Thursday Night Game: 

San Francisco (5-8) v. San Diego (7-6)
Thursday Night at San Diego: 8.20 PM

The Battle of two California teams, this game has big implications. While neither team is in charge of their division, they are both right behind the leaders and a win for either team keeps their division hopes alive. However, with the state of the strong AFC as a whole, and the weak NFC West as well, a loss for either team all but eliminates them from post-season contention. 

The San Francisco 49ers are by no means bad, but starting 0-5 doesn't help, and the toughest team they beat this year was the Raiders.  The haven't been able to string together consecutive games more than one (and that one had a bye week in between the games.. which were against Denver and St. Louis by the way). When you add that to the inconsistent play from Alex Smith (who is the returning starting QB ... again), it doesn't bode well for the 49'er faithful. 

The San Diego Chargers, meanwhile, have also underperformed. But, while injuries aren't an excuse, they have been depleted at both the wide receiver position as well as the running back spot. They are by no means a favorite to win in many of their match-ups, but they are hot with victories in 5 of their last 6 contests. Plus, while they are set to get even healthier (or at least, as healthy as you can be during the season), they also have a quarterback named Philip Rivers.  

Overall, anything can happen (that's why we watch the games), but the Chargers seem to be the clear cut favorites in this game. The Chargers aren't a great team but they are a good team. The 49ers are on the way up but they are still building the basic pieces, and won't win consistently without a solid quarterback. 

Winner: San Diego Chargers

Sunday Afternoon Games (1:00PM Eastern)


Cincinnati Bengals (2-11) v. Cleveland Browns (5-8)

Neither team is horrible, but neither team has any postseason implications left. The Browns started off too slow and the Bengals never got going. What's more, it seems that Cincinnati lacks discipline, but Cleveland (with discipline aplenty) lacks talent. Both teams are just looking to save face and play spoiler down the stretch. 

The Bengals have been in most of their games even down to the wire. Playing the toughest teams in each conference as well as playing a tough AFC North has taken the toll on them, and Carson Palmer might not be the answer next season to go with the offensive weapons that Cincy has. They also need to fix that defensive pass rush that won them the AFC North crown in 2009 - 2010. Cleveland has no quarterback in Jake Delhomme, and apparently Seneca Wallace is in Mangini's doghouse ... so until Colt McCoy is fully healed and ready to go, Cleveland needs to just hope that Jake doesn't make the 2 turnover per game average he's had so far this year. 

Despite all of the major points we could bring up, Cleveland gets the edge. Both will still be drafting in the top 10 (Cleveland plays Pittsburgh and Baltimore the last two weeks, and Cincinnati plays Baltimore and San Diego). But, Cleveland also scraped out a win against the Bengals in their first meeting and Cincinnati hasn't won a game since! The Brown's defense will be the deciding factor in this game as the unit which embarrassed last year has climbed up the charts this season. In Cleveland's 8 losses, they averaged losing by only 7.1 points. If the offense could get into gear then they would be scary. 

Winner: Cleveland 


Dallas Cowboys(4-9) v. Washington Redskins (5-8)

Similar to the CIN/CLE game, no-one here is going to the post season. 

This game is awkward to describe at best, as both teams are loaded with talented players and high salaries as well. But, apparently it takes more than big names to win in this league. 

It might be my bias, but Kitna looks almost as good as Romo ... that means that they both are below average. McNabb is not a bad player, but he doesn't exactly have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin this year ... Still, it's a division game being played in Dallas, and they do have a hop in their step now with Interim Head Coach Jason Garrett currently in control. It has the potential to be a coin toss, but I like Dallas. 

Winner: Cowboys  


Tennessee Titans (5-8) v. Houston Texans (5-8)

Despite already mentioning the Browns and the Bengals, it appears that this could be the game of "which head coach wants to be fired?" 

Gary Kubiak has helped to build the Texans into a mediocre team. When you're 2-14 or 3-13, mediocre is good. But if you're almost near a decade into your franchise without having a winning season despite high draft picks, mediocre will get you a cup of coffee. You'll have plenty of time to drink the coffee because you won't have a job. Jeff Fisher's problem in Tennessee? Vince Young exists and is a favorite of management. The two won't be able to coexist, and that most likely means a new coach could be on the way in. Overall, Houston has more talent (even if they are banged up), and I trust the passing game of Schaub over the running game of Johnson. 

