John Boell Newsday sports writer John Boell

Boell has worked in the Newsday sports department in various capacities since 1999. In 2010, he became Newsday's

NFC GAMES WITH PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS

EAGLES (9-6) at COWBOYS (8-7), 8:30 p.m

Eagles by 6 1/2; O/U: 52 1/2

TV: Ch. 4; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

I don't think there's a tougher player than Tony Romo, but an injured back is an injured back. It's not official yet, but it looks as if Romo will be a no-go. That makes this pick a lot easier to make. Winner takes NFC East crown, and I think Dallas will play tough at home . . . but its defense won't be able to contain Nick Foles and the high-flying Eagles. Expect a lot of close-ups of Dallas owner Jerry Jones. There's always next year, Jerry!

The pick: Eagles

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PACKERS (7-7-1) at BEARS (8-7), 4:25 p.m.

Packers by 3; O/U: 52 1/2

TV: Ch. 5

This game was already big enough with a winner-take-all contest for the NFC North title and a ticket to the postseason at stake. But add the return of Aaron Rodgers after missing seven games, and it gets even more exciting. Wait, did Philly just score on the Bears again? I don't recall seeing a team that needed a win in a bigger spot and coming up so small as the Bears did last week at Philly. Even a rusty Rodgers is good enough against a defense as abysmal as the Bears'.

The pick: Packers

49ERS (11-4) at CARDINALS (10-5), 4:25 p.m.

Pick 'em; O/U: 42 1/2

Hard to believe the Cardinals could finish 11-5 and miss the playoffs. Arizona -- which needs to win plus have the Saints either lose or tie the Bucs -- has won seven of its last eight overall, including five straight covers. The Cardinals are an NFL-best 11-3-1 against the spread. I'll go with the more desperate team.

The pick: Cardinals

RAMS (7-8) at SEAHAWKS (12-3), 4:25 p.m.

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Seahawks by 10 1/2; O/U: 43

Seattle clinches NFC's top seed and home field with a win or tie -- or a 49ers loss or tie. The Rams have covered three straight vs. Seattle. A quick shoutout to Seahawks punter Jon Ryan and the punt return unit, which has allowed just 25 punt return yards on 16 returns ALL season!

The pick: Rams

BUCS (4-11) at SAINTS (10-5), 4:25 p.m.

Saints by 12 1/2; O/U: 47

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Win and they're in for the Saints (6-1 ATS at home this season).

The pick: Saints

PANTHERS (11-4) at FALCONS (4-11), 1 p.m.

Panthers by 6 1/2; O/U: 45 1/2

Carolina clinches NFC South and first-round bye with a win or tie (or a Saints loss or tie). Carolina is 7-1 ATS in last eight NFC contests, and 20-7 ATS in last 27 vs. losing teams. Farewell, Tony Gonzalez!

The pick: Panthers

AFC GAMES WITH PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS

RAVENS (8-7) at BENGALS (10-5), 1 p.m.

Bengals by 6; O/U: 44 1/2

Cincinnati has already won the AFC North, but it still can clinch the No. 2 seed. It's a long shot because I can't see the Patriots losing to the Bills, but that game is at 4:25 p.m., so Cincy will only be worried about taking care of its own business. As for the Ravens, they need a win -- and help -- or the Super Bowl champs will miss the playoffs. A hurt Joe Flacco + a Bengals team that is 7-0 at home = a Cincy cover.

The pick: Bengals

JETS (7-8) at DOLPHINS (8-7), 1 p.m.

Dolphins by 6; O/U: 41

TV: Ch. 2; Radio: ESPN (98.7)

Are the Jets playing for coach Rex Ryan's job? (In my opinion, Ryan did one of his best coaching jobs this year and deserves one more season.) Miami is in the driver's seat for the No. 6 seed. Mike Harris of Football Outsiders computes Miami has a 58.7-percent chance to get in. The Jets are 12-3 against the spread in their last 15 games in Miami but 0-3-1 ATS in their last four road games this season.

