Every Friday, the National Football Post’s Matt Bowen picks every game on the NFL schedule.
Denver (8-4) at Indianapolis (12-0)
Current Line: Colts -7
I am hesitant to pick the Colts to win their 13th straight game because of Mike Nolan’s defense in Denver—especially the secondary. Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman have the cover skills to run with the Colts’ skill players and I can’t wait to see Champ line up on Indy’s Reggie Wayne—a matchup you love to see in a meaningful NFL December football game. But, can Denver really go into Indy, beat Peyton Manning and move the ball enough against a Colts defense that is playing at a high level right now? It is close, but the key player on Sunday is Joseph Addai, who is huge in the red zone for the Colts as they win yet again.
Colts 24 Broncos 19
NY Jets (6-6) at Tampa Bay (1-11)
Current Line: Jets -3
Even with Mark Sanchez on the bench, do we think that rookie QB Josh Freeman will have enough success to pull the upset at home? I don’t see it, and I expect the Jets to stick to what works for them right now—the running game of Thomas Jones, the short to intermediate passing game and a defense that will pressure and put the responsibility in the hands of its secondary. Sounds like a great game plan against a Bucs team that showed what could happen last week when a rookie QB has a down week. Take the Jets to stay alive in the wild-card race.
Jets 20 Bucs 9
Cincinnati (9-3) at Minnesota (10-2)
Current Line: Vikings -7
The Vikings got it handed to them out in the desert last week against Warner and the Cards, but by no means does that displace them as a Super Bowl favorite in the NFC. However, it does expose some issues that can be attacked. The question is: do the Bengals have enough to take advantage of these issues? For the Bengals to come out on top, QB Carson Palmer will have to challenge that Vikings secondary down the field—after they have established a running game with Cedric Benson. And, on defense, Mike Zimmer’s unit will have to attack the pocket and force Favre to deliver the ball early—exactly what the Cards did last week. Does it happen? No, I am taking Favre and the Vikings to bounce back and win in the Dome—with A.P. having a 100-yard day. Sorry, Ocho.
Vikings 21 Bengals 17
Buffalo (4-8) at Kansas City (3-9)
Current Line: Pick ‘Em
How do you pick this game? Two teams with glaring issues and two teams that have the ability to show up one week and then take a beating the next. I tend to lean towards the Bills because they can run the football better than Kansas City, and in the month of December, that is the key to winning a game in the second half. A combo of Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch do just enough to cover up the issues in QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s game on the road at Arrowhead. Take the Bills in a game that lacks excitement and meaning besides one big play from Terrell Owens against a below average Kansas City secondary.
Bills 20 Chiefs 13
Green Bay (8-4) at Chicago (5-7)
Current Line: Packers -3
Green Bay is rolling—and it has to do with Dom Capers’ defense. Not a good sign if you are Ron Tuner, Jay Cutler and the Bears, who scraped together 17 points to beat a down Rams team last week at home. I expect much of the same from the Packers, as they force turnovers, stop the run and watch as Aaron Rodgers sits in the pocket with time to throw against a now-average Chicago defense. This rivalry is a year away before it becomes important again in the standings, but it is still high on my list to watch this weekend. I am taking the Pack as they again get big plays on defense to enjoy a comfortable win.
Packers 27 Bears 14
<p>New Orleans (12-0) at Atlanta (6-6)
Current Line: Saints -10
Now we are seeing what happens to a talented team when it loses its franchise QB. The Falcons were hot in the wild-card talk weeks ago, but without Matt Ryan this team looked lifeless at home against the Eagles last week. In saying that, why should it change this week when hosting Drew Brees and the Saints? Call it an escape last week in Washington if you want for New Orleans, but the bottom line is that this team seems to always make big plays at crucial points of the ball game. This week, those plays come early for Brees and FS Darren Sharper as the Saints roll to 13-0…on their way to 16-0.
Saints 37 Falcons 13
Detroit (2-10) at Baltimore (6-6)
Current Line: Ravens -13