Expect to see the Packers use a lot of reserves as they have home field already locked up and the Lions are known for sometimes putting cheap shots with their aggressive defense. The Lions also have something to play for looking to get the 5th seed and a match up with the NFC East champ. This will open the door for the Lions to get a rare win in Lambeau Field.
After two straight bad losses the Texans need to finish the regular season on a positive note, as they get set for their first playoff appearance. One big factor in the Texans favor is the return of Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips who missed the last two games after getting a surgical procedure. When Phillips was there the Texans were one of the best defensive teams in the NFL, I expect them to win with defense this week.
The Colts are in a unique situation, where a win could hurt their future as they will likely drop out of the number one pick. The Colts have won their last two after a 0-13 start. This game will likely hinge on how the Jaguars play. If the Jags put up a stinker the Colts will win. However, at home in the last game of the year one would expect to see the best of the Jaguars with Maurice Jones-Drew trying to win the rushing title keying the way for victory.
It’s the end of an era in Miami as All Pro sacker Jason Taylor plays in his final game. Taylor spent last season with the Jets and had none to kind words about Jets QB Mark Sanchez. The Jets still have an outside chance to make the playoffs. However, JT on his day of celebration in Miami will see that the Jets door is closed. Look for Sanchez to have another bad day as the Dolphins end the season on a positive note.
Two teams that are glad to see the season coming to an end are the Vikings and Bears who have been decimated by injuries in the final weeks. The Vikings lost RB Adrian Peterson to a knee injury but got good play from Toby Gerhart last week. The Bears meanwhile are just a mash unit and have nothing left on offense. Look for this one to be a low scoring affair as the Vikings find a way to win at home.
In Week 3 the Bills beat the Patriots for the first time in eight years. Back then the Bills were off to a strong start, now they are on the verge of another ten loss season. With the Patriots needing a win to secure home field it will be hard to imagine the Pats losing to the Bills again. Look for the Patriots to take control early and cruise to an easy win in Foxboro.
The Saints offense led by record break QB Drew Brees is just a machine right now, especially in the Superdome. Expect to see Brees add to his record passing yards as the Saints finish 13-3 and hope for a miracle that they can get the bye. Cam Newton should also have a big day, but there is no way he will be able to keep up with the Saints offense, which almost every week tops 30 points without breaking a sweat.
Though the playoffs are out of reach, no team is finishing stronger than the Eagles. With a win they can finish 8-8, with four straight wins to close the season. While it may not matter in the long term it certainly will help them when it comes to preparing for next season. The Redskins meanwhile will end another season full of disappointment, as they will surely be looking for a quarterback in the off-season.
The Rams have been one of the bigger disappointments in the NFL this season, as they were unable to build off their 7-9 season last year and have become one of the worst teams in the NFL. They have a chance to earn the number one pick again if the Colts win. The 49ers also need this to get the bye and for that they will be at the top of their game and will win easily, as the Steve Spagnuolo era comes to an end in St. Louis.
No two teams are more similar than the Seahawks and Cardinals who each enter the game at 7-8, looking to finish at .500. Last year 7-9 was good enough to win the NFC West for Seattle, but the 49ers took care of that early. This game is in Arizona and that will be the deciding factor as the Seahawks typically struggle away from the 12th man. Look for a big day from Larry Fitzgerald as the Cardinals end the season on a strong note.
No team has been more pathetic down the stretch than the Buccaneers, they have looked like a team that is not even trying. There is certainly going to be wholesale changes in the Tampa next year. The Falcons meanwhile are heading to the playoffs for the second straight season, the first time that has ever been accomplished for the Falcons. Look for the Falcons to win easily as the Bucs continue to play uninspired football.
With a win the Bengals win the AFC North and get the bye week, with a loss they are a wild card and have to play on the road throughout the postseason. The Bengals meanwhile get into the playoffs with a win. The Ravens are unbeaten against teams with a winning record, and knowing what is at stake I see them putting forth a top notch effort from the Ravens veteran defense which will shut down the Bengals young offense.
The Steelers with a win and a Ravens loss can win the division and avoid playing in the Wild Card round. With the health of QB Ben Roethlisberger up in the air, a bye week could be key if they want to get back to the Super Bowl. I expect the Steelers to do their part and win a tight defensive battle with Browns, as Rashard Mendenhall could play a key role as Roethlisberger’s status is uncertain going into the final game of the regular season.
With a win the Broncos can win the AFC West. However, nothing would satisfy the Chiefs more than knocking the Broncos out of the playoffs. Especially for Chiefs QB Kyle Orton, who began the season in Denver but lost his job to Tim Tebow. Tebow has struggled in his last two games and needs to regain the magic fast if they are to get into the playoffs. The Chiefs meanwhile have responded well to interim coach Romeo Crennel. Look for an inspired effort from the Chiefs as they had the Broncos a costly loss.
The Raiders can win the division with a win and a loss by the Broncos. However, the Chargers will do their best to prevent that from happening. The Chargers may be saying good bye to Coach Norv Turner, and will be looking to send him out a winner. Phillip Rivers has played well as of late, while Raiders QB Carson Palmer still appears to be playing catch up. For this reason I see the Raiders letting a chance to reach the playoffs slip away as the Chargers get the win.
In 1993 the Giants hosted the Cowboys with the division on the line, and Emmitt Smith had the day of his career, winning the game after suffering a separated shoulder. The Cowboys of 2011 lack that toughness and that is why they will come up short. Look for Eli Manning to have a big day in front of his home fans, as the Cowboys deal with the turmoil of Owner Jerry Jones interfering with Coach Jason Garrett. Meanwhile, Tony Romo’s hand will make it tough for him to keep up with the passing of Eli.