The NFC East looks like it will go all the way down to the wire, but the Carolina Panthers have become the first team of the twelve that will be playing in January as they clinched the NFC South thanks to another Atlanta Falcons loss.
Carolina are now looking to clinch the Number 1 Seed in the NFC which will bring with it home advantage through the Play Offs. There are some dangerous looking teams in both the AFC and NFC that are pushing for Wild Card spots though with both Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks in a position to clinch one of those spots and I can see both making considerable noise in the Play Offs.
It should be a fun few weeks to end 2015.
Minnesota Vikings @ Arizona Cardinals Pick: The last couple of weeks have shown the Minnesota Vikings they still have some room to bridge if they are to take on the best of the NFC. The Vikings had become something of a 'sexy' pick to make noise in the Play Offs, but they were blown out at home in Week 13 by the Seattle Seahawks and now have to go on the road to face the Arizona Cardinals.
That is the 9-2 Cardinals who are still chasing the Carolina Panthers in the NFC for the Number 1 Seed.
Carson Palmer has played like the MVP, although likely still behind Cam Newton, but the veteran has every chance of putting up more big numbers. With the Vikings missing some key presences in the Secondary and at Linebacker, Palmer should have a very big game with Bruce Arians likely to dial up lots of deep passing plays to attack Minnesota.
Injuries to Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson can be overcome by David Johnson, although Arizona need to establish the run a little better than they have in recent games. David Johnson played well in St Louis last week and could have some success in this game, something that will only aid Palmer all the more to put together another multiple Touchdown and 300 plus passing yards day.
So can Minnesota show they are not going to be 'outcoached' in this one? Adrian Peterson suggested that was the case when he had just eight carries in Week 13, but he was restricted to just 18 yards. It could be another tough week for Peterson in trying to establish the run against Arizona who shut down Todd Gurley last week and are giving up under 4 yards per carry in their last three games.
Teddy Bridgewater has to show he can pass the ball against a top Secondary to perhaps open up more running lanes, but the second year Quarter Back hasn't been much more than a game manager this year. The Offensive Line hasn't been at their best in protection when it comes to the pass, although Arizona haven't been dominant in getting to the Quarter Back for much of the season.
There has been improvement there, but the Cardinals biggest strength is to bring the pressure knowing the Secondary won't lose their battles. Arizona should be able to take away the Minnesota Receivers for the main part in this game and I think there looks to be too much Offense for them.
My one worry has to be the way the point spread has passed the double digit mark. However, that might be down to the injuries Minnesota have Defensively ahead of facing one of the best Offensive teams in the NFL and I still like Arizona to win this one by around fourteen points.
Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles Pick: All of the talk ahead of this game is about the break down of the relationship between Chip Kelly and LeSean McCoy. That saw McCoy traded to the Buffalo Bills in the off-season and there is no doubting how much the Running Back is looking forward to taking on his former Head Coach and team.
That drama might have taken over the headlines, but both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills will be desperate for a win that will aid their Play Off bids.
Both had big wins in Week 13 and the Eagles are a better team with Sam Bradford at Quarter Back than when they have to roll with Mark Sanchez. Bradford didn't have to do too much last week as the Defensive unit and Special Teams picked up their play in a win at the New England Patriots.
It will be those units that will be key for Philadelphia this week too as they take on a Buffalo team that is inconsistent but looks to have the pieces to give the Eagles a lot to think about. Tyrod Taylor has been a revelation at Quarter Back although is playing through some pain and you can be sure McCoy will have a big game.
But my gut feeling is saying that Philadelphia can play well enough with Bradford running the show to beat the Bills. They haven't been able to string wins together and backing up a big one like they had at the New England Patriots will be far from easy.
However, I think Philadelphia can do just enough on both sides of the ball to earn a narrow win and get into a position where they can win the NFC East.
Tennessee Titans @ New York Jets Pick: The New York Jets should not have had an opportunity to come back and beat the New York Giants last week, but Tom Coughlin out-thought the situation. The Jets are still firmly in the mix for the Play Offs with a Wild Card spot potentially available, but they can't afford to drop this game at home if they want to fulfil their ambitions.
The Jets take on the Tennessee Titans this week who are coming off a rollercoaster ride before beating the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Both teams might struggle to run the ball this week as the Jets Defensive Line has been able to shut down much better teams than the Titans. On the other side of the ball, the Jets have not been able to establish an effective running game and that means both Marcus Mariota and Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to win this game with their arm.
One of the big problems that Mariota will face is his Offensive Line has been struggling to protect him all season. The Jets have the kind of pass rush that will have Mariota scrambling for his life for much of the afternoon and Darrelle Revis is possibly back to take away one half of the field.
