By Doug Halberstadt
You are reading it here first. I’m predicting the Packers will finish the season with a perfect 16-0 record. I’m also predicting that if Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte is out for the rest of the year, the Chicago Bears may only win one more game.
Green Bay managed to get by the toughest game left on their schedule last Sunday, Dec. 4. They won 38-35 with a last-second field goal over the New York Giants. The rest of their schedule should be a cakewalk. This week, they will improve to 13-0 when they take on the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau. After that, they have games left with the Chiefs, the Bears and the Lions. To me, that looks like a 16-0 regular season.
The Bears have to go on the road to face one of the hottest teams in the league right now, the Denver Broncos. Quarterback Tim Tebow has led the Broncos to five-straight wins. The Bears have been headed in the opposite direction with Caleb Hanie replacing the injured Jay Cutler. Chicago has dropped their last two in a row. As much as it pains me to say it, I think the Bears are done for the year. I don’t see them winning this week. I’m going with the hot-handed Tebow at Mile High.
Tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 8), the Steelers (9-3) have a home game against AFC North division opponent Cleveland (4-8). The Steelers need this game to keep pace within the division with Baltimore (9-3). This is the time of year when the better teams come alive, and the lesser teams start to shrivel up and go away. Pittsburgh will prevail, and the Browns will go away.
The Ravens are the other team battling to stay atop that AFC North Division. This week, they are almost guaranteed a win. They have the good fortune of hosting the winless Indianapolis Colts (0-12). The Ravens will improve to 10-3 and keep the heat on Pittsburgh.
In the NFC South, the Falcons (7-5) are on the road in Carolina. The Panthers (4-8) are at the bottom of that division, and the Falcons are in second, right behind the Saints. Atlanta is still hoping to make the postseason. They will need this win against the Panthers to keep that hope alive. I think they’ll do it and improve to 8-5, and drop Carolina down to 4-9.
Another team that has shriveled up and climbed deep into a hole is the Minnesota Vikings (2-10). I look for them to add some more wrinkles this week. They face the Lions in Detroit. Like the Falcons, the Lions are playing for their postseason lives. That alone should be enough motivation to knock off the hopeless Vikings. I like the Lions at home.
The Jaguars (3-8 at press time) have a home game against the Buccaneers (4-8). This is my “Who cares?” game of the week. I think the only people this game could possibly matter to have oranges on their license plates. Because I have to pick someone, I’ll take the Jags at home.
Another game being played in the Sunshine State features the Dolphins (4-8) at home against the Eagles (4-8). The Eagles may be the biggest disappointment in the NFL this season. I think they will continue to disappoint this week. I look for Miami to come up with a home win.
Further up the East Coast, the Redskins (4-8) are at home against the Patriots (9-3). This should be a mismatch in favor of New England. I think they’ll win, but not by as much as many might imagine. I say New England by 7.
Another team that is on a roll is the New Orleans Saints (9-3). They have won four straight, and will be looking for their fifth when they make the short trip north to Tennessee. The Titans (7-5) have won two in a row. I look for that short win streak to come to a halt this week. New Orleans will make it to double digits in the win column, and the Titans will fall to 7-6.
The Jets (7-5) have also won their last two games. This week, they will be looking to make it three straight when Kansas City comes calling. The Chiefs (5-7) didn’t look good at all in their win over Chicago last week. It was a classic “ugly win.” This week, they won’t be as fortunate. I look for the Jets to soar.
The Texans (9-3) are another team on a hot streak. They’ve won their last six. If they plan on making it seven in a row, they will have to do it on the road. They are in Cincinnati to face the Bengals (7-5). I look for the Texans to come out blazing. Mark them down for a “W.”
San Francisco (10-2) is second only to the Packers in victories this season. They have clinched the NFC West. This week, they are on the road to face division opponent the Arizona Cardinals (5-7). With little left to prove within the division, some might think the 49ers will start to “rest” some of their key starters. Some coaches have been accused of doing this in an effort to reduce the risk of injury to those guys prior to the playoffs. I don’t see Head Coach Jim Harbaugh giving anything less than 100 percent. The 49ers will continue their winning ways and improve to 11-2.
The San Diego Chargers (4-7 at press time) are at home against the Buffalo Bills (5-7). This might normally be my toss-a-coin-and-pick-the-winner game. But, since the Bills have lost their last five in a row, I’m giving the nod to the home team Chargers and leaving the coin in my pocket.
Just when I thought the Cowboys were for real, they dropped their last game to the Cardinals. They are still 7-5 and atop the NFC East. Hot on their heels are the New York Giants (6-6). The two rivals go head to head this week in the “Big D.” That should be the difference-maker in this game. The Cowboys are 5-1 at home, and the Giants are only 3-3 on the road. I’m still not sure how real they are, but I’m going with the Cowboys in what should be the best game of the week.
Next Monday night (Dec. 12), the St. Louis Rams (2-10) will be in Seattle to try to out duel the Seahawks (5-7). The Seahawks usually play fairly well at home in nationally televised games. The Rams have only one win on the road this year. Last week, they were shut out 26-0 in San Francisco. Could they possibly go two weeks in a row without scoring a point? I think it just might be a possibility. I’m predicting the Seahawks to hold them scoreless and win by 21.
Because of illness, our host for “Fearless NFL Picks,” Doug McDuff, was unavailable last week. Tune in this Friday morning at 7:35 to NTA 100.5 to get caught up on who won this week and where everyone stands heading into the weekend. I know I was 10-5 with only the Monday night game left to be determined at press time. For the record, I took the Chargers over the Jaguars in that game.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Dec. 7-13, 2011, issue