By BOB CHRIST
SPECIAL TO THE LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Dallas (5-9) at Arizona (4-10)
Time: 4:30 p.m. Line: Cowboys -6½ Total: 45
TV/RADIO: NFLN (317), KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ WEATHER: High 60s, clear
■ Facts: Dallas had a 23-yard edge in average starting field position against visiting Washington last week (43-20), the greatest margin by any team this season, yet still needed a late field goal to win, 33-30, as a touchdown favorite. … Arizona is averaging 19.8 rushing attempts per game, the second fewest in league history. … The Cowboys are 4-2 (5-1 against the spread) since interim coach Jason Garrett replaced Wade Phillips after a 1-7 start. The best turnabout in history occurred in 1961, when Wally Lemm took over a 0-3-1 Houston Oilers team and led them to a 10-0 finish and the AFL title.
■ Analysis: All is not right with a Dallas offense that was only 2-for-5 scoring touchdowns on goal-to-go possessions against the Redskins’ 32nd-ranked defense. Plus, the Cowboys allowed retread Rex Grossman to throw four TD passes during a gallant comeback attempt. Arizona rookie QB John Skelton might keep it interesting in front of the prime-time home crowd.
■ Forecast: Cowboys 26, Cardinals 24
Detroit (4-10) at Miami (7-7)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Dolphins -3½ Total: 41½
■ WEATHER: High 60s, 30 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: The Dolphins (1-6 home, 6-1 road) can clinch the worst home/road record discrepancy in NFL history with a loss. In 1961, Detroit was 2-5 at Tiger Stadium, 6-0-1 on the road. … The Lions have to choose between a QB (both questionable) coming off a broken finger, Shaun Hill, or one who has a Grade 3 shoulder separation, Drew Stanton. … Detroit broke its NFL-record 26-game road losing streak with a 23-20 OT victory in Tampa Bay last week. Now the Lions will try to win for the first time along Florida’s Atlantic coast. They are 0-2 at Jacksonville, 0-4 at Miami.
■ Analysis: Not only do the Dolphins suffer at home, but they are relying on the league’s 25th-rated passer in Chad Henne and haven’t had a running play of more than 10 yards in more than a month. Now that Miami has been eliminated from playoff contention, all the energy rides with emotionally charged Detroit coach Jim Schwartz and the Lions.
■ Forecast: Lions, 27, Dolphins 24
Washington (5-9) at Jacksonville (8-6)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Jaguars -7 Total: 45½
■ WEATHER: Low 50s, 20 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: Since the Redskins’ 59-28 loss to Philadelphia in Week 10, when the Eagles were 4-for-4 scoring TDs on goal-to-go possessions, Washington foes are only 4-for-11 in such scenarios. …. The Jaguars will be scoreboard watching. In addition to trying to beat Washington and then Houston, they need the Colts to lose to Oakland or Tennessee to win the AFC South. … Redskins QBs have been hurried 96 times, a league high. Jacksonville is next at 93, but that’s a considerable improvement over last year’s NFL-worst 126.
■ Analysis: QB Rex Grossman likely isn’t the long-term answer for the fast-falling Redskins, but he did guide consecutive second-half TD drives of 71, 78 and 56 yards against Dallas en route to the team’s highest point total of the year, 30. And with RB Maurice Jones-Drew (doubtful, knee) the Jaguars might not be up for a punch in the mouth from a TD underdog.
■ Forecast: Redskins 21, Jaguars 16
San Francisco (5-9) at St. Louis (6-8)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Rams -2½ Total: 39½
TV: Fox (5)
■ WEATHER: Indoors
■ Facts: The 49ers, 5-9 after their 34-7 Thursday loss to San Diego, still have a strong pulse in the NFC West race. If they win out and Seattle loses once, they’re in. St. Louis wins the division if it wins today and next week. … Rams RB Steven Jackson, the NFL’s ninth-leading rusher, had 22 touches for a season-high 148 yards of offense in a 23-20 overtime loss at San Francisco in Week 10. … 49ers QB Troy Smith, 3-2 as a starter this season, is coming off the bench again. He threw for 356 yards in Week 10. … Teams with extra rest after midseason Thursday games are 9-1 against the spread against squads on a normal work week.
