The NFL is heading into another exciting postseason while these teams take up their usual positions and watch it all happen on television.
Every few years there is a team that manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. These 10 did it better than anyone else.
Three weeks left in the 2013 NFL season and there’s playoff quality football on the Week 15 slate. The Chargers victory over the Broncos on Thursday night has opened up the playoff race again in the AFC.
My record last week, 13-3.
Chicago Bears -1 @ Cleveland Browns
Jay Cutler returns to the starting lineup as the Bears continue their push to win the NFC North Division and make the playoffs.
The Browns were an iffy pass interference call away from beating the New England Patriots last weekend.
The Bears have scored the second most points in the NFL behind the Cutler/McCown quarterback tandem largely due having one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL.
The Browns have lost their last four games. They’ve put the building blocks of a playoff contender in place but are still a year away from being a dangerous team to play week-in and week-out.
The Bears win and cover to keep pace with the Lions for the division lead.
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts -5.5
The Colts, the best team in a bad division, play the worst team in the NFL on Sunday. The Colts have gone 3-3 since their bye week. In their seven games before the bye their defense was allowing just over 18 points per game. In their six games after the bye they’ve surrendered 31 points per game.
Even if the Texans haven’t completely packed the season in behind interim-head coach Wade Phillips, beating the Colts in Indianapolis is a bit much to ask of them at this point in the season.
Colts win and should cover at home.
Buffalo Bills -2 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
This one rivals the Redskins at Falcons as the early slate’s Stinkbowl game. While this seems impossible to comprehend after their eight straight losses to the start the season, the Jaguars have won 4 of their last 5 games. It’s true that those four wins were over teams that are among the worst in the NFL but so is Jacksonville.
The Bills are sliding as they head into the final weeks of the season. They got crushed by Tampa Bay last week to run their road record to 1-4.
The Bills are better defensively but playing a second straight week in Florida along with the Jaguars on a high draft pick killing winning streak has me picking Jacksonville to win outright as the home “dog”.
The 49ers beat the Seahawks at home last week and are fighting with the Panthers for the fifth seed in the NFC. The Buccaneers have been flexing some muscle lately but the 49ers are too much for them under any circumstances. The 49ers win and cover.
Seattle Seahawks -7 @ New York Giants
Another game between a Super Bowl contender and a team playing out the season. The Seahawks lost last week in the last seconds of the game to the 49ers but they’re still the best team in football. They win and cover.
New England Patriots -2.5 @ Miami Dolphins
The Patriots are major beneficiaries of Denver’s loss on Thursday night. A win over the Dolphins solidifies their No. 1 seed going into the AFC playoffs. Miami has playoff aspirations of their own as a wild card entry.
With all that’s at stake this should be one of the best games of the weekend. The Patriots have won 5 of their last 6 games in Miami but Rob Gronkowski is hurt again.
The Patriots nearly were derailed at home by the Browns last week but are still better than most in the NFL. They stretch their winning streak to 4 by no more than a field goal.
Washington Redskins @ Atlanta Falcons -7
The Redskins’ season has degenerated into a fractured team that’s three weeks away from major coaching changes. The Falcons are finishing their own disaster after losing in the final seconds last weekend to the Packers.
Washington head coach Mike Shanahan made the decision to finish the season with Kirk Cousins at quarterback which puts another question mark on this game. The coin-flip says take the Falcons at home but they’re seven points better than no one in the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles -4.5 @ Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings will be without Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, in other words, 90 percent of their offense. The Eagles are looking at an opportunity to nail down first place in the NFC East.
The Vikings won’t give much opposition to that goal this weekend. The Eagles win and cover.
Kansas City Chiefs -4 @ Oakland Raiders
With the Chargers victory on Thursday night the Chiefs saw a path to victory over the AFC West open up to them. They take their first step through that door by sinking the nearly dead Raiders on their home field, and they cover too.
New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers -11
The Panthers crashed last week in their opportunity to make a statement that they’re ready to be taken seriously in the NFC postseason. Fortunately for them they get to recover against a team that their defense should crush.
Normally 11 points would be a ridiculous number to expect the Panthers to cover. Not this week.
Arizona Cardinals -3 @ Tennessee Titans
The Cardinals are 8-5 and fighting for their playoff lives behind a surging Carson Palmer. The Titans are three games away from beginning a massive rebuild. The Cardinals win and cover.
New Orleans Saints -5.5 @ St. Louis Rams
The Saints struggle on the road but not in domes which is trouble for a Rams team that has settled to the bottom of the NFC West.
The Saints win and cover to continue on their way to the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys -7
Aaron Rodgers has been declared out for this game. That leaves it up to Matt Flynn to take advantage of a Cowboys defense that the Bears ripped to shreds last week.
The Packers will score but the Dallas offense is high quality and will keep this one in their win column. The Cowboys win but don’t score enough to cover the touchdown spread.
Cincinnati Bengals -3 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Bengals are gliding to a first place finish in the AFC North but succeeding in the playoffs is a different story over the past few years. Another one of the monsters in that remains in their closet this weekend is facing the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
The only thing the Steelers still have to play for this season is to trip up the Bengals on their way to the postseason. Upset special of the week. The Steelers take this game at home.
Monday Night Football
Baltimore Ravens @ Detroit Lions -6
One of the most intriguing match-ups of Week 15. Both are fighting for their postseason lives. The Lions will be looking to retain their lead in the NFC North while the Ravens battle to hold on to the sixth and final playoff seed in the AFC.
The Ravens’ has quietly moved up the No. 8 in the NFL in points allowed but will be facing the No. 6 team in scoring.
While the Lions have lost three of their last four it’s tough to pick against them at home but the six point spread puts too much faith in their ability to put the Ravens away in this game.
