Bills (8-6) at Patriots (11-3), 1 p.m. Sunday (FOX)

Outlook: The Patriots are sitting pretty but are still trying to secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Buffalo holds the last AFC playoff spot as it tries to end a 17-year postseason drought but cannot clinch even with a win over the Patriots. The Bills have never won in Foxborough when Tom Brady has played a full game.

Spread: Patriots -121/2

Prediction: Patriots, 30-20



Falcons (9-5) at Saints (10-4), 1 p.m. (FOX)

Outlook: The winner in this NFC South rivalry clinches a playoff spot and remains alive for the division crown. The loser won’t be out of it, although a loss by the Falcons would be an especially major blow. New Orleans has been a strong home team (6-1) and should take care of business. The Saints are the first team in 42 years to have two running backs (Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara) make the Pro Bowl, but I like Drew Brees for a big game. He was the goat in a 20-17 loss in Atlanta on Dec. 7 with a late interception, and I think he will make amends with a performance big enough to make a league champion of some of his fantasy owners.

Spread: Saints -51/2

Prediction: Saints, 38-24


Rams (10-4) at Titans (8-6), 1 p.m. (FOX)


Outlook: The Rams clinch the NFC West with a win or a Seattle loss, and Los Angeles is 6-1 on the road this year. The Titans’ playoff standing is more precarious – they need a win more urgently, and they’re 5-1 at home. Tennessee must win out to assure itself a postseason ticket without relying on other results, and I see a big bounce-back performance at home following consecutive dispiriting road losses to the Cardinals and Niners.

Spread: Rams -61/2

Prediction: Titans, 27-24


At Chiefs (8-6, -101/2) over Dolphins (6-8), 34-16: Miami has not been great traveling this season (2-5 away) and the Chiefs have been stout at Arrowhead (5-2), and there are other reasons to clearly favor Kansas City. Alex Smith has a ton of dangerous threats, led by RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce, and it would not surprise me to see the Dolphins’ defense overwhelmed.

 At Bears (4-10, -61/2) over Browns (0-14), 20-17: Chicago fans should not have to pay but rather be paid to attend this game. It’s rookie QBs Mitch Trubisky vs. DeShone Kizer as the Browns hurtle toward only the second 0-16 season in NFL history. But I like Cleveland to cover against a bad opponent.


 Lions (8-6, -41/2) over At Bengals (5-9), 24-16: Detroit has been stout on the road (5-2) and remains in the playoff hunt, although needing much help. All you need know about Cincinnati’s year is that Coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals have agreed to part ways after their season is put out of its misery.

 Chargers (7-7, -61/2) over At Jets (5-9), 23-20: The Chargers are alive but must win here and enjoy additional charity from other results. I like the Jets as a home dog to cover, at least. Bryce Petty hasn’t shown enough to indicate he will outscore Philip Rivers, but the Jets have been stout at home.

 At Washington (6-8, -3) over Broncos (5-9), 27-13: This could be Kirk Cousins’ last home game for Washington, with Denver a possible destination. Make this a pure venue pick. Denver (1-6 on road) travels about as well as a suitcase full of raw chicken left in the trunk of a car.

 At Panthers (10-4, -10) over Buccaneers (4-10), 37-20: The Panthers are in good shape but need a win to clinch a playoff spot. The Bucs are 1-6 on the road and not playing for anything. Carolina is dealing with the controversy over owner Jerry Richardson and the suspension of LB Thomas Davis, but on the field the Panthers are purring.

 Jaguars (10-4, -4) over At 49ers (4-10), 24-13: The Jaguars have earned their first playoff ticket since 2007 and doesn’t have a lot at stake here, making them ripe for an upset – and the 49ers, since Jimmy Garoppolo’s deployment, are capable of it. But Garoppolo faces his first really tough test against a superb defense.

 At Cowboys (8-6, -5) over Seahawks (8-6), 27-23: The loser of this game will be in dire straits in the NFL playoff race. This is not the Seattle of past years, its defense turned mortal, while Dallas QB Dak Prescott gets back his security blanket in Ezekiel Elliott, who’s finally off his six-game suspension. Still, a Seattle bounce-back win, after last week’s embarrassment, would not surprise.


 At Cardinals (6-8, -31/2) over Giants (2-12), 19-13: This game feels like a tossup that we will swing to the Cardinals as a venue pick. Four of Arizona’s wins have come in the desert, and the Giants, playing through a rare in-season coaching change, are 1-6 on the road. Arizona hopes having QB Drew Stanton back will goose a struggling defense, but the Cardinals’ defense is playing great.

 Steelers (11-3, -81/2) over At Texans (4-10), 35-14: The first of two Christmas Day games finds the Steelers already locked into the playoffs but still trying to tie down a first-round bye, and a nifty 6-1 away from home. Pittsburgh is missing Antonio Brown to a calf injury in what could be a letdown game after last week’s loss to the Patriots, but even on autopilot, the Steelers are decisively better than Houston.

At Eagles (12-2, -9) over Raiders (6-8), 30-20: The Eagles can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win (or a Vikings loss), while Oakland is in a leaking boat, barely alive. Philly is really good, even with capable Nick Foles filling in for injured QB Carson Wentz, and should roll, although, beware: A Minnesota loss Sunday might mean the Eagles will rest some starters.

Last week: 13-3 overall, 6-7-3 vs. spread

Season: 135-89, 93-116-15

– Greg Cote, Miami Herald

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