■ Analysis: St. Louis’ offense showed little in a dreary 27-13 home loss to Kansas City last week. Rookie QB Sam Bradford passed 43 times and had only one completion longer than 16 yards, as receivers failed to get open. The Rams had three first downs during a 10-possession stretch. That’s not going to beat a San Francisco team that refuses to let anyone close its playoff coffin.
■ Forecast: 49ers 27, Rams 21
New England (12-2) at Buffalo (4-10)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Patriots -8½ Total: 44½
■ WEATHER: Low 20s, 40 percent chance of snow
■ Facts: The Patriots’ 14 straight wins over Buffalo, dating to the 2003 finale, is the league’s longest current series streak. During that stretch, New England is 6-0 against the line at Buffalo. … The Bills won at Miami last week 17-14, but the outcome could have been different had Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter not missed a league season-high four field-goal attempts. … New England is the runaway leader with a plus-20 turnover margin, but that’s well off the Redskins’ record of plus-43 set in 1983. … One week after the Patriots ran 36 more plays than Chicago, they ran 37 fewer than the Packers, tied for the third-biggest gap of the season. But New England still won, 31-27.
■ Analysis: The Patriots hunger for the home-field edge in the playoffs and should make quick work on a Bills team that is particularly weak along both lines. If the Pats follow the script from their 38-13 Week 3 victory, they will run and run. New England compiled 200 yards on 38 carries in that game against a unit that has allowed a league-high six teams to reach 200-plus.
■ Forecast: Patriots 31, Bills 13
N.Y. Jets (10-4) at Chicago (10-4)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Bears -1 Total: 36
TV/RADIO: CBS (8), KXNT-FM (100.5)
■ WEATHER: High 20s, 60 percent chance of snow
■ Facts: The Jets are encouraged QB Mark Sanchez (probable, shoulder) will be ready to start after originally saying there was about a 20 percent chance graybeard Mark Brunell would have to step in. … If NFC North champ Chicago wins out, it gets the No. 2 seed in the conference and the accompanying bye. … Chicago’s average starting field position in its frosty 40-14 victory at Minnesota last week was the Vikings’ 49, the best by any team the past four seasons. … The Jets’ defense had been on the field for only one 15-play drive all season until the Steelers controlled the ball for 16- and 15-play marches last week in New York’s 22-17 victory.
■ Analysis: Is it possible the Bears will hit the crummy QB jackpot yet again? Over the previous five weeks, they’ve faced third-stringers Tyler Thigpen of Miami, Drew Stanton of Detroit and Minnesota’s Joe Webb. And now maybe the soft-tossing Brunell is one relatively hard hit away. Even if Sanchez plays the whole way, he’s no savior, having led the Jets to one offensive TD his past three games. Chicago’s defense has a decided edge.
■ Forecast: Bears 20, Jets 9
Baltimore (10-4) at Cleveland (5-9)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Ravens -3½ Total: 39
■ WEATHER: High 20s, 20 percent chance of snow
■ Facts: Since Week 6, Ravens QB Joe Flacco has thrown for 18 TDs with only two INTs, vaulting from 26th to No. 7 on the passer charts. But in those nine games, he’s been sacked 30 times, and last week against the Saints completed only 5 of 13 throws to WRs. … Last year, the Browns rebounded from a 1-11 start to win their final four games. Now they’re on a two-game skid against squads with double-digit losses. … Bad news for Browns: For whatever reason, teams are 3-9 against the spread coming off a game against Cincinnati.
■ Analysis: As long as Browns RB Peyton Hillis (probable, knee) continues to be slowed, there’s less chance of him repeating his 144-yard performance against Baltimore. That means the Ravens’ defense, which held the Saints to a season-low 269 yards, can concentrate more on making rookie QB Colt McCoy’s head explode with bizarre blitzes and coverages.
■ Forecast: Ravens 24, Browns 10
Tennessee (6-8) at Kansas City (9-5)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Chiefs -5 Total: 42½
RADIO: KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ WEATHER: High 20s, clear
■ Facts: The Chiefs are the only team in the league that finished last in its division last year and is in sole possession of first today. Four 2009 division winners already were eliminated from playoff contention a week ago (Dallas, Minnesota, Arizona, Cincinnati). … Kansas City helped ease QB Matt Cassel (appendectomy) back into the lineup by gouging the Rams for 210 rushing yards last week, its league-leading sixth game with 200-plus. … Titans WR Randy Moss has gone without a reception the past two weeks and has five catches total in six games with Tennessee.
