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VOL. 43 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 20, 2019

Facing Brees, Saints with season on line a tall order

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The Tennessee Titans had their destiny within their grasp last week. All they needed to do was to find a way to beat the Houston Texans. But that didn’t happen, and now the Titans are back in familiar territory – hoping to win out and hoping even harder for help from the outside.

Saints 31, Titans 24: The Titans won’t have an easy task this week as Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints come to town having easily won the NFC South. The game is still important to the Saints as they are playing a high playoff seed and homefield advantage.

The biggest thing for the Titans is to have a healthy Derrick Henry give them a big boost in the running game and balance out the passing attack.

Bucs 28, Texans 27: The Bucs have been out of playoff contention for a couple of weeks but are playing pretty good football. Their problem – Jameis Winton’s interceptions notwithstanding – is they waited until after the NFC contenders separated themselves from the pack. The Texans have a tendency to follow a big win with a head-scratching loss. That could leave the door open for the Titans to stay alive.

Steelers 30, Jets 17: The Steelers are still right in the thick of the playoff hunt, holding a tiebreaker advantage against the Titans and hoping to secure the second wild-card spot down the stretch. The Jets are, as usual, playing out the string and wondering where they will pick in the draft next spring.

Patriots 23, Bills 20: The Bills are no pushover, and their defense has made several big plays with turnovers. But the Patriots are not likely to get taken down at home in December. Tom Brady and the offense will probably get it together late in the year and certainly can’t be counted out in the playoffs.

49ers 33, Rams 23: The Rams are on life support after the beatdown from the Cowboys. The 49ers should be smarting from an upset loss to the Falcons, though they still have a shot at the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. Look for Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. to take care of business. The San Francisco defense will work to shut down Todd Gurley and the Rams rushing attack and put the game in Jared Goff’s hands.

Colts 23, Panthers 20: The Colts have faltered and are trying to stay alive in the AFC wild-card derby. The Panthers have struggled in recent weeks and have not done any better since firing Ron Rivera a couple of weeks ago.

Dolphins 21, Bengals 20: A battle of two teams that are pretty bad and have nothing much to play for except draft positioning. The Bengals hold the No. 1 overall pick and they probably will maintain that spot, even though the Dolphins are quite capable of handing them a win.

Giants 16, Redskins 14: Another game with absolutely no bearing other than perhaps draft position. The Giants have Eli Manning, whose time in New York is likely winding down, while the Redskins continue to try and find out what they have in Dwayne Haskins.

Ravens 27, Browns 20: The Ravens will want to avenge the one shocking loss on their resume – a loss at home to the Browns. Lamar Jackson can likely put the finishing touches on his MVP season in this one, though Baker Mayfield and Cleveland have the talent to stay in the game.

Falcons 26, Jaguars 17: The Falcons waited about a month too late to start playing football. But they have been much better of late. The Jaguars shocked the Raiders in the final game in Oakland, but they likely will revert back to being the same old struggling Jags at some point in this one.

Raiders 19, Chargers 16: The Raiders have fallen apart, losing four consecutive games since a 6-4 start. The Chargers are one of the league’s biggest disappointments as Philip Rivers’ time with the team may be ticking down.

Broncos 30, Lions 22: The Broncos have been playing better as rookie Drew Lock has had a couple of big games early in his career. The Lions without Matthew Stafford aren’t much to write home about.

Seahawks 38, Cardinals 27: The Seahawks still have aspirations to have the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC and cannot afford to stumble against the lowly Cardinals, who all but ended the Browns’ playoff hopes last week.

Eagles 24, Cowboys 23: The NFC Least comes down to this battle. Dallas found itself with a convincing win against the Rams last week. But can they do it again when it counts the most? The Eagles have been a disappointment this year, as well, but Carson Wentz might be able to will them to a win at home in the game that will decide the division.

Chiefs 33, Bears 20: Kansas City’s offense has been clicking pretty well lately, and the Bears were officially eliminated from contention with a loss to the Packers. The guess is that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense will prevail over the Bears tough defense. On the other side of the ball, the Bears offense is inconsistent and the Chiefs defense has been playing a bit better of late.

Vikings 31, Packers 28: The NFC North is up for grabs here. Can Kirk Cousins win a big game in prime time after being 0-8 on Monday Night Football? Being in the friendly confines at home should help, but the Packers are a tough out anywhere. Dalvin Cook might be for Minnesota, which would be a big blow.

— Terry McCormick

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