Thursday, April 17, 2014
BEARS (8-4) at VIKINGS (6-6), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Bears have won six in a row in this division rivalry, including 28-10 on Nov. 25. But Vikings have become a pretty solid home team (5-1), and a very hot Adrian Peterson is facing a Chicago run defense that hasn't been special lately. Minnesota will miss injured Percy Harvin, but not as much as Bears will miss Brian Urlacher.
Prediction: Vikings, 24-21
CHIEFS (2-10) at BROWNS (4-8), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Kansas City has been bad on the road, and the Browns have the run defense to limit Jamaal Charles and thus make it tough on Brady Quinn in his unballyhooed return to Cleveland. This is the first time the Browns have been favored all season, after three consecutive wins.
Prediction: Browns, 27-17
RAMS (5-6-1) at BILLS (5-7), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Here's a venue pick all the way. Rams are both a soft road team and a dome squad playing in wintry Buffalo, with temps in the 40s and maybe rain. The Rams' defense will test a damaged Buffalo offensive line, but C.J. Spiller and company will get it done.
Prediction: Bills, 19-17
FALCONS (11-1) at PANTHERS (3-9), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Carolina DE Greg Hardy said his team is better than Atlanta. Get that man a Breathalyzer! Falcons have won five in a row in the series, although they did need a last-second field goal for a 30-28 escape in late September. Atlanta has clinched a playoff berth but has a first-round bye in mind. Panthers' secondary is a bad match for Matt Ryan and all those weapons.
Prediction: Falcons, 27-20
COWBOYS (6-6) at BENGALS (7-5), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Here is a vital game in the playoff chase, with both teams just outside their conference's top six but well in the hunt. Both teams are hot, especially Cincy with four consecutive Ws, but I like Cowboys in a road upset on a pure hunch, taking the leap they won't self-destruct with turnovers. Tony Romo has been really good lately, and having RB DeMarco Murray back from injury is big.
Prediction: Cowboys, 24-23
TITANS (4-8) at COLTS (8-4), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Indy is 5-1 at home and has won 15 of past 19 in this series, including 19-13 in October. The Colts also have more to play for, jockeying for the postseason. I might also mention that Tennessee is awful on defense, allowing 30 points per game, and allowing a 101.7 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks.
Prediction: Colts, 28-21
JETS (5-7) at JAGUARS (2-10), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Mark Sanchez gets another shot for the Jets and is probably better off on the road, given the vitriol shouted at him at home last week. Especially on the road in Jacksonville, where the Jags are 1-5 and no homefield advantage is discernible. Maurice Jones-Drew is doubtful. So is Jacksonville's chance of winning.
Prediction: Jets, 20-17
CHARGERS (4-8) at STEELERS (7-5), 1 p.m.
Outlook: I'm not a slave to stats or trends, but dig this: San Diego is 0-14 all time at Pittsburgh! Game stayed off bet boards because of QB Ben Roethlisberger's status, but it's looking more and more like he'll play. The stinking, sinking Chargers have not beaten a team with a winning record. Why start now?
Prediction: Steelers, 24-16
EAGLES (3-9) at BUCCANEERS (6-6), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Tampa is alive in playoff chase but needs a run. Philly has lost eight in a row, and the only drama left is whether Coach Andy Reid will survive this mess of a season, and if Nick Foles-over-Mike Vick is permanent. Josh Freeman will stay hot at home vs. a defense allowing a horrific 142 passer rating over the past six games.
Prediction: Buccaneers, 24-20
RAVENS (9-3) at REDSKINS (6-6), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Redskins have climbed back onto the outer edge of the playoff hunt with three wins in a row. Robert Griffin III has been uber-hot, but I like the road dog here, especially if Terrell Suggs plays.
Prediction: Ravens, 27-24
DOLPHINS (5-7) at 49ERS (8-3-1), 4:05 p.m.
Outlook: The Niners are angry after a loss and present the stingiest defense in the league. I'm no genius, but this does not appear to be the recipe for Ryan Tannehill and a struggling offense to whip up a lot of points. The best hope for an upset is that young QB Colin Kaepernick makes Jim Harbaugh wish he never rolled the dice by quitting on safe-and-sound Alex Smith.
Prediction: 49ers, 23-14
SAINTS (5-7) at GIANTS (7-5), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: Betting line shrunk during the week, perhaps as investigating prospectors discovered that Drew Brees is 4-0 all time vs. Giants with 11 TDs vs. zero picks. I like the desperate, sliding Giants at home to stabilize their eroding playoff condition. But I also like Brees to keep it inside the bet number.
Prediction: Giants, 34-31
CARDINALS (4-8) at SEAHAWKS (7-5), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: John Skelton replaces Ryan Lindley at QB for Arizona, which helps a little, I guess, but Seattle's defense still should dominate. Cardinals have lost eight in a row, but the betting line is fat. Arizona has won past two over Seahawks, including 20-16 on Sept. 9, and visitors' defense is good enough to keep this close in what should be a low-scoring game.
Prediction: Seahawks, 19-16
LIONS (4-8) at PACKERS (8-4), 8:20 p.m.
Outlook: Here's another trend I can't ignore: Detroit has lost 20 games in a row at Lambeau Field. Nevertheless, this should be a good one, just like the first meeting in which Packers scored late to win 24-20. Matthew Stafford will get his yards, but Aaron Rodgers will get his yards plus the win.
Prediction: Packers, 31-27
TEXANS (11-1) at PATRIOTS (9-3), 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: The winner here will be the clear Super Bowl favorite moving forward. Both already have clinched a playoff spot, but each is seeking the No. 1 seed or at least a first-round bye. A Houston upset would not surprise, but I simply do not pick against New England at home in December, or on the Monday night stage, where they are on a 10-1 run with an average victory margin of 20 points.
Prediction: Patriots, 31-27
-- Greg Cote, Miami Herald; last week: 11-5, season: 124-67-1