■ Analysis: The Titans pulled a mild surprise by beating the Texans last week 31-17, but that was largely the result of a 16-yard edge in starting field position. With Cassel likely feeling somewhat stronger after rushing back from his operation and with the Chiefs controlling their playoff destiny, they’ll likely feast on an uninspired team on the road for Christmas weekend.
■ Forecast: Chiefs 38, Titans 17
Indianapolis (8-6) at Oakland (7-7)
Time: 1:05 p.m. Line: Colts -3 Total: 47
■ WEATHER: Mid-50s, 30 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: The Raiders have the league’s ninth-rated offense, but they would rank 20th without the yardage accumulated in two wipeouts of the Denver. … Indy controls its destiny in the AFC South — win the next two games and it’s in. Oakland, meanwhile, would be dead if Kansas City wins as a favorite earlier Sunday against Tennessee. … At this time last year, the Colts were getting ready to yank their starters and sabotage a perfect season. … Indy QB Peyton Manning has four TD throws and no INTs his past two games after throwing 11 interceptions over his previous three outings.
■ Analysis: The Raiders are the kings of the colossal upset. In the past two seasons, an underdog of 13-plus points has won outright six times, and four times it was Oakland. A victory here won’t rival those games, but knocking off Indy is in the Raiders’ DNA thanks to the hard running of Darren McFadden and fast-improving QB Jason Campbell. Since the field likely will be soft, the vaunted Colts pass rush should be hampered.
■ Forecast: Raiders 34, Colts 27
Houston (5-9) at Denver (3-11)
Time: 1:05 p.m. Line: Texans -2½ Total: 48½
■ WEATHER: Low 50s, clear
■ Facts: The Broncos are 0-6 against opponents that entered the game with a losing record. … Last week, Denver rookie QB Tim Tebow was 8-for-16 for 138 yards in his first start. The man he replaced, Kyle Orton, averaged 42 pass attempts a game for a team that’s 29th in rushing. … Houston matched a league high with eight first downs on one drive last week against Tennessee. … Denver’s Brandon Lloyd, tied for first with 22 receptions of 20-plus yards, has had only one the past three games. … Denver safety Brian Dawkins (questionable, knee) is optimistic he’ll playing after missing three games.
■ Analysis: Houston’s recent tailspin is largely because of an offense that hasn’t scored off a short field the past three weeks, but that’s about to change against a Denver team that had six turnovers in a game only two weeks ago at Oakland. Plus Broncos RB workhorse Knowshon Moreno is questionable (ribs).
■ Forecast: Texans 35, Broncos 16
San Diego (8-6) at Cincinnati (3-11)
Time: 1:05 p.m. Line: Chargers -7½ Total: 44
RADIO: KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ WEATHER: Low 30s, 30 percent chance of snow
■ Facts: In the 1981 AFC Championship Game, the host Bengals beat the Chargers 27-7 in minus 59-degree wind chill, the coldest reading on record for an NFL game. … The Chargers are scoreboard watching. Even if they beat Cincinnati and then Denver (3-11) next week, they’ll be home for the playoffs unless the Chiefs lose once again. … San Diego QB Philip Rivers has a league-high 13 completions of 40-plus yards. Cincinnati has yielded 10 such plays, fifth most in the league. … San Diego has held opponents below 200 yards of offense an NFL-best five times, including its past two games. … Bengals WR Terrell Owens went on IR (knee).
■ Analysis: In the Chargers’ previous four division-winning seasons, they didn’t get tripped up by games like this, going 18-1 straight up against teams that wound up with double-digit losses. The Bengals, meanwhile, are hurting at receiver, with T.O. out and Mr. 85 limited (questionable, ankle).
■ Forecast: Chargers 27, Bengals 7
N.Y. Giants (9-5) at Green Bay (8-6)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Packers -3 Total: 43
■ WEATHER: Mid-20s, 30 percent chance of snow
■ Facts: This is a matchup between the QB with the most INTs, Eli Manning (20), against a team with the best defensive passer rating (70.3). … When these teams met for the NFC title three seasons ago, it was the third-coldest game on record — minus-1 at kickoff with a wind chill of minus-23. … Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers is back (probable, concussion) after his 45-start streak was broken last week at New England. … New York, off its epic home collapse against Philadelphia last week, almost assuredly would be taking the sixth-seeded wild-card route to the Super Bowl if it beats Green Bay. That would mean road games in five straight weeks, including this one. The last team to play five straight road games in a season was the 1990 Bengals, but their five were all in October.
