Last week: 10-6 vs. spread; 9-7 straight up
Season total: 126-107-7 (.541) vs. spread; 146-94 (.608) straight up
ALL GAMES SUNDAY
Miami (7-8) at New England (13-2)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Patriots -4 Total: 43½
■ WEATHER: Low 40s, 40 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: The Patriots clinched the top seed in the AFC last week with their 34-3 victory in Buffalo, marking the fifth time this season New England went on the road to give a team its worst beating of the season. … Deja vu: In the 2005 regular-season finale, with the Patriots having clinched the division, Miami traveled to New England as a 7-point underdog and won 28-26. The Patriots yukked it up, with Doug Flutie even drop-kicking an extra-point try. … Until Miami gave up 34 points to Detroit last week, the Dolphins had held teams to 17 points or fewer in six straight games. … If the Dolphins win, they’ll become the first team in NFL history to have seven road wins but fail to reach the postseason.
■ Analysis: Patriots coach Bill Belichick surely remembers last year’s finale when he lost the league’s leading receiver, Wes Welker, to a gruesome knee injury in a game that was meaningless to New England. So Belichick can’t help but be reluctant to use key starters Sunday. Also, although the Dolphins lost at home to New England 41-14 in Week 4, the gap was inflated by three Patriots scores on returns.
■ Forecast: Dolphins 19, Patriots 14
Oakland (7-8) at Kansas City (10-5)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Chiefs -3½ Total: 43½
■ WEATHER: Low 30s, clear
■ Facts: Kansas City, a 175-1 preseason shot at the Venetian to win the Super Bowl, has clinched the AFC West but is motivated to secure the No. 3 seed and avoid facing No. 1 New England in the second playoff round. … Oakland is 105 penalty yards shy of the Chiefs’ league record of 1,304 set in 1998. The Raiders have had at least 105 penalty yards in an NFL-high four games this season. … Oakland RB Darren McFadden leads the NFL with 14 runs of 20-plus yards, but has been slowed by turf toe (questionable). … If the Raiders win, they would finish 6-0 in the AFC West and become the first team in history to go unbeaten in a division and fail to win it, much less not have a winning record.
■ Analysis: Their Week 9 meeting was a huge aberration, with Kansas City flagged for 15 penalties, the second most by anyone in a game this season, for 140 yards. The Chiefs also wasted a 10-point halftime lead after holding Oakland to a horribly low 49 total yards in the first half. With McFadden ailing, the Raiders won’t keep up this time.
■ Forecast: Chiefs 27, Raiders 14
Pittsburgh (11-4) at Cleveland (5-10)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Steelers -6 Total: 37½
TV/RADIO: CBS (8), KXNT-FM (100.5)
■ WEATHER: Low 30s, 30 percent chance of precipitation
■ Facts: The Steelers will take the AFC North with a victory over Cleveland or a loss by the heavily favored Ravens at home against Cincinnati. … In Week 14 last year, a 1-11 Browns team beat Pittsburgh 13-6 as a 10-point underdog, sacking Ben Roethlisberger eight times. … Cleveland’s worst loss of this season came at Pittsburgh in Week 6, 28-10. … Since the Browns gave New Orleans and New England their most one-sided defeats of the season in back-to-back efforts at midseason, they have gone 1-6 straight up and against the spread.
■ Analysis: The Steelers will benefit from their extended break after beating Carolina 27-3 on Dec. 23, but teams with that extra rest were 0-2 against the spread last week. Cleveland, though, no longer is forcing turnovers, and steamrolling RB Peyton Hillis has been significantly slowed (questionable, ribs). That’s putting a lot of pressure on rookie QB Colt McCoy, who threw three INTs last week against Baltimore.
■ Forecast: Steelers 30, Browns 17
Cincinnati (4-11) at Baltimore (11-4)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Ravens -9½ Total: 43
■ WEATHER: Mid-40s, 60 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: The Ravens will be the No. 5 AFC seed if the Steelers win, but if Baltimore combines a Pittsburgh loss with a victory, the Ravens will gain the No. 2 seed and accompanying first-round bye. … The Bengals have beaten the Ravens in six of the last eight meetings, including 15-10 in Week 2. … Cincinnati was shut out at Baltimore three straight years from 1999 to 2001, the longest consecutive-season whitewash streak on the road in any series since the Minneapolis Marines were flummoxed by the host Chicago Cardinals from 1921 to 1924.
■ Analysis: The Bengals are pounding their chests after eliminating San Diego from playoff contention last week with a 34-20 victory at Cincinnati, but the Chargers were extremely sloppy and it’s not like the Bengals rediscovered their championship skills. Three of their touchdowns came on short fields of 32, 21 and 26 yards.
