Detroit 24, Green Bay 13
The annual holiday game has been anything but inviting for the Lions in recent seasons. If Detroit really is serious about winning the NFC North, right about now would be the time to show it. Aaron Rodgers will again be in street clothes, meaning Matt Stafford will be the unquestioned best QB on the field. But a defense that was supposed to be nasty has been the real problem, because lately it's been toothless. That's all about to change. Good luck, Matt Flynn.
Dallas 23, Oakland 10
Did you know that only seven teams in NFL history have a winning record against the Cowboys? One of them just so happens to be the Raiders. It will be a big celebration down in Jerry World, where I'm sure one of the biggest feasts imaginable will be on the menu. Actually saw a couple Dallas fans talk about how Tony Romo finally made a difference late in a 'big' game. Talk to me when he actually does it in a win-or-go-home scenario.
Pittsburgh 28, Baltimore 14
Last week: 9-5
For all intents and purposes this figures to be a playoff elimination game. Each team sits at 5-6 and is tied with pretty much 2/3 of the AFC in search of the second and final playoff spot. The Steelers already own a victory against the Ravens this season, and that was back when Pittsburgh was playing awful football. Now Joe Flacco is complaining about his team running the wildcat offense sporadically, claiming he will not do 'anything' when he is lined up at wide receiver. What's the big news there, Joey? You don't do anything worth a darn when you're lined up behind center either.
Chicago 25, Minnesota 23
Either the Rams are better than we thought, or the Bears are worse off than imagined. What a whoopin' that was last week. Chicago is still right there in terms of the battle for the NFC North Division title, but at some point potential has to meet results. I realize Jay Cutler is injured, but what's wrong with lining up and handing the ball to Matt Forte 40 times? Really, though, the problem is on the other side of the football as the Bears rank 25th out of 32 teams in total defense. For Minneosta, it's been all about next season for a while now.
New England 41, Houston 12
Can we please put Gary Kubiak out of his misery? By all accounts he's a stand up guy, so he doesn't deserve this whatsoever. The quarterback has stunk all season, the top running back has been hurt for the duration and is now out for the year. How can a defense this loaded play so poorly, with the exception of end J.J. Watt? Did you see what the Patriots did last week? Yeah. Don't think that will be necessary here.
Tennessee 21, Indianapolis 18
The Colts are falling back toward the pack just about as quickly as any team in memory. I mean, does Reggie Wayne, the 102-year-old receiver, make that much of a difference? Seriously, if Indianapolis keeps playing this way, it won't even qualify for the postseason. The Titans, somehow, have managed to stay alive and actually hold the final AFC wildcard position. They're doing it with a backup QB and a defense that is 10th in the league allowing 23.3 ppg.
Jacksonville 30, Cleveland 3
Last week was the first time I sat through a Browns game - why would I subject my family to such trash? - and that's only because they were 'playing' the Steelers. Honestly, there's not a lot to like again in Brownies land. The defense looked awful, and the offense even worse. It also might have been the first time I've seen a quarterback concussed by a slap to the head. Remember when Cleveland fans were so excited they were finally good, and that they were ahead of Pittsburgh and in position to make the playoffs? Yeah, me either.
Carolina 33, Tampa Bay 6
The Buccaneers have looked a whole lot better the last couple of weeks, but it would have been hard to look any worse. I mean, when you haven't won a game until two weeks ago ... you get the picture. Riding a modest two-game winning streak, Tampa Bay travels to Carolina to face a team that has won seven in a row. The Panthers are right behind the Saints in the race to an NFC South crown. There's been a lot of talk about about various Most Valuable Player candidates, but how can you overlook what Cam Newton has done? He has to be on a short list right now.
Philadelphia 26, Arizona 20
Could Bruce Arians win Coach of the Year two seasons in a row? Coaching two different teams? The Cardinals, with Carson Palmer - CARSON PALMER! - at the controls are tied for second in the NFC West at 7-4, though a division title is out of the question. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is tied for the top spot in the East, riding the surprising coat tails of Nick Foles. Something has to give here, right? Cold weather and Cardinals don't mix.
N.Y. Jets 2, Miami 0
Geno Smith, for all the wonderful talk early in the season, is dead last in the league in terms of passer rating. Now comes talk from Mark Sanchez that he expects and wants to be a Jet next season. Just another dysfunctional season in the Big Apple. The Dolphins are probably the most difficult team in the league to get a feel for. One week they seem like world beaters, the next they're losing to Tampa Bay. Mike Wallace scored a touchdown last week, from the Ripley's Believe it or Not category.
San Francisco 21, St. Louis 17
The Rams sure are doing a good job of making pests of themselves lately. They've moved to within one game of .500 and seem to have finally found a way to make good use of Tavon Austin. All it took was Sam Bradford being lost for the season and Kellen Clemmens getting the starting QB job. Yeah, read that one again. The 49ers scored a nice victory last week, but are still too up and down for my liking.
Buffalo 10, Atlanta 7
Once again the NFL goes north of the border, and I still can't seem to figure out why. I know the Bills are located close to Canada, but the country has its own league - the CFL, which held its championship last week. The funny thing is, I am not sure either of these teams would even win the Grey Cup.
San Diego 27, Cincinnati 21
Oh, you silly Chargers. Didn't anyone tell you it's impossible to win in Kansas City, let alone scoring 41 points to do so. The fact is, the AFC West is considerably stronger than it has been in recent seasons. Then again, it was a laughingstock for a long period. I honestly believe the Chargers could make some noise if they get into the playoffs. Not win the whole thing, mind you, but claim a game. The Bengals are beginning to choke, which anyone could have seen coming from a mile away.
Kansas City 18, Denver 17
Peyton Manning continues to prove me right, so much so in fact, that I have no idea why I continue to make my case. Listen, he's a fantasy football owners dream. He's arguably the best regular-season quarterback the NFL has seen. But he continues to fail in the clutch, and it's certainly not something new. Seriously, the guy just blew a 24-point halftime lead against the Patriots last Sunday night - in front of a national audience. For whatever reason there are still legions of people who refuse to admit any of this. It's very strange.
N.Y. Giants 31, Washington 14
Good grief, are the Redskins a mess, or what? Things are playing out to the point where Washington could conceivably grab the top overall pick in the draft. It's a good thing the Rams don't own that pick as compensation for the Redskins trading up two years ago in order to draft Robert Griffin III. Oops. The fact is, and you're seeing it, that read-option quarterbacks are never going to be a major part of the NFL. Defensive coordinators are too good at this level and will find a way to combat just about anything.
Seattle 28, New Orleans 21
Man, it's about time Monday night provides us with a marquee matchup. By marquee, I mean a preview of the NFC title game. The site of this game is everything, as both places have been a virtual house of horrors for the opposition. Because this it at Seattle, you have to give the home team an edge. Look for the Seahawks to get up early and pound the ball with Marshawn Lynch to shorten the game.
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org