PEWTERREPORT.COM STAFF STANDINGS

Scott Reynolds 140-85

Jim Flynn 132-93

Hugh MacArthur 125-100

LAST WEEK

Hugh MacArthur 11-5

Jim Flynn 10-6

Scott Reynolds 10-6

Minnesota at Green Bay (Thursday 8:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Well, I forecast last week that Brad Johnson and his 71 passer rating had just about worn out their welcome in Minnesota. Bring on rookie Tavaris Jackson to make his first career start at Lambeau Field on national TV. Both teams are likely going nowhere at 6-8, but there is an outside shot at a sixth seed if either can win out. One thing Green Bay does well is rush the passer, where 41 sacks has them ranked fourth in the NFL. Young Mr. Jackson will have a challenging time taking advantage of a weak Packer secondary while running for his life. You never know when Brett Favre will ride off into the sunset, but he’ll come out firing and win this one at home for the Cheesehead faithful. Green Bay

Reynolds – I don’t like rookie quarterbacks starting their first game in the NFL. It’s a rule I have and it has served me well just about every week. Having said that, watch Brett Favre throw more picks than Tavaris Jackson. Still, I’ll go with the Pack. Green Bay

Flynn – There are serious playoff implications in this contest. Minnesota’s defense is what has the Vikings in reach of the playoffs, but Brett Favre was able to move the ball on defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin’s secondary. Favre and the elements in Green Bay will be too much for Minnesota in this contest. Green Bay

Kansas City at Oakland (Saturday 8:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Oakland has a competitive defense. The biggest problem with the Raiders is that they can’t help giving the ball away. Oakland leads the league with 38 giveaways and a horrific minus-16 turnover differential. Kansas City is incredibly average at everything except running the football, where handing the ball to Larry Johnson is good for 130 yards per game, eighth in the NFL. The one thing the Raiders defense is not good at is stopping the run, as they give up 134 yards per game, which is good for 26th in the league. So the Chiefs will run, the Raiders will turn the ball over, and that will be that. Kansas City

Reynolds – Kansas City rebounds from a tough loss at San Diego last week. On this return trip to California, the Chiefs beat up on a hapless Raiders team that is one step closer to drafting Brady Quinn. Kansas City

Flynn – This is a huge AFC West division rivalry, so that might keep this game closer than one might expect. Still, Oakland is destined to have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and a loss to Kansas City, which is fighting for its playoff life, will go a long way in accomplishing that feat. Kansas City

Carolina at Atlanta (Sunday 1:00 ET)

MacArthur – Both teams are in a shambles, but in the mess that is the NFC, the 7-7 Falcons and 6-8 Panthers still have a shot at the playoffs. Carolina is more banged up than a rent-a-wreck, and have lost four straight, including last week’s demolition at the hands of the resurgent Steelers. The Falcons were competitive against Dallas, and they still have Michael Vick, the running back. Their hope is that Michael Vick the quarterback doesn’t spoil the game.  If Jake Delhomme were healthy, I’d take the Panthers, but I just don’t see Chris Weinke taking advantage of a weak Falcons secondary. The Panthers can’t run it, but the Falcons can. Atlanta is also plus 8 in turnover differential while Carolina is a dismal minus 9. Jim Mora Jr. gets a going away present. Atlanta

Reynolds – I don’t think Carolina is healthy enough to overtake Atlanta at home. The Falcons really need this win and can put a dagger in the hearts of the Panthers and kill their season with a victory. Team dysfunctional wins a close one, but it’s not enough to save Jim Mora’s job. Atlanta

Flynn – Jim Mora Jr. is on the hot seat, and a home loss to division rival Carolina while Atlanta is fighting to make the playoffs will almost guarantee him his walking papers. The good news for the Falcons is the Panthers have fallen apart. Atlanta’s defense should be able to halt Carolina’s struggling offense, and its offense will carry the torch en route to a victory. Atlanta

Tampa Bay at Cleveland (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Well, reverse mojo almost worked last week when I picked the Bears. However, this week there will be a Christmas Eve gift under the tree for Bucs fans. The aerial show that Tim Rattay put on in Chicago will absolutely, positively do one thing:  it will open up the running game this week. Cleveland will know from watching the Bears game tape that they cannot stack the box with eight and nine defenders and be successful. Rattay made the Bears pay for that last week. That means, Bucs fans, that what to thine wondering eyes will appear? Why holes to run through! For Cadillac and crew, never fear! Oh, and Cleveland is rated 29th against the run, giving up 145 yards on the ground per game.  Cleveland’s 29th ranked offense is also horrible, and they like to turn the ball over as much as the Bucs do. It’s actually hard to imagine why the Browns are favored in this game. Must be the December weather. Nonetheless, the Bucs will run and Rattay will hit a few more passes this week, and that will be enough. Merry Christmas! Tampa Bay

