We’re at that point in the season where playoff spots get decided, and thanks to a perfectly heated up race in both the NFC and AFC, there are great games with huge implications up and down the schedule.

Of course, games with great significance also means lots of games between playoff caliber teams, and these can be particularly difficult to handicap.  Thanks to a logjam at the top of both conferences, there are more of these than ever on the schedule over the next several weeks.

Last Week’s Picks:  8-10    Best:  3-1
Season Total:  123-95-3       Best:  31-20

Baltimore (+3) @Miami (MGM Mirage)

Right off the bat you’ve got a good one.  These two 7-5 teams are pretty evenly matched.  On the one hand you’ve got Miami:  they have a look ahead to the Patriots next week and don’t really have a big homefield advantage, not like some teams anyway.  On the other hand, you’ve got the Ravens, who just lost Haloti Ngata.  But Baltimore knows they need help in the North, and this is probably the toughest game left on their schedule.  If they win this, 11-5 is a very real possibility and that most likely gets them to the playoffs.  I like the Ravens to win this game outright.

Baltimore Ravens 24 Miami Dolphins 21

Pittsburgh (+3.5) @Cincinnati (Wynn Las Vegas)

The Steelers have been a little bit schizophrenic this season, and I get burned misreading the Bengals often, but I’ve got a real strong feeling that this is where Cincy gets its comeuppance.  I just don’t believe the Bengals are the best team in the North or really even that close to being the best.  Pittsburgh outright.

Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Cincinnati Bengals 27


Indianapolis (-3.5) @Cleveland (Westgate Superbook)

The announcement by Mike Pettine that the Browns will start the anemic Brian Hoyer once more makes me anxious to jump on the Colts side of things.  I’ll do so, but the 3.5 spread as opposed to 3 or less makes this just another pick, not a really good one.

Indianapolis Colts 31 Cleveland Browns 27


Houston (-5.5) @Jacksonville (Stations)

I feel like if the Raiders taught us anything, it’s that bad teams get their butts kicked after they win the odd game or so.  While I’m not expecting 52-0, I also don’t think Jacksonville built any kind of momentum last week.  The division rivalry nature of this game keeps me from putting it in best picks.

Houston 28 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

NY Giants (-1) @Tennessee (Westgate Superbook)

Stay away from this game.  Either the Giants have quit, in which case terrible Tennessee is your pick, or they haven’t quit, in which case you’re taking a 3-8 road favorite.  Don’t bet this game, don’t watch this game.  Yucko!

Tennessee Titans 24 NY Giants 20


Carolina (+9.5) @New Orleans (Stations)

Giving nearly double digit points with a team that has been as underachieving as the Saints is a scary thought, but what’s really scary is how awful Carolina has been since basically September.  I don’t trust the Saints.  I trust the Panthers even less.

New Orleans Saints 33 Carolina Panthers 21


St. Louis (-3) @Washington (Westgate Superbook)

One of these teams shows up every week and still plays as if the game really matters.  Can you guess which one that is?

St. Louis Rams 24 Washington RacialSlurs 17


NY Jets (+6) @Minnesota (Westgate Superbook)

The Jets have to be close to the point where even Rex Ryan can’t whip them up into a frenzy for gameday, and God knows they can’t execute even when they try, but it’s also hard to sell giving close to a touchdown with a plodding Minnesota team that hasn’t found any offensive identity yet.  I’d steer clear of this game.

Minnesota Vikings 20 New York Jets 13


Buffalo (+10) @Denver (Wynn Las Vegas)

It’s so hard to pick against Denver, but in this game I really do think the Bills can keep it close for a couple of reasons.  First, they’re defense is no joke.  It’s a terrific stop unit, and look how teams like Miami have fared in this matchup.  Second, the Broncos themselves seem quite content to hand the ball off, a lot if necessary, and just win game rather than put up fireworks.  That tends to limit the chance of a blowout.

Denver Broncos 27 Buffalo Bills 19


San Francisco (-9) @Oakland (CG Technology)

Coming off a horrible loss, Oakland likely rebounds.  They’ve been a bit like that all year.  And I’m not sure the 49ers should be giving more than a touchdown to ANYONE anymore.  Their defense remains solid, but their offense is a big nasty mess.

San Francisco 49ers 20 Oakland Raiders 14


Seattle (+1.5) @Philadelphia (William Hill)

I’m not giving the Seahawks points when I have Mark Sanchez at quarterback.  You give the Seahawks points when you have Mark Sanchez at quarterback.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Philadelphia Eagles 21

New England (-4) @San Diego (Wynn Las Vegas)

I’ve been back and forth on this game.  You could do worse than taking the Patriots after a loss every time, but I really feel like San Diego is getting completely disrespected in this game.  Their defense will show up.  And this may finally be the week the Pats really miss Jerrod Mayo.

San Diego Chargers 27 New England Patriots 26


Atlanta (+11.5) @Green Bay (MGM Mirage)

There’s no way in hell I’m going against the Packers at home.  Aaron Rodgers is great everywhere, but the Packers defense shows up at home too.  This spread is so high it’s silly, but I’ll give the points.  As an aside, I think the under 56 might be a play here, but it’s hard to count on Green Bay’s defense and you know the Falcons can score.  Besides, Green Bay could get you most of the way to 56 by themselves.

Green Bay Packers 38 Atlanta Falcons 24


Best Picks of the Week

I hate the Buccaneers new uniforms

I hate the Buccaneers new uniforms

Indianapolis @Cleveland o/u 49.5 (MGM Mirage)

An over/under less than 50 in a Colts game?  For reals?  Gimme!

Indianapolis Colts 31 Cleveland Browns 27


Tampa Bay (+10.5) @Detroit (5Dimes)

The Buccaneers have only lost by more than 10 points twice all season.  The Lions, meanwhile, broke 30 points last week for the first time since opening day.  This spread is a joke.  Do people realize this is the Lions they’re talking about?  Any idea what their record against the spread is as a favorite this big?   It’s dreadful.

Detroit Lions 21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14


Kansas City (-1) @Arizona (Westgate Superbook)

I’m amazed to see the Cardinals getting points.  I know Arizona is only a good, not an elite, team, but the Chiefs are the exact same thing.  And Arizona’s homefield advantage is for real.  They should be giving 2.5 or 3 points in this game, not playing as a home dog.  I’m all over this.

Arizona Cardinals 21 Kansas City Chiefs 17

Featured image via Tom Szczerbowski