Snow became the story of the day in Week 14 of the 2013 season. It was also the big story in some memorable NFL Games. As George Carlin once said so well, “Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog. In baseball, if it rains, we don’t go out to play.”
One month, four games left in the season for all teams to either make their case to contend in the playoffs or begin planning for 2014.
The Jaguars beat up the Texans, this time at home, in such an embarrassing fashion that on Friday, Houston fired head coach Gary Kubiak instead of waiting until the end of the season.
With one of the worst prime time match-ups in NFL history behind us, let’s look at how Sunday stacks up.
Sunday Early Games
Detroit Lions @ Philadelphia Eagles -2.5
Two division leaders slug it out in Philadelphia. The Eagles have won four straight since Nick Foles was named the starter and their defense has steadily improved in that same period.
The question in this game, and in all games Detroit plays, is which Lions team shows up to compete.
Even if the high-flying Lions show to compete the Eagles have the quarterback who is playing better at this time and they’re at home. The Eagles win and cover.
Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals -6
Two division leaders fighting for playoff seeding. The Bengals have a slightly better points per game average than the Colts and are the fifth toughest team to score against in the NFL. That and being at home turns the game to the Bengals in a cover.
Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5
The Steelers have climbed out of their early season tailspin to win three of their last four games but it’s the loss that hurt them most. They’re now in third place in the NFC North and trailing the Ravens, who they lost to 22-20 last week, and the Miami Dolphins who they host Sunday.
Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots -11.5
Jason Campbell has been named the starter for the Browns for their game against the Patriots. That’s won’t be enough for the Browns to travel to New England and cover the number on Sunday.
Buffalo Bills @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers -2.5
The Buccaneers had won three straight but were brought back to Earth last week by the Carolina Panthers, co-leaders of the NFC South. The Bills fought a back and forth battle with the Atlanta Falcons before falling 34-31 in overtime.
This is another Week 14 game between two Terrible 10 teams. Since quarterback E.J. Manuel returned as the Bills’ starter they’ve scored 37 points against the Jets and 31 against the Falcons. They’ve been playing solid defense all year.
The underdog wins outright in Tampa.
Oakland Raiders @ New York Jets -3
Two more Terrible Ten teams do battle on Sunday in New York. The Raiders have lost 12 straight games in the Eastern Time Zone. That is the only reason it this pick goes to the Jets. Whether they can cover the spread or not isn’t worth trying to predict.
Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers -3
A game that at one time was looked upon as a preview to a future playoff showdown. The Falcons have struggled from the beginning of the season. The Packers have seen their fortunes fall since Aaron Rodgers fractured his collarbone.
The Falcons still have Matt Ryan to lead them while the Packers continue turning towards Matt Flynn to fill the shoes of their future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Falcons win outright in Green Bay.
Kansas City Chiefs -3 @ Washington Redskins
The Redskins have joined the Texans and Vikings this season as 2012 playoff teams that have fallen to the bottom of the league this season. Whether this game gets played in Kansas City or in Washington the Chiefs win and cover.
Minnesota Vikings @ Baltimore Ravens -7
Who starts at quarterback in Leslie Frazier’s final month as head coach of the Vikings. Even during their playoff push last season the Vikings couldn’t win when playing in the elements. They’re 1-6-1 in their last eight outdoor games.
It probably won’t matter much who Minnesota decides on as their starting quarterback. The Ravens know how to stop the run and that’s the only part of the Vikings’ offense that’s NFL quality.
The Ravens win at home and cover.
Sunday Late Games
Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos -12
The Titans have lost three of their last four and travel to face the current No. 1 seed in the AFC. They have the defense to keep this game within the spread but the Broncos continue on their way to being the favorite to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers -3
The game the fans of both teams have been waiting for since the Seahawks dominated the 49ers in Seattle 29-3. The 49ers have won two straight but against sub-.500 competition.
This is the 49ers last chance reel the Seahawks in and make the NFC West Division title a race. A loss means the defending NFC Champs will need to wrangle a wild card invite to the postseason this weekend.
St. Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals -6.5
The Cardinals beat the Rams in St. Louis in Week 1 and have only lost to the Seattle Seahawks at home this season. About the only thing they won’t accomplish is covering the spread.
New York Giants @ San Diego Chargers -3
The Giants, coming off an unimpressive victory over the Redskins travel to San Diego. The Chargers are only 5-7 but have been consistently better than the Giants this season as a team and Phillip Rivers has played at a high level all season.
The Chargers win and cover.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints -4
An outstanding Sunday night showdown after the sedative the NFL and NBC fed the public last week.This is the first battle of two in three weeks that will decide the NFC South and very likely, a first round bye in the postseason.
The Panthers stretched their win streak to eight last week with a 27-6 schooling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while the Saints ended a short week of preparation by being blown out by the Seahawks in Seattle 34-7.
The Panthers have the better defense but Rob Ryan has the Saints playing their best defense in years. The Saints carry the edge on offense.
Cam Newton has been an improved quarterback but Drew Brees is one of the best in the NFL. That should give the Saints enough to edge the Panthers in one of the most entertaining prime time games of the season. They may not cover but the Saints will win.
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears -1
The Bears are retiring Mike Ditka’s No. 89 during a halftime ceremony on Monday night. Ditka also wore No. 89 for the Cowboys for the final four seasons of his career.
Both teams are fighting to win divisions with records that almost definitely will keep them out of wild card consideration,
The Cowboys have one of the best passing games in the NFL but the Bears have been excellent at moving the ball through the air with their dynamic receiver tandem of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
While DeMarco Murray is an effective back the Cowboys under-use him every week while the Bears make better use of Matt Forte via the run and the passing game. That plus emotions of a special night honoring their Hall of Fame tight end and Super Bowl winning head coach carries the Bears to a Monday night win by more than the one point..