By: Grant Poarch
12/30 (Saturday Night): Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys (-5.5, O/U 52), 8:15PM EST, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2
I can’t wait for this one. Detroit won their first division title in over 30 years and Dallas has been a buzzsaw at home. This mind as well be a playoff game because it sure feels like one. Sure, the stakes aren’t as high here but don’t be surprised if these two match up down the line.
While I do love watching the Lions, I see Dallas coming out on top here. Since their win over the Eagles, Dallas has dropped two games in a row. After being embarrassed by Buffalo on the road, they kept it very close against the Dolphins in Miami. They did that without getting much pressure on Tua Tagovailoa. I wouldn’t count on something like that happening again.
In this one, the Cowboy defense will decide the outcome. They face a Lions’ offense who has scored 30 plus points in back-to-back games. With this game being at home, I see the crowd and pass rush playing a major factor in the Dallas victory. To make things sweeter for the star, the Cowboys are undefeated at home and have scored more than 30 points in each of those games. Buckle up, we’re in for a good one.
Prediction: Dallas wins, Detroit covers +5.5
12/31: New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills (-14, O/U 40), 1:00PM EST, CBS
Buffalo has been extremely hot as of late. After their overtime loss in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, it seemed like the Bills would be out of it when playoff time came around. Now, they look like one of the scariest teams in the league. They will be more than motivated to win this game as the last time these two matched up, New England pulled off the upset.
Now, I doubt the upset will happen again. However, things could get weird in this one. First off, this is a divisional game. Beyond that, this could very well be Bill Belichick’s last game coaching the Patriots in this series. I’m sure if it is the case that he will be gone after the year, he will have his squad fired up for this one.
Simply put, the Bills are the much better team. They will win this one but the score will make you scratch your head at how it was possible to be that close.
Prediction: Buffalo wins, New England covers +14
12/31: Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears (-2.5, O/U 38), 1:00PM EST, CBS
Atlanta desperately needs to win this game if they are going to have a prayer at making the playoffs. They more than likely will find themselves missing out but a loss will guarantee that outcome.
The Falcons will have their hands full as they face a run defense that allows less than four yards per carry. If Chicago is able to force Taylor Heinicke to beat them, that will be their best chance to win the game.
Furthermore, Atlanta struggles against quarterbacks who can run. Justin Fields is the perfect example of someone who can. I’m sure he has extra motivation to win this game as the Falcons are his hometown team and this could very well be one of his last games in Chicago.
This will likely be a boring game and I will probably also get my prediction wrong as I have been iffy on picking Atlanta games all season. That being said, I’m fading the Dirty Birds in Chicago.
Prediction: Chicago wins, Chicago covers -2.5
12/31: Las Vegas Raiders @ Indianapolis Colts (-4, O/U 42.5), 1:00PM EST, CBS
The Colts got smacked last week against Atlanta and that is definitely not something I saw coming. Regardless, they need to bounce back this week to stay in the playoffs. They have a 70% chance to make it in with a win and 26% chance with a loss.
Indianapolis will have their hands full as Las Vegas is much more dangerous than their record indicates. They made Patrick Mahomes look bad last week and have been playing with a different sense of pride since Antonio Pierce took over.
I’ve been going back and forth over the winner in this one all week but when I listened to the Pat McAfee Show, my decision was made final. McAfee stated that Indianapolis has struggled when the other team has a good pass rush. Well, the Raiders have Maxx Crosby and a defense that just showed us they can hold down anyone. That will include Gardner Minshew after this week.
Prediction: Las Vegas wins, Las Vegas covers +4
12/31: Los Angeles Rams (-5.5) @ New York Giants, O/U 43.5, 1:00PM EST, FOX
After how the Rams started the season, who would have thought they would be in the playoffs if it started in week 17? This week, they face a Tyrod Taylor led Giants team. Tommy Devito’s agent is probably putting out a hit on Taylor as we speak.
All jokes aside, the Rams control their own destiny. Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp are problems. I’m not sure how the Giants are going to be able to stop them.
