They have, in fact, looked very, very good lately, possibly the best team in the NFL. While they did manhandle the Texans Monday night, one must remember that the Patriots caught Houston on their third straight road game, which is never easy for a visiting team. And, since they spanked the Texans on Monday, many think that if the two teams meet again in the playoffs, the Patriots will run right over Houston again. I am not so sure on that. Now this isn't to say the Patriots would not win a rematch. They very well might. But the game likely would be in Houston, and there is no way the Texans play the way they did Monday night. Houston is very good, they just had a bad game on Monday. Sure, New England played a big part in that, but a second game would likely be much different. Let us not forget the 2010 season, where the Patriots destroyed the New York Jets 45-3 in the regular season, then lost to them in the playoffs at home. A second game or third game often leads to different results.
Another factor to consider is the Patriots schedule this season. Yes, they have to play what is given, but they had a very favorable schedule this year. Four of the Patriots biggest games this year were home. Denver, Indianapolis ( not considered big at the time but they are likely a playoff team ), Houston, and the upcoming San Francisco game. The Patriots won the first three fairly easily. No matter what the result is Sunday it is still a home game. Now, when the Patriots played a good team on the road this year, they lost, at Baltimore and Seattle ( the Seahawks are similar to the Colts in this case ). Barring something unforeseen, it looks like New England will play an away game in the playoffs against a very good team. When they have played very good teams on the road this year, they are 0-2. Most teams in the NFL are different at home then on the road. The Patriots are no different.
This certainly doesn't mean the Patriots can't win the Super Bowl this year. Of course they can. But they need to get there first. The way they are playing right now allows fans to have a very high amount of optimism. But that optimism should come with a caution sign.
As always, home team in CAPS.
Cincinnati 4 PHILADELPHIA
The Bengals are going to try and make a last minute push for the post season. It won't be enough. The Eagles...well wait until next year.
Pittsburgh 2 DALLAS
The Steelers had a stunning loss last week, which didn't help their post season chances. They should make it though. The Cowboys won last week, but really are a mess. They lose Dez Bryant, and now Jerry Jones is getting into fist fights with the players. Very nice.
Detroit 5 1/2 ARIZONA
The Lions have been a major disappointment, and the Cardinals have totally fallen apart after a great start. So, in other words, this game is meaningless.
Seattle 5 1/2 BUFFALO
The Seahawks have had an amazing season, and are absolutely in the playoff chase in the NFC. The Bills, not so much. I don't see the Seahawks falling here in a game they really need. I'll take them here.
SAN DIEGO 3 Carolina
Talk last week is that Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith and Head Coach Norv Turner were on their way out, and then they upset Pittsburgh. It really shouldn't matter. The Chargers need a major overhaul. I think the Panthers took a step back before going forward. They could be interesting next year. I think they will pull an upset here, if anybody sees it.
HOUSTON 7 1/2 Indianapolis
The Texans got smoked Monday, and now they need to run the table to keep the number one seed. They have a pretty good chance of doing so. This is their first home game in a month. It looks like the miracle Colts are heading to the playoffs, but they aren't going to go anywhere. The Texans will. Expect a big game from them this week.
MIAMI 7 Jacksonville
Really, I am not even sure anybody in Florida will be watching this game.
Washington 2 1/2 CLEVELAND
It looks like Robert Griffin III is itching to play, but it isn't known yet if he will. The Redskins are looking at the playoffs, while the Browns are still playing hard. Washington is hot right now, and even on the road I think they will pull this one out.
ST. LOUIS 2 1/2 Minnesota
The biggest story is Adrian Peterson, who is looking to be a 2,000 yard rusher. Oh yeah, the Vikings are still in the playoff chase. The Rams, ah no. I'll take Minnesota. They have more to play for.
NEW ORLEANS 3 1/2 Tampa Bay
The Saints are done and so are the Buccaneers after their awful loss last week. So, like some other games on the schedule this week, makes this game a nothing.
ATLANTA 2 New York Giants
I think this game has flown under the radar a little bit but it is a huge game in the NFC. I think the Giants need it more but that doesn't mean they are going to get it. But may be they will. I am not sure I can trust Atlanta in the playoffs.
Green Bay 3 CHICAGO
The Packers are quietly playing well, and the Bears have totally dropped off. They might not even make the post season. The Packers will, and they could be a very dangerous team.
NEW ENGLAND 5 1/2 San Francisco
This is another big game this week, and I think this one is more important to New England than last week's game. The 49ers defense is very good, but I am just not sure that they can hang with the Patriots on the offensive side of the ball. But I think their defense will keep it close. I think the Patriots will win, but the 49ers will keep it close enough to cover the points.
TENNESSEE 2 New York Jets
The Jets can somehow make the post season. Wouldn't that be something. The Titans haven't done much this year. So, the Jets get the nod here.
Game of the Week
Denver 2 1/2 BALTIMORE
I picked this game as opposed to New England and San Francisco because this is a conference game and I think more is on the line. The Ravens have really struggled lately, but they could start getting healthy as the playoffs begin. The Broncos are crusing right now, and they would like to get a first round bye in the playoffs. The Ravens likely can't, but they really need a win to get some momentum back. I'll take them here.
Stinker of the Week
OAKLAND 3 Kansas City
Yup, we sure have a Stinker here.
Record For Week 14: 7-9 ( 8-8 without spread )
Record Through Week 14: 89-104-4 ( 111-86 without the spread )
Game of Week Record: 6-8
Stinker of Week Record: 6-8
Jim Poore has been a long time contributor to Patriots Insider with his weekly picks column. Let him know what you think. Email him here:
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