■ Forecast: Ravens 26, Bengals 7
Minnesota (6-9) at Detroit (5-10)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Lions -3½ Total: 42½
■ WEATHER: Indoors
■ Facts: Detroit is 12-3 against the line this season, the best by any team since San Diego went 13-1-2 in 2004. … The Vikings are 20-2 against the Lions since 1999. … Minnesota QB Joe Webb directed a 24-14 victory at Philadelphia on Tuesday as a 14-point underdog, making him the only one of eight rookie QBs to win in his first road start this season. … The Lions’ defense was on the field for 83 Miami snaps last week, the most by any team in regulation this year. … Detroit is expected to start QB Shaun Hill for a second straight game.
■ Analysis: Both teams are fighting hard for their coaches, especially the Vikings for interim boss Leslie Frazier as evidenced by that gigantic upset last week at Philly. But Minnesota is working on very short rest and playing on the road again, this time against a team on a three-game winning streak. That’s too much to ask of a rookie QB, assuming Brett Favre (doubtful, concussion) doesn’t make a stunning comeback.
■ Forecast: Lions 23, Vikings 14
Buffalo (4-11) at New York Jets (10-5)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Jets -2½ Total: 39½
■ WEATHER: Mid-50s, 40 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: Sure to happen: Buffalo RB Fred Jackson will get 108 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. Last year in the season finale, in another game in which neither team cared much, he needed 150 to reach the plateau and gained 212 yards on a career-high 33 carries. … Jets QB Mark Sanchez (probable, shoulder) threw five INTs in a 16-13 home loss to Buffalo last season. This year, the Bills have totaled only 10 interceptions. … Buffalo had a minus-7 turnover differential in their 34-3 home loss to New England last week. No team has overcome such a negative differential since the Steelers were minus-7 in a 17-12 victory over Tampa Bay in 1983. … Buffalo has given up a league-high seven 200-yard rushing games this season.
■ Analysis: Buffalo’s fate hinges on the injury to starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (questionable, knee), who was on the midweek injury list with "general soreness." Honest. But the Bills expect him to play. Fitzpatrick and Jackson should be enough to beat an uninspired J-E-T-S team destined to be the No. 6 seed.
■ Forecast: Bills 20, Jets 14
Carolina (2-13) at Atlanta (12-3)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Falcons -14½ Total: 41
■ WEATHER: Indoors
■ Facts: If the Falcons lose, not only might it cost them home field for the postseason, but they could plummet to the No. 5 seed and lose their bye if the Saints win. … Three weeks ago, the Falcons coasted to a 31-10 victory at Carolina, holding the Panthers to 76 net passing yards, the Falcons’ best defensive effort all season. But Carolina had a season-best 212 rushing yards. … Karma: Michael Turner’s lost fumble at the New Orleans 1 last week helped cost Atlanta the game. Four weeks earlier, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers lost a fumble at the Atlanta 1 in a Falcons victory. … Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen has had four games in which his passer rating was worse than if he’d merely thrown the ball into the ground 50 straight times.
■ Analysis: Atlanta may well wind up winning the Super Bowl in grand fashion, just like last year’s AFC South rival New Orleans. But those Saints staggered down the stretch, losing three in a row, and it seems the Falcons are wheezing, too. That pass-catch combination of Matt Ryan and Roddy White certainly is prolific, just not as dynamic with long plays. Plus, take away Turner’s long run of 27 yards last week in a 17-14 loss to New Orleans, and he had 21 yards on 16 other carries.
■ Forecast: Falcons 24, Panthers 20
Tampa Bay (9-6) at New Orleans (11-4)
Time: 10 a.m. Line: Saints -7½ Total: 47
TV/RADIO: Fox (5), KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ WEATHER: Indoors
■ Facts: New Orleans beat the Bucs 31-6 at Tampa Bay in Week 6, equaling the Bucs’ most lopsided loss of the season. … In last year’s meeting in the Superdome, Tampa Bay matched the third-biggest comeback of the season by erasing a 17-0 deficit to win 20-17 in overtime. … The Bucs are 6-1 against the spread on the road, tied with Miami for the best mark in the league. … Tampa Bay, still alive for a playoff berth, was a preseason 400-1 shot to win the Super Bowl. To advance, the Bucs must win and the Packers and Giants have to lose. … Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman had five TD throws last week against Seattle, but is facing a Saints team that has allowed a league-low 11 all season. But New Orleans has only nine INTs, 17 shy of its total last season. … Starting Saints RB Pierre Thomas sat out their first meeting.
■ Analysis: The Bucs won’t be doing any scoreboard watching since the two games they care about occur later in the afternoon. But the Saints could know early on whether the Falcons are pulverizing the underdog Panthers, thus making the result of the New Orleans game meaningless to the home team. With that, the Bucs are the best bet to play hard all game.
