First down: Houston at Indianapolis
11 a.m., TV • Ch. 2
The skinny • Let's not dwell on the Texans, OK? Everyone knows they're good. Well, everyone except for those who happened to catch last week's act against the Vikings, anyway. They may require a bit more convincing. At any rate, this game is all about the Colts. The emotional return of coach Chuck Pagano … the culmination of the ascension of Andrew Luck … Indy bidding a fond farewell to Dwight Freeney.
The line • Texans by 7.
The pick • Colts. The Texans are probably the better team. But the Colts are far more "Chuckstrong."
Second down: Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants
11 a.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • It's illogical that a team hailed as the league's best at midseason could flame out so spectacularly. Illogical that a four-touchdown win over the Packers and a 52-point outing against the Saints would be followed by being outscored 77-13 in a two-game stretch. And illogical that a team renowned for its ability to overcome any obstacle now needs a win in its game, a loss or tie by the Cowboys, and a loss by BOTH the Vikings and Bears just to make the playoffs at all.
The line • Giants by 7.
The pick • Giants. It's even more illogical to bet on Michael Vick.
Third down: Kansas City at Denver
2:25 p.m., TV • Ch. 2
The skinny • These AFC West "rivals" squared off in last season's Week 17 as well, and the subsequent year has seen big changes for both. The Broncos upgraded from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning, from fringe playoff team to bona fide contender. And the Chiefs have how shall we put this nicely? become more consistent at being terrible. The one constant in K.C. is that the Chiefs still somehow manage to field a team every week without a quarterback.
The line • Broncos by 16.
The pick • Broncos. That QB position is kinda important, right?
Fourth down: Green Bay at Minnesota
2:25 p.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • There's just a liiiiiittle bit on the line. If the Packers win, they've got a first-round bye and second-round home-field advantage. If the Vikings win, they clinch an improbable playoff berth following a season in which Adrian Peterson was their lone legitimate offensive threat for at least half the games. And speaking of Peterson, I'm told that if he can rush for another couple hundred yards, it'll be a big deal. But you know how these vainglorious running backs are.
The line • Packers by 31/2.
The pick • Packers. Sorry, AP, but you're gonna come up short twice.
Second first down: Dallas at Washington
6:20 p.m., TV • Ch. 5
The skinny • Aside from perhaps the Colts (who almost everyone had penciled in for another No. 1 draft pick), is there a less talented team in the playoff picture than the Redskins? Yes, having RG3 instead of last year's infamous Beck/Grossman abomination combination is a HUGE upgrade. Almost everywhere else? Still mediocre. So how has it happened? Who cares. No one's calling Ke$ha the most talented pop star of the 21st century, but she keeps cranking out hit songs.
The line • Redskins by 3.
The pick • Redskins. Big D is more talented, but more self-destructive.
… and 11 to go
Jacksonville at Tennessee, 11 a.m. • You know you're in a bad situation, Jags, when your best hope is to get a guy who couldn't play for the Jets.
Carolina at New Orleans, 11 a.m. • Biggest bounty winner? Sean Payton, who parlayed the Saints' season to forget into an $8M a year deal.
N.Y. Jets at Buffalo, 11 a.m. • The Quarterback Formerly Known as Sanchize may be consoled that at least his season was better than Tebow's.
Baltimore at Cincinnati, 11 a.m. • A divisional battle AND a possible playoff preview, all in one? Let me channel my inner Keanu Reeves and say "Whoa!"
Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 11 a.m. • This one's for all the Thad Lewis fans.
Chicago at Detroit, 11 a.m. • Bears get some help by facing one of the few teams playing worse than them.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta, 11 a.m. • Falcons should enjoy this win, as they surely won't get one in the playoffs.
Oakland at San Diego, 2:25 p.m. • Aw, man, I was sooooo looking forward to seeing Matt Leinart play.
Arizona at San Francisco, 2:25 p.m. • Cards could REALLY use a QB. I think the Niners have a spare one they're not doing anything with.
St. Louis at Seattle, 2:25 p.m. • Only thing hotter than the Seahawks right now is Channing Tatum. So dreamy!
Miami at New England, 2:25 p.m. • Wonder if the Fins remember they could have had Andrew Luck if they'd kept sucking last season. Probably.