By Doug Halberstadt
Only two weeks remain in the NFL’s regular season. This is precisely the time of year when the better teams are supposed to start hitting their stride. Right now, I’d have to say the only team living up to that expectation is the Atlanta Falcons.
They have the best record in the NFC and have won their last eight in a row. Atlanta has not lost a game at the Georgia Dome this year. This week, they host the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. The Saints lost to the Ravens in Baltimore last week. These two teams faced one another in Week 3, and Atlanta beat the Saints 27-24 in New Orleans. I think the Falcons will stay on a roll and keep their win streak intact.
In the Thursday-night game, the Panthers are in Pittsburgh. Carolina has not won a road game this season. This week won’t be any different. The Steelers will win by at least 10 points.
If you have the NFL Network, or know someone who does, you get an extra Christmas gift. The Cowboys will take on the Cardinals in Arizona on Christmas night. Don’t be surprised if you see more than one Santa Claus at the game. Also don’t be surprised to see Dallas come away with the win.
The Lions have won two games in a row. This week, they get to spend their holiday in Miami. That’s a long way to go, only to find a lump of coal in their stockings. The Dolphins will win this one at home. St. Louis has a home game against NFC West division foes San Francisco. The Rams are atop the NFC West division with a 6-8 record, and they are 2-2 within the division. The 49ers are 5-9 overall and are 3-1 within the division. Both teams are 2-3 in their last five games. I’m taking St. Louis at home.
Kansas City hosts the Titans. The Chiefs are 9-5 and 4-1 in their last five games. The Titans are 6-8 and 1-4 in their last five. Go with the Chiefs. The Jaguars are at home against the Redskins. The Redskins have lost their last four in a row and have resorted to starting Rex Grossman at quarterback. Enough said, the Jags will prevail.
The Bears have a big game at home against the New York Jets. In what may turn out to be a must-win game, the Bears will have to step up and play like a playoff team to beat New York. I think they can do it. I’m taking the Bears at home. The Patriots have a road game in Buffalo. It should be cold and snowy. That seems to favor the Patriots. They’ll pick up another road win.
The Ravens won’t be home for Christmas; they have to travel to Cleveland. That should be enough to annoy them. They’ll take it out on their hosts. I’ll say the Ravens by a couple of touchdowns.
I’m not exactly sure what is up with the Colts this year. They are 8-6 and have to travel to Oakland to face the 7-7 Raiders. I thought Indy would have had at least 10 or more wins by this time of year. They’ll have to win their last two to get to the 10-win level. They should get the first of those two this week.
Denver is at home against Houston. Usually, Denver has a winning record at Mile High. This year, they don’t. They are 2-4 at home and 1-7 on the road. They’ve lost five in a row. I’m taking the Texans. San Diego will have to pick up their ninth win of the year on the road. That shouldn’t be any problem this week. They have the good fortune of meeting the lowly Bengals in Cincinnati. The Bengals will fall to 3-12, and the Chargers will improve to 9-6.
The Giants blew it big time last week against the Eagles. They let a 20-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter and ended up losing on the last play of the game on a punt return that went for a touchdown. This week, they visit Green Bay. The Giants will have a huge chip on their shoulders. The Packers won’t be able to knock it off. I like the G-Men to bounce back and pick up a road win in Wisconsin.
Tampa Bay hosts Seattle. The Buccaneers are 8-6. The Seahawks are just the opposite at 6-8. I like the Bucs at home. The Eagles are fresh off a huge come-from-behind win over New York. They’ll pick up their fourth win in a row this week when they host the Vikings.
Last week, I was 7-8 heading into the Monday-night game. I took the Bears over the Vikings.
All I want for Christmas is a record better than I’ve had the past couple of weeks. Come on, Santa, can you help me out? MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Dec. 22-28, 2010 issue