Miami Dolphins vs Buffalo Bills – After losing at home last week versus the 49ers; their fifth loss in the last six contest I might add, it now appears their great five win and one loss start to the season was nothing more than an elusion. Although they trail the second place Patriots and Dolphins by just one game, based on their play in the month of November, it might as well be ten games back. The Dolphins started slowly, but with five win in the last six outing they are certainly heading in a different direction then their long time divisional rivals. Injuries to QB Trent Edwards (groin) and three starters in the secondary have devastated this football team. All the sign point to a Dolphins victory, but not so fast everyone; the Dolphins for many years have struggled playing in the start of the winter solstice in the Northeast. The race in the AFC East is going to get just a little tighter come Sunday evening.
Bills 21 – Dolphins 17
Kansas City Chiefs vs Denver Broncos – Neither club is playing particularly well although the Broncos hold a three game lead in the loss column over the Chargers with just four games remaining in the regular season. When the Broncos are right offensively their passing attack is lethal, but when clubs have been able to turn them into a one dimensional unit, they have really struggled. Defensively, the Broncos are to say the least shaky, but although the Chiefs were victorious in their first meeting, I'm not looking any real surprises in the Mile High City. The Chiefs, who are certain to make numerous changes on and off the field in the off season are coming off a victory on the road in Oakland (the sixth straight time they have accomplished that feat), are not likely to make it two straight.
Broncos 34 – Chiefs 21
New York Jets vs San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers pulled off a very big upset victory up in the frigid Northeast versus the Bills last week and would like nothing better then to make it two in a row versus AFC East opponents. The Jets on the other hands played poorly on both sides of the ball in dropping a lopsided 34 to 17 contest to the Broncos. I'm not a big Jets fan, but believe that with just a one game lead over the Patriots, this one is far too important to take for granted. Defensively the Jets were unable to stop converted fullback Peyton Hillis, who picked up 129 yards in last weeks game, and with David Harris questionable with a groin injury and Frank Gore in high gear, there is obvious concern out on Long Island. With two victories in the last three games, I'm certain the 49ers are feeling pretty good about themselves, but it's nut cutting time in the season and even at home, I don't like their chances of making it three for the last four.
Jets 24 – 49ers 14
New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks – The Patriots ran up against a Steelers club that was simply far more physical up front on both sides of the football and on special teams. They get a breather this week out on the left coast versus a poor Seahawks squad, but make no mistake about it; the Patriots have been exposed along the offensive front and at the defensive corner position. At seven and five it's going to be very tough for the Patriots to advance to the playoff round but the next two games (Seahawks and Raiders) should at the very least build their confidence for the stretch drive.
Patriots 28 – Seahawks 17
St. Louis Rams vs Arizona Cardinals – The Rams can't run the football, protect the passer, stop the run, have not played well on special teams and have not played well in the secondary. The Cardinals are clearly the best team in the NFC West division, but in reality they haven't shown much in the way of playing consistency. I expect them to clinch their first NFC West title for the first time in about a zillion years, but unless they can improve their play on the road, their playoff run could be over rather quickly.
Cardinals 33 – Rams 20
Dallas Cowboys vs Pittsburgh Steelers – The visiting Cowboys journey to Pittsburgh to play the first of the four most important games of the 2008 season. Two or more loses in these games would likely finish them for the season. With three wins in a row since the bye, the club has momentum on their side, but defeating the Giants, Eagles, Steelers and surging Ravens might be considerably tougher then their previous wins over the slumping Redskins, 49ers and Seahawks. The Steelers got down and dirty last week against the Patriots, but without a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, and defensive end Aaron Smith, this club could in some trouble against a Cowboys squad who literally have their backs to the wall. It should be a classic battle, but I like the Cowboys by a whisker.
Cowboys 24 – Steelers 23
Washington Redskins vs Baltimore Ravens – This one's for mid-Atlantic bragging rights and should be a blood bath. Offensively the Redskins have been virtually inept in the second half of the season, while the surprising Ravens have been as good as there is in the league over the same period. The Redskins have been really banged up on both sides of the ball in recent weeks and one of their key to victory injury is how effective running back Clinton Portis will be on Sunday evening. After starting the season off with a bang, quarterback Jason Campbell appears to have lost some confidence in his ability to make a play down the field. I've really been impressed with the play of quarterback Joe Flacco and believe he and the always intimidating defensive unit will be the difference in this one.
Ravens 27 – Redskins 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Carolina Panthers – This Monday night battle might ultimately be the best match up of the season. I didn't expect either club to be in playoff contention at this stage, let alone tied at nine and three and battling for the NFC South division. For the cardiac kids from Carolina, I've been extremely impressed with the play of come-backing veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme, the red-zone running of third year back DeAngelo Williams and the overall play of wide receiver Steven Smith. Defensively they have had their ups and downs, but over the last four to six games, defensive end Julius Peppers has been as good as there has been within the league.When you talk about the Buccaneers, it's all about eliminating turnovers on the offensive side of the ball and playing defense like hell. They create turnovers and the controlled offense led by veteran Jeff Garcia is extremely efficient. It's another one of those must see games that in the end, I went with the club with the most offensive punch; the home town Carolina Panthers.
Panthers 24 – Buccaneers 20