Last week: 11-5, pushing the season forecast to 151-83
There are no Thursday games for this holiday weekend, but there will be two games on Saturday and two more on Monday as the NFL’s relentless pursuit of your attention bleeds on Christmas Day.
- Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (-14): Believe it or not, the Baltimore Ravens have the league’s highest-scoring offense over the last month. The Colts have scored more than two offensive touchdowns in a game just twice since September. They won’t do it in Baltimore either. Bet on it.
Ravens 36, Colts 12
- Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (+9): No Aaron Rodgers means no chance for the Packers, not even at home. The demoralization of not being able to compete even with conquering hero Rodgers returning heroically form his broken collarbone is the ultimate kick in the face for Green Bay. It’s expecting a Lexus when your wife escorts you blindfolded to the garage to see your present, except under the festive bow is a preowned moped with a novelty horn.
Vikings 30, Packers 13
- Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans (+7): Tennessee is in an odd spot. They currently hold the No. 5 seed in the AFC but have not played well since Week 9. Their wins in that time: Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Houston. Those teams have one combined win since Thanksgiving.
The Rams are coming off an annihilation of the Seahawks, one of the most impressive wins by any team all season. I worry about a letdown, especially in an early game on the road far from home, but I think their youthful state helps them. They don’t know any better than to go all out once again.
Rams 28, Titans 20
- Los Angeles Chargers at NY Jets (+7): The ghost of Christmas past conjures visions of late-season collapses by better Chargers teams than this one. The ghost of Christmas present saw last week’s crushing loss and got discouraged. The ghost of Christmas future collects his winnings from betting on the Jets to pull off the upset in some inexplicable manner, because the visitors from L.A. are clearly the more talented team.
Jets 24, Chargers 23
- Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals (+5): Detroit still has vision of playoffs dancing in its head, and the sugar plum fairy already left coal in the Bengals stocking. The Lions typically wrap up wins over inferior teams, and I expect the same here.
Lions 29, Bengals 17
- Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs (-10): The Chiefs appear to have figured things out after their unexpectedly prolonged rough patch. The Dolphins appear to have figured out Jay Cutler is their quarterback.
Chiefs 26, Dolphins 14
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-10): On a short week and coming off a physical, intense loss to the Falcons on Monday Night Football, the Buccaneers get to face a motivated Cam Newton and the red-hot Panthers offense. Carolina sorely needs to win to help their playoff aspirations, still in the running for a division title and potential playoff bye. This one could get ugly, folks…
Panthers 33, Buccaneers 10
- Denver Broncos at Washington (-3.5): Washington’s run defense has fallen into the chilled Potomac River and is flushing itself out to sea. Denver’s passing offense is terrible, but they do stick with the run game with an unusual tenacity for a 5-9 team. Washington’s dilapidated offensive line will have its hands full here, and that hastens the trip to the salty surf.
Broncos 22, Washington 16
- Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-5.5): Huge matchup in the NFC South, where the Falcons clinch a playoff berth with a win. So can the Saints, and with the division title still very much up in the air, expect a postseason atmosphere between these two historic rivals.
The injuries on the Saints offensive line concern me. If New Orleans can’t run the ball as effectively as normal, they’re vulnerable here. I think the close shave with the Jets last week scares New Orleans back into reality and refocuses their eyes on the home-field playoff prize. Atlanta’s offense misses too many opportunities for the level of talent on the field to trust them here.
Saints 31, Falcons 24
- Buffalo Bills at New England PAtriots (-13): The only real question here is how much Rob Gronkowski helps fantasy owners in their playoff championships. Will he go off and Gronk smash a couple of touchdowns, or will the Patriots show some prudence and keep the oddly fragile stud TD out of harm’s way. If they do the latter, the Bills have a chance here. A small one, but a chance nonetheless.
Patriots 28, Bills 16
- Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears (-6.5): Before you completely write off the winless Browns here, consider this: The Bears have lost their last five games straight up when favored by more than 5 points. If rookie Browns QB DeShone Kizer can somehow not turn the ball over in the red zone, something he does at a higher rate than any QB this century, the Browns can absolutely pull off their first road win in over two calendar years here. I like the Browns with the points here a lot.
Bears 20, Browns 17
- Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers (+4): The Jaguars could have the AFC South wrapped up before they even take the field, if the Titans lose to the Rams in one of the early games. It will be interesting to see how this young team drinking in playoff juices for the first time in a decade handles that. Jimmy Garoppolo has looked good at QB for the 49ers, and he and Marquise Goodwin have developed a sweet connection. Even so, the NFC’s longest winning streak—3 games—comes to an end at home. Probably…
Jaguars 27, 49ers 24
- Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys (-5): The loser is officially eliminated from the playoff race. The winner has little chance either, and could be X’d off the playoff list before kickoff if Atlanta wins. The way the Seahawks looked so utterly helpless against the Rams last week is tough to overlook. Dallas gets the boost from the return of Zeke Elliott and rides that to a big win, burying the karma-challenged visitors.
Cowboys 32, Seahawks 17
- New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals (-3.5): Both fan bases are wishing upon a midnight clear that their beloved team loses this game for draft purposes. You’ll need lots of rum in the eggnog if you are intent on watching this reindeer dropping of a game.
Cardinals 25, Giants 20
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans (+10): Houston is struggling to field a team with all its injuries. To their credit, the Texans have not quit playing hard. They will need Pittsburgh to show ill effects from the emotional loss to New England last week. The physical ill effect of not having Antonio Brown is real, but the Texans sport the league’s worst cover cornerback in Kevin Johnson, per Pro Football Focus. Even a half-assed Big Ben can exploit that matchup sans Brown. To quote Cousin Eddie, “Merry Christmas, sh***er’s full”.
Steelers 34, Texans 16
- Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles (-9): What more can you ask for on a Christmas evening than gathering the family around the television to watch Nick Foles and the Eagles face off against a Raiders team with nothing to play for anymore. Derek Carr is in real trouble against the relentless Eagles defense trying to help the backup QB clinch a playoff bye.
Eagles 29, Raiders 13