The pick: Dolphins

CHIEFS (11-4) at CHARGERS (8-7), 4:25 p.m.

Chargers by 9 1/2; O/U: 45

KC is the No. 5 seed, so expect some starters to sit. San Diego is in with a win and losses by the Ravens and Dolphins.

The pick: Chargers

BROWNS (4-11) at STEELERS (7-8), 1 p.m.

Steelers by 7; O/U: 44

The Steelers are in with a win -- and losses by the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers. The first part should happen (Ben Roethlisberger is 16-1 vs. Browns), but the second part is asking a lot.

The pick: Steelers

JAGUARS (4-11) at COLTS (10-5), 1 p.m.

Colts by 11 1/2; O/U: 45 1/2

Indy is already in playoffs but can clinch a first-round bye if the Bengals and Pats lose. Um, good "Luck" with that. The Jags are 4-0 ATS in last four road games.

The pick: Jaguars

BILLS (6-9) at PATRIOTS (11-4), 4:25 p.m.

Patriots by 9 1/2; O/U: 47

TV: Ch. 2

The Pats still have plenty to play for: a win and a Denver loss gives them No. 1 seed (not so sure about that). Still, a victory here gives the Pats a first-round bye.

The pick: Bills

BRONCOS (12-3) at RAIDERS (4-11), 4:25 p.m

Broncos by 12 1/2; O/U: 53 1/2

Denver clinches home-field advantage with a win. I bet Peyton Manning wishes his home field was still a dome stadium!

The pick: Broncos

OTHER GAMES

REDSKINS (3-12) at GIANTS (6-9), 1 p.m.

Giants by 3 1/2; O/U: 46

TV: Ch. 5, Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

I just double-checked and both the Giants and Redskins still have a zero-percent chance of making the playoffs. I just wanted to clear that up. How great does my NFL preseason pick of the Redskins making the playoffs look now? (At least my Denver-Seattle Super Bowl is still alive.) You wonder if this is the last time Mike Shanahan coaches vs. Tom Coughlin, two men who have won a pair of Lombardi Trophies apiece. The Redskins are 5-1 ATS in their last six games vs. the G-Men, and the underdog has covered six straight times in this series. But I think Big Blue will play better for their coach than the Redskins will for theirs.

The pick: Giants

LIONS (7-8) at VIKINGS (4-10-1), 1 p.m.

Vikings by 3; O/U: 52

This may be the last time we see Vikes' Leslie Frazier and Lions' Jim Schwartz coach their teams. It's definitely the last time we'll see the Metrodome. You have to think Minnesota will want to win this one.

The pick: Vikings

TEXANS (2-13) at TITANS (6-9), 1 p.m.

Titans by 7; O/U: 44

Texans will cover . . . but lose their 14th game in a row. Wow!

The pick: Texans

STAFF PICKS (best bets in caps)

JOHN BOELL: 107-126-7, 4-12 best bets; Last week: 7-9

Dolphins Giants Eagles Bengals Packers Cardinals Rams Saints PANTHERS Chargers Steelers Jaguars Bills Broncos Vikings Texans

BOB GLAUBER: 123-110-7, 7-7-2; Last week: 8-8

Jets Giants Eagles Bengals Packers Cardinals Seahawks Saints Panthers CHARGERS Steelers Colts Patriots Broncos Vikings Titans

KIMBERLEY A. MARTIN: 120-113-7, 4-12; Last week: 7-9

Jets Giants Eagles Ravens Bears 49ers Seahawks Bucs Panthers Chiefs Steelers Jaguars PATRIOTS Broncos Lions Texans

TOM ROCK: 110-123-7, 7-9; Last week: 7-9

Jets Giants Eagles Ravens Bears 49ERS Rams Saints Panthers Chiefs Browns Colts Bills Raiders Vikings Titans