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Baltimore Ravens @ Washington Redskins

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

QB Joe Flacco hardly contributed last week in the Ravens’ loss to the Steelers. Flacco was thoroughly outplayed by 37-year-old Steelers backup Charlie Batch, which is unacceptable for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Flacco must play better going forward and add another dimension to the Ravens’ offense past RB Ray Rice. The Redskins won a tough game against the Giants on Monday night as they kept their division hopes alive. They are now one game behind the Giants for the division lead with 4 games to go. Alfred Morris was outstanding as he rushed for 124 yards. The Redskins have won their last 3 games and are 5-1 in games in which WR Pierre Garcon plays. Washington will keep their playoff hopes alive by shocking the Ravens.

Prediction: 23-21 Redskins

Dallas Cowboys @ Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

Dallas is tied with Washington for 2nd place in the NFC East and they desperately needed the win they got over the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Tony Romo was outstanding last week, throwing for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. When Romo plays the way he did Sunday night and Demarco Murray is in the lineup, the Cowboys are incredibly difficult to beat. The problem is that Romo is very inconsistent and cannot be expected to produce in every game. The Bengals are 7-5 and primed to grab a wild card spot in the playoffs. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is giving them a much-needed running attack, which has opened up the field for Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. The Bengals will need to take advantage of Dallas’s secondary in this game, stop Demarco Murray, and force Tony Romo to win the game himself.

Prediction: 24-16 Bengals

St. Louis Rams @ Buffalo Bills

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

The Rams shocked the 49ers last week by beating them in overtime. They did a great job stopping Frank Gore and not allowing Colin Kaepernick to beat them through the air. Sam Bradford also did not make many mistakes, which was key for St. Louis, especially against a dominant defense like San Francisco’s. The Bills also played good defense last week against Jacksonville. They only allowed 50 rushing yards, but I expect that to change this week against Rams’ RB Steven Jackson. When the Bills can get their rushing game working with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, they are incredibly hard to stop. The Bills ran for a combined 186 yards last week and if the Rams want to win, they will have to prioritize shutting down the Bills’ running game.

Prediction: 20-14 Rams

Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

Another week, another cut in Philadelphia. This time, defensive line coach Jim Washburn was fired, making him the second coach canned this season. The Eagles lost last Sunday night to division rival Cowboys after allowing 21 points in the 4th quarter. Philadelphia coach Andy Reid announced that Rookie QB Nick Foles would retain the starting job, independent of Michael Vick’s health, which almost certainly spells the end of Vick’s days in Philadelphia. Rookie RB Bryce Brown has been a pleasant surprise, however, as he torched the Dallas D for 169 yards and 2 TDs. Expect him to continue his production against Tampa Bay. The Bucs had a tough time stopping Peyton Manning last week, and RB Doug Martin had a tough time getting anything going, but they are still in contention for a playoff spot. Their explosive offense should be able to put up a ton of points against the Eagles’ defense.

Prediction: 27-17 Buccaneers

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

Atlanta pulled out an impressive close win, intercepting Saints’ QB Drew Brees five times and ending his consecutive touchdown streak. At 11-1 and with no real competitors for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Falcons can start coasting and preparing for the playoffs. The Panthers cannot be happy with their defensive effort against the lowly Chiefs. They allowed 27 points, Brady Quinn to go 19/23 for just over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns, and 127 rushing yards to Jamaal Charles. They wasted a great game by Cam Newton against the subpar Chiefs defense. Carolina’s defense is simply not good enough to allow the Panthers to win consistently.

Prediction: 31-20 Falcons

Kansas City Chiefs @ Cleveland Browns

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

The Chiefs rallied around Jovan Belcher’s suicide last week as they managed to overcome their emotions and defeat the Carolina Panthers. Brady Quinn was outstanding against the Panthers’ D and Jamaal Charles ran hard all game. They had a hard time slowing down Cam Newton through the air, and they allowed 3 passing touchdowns. The Cleveland Browns earned their fourth win of the season over the Raiders as Brandon Weeden threw for over 350 yards and had one of his best games of the season. Their secondary was torched by Carson Palmer last game, so they will need to do more to stop Brady Quinn this week. Expect Trent Richardson to have a big game against this Kansas City defense and for Brandon Weeden to do just enough for the Browns to pull out another win.

Prediction: 17-14 Browns

San Diego Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

After their promising start to the season, the Chargers are suddenly 4-8 and out of the playoff race. Ryan Mathews has been disappointing this season and Philip Rivers has been trying, unsuccessfully, to win games himself. They shouldn’t expect to score many points against this tough Steelers’ defense. Ben Roethlisberger may make his return this week, and if he does, I expect the Steelers to win easily. The stakes are too high to allow the Chargers to upset them.

