Giants at Jets, Saturday, 11 a.m., FOX
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Every New York football fan had all kinds of thoughts, hopes, and dreams when the 2011 NFL schedule came out, especially when you scrolled down to Week 16 and read: Dec. 24, Giants at Jets, 1 p.m. Unlike previous meetings in seasons past, this game has playoff implications for both teams. The Jets, who were absolutely smoked by Philly last week, aren't the best bounce-back team. Gang Green is 1-5 against the spread (ATS) in their last six games following a loss. Meanwhile, the Giants are good in tight games with a 11-4-1 ATS mark in their last 16 games as an underdog of 3 points or less. I believe Big Blue is playing for coach Tom Coughlin's future. The Giants just want to end the talk of another "Coughlin Collapse," and show Jets' coach Rex Ryan, who the "better team" really is. The G-Men win it outright, 23-19.
THE PICK: Giants
CHARGERS (7-7) AT LIONS (9-5) (2:05 p.m.)
The skinny: If it's December, the Chargers must be trying to sprint down the stretch again. They've won three straight, which has been their MO in Philip Rivers' tenure at QB.
They were 3-1 down the stretch last season, won their last 11 in '09, their last four in '08, their last six in '07 and their last 10 in '06. They may have waited too long this time around, however, since they need plenty of others to lose to sneak in the postseason.
The difference will be: If the Lions can get to Rivers and prevent him from keeping his December roll — he's 23-2 as a starter in December games in his career. Rivers has pressed at times this season, but has not thrown an interception in his last four games after being in the league lead a month ago.
The Lions know how to hang in, however. They have won four games this season after trailing by 13 or more points, that's an NFL record.
The call: Lions 31-28
BRONCOS (8-6) AT BILLS (5-9) (11 a.m.)
The Broncos can clinch their first division title since 2005 with a win and a Raiders loss in Kansas City. A Denver loss would put an awful lot of things up in the air for a team that has rallied from its 1-4 start to get in the postseason race.
The call: Broncos 24-16
CARDINALS (7-7) AT BENGALS (8-6) (11 a.m.)
In a different year, the Cardinals would be a nice story, having won six of their past seven games. But they won't catch the 49ers in their division and need buckets of help to get a wild-card spot.
With six rushing yards in this one, Cardinals RB Beanie Wells will be the first player in franchise history to have a 1,000-yard rushing season to go with 10 rushing TDs. The Bengals need plenty of help to stay in the wild card.
The call: Bengals 20-14
RAIDERS (8-6) AT CHIEFS (7-7) (11 a.m.)
If the Raiders win and get a sliver of help from the Broncos, Oakland still can win its first division title since 2002. They also have won the last four times they've played in Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs will have to show a little composure, coming off a win over the previously undefeated Packers on Sunday.
The call: Raiders 24-23
49ERS (10-3) AT SEAHAWKS (7-7) (2:15 p.m.)
This has some potential to be trouble for the 49ers. They've clinched the division title, are coming off a Monday night win over Pittsburgh and are on the road.
But the Niners lead the league in fewest points allowed on defense as well as turnover margin (plus-25) — two very good indicators of playoff worthiness.
The call: 49ers 13-10
BROWNS (4-10) AT RAVENS (10-4)(11 a.m.)
This isn't the best situation for the low-scoring Browns since the Ravens are coming off a crushing loss to the Chargers last weekend. The Ravens have scored 37, 30 and 31 points in games following their previous losses this season.
The call: Ravens 33-13
BUCCANEERS (4-10) AT PANTHERS (5-9)(11 a.m.)
Panthers QB Cam Newton has scored 30 TDs this season — 17 passing, 13 rushing — the most by a rookie QB in league history. He also needs just 18 passing yards to set the record for rookie QBs as well — Peyton Manning set the record in 1998.
The call: Panthers 27-21
DOLPHINS (5-9) AT PATRIOTS (11-3) (11 a.m.)
The Patriots, at least from the looks of them in Denver last Sunday, have their playoff swerve on. They've won seven of their past nine against the Dolphins and they know how to close the deal — they are 42-7 in December games in Bill Belichick's tenure.
The call: Patriots 35-20
RAMS (2-12) AT STEELERS (10-4) (11 a.m.)
Playing on a bad ankle this past Monday, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger had four turnovers — three interceptions, one fumble — but he's still on pace for his second career 4,000-yard season. The Steelers are 6-1 at home this season.
The call: Steelers 30-9
JAGUARS (4-10) AT TITANS (7-7) (11 a.m.)
A lot will depend on how the Titans regain their balance after a horrific loss to the Colts in Indianapolis last Sunday. The Titans don't finish that well on offense — they're 24th in scoring at just 19.9 points per game.
The call: Titans 19-17
VIKINGS (2-12) AT REDSKINS (5-9) (11 a.m.)
Of all the things that have gone wrong for the Redskins, Mike Shanahan may have at least found a running back in Roy Helu. Helu is the first rookie back in franchise history to rush for at least 100 yards in three consecutive games and he leads all rookies in the NFC with 47 receptions.
EAGLES (6-8) AT COWBOYS (8-6) (2:25 p.m.)
The Eagles aren't going to the playoffs, but if they can put all their frustration, dysfunction and spotty play in the rearview mirror for at least one game, they could deal the Cowboys a painful loss. In his past three home starts against the Eagles, Cowboys QB Tony Romo is 3-0, with seven TD passes.
The call: Cowboys 31-30
BEARS (7-7) AT PACKERS (13-1) (6:20 p.m.)
A little old-school rivalry to close out Christmas Day. The Packers, coming off their first loss of the season, will have to avoid the multi-week letdown that has affected some teams that have lost an undefeated season late in the year.
That first loss often leads to another — see the 1998 Broncos. The Packers' offensive line is a bigger concern, however, because QB Aaron Rodgers is beginning to take far more punishment than Green Bay would like him to take.
He's been sacked seven times in the past two games.
The call: Packers 30-20
MONDAY NIGHT GAME
FALCONS (9-5) AT SAINTS (11-3)(6:30 p.m.)
The Saints have won five of the last six between these division rivals, and New Orleans head coach Sean Payton is 9-2 against Atlanta. The Saints have won six games in a row, having scored at least 26 points in five of the wins and at least 31 in three of them.
The Falcons have won seven of the past nine and could use an upset here to keep themselves in good position in the NFC wild-card race. The Falcons are 6-4 in NFC games and a loss here certainly will sting.
Brees needs just a combined 305 yards passing in his last two games to break Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage mark (5,084 in 1984). Brees also has won his past six Monday night games and has a passer rating of 124.1 in those game.
The call: Saints 33-21
Last week: 6-9 (.400)
For the season: 143-65 (.688)
1. Packers: 16-0 is gone, but the champs are still the league's best team.
2. Saints: QB Drew Brees is tearing it up, nearing 5,000 yards for the season.
3. Patriots: Now have the inside track for the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
4. 49ers: Bounced back from a bad loss to the Cards by taking down the Steelers.Comment on this story
5. Ravens: Got shelled by the Chargers last week to put a dent in hopes for the top seed.
6. Steelers: Loss to the Niners prevented them from taking the AFC North lead.
7. Falcons: They face the Saints this week in a battle for NFC playoff position.
8. Lions: Comeback kids must beat either Chargers or Packers to clinch wild card.
9. Broncos: Team Tebow must bounce back from loss to Patriots to win AFC West.
10. Texans: They're in the playoffs, but injuries have this team fading fast.