Sure, Tyrod Taylor can ball and he kept things respectable against Philadelphia. However, can he really keep up with an offense that has put up 28 points or more in five straight games? As much as I would like to say yes to that question, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Give me the Rams.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins, Los Angeles covers -6
12/31: Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles (-12, O/U 48.5), 1:00PM EST, FOX
Which Philadelphia Eagles team is going to show up? Is it going to be the one from the recent losing streak or is it the powerhouse we have known them to be as of late? Towards the end of the season, I tend to lean towards the team who has something to play for. The Eagles have playoff seeding to play for and a division title to win.
Philadelphia will be ready for this one. While their goals are much bigger than just winning this one, they will have to win in order to help themselves get to where they want to be.
On the other side, I don’t have faith in Kyler Murray against the Eagles. Sure, they have struggled at times on defense. However, the Cardinals simply don’t have the weapons or what it takes to defeat one of the league’s elite. The Eagles are sure to be flying on Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: Philadelphia wins, Philadelphia covers -12
12/31: New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5, O/U 42), 1:00PM EST, FOX
As much as I want to see the Saints win this one, it’s not going to happen. Tampa Bay has had New Orleans’ number as of late in this series. A major contributor to the Bucs’ three-game winning streak is the poor QB play from the Saints. Derek Carr got boxed last time against Tampa and I expect more of the same this time.
On the other side of the ball, Baker Mayfield has been playing really well lately as he has thrown for eight touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games. That should continue as he faces a New Orleans’ defense that made Matt Stafford look like he was 25 years old again.
As if more motivation was needed to win this game, Tampa Bay clinches the division with a win on Sunday. I would love to see the Saints play spoiler for a week but that simply isn’t going to happen.
Prediction: Tampa Bay wins, Tampa Bay covers -2.5
12/31: San Francisco 49ers (-13.5) @ Washington Commanders, O/U 50, 1:00PM EST, FOX
So, the 49ers are human. Last week they were humbled in a crushing loss against the Ravens. The main reason for the loss was the turnovers from Brock Purdy. The guy was the frontrunner for the MVP and he dropped it like Kevin Malone’s beans. His four interceptions were extremely out of character. That said, those struggles won’t happen again this week.
San Francisco finds themselves going against what is an awful pass defense. Washington’s pass defense is essentially sucking water out of a firehose. They are going to have huge issues trying to slow down the Niners’ weapons.
This is the perfect bounce back opponent for San Francisco after how poor last week went. In this one, you will be reminded that the 49ers are legit.
Prediction: San Francisco wins, San Francisco covers -13.5
12/31: Carolina Panthers @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-4, O/U 36.5), 1:00PM EST, CBS
This one would have been an absolute layup if Trevor Lawrence was playing. He is going to miss his first game in the NFL due to an injury to his shoulder. Although Jacksonville needs this game desperately, if you had to pick a game for Lawrence to miss then this would be it.
Carolina is an awful team. Their defense can slow down poor quarterbacks but their offense is abysmal. So much for drafting Bryce Young number one and not giving him weapons but expecting him to be successful.
This is a must win for Jacksonville and I expect them to play like it. They are on a four game losing streak and have to win in order to stay in the playoff race. I fully expect this game to be an ugly one but the Jaguars will come out on top.
Prediction: Jacksonville wins, Carolina covers +4
12/31: Miami Dolphins @ Baltimore Ravens (-3, O/U 46.5), 1:00PM EST, CBS
Why in the world is this a 1PM game? This should be a primetime game and I will die on the hill of being able to move game times for Sundays. Regardless, we are in for a show.
The way the 49ers got handled by the Ravens was shocking. They made Brock Purdy look like he should have been the last pick in the draft. Although the quarterback they face this week might be more talented, Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t have the weapons that San Francisco does. He will be without Jaylen Waddle this week and Raheem Mostert is questionable with knee/ankle injuries. Although Tyreek Hill will be available, it will be hard to win the game with just his production.
Look for Lamar to have another great game here and continue to build on his MVP case. He is going to take care of the ball while still moving the offense effectively. For reference, Dak Prescott threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions a week ago against the Miami defense. Enough said, the Ravens will win this one.
