But, well, effort is its own reward, right? (Taps mic.) Right?
And with that... on to the picks!
* * * * *
DALLAS (-3) at Minnesota
The Cowboys are the best team in this or any other Universe, and the sooner we all accept that, and President Trump, and the knowledge that all human endeavors end in sweet, sweet death and utter indifference, the sooner we will all be happier. Also, the Viking offense isn't good enough to win this game, even at home.
Cowboys 24, Vikings 20
KANSAS CITY (+4) at Atlanta
The Chiefs are coming off a car crash of an overtime win against the Broncos, and have to go into a loud dome against a Falcon team that just handled the desperate Cards. Having said all of that, I think the Chiefs defense is just coming into its own, especially with Justin Houston coming off the edge. With Julio Jones getting more or less handled by the great Marcus Peters, the road team gets it done.
Chiefs 23, Falcons 20
DETROIT (+6) at New Orleans
Just too many points to give for what could be a last serve wins kind of game. Give me the Lions to make the late cover.
Saints 34, Lions 31
LA Rams at NEW ENGLAND (-13.5)
I'm not ready to imagine Jared Goff doing much of anything on the road against a Bill Belichick defense, especially when the Patriots are coming off an escape win in New York. It also doesn't help that the Ram defense got absolutely trucked last week.
Patriots 34, Rams 16
DENVER (-4) at Jacksonville
I know, road team with a shaky offense in Florida heat in December, seems like all kinds of trap game. But with the overtime loss on SNF at home, Denver has no more margin for error, and the Jags are the AFC's answer to homecoming week. Even on the road.
Broncos 23, Jaguars 13
HOUSTON (+6.5) at Green Bay
I'm not counting on the Pack suddenly figuring it all out and racing down the stretch to a playoff spot, just because they beat the shockingly unprepared Eagles on the road on MNF. Houston's coming off a bad loss at home, so I'm looking for a little bounce and a cover, if not more.
Packers 24, Texans 20
Philadelphia at CINCINNATI (+1)
Which team wants it less? I'll take the home team in this battle of profound disappointments, mostly because they've got an extra day of rest, and the Eagle defense suddenly looks like it's drank too many Magic Smoothies from the Nero Kelly Era. Oh, and the Bengal DBs might fall asleep covering these circus animals that call themselves WRs.
Bengals 27, Eagles 23
Miami at BALTIMORE (-3.5)
The Dolphins are the NFL's best bad team, having used a cupcake schedule to get to the playoff periphery. Baltimore's far from a juggernaut, but at home, in cold weather, with their way too into it fans in full howl, I think it starts to get away from them.
Ravens 23, Dolphins 17
SAN FRANCISCO (+1) at Chicago
Lots of folks have been having joy at the Niner season, as if it were all Colin Kaepernick's fault that the Niners are terrible. The truth is he's actually been pretty damned good over much of it, especially recently. It's not his fault that his coach is a manifestation of the innovator's curse, or that his team was put together by one of the worst GMs in the business. At least this week, Kaepernick gets to win a game and put up monster fantasy numbers, because Chicago is nearly as bad, and even more injured.
Niners 31, Bears 20
Buffalo at OAKLAND (-3)
The magic year for the Raiders continues, because the Bills defense isn't good enough to stop them on the road, especially if they are smart enough to be patient behind their near best in class offensive live. I'm still not sure that they are going to win this division, but the breaks have definitely been going their way.
Raiders 30, Bills 24
NY Giants at PITTSBURGH (-6)
A big number for an up and down Steeler team to cover, but the offense has been aces at home, and the Giants have been doing it with mirrors.
Steelers 34, Bills 24
Washington at ARIZONA (-2.5)
Arizona loses games when they can't protect the QB, but DC isn't all that special at rushing the QB, so the home team gets it done. Besides, this isn't exactly an easy road trip.
Cardinals 27, Racial Slurs 20
Tampa at SAN DIEGO (-3.5)
Bucs are definitely on an upswing after last week's smothering shocker of the Seahawks, but I'm not buying that game as sustainable. Chargers have been surprising in recent weeks, especially in line play. Probably one of the better games of the day.
Chargers 24, Bucs 20
Carolina at SEATTLE (-6.5)
Despite Carolina's disappointing year, a clear signature game, and fairly fascinating. Seattle's line play is scary enough to make what should have been a clear path deep into the NFC playoffs problematic, but the Panther defense, especially the secondary, isn't going to be up to the task. I'm not in love with the number, but going against Russell Wilson at home isn't fun.
Seahawks 31, Panthers 23
INDIANAPOLIS (-2) at NY Jets
NY actually played a very solid game last week against the Patriots, but getting up for a non-rival isn't the same thing, especially in front of bitter night fans in December. Colts still have something to play for, and QB Andrew Luck will have fresh legs from a week off due to concussion. At this point in the season, that's a major help.
Colts 27, Jets 20
Last week: 8-7