Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 9:21 AM
OAKLAND (7-5) at GREEN BAY (12-0) - 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Love it how everyone's calling 'em the"Perfect Packers" these days but one thing that the defending Super Bowl champs need to perk up is the pass rush ... did you know that Green Bay has just 26 quarterback sacks this season and that ranks 'em just 18th in the NFL and you wonder if the lack of sacks will cost GB here or down the road.
No doubt the visiting Raiders will be putting the ball in the air waves here but can mistake-prone QB Carson Palmer (9 INTs in 177 pass attempts this year) steer clear of the"pick six" that's haunted him since he signed on the dotted line with the silver-and-black back in mid-October?
HOUSTON (9-3) at CINCINNATI (7-5) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Here's a question worth posing: Could the Houston Texans - playing with a third-stringer at quarterback - still wind up with the AFC's #1 playoff seed?
The T.J. Yates Era got off to a flying start with last weekend's 17-10 hang-on-for-dear-life win against 1-point road favorite Atlanta - the replacement for injured QBs Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart completed 12-of-25 passes for 188 yards and he didn't throw a pick (see decent 86.8 QB Rating) - and note this figures to be the Texans' toughest remaining regular-season game as Gary Kubiak's club finishes up home to Carolina, at winless Indianapolis and than home to Tennessee.
NEW ORLEANS (9-3) at TENNESSEE (7-5) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
No doubt the Saints are holding out hope they can catch/pass San Francisco for that all-important #2 playoff seed in the NFC but keep in mind N'Orleans is one game back of the Niners (10-2) in terms of the standings and two games back in terms of the conference tie-breakers as San Fran's 8-1 in NFC play while the Saints are 6-3 against same-conference foes.
And what can folks expect from the Saints here - consider that Sean Payton's crew has shown two sides with N'Orleans 6-0 SU/ATS at home but just 3-3 SU and 2-4 ATS away. The key here is how does the Saints defense handle born-again RB Chris Johnson? Note that New Orleans allows 4.9 yards an enemy rush.
CHICAGO (7-5) at DENVER (7-5) - 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox
Were the Denver Broncos really 1-4 SU at one time this year? You betcha they were until"Tebow Time" but here's what continues to get lost in the shuffle with Denver's sizzling streak of six wins in its last seven games: The defense has held four of the last seven foes to 15 points or less and somebody on"D" always seems to make the big play whether it's DB Andre Goodman (see INT-for-TD against the Jets and than last week's last-minute pick in Minnesota that set up the game-winning field goal) or somebody else. Who plays the defensive hero here against beleaguered Bears QB Caleb Hanie (29-of-60 passing for 387 yards with 2 TDs and 6 INTs in relief of injured starter Jay Cutler)? Yikes!
KANSAS CITY (5-7) at NY JETS (7-5) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Following their heart-breaking 17-13 loss in Denver back on Nov. 17th, the J-E-T-S proclaimed they needed to "run the table" in order to secure a playoff berth ... well, two down and four to go! Rex Ryan's club rode a fabulous fourth quarter in beating Washington 34-19 last Sunday and now the QB Mark Sanchez-to-WR Santonio Holmes combo must thrive against a banged-up KayCee secondary. P.S., the Chiefs have scored only two TDs in their last four games and one of them was last week's Hail Mary play in Chicago ... ugh!
MINNESOTA (2-10) at DETROIT (7-5) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The $64,000 question in/around the Motor City is can these Lions behave themselves after the glut of silly/stupid penalties have bogged 'em down in recent weeks If head coach Jim Schwartz - who is no picture of serenity, mind you! - cannot get a grip on his guys here than 7-point pup Minnesota could be trouble with Vikes' QB Christian Ponder (1,522 yards passing and 9 TDs) clearly is getting better all the time.
ATLANTA (7-5) at CAROLINA (4-8) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The Falcons already have lost two more regular-season games than they did a year ago en route to nailing down the NFC's #1 playoff berth and one reason for the fall-off is QB Matt Ryan has not been terribly consistent (19 TDs but 12 INTs) and no question the Falcs must make hay when they get into the red zone here and so gut feeling says TE Tony Gonzalez (66 receptions and 7 TDs this season) must be a stat-sheet stuffer.
NEW YORK GIANTS (6-6) at DALLAS (7-5) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Nothing like being on a four-game losing streak and still having a shot at landing up in first place by day's end ... and that's the case with the Giants who play archrival Dallas twice in this final month of games but was last week's "moral victory" against the perfect Packers the right tonic for Tom Coughlin's club? Meanwhile, know this about the 'Boys: They better get rookie RB DeMarco Murray in gear here. The kid was held to a mere 38 yards rushing in last Sunday's overtime loss at Arizona after he had averaged nearly 109 yards rushing per outing during the team's recent four-game winning streak. They play it again on New Year's Day ... whoopee!
THE NFL'S "HOT & NOT" SPREAD SIDES ENTERING SUNDAY'S WEEK 14 ACTION
Let's take a quick-hitter look at how many of the NFL teams are faring spreadwise while heading into Sunday's Week 14 play - it's our Jim Sez "Hot & Not" segment:
The Arizona Cardinals have covered five of their last six games while dating back to Oct. 30th;
The Baltimore Ravens have covered three in a row while surrendering a per-game average of 13.3 points per game;
The Buffalo Bills have failed to cover four of their last five tilts while averaging on offense just 13.4 ppg;
The Cincinnati Bengals have dropped their last four consecutive games after originally getting off to a dashing 7-1 ATS (against the spread) start;
The Dallas Cowboys have failed to cover their last three - and five of their last six - spread verdicts dating back to Oct. 30th;
The Denver Broncos have notched spread wins in their last five consecutive outings;
The Houston Texans are 5-0-1 versus the vig in their last six games since Oct. 23rd;
The Indianapolis Colts have failed to cover seven of their last eight games;
The Jacksonville Jaguars enter Sunday's game against Tampa Bay on a three-game spread losing skid;
The Miami Dolphins have covered their last six in a row and that's after getting off to an 0-6 spread start this 2011 season;
The Minnesota Vikings have dropped their last four consecutive pointspread verdicts while allowing nearly 33 ppg;
The New Orleans Saints have covered each of their last four outings and they have just one spread loss since Oct. 23rd;
The Oakland Raiders have covered three of their last four games;
The Philadelphia Eagles have failed to cover four of their last five games since that Oct. 30th blowout win against Dallas;
The St. Louis Rams have lost their last three successive spread verdicts;
The San Diego Chargers may be coming off a spread "W" in Monday Night Football but the Bolts have dropped six of their last seven spread results;
The San Francisco 49ers have covered five-of-six games since their Week 7 bye;
The Seattle Seahawks have covered four of their last five games;
The Tampa Bay Bucs have dropped four of their last five ATS decisions since a Week 8 bye;
And the Tennessee Titans are 3-0-1 spreadwise the past four weeks.