As we near December, the division battles across the National Football League are still evolving but a clear picture is beginning to come into view, including that of the NFC North.
The Packers, on the fly with a five-game winning streak, meet the 6-4 Giants, losers of their last two with a quarterback who says he’s suffering from arm fatigue. Sounds like a mismatch? Far from it.
It’s our game of the week not only because it’s the Packers and Giants, but because it’s going to be one hell of a game.
But there are 12 other games taking place this weekend.
Without boring you anymore, here are my picks for this weekend’s games:
Oakland at Cincinnati – If the Bengals come out like they did a week or so against the Giants, this should be over by halftime. It will depend on Andy Dalton’s arm and whether they play like the team that won three straight earlier this season. Oakland will continue on the path toward an early end to their season. Cincinnati 38 Oakland 17
Carolina at Philadelphia – In a season of disappointment for both of these teams, it’s the Eagles who have fallen the farthest. From last year’s dream team to this season’s disaster, the Eagles will most likely be saying goodbye to coach Andy Reid. But before that happens they will win a couple of more games with their youngsters showing improvement. As for Cam Newton … what happened? Philadelphia 23 Carolina 16
Tennessee at Jacksonville – With the emergence of Chad Henne last week, I see him using that game from which to continue. Tennessee has won some games this year, including that win against the Steelers, but Jacksonville is one of the top losing teams in the league. We saw them take the Packers the distance a few weeks ago. They have some weapons. Jacksonville 27 Tennessee 14
Denver at Kansas City – Two teams going in opposite directions. The Broncos, behind the rejuvenated Peyton Manning, are winning games they shouldn’t (SD) and cruising toward an AFC West Division title. The Chiefs are a team in disarray, from the front office on down. Denver 35 Kansas City 6
St. Louis at Arizona - If you’re interested in a nap, this might be the game to turn on. When the biggest matchup is Larry Fitzgerald vs. the Rams’ cornerbacks, then it might be better to watch a rerun of Mrs. Doubtfire. But in the meantime, a football game will be played. St. Louis 19 Arizona 17
Seattle at Miami – The Dolphins, teetering on any kind of playoff possibility, don’t have much to play for, while the Seahawks are still in the thick of the playoff hunt. This could be a good game if Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill can get his game going. But getting it going against the brutish Seattle defensive backfield is a tough draw for Tannehill. Seattle continues to win. Seattle 26 Miami 20
Buffalo at Indianapolis – If the Bills’ defense can continue to improve with the steady play of Mario Williams, they have a shot a beating the Colts on the road. However, if Andrew Luck gets on a roll, this could mean a long day for Buffalo. I see the Colts having a couple of more big plays in this one. Indianapolis 23 Buffalo 17
Baltimore at San Diego – This might be the end for Norv Turner. If the Chargers don’t get a win soon there will be a total changeover in personnel on this football team at season’s end. Baltimore shouldn’t even blink in this one. I see domination by the Ravens. Baltimore 31 San Diego 12
Pittsburgh at Cleveland – Charlie Batch starting for the Steelers? If there’s a setup for an upset here, this is it. Cleveland has been playing defense all year and playing against 900-year-old Batch should play into their strengths. Most likely a low-scoring affair is won by the Browns. Cleveland 12 Steelers 7
Atlanta at Tampa Bay – This is another upset special. The Bucs have won four straight and the Falcons have been, well, a bit lucky this year. If the Bucs can contain the Falcons pass game we already know they can stop the run. We’ve also seen Matt Ryan implode this season and still get away with wins. I don’t think it happens today. Tampa Bay 22 Falcons 20
New Orleans at San Francisco – It will be a hot time in Frisco. There are more story lines here than trying to recount them all would be fruitless. We’ll just suffice to say that this will be another close one, but I’m thinking the Saints somehow keep the mojo going and come out of this on the winning side. Without starting QB Alex Smith, the Niners offense will be offensive today. New Orleans 29 San Francisco 20
Minnesota at Chicago – This game could have huge implications – no, it WILL have huge implications on the final NFC North Division standings. Packers fans can only hope Minnesota’s defensive line will have a big day against the Bears’ impotent offensive line. By beating the Bears, it should give the Packers a bit of breathing room and with Minnesota traveling to Green Bay Next week, the Packers could increase their overall lead in the NFC North. Those are big ifs, however. With Jay Cutler now projected to be the Bears’ starting QB, I think he finds a way to win this. Bears 21 Vikings 17
Green Bay at New York – This week’s game of the week Sunday night will be close. If the Packers’ offensive line can protect Aaron Rodgers, this could be a one-sided affair. If they don’t, it will be close. The underrated Packers defense will come to play in this one, but Eli Manning will test them. In the end, I think it will come down to the foot of Packers PK Mason Crosby. The struggling kicker will miss at least one in this game and it could be the difference in who goes home the winner. Giants 27 Packers 26