THURSDAY, DECEMBER 23
Carolina 2-12 at Pittsburgh 10-4 8:20 PM [Line: Pittsburgh by 14]
Carolina has the worst record in the NFL. If that holds up, they will get the #1 pick in next year’s draft. Presumably that pick will be QB Andrew Luck from Stanford. The Panthers already have a pretty solid running game and a decent defense; their disastrous season can be blamed almost solely on awful play at the quarterback position. If Luck is really the next Peyton Manning (as some have suggested), Carolina could be seriously competitive as early as next season.
RJ’s Pick: Steelers by 20
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25
Dallas 5-9 at Arizona 4-10 7:30 PM [Line: Dallas by 6.5]
Forget about 5-9. The Cowboys are 4-2 in the Jason Garrett era, and those two losses were by a combined six points against two very good teams.
RJ’s Pick: Cowboys by 11
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 26
Washington 5-9 at Jacksonville 8-6 1:00 PM [Line: Jacksonville by 7]
The Redskins have dropped four straight. Mike Shanahan has a lot of work to do in the offseason, especially fixing the defense and figuring out what to do at quarterback. Donovan McNabb is understandably unhappy and Rex Grossman is almost certainly not the answer.
RJ’s Pick: Jaguars by 13
Detroit 4-10 at Miami 7-7 1:00 PM [Line: Miami by 3]
The Lions broke their NFL-record road losing streak last week. The Dolphins are just 1-6 at home this season despite their .500 record. Miami is the only NFL team this season with just a single home victory. You’d think a team with a 6-1 road record would be a shoo-in to qualify for the postseason, but the Dolphins will be watching the playoffs at home. (FYI: I will be attending this game, so if you are watching at home be on the lookout for a physically intimidating-looking** guy wearing a Matthew Stafford jersey and a Detroit Lions visor and holding a $7.00 “adult beverage” with a death grip.)
RJ’s Pick: Lions by 3
San Francisco 5-9 at St. Louis 6-8 1:00 PM [Line: St. Louis by 2]
The winner of this game will likely win the NFC West. How pathetic is that?
RJ’s Pick: Rams by 6
Tennessee 6-8 at Kansas City 9-5 1:00 PM [Line: Kansas City by 4.5]
The Chiefs are 6-0 at home. They need a win here to stay ahead of the surging Chargers in the AFC West.
RJ’s Pick: Chiefs by 1
New York Jets 10-4 at Chicago 10-4 1:00 PM [Line: Chicago by 1]
The Bears are the only team in the league to have clinched their division with two games left. Their main motivation to keep playing hard these final two weeks is to secure a playoff bye. The Jets are in the playoffs with a win.
RJ’s Pick: Bears by 5
New England 12-2 at Buffalo 4-10 1:00 PM [Line: New England by 8]
The Patriots have won six straight and have the top-scoring offense in the NFL. Tom Brady has a passer rating of 109.9 and hasn’t thrown an interception since mid-October. He’s had six consecutive games with a triple-digit passer rating. Wow.
RJ’s Pick: Patriots by 21
Baltimore 10-4 at Cleveland 5-9 1:00 PM [Line: Baltimore by 3]
The Browns would love to play spoiler here and make it more difficult for the Ravens to make the playoffs or win the AFC North. It’s not going to happen, though.
RJ’s Pick: Ravens by 8
Houston 5-9 at Denver 3-11 4:05 PM [Line: Houston by 3]
Tim Tebow looked pretty darn good last week! He’s going to start again this week, and I’m picking the upset.
RJ’s Pick: Broncos by 4
San Diego 8-6 at Cincinnati 3-11 4:05 PM [Line: San Diego by 7]
The Chargers have the second-best point differential in the NFL, the second-best offense in terms of yards per game, and the best defense in terms of yards allowed per game. It would be almost criminal for a team like San Diego to miss the postseason while a 7-9 team from the NFC West could win the division and host a playoff game.
RJ’s Pick: Chargers by 15
Indianapolis 8-6 at Oakland 7-7 4:05 PM [Line: Indianapolis by 3]
Darren McFadden is having quite the breakout season. The Colts have placed Austin Collie on IR after he suffered his third concussion of the season last week.
RJ’s Pick: Colts by 7
New York Giants 9-5 at Green Bay 8-6 4:15 PM [Line: Green Bay by 3]
This one practically counts as a Wild Card game. If the Packers lose, they are out of the playoff picture. (On the bright side, Aaron Rodgers should be back under center this week.) If the Giants lose, they will definitely not win the NFC East and run the risk of missing the playoffs altogether. Last week’s 4th quarter meltdown against the Eagles was truly incredible and extremely consequential. One of New York’s special teams coaches, either Thomas McGaughey or Tom Quinn, should lose his job over it. It was really that bad.
RJ’s Pick: Packers by 9
Seattle 6-8 at Tampa Bay 8-6 4:15 PM [Line: Tampa Bay by 6]
Both teams are still alive in the playoff race, although 6-8 Seattle’s chances of playing in the postseason are better than those of 8-6 Tampa Bay. (Did I mention the NFC West is f**king horrible?)
RJ’s Pick: Buccaneers by 1
Minnesota 5-9 at Philadelphia 10-4 8:20 PM [Line: Philadelphia by 14.5]
Brett Favre suffered a concussion last week against the Bears. I actually feel sorry for the guy at this point. In less than 12 months, he’s gone from Living NFL Legend—one of the greatest, toughest quarterbacks of all time—to a battered, beaten middle-aged man who has become the punchline to penis jokes. He really should have retired after last season…
RJ’s Pick: Eagles by 10
MONDAY, DECEMBER 27
New Orleans 10-4 at Atlanta 12-2 8:30 PM [Line: Atlanta by 2]
Atlanta is the hottest team in the NFL and is undefeated at home. Expect these two teams to meet again in a few weeks…
RJ’s Pick: Falcons by 7