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NFL PICKS

Last week overall: 10-3-1 (97-48-1 for the season

Last week against the spread: 8-6 (74-67-5 for the season)

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Cardinals (4-5) at Falcons (8-1)

1 p.m.

Falcons by 10, 44

It's not often you see a team free-fall to 4-5 after a 4-0 start. That's what the Cardinals have done over the past six weeks. And there's every reason to believe the losing streak stretches to six. The Falcons have to right their ship after their first loss (to the Saints) last week. The Cardinals, conceivably, could make it tough for Atlanta to move the ball. But how will offensively challenged Arizona score? DE John Abraham, above, could notch a sack or two against the league's worst pass protection.

Falcons 25, Cardinals 17

* * *

Browns (2-7) at Cowboys (4-5)

1 p.m.

Cowboys by 7-1/2, 43-1/2

There's still time for the Cowboys to figure things out and make a run at the postseason. Whether they actually win their second postseason game since 1996 or help coach Jason Garrett, above, avoid the unemployment line are separate matters. From a talent standpoint, the Cowboys have a decisive edge here, but QB Tony Romo has to avoid throwing interceptions. The Browns have four players with multiple picks, so don't be surprised if Romo adds to his current tally of 13.

Cowboys 24, Browns 20

* * *

Packers (6-3) at Lions (4-5)

1 p.m.

Packers by 3, 52

Things could get real interesting in the NFC North with the Bears having to play with a backup quarterback at the 49ers on Monday while the Packers nip at their heels. The Packers don't really have their sights set on a wild card even though they rode one to a Super Bowl title in 2010. They can truly win this division, and they just might. Aaron Rodgers, above, has an NFL-best 25 touchdown passes, but WR Calvin Johnson is coming off a 207-yard performance for the Lions.

Packers 30, Lions 24

* * *

Bengals (4-5) at Chiefs (1-8)

1 p.m.

Bengals by 3-1/2, 43-1/2

The Chiefs lack two basic requirements for NFL success: quarterback play and ball security. QB Matt Cassel, above,struggled again Monday, leading to a loss in a winnable game against backup QB Byron Leftwich and the Steelers. And their minus-20 turnover margin is, well, stunning. The Bengals should take advantage of chances to exploit the defense downfield. A.J. Green has a league-high nine TD catches, and the Chiefs have allowed 18 TDpasses (27th in the league).

Bengals 24, Chiefs 17

* * *

Eagles (3-6) at Redskins (3-6)

1 p.m.

Redskins by 3-1/2, 44

This could've been an attractive matchup of interesting quarterbacks, a playoff contender vs. a team on the rise. Instead, the Eagles have lost five straight and are starting backup QB Nick Foles, above, for the injured Michael Vick. The Redskins are on a three-game skid and have scored 12 and 13 points in their past two games. How does it end? With Foles playing and the Eagles defense in shambles, maybe Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has the big game he's due for.

Redskins 26, Eagles 21

* * *

Jaguars (1-8) at Texans (8-1)

1 p.m., Ch. 10

Texans by 15-1/2, 40-1/2

Not that we condone gambling, but it's not every day you see a point spread of 15 or more in the NFL. What is this? The Big 12? The Texans didn't produce an offensive masterpiece in that wet, sloppy win at Soldier Field last week, but they were every bit the dominant defensive team you think they are. Plus, the Jaguars rank last in the league in total offense, 31.8 yards per game behind 31st-place Arizona. Meanwhile, look for another big day from Houston RB Arian Foster, above.

Texans 35, Jaguars 17

* * *

Jets (3-6) at Rams (3-5-1)

1 p.m.

Rams by 3-1/2, 38-1/2

The Jets have lost two straight by a combined margin of 58-16, and the only reason for optimism is a second-half schedule that features just one opponent with a winning record (New England). But with the Jets' offensive ineptitude, you have to wonder if that matters. St. Louis' defense is among the most underrated in the NFL, and DE Robert Quinn, above, is a reason why. His 8-1/2 sacks (among the Rams' 26) are tied for seventh in the NFL. That defense went toe to toe with the 49ers last week.

Rams 23, Jets 17

* * *

Saints (4-5) at Raiders (3-6)

4 p.m.

Saints by 5, 54-1/2

This game might take five hours if there are as many passes as we suspect. The Raiders tossed it around 61 times against the Bucs two weeks ago and 46 a week ago against the Ravens. And the Saints' Drew Brees, above, averages more than 40 throws. Thing is, the Saints are better at it. Oakland's Carson Palmer has one more pass attempt than Brees, yet Brees has thrown 10 more touchdowns. Don't look now, but the Saints aren't out of it with seven games remaining.

Saints 31, Raiders 27

* * *

Chargers (4-5) at Broncos (6-3)

4:25 p.m.

Broncos by 8, 48-1/2

The Broncos are rolling, and they likely will do so all the way to the AFC West title. During their current four-game win streak, they're averaging 34 points with a quarterback, Peyton Manning, above, some believed might not play again. Now he is a candidate for offensive player of the year with his 21 touchdown passes (third in the NFL). Speaking of rejuvenated players, how about RB Willis McGahee? He has 100-yard games in each of his past two meetings with the Chargers?

Broncos 29, Chargers 23

* * *

Colts (6-3) at Patriots (6-3)

4:25 p.m., Ch. 10

Patriots by 9-1/2, 54

The TV talking heads will sell this as the next generation of Manning vs. Brady, which it is not. But it is an intriguing QB matchup featuring two impressive 6-3 clubs. So take it for what it's worth: Real-deal rookie Andrew Luck, above, of the Colts against elder statesman Tom Brady of the Patriots. That's must-see TV in itself. The Patriots have proved they can't cover, which is why they now employ former Bucs CB Aqib Talib, who makes his debut today. But we'll still take the Pats.

Patriots 28, Colts 24

* * *

Ravens (7-2) at Steelers (6-3)

8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

Ravens by 3-1/2, 40

It's amazing the Steelers' Byron Leftwich, above front, who starts at quarterback for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, has lasted this long in the NFL with that slow, elongated windup. Just imagine him gathering himself to throw downfield just as Ravens LB Terrell Suggs comes off the edge. Leftwich's delivery combined with his lack of athleticism make this a tall order for the Steelers. RB Ray Rice and the Ravens offense have their hands full with the NFL's top defense, but they will manage.

Ravens 24, Steelers 20

* * *

Bears (7-2) at 49ers (6-2-1)

8:30 Monday, ESPN

49ers by 6, 37-1/2

The Bears have endured some wretched games from Jay Cutler and still had a chance to win because of their defense. So maybe the same will apply with veteran Jason Campbell, above, his fill-in under center. If San Francisco QB Alex Smith plays after sustaining a concussion last week, this will prove a tall order for the Bears. On the road. On Monday night. With a backup quarterback. That's a lot to overcome, even for a defense that's playing a lot like the Bears defense of 1985.

49ers 21, Bears 17

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