Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) at Houston Texans (10-6) Survival of the fittest, or something like that. Cincinnati's rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton, was home with the flu mid-week. Houston's rookie quarterback, T.J. Yates (the former third-stringer), was iffy entering the week because of a bad non-throwing-shoulder bruise. This could come down to who runs the ball better, which is why I'm going with 2010 rushing champ Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who ran for 2,166 yards between them -- and nearly five yards per carry.
8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Detroit Lions (10-6) at New Orleans Saints (13-3) I keep cautioning people this game's not a gimme. Total yards at the Superdome in Week 13: Detroit 466, New Orleans 438. Penalty yards: Detroit 107, New Orleans 30. The Lions held the Saints to one scoring drive in five second-half possessions, and if they hadn't been such knuckleheads with all the penalties, this would have been much closer than a 14-point game -- and it could have been a Detroit win. Each team can score 40 Saturday night. Each team very well may. I just like the way Drew Brees is using so many weapons all game long.
Sunday, Jan. 8
1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at New York Giants (9-7) As with so many quarterbacks in the NFL, Matt Ryan was hot late in the season (last seven games: 15 touchdowns, two interceptions), and Michael Turner rumbled for 552 yards in those seven games. So this team can beat you both ways. Problem is, the Giants are rushing the passer so well right now that it might take away Ryan's ability to hit Roddy White and Julio Jones down the field and force them to be too run-heavy. The most important Falcon in the game might be Brent Grimes, a truly underrated cornerback likely to be asked to stop Victor Cruz when the Giants have the ball. Cruz ruined the Jets and Cowboys in the last two weeks, and if he gets the ball in space three or four times Sunday, he could ruin the Falcons too.
4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Denver Broncos (8-8) The only thing the Broncos have going for them, other than playing a mile high, is that hard-hitting Ryan Clark won't be there to punish Denver receivers in the deep secondary; he'll sit out as a precaution because of sickle-cell disease. Oh, and Ben Roethlisberger is gimpy again with the high ankle sprain. I don't see the loss of Rashard Mendenhall for the year a crippling blow, other than in terms of depth; Isaac Redman will do just fine. If Denver's D plays a perfect game, this might be close. But I don't see Tim Tebow being able to make enough throws downfield to win, and I think Dick LeBeau will have plenty up his sleeve to neutralize Tebow.
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