams have come down the stretch. San Diego has had three superb wins, while Denver has lost two in a row and three of the last five. But that's not the key, revenge is. Remember the first meeting, when referee Ed Hochuli made an idiotic call, allowing Denver to maintain possession and go in for the game-winning score. Revenge will be all the more tasty, since the Bolts can wrap up the AFC West with a W.
Speaking of teams that have stumbled down the stretch, let me introduce you to Tampa Bay. The Bucs were sitting at 9-3 at the end of November, but have lost three in a row, and need a whole lotta help to make the playoffs. Oakland is playing loose, coming off a solid win over Houston, and would love to close the season with a solid effort for interim head coach Tom Cable, who would like to erase the interim from his title.
Can't fault Houston for not showing up at Oakland Sunday. The Texans had posted a monster win over the big, bad Tennessee Titans, stretching the winning streak to four. Then they traveled to the West Coast, and naturally, came up flat. Not this week. Not against a mediocre team such as Chicago. Houston has been on quite a run at home, winning 13 of the last 17.
When Brett Favre came to New York and Chad Pennington was shipped to Miami, no one expected these teams to be fighting for the AFC East title and a wild-card. Gotta love this league, and gotta like the Fish.
Before Arizona goes into the postseason as the NFC West champs, it's imperative that the disgusting taste of Sunday's 47-7 loss to New England is fumigated as soon as possible.
Welcome to NFL history, and meet the 0-16 team from Detroit.
New Orleans might be making tee times, but the Saints have won five of six at home and will not go down without a fight.
Atlanta is in, St. Louis is a joke, but the double-digit spread keeps this selection on the light side.
If you dare to wager on this game, I'll recommend therapy, and possibly brain surgery.
Baltimore will win, but Jacksonville ain't gonna lie down or sleepwalk.
Both teams have clinched, and neither can move up or down, so we'll grab the underdog.
Even if Pittsburgh rests everyone, the final margin should be two dozen.
Everything points toward New England, but the Buffs have just enough left to cover this generous spot.