As we head into the second last week of the NFL season, it is the stretch drive of the office pools season. If you’ve had a good year then it’s time to buckle down and win your pool. If things haven’t gone so well then you can win a week or two to ease your frustrations and make a few bucks. Here’s how I see the games playing out this week:
Atlanta at Detroit - Two weeks ago I was very concerned about where the Falcons were at. They silenced a lot of those fears with their stunning shut out of the Giants on Sunday. It was an incredibly good performance, and it was more than good enough to beat a team that just got blown out by the Cardinals. Take the Falcons.
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Tennessee at Green Bay - Green Bay has shifted into a higher gear in recent weeks, and the Packers are poised to be a real factor in the NFC playoffs. The Titans are just killing time. This is a mismatch. Take the Packers.
Oakland at Carolina - If Carolina had played for most of the year like they have the last few weeks, they would be a real team to watch right now. Their season was over before they got hot, though. Still, they are playing well enough to easily win this one at home. Take the Panthers.
Buffalo at Miami - Miami is not a great team, but they are still playing tough, and Ryan Tannehill is developing nicely for the most part. Buffalo humiliated themselves last week, and their frustration was evident. This is a team in trouble. Take the Dolphins.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh should have beaten Dallas last week, but they let it slip away. Cincinnati was dominant against the lowly Eagles. Pittsburgh is much better than Philadelphia but still highly troubled. Take the Bengals.
New England at Jacksonville - Total and utter mismatch. The Patriots will be frustrated by their loss to San Francisco and will take it out on the hapless Jaguars. This could get ugly. Take the Patriots.
Indianapolis at Kansas City - The Colts showed that they still have some issues in a fairly lopsided loss to the Texans. The Chiefs aren’t nearly good enough to exploit those issues, though. Take the Colts.
New Orleans at Dallas - Tough game to pick because both can be dangerous, but both have also shown that they are experts in underachieving this year. Both come in off of big wins, but only Dallas has something to play for. I’ll take the Cowboys while taking the risk that their pride will be enough to fire them up.
Washington at Philadelphia - I really like the heart and determination that the Redskins are playing with. I don’t like anything about the Eagles. No brainer. Take the Redskins.
St. Louis at Tampa Bay - I’ve been very disappointed in Tampa Bay in recent weeks. They were playing so well, but the Bucs have hit a wall. St. Louis has stumbled a bit, too, though, and has struggled on the road. Take the Bucs.
Minnesota at Houston - Minnesota is surprisingly still in playoff contention, but they face a tough task here. Denver is red-hot, so Houston can’t afford to lose if they want home-field advantage through the playoffs, and they will be fired up for this one. Take the Texans.
San Diego at N.Y. Jets - Both of these teams are a total mess with no heart or soul. Awful, awful game between two teams that are desperate for this season to end. The Jets are at home, so they get the lukewarm support. Take New York.
Cleveland at Denver - Denver hasn’t lost in a very long time, and they aren’t going to lose here. Their defense is in strong form, and their offense is all but flawless. Cleveland is playing with lots of heart, but they lack the talent to compete here if Denver is at their best. Take the Broncos.
Chicago at Arizona - I have absolutely no idea how the Cardinals pulled off that game last week. After a couple of months of horrific play they pulled out a huge win. Chicago, meanwhile, has struggled. Still, I can’t trust Arizona to do it again, so the Bears are the pick.
N.Y. Giants at Baltimore - Very tough game. The Giants didn’t show up at all last week. It was a stunning lack of effort. Baltimore showed up but looked lousy, and Joe Flacco is in a horrible slump. Both teams really need this win for their playoff futures. I’ll take the Ravens since they are at home.
San Francisco at Seattle - This is a very interesting game. The Niners will be very confident after their huge win at New England. Seattle’s offense is red hot, though they have played bad defenses two weeks in a row. San Francisco can clinch their division with a win here, and Seattle can keep their hopes alive and strengthen their wild card chances with a win. Huge game. The Niners were good enough to win at New England, so they get the nod here. Take San Francisco.
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