Tennessee have actually managed to get to the Quarter Back too so Fitzpatrick won't have the same time he seemed to have in the Fourth Quarter against the Giants last week. There are still some big holes in the Secondary to exploit and I imagine Fitzpatrick will combine with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker for some big gains through the air.
I am a little concerned with the way the Jets have been playing of late to cover such a big spread, but the favourite is 4-0 against the spread in recent games between these teams. The New York Jets are also 6-2 against the spread against Tennessee and I like them to cover, but I will have a small interest only.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals Pick: No matter how this game goes, it looks unlikely that the Cincinnati Bengals won't be playing at least one home Play Off game as AFC North Divisional winners. However, it is an important one for both teams as it could have a huge impact in how far the Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers can go in the post-season.
I have thought of the Pittsburgh Steelers as a very dangerous team in the AFC and they look very healthy Offensively which will give any team a real problem. Ben Roethlisberger has been throwing the ball wonderfully and he has a strong Receiving corps that will give the Bengals plenty of problems.
He has been well protected by the Offensive Line and the Bengals Secondary is one that is liable to giving up the big play so the likes of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant could have strong days.
With DeAngelo Williams running the ball effectively too, Pittsburgh should move the ball consistently through this game. The big question is whether their Defense can control what Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals are able to do against them.
Dalton should have success throwing to AJ Green and the likely returning Tyler Eifart against the Pittsburgh Secondary that have been up and down all season. However, the Steelers might have some success in this one with a fierce pass rush which has been harassing opposition Quarter Backs in recent games although the Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line has done well to keep Dalton upright.
The Steelers also have played the run very well as the new look Steel Curtain has held teams to just 2.9 yards per carry over their last three games. That includes playing the Seattle Seahawks who might have beaten Pittsburgh but who were actually out-gained by over 100 yards.
Keeping Cincinnati in third and long spots and having a quality pass rush should give Pittsburgh the edge in this one. The Steelers are 12-2-1 against the spread in their last fifteen visits to Cincinnati and I think they get a measure of revenge for their home loss to the Bengals earlier this season.
I actually thought this game might have been closer to a pick 'em after the way Pittsburgh blew out Indianapolis in a prime time game in Week 13. Therefore getting the points on the road team who I consider as good as any in the AFC is hard to ignore.
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars Pick: The injuries suffered by Matt Hasselbeck last week looked to be on the path to keeping him out of this game, but the veteran is set to go for one last game. That is because the Indianapolis Colts look to have Andrew Luck back next week, but there is also no guarantee that Hasselbeck is able to get through this game unscathed.
Much of that will come down to his Offensive Line which has struggled to keep the pass rush away from their Quarter Back in recent games. That challenge is all the tougher when you think of how well the Jacksonville Jaguars Defensive Line has played in pressurising the opposition Quarter Back and Hasselbeck may not have a lot of time to throw the ball before he is hit.
Ahmad Bradshaw is out, but the veteran Frank Gore hasn't been able to put an effective running game out on the field. The Colts have struggled badly when it comes to running the ball and that hasn't helped Hasselbeck although Gore could have a better game this week against this Jacksonville Defense giving up 4.5 yards per carry in recent weeks.
There are also some decent Receivers here for Hasselbeck to hit, but the veteran will likely need to be even better than when he helped the Colts beat the Jaguars earlier this season.
Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Offense have certainly been producing some big games of late and they play an Indianapolis Defense that has struggled to get teams off the field. TY Yeldon should be able to have a very big game running the ball and keeping Jacksonville in third and short situations through the day which is going to be key for Bortles at Quarter Back.
Allen Hurns is back to join the likes of Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas as big time weapons in the Receiving game and Bortles could have another big game throwing the ball. The balance on the Offensive side of the ball should give Jacksonville every chance of winning this game and moving back in position to perhaps challenge for the AFC South Division title while a loss puts them out.
Indianapolis play Houston next week but can't overlook Jacksonville who I like as the small favourite. Only poor kicking prevented them beating the Colts once already and I think a balanced Offense coupled with a banged up Matt Hasselbeck gives the Jaguars the opportunity to win this game.
The Colts have dominated recent games in the series, but I like the home team to beat them this week.
Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers Pick: The Carolina Panthers have already wrapped up a Play Off spot, but there is still some work to be done if they want to make sure they finish with the Number 1 Seed in the NFC. This certainly looks a complete team that even when the Defensive side of the ball is not quite playing up to the level expected that the Offensive side takes over and wins a shoot-out.
It might be the Defense that steps up to the plate this week against the Atlanta Falcons who have fallen apart after a 5-0 start to the season. Matt Ryan and the Offense have been out of sync for a while and turnovers have been killing them which doesn't bode well against Carolina.
