It’s the last week of the NFL season in which teams will have bye weeks. That means that starting next week there are 16 games on the schedule, and you have to work harder to win your office pools. Before then, though, let’s enjoy the lighter schedule and win ourselves another week. Here’s how the 14 games on the schedule break down in our attempt to pick straight up winners:
Miami at Buffalo - A week ago I would have picked the Dolphins without a thought. Their game last week against Tennessee was beyond terrible, though — and that was at home. Buffalo hasn’t been great at home — or anywhere else, for that matter — but they should have the edge here. Take the Bills.
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Philadelphia at Washington - Philadelphia is starting Nick Foles at QB after Michael Vick had his bell rung last week. Starting on the road is going to be tough, and the Redskins are capable of doing some things to make him feel less than welcome. Take the Redskins.
Green Bay at Detroit - I wanted to believe that the Lions were back on track after a slow start, but their game last week was a big, big step backwards on that front. Green Bay, meanwhile, is rested coming off a bye week and was playing with great confidence before that. If Green Bay wants to assert themselves as the team to beat in the NFC North — even though they trail the Bears right now — then they need to win this one convincingly. They will. Take the Packers.
Arizona at Atlanta - The Falcons finally lost one last week, but they still performed well offensively in defeat. The Cardinals will be totally incapable of matching what Atlanta can do, and the major decline in Arizona after the strong start will continue. Take the Falcons.
Tampa Bay at Carolina - I really like how the Bucs are playing right now, and their win last week proved just how tough and full of heart they are. Carolina has struggled at home, and they are going to get punched in the teeth by this Tampa Bay team. They won’t have an answer. Take the Buccaneers.
Cleveland at Dallas - Dallas took care of business in nice fashion in Philadelphia last week. It wasn’t pretty, but it was important. I look for them to carry that momentum home to overcome a weaker team that they are fully capable of beating soundly. Take the Cowboys.
N.Y. Jets at St. Louis - The Rams should have beaten the Niners last week, and their failure to pull off the upset could be hard to get over. The Jets are completely terrible, though — and not going to get any better in a hurry. I wouldn’t trust Sanchez, Tebow or Ryan at this point no matter who they were playing. Take the Rams.
Jacksonville at Houston - Houston showed a lot of talent and toughness in beating the Bears in a game that wasn’t as close as it seemed. They are the best team in the league right now. Jacksonville really isn’t, and there is no real reason to expect them to be competitive here. Take the Texans.
Cincinnati at Kansas City - As you probably know if you have read anything I have written over the years, I think Marvin Lewis is the worst coach in football — at any level. Still, I can’t pick against him here because the Chiefs are impossibly bad. Take the Bengals.
New Orleans at Oakland - The Saints are playing much better lately despite continued defensive woes. They have the chance to get back to .500 with a win here. They will get it. The Raiders just aren’t very good right now. Take the Saints.
San Diego at Denver - The Chargers have talent but so little pride or dedication that it’s shocking. They are an absolute waste of talent. Denver is in fine form and has the chance to all but wrap up the AFC West with a win here. I shouldn’t be too tough for them. Take the Broncos.
Indianapolis at New England - Who would have thought that this game would be as interesting as it is — or that the teams would have the same record. Indianapolis has been one of the big stories of the year, and they are playing particularly well right now. They aren’t as strong on the road, though, and Tom Brady and company will be looking to deliver a message to the upstart Colts. Take the Patriots.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh - Baltimore was just brilliant last week. It was a clear sign that they are serious about being an elite contender this year. They have fewer issues than the Steelers and should be able to come out on top in a typically tough showdown between hated rivals. Take the Ravens.
Chicago at San Francisco - I am getting frustrated by this 49ers team and their inconsistency despite their major talent. As I write this it’s tough to know what to do here because the status of both starting quarterbacks is uncertain after they both suffered concussions last time out. Given that, I’ll default to the home team. Take the 49ers.
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