by Rick Rockwell
Like the National Football Conference (NFC) this column will just have to live with lesser expectations this year. Last week, was a good one on the prediction scale, just not great. But hold on, isn't our percentage still better than some of the teams still competing for a playoff spot?
Last Week: .625
This Season: .604
Game of the Week: Giants at Panthers
Speaking of inconsistency, both of these teams are very talented but both are stuck at 6-6. The Panthers' are known for their defense but they can't seem to stop teams in the fourth quarter. And speaking of choking, the Giants have provided some of the worst examples of that this season. This is a replay of a first round playoff game from last year that the Panthers dominated. Don't count on that this time. Both teams are playing for their lives, and the loser probably won't be invited to the big dance. The Panthers will win, in a nail-biter.
Falcons at Buccaneers
The Falcons fought their way back into the playoff race last week. But they may not see Tampa Bay coming. Tampa's defense knows how to shut down quarterback Michael Vick. This one looks like an upset with the Bucs on top, but by less than a field goal.
Eagles at Washington
Besides the Falcons, Giants and Panthers, the Eagles are the fourth team in the NFC stuck at 6-6 but still with excellent position to make the playoffs as a wild card team. Running back Brian Westbrook has risen to the challenge recently and substitute quarterback Jeff Garcia showed he could rally this team to a win on Monday night. Washington is just confused and confounded. The Eagles win by a field goal.
Packers at 49ers
The 49ers are playing above their heads and still have a losing record. The Pack is just disappointing. Neither team is headed anywhere but both can be tenacious and are well-matched. Look for the 49ers to get the win at home.
Ravens at Chiefs
The Ravens have not locked up the American Football Conference (AFC) North with the rejuvenated Bengals chasing them. Meanwhile, Kansas City needs a win just to stay in the AFC wild card race. The Ravens have the defense to shut down the Chiefs great running back Larry Johnson, and should have just enough to hang on for the win in a close struggle.
Vikings at Lions
Do the Lions really want to win given they now have a shot at the No. 1 draft choice? Both teams are inept, but the Vikings defense has kept them in games all year. Minnesota has enough to bumble and stumble its way to a win but by less than a touchdown.
Patriots at Dolphins
Is this where the Patriots trip? Often they do coming into Miami leading the division easily. And the Dolphins have showed signs their defense can keep them close enough to win games late in the season. However, the Patriots are just too complete and should win in a close match.
Bills at Jets
If the Jets want to stay in the AFC wildcard race they must win this one and hope that either Denver or Kansas City loses. The Bills will give the Jets a tough fight. Look for a defensive struggle with a Bills' turnover giving the Jets the winning edge, but certainly by less than a touchdown.
Sunday Night: Saints at Cowboys
This could be a preview of a playoff game for next month. The Saints are running an explosive offensive with many talented players all taking a part in the success. Dallas finally looks like a team Bill "The Tuna" Parcells coaches: they have a smart quarterback, they run for tough yards and they have a staunch defense. Look for the Cowboys to bowl the Saints over.
Broncos at Chargers
Last week, the Broncos showed they still have problems everywhere despite playing quarterback roulette. As predicted, rookie quarterback Jay Cutler was not the answer, at least for now. The Chargers are the best team in the league and should have Broncos' fans puzzled even more after a convincing win.
Thursday Night: Browns at Steelers
The World Champs are like angry bees when they are playing at home, especially now that it looks like they won't be playing after this month. The Browns come to town and will probably start back-up quarterback Derek Anderson instead of Charlie Frye who has an injured wrist. The Steelers will win and it won't be pretty.
Colts at Jaguars
The Jaguars play much better at home, and they are designed to challenge the Colts with a strong rushing attack. However, the Colts have something to prove after getting derailed by the Titans last week. Look for quarterback Peyton Manning to have a big day and set the Jaguars spinning to defeat.
Seahawks at Cardinals
Seattle is getting ready for the playoffs and the Cardinals are just a tune-up on the road. Running back Shaun Alexander should have another strong day.
Titans at Texans
Rookie quarterback Vince Young is showing great form in his last two starts by upsetting the Giants and Colts. The young Titans should roll over the Texans.
Monday Night: Bears at Rams
The Rams are in disarray and the Bears have a fearsome defense. Yes, Bears quarterback Rex Grossman seems to be disintegrating, but the Rams turn the ball over too much too. The Bears should win, although it may be sloppy, just like last week.
Raiders at Bengals
The Raiders defense gets stronger by the week, but the Bengals have the second most explosive offense in the league. This is my nominee for Wipe Out of the Week. The Bengals should cruise to an easy win.
As the cold weather settles in for most of the country, it's perfect football viewing season. Enjoy the viewing!
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