■ Analysis: The Giants have KO’d six quarterbacks this year and had the Eagles’ Michael Vick limping last week before his late-game heroics in a 38-31 victory. If New York’s terrific pass rush can get Rodgers throwing off his back foot and fearing for his health, the Packers’ ground game can’t save him. In New York’s case, the ground game can save Manning.
■ Forecast: Giants 28, Packers 20
Seattle (6-8) at Tampa Bay (8-6)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Buccaneers -6½ Total: 44½
■ WEATHER: Low 50s, 30 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: Seattle foes have scored a TD on their first possession the past four weeks, the longest streak against a team since a four-game stretch against the Titans in 2007. … Tampa Bay doesn’t clinch anything by winning out, but one loss will kill its playoff hopes. … The game originally was scheduled for an early time slot, but the switch deprives the Bucs of facing a team in a jet-lag game. … In this matchup of 1976 expansion buddies, the Seahawks lead the series 7-3, but Tampa Bay has won their meetings the past two seasons.
■ Analysis: Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck has 13 turnovers his past four games. How dreadful is that? By comparison, that’s 13 more than the Patriots’ entire team the past six games. Also, if San Francisco beats St. Louis earlier in the day, this game will mean little to the Seahawks, who would win the NFC West with a victory over St. Louis next week regardless of the outcome of this game.
■ Forecast: Buccaneers 28, Seahawks 14
Minnesota (5-9) at Philadelphia (10-4)
Time: 5:15 p.m. Line: Eagles -14½ Total: 44
TV/RADIO: NBC (3), KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ WEATHER: Mid-30s, 30 percent chance of precipitation
■ Facts: In the Eagles’ final two games, they’ll face an interim coach, in this case Leslie Frazier. … Minnesota rookie QB Joe Webb likely will get his first career start in place of Brett Favre (doubtful, concussion). Seven other first-year passers have started this year, but went 0-7 against the spread in their first game away from home. … The Eagles, fresh off a 38-31 victory over the Giants, rallied from a 31-10 deficit in the final eight minutes. In 1985, Minnesota had the second-greatest fourth-quarter rally in history when it overcame a 23-0 Philly lead at the Vet to win 28-23.
■ Analysis: Maybe when the Eagles face a top-notch QB who can really take advantage of their inexperienced DBs, they’ll take a hard fall. But that’s not going to happen this week against a team that leads the league in giveaways (34) and has the worst turnover differential (minus 14). Plus, Webb might not have RB Adrian Peterson (questionable, knee).
■ Forecast: Eagles 35, Vikings 20
New Orleans (10-4) at Atlanta (12-2)
Time: 5:30 p.m. Line: Falcons -2½ Total: 48½
TV/RADIO: ESPN (30), KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ WEATHER: Indoors
■ Facts: Atlanta can clinch the NFC South and the No. 1 conference seed with a victory — or with a victory next week at home against 2-13 Carolina. … Even if New Orleans loses Sunday, it can clinch a bye of sorts by holding on to the fifth seed and then facing the NFC West winner in the first round. … Atlanta QB Matt Ryan is averaging 6.5 yards per pass attempt, ranking 26th in the league. His figure in the past three games has been progressively worse: 5.7, then 5.4 and finally 4.7 last week against Seattle’s 29th-rated defense. … Since New Orleans RB Reggie Bush returned from a leg injury four games ago, he has 132 yards of total offense and no scores.
■ Analysis: Atlanta keeps winning, but not as dynamically as in the past. Roddy White (probable, knee), the league leader with 106 catches and 1,284 yards, hasn’t reached 85 yards since having 12 catches for 138 yards in prime time six weeks ago against Baltimore. That surely has contributed to Ryan’s diminishing yardage norm. A more desperate Saints team should prevail.
■ Forecast: Saints 27, Falcons 17
Last week: 6-10 vs. spread; 9-7 straight up
Season total: 116-101-7 (.542) vs. spread; 137-87 (.612) straight up