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First down: Dallas at Cincinnati
11 a.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • There was nothing initially all that intriguing about this game. "Teams on the periphery of the playoff race that probably won't even make it into the postseason and if they do certainly won't contend for the Super Bowl?" Oooooohhhh, how exciting. At least, that is, until it was pointed out to me that these respective teams are deceptively "hot." Hot? The Cowboys and the Bengals? Well, maybe, I guess. How's that for a ringing endorsement? I suppose it's true that Cincy has won four straight. And Big D has been successful in three of its last four. Does that make them "hot"? I don't know. I certainly don't think of them the same way Mrs. Four Downs thinks about Daniel Craig with his shirt off in "Skyfall."
The line • Bengals by 3.
The pick • Cowboys. Just to give fans of "America's Team" some false hope before the team inevitably blows it again.
Second down: Miami at San Francisco
2:05 p.m., TV • Ch. 2
The skinny • I gotta say, while I feel bad for Alex Smith, I'm kinda sick of hearing about this whole "controversy." What exactly is controversial about it? Yeah, a lot of coaches say that starters don't lose their jobs due to injuries, which certainly seems to be what happened here. Then again, most of those coaches don't have a young, hand-picked successor they drafted with a second-round pick ready and waiting to take over, either. I'd like to know who didn't see it coming that Jim Harbaugh would throw Colin Kaepernick in for Smith the first time he had a semi-legit reason to do so. Was Smith having a solid, productive season? Yup. Was he reminding anyone of Brady, Brees, Manning, Rodgers, Griffin, Luck? Nope. And so here we are.
The line • 49ers by 10.
The pick • 49ers. After some early success, Ryan Tannehill isn't reminding anyone of those QBs, either.
Third down: New Orleans at N.Y. Giants
2:25 p.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • "Give 'em the benefit of the doubt." That's a popular refrain associated with these teams these days, especially Giants. If we must resort to trite clichés, I suppose I would respond with, "I'm more of a 'what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?' kinda guy." I guess I'm saying I don't put much stock in the whole "they know how to right the ship" argument. Have struggling Giants teams turned it around before? Sure. What's that got to do with this team scoring 16 points against a Redskins secondary that actually improves every time one of its players suffers a season-ending injury? And of course we know Drew Brees has been both prolific and clutch. He's also tied for the league lead this year in picks. Benefit of the doubt? Don't think so.
The line • Giants by 5.
The pick • Giants. Not because "they've been there before." Just because they're better. Imagine that.
Fourth down: Detroit at Green Bay
6:20 p.m., TV • Ch. 5
The skinny • Remember last season's Pro Bowl game? I know, I know … that was a rhetorical question, OK? Of course you don't remember. It was the freaking Pro Bowl. More people watch reruns of "Friends" episodes they've already seen six times. So, a quick synopsis is in order then … Defensive players appear in the game, but do not play any actual defense, resulting in the AFC defeating the NFC 59-41 and Grand Poobah Roger Goodell doing much finger-pointing and tongue-wagging and threatening to cancel future versions of the All-Star game, as if anyone cared. "So, why the unnecessary history lesson?" you ask. "Didja see the teams involved in this one?" I ask in response. I just wonder if El Commish will be as up in arms about the equal lack of defense played in this game.
The line • Packers by 61/2.
The pick • Packers. The only possible way the defenses impact this game is if Ndamukong Suh stomps Aaron Rodgers into 41-59 pieces.
… and 10 to go
Chicago at Minnesota, 11 a.m. • Percy Harvin out? Again? For good? Again? He's usually so durable.
Baltimore at Washington, 11 a.m. • Perhaps a full-strength Ravens defense could slow RG3. But probably not this group.
Kansas City at Cleveland, 11 a.m. • So, I guess Joe Thomas and Peyton Hillis won't be exchanging Christmas cards.
San Diego at Pittsburgh, 11 a.m. • Big Ben returns whilst Norv prepares to leave. It's the circle of life. Or something.
Tennessee at Indianapolis, 11 a.m. • Hey, Titans look at Indy's No. 12 … THAT is what a franchise QB looks like. Sorry, Jake Locker. No offense.
N.Y. Jets at Jacksonville, 11 a.m. • I'll bet Mark Sanchez never thought his fate in New York would come down to a random December game in Jacksonville, but here we are.
Atlanta at Carolina, 11 a.m. • Panthers say they're better than Falcons. Statistics, logic, common sense say otherwise.
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, 11 a.m. • Only remaining bit of Eagles intrigue is seeing how they function with only two assistant coaches left.
St. Louis at Buffalo, 11 a.m. • Here's a little tip for both teams' GMs: You need a better QB. You're welcome.
Arizona at Seattle, 2:25 p.m. • Cards going back to John Skelton. Well, that should turn everything right around.