By Doug Halberstadt
For me, it’s hard to believe the final week of the NFL regular season has finally arrived. For some teams, there is a lot at stake. For other teams, like the Chicago Bears, they’re just happy it’s finally over.
Chicago suffered their fourth loss to the Green Bay Packers in the 2011 calendar year last Sunday night, Dec. 25. Green Bay defeated them during the final game of last season Jan. 2, and then again a couple of weeks later in the NFC Championship game, and twice during the regular season this year. The Bears can only hope that 2012 will be better.
But before we jump ahead to next season, the Bears still have one more game left on their 2011 schedule — at the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams have been a huge disappointment to their respective fans. All either team has left to play for is pride. I think the Bears will win and sweep the Vikings this year.
The Packers will be looking to improve to 15-1 when they host the Detroit Lions. I look for them to win and continue the Packers express steam rolling toward the playoffs.
I like the Falcons in their home nest over the visiting and stumbling Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have lost nine in a row, and will make it 10 in a row this week. The Saints are at home against the Panthers and should finish their regular season with a win. San Francisco visits St. Louis and shouldn’t have any troubles improving to 13-3, as they get ready for the postseason.
In a battle of the titans, it’s the Cowboys versus the Giants in New York. The G-Men came away with a 3-point win when these two teams squared off in their first meeting back in November. I predict another closely-fought game with the same result. The Giants will prevail.
Two teams that will be watching the playoffs at home are the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts. They finish up the season against one another in Jacksonville. The Colts have won their last two, while the Jaguars have dropped two in a row. I think that tide will turn, and the Colts will head back to the loss column, where they’ve called home for most of this year.
The Texans are another team that has lost their last two games. This week, they host the Tennessee Titans. Houston is 4-1 in the AFC South and has that division clinched. I look for them to knock off the Titans, as they get ready for the playoffs.
Currently, the hottest team in the league is the New England Patriots. They’ve won seven in a row and finish the year at home against the Buffalo Bills. I say the Pats make it eight in a row and send the Bills packing with a loss.
Another team that is on a bit of a streak is the Philadelphia Eagles. They’ve won their last three games and host the Redskins this week. I’m putting Philly down for another win.
The Jets’ season has kind of crash-landed. They’ve lost their last two and have come up short of expectations. They finish up the season in Miami. The Dolphins are another team that has failed to live up to the pre-season hype that surrounded them. I’ll take the Jets to end the year on a high note.
Baltimore is in Cincinnati to square off with the Bengals. The Ravens haven’t lost a game against a division foe all year (5-0). I don’t think they’ll start now. They will make it a perfect 6-0 in the AFC North and improve to 12-4 overall.
The Steelers will be looking to equal that 12-4 record as well. To get there, they’ll have to knock off the Browns in Cleveland. The Browns haven’t won a division game all year (0-5). They won’t start now, either. Pittsburgh should end up with the same record as Baltimore, and both teams will make the playoffs.
Out in the AFC West, the Broncos host the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos have been the elevator team of the year. One week they’re up, the next week they’re down. I’m saying they’ll finish with a win, and we’ll get to hear at least another week of Tim Tebow talk.
The Cardinals finish the year at home against the Seahawks. Both teams are 7-8 heading into this game. Both teams have a pretty equal chance at finishing with a win, but I’m taking the Cardinals, simply because they are at home.
Last, but not least, it’s the Chargers in Oakland. The Raiders are fighting for a spot in the postseason; the Chargers won’t be able to stop them from making it. I look for Oakland to use this game to make a statement and extend their season at least one more game.
There you have it, my final picks for the 2011 NFL regular season. Last week, I was 10-5 with only the Monday night game left undecided at press time. I took the Saints over the Falcons. So far for the season, I’m 155-84. I’d like to reach the 170-win mark. That would be an average of 10 wins per week over the entire season. That means I need to go 14-2 or 15-1 during this final week. Wish me luck!
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Dec. 28, 2011-Jan. 3, 2012, issue