By Doug Halberstadt
As a die-hard, lifelong Chicago Bears fan, what I am about to do is totally against my football religious beliefs. As much as this pains me, I’m predicting the Packers will come into Soldier Field this Sunday, Dec. 16, and defeat the Bears.
Fellow Chicago fans, please forgive me. But as you well know, our team is suffering. We’re missing key players on defense, our offense is still operating without a cohesive offensive line, and our starting tight end could easily double as the “invisible man.” Even our special teams aren’t what they used to be. We are a mess!
Even though Green Bay is suffering from some of the same issues as the Bears on defense, their offense is head and shoulders better than Chicago’s. That’s the reason I see the Packers beating the Bears for the second time this season and clinching the division title.
The Philadelphia Eagles are playing at home tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 13) against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Eagles will be trying to make it two wins in a row. The Bengals will be trying to avoid losing two in a row. I think the Eagles will find a way to win in front of their fans.
Two division leaders will face one another when the New York Giants visit the Atlanta Falcons. The Giants need the win to stay atop the NFC East. The Falcons have already clinched the NFC South. I’m taking New York, as they are the ones who still have something to play for.
In the AFC, another pair of division leaders will meet up in Baltimore. The AFC West leading Broncos will try for their ninth win in a row. The Ravens will try to maintain their lead in the AFC North and stop their two-game losing streak. I’m riding the hot hand of Peyton Manning and sticking with the Broncos.
The Washington Redskins are riding the hot hand and legs of rookie quarterback sensation Robert Griffin III. He’s led his team to four straight wins. They’ll be looking to stay hot this week when they travel to the dog pound in Cleveland. The Browns have won their last three in a row. I think the Browns’ streak will come to a close and the Redskins will make it five straight and improve RGIII’s shot at earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
The Indianapolis Colts are another one of the hot teams in the league. They also have a talented rookie quarterback in Andrew Luck. They’ve improved to 9-4 and are up against the Houston Texans this week. The Colts only need one more win in their final three games to make the playoffs. I don’t see them getting that win this week. I’m taking the Texans.
In the battle of Florida, the Jacksonville Jaguars travel south to take on the Dolphins in Miami. Both teams have lost their last two games. The Dolphins will get back in the win column this week and drop the Jags to 2-12.
In the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have both lost three straight and have no chance at catching the Falcons. They will face one another in New Orleans. I like the Saints, based on their home-field advantage.
Minnesota is on the road to face the St. Louis Rams. Both teams are coming off wins. Minnesota will be trying to make it two straight, and the Rams will be looking for their fourth in a row. I’m taking the Vikings.
The Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals have identical 4-9 records. The main difference between the two teams is Arizona began the season with four wins and then dropped their next nine in a row. The Lions should be the next team to beat them. I see Detroit improving to 5-9 and handing the Cardinals their 10th loss in a row.
The Seattle Seahawks are in Buffalo to take on the Bills. Last week, the Seahawks trounced the Cardinals 58-0. The Bills lost to St. Louis by 3 points. I don’t think Seattle will win by the same margin as last week, but I do think they’ll beat the Bills by more than 3. I’m taking the Seahawks on the road.
Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers handed the Falcons only their second loss of the season last week. This week, Newton will lead his Panthers out to the West Coast to face the San Diego Chargers. Phillip Rivers led his team to a win over the Steelers last week. Both quarterbacks will need to try to repeat their performance if they are going to come away with another win this week. I’m giving the edge to Newton.
The Dallas Cowboys are at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams are 7-6. This one could go either way, but I’m taking Dallas at home.
What used to be a premier matchup in the AFC West has now been reduced to a battle of the cellar dwellers within that division. The Oakland Raiders (3-10) will be trying to avoid their seventh straight loss when they host the lowly Kansas City Chiefs (2-11). I’m not sure either team can win this one, but since someone must, I’ll take the Raiders.
The Sunday night game features the New England Patriots at home against the San Francisco 49ers. Both teams lead their respective divisions. This is undoubtedly the best game of the week. I think it’ll be a very close game. I’m giving the edge to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
The Monday night game has the New York Jets flying to Tennessee to take on the Titans. The Jets have won two in a row, and the Titans have dropped their last three. I’ll take the Jets.
Last week, I finished up on Sunday night with an 11-4 record. I took the Patriots over the Texans in the Monday night game.
Once again, I apologize for taking Green Bay over Chicago this week. I sincerely hope I’m wrong on that one!
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Dec. 12-18, 2012, issue