Raiders +12½ at Bucs
The Bucs have lost three straight and need this game for their playoff hopes (they also need Dallas to lose to Philly). Oakland is making the foreboding trip east after winning decisively against Houston. On the road, the Raiders were blown out by New Orleans, Baltimore and San Diego, while they were competitive at Denver (won), Miami (lost by two), Buffalo (lost by one) and Kansas City (won). Look for a solid effort from the Tampa defense, which shouldn’t get pushed around like Houston was last week. BUCS.
Lions +10 at Packers
The Lions appeared to give up last week against New Orleans, especially after they failed to get an early tying touchdown. The players sound like they’re ready for the season to end, and they haven’t won at Lambeau this decade. The Packers are talented offensively and, while this might be close for a quarter, the Packers pull away in the second half. GREEN BAY.
Cowboys +2 at Eagles
Dallas controls its own destiny and makes the playoffs with a win here. They’re banged up, though, and won’t be at full strength. We saw their offense practically score at will towards the end of the Baltimore game, but the defense uncharacteristically melted down on the Ravens’ final two clinching drives (if you call a one-play touchdown run a drive!). Philly needs help to make the playoffs, even with a win here. But the rivalry and chance to knock Dallas out of the playoffs should be enough. EAGLES.
Giants +7 at Vikings (41)
The Giants are locked in as the NFC’s No. 1 seed and may rest some starters in this spot. Plus, they wouldn’t want to put their playmakers in jeopardy in a meaningless game. The Vikings have played well down the stretch, winning 4 of 5 and 6 of 8. Their outstanding rushing game on both sides of the ball should be enough to win here. VIKINGS.
Bears +3 at Texans
Houston has been the better team on offense, while Chicago’s edge on defense is less than 15 yards per game. The Texans figure to give a strong effort to take some positives into the off-season and maintain a non-losing overall record. Chicago needs a win, coupled with a Vikings loss, to win the division. If they both win, Chicago needs lots of help to secure a wild card berth. Houston’s been tough at home and will go all out here. TEXANS.
Panthers -3 at Saints (53½)
New Orleans QB Drew Brees will be looking to surpass Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a season (he needs 402). Even though they’re out of the playoff hunt, New Orleans is still playing hard (Drees was passing in the fourth quarter against Detroit last week despite a 35-point lead). The Panthers figure to play hard because backing in to a division title with an Atlanta loss to St. Louis is unlikely. This should be a high scoring game and, remember, no NFC South team has lost at home to a division opponent. SAINTS
Rams +14½ at Falcons (44)
The Falcons can win the division and gain a first round bye with a victory plus a Carolina loss at New Orleans. The Rams’ last three road games have been losses by 24, 19 and 44 points. And they’ve been at home for four of the last five weeks. This one could get ugly early, which would take Steven Jackson out of the Ram equation. FALCONS.
Chiefs +3 at Bengals (37½)
These teams have long been out of contention with their combined 5-24-1 record, but have been competitive of late. KC did play well offensively last week in a wild game against Miami, but the offense has struggled much of the season. Cincy also has had problems generating points. UNDER.
Jaguars +12½ at Ravens (35½)
The Ravens, who need a win to clinch a playoff berth, have held 10 of 15 foes to 13 points or less including all seven at home! Behind rookie QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore has scored 24 or more points in eight of their last 10 games. The Jags had their big moment last week but blew it against the Colts. It’s not likely they’ll be ready for the smothering Ravens defense. BALTIMORE.
Titans -3 at Colts (38)
Both teams are locked into their playoff positions with no chance for improvement. So expect plenty of substitutions for both squads and the coaches prepare for the playoffs. Tony Dungy especially has a history of holding out key players in meaningless games. Plus, Tennessee has the better basic offense and defense, which means they run the ball exceptionally well and should control the line of scrimmage here. TITANS.
Browns +11 at Steelers (31½)
Cleveland could be down to fourth-string QB (Brad Gradkowski) with Ken Dorsey banged up in likely Romeo Crennel’s last game as coach. In its last five games, the Browns have scored just eight field goals and no touchdowns. That doesn’t bode well against the Steelers’ defense, even though they will likely rest many starters, milk the clock and limit the number of plays. STEELERS.
Dolphins +3 at Jets (42)
QB Chad Pennington has been solid, displaying great leadership and rarely turning the ball over since coming to Miami from the Jets. Prior to last week’s shootout in Kansas City, Miami’s defense had not allowed a TD for three straight games. The Jets are 9-2 in games not played on the West Coast. While all the pundits are calling Brett Favre over-the-hill (and he’s looked like it at times), he still has one last hurrah left. JETS.
Patriots -6 at Bills (42)
A season that started 4-0 has turned sour for Buffalo as the Bills have gone 3-8 since. Even in last week’s win at Denver the Bills were out-gained 532-275! Bill Belichick may have done his best coaching job of all in getting the Pats to 10-5. Only one of those 10 wins has been by less than a TD. PATS.
Seahawks +6½ at Cards (45)
Arizona has lost its last two games by a combined 61 points. This is coach Mike Holmgren’s last game on the Seahawks sidelines, but his team got him a highly-desired win last week at home. Arizona is likely to be much more motivated for a confidence building effort. CARDINALS.
Redskins +3 at 49ers (37)
The San Francisco defense has shown marked improvement over the second half of the season with each of its last four foes held to 16 points or less. Washington has tallied 13 points or less in each of the last four games. The Skins figure to have little motivation making the cross country trip. 49ERS.
Broncos +8 ½ at Chargers (50)
Recall that an official’s error cost San Diego a win at Denver back in Week 2 so perhaps poetic justice calls for the Chargers to win. Both teams have potent passing attacks (rank 3 and 7) and weak pass defense (rank 27 and 31). This suggests the bigger plays will be made by the offenses. The number looks too high in this spot as both teams to move back and forth across the field BRONCOS, OVER.