Prediction: Baltimore wins, Baltimore covers -3
12/31: Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans (-4, O/U 44), 1:00PM EST, FOX
The Titans are back to starting Will Levis at quarterback this week. You know what that means. We are in for a disaster class for the Titans’ offense. To make things worse for the Titans, C.J. Stroud will be back under center this week.
Houston needs this game if they want to sneak in the playoffs. Right now, they are on the outside looking in with a record of 8-7. According to nfl.com, Houston has a 52% chance of making the playoffs with a win and just a 14% of making it with a loss.
This will be close for a while as most divisional games are but the Texans will pull away when it matters. Will Levis played the last time these two played and he didn’t play well. To make things worse, Tennessee lost to a Case Keenum led team. No doubt that they will struggle against C.J. Stroud and the rest of the Texans.
Prediction: Houston wins, Houston covers -4
12/31: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Seattle Seahawks (-3.5, O/U 41), 4:05 PM EST, FOX
Mason Rudolph balled out a week ago, but can he do it again in Seattle? My gut says no but you never know in this league. Seattle is always a tough place to play and they will surely be fired up as they are fighting to keep the last spot in the NFC playoffs.
The Steelers won’t be a pushover but I don’t how they are going to stop the receivers from Seattle. D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and JSN are a tough ask for anyone to slow down. However, Pittsburgh isn’t going to have much help defensively as Rudolph’s nose won’t shine as bright in the rainy city.
Beyond everything else, Mike Tomlin can lose this game and still get a winning season clinched next week. So, give me the Seahawks in a close one.
Prediction: Seattle wins, Seattle covers -4
12/31: Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver Broncos (-3.5, O/U 37), 4:25PM EST, CBS
Is the Russell Wilson era over in Denver? Sean Payton benched Wilson for the rest of the season and has turned to Jarrett Stidham for the next two weeks. He said that the move was the give a boost to the offense but I’m not sure that will be the case.
Regardless, Denver should win. They are going against Easton Stick who shouldn’t be able to do too much against their defense. This will definitely be an ugly one but will also be competitive due to the divisional rivalry.
If you willingly watch this and aren’t a fan of one of these two teams, then you are probably psychotic. That said, give me Denver.
Prediction: Denver wins, Denver covers -3.5
12/31: Cincinnati Bengals @ Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5, O/U 44), 4:25PM EST, CBS
It’s no secret that Kansas City has not been the team they hoped they would be so far this season. At 9-6, they will likely still win their division. However, they will likely have to play a road playoff game which has not yet happened in the Patrick Mahomes’ era in KC.
In this one, the Chiefs are going to bounce back. Arrowhead will be fired up and that will cause Jake Browning to make a critical mistake or two that gives the Chiefs an advantage. As long as Mahomes takes care of the ball, the Chiefs will cruise to a win.
With all that said, I like the Chiefs and the number. I see Kansas City winning by over 10 points so I’m comfortable laying the touchdown. Look for the Chiefs to begin to look like the normal playoff version of themselves in this one.
Prediction: Kansas City wins, Kansas City covers -6.5
12/31 (SNF): Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings (-1.5, O/U 43.5), 8:20PM EST, NBC
While Justin Jefferson is back for Minnesota, they won’t be with T.J. Hockenson for the rest of the year as he injured his knee badly in last week’s loss to Detroit. That won’t help Jaren Hall as he needs all the help he can get in a divisional game as critical as this one.
Hall is inexperienced and will likely crumble under the pressure of this game. Despite not having to face Jaire Alexander (suspension), I don’t believe he has what it takes to outduel Jordan Love. Love has been playing well recently and with a Green Bay win he will have lead them to a 55% chance to make the playoffs with a week to go.
No doubt Minnesota will be rocking for this one. I will surely be drinking a few beers while kicked back enjoying some good heated rivalry football. I may look stupid for riding with the road team in a game like this but call me dumb I guess.
Prediction: Green Bay wins, Green Bay covers +1.5