PATRIOTS THIS WEEK

Bills (5-9) at Patriots (9-5), 1 p.m. (CBS)

Spread: Patriots by 13

Outlook: New England is 6-0 at home and has won 13 straight at Gillette. Tom Brady is 29-3 vs. Buffalo, including a 25-6 win in the first meeting this season. The Patriots have not lost three straight since 2002. New England captures its 10th straight division title with a win. Josh Gordon’s departure from the Patriots is big but ought not to matter much here.

Prediction: Patriots 38-13

GAME OF THE WEEK

Steelers (8-5-1) at Saints (12-2), 4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Spread: Saints by 5 1/2

Outlook: Ben Roethlisberger vs. Drew Brees alone gives this one GOTW cred. An airborne shootout looms. High stakes, too. The Saints clinch the No. 1 NFC seed with a win, and it’ll be big either way for the Steelers – with Saturday’s Ravens-Chargers result determining which way. If the Ravens lose, Pittsburgh can clinch division with a win. But if the Ravens win, the Steelers might need to win just to stay on playoff pace. It’s also a great matchup because New Orleans is decidedly better at home, while Pittsburgh is on a 10-2-1 run away from Heinz. My hunch is a big show by the Saints at home.

Prediction: Saints 31-23

OTHER GAMES

At Dolphins (7-7, -4) over Jaguars (4-10), 24-13: Example No. 438 of how little faith there is in Miami: The Dolphins are favored by a mere one point above standard home-field advantage over a colossally disappointing Jacksonville team that has lost nine of its past 10 games. Call this a little consolation gift for fans in the home finale of yet another ultimately unfulfilling Dolphins season.

At Browns (6-7-1, -10) over Bengals (6-8), 27-20: The Browns beat the Bengals 35-20 in Week 12 and the rematch finds Cleveland on a 4-1 run, while Cincinnati has dropped seven of its past nine. In a rivalry game like this, I expect the recently woeful Bengals will find a way to stay close.

At Cowboys (8-6, -7) over Buccaneers (5-9), 31-13: Dallas is 6-1 at home and locks up the NFC East with a win. Tampa is 1-6 on road, 1-11 all-time at Dallas, and out of the playoffs for an 11th straight season. I see a big bounceback home win by the Cowboys after last week’s aberrant shutout loss to Indy.

Vikings (7-6-1, -5) over At Lions (5-9), 28-13: The Minnesota defense crushed Matthew Stafford with 10 sacks (!) in the teams’ first meeting, and look for more of the same. The Vikings also are better now. The game means nothing to the Lions and everything to a Vikings squad sitting sixth in the scrum for six NFC playoff tickets.

 At Colts (8-6, -10) over Giants (5-9), 27-20: The Colts’ surge to playoff contention after a 1-5 start has been one of the NFL’s season neat little stories. And it isn’t just Andrew Luck’s big comeback – it’s that Indy has found a defense! Giants-plus-10 is a fair play, though.

Packers (5-8-1, -3) At Jets (4-10), 30-20: The Packers have lost 4 of 5 and are 0-7 away, facing their first 0-for-road season in, like, six decades. These would be reasons to like the home team if the home team were any good. Instead, I like Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams vs. the Jets’ secondary.

At Eagles (7-7, -2) over Texans (10-4), 20-17: Houston clinches the division with a win but Philly more desperately needs this game for its playoff hopes. One of toughest calls of week for me. The two defensive fronts could give Deshaun Watson and Nick Foles trouble, suggesting a low score. I make it a venue call.

Falcons (5-9, -3) over At Panthers (6-8), 27-24: Yes, Carolina has shut down Cam Newton and Taylor Heinicke will make his first NFL start. But even with Newton the Panthers have lost six straight and five of the past six vs. Atlanta. I’ll say heavy doses of Christian McCaffrey keep it close, but I like Matt Ryan vs. a mediocre Carolina pass defense.

Rams (11-3, -14) over At Cardinals (3-11), 24-13: The Rams, chasing a first-round bye, pounded Arizona 34-0 in Week 2, and the Cardinals slide into the rematch with a 1-6 home record. But: L.A. isn’t as dominant as it was earlier in season, Jared Goff has been really bad the past three games, and Todd Gurley is questionable to play. That makes Arizona a reasonable home ‘dog getting two TDs.

Bears (10-4, -4) over At 49ers (4-10), 23-16: Chicago risks a letdown after clinching the division last week, but still is chasing a first-round bye. The Niners have been decent at home. But four points isn’t a ton for the Bears to cover, and that mighty defense of theirs should make it rough for Nick Mullens.

At Seahawks (8-6, +2) over Chiefs (11-3), 31-28: Upset! Sunday night gets a big one. KC is still trying to nail down a first-round bye, while Seattle more urgently needs a win as it tries to earn a playoff ticket. The Chiefs are only 2-2 in the past four games, and the Seahawks have a great track record in prime time. That stadium, at night, will majorly challenge Patrick Mahomes.

At Raiders (3-11, +2) over Broncos (6-8), 21-20: Upset! This Monday nighter could be the Raiders’ final game at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum if the team can’t work out a deal with the city for ’19. That emotional lift could mean something. I worry about Von Miller and Bradley Chubb getting to Derek Carr, but I just have a gut feeling about this one.

Last week: 11-5 overall, 11-5 vs. spread

Overall: 154-68-2,128-89-7

By Greg Cote, Miami Herald


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