DOLPHINS (2-2) at PACKERS (3-2), 1 p.m.

Outlook: Concussion-addled Pack QB Aaron Rodgers was back at practice Thursday, surely brightening his questionable status from a Green Bay point of view. Packers already are banged up while Dolphins get injured guys back, so Rodgers’ absence could have swung it for Miami. Off a bye, Dolphins will recommit to the run and try to pound it on the Unfrozen Tundra in club’s first trip to Lambeau since 2002; trouble is hosts have a pretty decent run defense. Pack also has stout cornerback play, with Charles Woodson a capable cover for Brandon Marshall. Packers host Vikes and Brett Favre the following week.

Prediction: Packers, 27-23

 

BROWNS (1-4) at STEELERS (3-1), 1 p.m.

Outlook: This seems the WORST game in terms of competitiveness, but is the GOTW (Game of the Week) because the much-awaited return of Ben Roethlisberger hogs the national marquee. Steelers have dominated this series for a while and Cleveland offers the perfect, pliable defense against which Big Ben might properly shake the rust. Browns counter with maiden start of Colt McCoy. Great name. Brutal game. A rookie QB making his debut at Pittsburgh fits every definition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Prediction: Steelers, 24-3

 

CHIEFS (3-1) at TEXANS (3-2), 1 p.m.

Outlook: People still are underestimating the longtime gutter-dwelling Chiefs, but I’m coming around to the idea that they are pretty good. I also know Houston is 5-7 in its past 12 home games and really struggling defensively, especially against the pass. Matt Schaub is disappointing his fantasy owners, too. Texans must get Arian Foster going early, but KC’s run-D is pretty tough.

Prediction: Chiefs, 28-24

 

RAIDERS (2-3) at 49ERS (0-5), 4:05 p.m.

Outlook: The Raiders, though apparently surging from abysmal to mediocre, and the NFL’s only winless team in play are looking for something. Niners have to catch up to their talent sooner later, and they’ll put a saddle on Frank Gore in this battle of the bay. SF must win or the ice under feet of Alex Smith and Mike Singletary could start cracking.

Prediction: 49ers, 20-17

 

CHARGERS (2-3) at RAMS (2-3), 1 p.m.

Outlook: San Diego has special teams worse than Miami’s, withers on the road and tends to play down to its opponents. All these things give Rams a shot, but not a great one. Bolts have LT Marcus McNeill back, and Philip Rivers might top 400 yards.

Prediction: Chargers, 41-13

 

RAVENS (4-1) at PATRIOTS (3-1), 1 p.m.

Outlook: The Ravens are arguably best team in league, and Pats with 22 straight regular-season home wins under Tom Brady. Oh, and Bill Belichick on a 7-0 run after byes. No matter. This is the upset special! Joe Flacco strikes deep and often vs. weak Pats secondary.

Prediction: Ravens, 27-24

 

SAINTS (3-2) at BUCCANEERS (3-1), 1 p.m.

Outlook: Intriguing matchup. Saints sputtering, Bucs surprising, and Tampa has won four of past six meetings. I like Drew Brees and the Saints to right the ship, though. Tampa is without C Jeff Faine, and Bucs are 0-4 when their OL anchor is absent.

Prediction: Saints, 24-17

 

FALCONS (4-1) AT EAGLES (3-2), 1 p.m.

Outlook: A game of the week contender, especially if we knew Michael Vick (ribs) would face his ex-team. Will most likely be Kevin Kolb. Like Philly either way. Matt Ryan and Falcons not same away from home-dome, and Philly’s one tough joint.

Prediction: Eagles, 24-20

 

JETS (4-1) at BRONCOS (2-3), 4:05 p.m.

Outlook: Pains me to say it, but Jets look really, REALLY good. Letdown/short week after Monday spank of Brett Favre helps Broncos, but Jets offense should dominate a banged-up Denver defense. Hot Kyle Orton’s weaponry keeps it fairly close but no more.

Prediction: Jets, 34-24

 

LIONS (1-4) at GIANTS (3-2), 1 p.m.

Outlook: Giants won big at Houston and host Cowboys next, so Lions make classic sandwich game here. Still, Detroit’s faulty O-line and weak defense will be gutted, and I think Lions last won on road when Nixon was president.

Prediction: Giants, 34-13

 

SEAHAWKS (2-2) at BEARS (4-1), 1 p.m.

Outlook: Bears get QB Jay Cutler back from concussion, which is good because backup Todd Collins proved himself to be an upright mummy. Like homies at The Solider, but hunch unpredictable Seahawks, off a bye, keep it fairly close.

Prediction: Bears, 24-20

 

COWBOYS (1-3) at VIKINGS (1-3), 4:15 p.m.

Outlook: Yet another game of the week candidate, for the smell of desperation alone! Brett Favre’s iffy elbow makes for tough pick tougher but I say Cowboys avenge ’09 playoff loss to Vikes. Go with Tony Romo vs. Minny’s secondary: Antoine Winfield & the Nobodies.

Prediction: Cowboys, 27-24

 

COLTS (3-2) at REDSKINS (3-2), 8:20 p.m.

Outlook: Could be prime-time worthy, because Mike Shanahan has Skins believing a little, and Ryan Torain could be weekend’s fantasy darling vs. generous Indy run-D. But Washington is giving up second-most pass yards in NFL. Um, who’s Colts’ QB again?!

Prediction: Colts, 31-23

 

MONDAY’S GAME

TITANS (3-2) at JAGUARS (3-2) 8:30 p.m.

Outlook: The Jaguars are is 6-2 at home on MNF and Monday home dogs tend to be money in the bank. But there are exceptions. Titan sackers will eat up Jags’ weak O-line, and Jax pass-D leads NFL in most fantasy points to opposing QBs. This, too: Chris Johnson.

Prediction: Titans, 27-17

 

— Greg Cote, The Miami Herald. Last week: 5-9, overall: 41-35