Devonte Freeman has been a big help for Ryan and surprised people with the season he has had, but Carolina do play the run very well with their stud Linebackers able to penetrate and block up the holes. That will shift the pressure onto Ryan and his arm and it will be tough to move the chains from third and long spots knowing the Panthers have a fierce pass rush and his poor decision making that has been evident in recent games.
Giving up turnovers to Cam Newton and the Offense won't bode well for Atlanta in their bid to earn the upset. In recent games the Atlanta Falcons Defensive Line has begun to struggle a touch against the run having used that as their strength earlier on.
That should mean both Newton and Jonathan Stewart are able to move the chains with their legs or at least keep the team in third and short spots. Cam Newton has really picked up the pace throwing the ball in recent weeks too as his Receivers have earned his trust for the most part and I can see the Quarter Back and MVP candidate having another strong outing.
The Falcons have been competitive in their losses though and the back door cover is on with this big spread, but I think Carolina are still playing with a chip on their shoulder. Carolina look much better on both sides of the ball and I can see Ryan throwing a couple of back breaking turnovers which helps the Panthers move away.
Carolina are 5-1 against the spread in the last six in the series and I like them to cover this week.
Seattle Seahawks @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: I don't know who Jimmy Clausen has pissed off this year, but he is going to be making his second start of the NFL season for two different teams.
Unfortunately both starts are going to come against the Seattle Seahawks and it is difficult to see how an injury hit Baltimore Ravens team are able to compete even at home.
Clauson Quarter Backed the Chicago Bears to a 26-0 loss earlier in the season and now faces a Seattle team that are making a big run to the Play Offs. There is no doubting that the Seahawks are improved and their hammering of the Minnesota Vikings on the road underlined that point in Week 13.
There just hasn't been a lot of running room against Seattle who are now healthy on the Defensive side of the ball. They are allowing just 3.2 yards per carry in their last three games which includes facing Adrian Peterson and I think the Seahawks are going to force Clauson to beat them, something he failed to do quite badly the first time he faced them.
Maybe that helps Clauson in knowing what he needs to do this week, but Baltimore are missing so many Offensive playmakers and I can't see how the Ravens move the chains consistently. There is a high chance that Clauson will have a couple of Interceptions in this one if Baltimore get behind and I think the Seahawks could be in for another dominant road win.
Now the Baltimore Ravens have played well Defensively for the most part, but Russell Wilson is arguably in his best form of the season. Wilson loves playing at this time of the season and I can see him scrambling around and making some big plays against this Secondary even without Jimmy Graham.
There is a lot of pride in the Baltimore Defense that will see them give Seattle something to solve, but the expected turnovers might give the Seahawks short fields to work with. That is a big reason I believe they will find a way to win this game by around two Touchdowns even if Seattle are not as strong on the road as they are at home.
Seattle were 16.5 point favourites to beat Clauson and the Chicago Bears at home and I do think the Quarter Back had more weapons in that game. Without those targets in Baltimore I think this spread might be a touch too low for the home underdog and I will back Seattle to cover.
Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers Pick: The Dallas Cowboys might not have Tony Romo for the rest of the regular season, but they have given themselves an outside chance of making the Play Offs with a win at the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football.
That means the 4-8 Cowboys are somehow only one game out of the Division lead in the terrible NFC East, but the schedule looks difficult for them to make the Play Offs. First off is trying to win a game at the Green Bay Packers who can take a big control of the NFC North by winning this game having seen the Minnesota Vikings fall apart in recent weeks.
However this isn't a straight-forward game for the Green Bay Packers who have lost four of their last six games and needed a 'Hail Mary' completion to beat the Detroit Lions last week. That could be a huge moment in their season and being at home should suit Aaron Rodgers even if the Packers have looked a little out of sync in recent weeks Offensively.
Eddie Lacy will be back in the starting line up having been punished last week for an indiscretion but you have to give the Cowboys credit for stepping up Defensively. They have controlled the line of scrimmage which means they are holding teams to just 3.5 yards per carry while the pressure Dallas are getting up front has protected the Secondary.
In previous years I would still think Green Bay would have their success Offensively, but they have struggled to run the ball effectively and keep Rodgers upright. The Receivers just haven't always been on the same page as Rodgers and Green Bay are averaging just 24 points per game this season.
Unfortunately for Dallas, they have had their difficulties with the ball in their Offense hands without Tony Romo too. Matt Cassel had a decent game against Washington, but the Green Bay Defensive unit isn't hit with the same injuries as the Redskins and it will be much harder for him to move the chains this week.
The Offensive Line hasn't opened the holes they did last season which isn't helped by the fact that teams are daring Dallas to beat them through the air. Green Bay have controlled the run and that has allowed their pass rush to get to the Quarter Back so Matt Cassel could be under some immense pressure in this one.
Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams are two solid Receivers, but it is tough for Cassel to get them the ball in third and long situations and that is where Green Bay will look to force mistakes.
Dallas are playing with revenge having had their season ended here controversially in the Play Offs last season, but I think the Packers will prove too good. It might be closer than expected for a while, but eventually I expect Aaron Rodgers to make a couple of big plays and lead the home team to a win by at least seven points.
New England Patriots @ Houston Texans Pick: The news that Rob Gronkowski has travelled with the New England Patriots to Houston for this game has seen the spread trend towards the road team. Of course it isn't often that the New England Patriots will be on the brink of a three game losing run under Bill Belichick so you can see why the public are behind them, but I like what the Houston Texans have done and can keep this close.
Brian Hoyer has played mistake free football for the most part and should be inspired by playing against his former team.
Hoyer has a lot of respect for the Patriots and he will need to be at his best against a Secondary that has played very well. That is thanks to some of the pressure the Patriots have gotten up front, although injuries might have hurt that pass rush in this game.
There is some evidence that Houston are beginning to run the ball better than they have for much of the season and New England have struggled in recent weeks against that part of the Defensive game plan.
Injuries on the Offensive side of the ball have hurt New England and you could see the Receivers were not on the same page as Tom Brady in the loss to Philadelphia last week. Gronkowski being back would be huge for Brady, but you have to think the Tight End is perhaps a little banged up and will only be used in limited plays.
New England have not run the ball that effectively in recent games, but they might have more success this week against the Texans who have given up 4.5 yards per carry in their last three games. LeGarrette Blount should be able to establish some threat on the ground which will give the Patriots a chance to move the chains with some consistency, but this still looks a lot of points for the Patriots to cover on the road.
The home team is 5-0-1 against the spread in the last six in the series between these teams and getting more than a Field Goal for Houston looks hard to ignore.
New York Giants @ Miami Dolphins Pick: One of the things I hate most about the late night Sunday NFL game and the Monday Night Football game is that you know the public are pounding the favourite no matter what. That can inflate lines and it is a big reason I am not usually behind the favourites in these prime spots where all the money is on them.
Not unless I really believe the team is capable of winning like I am in Week 14.
The New York Giants will only kick themselves if they don't win the NFC East and make the Play Offs because they have given away at least four games this season to drop to 5-7 and winning even half of those would have put them in a commanding position in the Division.
Last week it was more baffling decisions from Tom Coughlin who decided to pass on an easy Field Goal to go up 13 points with less than nine minutes remaining. The fact the Giants were Intercepted on Fourth Down and subsequently saw their ten point lead evaporate and lose in Overtime is on the Head Coach.
That kind of loss can be the big difference between January football or being on a golf course and this game on Monday Night is huge for the Giants. Both Washington and Philadelphia won games on Sunday which has given them an advantage in the NFC East and a defeat on Monday will mean the Giants fall behind them.
The game will be on Eli Manning's arm as the Giants have struggled to run the ball all season and have been even worse in recent outings. The Miami Dolphins Defensive Line is quite tough to run the ball against, but the Secondary has holes and I don't think there is a way to slow down Odell Beckham at this moment.
Manning to Beckham could have a big outing again, but the Giants have other playmakers in the Receiving game and the road team have to feel they move the chains fairly consistently. Miami have generated something of a pass rush in the later stages of the season, but Manning has been protected and gets the ball out quick enough to negate that.
A bigger question for the Giants is whether the Defensive unit can make enough plays as the game wears on. Tiredness didn't help them last week, but they also made Ryan Fitzpatrick look better than Aaron Rodgers so Ryan Tannehill shouldn't be overwhelmed.
However, a couple of things are going against Tannehill who simply hasn't developed in the manner a top ten pick in the Draft might have been expected to. The first problem is that Miami might not be able to establish much of a running game against the Giants who have played that part of the game well.
The second problem is that the Giants have begun to get some real pressure up front and Tannehill does have problems reading where that is coming from. While it is possible to throw against New York, Tannehill will be a little wary going for the big shot downfield as has been the norm in his career and his short passing game might not be good enough if Miami are constantly in third and long.
Miami have also stunk at home against the spread where they are 1-4 this season and they have gone 0-6 against the spread in their last six on Monday Night Football. Maybe the Giants find another stupid way to lose a game they have no right to, but I think they do win this one and cover the spread.
MY PICKS: Arizona Cardinals - 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Philadelphia Eagles - 1 Point @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
New York Jets - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Pittsburgh Steelers + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Jacksonville Jaguars - 1.5 Points @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Carolina Panthers - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Coral (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 11 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Houston Texans + 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
New York Giants - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)