Christmas will bring Santa Claus, presents, the NBA and a weird slate of NFL games. Most games will be played on Christmas Eve, with just the Sunday night tilt of Green Bay and Chicago happening on Christmas day. So clear your calendar a day early this week for our NFL picks.
Last week the Washington Redskins played their best game of the year in a convincing win on the road against the New York Giants. This week, Washington is at home to take on the Minnesota Vikings. Can they keep the momentum going? Find out in the picks.
All lines from SB Nation Odds. We'll start with the Thursday night game.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (+6): Two very odd things happened last week. First, a rock-solid Houston defense got abused by Cam Newton and the Camthers. Second, the Colts won, their first win of the year. Houston played without its defensive coordinator Wade Phillips last week, and even if that's the case this week, they will face nobody on the Colts offense with skills like Newton. I like Houston to rebound. Pick: Texans.
Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins (-6.5): Long a punchline, Rex Grossman effectively managed a win for his team last week with an offense leaning heavily on the run game. You'd think, writing a sentence like that, Grossman kept from turning the ball over. Sadly, with Rex, that's impossible. Turnovers will happen. But I think a motivated Redskin defense and a surprisingly strong Christmas Eve crowd will propel the Burgundy and Gold to another double-digit win. Pick: Redskins.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-13): Pardon me, but have we met before? I swear the line for this game just a few weeks ago, in Cleveland, was 13 points. What we now know is that Baltimore is very suspect on the road, and Joe Flacco is an average quarterback. Or maybe we knew that already. Either way, Baltimore is at home, and coming off an ugly loss in San Diego, will be ready to dominate. Pick: Ravens.
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills (-2.5): Clearly mysterious forces enter play when Tim Tebow takes the field. For the first time in 2011, I think those forces will conspire against Tebow in Western New York. The Bills are bad, but they still play hard. Denver invested so much emotion in last week's loss to New England, so a tough-nosed Bills team playing for pride catches them by surprise this week. Take the points. Pick: Bills.
I am quite weary of laying more than a touchdown with the Panthers' defense, but I'll invest in Cam Newton. The Charlotte fans deserve a blowout, a game to cheer throughout and not just think about the future. Santa Cam gives it to them on Saturday. Pick: Panthers.
Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals (-4): Vegas zone. Games like this will take your lunch money, and frankly I would stay away. Cincy should beat them at home, and they should cover the yfour easy. The Cardinals don't play nearly as well on the road as they do at home. But John Skelton wins games. es, John Skelton. Pick: Cardinals.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-2): At least this is a classic rivalry, because it won't be a pretty game. To set the record straight, the Chiefs played out of their minds last week, an emotional push to get Romeo Crennel a win and knock the Packers down a peg. Emotion doesn't work every week. The Raiders are the better team. Sebastian Janikowski wins this one for the Silver and Black. Pick: Raiders.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-10): Tom Brady had heard enough of Tim Tebow, that much was clear last week in Denver. That Patriots offense is no joke, and they do it with no real running game and no dominant receiver. I know Wes Welker puts up great numbers, but team him up with Rex Grossman or Mark Sanchez and he is just a little white dude with good hands. Brady is incredible, no way around it. Dolphins had a fun run for a few weeks there, but in Foxboro I'm going with Captain America. Pick: Patriots.
New York Giants at New York Jets (-3): Here's a battle of inconsistent, overhyped New York teams that the media will never stop talking about. The thing to remember here is Eli Manning and the Giants play best when everyone counts them out. After the loss last week to the Redskins, the echo chamber of NFL punditry has dismissed the Giants. No better time to pick them. If the Giants win out, they still have a chance to take the NFC East. Pick: Giants.
St. Louis Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers (-17): Lines for this game are tricky with the injury to Ben Roethlisberger and the general ineptitude of the Rams. The Steelers cost me real money last week in San Fran, so I'm kind of mad at them. Maybe I should be mad at myself. I hate laying this many points late in the year. I get why the line is so big, but I think it's begging for square action. I wouldn't bet much on this, if at all, but I'll take the points unless I hear Big Ben is 100%. Pick: Rams.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-8): The Titans' loss last week to the then-winless Colts was no fluke. Indy played better. I don't know how the Titans coach, some nameless guy like Munchak or something, can keep playing Matt Hasselbeck when Jake Locker is clearly the better option. I'm making an "if" bet here: if Locker starts, take the Titans. If Hasselbeck starts, take the Jags. Pick: Locker.
San Diego will win this game as part of a late-season playoff push. I think they will sneak in too, saving awful head coach Norv Turner's job for one more season in the process. Is it too early to start a "Redskins trade first-round pick to Chargers for Phillip Rivers" rumor? I swear it would work. Pick: Chargers.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-1.5): This game is tough to pick, but I'm setting the amount of superlatives describing Tony Romo at 40, and I'm betting the over. As for the actual game, Romo chokes in December, and the Eagles have put a few good games together in a row. I like the Eagles to win with a healthy Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin. The NFC East crown is very much still in the air. Pick: Eagles.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (+1.5): I love this game. Seattle all the way. San Fran invested so much into the Monday night win over the Steelers that this game can't help but be a letdown. The Seahawks, on the back of Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch, will somehow move the ball against the Niners' defense. The Seahawks have a good young defense too, with a ball-hawking secondary that will pick off Alex Smith a few times. Pick: Seahawks.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-13): Merry Christmas, one and all! As a present, bet on the Pack and Aaron Rodgers to rebound from last week's loss. Green Bay lacks motivation? This is a hated rival at home on Christmas night. I think the offense puts up 30 before halftime. Chicago is a mess since losing Jay Cutler, and the hustle of Sam Hurd ain't helping. Caleb Hanie will give the opportunistic Pack D the chance to get in the end zone. Pick: Packers.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-6.5): Bet the over. Points will be scored in the Superdome next Monday night. Seriously. This should be a fun one to watch and a great one if you have fantasy players involved. i want to be contrarian and play the sharp angle, but I still think there will be a lot of points scored here. Matt Ryan is playing great right now, but Drew Brees is playing better. When it comes to a shootout, I'll take the hottest QB in the league. Pick: Saints.