PATRIOTS THIS WEEK

Patriots (10-3) at Bengals (1-12),
1 p.m. (CBS)

Spread: Patriots by 10

Outlook: The Patriots and struggling quarterback Tom Brady have lost two in a row, but clinch a berth in the playoffs with a win. Brady needs three touchdown passes to tie Peyton Manning’s career record of 539, a tall task these days for Teetering Tom. It’s the defense to the rescue again for Pats.

Prediction: Patriots, 24-16

GAME OF THE WEEK

Bills (9-4) at Steelers (8-5),
8:15 p.m. (NBC)

Spread: Steelers by 1 1/2

Outlook: A Sunday prime-time duel between likely AFC playoff teams in an expected defensive slugfest? Nice. Buffalo would clinch its second playoff berth since 1999 with a win. Pittsburgh expects to have receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner back. Buffalo has beaten only one team with winning record, and I see the Steelers’ defense, at home, showing up strong.

Prediction: Steelers, 19-17

UPSET OF THE WEEK

Buccaneers (6-7) at Lions (3-9-1), 1 p.m.

Spread: Buccaneers by 3 1/2

Outlook: The Lions have dropped six in a row, but played so many close games they’re overdue to win one. And here comes mistake machine Jameis Winston (23 picks) who will likely be missing WR Mike Evans. My hunch is that the Lions parlay turnovers into home-dog W.

Prediction: Lions 23-21

OTHER GAMES

At Giants (2-11, -3 1/2) over Dolphins (3-10), 27-24: Eli Manning’s first home start since Week 2 will likely be the next to last of his long Giants career. A Miami upset would not surprise, but Ryan Fitzpatrick will be further depleted if DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson both are out with concussions as expected.

At Packers (10-3, -5) over Bears (7-6), 27-21: The 200th all-time meeting finds the Bears fighting for a wild card and the Pack clinching a playoff berth with a win and a Rams loss. The Packers have topped the Bears in nine of past 11 Lambeau meetings and should again.

At Titans (8-5, -3) over Texans (8-5), 31-23: The hot Titans have won four straight, led by Derrick Henry’s 599 rushing yards in that span and is 6-1 under Ryan Tannehill. Where was that guy in Miami!?

At Chiefs (9-4, -10) over Broncos (5-8), 24-17: Denver has won two in a row behind rookie QB Drew Lock, but he faces his toughest test with an improving Chiefs defense. A sore hand isn’t stopping Patrick Mahomes, who will pilot Chiefs’ ninth straight win in rivalry.

Eagles (6-7, -4 1/2) over At Washington (3-10), 23-16: Washington has been credible the the past few weeks, but the Eagles have won five in a row in the series by a combined 67 points, and Washington has dropped seven straight in the division.

Seahawks (10-3, -6) over At Panthers (5-8), 34-17: Seattle is in the playoffs with a win if the Rams lose.  The Seahawks have beaten Carolina in seven of the past nine meetings, and Carolina enters in a five-game tailspin.

At Raiders (6-7, -61/2) over Jaguars (4-9), 35-13: Oakland’s final home game ever before next year’s move to Vegas means something. I know it does to Jon Gruden. His team has been awful the past few weeks but will rise up to put on big show against a reeling Jags squad that has packed it in.

Browns (6-7, -2) over At Cardinals (3-9-1), 27-24: It’s Baker Mayfield vs. Kyler Murray in duel of past two Heisman winners and No. 1 overall picks. Which concludes the interesting portion of this matchup. The Browns are bad on road, but Arizona is on 2-12-1 skid at home. Somebody’s gotta win … right?

At Chargers (5-8, +21/2) over Vikings (9-4), 24-20: The Chargers are well positioned as home dogs in a spoiler role. Minnesota is great at home but far less (3-4) on road, and the Chargers are on a 7-3 run straight up as underdogs.

At Cowboys (6-7, +1) over Rams (8-5), 27-23: Desperation is an unreliable motivation, and Jerry Jones’ World has been no safe haven, with the Cowboys only 3-3 at home. But Dallas is much better than it has shown, and overdue a statement performance.

At 49ers (11-2, -111/2) over Falcons (4-9), 27-19: San Fran clinches a playoffs berth with a win or a loss by the Rams, but also faces a letdown after that epic 48-46 win in New Orleans. Matt Ryan’s Falcons have come around since that 1-7 start and should keep it inside the bet line.

At Saints (10-3, -8) over Colts (6-7), 34-16: A rematch of 2009-season Super Bowl, the Saints already have clinched the division but vie for the top seed and a bye. Drew Brees needs two TD passes to tie and three to surpass Peyton Manning’s record of 539. Jacoby Brissett and Indy have struggled since 5-2 start and seem to not have much left.

Last week: 10-6 overall, 5-9-2 vs. spread

Overall: 139-68-1, 107-97-2

– Greg Cote, Miami Herald

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