The Lions are the team to beat in the NFC North right now. If you try to convince anyone you saw that coming you are obviously lying. And not one of those convincing lies that could easily be true, either. That division has caused more headaches than any other this season when it comes to making office pool picks. It must be something about that northern air or something, because the AFC North hasn't exactly been straightforward, either. Except for the Browns - no team has been easier to predict this year, and that isn't likely to change in any hurry. Here's hoping that both divisions do their job this week. Here's how the week breaks down:
Cleveland at Baltimore: The Ravens are not a particularly good team right now, but by beating up on a Pittsburgh team that had previously looked pretty good they showed that they have some game left in them. The Browns, on the other hand, are still the Browns. And that is all we need to know. Take the Ravens.
Green Bay at Tennessee: Tennessee did some things really well last week, but they were completely incapable of stopping Melvin Gordon - to much joy for those like me who have him on their fantasy team. Green Bay, meanwhile, has struggled all year and is now airing their dirty laundry in public. Things are bleak. I'm not crazy about the pick, but have no real choice - take the Titans.
Minnesota at Washington: A month ago I would have been happy to take the Vikings as my NFC Champion - at least. Since then, though, nothing has gone right. Their offensive line is a joke. Their offense can't score, and coaching drama of some sort forced Norv Turner to resign. The defense is a shadow of what it once was as well. I don't like Washington too much, but these Vikings cannot be trusted on the road right now. Take the Vikings.
Chicago at Tampa Bay: The Bears are coming off a bye, and the Bucs played on Thursday so they have a long week. Both teams should be rested. Not that that is a big help for these squads - they both have issues. I trust Tampa Bay at QB more, and they are at home. That's enough. Take the Bucs.
Kansas City at Carolina: The Chiefs are quietly playing extremely good football - they have won 17 of their last 20 games. Carolina, meanwhile, is a hot mess, and beating the Rams in an ugly, ugly game last week proves nothing. Kansas City is far the better team right now. Take the Chiefs.
Atlanta at Philadelphia: I remain unconvinced by this Atlanta team - they do not strike me as a true contender. Against the Eagles, though, they should be fine. Carson Wentz is going to be a star in this league, but after a strong start he looks now just like what he is - a rookie with a lot left to learn. Take the Falcons.
Los Angeles at New York Jets: The Rams are bad right now. The Jets are really, really bad right now. I will most certainly not be watching this game. I guess I'll take the Jets at home, but I sure don't like it much.
Denver at New Orleans: The Broncos were exposed by the Raiders last week. Their offense has never really been good enough, and their defense has shown some real cracks that can be exploited. The question, though, is if New Orleans is good enough to exploit the issues. The Broncos have lost their last two road games, so it's worth a risk. Take the Saints.
Houston at Jacksonville: Jacksonville has quit on themselves. It's ugly. The Texans don't have a quarterback, but that shouldn't really matter here - they still find plenty of ways to win. Take the Texans.
Miami at San Diego: Both of these teams are frustrating. When they get it together they can be dangerous, but you can never know what you are going to get from them. As I said earlier, though, Melvin Gordon is absolutely on fire right now, and that makes the Chargers the pick at home.
Dallas at Pittsburgh: I find this one really tough. The Cowboys have won seven straight and look like the class of the NFC. Pittsburgh should be among the elite in the AFC, but that last outing was ugly and they are tough to trust. On the basis of consistency I have to take the Cowboys, but I won't be surprised to be wrong.
San Francisco at Arizona: The Cardinals have their share of issues and a lack of consistency. The Niners are just awful, though, and that won't change in any hurry. Take the Cardinals.
Seattle at New England: Russell Wilson looked better on Monday night than he has all season, and that first half against the Bills was impressive. It won't matter, though, because New England is the best team in the league by a wide margin and Seattle does not travel well. Take the Patriots.
Cincinnati at New York Giants: I don't like anything about the Bengals right now. Not a thing. They lack discipline, their coaching is terrible, and they just aren't executing. New York doesn't excite me, but it doesn't matter in this spot. They are good enough. Take the Giants.
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