NEW YORK JETS (9-7) @ CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6)
The Bengals, assured of a playoff spot, went to New York last week and got absolutely punished by the Jets, who needed to win to get in. There are two differences this week; Cincy are at home, and it's sudden death for them as well now. The Bengals, looking more like a team of Aussie battlers, and Carson Palmer looking like myself taking snaps at QB, got nothing going on offense last week but you'd expect that to improve a bit at home. It remains to be seen if Chad Whatever-The-Fuck-His-Name-Is-Now can get any meaningful yardage against Darrelle Revis; there's a staggeringly good list of top receivers who've been fantasy duds up against this guy this year. It's not just Revis though, as the Jets D is stingy across the board, so Cincy need some guys to step up and make some plays. The Jets also have the NFL's top rushing attack in Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene, who the Bengals didn't seem to have an answer for last week. I just think Cincy were too comprehensively outplayed last week to turn it around, are still not quite over the death of team-mate Chris Henry just a couple of weeks ago, and are just going to be hoping for a Mark Sanchez meltdown. Jets by 6-12 pts.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (11-5) @ DALLAS COWBOYS (11-5)
Another one-sided affair last week, the Eagles head back to the world's greatest sporting arena, Cowboys Stadium:
It's believed more than 100 Gautemalan workers perished trying to get that 55m long HDTV up there...
But the show must go on. Philly were dreadful last week and I would say with confidence that they cannot and will not play any worse. They were out-muscled by the pretty-boy Cowboys but after having Andy Reid holler abuse at them all week, I expect them to bring a bit more to the table. The factor that the Eagles have to play on is the Cowboys awful playoff record in recent times, including a monumental choke against Seattle in 2007, and being the first #1 NFC seed to be bundled out in straight sets a year later. If Philly start well, then you can bet they'll be telling the Cowboys all about those last 6 playoff losses, and you can bet the crowd will sense another season so full of promise disintegrating. A good start and a couple of deep bombs to Desean Jackson (who McNabb overthrew twice last week when he was open and had a step) and Philly could be right in this. The Cowboys should win; Demarcus Ware has the defense fired up with consecutive shutouts to end the regular season...I'll give it to them in a close one. Cowboys by 1-6.
BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-7) @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-6)
The Ravens have a bit of a shot here with the season-ending injury to Tom Brady's favourite receiver and NFL reception leader Wes Welker. You'd still expect Brady to have a nice game though being the playoff machine he is. The Pats have won 11 straight playoff games at home and I expect them to make it 12 but not without a fight. The Ravens best chance to win is to pump it up the middle all day with Ray Rice and their assortment of running backs. Like there's no tomorrow. The Pats have defended the run better this year but it will be interesting to see how they handle Baltimore's multi-pronged rushing attack in heavy doses. I've got Brady getting New England over the line with a match winning, heroic 4th quarter. After all, he's learnt from the best:
GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-5) @ ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-6)
Last week, the Packers went to Arizona and won 33-7. Forget about that. Replacing Matt Leinart with Kurt Warner (who was rested) at QB is like upgrading from a Kombi Van to a Bentley:
The Cards will be much more competitive without Leinart throwing bricks to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. You just can't ever really trust a left-handed QB. Arizona also showed that they are a playoff team last season as they defied the punters, making it to within 35 seconds of a Superbowl victory. Green Bay are certainly a chance to win but they won't want to be taking too much confidence out of last week. If Arizona can stop the run of the Packers, they'll go a long way to winning this; if they can get any semblance of a running game of their own to boot, they'll be winning. The Packers were solid in all facets a week ago and will look out-muscle Arizona once again but ultimately, I cannot stress how bad Leinart is, and Warner, with good protection, leads the Cards to victory. Arizona by 6-12.