Saturday, March 8, 2014
49ERS (7-2-1) at SAINTS (5-5), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: Game of the Week committee was wooed by a great 49ers defense dueling a great (and hot) Saints offense. Panel also liked that it's a rematch of last year's playoff game won by San Francisco, 36-32. Colin Kaepernick likely to start as 49ers QB as Alex Smith continues with concussion symptoms. But that isn't why I like the Saints: San Francisco is coming off a short week and Drew Brees at home -- he has a 20-yard completion in 100 straight games, a record -- is close to unstoppable.
Prediction: Saints, 31-27
PACKERS (7-3) at GIANTS (6-4), 8:20 p.m.
Outlook: "AAWWK!" carols the Upset Bird, thankful for another year not associated with the turkey breed. Sunday prime-timer is a top-grade NFC matchup, with Aaron Rodgers' Packers way hot and Eli Manning's Giants trying to shake off back-to-back losses and start acting like champs. Giants coming off a bye gives us pause, but still like Green Bay to avenge last season's playoff loss. Rodgers is 24-4 on TDs/picks in past seven games. I just trust that guy."
Prediction: Packers, 30-28
VIKINGS (6-4) at BEARS (7-3), 1 p.m.
Outlook: A concussion made Bears QB Jay Cutler a legit-questionable to play, and, although Cutler isn't having a great year, the drop-off to Jason Campbell is steep. That's partly why I'm being a wimp and opting for Chicago here, against a gut feeling. Mark it down: Bears' offensive line is a shambles, and the Vikings coming off a bye have an excellent upset shot.
Prediction: Bears, 20-17
SEAHAWKS (6-4) at DOLPHINS (4-6), 1 p.m.
Outlook: There are teams that are distinctly better at home than traveling, even beyond the norm, and Seattle (1-4 on the road) is one of them. Likewise rookie QB Russell Wilson has been much better in the Space Needle's comforting shadow. Marshawn Lynch (four consecutive 100s) is one of the best runners Miami will face all season. Seattle's defense is strong and I cannot think of many tougher opponents in terms of Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill trying to shake a personal funk and get his bandwagon rockin' again. Tannehill (needing 91 yards) surely will break Dan Marino's 1983 rookie record of 2,210, but the phrase "pyrrhic victory" comes to mind. Seattle is coming off a bye and vitally in a playoff hunt in a way Miami is not.
Prediction: Seahawks, 23-17
RAIDERS (3-7) at BENGALS (5-5), 1 p.m.
Outlook: I keep expecting Al Davis to come back from the dead just to complain about how bad the Raiders (still) are and maybe fire somebody. But at the same time I like Oakland, with ex-Bengal Carson Palmer making his first return to Cincinnati. Yeah, Oakland is 1-4 on the road, but Palmer has pitched for 1,094 yards in three wins, and this is the game he's had circled all season.
Prediction: Bengals, 28-24
STEELERS (6-4) at BROWNS (2-8), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Old veteran Charlie Batch is subbing for injured Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. That's a steep falloff, even with Plaxico Burress back. Cleveland has all the emotional incentive in a series Pitt has dominated, including a 10-1 run in Ohio. But stubborn me still likes a Steelers defense that has not allowed an offensive TD in seven quarters.
Prediction: Steelers, 19-17
BILLS (4-6) at COLTS (6-4), 1 p.m.
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