NFL predictions

Falcons (3-9) at Packers (5-6-1)

1 p.m. Packers by 3½, 45

If Green Bay were in the AFC, it would be a half-game out of the wild card. So there would be an urgency to getting QB Aaron Rodgers back from a broken collarbone. But in the NFC, two 7-5 teams wouldn't make the playoffs this week. As a result, he sits again. That means a one-point favorite against an Atlanta team that just picked up its first road win. Packers rookie Eddie Lacy (above) is second in the NFL in rushing yards since Oct. 1 with 771.

The pick: Packers 28, Falcons 27

Titans (7-4) at Broncos (10-2)

4 p.m. Broncos by 12, 49

Denver gets coach John Fox back today, though he's 0-3 in his career against Tennessee. The Broncos continue to challenge the league scoring record, just five points off of the pace set by the 2007 Patriots. The stats for Denver WR Eric Decker (above) last week: 174 yards and four touchdowns. His stats in the previous four games total: 170 yards, zero touchdowns. Name you should know: Titans DT Jurrell Casey, who leads all AFC tackles with eight sacks.

The pick: Broncos 41, Titans 21

Rams (5-7) at Cardinals (7-5)

4:25 p.m. Cards by 6½, 411/2

The Rams are underappreciated. They beat Arizona 27-24 in Week 1, rallying from 11 down. Backup QB Kellen Clemens hasn't had to do much with five TD passes since replacing the injured Sam Bradford. St. Louis is leaning on rookie Zac Stacy (above), who's averaging 4.4 yards per carry and 96.2 yards per game in his past five. Can you name Arizona's leading rusher? It's Rashard Mendenhall, who is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry in his 467 yards.

The pick: Rams 27, Cardinals 21

Giants (5-7) at Chargers (5-7)

4:25 p.m. Chargers by 3½, 47

The Giants have followed an 0-6 opening with a 5-1 mark, showing how well they can play when Eli Manning doesn't throw interceptions. He had 15 in the first six games but just three in the past six. San Diego has dropped three of four, and with Denver and Kansas City still left, it's hard to see it in the postseason — even a game out as it is now. San Diego's Keenan Allen (above) quietly leads all rookies in catches (58) and receiving yards (843).

The pick: Chargers 27, Giants 21

Seahawks (11-1) at 49ers (8-4)

4:25 p.m. Ch. 13 49ers by 21/2, 41

It almost must be closer than the 29-3 drubbing the Seahawks handed the 49ers in September in Seattle. San Francisco is playing for its playoff future. The 49ers close relatively easy with the Bucs, Falcons and Cardinals, but 10 wins isn't a lock in the NFC this season. One boost: The healthy return of Michael Crabtree (above), who had a 60-yard catch last week. If Seattle comes close to its five takeaways in the last meeting, it won't be close.

The pick: Seahawks 27, 49ers 17

Cowboys (7-5) at Bears (6-6)

8:40 Monday. ESPN Pick 'em, 48½

A loss damages both teams. A division title will be easier to get than an NFC wild card. The last time these two met, USF's Anthony Henry had two picks for Dallas. Cowboys QB Tony Romo (above) only needs wins to draw the spotlight to a strong season: 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Only Drew Brees and Peyton Manning have a better differential. Chicago WR Alshon Jeffery, with two 200-yard games, has 1,005 in just the past nine games.

The pick: Cowboys 34, Bears 28

Panthers (9-3) at Saints (9-3)

8:30 p.m. Ch. 8. Saints by 3, 46

Another gem on a Sunday night. Carolina has won eight straight, but New Orleans has taken four of the past six meetings. The teams meet twice in three weeks with the NFC South title on the line. The teams' game in New Orleans last year was a 44-38 shootout, Carolina winning on three touchdowns by FB Mike Tolbert (above). Carolina has the No. 1 scoring defense after holding the Bucs to six points last week.

