There are three more Sundays of NFL regular season football. It’s a bittersweet feeling. Every year I tell myself that the season is going to fly by, and I am still amazed when we reach the end of the regular season and it feels like only a few weeks have passed.
This Sunday is a little more balanced in terms of the schedule. There are six games scheduled for a 1:00 kickoff and five late-afternoon games this week, along with the Sunday Night game. Here are the key games to keep an eye on with my picks, followed by the rest of the games with picks as well.
Bills (6-7) @ Redskins (6-7) – 1:00 – CBS
Both teams are still alive in their respective conference playoff pictures. The Bills are currently in third place in the AFC East behind the Patriots (11-2, currently #1 seed) and the Jets (8-5, currently #6 seed). Last week the Bills dropped a disappointing game in Philly, a game in which former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy only ran for 74 yards with no scores. After last week, McCoy will be very motivated to have a better day on the ground.
Tyrod Taylor is proven himself very capable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Taylor has 2,439 passing yards this season. He has thrown 18 touchdown passes, rushed for three, and has only thrown five interceptions. He has turned the ball over three times while rushing, but for the most part he has kept the Bills in every game and avoided throwing interceptions.
If the Redskins win out, they will win the NFC East and lock up the #4 seed. At home, quarterback Kirk Cousins has 12 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, and has a 111.5 rating, according to ESPN. The Redskins are 5-2 at home on the year. Many are talking about how Cousins has potentially locked the quarterback job up in Washington based on his play, and if he can lead his team to three victories and win the division it would only be more certain.
Panthers (13-0) @ Giants (6-7) – 1:00 – FOX
The undefeated Panthers have already clinched the NFC South and a first round bye in the playoffs. They still need to win a game or two to clinch home-field advantage because the Cardinals are 11-2, but there has been some debate as to whether or not the Panthers will rest their starters as the playoffs approach. It will be interesting to see what the Panthers do, because in 2007 the Patriots had to play their starters throughout the regular season to both go undefeated and clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs. Should the Cardinals lose this week or next week, there eventually might not be anything for the Panthers to play for.
The Giants are currently in third place in the NFC East. They need to win out and rely on both the Redskins and Eagles to lose their games to make it to the postseason. The Giants came away with one of their more impressive victories of the season Monday night against the Dolphins. Eli Manning had a great game, throwing for 337 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. continues to amaze football fans with his amazing catches, and analysts are already comparing Backham to the all-time greats like Jerry Rice. The defense is the downfall of the Giants and ranks last in the league in total defense. Even the Dolphins offense looked decent against them Monday night.
Texans (6-7) @ Colts (6-7) – 1:00 – CBS
This game is crucial for both teams. The Colts currently lead the division with a tiebreaker over Houston because they won the week 5 match-up 27-20. In such a pivotal game, both teams will be without their starting quarterbacks. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was rumored to return for week 15, but has already been ruled out as he still nurses kidney and abdomen injuries.
Who will be starting at quarterback for the Colts on Sunday is still unclear. Matt Hasselbeck left last week’s game against Jacksonville with a rib injury. He will likely be a game-time decision. If he cannot go, Charlie Whitehurst will start for the Colts.
The Texans will be without Brian Hoyer after the quarterback suffered yet another concussion against the Patriots on Sunday night. This is the fifth concussion of Hoyer’s career and if he does not watch it, he could be the next Wes Welker as far as concussions go. With Hoyer out, TJ Yates will start for Houston.
Pick: Texans – after getting blown out 96-26 over the past two weeks, I can’t go with the Colts right now
Packers (9-4) @ Raiders (6-7) – 4:05 – FOX
The Packers are in first place in the NFC North and currently have the #3 seed. The Vikings are right on their tail. The Raiders are in third place in the AFC West and are second in the AFC Wild Card Hunt behind the Steelers (8-5).