Reynolds – I predicted Tampa Bay to finish with a 3-13 record last week. Why? Because the Bucs will not want to be in Cleveland on Christmas Eve, playing a meaningless game in the cold. But Tim Rattay proved he could at least execute this offense and the team came to life thanks to a Mike Alstott TD and a big play on special teams. The Bucs have some confidence and momentum thanks to a big comeback in Chicago, even though they wound up losing in overtime. Look out … the Bucs are 4-11. Tampa Bay

Flynn – Cleveland’s defense is horrible and allowing 350 yards per contest. However, its run defense is the most suspect, and the key to this game is whether Tampa Bay’s struggling running game can take advantage of it. The cold weather and choppy field will slow the Bucs down. With Tim Rattay in the lineup and making big plays last Sunday in Chicago, Tampa Bay’s ground attack should open up. But the Browns have won four games at home this season, and they’re not about to let the Bucs come in and win on Christmas Eve. Tampa Bay can definitely win this game, but the fact that it has lost six of its last seven games tells me to play it safe and pick the home team. Cleveland

Indianapolis at Houston (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – This is another one of those odd match-ups.  Indianapolis barely beat Houston at the Dome earlier in the season 24-23, and the Texans have been a Jekyll & Hyde type team with two victories over Jacksonville but blowout defeats at the hands of teams like the Redskins and Jets.  The Colts seemed to have roused from their slumber last week against the Bengals, and Peyton Manning should have some fun at the expense of the soft Texans pass defense.  Indianapolis

Reynolds – Houston played Indy close earlier in the year, but I don’t think they have any momentum right now. The Colts got their act together last week against Cincinnati in a big win and should win this game pretty easily. Indianapolis

Flynn – Indy needs this game and some momentum heading into the playoffs. Its offense should be able to move the ball all game long vs. Houston’s defense, which is surrendering 341 yards per game and allowing opposing offenses to convert nearly 46 percent of their third downs. The Texans don’t have the running game to take full advantage of Indy’s suspect run defense. Indianapolis

New Orleans at New York Giants (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – The Saints somehow lost at home to the lowly Redskins last week. Gregg Williams’ defensive schemes left little room to run and even less room for Drew Brees to throw. The Saints rush defense was also exposed by Ladell Betts and an increasingly physical Redskins line. The Giants are coming off a very disappointing home loss to the hated Eagles, and also boast a very good running game. Look for the Giants to pound Tiki Barber against the 25th-ranked run defense of the Saints. Brees should have room to throw the ball, but the Saints are playing for a bye and the Giants are playing for their playoff lives. That, and a cold Giants stadium favor the G-men.  New York Giants

Reynolds – I really don’t know on this one. The Eagles beating the Giants in New York surprised me. The Redskins beating the Saints surprised me. Coin flip. Heads says … New Orleans

Flynn – The Saints aren’t going to be a happy team coming off of their embarrassing loss to the Redskins last Sunday. The Giants are desperate for a win with the playoffs on the line. New York will look to run Tiki Barber often against New Orleans, but it’s the Saints secondary that has been the biggest culprit on their defense. Eli Manning hasn’t been playing well enough to take advantage of that. Good teams bounce back from losses like the one New Orleans had last week, and the Saints will prove that Sunday. New Orleans

Tennessee at Buffalo (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – How in the world is Tennessee 7-7 and thinking playoffs? Is it because Vince Young is maturing early into a great passer? Bucs rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has played in 13 games this year and started 11. His passer rating is 65.9. That got him replaced. Vince Young has also played in 13 games this year and started 11. His passer rating is also 65.9.  That rating gets him feted as the next great thing. The difference? Young has 300 more yards rushing, and has been more willing to pull the ball down and make a play with his feet. Remember that Young and Gradkowski also were dead even for fastest quarterback in this year’s combine with identical 4.58 40-yard dash times. Think about that as you ride the pine, Bruce. It’s OK to make plays with your legs once in a while. Of course, eventually you need to pass to be a successful NFL quarterback. Somehow, J.P. Losman is learning this lesson, as his 89 passer rating would attest. That rating, Willis McGahee, a rugged pass defense, and the home cold of December, should be enough to end the Titans fairy tale run. Buffalo

Reynolds – I think this could be a watershed game for Vince Young. He’s created a lot of momentum for the Titans and they are on the cusp of a winning record and a possible playoff game. This one will have a playoff feel to it. It’s time for the team to get on the rookie’s back against a tough defense, a hostile crowd and some cold weather. Tennessee

Flynn – Who would have thought that this game would feature two teams that were still very much alive for the playoffs? Winning in Buffalo in December is tough, especially when the Bills defense is playing as well it is. Vince Young will keep the Titans in this game and give his team a chance to win, but my gut feeling tells me not to pick against Buffalo at home. Buffalo

