Giants-Carolina fight for top seed

Dec 16, 2008 5:08 PM

Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe |

last week

With two weeks left in the regular season, already clinching playoff berths are Arizona and the New York Giants in the NFC along with Pittsburgh and Tennessee in the AFC.

Both the Steelers and Titans have secured first-round byes and will determine which of the two will be the conference’s top seed when they meet in Nashville this Sunday. No NFC team is guaranteed a first-round bye.

Totals players have witnessed a roller coaster of results this season. Prior to Monday night’s Cleveland at Philadelphia contest, the over holds a razor slim 107-106-10 edge.

Here’s a preview of this week’s schedule:

Colts -6½ at Jaguars (45): Jacksonville is reduced to playing the spoiler role. Indy has won seven in a row, but six have been struggles. The Jags’ win last week over Green Bay showed some character and they figure to be motivated against their division rival. JAGUARS.

Ravens +5 at Cowboys (39): The Dallas defense played their best game of the season last week in sacking Giants QB Eli Manning eight times in a key 20-8 win. The Baltimore offense has struggled when facing elite, playoff caliber teams. Look for both defenses to make the big plays, dictate tempo and control field position. UNDER.

Steelers +1 at Titans (34): These are the top two teams in allowing the fewest points with high rankings in most defensive categories. The Titans do have some injuries along the defensive line. Both defenses have excelled all season at making key stops and forcing field goals rather than allowing touchdowns. UNDER.

Dolphins -4 at Chiefs (41): KC was unable to protect a 21-3 second half lead over San Diego, but bad teams lose games they should win. Meanwhile Miami got by San Francisco last week 14-9 despite having the football less than 22 minutes. The Dolphins have held each of their last three opponents without a touchdown. DOLPHINS.

Cards +8 at Patriots (45): The Cardinals are just 2-6 outside their division with three of the losses by more than 20 points including East Coast road trips to the Jets and Eagles. Despite all their injuries, New England still has the character, class and experience to create distance and win the turnover battle. PATRIOTS.

Bengals +3 at Browns (NT): Cincy ranks last offensively in several categories, though played its best game of the season in upsetting Washington last week. Cleveland has performed better defensively over the second half of the season. Inclement weather could be a factor that further limits this pair of weak offenses. UNDER.

Eagles -3½ at Redskins (NT): The ‘Skins did win 23-17 at Philly, but that was when they were playing their best ball. Of late Washington has lost 5 of 6 games, scoring 13 points or less in each. The Washington passing game has gained over 200 yards just four times. Philly’s defense is ranked third and Washington’s fifth. UNDER.

49ers -5 at Rams (43): Credit 49ers coach Mike Singletary for getting his team to play hard. The same cannot be said of Rams’ interim head coach Jim Haslett who, despite a brief spurt after he also took over earlier this season, has seen his Rams lose eight in a row including four by more than 17 points. 49ERS.

Falcons +3½ at Vikings (44½): Alanta has won 5 of 7 and Minny 6 of 7. Since replacing the injured Gus Frerotte, Minny’s original starting QB Tarvaris Jackson tossed four TD passes at Arizona. Atlanta rookie QB Matt Ryan struggled in last week’s OT win over Tampa Bay but has shown great maturity and leadership all season. FALCONS.

Saints -7 at Lions (51½): Will this be the week the Lions get that elusive win and avoid the possibility of an 0-16 season? To Detroit’s credit they have not quit. New Orleans is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. At the very least, the Saints do not deserve the high degree of favoritism they are being shown. LIONS.

Panthers +3 at Giants (39): The winner of this game earns top seed. A Carolina loss could mean no postseason. The Panthers are 8-0 at home, but just 3-3 on the road. The Giants have dropped two straight, but are still a close-knit team and should respond to the pressure. GIANTS.

Jets -4½ at Seahawks (44): The Seahawks will be out to win this last home game for their coach Mike Holmgren. The Jets are staggering down the stretch and were very fortunate to beat Buffalo last week. They’ve played poorly out west, losing this season at Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco. SEAHAWKS.

Texans -7 at Raiders (44): Houston has won four straight and 7 of 10 following an 0-4 start. The Raiders have little reason to be motivated following a second straight 20-plus point loss in which they were non-competitive. Oakland has allowed at least 145 yards rushing in 8 of its last 9 games, a sure sign of a worn-down defense. TEXANS.

Bills +5½ at Broncos (45): Denver clinches the AFC West with a win or a San Diego loss. Buffalo started 4-0 but has gone 2-8 since, including snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with some bizarre and costly play calling late in last week’s game at the Jets. Even though they lost last week, Denver has played well recently. BRONCOS.

Chargers +3½ at Bucs (42): This game has been moved to a 10 a.m. PT so San Diego takes the field several hours ahead of Denver. This game should be played with great intensity with neither team wanting to make a mistake. That should mean conservative game plans that feature more running than passing. UNDER.

Packers +4½ at Bears (41): The last Monday night game of the season. The Packers won the earlier meeting in Green Bay, 37-3. The Packers are not as bad as their 5-9 record indicates with six of the losses by four points or less. PACKERS.