By: David Dzienis
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
I wanted to say this was going to be my upset of the week, but without Julio Jones, the Atlanta offense has been downright horrible. Oddly enough, the Buccaneers will also be without a Jones as starting RB Ronald Jones is out. The falloff in RB talent isn’t much, if any, for this Tampa Bay squad as they have Leonard Fournette and LeSean “Shady” McCoy ready to roll. Atlanta is already out of the playoffs with a shot at a top 5 pick in the draft. Tampa Bay could technically lock in a playoff spot this week but would need a win and a Chicago-Minnesota tie.
Prediction: T.B. 35-Atl 20
Seattle Seahawks @ Washington Football Team
This is another game I wanted to call an upset. Again, injuries have derailed that prediction. With Alex Smith out and Antonio Gibson doubtful, I can’t see this offense doing anything to the resurgent Seattle defense. The fun of this game will be watching the electric Russell Wilson and seeing what he can cook up against this scary Washington defense. Washington leads their division but can’t clinch this week regardless. Seattle can guarantee at least a wild card spot with a win.
Prediction: Sea 33-Was 17
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
It is a testament to Bill Belicheck’s coaching prowess that he has this squad in the playoff race this late in the season. With no receivers and a RB for a QB, his masterful game plans are shining through. I think their season ends this week. A loss knocks them out of the playoff race. After not getting in the end zone last week and facing Tua Tagovailoa, who just went head-to-head with Mahomie and the Chiefs, it would be a tall task indeed for New England to pull the upset. This has nothing to do with me favoring left-handed QBs just because I was one when I was in the league…. the inter-city backyard league, which resembled a WWE Royal Rumble more than a football game more often than not, but I digress. The Dolphins can’t secure a playoff spot this week but will stay in the thick of things with a win. They currently hold the 7th seed in the AFC.
Prediction: N.E. 10-Mia 21
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts
While Deshaun Watson may be one of the best athletes in the league the rest of this Texans offense leaves much to be desired. Between injuries and terrible trades, this squad has been decimated. I just don’t see them being able to go toe-to-toe with the Indianapolis defense. Not to mention T.Y. Hilton has finally woken up and has a great history when facing the Texans. Jonathan Taylor also seems to be playing more to expectations in time for the playoff push. While the Texans are out of the playoff race the Colts are currently in the 6th spot in the AFC. They can’t secure anything this weekend and still have an outside shot at the division lead.
Prediction: Hou 13-Ind 24
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
Both of these squads have had an up-and-down kind of season this year. The Bears started the year hot before their defense started to not carry the offense anymore but are currently looking hot with Mitch Trubisky playing for a contract. Meanwhile Minnesota looks like a dominant squad one week and a basement team the next. They will need a fantastic game by Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and rookie phenom Justin Jefferson to stand a chance against Khalil Mack and this tough Chicago defense. This is my official upset of the week as the Bears coach Matt Nagy has gone 4-1 against the Vikings, including a 2-0 record in Minnesota. Both teams are still alive for the playoffs and won’t secure or be out regardless of outcome. They are both just outside the top 7 with the Vikings in 8th and the Bears holding the 9th spot.
Prediction: Chi 21-Min 17
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Baltimore Ravens
Despite the amazing James Robinson being one of my favorite players of the year, it won’t be enough for me to call this upset. The Jaguars looked better last week with Minshew back as the shot caller and should keep them in games as they had to start the year. The Ravens are coming off of one of the most entertaining games in history on Monday night against the Cleveland Browns. Baltimore boasts the league's best rushing attack and should find it easy to run against this Jacksonville defense, which has allowed the 3rd most rushing yards on the year. The Ravens are still in the playoff race sitting just outside a qualifying spot at 8th. They can’t secure or be kicked out this week.
Prediction: Jac 24-Baltimore 31
Detroit Lions @ Tennessee Titans
This game shouldn’t be close. With both sides of the ball being injured for Detroit the Derrick Henry train should run all over the Lions defense. Matthew Stafford hasn’t been ruled out yet, and the man is tough, but he’d need some help to do enough against the Tennessee defense to keep up with this potent Titans offense. The Lions are still in the race but on the outside looking in, in the 10th spot for the NFC. They will be eliminated with a loss and an Arizona win. The Titans control their own destiny as they currently lead their division and have a hold on the 4th seed in the AFC. They can’t clinch the division yet but can clinch a spot with a win and a Baltimore loss.
Prediction: Det 13- Ten 34
San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys
In a game between two teams that have less wins combined than the NFC leading Packers have alone, you’d expect it to be a game between two teams vying for draft position alone. Instead, both of these squads are still alive for the playoffs. Stemming from early losses, as well as the loss of QB Dak Prescott, the Cowboys can either sneak into the playoffs or get a top 5 pick in the draft. They will be eliminated with a loss or wins by Arizona and Washington. The 49ers play in one of the league's toughest divisions but will be eliminated with a loss and an Arizona win. Their season can mostly be attributed to a handful of injuries to key players. It’ll be a miracle for either of these teams to be playing January football this season.
Prediction: S.F. 24-Dal 21
New York Jets @Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are heating up and will have to be sure not to look past the winless Jets to keep ahold of their division lead. The Jets hold the advantage for the number one pick in the draft, but the team still insists they are trying to win a game this year. Sam Darnold will be looking to impress to earn a contract next year. The Rams have finally started relying on their rookie RB Cam Akers, who has had 20 or more carries 2 weeks in a row. This could be a blowout as the Jets have the league's worst offense in yards per game and the Rams have the best defense in yards allowed. The Rams can’t clinch their division yet but can clinch a playoff berth with a win.
Prediction: N.Y.J. 10- L.A.R. 27
Philadelphia Eagles @ Arizona Cardinals
The Eagles have suddenly shown life with rookie QB Jalen Hurts leading the offense. They took down the mighty Saints last week. What’s more impressive is that both Hurts and RB Miles Sanders both rushed for over 100 yards, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished all year by even one rusher for Philly. The Cardinals have returned to a playoff spot but are far from having it secured. They have been in a bit of an offensive draught since a minor injury to Kyler Murray a few weeks ago. He will have to return to his magical ways if the Cards are going to hold onto a playoff spot. They can’t secure a spot or be eliminated regardless this weekend. The Eagles can be eliminated with a loss and a Washington win.
Prediction: Phi 21- Ari 17
Kansas City Chiefs @ New Orleans Saints
It looks like the Saints may have been caught looking ahead last week with the Super Bowl champs next on the schedule. The Chiefs did look mortal last week against Miami. In a possible Super Bowl preview New Orleans gets back QB Drew Brees but lose Michael Thomas. I wouldn’t count them out however as they were without MT most of the time that Brees was healthy this year. Look for Alvin Kamara to be more involved with his number one shot caller returning. The Chiefs are still the number one offense in the league and will have a great matchup against the number two ranked defense. Marshon Lattimore will most likely shadow Tyreek Hill but can anyone really cover Travis Kelce. The Chiefs hold the AFC number one seed currently and can secure it with a win and losses by Pittsburgh and Buffalo (already didn’t happen). The Saints are tied with Green Bay for the NFC number one seed but lose the tiebreaker due to the Packers head-to-head win earlier this season. They can secure their own division with a win or a Tampa Bay loss.
Prediction: K.C. 34-N.O. 35
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