Saturday, March 8, 2014
PATRIOTS (8-3) at DOLPHINS (5-6), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Tom Brady's TD/INT ratio (24-3) is so good it should be illegal, and the Patriots' offense is normally approaching 30 points by warmups. New England's defense is better than advertised, too -- its 32 takeaways rank second in the league. Oh, did I mention that Bill Belichick is a pretty good coach even when he hasn't had extra time to prepare? Pats clinch AFC East title with a win, and have won eight of past 10 vs. Miami. But I still like the home underdog getting a touchdown-plus in a physical division rivalry. Who cares if a bunch of the crowd are Pats fans? Dolphins will keep it close.
Prediction: Patriots, 30-24
CARDINALS (4-7) at JETS (4-7), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Did you hear? Jets superfan "Fireman Ed" has retired. This is big news in Fireman Ed's house. Well, Jets fans should find something to cheer without him. Arizona has a rookie QB (Ryan Lindley) who is struggling and has lost seven games in a row. This is a visitor that can make a home team look good even if said home team isn't good.
Prediction: Jets, 24-13
JAGUARS (2-9) at BILLS (4-7), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Chad Henne has a 119 passer rating for Jacksonville with six TDs and only one pick the last two games. And claiming Jason Babin off the waiver wire should help the Jaguars' paltry pass rush. But let's not suddenly mistake Jacksonville for a decent team, OK? The Jaguars 1-4 on the road, and weather also favors Buffalo. But who are the Bills to be favored over anybody by six points?
Prediction: Bills, 24-20
SEAHAWKS (6-5) at BEARS (8-3), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Seattle has won at Soldier Field each of past two seasons and has another great shot here. But I can't get past this: Seahawks are 1-5 away and Bears are 5-1 at home. And Chicago has the defense to make Russell Wilson forget his hot hand and remind him he's a rookie. The pick presumes Matt Forte (ankle) will play.
Prediction: Bears, 21-19
49ERS (8-2-1) at RAMS (4-6-1), 1 p.m.
Outlook: On Nov. 11, these division rivals produced the NFL's first tie since 2008, but now the Niners should get back to dominating this series. San Francisco has a different starting QB than last time in Colin Kaepernick, but it is the visitors' defense that should spell the result. I like improved Rams at home to keep it inside the betting line, though.
Prediction: 49ers, 23-17
COLTS (7-4) at LIONS (4-7), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Overachieving Colts and underachieving Lions intersect in what Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford should turn into an entertaining shootout. Detroit has lost some tough close ones (including on Thanksgiving) and is due some luck, and Indy has proved distinctly better at home, with 16 turnovers in its five road games.
Prediction: Lions, 34-27
VIKINGS (6-5) at PACKERS (7-4), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Packers have won four in a row and nine of past 12 in this division series, and Aaron Rodgers should have Greg Jennings back to counter Adrian Peterson against a depleted Green Bay run defense. Can't see a second consecutive off game by Packers after last week's egg vs. Giants.
Prediction: Packers, 31-24
TEXANS (10-1) at TITANS (4-7), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Houston clinches playoff spot with a win. Book it. Texans dominated Titans 38-14 on Sept. 30 and should do so again. In a duel of top backs, like Arian Foster vs. Titans defense a lot more than Chris Johnson vs. Houston's. Texans also are 5-0 on road and should be well-rested after playing on Thanksgiving Day.
Prediction: Texans, 31-17
PANTHERS (3-8) at CHIEFS (1-10), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Chiefs are 0-6 at home and have lost eight in a row, which is partly why I give them an XXL-sized upset shot here. Panthers will arrive cocky, even though they haven't earned the right. Every dog has its day, and nobody is due like Kansas City.
Prediction: Chiefs, 20-17
BUCCANEERS (6-5) at BRONCOS (8-3), 4:05 p.m.
Outlook: Denver clinches division crown with a win. Broncos are on a six-game winning streak and Bucs are on a 4-1 roll. Peyton Manning's offense hit an uncharacteristic lull at Kansas City last week but should find its gear shift at home. But I like Josh Freeman, Doug Martin and that suddenly potent Tampa Bay offense to keep it under the bet line.
Prediction: Broncos, 27-23
BROWNS (3-8) at RAIDERS (3-8), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: This matchup stayed off the betting boards because of Browns QB Brandon Weeden's concussion, though it appears he'll play. Good timing, in that Oakland has surrendered a league-high 23 TD passes, six in the past two games. Cleveland has lost an abysmal 12 road games in a row, but every trend eventually must end. Right?
Prediction: Browns, 19-17
BENGALS (6-5) at CHARGERS (4-7), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: Andy Dalton is 9-0 on TDs/picks in Cincy's three-game winning streak, and San Diego has a banged-up secondary. But, you know how when you play certain lottery numbers you have to always play them because the one week you don't those numbers will finally hit? I'm that way picking the Chargers to win.
Prediction: Chargers, 27-24
STEELERS (6-5) at RAVENS (9-2), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: Baltimore clinches playoff spot with a win. Ben Roethlisberger will be sidelined again, plundering Pittsburgh's chances. Ravens have won three in a row in series, including 13-10 three weeks ago, and 16 in a row at home overall.
Prediction: Ravens, 21-14
EAGLES (3-8) at COWBOYS (5-6), 8:20 p.m.
Outlook: Philly has lost seven in a row, and rookie Nick Foles starts again at QB. Cowboys are a bit untrustworthy, and if Eagles have an ounce of pride left, they'll pour it into a credible showing in this division rivalry.
Prediction: Cowboys, 27-20
GIANTS (7-4) at REDSKINS (5-6), 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: Giants have won 10 of past 13 vs. Redskins, but Robert Griffin III changes the dynamic. Redskins thought they should have won Round 1 in October, but a late defensive lapse gave Giants a long TD pass with 1:13 left and a 27-23 win that felt like a gift. Now Washington is home with extra time to prepare and something to prove.
Prediction: Redskins, 28-27
-- Greg Cote, The Miami Herald; last week -- 8-8, season -- 113-62-1