The pick: Saints 31, Panthers 27

Vikings (3-8-1) at Ravens (6-6)

1 p.m. Ravens by 6, 42

Baltimore's Thanksgiving win against Pittsburgh has it tied with Miami for the final AFC wild card. The Ravens close with the Lions, Patriots and Bengals, a combined 24-12, so a win here is crucial. Baltimore is 26-4 at home since 2010, but the Vikings just edged the Bears in OT. The Ravens' Justin Tucker (above) has made 27 field goals in a row, the NFL's longest active streak. Teammate Joe Flacco has thrown 14 interceptions but just three at home.

The pick: Ravens 27, Vikings 13

Colts (8-4) at Bengals (8-4)

1 p.m. Bengals by 6½, 43½

Besides his 22 touchdowns, the Bengals' Andy Dalton (above) has thrown for 3,144 yards. The only other QB to throw for 3,000-plus in each of his first three seasons is Peyton Manning. Cincinnati is 5-0 at home, one of five teams perfect at home. Former Bucs DE Wallace Gilberry has 3½ sacks over his past four games for Cincinnati. Dalton has thrown a combined 50 passes over the past two wins after throwing 51 in an overtime loss to the Ravens.

The pick: Bengals 31, Colts 21

Browns (4-8) at Patriots (9-3)

1 p.m. Patriots by 10, 46½

Cleveland WR Josh Gordon (above) has gone for 237 and 261 yards in the past two games. Short of Calvin Johnson, who has played better? Gordon has 1,249 yards and is averaging 19.5 yards per catch. DE Chandler Jones has had a big year for New England with 10½ sacks. Cleveland's sack leader is rookie LB Barke­vious Mingo with four. The Browns have to be better than their minus-9 turnover margin and force the Patriots to drop from their plus-8.

The pick: Patriots 35, Browns 21

Raiders (4-8) at Jets (5-7)

1 p.m. Jets by 3, 40

Jets rookie Geno Smith has not thrown for a touchdown since Oct. 20. He has eight interceptions since, which is why New York is barely favored at home against Oakland and its undrafted rookie QB, Matt McGloin. McGloin should watch for Jets CB Antonio Cromartie (above), who has three interceptions in his past four games. Who is Rashad Jennings? The former Jaguar now Raider has 448 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his past five games.

The pick: Jets 17, Raiders 13

Lions (7-5) at Eagles (7-5)

1 p.m. Eagles by 2½, 521/2

This will be a high-scoring game. Philadelphia gives up 412 yards per game; Detroit gets more than 300 from QB Matthew Stafford (above). Is this the week Eagles QB Nick Foles throws his first interception? He has 19 touchdowns without one while Stafford has at least one in each of his past five. Lions LB Andre Levy leads the league with six interceptions. Eagles rookie TE Zach Ertz had two touchdowns last week after just one in his first 11 games.

The pick: Eagles 34, Lions 30

Chiefs (9-3) at Redskins (3-9)

1 p.m. Chiefs by 3, 441/2

Kansas City is 7-1 all time against Washington, and coach Andy Reid is 17-11 all time with all of his games coming while with the Eagles. Chiefs QB Alex Smith (above) has the fewest yards per pass attempt of any starter but is undervalued as a scrambler with 360 rushing yards this season. Redskins RB Alfred Morris needs just 4 yards for 1,000. However, Washington must limit its turnovers if it is to hand Kansas City its fourth straight loss.

The pick: Chiefs 24, Redskins 17

Dolphins (6-6) at Steelers (5-7)

1 p.m. Steelers by 3½, 40½

It's a homecoming for Dolphins WR Mike Wallace (above), who left Pittsburgh as a free agent. He has just three touchdowns after at least eight in each of his past three years. Miami could use more deep balls from Ryan Tannehill, whose top eight pass-catchers average fewer than 14 yards per reception. Pittsburgh can get within a game of the AFC wild card with a win and Ravens loss, with winnable games against the Packers and Browns as its final two.

The pick: Steelers 24, Dolphins 20

NFL predictions 12/07/13 [Last modified: Saturday, December 7, 2013 7:37pm]

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