■ Forecast: Saints 21, Buccaneers 20
Dallas (5-10) at Philadelphia (10-5)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Eagles -6½ Total: 45½
■ WEATHER: Mid-40s, 60 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: Little more than one-day bragging rights are at stake, for the Eagles are the No. 3 NFC seed and the Cowboys are going home. … In five of the past nine seasons, Dallas’ worst loss has come against Philadelphia, including a 44-6 blasting in Philly in the 2008 finale. … For the second home game in six days, the Eagles are facing a third-string QB playing for an interim coach. Philly lost Round 1 vs. Minnesota and now expects to face QB Stephen McGee on Sunday instead of Jon Kitna (questionable, abdomen). … The Cowboys finished 2-6 at home and are 3-4 away. If they win today, it will give Dallas two more wins on the road than at home for only the second time in history (1968).
■ Analysis: Both teams have different agendas. Whereas the Eagles will likely be resting banged-up key starters — QB Michael Vick (quadriceps), WR DeSean Jackson (foot) and NFL interceptions leader Asante Samuel (ankle) — and concentrating on fine-tuning fundamentals, the Cowboys will be looking to feed TE Jason Witten the ball 10 times so he can reach 100 for the first time. Dallas should bring more energy.
■ Forecast: Cowboys 20, Eagles 17
Tennessee (6-9) at Indianapolis (9-6)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Colts -9½ Total: 48
TV/RADIO: CBS (8), KXNT-FM (100.5)
■ WEATHER: Low 30s, 10 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: Colts need a victory or a Jaguars loss at Houston to clinch the AFC South and perhaps rise to the No. 5 seed. … Tennessee put up little resistance at Kansas City last week, allowing the Chiefs 327 first-half yards and a 31-7 lead at intermission en route to a 34-14 loss. It was the second-most yards allowed by halftime by any team this season. … Titans WR Kenny Britt totaled 10 catches for 217 yards and a TD in his past two games since returning from a hamstring injury. Teammate Randy Moss remains the Titans’ 10th-leading receiver with five catches for 62 yards after getting shut out a third straight game.
■ Analysis: Indy couldn’t shake the Titans in a 30-28 victory at Nashville three weeks ago, but has benefited mightily from RBs Dominic Rhodes (98 yards last week), Donald Brown (129 yards in Week 15) and Joseph Addai (now healthy). QB Peyton Manning, who appears to be throwing only to Colts now, doesn’t even need that much help in a must-win situation.
■ Forecast: Colts 35, Titans 17
Jacksonville (8-7) at Houston (5-10)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Texans -3 Total: 48½
■ WEATHER: Mid-50s, clear
■ Facts: QB Trent Edwards, who was Buffalo’s Week 1 starter, is No. 1 for Jacksonville this week after David Garrard (finger) underwent surgery. Also, standout RB Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) is out. … The last time the teams met, the Jaguars won 31-24 on the game-ending Hail Mary batted into the arms of Jacksonville WR Mike Thomas. … After Houston had back-to-back first-half TD drives of 91 and 86 yards at Denver last week for a 14-0 lead, the Texans’ final six drives resulted in only three field goals. … Houston WR Andre Johnson (doubtful, ankle) has 86 catches. He sat out last week.
■ Analysis: Jacksonville still harbors playoff hopes, and if the Colts are upset by Tennessee, a Jaguars victory earns them the AFC South title. Regardless, Edwards might capitalize against a Texans squad whose 102.3 defensive passer rating is the NFL’s third worst in the past 25 years. Plus, as long as leading receiver Thomas and backup RB Rashad Jennings are on the field, Jacksonville has a fighting shot.
■ Forecast: Jaguars 27, Texans 24
New York Giants (9-6) at Washington (6-9)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Giants -4 Total: 44½
■ WEATHER: Mid-40s, 40 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: Coach Mike Shanahan’s Redskins are the only team to be an underdog in all eight home games this season, going 4-3 against the spread. In his 14 years as Denver’s boss, the Broncos were a home underdog eight times total, going 6-1-1 against the line. … This games means virtually nothing to New York if Green Bay beats Chicago in another 1:15 p.m. start. … In Washington’s 20-17 overtime victory at Jacksonville last week, the Redskins scored 13 of their 20 points on short fields, including drives to a field goal and a touchdown that began inside the Jaguars’ 20. … All six of Washington’s victories are as an underdog.
■ Analysis: The Giants know all about fading down the stretch. In addition to their 38-31 Meadowlands meltdown against Philadelphia two weeks ago and then a 45-17 smackdown by Green Bay last week, they lost their final two games last year by a cumulative 85-16. The mother of all Giants collapses occurred under Jim Fassel, coach of the UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives. His 2003 Giants, who started 4-4, lost their final eight by an average of 17-plus points, going 0-8 against the spread, too.
