NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS over Miami Dolphins
-It’s a “Hat and T-shirt Game” for the 9-3 Patriots on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Miami. If the Pats can beat the 6-6 Dolphins, then they’ll clinch the AFC East for the 10th consecutive season. Look, you can knock the rest of the division all you want, but finishing in first place for 10 straight years? That’s pretty incredible. Even if I get this game wrong, there’s no doubt that the Patriots will eventually end up clinching the AFC East in coming weeks. That said, I do believe that — even though they’re a 7.5-point favorite on the road — this will be the toughest game left on the Patriots’ regular-season schedule. And yes, I do see the game in Pittsburgh the following week, in Week 15. There’s just something about this one that kind of scares me, but not to the point where I think the Patriots will lose. They’ll win, and they’ll clinch, and I’ll keep reminding you that it’s still very possible the Pats end up as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Kansas City will have to lose one more, and the Patriots will have to win out. But I think both of those things are likely to happen. One game at a time though, I suppose. Give me New England in this one.
DENVER BRONCOS over San Francisco 49ers
-Don’t look now, but the 6-6 Broncos are in a great position to make a push for the No. 6 seed in the AFC. Denver has won three straight, against the Chargers, the Steelers, and the Bengals. And the rest of the Broncos’ schedule is one of the easiest I’ve seen in the league. They play in San Fran on Sunday at 4:05, then they play Cleveland at home, in Oakland, and back home against the Chargers. And perhaps, at that point, the Chargers have already secured their spot in the tournament. Before the season began, I picked Denver to advance to the playoffs as a Wild Card team. And seeing how the Broncos have been playing, and what their remaining schedule looks like, I’m not yet ready to back off of that prediction. But they have to take care of business against a 2-10 49ers team that has been eliminated from playoff contention. Denver is a 5.5-point favorite on the road, but I’m just taking the money line. Make it four straight wins for the Broncos.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS over Cincinnati Bengals
-The 9-3 Chargers are a 14-point favorite at home against the 5-7 Bengals, Sunday at 4:05. Cincinnati has lost four straight, and Andy Dalton is out for the season. I’m not going to lie, I had to Google who the Bengals’ quarterback will be in this game. His name is Jeff Driskel, a sixth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2016. Chargers by 20.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS over Oakland Raiders
-If you ask me, the 7-4-1 Steelers got screwed by the refs last Sunday night against the Los Angeles Chargers. Maybe I’m a little biased because I had picked Pittsburgh to win the game, but I’ll gladly be biased again, because I’m taking the Steelers to snap a two-game losing skid Sunday at 4:25 in Oakland against a 2-10 Raiders team that’s lost two straight and is one of just two teams that have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. if the season ended today, the Raiders would get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and as I’ve been telling you for weeks, that’s exactly what they want. Even without injured running back James Connor on Sunday, I don’t expect Pittsburgh to lose in Oakland. If the Steelers still want a shot at a first-round bye in the playoffs, then this is a must-win game for them. They won’t disappoint. I’ll take Pittsburgh as a 10.5-point favorite to win their eighth game of the season.
LOCK OF THE WEEK: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-The 10-2 Saints will be out for revenge on Sunday at 1 in Tampa Bay. Up until last Thursday night when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Saints, the Buccaneers had been the only team to beat New Orleans, back in Week 1, by a score of 48-40. Both teams have gone opposite directions since then. Tampa Bay is 5-7, and even though they’ve won two straight, I’m not sure how the Buccaneers would be able to pull this one off in Week 14. The Saints are an 8-point favorite, and coming off a loss, I don’t think this New Orleans team will be snoozing in Tampa. With the No. 1 seed in the NFC still up for grabs, give me the Saints here all day.