San Diego 27, San Francisco 20
Remarkably, this won't put the 49ers out of playoff contention. It will, however, go a long way toward the Chargers winning the AFC West, which I think is inevitable. San Diego pretty much has all its weapons back in the arsenal, which means trouble at least in the present. This could be a matchup of the top two tight ends (Antonio Gates, SD, and Vernon Davis, SF) in the league.
St. Louis 13, Kansas City 10
Speaking of winning the AFC West, the Chiefs will not. Never thought I would say this about any team, but if Matt Cassel doesn't play, his team doesn't win. The Rams, meanwhile, still look like the best best to win NFC West, and thus get a home playoff game with a sub-.500 record.
Last Week: 13-3
Dallas 37, Washington 6
Want to see Dan Snyder really flip his lid? Wait until the Cowboys lay a Texas-sized beatdown on his Redskins this week. The NFL is constantly changing, but right now Washington is the unquestioned worst team in football. Contract extension and all, Donovan McNabb faces the final couple of games in that red uniform. Afterwards, Tashard Choice asks Santana Moss for his autograph.
Houston 22, Tennessee 12
Hmm. What you have to ask when picking this one is, which of these teams has quit less? There's no easy answer there, but the Texans clearly have more firepower. Both Houston and Tennessee are likely going to be looking for coaches in the offseason. I'm going to go out on a limb and say we'll have a Steve Slaton sighting this week.
Arizona 28, Carolina 10
It was nice to see a little fire from the Cardinals last week, though it might be a little much to expect two weeks in a row. Then again, stranger things have certainly happened. It's even more difficult to expect the same performance from Tim Hightower. Lucky for Arizona, we know what Carolina brings to the table, which is little.
N.Y. Giants 21, Philadelphia 18
All of a sudden (not really) I'm really starting to like the Eagles' chances of respresenting the NFC in the Super Bowl. We're going to find out right here what they've got, as this one likely will decide the winner of the seriously overhyped NFC East, which annually is predicted to be the best in the business. The Giants are at their best when running the ball, a task made easier by the injury to Philadelphia linebacker Stewart Bradley.
Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 20
Do you smell what I smell? It's another Lions upset in the making. Fresh off beating the Packers in one of the season's biggest surprises to snap a long losing streak in the division, Detroit is looking to break an even bigger one on the road. Nice, warm Tampa seems like the pefect place to do it.
Cincinnati 7, Cleveland 6
Browns fans constantly gripe about me bashing their club. Well, see what happens when I try to play nice? Maybe bad weather will postpone this one until right about never, because nobody, not even fans of these teams, wants to be put through this. On a hunch ... .
Buffalo 16, Miami 13
It's not often a winning quarterback in this league throws for 55 yards, but that was the case for the ever-regressing Chad Henne. Neither of these teams is any good, obviously, but much like the previous game it says they must play anyway. Buffalo may have found the long-awaited replacement for Jim Kelly.
Jacksonville 25, Indianapolis 22
A game for all the marbles, baby. If the Colts can pull one out and thus avoid the season sweep, they will go on to capture the division. Should Indianapolis lose, however, and it's bye-bye playoffs. As a rule you should never count Peyton Manning out, but the Jaguars just keep finding ways to win games.
New Orleans 31, Baltimore 17
We're starting to get a glimpse of the Super Bowl-caliber Saints again, and it's no secret that the team's health has a lot to do with it. The Ravens are a tough nut to crack, in that I don't particularly think they're all that good, but at the same time believe they may be the only team capable of unseating the Patriots. Much like the Steelers, Baltimore is beginning to morph into a passing team. But unlike Pittsburgh, that's probably not a good thing.
Atlanta 26, Seattle 13
At some point I figure the Falcons are going to cough one up, though can't imagine it being here. It's quite possible there isn't a more balanced team today than Atlanta, which has also benefited from the resurgence of sack master John Abraham. The Seahawks on the other hand, are playing out the string.
Oakland 34, Denver 9
If you'll recall, the Raiders hung a 59-14 smack job on the Broncos the last time these two met. No doubt Denver remembers, but is there anything it can do about it? One has to wonder when exactly 'Tim Tebow Time' arrives in the Mile High City. I mean, can it really get any worse at this point?
Pittsburgh 23, N.Y. Jets 6
Earlier in this season a matchup such as this had Game of the Year written all over it. But as has been written here numerous times, the Jets aren't going anywhere because of No. 6 (Mark Sanchez). This is the Steelers' time to stand up and make a statement, and believe it or not the offense will actually score.
New England 38, Green Bay 12
New England's good. Really good.
Chicago 28, Minnesota 14
The fat lady is signing, and Brett Favre is texting. It all adds up to an unceremonious ending to what will go down as a career that lasted about a season too long. The Bears defense, after being shredded last week, will be in no mood to play games.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net