■ Forecast: Redskins 31, Giants 17
Chicago (12-3) at Green Bay (9-6)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Packers -10 Total: 41½
TV/RADIO: Fox (5), KBAD-AM (920)
■ WEATHER: Low 20s, 20 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: If the Saints or Falcons win early Sunday, this game will mean nothing to Chicago, which will be locked in as the No. 2 seed. … The Packers, meanwhile, get the sixth seed with a victory — or Giants and Bucs losses. … Chicago leads the NFL in drives that begin in enemy territory with 38 — 10 more than anyone else. The Bears scored TDs last week on all four such possessions against the Jets. The Packers, meanwhile, cashed in with TDs on all three of their possessions opening inside the Giants’ 50. … The Bears won the first meeting this season 20-17 thanks to a Devin Hester punt return score and a plus-3 turnover differential. … The Packers are 3-0 against the spread this season in games in freezing temperatures.
■ Analysis: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has had four games with a colossal passer rating of 130-plus, more than anyone else all season. And, where’s that Bears’ pass rush? It has been shut out in sacks five times. With likely nothing to play for, Bears standout defender Julius Peppers might sit this one out, or most of it.
■ Forecast: Packers 38, Bears 14
Arizona (4-11) at San Francisco (5-10)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: 49ers -6 Total: 39
■ WEATHER: Low 40s, 70 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: These teams are the dregs of the NFL’s worst division, but it’s not the worst in history. This year’s four teams are a cumulative 14 games under .500 and have been outscored by 322 points. In 2008, the four were a league-record 20 games under .500 and outscored by 372. … Arizona has an NFL-best 12 returns scores on defense/special teams, just six shy of the offense’s production. Three clubs have no return TDs. … QB Alex Smith, 2-7 as a starter, re-enters the lineup for the second time in three weeks for San Francisco. … Interim 49ers coach Jim Tomsula takes over for fired Mike Singletary. Temporary bosses are 7-4 against the spread this season.
■ Analysis: The Cardinals are feeling good about their 27-26 home victory against Dallas on Christmas, but they shouldn’t be going overboard, considering they had only 10 first downs and scored one offensive TD. The 49ers, even without star LB Patrick Willis (out, hand) should have enough defensive know-how to befuddle Arizona rookie QB John Skelton.
■ Forecast: 49ers 26, Cardinals 14
San Diego (8-7) at Denver (4-11)
Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Chargers -3½ Total: 47
RADIO: KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ WEATHER: Mid-30s, 10 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: San Diego is about to become the first top-rated defense to miss the postseason since the 1998 Chargers, who went 5-11. … In Week 11, the Chargers came off a bye to defeat visiting Denver, 35-14. … Over the past 19 seasons, San Diego QB Philip Rivers has the best passer rating (103.9) for a guy not going to the playoffs. … Injured Bronco Elvis Dumerville (IR, chest) had a league-best 17 sacks last year. Without him all season, the Broncos have a league-low 18. … Chargers foes have made all of their field-goal tries (16-for-16), the first time that has happened against a team since Miami in 2004 (24-for-24).
■ Analysis: Denver spotted Houston a 17-0 halftime lead before charging back behind rookie QB Tim Tebow on consecutive scoring marches of 80, 71, 74 and 76 yards totaling 18 first downs. If the Broncos carry forward that enthusiasm in front of the home fans, the Chargers might not be ready to match that energy level.
■ Forecast: Broncos 27, Chargers 13
St. Louis (7-8) at Seattle (6-9)
Time: 5:20 p.m. Line: Rams -3 Total: 41½
TV/RADIO: NBC (3), KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ WEATHER: Low 40s, 10 percent chance of rain
■ Facts: The winner gets to raise the AFC West pennant. The Rams opened the season as a 20-1 shot to win it, the second-longest odds on the board to win a division. … QB Charlie Whitehurst is expected to be Seattle’s starter in place of Matt Hasselbeck (questionable, hip). … The Seahawks could win Sunday by 33 points and still finish with the worst points differential (minus-74) by a playoff team in league history. … The Rams won their Week 4 meeting at St. Louis 20-3, one of a league-high nine losses by the Seahawks of 15 points or more. The Rams have only three such defeats. … Little should be made of Seattle’s 38-15 loss at Tampa Bay last week. Even with a victory, the Seahawks would still have needed to win Sunday for the division crown.
■ Analysis: The Seahawks have the league’s worst running game at 85.5 yards a game and likely will be relying on a backup who helped generate 162 yards in a miserable midseason 41-7 home loss to the Giants in his only other career start. On top of that, the Rams showed a powerful pass rush last week, forcing 49ers QBs to fumble four times. Can’t see the Rams and RB Steven Jackson struggling too much here.
■ Forecast: Rams 26, Seahawks 10
LAST WEEK: 10-6 vs. spread; 9-7 straight up
SEASON RECORD: 126-107-7 (.541) vs. spread; 146-94 (.608) straight up