Winner: Texans


Indianapolis Colts (7-6) v. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5)

Say what you want, Indy is depleted. They are not the team that started 14-0 last year from a combination of injuries and another year of age. However, I don't buy into the Jaguar hype. They have started to build a quality team of players and play makers without needing to bring in flash. Indianapolis, however, has come to the crunch time of their season. They have started to learn to play with backups, and a few players are getting healthy. Peyton Manning doesn't have the horrible stretches that he just did, and he will bounce back this weekend. 

Winner: Colts

Other Picks

For whatever reason, I haven't had the chance to see the next few teams, so I lumped a few of these together based upon the limited body of work I have seen.

St. Louis Rams Over Kansas City Chiefs: You see what happens to offenses even if Aaron Rogers, Colt McCoy, Ben Roethlisberger, or Mike Vick leave for a game. Kansas City cannot overcome the offensive woes that they suffer with no real QB at the helm.

Miami over Buffalo: The Bills will do anything and everything to try and scrape out some wins. They just don't have the talent. Quietly enough, the Dolphins are actually in the playoff hunt so they will definitely be ready for this game.

Tampa Bay over Detroit: I don't think Tampa Bay is for real, but they are close. Still, with a fairly weak and young Detroit, they should pull out another W this week. 

Arizona at Carolina: I don't know if anyone would want to watch this game. Cincy, Cleveland, Dallas, Minnesota, Buffalo ... they have all been under performing. These two teams don't even show up to half of their games it seems. Be on the look out for game of the year, but if that doesn't happen it's going to be an ugly game.  

Baltimore over New Orleans: This is the anti-Carolina vs. Arizona. Both teams can play great offense or great defense on any given day. New Orleans is fighting for their playoff lives, but so is Baltimore (almost ... at least the division). Look for this to be a great 1:00pm game, and I have Baltimore nudging the Saints out for the W. 

Philadelphia over New York Giants: Either team at full strength could be a very impressive force in the playoffs this year. However, the recent loss of Steve Smith is just fuel to the fire that is the Giants' recent struggles. They could still pull one out, but the division looks to be in the Eagles' hands now. This will be a good game.

4:00 / 4:15 PM Eastern

Atlanta Falcons over Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carrol gets a free pass for the first year. Some games his team can't seem to do anything, but some games his team has completely dominated the opponents with less talent. Atlanta, however, will roll over the Seahawks as they try to secure home field advantage. 

NY Jets over Pittsburgh Steelers: As two of the top teams in the AFC (and the league) this should be one of the better games to watch. The Jets have beat up on weak teams but can't seem to beat a contender. The Steelers have taken care of business against the best teams but cant seem to put anyone away. It will be a test of the Steeler's offense against the Jets play making Defense. If the Steelers can score (which they haven't been able to on offense recently) then they should be able to pull out the "W." It should be a solid game, but If they couldn't do much on the Bengals then I don't see the Steelers getting a spark on the Jet's Defense. 

Oakland Raiders over Denver Broncos: Oakland has been a team full of talent for years (think the Redskins over spending ... but in 5 more years). However, Tom Cable has them all going in the same direction at least for the present, and if they weren't in a tough AFC, they could be in the playoffs. Still, in a tough division game (while at home) the Raiders should pull one out on the dormant broncos. 


SUNDAY NIGHT (8:20PM Eastern)

New England Patriots over Green Bay Packers

Coach Bill has the Patriots hitting full speed right at the end of the season. The Packers may be the best team in the NFL (losing 5 games by a combined 16 points or 3.2 points per game!), but they won't win this one. 

MONDAY NIGHT (8:30PM Eastern)

Chicago Bears over Minnesota Vikings

Chicago doesn't seem like a legitimate contender. However, the Arizona Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl as pretenders a few years ago. The Vikings have no quarterback, an interim head coach, and won't even get a real home game at home.