New England Patriots @ Chicago Bears (+3): Great win on Monday, Patriots. Just an utter dismantling of that other AFC East team, the one that talks a big game but doesn’t look so hot right about now. New England sits atop the power rankings of many an NFL analyst, thanks partly to how well Tom Brady played and his record-setting streak of consecutive wins at home. The Bears are no joke, though, as folks have been noticing along the way to five straight wins following their Week 8 bye. Most noticeable difference from the first half of the season? Jay Cutler‘s efficiency in protecting the football and delivering it to his intended targets with accuracy. That, and an uncharacteristically balanced Mike Martz offense that offers opponents a large dose of Matt Forte. Chicago’s defense is among the best in the league and will hinder Brady, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Danny Woodhead to some degree. But Vinnie’s “X” factor is New England’s young defense, which will be put to the test by the aforementioned Bears playmakers.
Gimme the Bears plus the points.
Cleveland Browns @ Buffalo Bills (-1): Two weeks ago, the Bills took Pittsburgh to overtime. They won back-to-back games before that. And they lost by a mere field goal in each game of the three games leading up to that. Bills’ standouts Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson are now arguably household names in the fantasy football community, but at the end of the day this is a 2-9 team that has a knack for finding creative ways to lose. Cleveland’s won/loss record isn’t all that much better, but thanks largely to Peyton Hillis, Ben Watson (last week any way), and an opportunistic defense & special teams, the Browns have shown they can hang with anybody on a given Sunday. Currently riding a two-game winning streak, the Browns have won four-of-six and will find Buffalo to be nothing more than an unobtrusive bump in the road.
Gimme the Browns plus the point.
Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers (+8): What we have here is a matchup pitting the crown jewel of the NFC – a team rapidly moving toward clinching homefield advantage throughout the playoffs – and the worst team in the league. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White all figure to look like the superstars they are versus Carolina. It doesn’t bode well for Jonathan Stewart and the Panthers, Atlanta’s defense 7th best in terms of points allowed, 8th best in terms of rushing yards allowed, and having given up less rushing touchdowns than all but two NFL teams. Vinnie smells a blowout win for the visiting Falcons, here.
Gimme the Falcons minus the points.
Baltimore Ravens @ Houston Texans (+3): On the one hand, the Texans’ defense is terrible and must face Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, and Derrick Mason this Monday. On the other hand, Houston has had the benefit of additional time away from live game action (having played last Thursday) and isn’t that far out of playoff contention. A lot would have to happen over the remaining four weeks of the regular season, but Jacksonville and Indy aren’t stalwarts of consistency these days. And hey, Arian Foster gives the Texans a tremendous shot in the arm week in & week out, preventing opponents from focusing every playcall around Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Problem is, the Ravens are smarting from a brutal loss versus Pittsburgh and will undoubtedly come into this primetime game extra ready to rumble.
Gimme the Ravens minus the points.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Redskins (+2): If one were to watch last Sunday’s game versus the Giants after not knowing anything of what level Washington had been playing at earlier in the year, he would think Mike Shanahan’s Redskins must surely be knocking on the cellar door of the NFL. What an embarrasing showing from this team. Vinnie suspects the line to only have Washington as a two-point underdog due to Tampa Bay’s trend of only beating teams with a losing record. Oh, and perhaps also due to recent significant injuries to Aqib Talib (the team’s premiere cover corner), Davin Joseph (one of the better young offensive guards in the league), and Jeff Faine (quality starter at the center position). This pick, as much as anything, reveals Vinnie’s preference for Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, and Mike Williams over that which Donovan McNabb and his supporting cast have to offer.
Gimme the Buccaneers minus the points.
St. Louis Rams @ New Orleans Saints (-9.5): With Sam Bradford a shoe-in for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and Steven Jackson occasionally finding some running room behind what is a much improved offensive line, the Rams have a crack at their division title and intend to take it. The defense is a more cohesive yet disruptive force under head coach Steve Spagnuolo, but cannot be expected to hold up against a New Orleans team which has scored 30+ in four straight … can it? Drew Brees and Chris Ivory, along with Marques Colston and his receiving buddies, have been impressive. The key to this game, though, lies in the Rams winning two consecutive road contests but having to travel to New Orleans for a third. Even the best of NFL teams rarely win three straight on the road, folks.
Gimme the Saints minus the points.