By Doug Halberstadt
Don’t look now, but the Detroit Lions are atop the NFC North division. That’s a direct result of the Packers’ loss to the Buffalo Bills last week. Both the Lions and the Packers have 10-4 records, but the Lions claim the top spot because of a 19-7 win over Green Bay in week three.
This week, the Lions are almost assured a win. They face the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Lions doubled up the Bears 34-17 on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. There’s nothing I’ve seen out of Chicago since then that makes me think they can beat the Lions. Look for Detroit to dominate and pick up win No. 11.
If the Packers are going to keep pace with the Lions, they will have to defeat the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. You know how I said the Lions were almost assured a win? The same thing is true for the Packers, only more of it. The only way the Bucs wins this game is if the Packers’ plane goes too far south and ends up in Miami or Jacksonville instead of Tampa Bay. This should set up a Lions vs. Packers Week 17 showdown for the NFC North division title.
Speaking of Jacksonville, they have a home game against the Tennessee Titans. Both teams are a pitiful 2-12. Only because I don’t think it will end in a 0-0 tie, I’m going with the home team to win.
The Washington Redskins are at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. Earlier this season, the Eagles edged the Redskins 37-34 in Philly. I expect the Eagles to win again, but it won’t be as close as their previous meeting. I’m saying the Eagles by at least 10.
In the 12 remaining games this week, I only have three home teams winning. I like the Dolphins over the Vikings in Miami. I have New Orleans getting revenge against the Falcons in the Superdome. The Saints dropped the opening game of the season to Atlanta 37-34. The only other home team I see winning is the Pittsburgh Steelers. They welcome the Kansas City Chiefs to town.
San Diego makes the trip up the coast to take on the San Francisco 49ers. The Chargers are still hoping to make the postseason. The 49ers have been eliminated from the playoffs. The Chargers will win.
Johnny “Football” Manziel and his Cleveland Browns were shut out 30-0 in his NFL starting debut last week by the Cincinnati Bengals. He faces another “big cat” team this week, the Carolina Panthers. I look for him to rebound and get his first win as a pro.
The Baltimore Ravens are trying to get their 10th win of the year. They’ll have to knock off the Texans in Houston to get to the magic number. The Texans are down to their third-string quarterback, and he might even be banged up. Unless the Texans’ defensive superstar J.J. Watt can throw touchdown passes, I don’t see any way possible the Texans get this win.
The Patriots roll into New York to meet the Jets for the second time this season. New England won the first meeting 27-25 back in October. The Pats will sweep the Jets this season.
They’re 5-9 and will be watching the playoffs at home. I’m referring to the New York Giants. This week, they will look for their third-straight win. To get it, they’ll have to get past the St. Louis Rams. With only pride at stake, I like the way Eli Manning has led his team in the last couple of games. I’m taking the Giants over the Rams.
The best game of the week features the Indianapolis Colts in Dallas to take on the Cowboys. Both teams are 10-4. For some inexplicable reason, the Cowboys are a sub-.500 team at home (3-4) and a perfect 7-0 on the road. If this one were being played in Indy, I’d take the Cowboys. Since it’s in Dallas, I’m going to go with the Colts.
After upsetting the Packers last week, the Buffalo Bills have a much less formidable opponent this week. They go to Oakland to face the Raiders. I think the momentum gained from the game against Green Bay will carry them to an easy win over Oakland.
Based on their gaudy records, the Sunday night game is a marquee match-up. The 11-3 Arizona Cardinals are at home against the 10-4 Seattle Seahawks. The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks are starting to get into full postseason form — they’ve won their last four games. Both teams are playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Cardinals are a perfect 7-0 at home this year. I see that streak coming to an end. I look for both teams to have 11-4 records when this game is over.
The Monday night game is in Cincinnati. The Broncos bring in their 11-3 record and will be looking for their fifth win in a row. The Bengals didn’t get much of a challenge last week against the Browns. This week will be the polar opposite. I look for Peyton Manning to surgically dissect the Bengals’ defense. The Broncos will get win No. 12.
Last week was my best week of the season so far. I was 13-2 heading into the Monday night game. I took the Saints over the Bears.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Dec. 17-23, 2014, issue