This is my upset alert game of the week. The Packers have won two straight after dropping four out of five, but keep in mind that they should not have won that game against Detroit two weeks ago. Their offense lacks creativity and even though Mike McCarthy may be the better play-caller, the Packers offense is going to continue to be exposed.
Last week the Raiders defense was downright dominant against the Broncos. Linebacker Khalil Mack racked-up five sacks and Oakland did not give up a touchdown. This defense is more than capable of giving Aaron Rodgers nightmares. If Oakland can contain Rodgers and Derek Carr makes a few big plays, do not be surprised to see the Raiders come out on top this Sunday.
Broncos (10-3) @ Steelers (8-5) – 4:25 – CBS
The Broncos are currently the #3 seed in the AFC Playoff race, but need to keep winning and count on New England and Cincinnati to lose if they want to have luxuries such as a bye or home field advantage in the playoffs.
Perhaps the most crucial test of Brock Osweiler comes this week against the Steelers as Peyton Manning returns to practice. He should have plenty of opportunities to make plays against Pittsburgh’s 31st ranked pass defense.
The Steelers may have the best offense in the NFL and the most dangerous weapons out wide, but if the playoffs started today they would not even be in the postseason. With the injury to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, the Steelers could still win the division if the Bengals lose out, but chances are the Bengals will win the AFC North. Basically, Pittsburgh needs to keep winning and count on the Jets and Chiefs to lose since those two teams currently have the Wild Card spots.
If you love match-ups, then you will love watching the #2 ranked Steelers offense take on the #1 ranked Broncos defense. Ben Roethlisberger, DeAngelo Williams, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Marcus Wheaton, and Heath Miller going toe-to-toe against DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Aquib Talib, TJ Ward, and the rest of that defense? It is going to be a great one.
Sunday Night Football: Cardinals (11-2) @ Eagles (6-7) – 8:30 – NBC
The Cardinals have already clinched a playoff berth and will most likely end up with the #2 seed in the NFC. The Eagles are in second place in the NFC East and are behind Tampa Bay and Atlanta in the Wild Card Hunt. They’ll have to win out and hope that the Redskins lose multiple games in order to make the playoffs. Their game against the Redskins next Saturday night is huge for them.
The Eagles have strung together a nice set of wins since Sam Bradford came back from a shoulder injury. They shocked the world and beat the Patriots in Foxborough and then defeated LeSean McCoy and the Bills last week. However, this week may be their toughest game of the season. You could say that the Patriots were their biggest test, but the Eagles caught the Patriots at a good time when many of Tom Brady’s weapons were hurt. If Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edleman had played in that game two weeks ago, it probably would have been a completely different game.
This week the Eagles will be facing the #4 ranked defense and the #1 ranked offense in the league. These Cardinals units have some special talent on both sides of the football and know how to make plays. Even Dwight Freeney is still making plays, check out his game-winning strip-sack of Teddy Bridgewater last week.
Rest is another thing to consider. The Cardinals will have ten days of rest coming into this game, the Eagles will only have seven.
Bears (5-8) @ Vikings (8-5) – 1:00 – FOX
Cheifs (7-6) @ Ravens (4-9) – 1:00 – CBS
Falcons (6-7) @ Jaguars (5-8) – 1:00 – FOX
Titans (3-10) @ Patriots (11-2) – 1:00 – CBS
Browns (3-10) @ Seahawks (8-5) – 4:05 – FOX
Bengals (10-3) @ 49ers (4-9) – 4:25 – CBS
Can I just mention that the 49ers are literally the “4 and 9’ers?”
Dolphins (5-8) @ Chargers (3-10) – 4:25 – CBS
Monday Night Football: Lions (4-9) @ Saints (5-8) – 8:30 – ESPN
I did want to mention that I am trying my hardest to find time to do a podcast while I am home, but with two dogs that never stop barking and making noise, it is difficult. Hopefully I can figure something out eventually. Stay tuned, lots of content to come over my winter break!
Thanks for reading,