I'm making a Jets-like late run at respectability this season. Ironically, I'm predicting a disastrous showing from Gang Green on Monday night. But that doesn't mean the momentum for these picks is going to slow down as we head into the stretch run. People tend to overestimate teams who are in "must-win" situations at the end of the season. Players on the teams that are out of the playoffs are still working on their next contract and won't let up.
The Jets' late surge into the playoff picture is a bit deceiving. They're coming off wins over Arizona and Jacksonville -- probably the worst two teams in the NFL right now. Jake Locker has been inconsistent, but he'll put much more pressure on New York's defense and may actually force the offense to score some points.
The Seahawks are due for a letdown after their 58-0 win over the Cardinals. They did beat Chicago on the road a couple of weeks ago, but that win doesn't look as impressive now that the Bears are struggling. Toronto is a long trip for the Seahawks, and the Bills' Mario Williams will be waiting for quarterback Russell Wilson.
As brilliant as Andrew Luck has been late in games, he's sloppy with the ball early. Luck is tied with Drew Brees for the league lead with 18 interceptions. The Texans defense will be fired up after a disappointing night in New England on Monday.
Normally, that seems like an easy number for one of the best receivers in the NFL to hit, but Arizona's star hasn't hit this total since Week 6. It's time for the Cardinals to find a way. Ryan Lindley is slated to get the start and, with nothing to lose, he'll force the ball to Fitzgerald all game long.
Rivers has found a new No. 1 receiver that is causing problems for defenses, Danario Alexander, and they should be able to exploit the Panthers' secondary. Rivers has been putting up modest yardage numbers, like 200 last week in their 34-24 win over Pittsburgh. But the Steelers have an elite pass defense. The Panthers rank 12th -- not bad, but Rivers should come into this one with confidence after the Pittsburgh game.
Gordon is coming off big games against Oakland and Kansas City and will stay hot against the Redskins' 31st-ranked pass defense. Gordon seemed to hit a rookie wall earlier in the season, but he's gaining confidence and should end the year as one of the offensive players the Browns can build around.
Dallas has to be on alert for a letdown after last week's emotional comeback over Cincinnati. The Steelers, meanwhile, looked totally flat at home last week. The veterans on this team tend to respond and play their best when the chips are down.
Both teams have dangerous pass rushes so Sam Bradford and Christian Ponder won't be comfortable. This game will come down to ball control and time of possession, so both teams will be leaning heavily on the run. And the Vikings seem eager to help Adrian Peterson pursue Eric Dickerson's single-season record.
New Orleans and Tampa Bay had a shootout in Week 7 (New Orleans won 35-28). That was the last time Josh Freeman threw for 300 yards (he had 420). But he'll pick it up against a defense he knows well and we know Drew Brees will produce.