Okay, I’m instituting a new rule.  From now on (or at least for this week), this column will no longer prognosticate games that involve the New England Patriots or the Arizona Cardinals.

Regardless of whether I pick them to win or lose, they always seem to do the exact opposite from what I predict they will.

Wait a minute….maybe I’ve stumbled on to something here.  What I need to do is pick the Cardinals to lose every week.  Riiiiiight!  (A little Dr. Evil  humor there.)

Dr. Evil

Well, maybe we’ll start that next week.  For now, here’s what this week looks like!

This week’s Lock of the Week (12-2).

Looking through the schedule this week, I had a bad feeling about this category for the first time this season.  Every game on the list could potentially go either way.  My “sure thing” category was in danger!

Then I saw Tennessee at Denver.  PHEW!!  All is well again.

If there was ever a lock of the week, this is it.  Denver is only one game ahead of New England for the #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.  And New England holds the tie-breaker over the Broncos.  So Manning and company cannot afford another loss over the next four weeks.

Meanwhile, the Titans are desperate for a win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.  A loss could potentially drop them two games out in the battle for the 6th and final playoff spot in the AFC.

Bad news for the Titans!  They would be underdogs if they were hosting the game.  But having to travel to warm and sunny Denver (just making sure you’re paying attention) means a long, painful day is in their future.

Denver is favored by 12 points.  They’ll double that spread before this one is over!

Denver Broncos

This week’s Upset of the Week (6-8).

Can someone please explain to me why the San Francisco 49ers are favored over the visiting Seattle Seahawks?  I know it’s only 2 ½ points, but c’mon.  Have the, uh-hum, experts been paying attention to these two teams?

San Francisco has been inconsistent as can be.  One week they look like a contender and the next week they struggle to reach the red zone, let alone the end zone.

I know this team is supposed to operate around Kaepernick, but if you check the stats, you’ll find that their biggest games are the ones that Gore was able to put up big numbers on the ground.  When he doesn’t get his touches, the 49ers become a very average offense.

Meanwhile, after struggling on the road early in the season, the Seahawks have found their stride.  While they are unbeatable at home, they are still scary good on the road.  They’re complete dismantling of New Orleans last Monday showed they are champion caliber on both sides of the ball.

This will stay close for a while, but ultimately Seattle will pull away for the W and the NFC West Division title!

Seattle Seahawks

This week’s Game of the Week (8-6).

There are several games that are either important matchups, great matchups, or both.  Miami at Pittsburgh, Detroit at Philadelphia, Indianapolis at Cincinnati and Dallas at Chicago all feature two teams that are right in the middle of the playoff hunt.

Yet there is another game that trumps them all.  The Carolina Panthers at the New Orleans Saints.  Be honest, when the season began, did any of you think this game would be so important?  I’m pretty sure I was the only one that knew it would be.  Yeah, yeah, that’s right.  That’s the ticket!  (A little Tommy Flanagan humor there.)

Tommy Flanagan

The Saints desperately need to bounce back after being throttled in Seattle last week.  Their offense had been running smoothly over the past several weeks, seemingly scoring at will as they continually controlled the clock.  Their defense had been resembling the team of 2011 lately, making crucial stops while making life miserable for opposing QBs.

Then they traveled to the land of coffee and it all came crashing down.  When they woke up Tuesday, they found themselves tied with Carolina for the NFC South Division lead, not to mention the #2 seed.

The Panthers have now won eight games in a row and appear to be the hottest team in the NFL.  (Key word here is appears.)  They actually have an opportunity to grab the #2 seed and get a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

How have they managed to put themselves in this position?  Well, we could talk about their tenacious defense that resembles the Panthers of a decade ago.  Or we could focus on the offensive line that has allowed their running game to blossom again.

But the key is Cam Newton.  He seems to have finally accepted the fact that when he utilizes all of “his team’s” weapons, and not just all of “his own” weapons, the Panthers are a much better team.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still agree that he is an extremely talented and gifted athlete that possesses an incredible skill set.  But this isn’t college, it is the NFL.  If a team utilizes one player for 80% of their plays, they will not succeed.  By using Cam less, he is able to do more.

So here we are, tied at 9-3, with four games remaining.  Two of the four games are against each other, beginning this week at New Orleans.

This should be a great game with lots of scoring and some timely turnovers.  But ultimately the Saints will remind everyone that it is no easier to win at New Orleans than it is at Seattle.

Round one goes to the Saints!

New Orleans Saints


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