Prediction: 23-14 Steelers

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

Andrew Luck was outstanding last week as he led the Colts to a win over the Lions in the last play of the game. He threw for almost 400 yards and 4 touchdowns and unbelievably, the Colts are looking at a potential playoff berth after last year’s disastrous season. They come into this game ready to dominate, especially since they are so close to the playoffs. Tennessee is reeling and they have one of the worst defenses in the league. As long as the Colts can contain Chris Johnson, they should cruise to their ninth win.

Prediction: 27-16 Colts

New York Jets @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

Rex Ryan announced that Mark Sanchez would remain the starting quarterback of the Jets after he was benched last week in favor of Greg McElroy. Sanchez was absolutely awful against the Cardinals, throwing for less than 100 yards and 3 interceptions. Luckily, the Cardinals’ offense is just as inept as the Jets’ and they were able to pull out the 7-6 victory. They visit the Jaguars, who come off a blowout loss against the Bills as Chad Henne struggled to get anything going through the air. The only thing that can be said about this matchup is that it will definitely be ugly.

Prediction: 13-7 Jets

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings

Sunday, Dec. 9 1:00 p.m.

Last week, the Bears lost in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks, despite an excellent game from Jay Cutler. Matt Forte needs to emulate his performance in previous years if the Bears want to get anywhere in the playoffs. Forte amassed only 66 yards on 21 carries last week, which is unacceptable for a running back of his caliber. The unimpressive Chicago defense allowed almost 300 yards passing to Russell Wilson and almost 100 yards rushing to Marshawn Lynch. They need to focus and play well in their divisional battle against the Vikings coming up. Christian Ponder showed his inconsistency once again as he threw two interceptions and only 119 yards. Therefore, the Vikings need to continue giving Adrian Peterson the ball if they want any chance to get into the playoffs. Peterson gained 210 rushing yards against the Packers last week and we can expect a heavy dose of him against Chicago. Bears win a close one.

Prediction: 23-20 Bears

Miami Dolphins @ San Francisco 49ers

Sunday, Dec. 9 4:05 p.m.

Let the second-guessing begin. The 49ers lost to the Rams last week, and Colin Kaepernick was responsible for many of the St. Louis points. He made mistakes that you would expect from a young, inexperienced quarterback. If San Francisco has Super Bowl aspirations, they cannot afford to make these types of mistakes in key games. Miami will try to force Kaepernick into these mistakes all game by focusing their attention on Frank Gore. They have an incredibly tough rush defense and if the 49ers want to win, they will have to score either on the arm of Kaepernick or through their capable defense. The 49ers’ defense should be able to hold Miami and get a score or two as the 49ers win.

Prediction: 24-10 49ers

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks

Sunday, Dec. 9 4:25 p.m.

The Cardinals lost a very ugly game to the Jets last week as their offense was unable to produce more than 6 points. They are struggling with Ryan Lindley at the helm. He played awfully, going 10/31 for 72 yards and an interception. They have practically no chance at winning with production like that from their quarterback. Even Beanie Wells couldn’t get anything going, only gaining 22 yards on 15 carries. Even though their defense is actually fairly formidable, with a non-existent offense, the Cardinals have no chance to outscore a hungry Seahawks team that absolutely needs this win.

Prediction: 23-10 Seahawks

New Orleans Saints @ New York Giants

Sunday, Dec. 9 4:25 p.m.

Drew Brees just had one of the worst games in recent memory, throwing 5 interceptions against the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints’ secondary, however, played well compared to normal, allowing only 165 passing yards. It remains to be seen if their defensive effort was just a fluke or if they have turned a corner. Eli Manning will surely test their defense, especially after losing a crucial game last week to Washington. This will be a very high scoring game, especially with Brees trying to redeem himself after last week’s disaster and the Giants trying to maintain their slipping grip on the NFC East.

Prediction: 34-30 Saints

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers

Sunday, Dec. 9 8:20 p.m.

The Lions desperately needed a win and they couldn’t get it last week against the Colts. They are now relegated to playing the role of spoiler for the remainder of the season. They need a reliable running game to solidify themselves as a formidable team in the NFC. Their upcoming game against the Packers will be a shootout, as neither team really has a great secondary and both teams have incredibly explosive passing offenses. Expect very little running, and a lot of points.

Prediction: 37-31 Packers

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

Sunday, Dec. 9 8:20 p.m.

In the marquee matchup of the week, the two AFC powerhouses meet on Monday Night Football. Both teams clinched a playoff spot last week and both are fighting for home field advantage in the playoffs. The Texans’ defense played well last week, forcing Jake Locker into throwing 3 interceptions and holding Chris Johnson to 51 yards. Arian Foster was non-existent, but expect him to play a much bigger role this week against New England. The Patriots won with a very solid all-around effort, as Stevan Ridley ran for 71 yards and Tom Brady threw for 238. In a potential playoff matchup, expect Arian Foster to be productive and Houston’s defense to hold Brady enough to pull out a close one.

Prediction: 24-21 Texans