PATRIOTS THIS WEEK

Patriots (9-3) at Dolphins (6-6), 1 p.m. Sunday (CBS)

Spread: Patriots by 71/2

Outlook: New England can clinch the AFC East title with a win, but keep that champagne corked a bit longer, Patriots. Home teams are on an 11-1 run in the series, and the Dolphins have beaten the Patriots in four of the past five in Miami. The Superman Patriots also have tended to be Clark Kent on the road this year, 3-3 away from Foxborough with all three losses by double digits, while Miami is impressively taking care of business (5-1) at home. It makes me love the Dolphins getting 71/2 points and like them enough outright to pull the trigger.

Prediction: Dolphins, 27-23

GAME OF THE WEEK

Rams (11-1) at Bears (8-4), 8:20 p.m. Sunday (NBC)

Spread: Rams by 3

Outlook: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth are fist-bumping and dancing a jig over this one. A Super Bowl favorite that’s 5-1 on the road vs. a 5-1 home team that has something to prove and is getting QB Mitchell Trubisky back from injury. Two of the NFL’s great defensive forces in the Rams’ Aaron Donald and the Bears’ Khalil Mack. A great L.A. offense vs. a Chicago D capable of dominating. The Rams, already NFC West champs, can clinch a first-round bye with a win, but the expected return of Trubisky helps the Bears exploit a defense that hasn’t been anything special lately. Upset!

Prediction: Bears, 31-27

OTHER GAMES

• At Bills (4-8, -3 1/2) over Jets (3-9), 24-13: The Jets expect to have QB Sam Darnold back from three games out, a clear upgrade from Josh McCown, but still make this a venue call. New York has lost 10 of its past 11 road games, including 1-5 this year. And dual-threat Josh Allen can make Buffalo tough to handle.

At Browns (4-7-1, +2) over Panthers (6-6), 23-20: Upset! The once-purring Panthers have lost four in a row and are 1-5 on the road, while the Browns have won three of the past four as they return to Dawg Pound. Cleveland’s pass D is up to whatever Cam Newton is dealing.

At Packers (4-7-1, -5) over Falcons (4-8), 34-23: This Misery Bowl matches two of the league’s colossal disappointments, with the Pack playing its first game since Coach Mike McCarthy got abruptly fired and Joe Philbin took over. I don’t like the dome-team Falcons playing in 20 degrees, and see a big bounce-back game for Green Bay.

At Chiefs (10-2, -6 1/2) over Ravens (7-5), 27-17: Kansas City, 5-0 at home, clinches its playoff ticket with a win and should get it. The Ravens’ defense might keep it close and the Chiefs’ offense can’t help but suffer from the release of star RB Kareem Hunt over a domestic violence video. But I still see the Arrowhead gang as at least a TD better.

Saints (10-2, -8) over At Buccaneers (5-7), 34-30: Why’s the over/under a sky-scraping 56? How about a 48-40 Week 1 meeting, won by Tampa Bay despite Drew Brees’ huge game? The Bucs have won two straight behind Jameis Winston and an improved defense, and look good to cover a big spread. They won’t beat Brees, though, as the Saints clinch the division with a win or a Carolina loss.

Giants (4-8, -3 1/2) over At Washington (6-6), 20-17: Washington breaks the emergency glass and hauls Mark Sanchez (!) out of retirement but Colin Kaepernick still can’t find work. Do I have that right? Venue and rivalry make this a tough call. Take the hotter and healthier team.

At Texans (9-3, -4 1/2) over Colts (6-6), 31-16: Houston has won nine in a row (the next-best current streak is four), while Indy is 3-12 in its past 15 road games. A hot Deshaun Watson will take a blowtorch to the Colts’ secondary.

 At Chargers (9-3, -14) over Bengals (5-7), 45-6: The playoff-bound Chargers have won eight of their past nine and Philip Rivers is facing perhaps the NFL’s worst defense. Packing-it-in Cincy has Jeff Driskel at QB and no A.J. Green. Ugly, here we come.

Broncos (6-6, -4) over At 49ers (2-10), 23-13: Denver has won three in a row to climb into the AFC playoff picture, and brings a pass rush that will be a nightmare for erratic 49ers QB Nick Mullen, who’ll miss RB Matt Breida.

At Cowboys (7-5, -3 1/2) over Eagles (6-6), 24-20: A tasty rivalry renewal for the NFC East lead finds Dallas 5-1 at home and Philly back from the dead (sort of) with two wins in a row – and a big upset shot here. Eagles are strong in-division (on a 10-2 run) and can win if they avoid the turnovers that kill them, but the hot Cowboys at home are the safer play.

Steelers (7-4-1, -11) over At Raiders (2-10), 31-23: The Steelers are coming off an emotional 33-30 collapse-loss to the Chargers, and host the Patriots next. And quietly in between come the 2-10 Raiders. Time for Dave Wannstedt to hang lobster traps in the Pittsburgh locker room. The Steelers should shed their two-game losing streak but I like the improved-lately Raiders with points.

Lions (4-8, -3) over At Cardinals (3-9), 17-13: Feels like more of a pick-’em game. Arizona somehow won at Lambeau last week but I don’t see a repeat performance. Detroit’s coalescing defensive front should dominate a Cardinals O-line that’s a hot mess.

At Seahawks (7-5, -3) over Vikings (6-5-1), 24-20: Monday gets a quality NFC matchup of teams currently on a playoff pace, but not by a lot. Seattle is on a neat little three-game roll and has won four of the past five at home over the Vikings.

Last week: 11-5 overall, 10-5-1 vs. spread, .667

Season: 131-59-2, 109-76-7

By Greg Cote, Miami Herald