Chicago at Detroit (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – In case you hadn’t noticed last week, the Bears’ defense is hurting. To put it in vintage 1999 Buccaneer defensive terms, they have Warren Sapp, Brad Culpepper, and John Lynch sitting on the bench. Damien Robinson doesn’t feel good either, and Ronde Barber is nicked up. Still, the Lions are awful. They still have a minus-11 turnover differential and the Bears are still plus 12. Chicago will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but last week’s scare against Tampa Bay will have them ready to play this week. Chicago

Reynolds – The Lions are terrible. There’s no way they win this game. Chicago

Flynn – The Bears have the NFC North division and homefield advantage wrapped up already, which means they really don’t have much to play for. However, the Detroit Lions still aren’t good enough to beat the Bears, who want to carry momentum into the playoffs. Chicago

New England at Jacksonville (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Woe to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The term “horrific loss” is an incomprehensible understatement for the unspeakable sins committed in Nashville last week. How does a team that holds the ball for 45 minutes of a 60-minute game lose? How does a team that allows five first downs and 98 total yards lose? How does a team that allows five, yes five yards of offense in the third quarter give up 17 points in that quarter? It all happened to the Jags last week. And their consolation prize is to host a New England team that decided it was tired of underachieving last week and pounded the Houston Texans mercilessly 40-7 to prove its point.  Jacksonville will try to run, but the Patriots will not allow it. They will force David Garrard to beat them, and in any passing contest, be it footballs or horseshoes, I am taking Tom Brady over David Garrard. New England

Reynolds – The Jaguars are banged up in the running game, and that will be their downfall in this one. The Pats took out their Miami frustrations against Houston last week. Will the Patriots’ return trip to Florida be a little sunnier this time? Yep. New England

Flynn – The Jaguars desperately need to win in order to keep their playoffs hopes alive, and possibly keep Jack Del Rio onboard as head coach. They picked the wrong week to have a must-win game as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots appear to finally be getting serious. It won’t be as convincing as last week’s win over Houston, but New England will escape Jacksonville with a win on Sunday. New England

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – This is not one of those games that will be won on style points. Pittsburgh is publicly proclaiming their season over at 7-7, but their three straight victories, including the 37-3 locomotion over the hapless Panthers last week have me thinking that Bill Cowher might just have a postseason glint in his eye. Baltimore is playing for a bye, but just how banged up is Steve McNair’s hand? Oh, McNair will probably be out there for the start of the game, but will he be able to throw accurately? Pittsburgh has underachieved all season, and consecutive wins over Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and a Delhomme-less Panthers team hardly makes them a juggernaut. However, they still possess the fifth-ranked run defense in the league, and despite protestations, they are playing for something. Pittsburgh

Reynolds – Pittsburgh has turned its season around, but did so by beating banged-up, chump teams. I think the Ravens defense will get after Ben Roethlisberger the way they did in Baltimore earlier this year. Pittsburgh will have to establish the run if it wants to win. That just isn’t going to happen. Look for a low-scoring game and a Ravens win. Baltimore

Flynn – The Steelers are on a roll, and the fact that this game is in Pittsburgh bodes well for the defending Super Bowl champions. However, Steve McNair and the Ravens have proven me wrong each time I’ve picked against them in a tough road game this season. I’m not going to make the same mistake again, especially when the Ravens are a better team than the Steelers. Baltimore

Washington at St. Louis (Sunday 4:05 PM ET)

MacArthur – What to make of these Redskins? Yet another 100 yard rushing day for Ladell Betts last week and just enough through the air from Jason Campbell to eke out the win at New Orleans. Even more impressive was how Gregg Williams dialed up the heat on Drew Brees and bottled up Reggie Bush. St. Louis’ best offensive weapon, as I have stated many times this year, is still their kicker, Jeff Wilkins. The Rams have lost seven of their last nine after a promising start, and seem poised to go nowhere. Their 31st-ranked rush defense will see quite a bit of Mr. Betts on Sunday. The only way the Rams win is to force turnovers. Their plus-12 differential is good for second in the league. The problem is Betts doesn’t fumble and I don’t think Campbell will have to throw it enough for the interceptions to accumulate. Washington

Reynolds – Ladell Betts and Jason Campbell have become quite a nice backfield for the Redskins. Washington collected a nice road win at New Orleans last year. Can they do it again? Why not? The Rams have been struggling over the last two months and it looks as though they lost their confidence. Washington

Flynn – This team doesn’t mean much, but Washington played like a team that was still playing for something last Sunday en route to the upset over New Orleans. The ‘Skins will use their ground game to move the ball on the road, and that type of ball control offense will be good enough for Washington to escape St. Louis with a win. Washington

