This weekend marks the end to the 2010 regular season. All games are played on Sunday. There will be no Thursday Night Football. No Monday Night Football. The Vikings are playing their last game of the season, hopefully on Sunday as planned at Ford Field at 12 PM CT… but with the Vikings, you never know anymore.
Here are my picks for this week:
SUNDAY: 12 PM CT
- Panthers vs Falcons: Will the Falcons lock up the #1 seed or does this have the makings of a trap game? In 2006, when I lived in Atlanta, I attended a Falcons game and watched Mike Vick run around on the field. Personally, I think Matt Ryan is a great upgrade for the Falcons, and I don’t see Matt Ryan allowing the Panthers to get the better of him in this game. Especially at the Georgia Dome. Falcons 34, Panthers 3.
- Bengals vs Ravens: In the fall of 2004, when I lived in Cincinnati, I took a colleague from Italy to see her first American football game. It was a Bengals/Ravens match up back when Chad OchoCinco had a normal last name and Madieu Williams’ bad angles and missed tackles didn’t impact the Vikings. The Bengals won and Carolina said that American football was quite slow and boring compared to soccer. Bengals aren’t winning this time and I doubt Carolina’s watching. Ravens 28, Bengals 14.
- Steelers vs Browns: The Steelers are the #2 seed in the AFC. The Browns are not anywhere near a play-off spot. Despite the risk of injury, I don’t see the Steelers slacking off in this game, and the Browns may very well give the Steelers a run for their money… but I doubt they’ll win. Steelers 24, Browns 20.
- Vikings vs Lions: The Lions are on a 3 game winning streak – which is incredible to write. The Vikings triumphed over adversity this week, stunning the entire nation with their win over the Eagles on Sunday Night Football on Tuesday. Joe Webb may have a little magic in him. But will he start? I think he will and I think my beloved team is going 7-9 and Leslie Frazier will end his 6 game audition at 4-2. Vikings 27, Lions 21. (NOTE: When I predicted the outcome of the first Vikings/Lions match up earlier this season, I said the Vikings would win 24-10. And they did, with exactly that score. Could I possibly two-peat? Let’s find out!)
- Raiders vs Chiefs: Matt Cassel is back after having surgery a couple of weeks ago. He’s led his team to a division title and a play-off berth. The Raiders are the most schizophrenic team in the league with wild swings in performance that both stun and dismay, depending upon your team affiliation. The Chiefs are solid at home this year, so I don’t see the Raiders raining on their parade. Chiefs 21, Raiders 17.
- Dolphins vs Patriots: The Miami Dolphins missed the play-offs again this year after a promising start (if you ignore their inability to win at home during the first part of the season). Tony Sparano may be joining Childress after the season if rumors are to be believed. The Patriots are having another annoyingly good season with Tigger (Bounce Bounce) Brady at the helm. The Dolphins don’t stand a chance. Patriots 31, Dolphins 10.
- Buccaneers vs Saints: The Buccaneers still have a shot at a Wild Card spot, but they’d have to beat the Saints and hope the Giants and the Packers lose. As well as Josh Freeman has been performing this year, and for as much as I hate the Saints, I don’t think Drew Brees is going to stop fighting. Saints 24, Bucs 21.
- Bills vs Jets: The Buffalo Bills have stymied many a fine team this season. The Jets have secured a spot in the play-offs. Rex Ryan has indicated that he may sit Mark Sanchez. I’m not sure if that’s to keep him fresh or to prevent him from melting down again. I do think the Bills will play hard. Bills 21, Jets 19.
SUNDAY: 3:15 PM CT
- Chargers vs Broncos: The Chargers looked like they were following their usual pattern with Philip Rivers at the helm: a slow start followed by increasing skill and then a play-off berth. Ooops. Not this year. The Broncos won’t be representing the AFC in the play-offs either. Will Tim Tebow take Philip Rivers down? Will the mountain air be too much for the sea-level dwelling Bolts? Broncos 19, Chargers 17.
- Bears vs Packers: The Bears could clinch the #1 seed with a win over the Packers and a Falcons loss. Will that be enough to motivate them at Lambeau when they already have a bye? The Packers can secure a Wild Card spot with a win, despite uninspiring play for most of the regular season after much lauding of their prospects in the pre-season. Given the historic rivalry between the two teams, I think the Bears will go all out to prevent the Packers from making the post-season. And I’m not just saying that because it would make me laugh. Bears 28, Packers 20.
- Jaguars vs Texans: With David Garrard out, Trent Edwards will be responsible for leading the team to the Play-Off Promise Land, or he will play one game during the 2010 season. The Texans looked like they were going to dominate this season and then settled into being the Texans, causing Matt Schaub to sport a somewhat quizzical look on his face at times. Texans 20, Jaguars 17.
- Titans vs Colts: Eli “The Forehead” Manning looks to be past his mid-season meltdown (which was incredibly fun to watch). The Titans are not having the year they wanted. Any of them. From a drama perspective, the Titans are the only team that attempted to match the Vikings in controversy this season, although they came up short there, too. Colts 28, Titans 10.
- Cowboys vs Eagles: A battle of the back-up QBs. The Eagles have announced that Vick will sit this weekend and Jon Kitna took over for Romo 2 months ago. The Cowboys have found stability under Jason Garrett, while the Eagles are coming off a stunning loss to the Vikings. With Kolb playing second fiddle for most of the season, I think Kitna has the edge. Cowboys 21, Eagles 14.
- Cardinals vs 49ers: Mike Singletary was fired this week after yet another loss. The Cardinals are still attempting to recover from the loss of Kurt Warner. As we’ve seen this season, teams perform quite well the week after their coach is fired, so I think the 49ers have the edge at Candlestick Park. 49ers 19, Cardinals 17.
- Giants vs Redskins: By the time this game kicks off, the Giants will know if they still have a shot at making the play-offs, based on the result of the Packers/Bears game at noon. I believe they will have a shot and I don’t think the Redskins will be giving them too much trouble, despite Rex Grossman’s decent performance since McNabb was benched. Giants 27, Redskins 14.
SUNDAY: 7:20 PM CT
- Rams vs Seahawks: By the time this NFC West match-up ends, we’ll know if a 7-9 team will be entering the play-offs with home-field advantage in the first round. With Whitehurst stepping in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck for the Seahawks, I don’t see a home-field advantage for this one. Sam Bradford, rookie QB-phenom will prevail, thereby avoiding calls to reconfigure the play-off seeding since the Rams would be 8-8. Rams 24, Seahawks 13.
Those are my picks this week. Feel free to comment.