Alright, we’re into the final two weeks of the season and it’s playoff push time. A lot is on the line the next two weeks as we still have four spots up for grabs in the NFC with seven teams in play for them and three in play in the AFC with seven teams still mathematically alive. Now, we can likely eliminate both the Dolphins and Raiders as they would both need to win out and have a bunch of other games fall their way to get in. But, the Ravens, Chargers, Bills, Titans and Chiefs are all battling it out. The Chiefs have control, if they win their final two they clinch the AFC West. As for the other four, things get a little bit more complicated.
On the NFC side, the Eagles and Vikings are both definitely in with the Eagles clinching a first round bye last week and clinching home-field advantage throughout if they beat the Raiders this week. If the Vikings win and the Panthers lose to the Bucs, the Vikings get a bye. The NFC South race isn’t over yet, but New Orleans can clinch with a win and a Panthers loss. Carolina can clinch a playoff berth by winning and getting a Dallas-Seattle tie. As you can tell, things are a little wild and woolly. For a full explainer, check out NFL.com’s latest playoff clinching scenarios piece.
That means there are plenty of teams this week with everything on the line, playing teams with nothing left to play for. We could see some lopsided scores. Also, we have two Saturday games this week once again, two games on Christmas Day and no Thursday game. So, enjoy.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games I’m so confident about that I’d wager my life’s savings on them, if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, ‘I’m feeling pretty… pretty good’ about these games.
Heads or tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another, and you should pick with caution, even after heeding my expert advice.
All lines courtesy of Sportsline. All times Eastern.
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens (-13.5), Saturday 4:30 p.m.
Level of Confidence: Feeling Pretty…Pretty Good
ATS & Straight up: Ravens
The Ravens need to win out to feel good about their chances of making the postseason. The Colts, have lost eight of their last nine games and haven’t scored more than 23 points in any of those contests, with that number dropping to 17 over their last five. Take the Ravens and the points.
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers (+9), Saturday 8:30 p.m
Level of Confidence: No Way We Can Lose….Locks of the Week
ATS & Straight up: Vikings
Lot of big favorites this week and the Vikings, in Lambeau, are now one of them. The main reason? The Packers put Aaron Rodgers on IR, ending his season. That means Brett Hundley against this Vikings defense and, well, we saw how well that went the first time around.
No Way We Can Lose…Locks of the Week
Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs (-10), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Chiefs
The Dolphins playoff hopes are on life support, while the Chiefs have gotten back to playing the type of football that got them out to a 5-0 start to the year. Kareem Hunt has seemingly re-awoken from his mid-season slumber. The Chiefs are looking to lock up their spot in the playoffs the next two weeks. They get the win here.
Los Angeles Rams @ Tennessee Titans (+6.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Rams
The Rams made a statement last week in Seattle, handing the Seahawks their worst home loss in 20 years and holding them to just 7 points in the process. That’s not great news for a Titans offense that has been struggling as of late. Yes, Tennessee has playoff hopes on the line, likely needing to win out to assure themselves a spot, but with games against the Rams and Jaguars, 8-8 seems more likely.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers (-9), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Panthers
Cam Newton looked like full-strength 2015 Cam Newton last week against the Packers and provided us one of the most entertaining video clips of the weekend.
I wish I was as confident in anything in life as Cam was in that moment right there. Anyway, not much needs to be said about the Bucs, Panthers take the easy win.
Feeling Pretty…Pretty Good
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints (-6), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Saints
The last game between these two came just two weeks ago on a Thursday night when multiple Saints players went down with injuries. Alvin Kamara was one of them and he’s healthy this time around which I think is the difference in the Saints getting the win this time around. Still, the last game was decided by three points and something similar is in play here with the Falcons trying to stay in playoff contention.
Detroit Lions @ Cincinnati Bengals (+4.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Lions
The Lions need wins to get into the postseason. The Bengals head coach parted ways with the team last week and visions of the golf course and vacations are setting in for their players. Detroit gets the much needed win and stays in the playoff chase.
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots (-11.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Patriots
The Patriots could take over homefield advantage for the playoffs in the AFC this weekend with a win and losses by the Steelers and Jaguars. The Pats get their part of the job done in the early window and then have to wait and see with the other two games.
Oakland Raiders @ Philadelphia Eagles (-9), Monday 8:30 p.m.
Straight up: Eagles
Nick Foles looked solid in his first start replacing Carson Wentz last week, but the defense struggled for the second straight game. They could get back on track here against a Raiders offense that hasn’t lit up the scoreboard the way we expected them to at the beginning of the season. Plus, home-field advantage is at stake. You know the Eagles want that, especially knowing they’ll be playing with their back-up QB throughout the postseason.
Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys (-4.5), Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Straight up: Cowboys
Last week felt like the end point on this version of the Seahawks. They’re depleted by injuries on defense, the offense relies largely on Russell Wilson doing Houdini things on a weekly basis and they got stomped by the Rams as a result. Meanwhile, the Cowboys get Ezekiel Elliott back from his six-game suspension, and their defense has been playing well this year, especially in getting after the QB. ‘Boys take it.
Heads or Tails…Toss Up
Los Angeles Chargers @ New York Jets (+6.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Chargers
The Jets actually hung around with the Saints most of last Sunday despite Bryce Petty getting his first start and averaging just 4.6 yards-per-attempt. This week, they face a Chargers team fighting for the playoffs. Normally, that would make me lean Chargers. But, this is also a 1 p.m. game for a West Coast team in an East Coast City and we’ve seen the effect that has on teams. Chargers win, but the Jets stay within six points.
Denver Broncos @ Washington Redskins (-3.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Broncos
One of the few games this week without some kind of playoff implications attached, the Broncos defense has gotten back to its old ways and Brock Osweiler is at least doing enough to not lose. The Redskins injury problems have caught up to them, and even in their win over Arizona last week, they didn’t look great.
Cleveland Browns @ Chicago Bears (-6.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Bears
The Browns are desperately trying to avoid going 0-16 and joining the ’08 Lions in winless infamy. Maybe facing another rookie QB will help them get a win? I don’t see it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Browns covered here.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ San Francisco 49ers (+4.5), Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Straight up: Jaguars
Believe it or not, Blake Bortles has actually been one of the best quarterbacks in the league in the month of December. There’s a sentence I didn’t see myself typing at the beginning of the year. But, as hot as Bortles and the defense has been, Jimmy Garoppolo has been that hot for the Niners. He’s 3-0 as a starter for them, and they could keep this thing close with Jacksonville. Probably not win, but at least keep them in the game.
New York Giants @ Arizona Cardinals (-4.5), Sunday 4:25 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Giants
Wooooooooofffff. Thankfully, that Dallas-Seattle game will be the featured one for many of you across the country. In the NY area? Well, you get to see Eli Manning and the Giants take on Drew Stanton and the Cardinals. Yeah, that’s umm, exciting.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans (-10), Monday 4:30 p.m.
Straight up: Steelers
Here’s the sole reason I’m picking the Texans to stay within ten points here, Antonio Brown is out. The Steelers are a different team and Ben Roethlisberger is a different QB without Brown in the game. Pittsburgh can win here without him, but I don’t know if they blow Houston out.