Arizona at San Francisco (Sunday 4:05 PM ET)

MacArthur – All I can tell you is I’ll take the over in this game.  San Francisco showed just enough offense to get by Seattle last week in the second half. Alex Smith demonstrated poise throwing and running the football. Frank Gore is the real deal. The 49ers are a team building momentum and the Cardinals are a team beginning to spend more time thinking about who their next head coach will be than playing on Sundays. Believe it or not, the 49ers, at 6-8, still could make the playoffs. San Francisco

Reynolds – I’d pick Arizona in this one if it were in the desert. Instead, I like the 49ers at home. They scored a huge upset with a road win at Seattle last week and Alex Smith had a landmark game. Frank Gore impresses the hell out of me, too. I think Arizona will make this one close as Matt Leinhart returns to California, but the 49ers prevail. San Francisco

Flynn – San Francisco’s defense is suspect, but Arizona’s offense isn’t playing well enough to put up enough points on the road. The 49ers have been a much better team when playing at home this year, but the Cardinals have had their number. Look for the tide to change as the 49ers improve to 7-8 on the season with a big win over the Cardinals. San Francisco

Cincinnati at Denver (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – This is a great match-up, with both teams sitting at 8-6 in the ultra-competitive AFC.  Denver should like the homefield advantage, but I wasn’t convinced by their win over the hapless Cardinals last week. Jay Cutler will need to do more to win this game, and I just don’t think he is ready yet. Carson Palmer looks ready, and I think Denver’s deteriorating defense can be had through the air. Cincinnati

Reynolds – I think Carson Palmer got injured in the Colts game on Monday Night Football. He doesn’t look right to me. I’m going with Denver in this one because of their running game. I think they can move the ball at home on the Bengals defense. The crowd noise is the difference in a three-point win. Denver

Flynn – If the Bengals make the playoffs, they will certainly have earned it with the schedule they’ve had. Denver finally got back on track with a win against the Arizona Cardinals. Look for Jay Cutler to come through big again against the Bengals’ suspect defense and a team that’s coming off of a short week and a physical games. Indianapolis. Denver

San Diego at Seattle (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – How can you pick against San Diego?  I mean, they might lose again, but how can you pick them to lose?  This team has it all.  Whatever the Seahawks thought they had left when they laid that horrendous egg at home last week to the 49ers.  Ten days to prepare or a hundred days to prepare, they are not going to stop LT.  San Diego

Reynolds – I see very few holes in San Diego. They’re the best team in the NFL. That’s the pick. San Diego

Flynn – The Chargers are arguably the toughest team in the AFC. They will prove that once again by going into Seattle and downing a Seahawks team that’s still trying to figure out how it lost to the 49ers at home last week. San Diego

Philadelphia at Dallas (Monday 5:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – This is a potential Christmas Day classic, and if you haven’t read it in this space before, it’s another chance to get a look at the Buccaneers’ 2007 quarterback on national TV. Jeff Garcia has been an excellent game manager for Andy Reid, and what looked like a lost season when Donovan McNabb went down is morphing into a real shot to win the NFC East. Jeff Garcia and this Philadelphia offense present exactly the same type of challenge to the Cowboys that Drew Brees and the Saints did two weeks ago. I expect similar results in a closer game. Philadelphia

Reynolds – Dallas’ pass rush will get to Jeff Garcia, who will have some turnovers in this one. Tony Romo shined at home on Thanksgiving. He’ll do the same on Christmas. The Cowboys are  the class of the NFC East. Dallas

Flynn – I don’t doubt that Philly can go into Dallas and pull off the win. In fact, if the Eagles win their final two games of the season they will win the NFC East division without Donovan McNabb. Jeff Garcia has the Eagles playing well, but not well enough to escape Dallas with a win over the Cowboys, who will capitalize on the opportunity to unseat the Eagles. Dallas

New York Jets at Miami (Monday 8:30 PM ET)

MacArthur – This rivalry game is always a coin flip. The game was 20-17 in favor of the Jets at the Meadowlands earlier this year, and I expect this game will come down to a field goal as well. Look for Miami’s defense to stand its ground at home, and deal Eric Mangini and the green men a devastating setback to their playoff hopes. Miami

Reynolds – This is another coin flip game for me. The Jets have so much riding on this game, but it’s on the road in Miami against a tough Dolphins defense. I think the Jets’ win over Minnesota on the road helps. New York Jets

Flynn – Eric Mangini has the Jets playing like a playoff-caliber team. In fact, the Jets are 8-6 and still very much alive for the playoffs. Miami’s defense is playing well, but its offense is struggling and lacking confidence after a shutout loss in Buffalo. The Jets will prove they’re playoff worthy with a win in Miami. New York Jets

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