JETS (8-5) AT COWBOYS (4-9), Saturday, 8:25 p.m.
TV: NFL, Ch. 2; Radio: ESPN (98.7)
Jets by 3.5; O/U: 41.5
Five words you’re going to hear often this time of the season: If the playoffs started today. Well, if they did, the Jets would be the AFC’s sixth seed. But don’t go buying those playoff tickets just yet. The NFL sometimes can stand for the No Fair League. Consider: Even if the Jets go 11-5, they might still lose out on a tiebreaker to the Chiefs and Steelers. Meanwhile, the Giants might be playoff-bound at 8-8. The Jets are on fire right now, and I can’t see them slowing down in prime time. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker lead another win against a Cowboys team that just can’t score enough points to keep up with the Jets.
The pick: Jets
PANTHERS (13-0) AT GIANTS (6-7), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 5; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)
Panthers by 5; O/U: 48
The Giants are standing in the way of an undefeated season. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Doesn’t it feel like the Giants lead the league in these scenarios? The 15-0 Patriots in 2007, and then those same Patriots at 18-0 in the Super Bowl. This year, it was the 8-0 Pats back in Week 10. The one that everyone’s talking about is from the 1998 season, when the 13-0 Broncos traveled to the Meadowlands and had their run at perfection spoiled by Kent Graham and the 5-8 Giants. Now, can the Giants’ current No. 10 pull off another Week 15 upset? Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. showed Monday night that when they’re at the top of their game, they can put up a lot of points, and they’ll need to against the high-scoring Panthers. If this game was played a few weeks ago, I would have no doubt that Carolina would win. But it already has clinched a first-round bye, and even with a loss, still has the inside track at the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Carolina won’t have its top running back, Jonathan Stewart, and Cam Newton’s top target, Greg Olsen, is hurting, too. This feels like another upset in the making. I didn’t give the Giants a chance against the Pats earlier this season, and they had that game won until the Pats stunned them with a last-second field goal. The Giants need this game more than the Panthers do, and sometimes that can be the difference. I think the Giants will cover this game, but I’ve been going back and forth on whether they can win it outright. Still thinking . . . still thinking . . . You think? . . . OK, let’s go for it: Josh Brown gets redemption for his miss against the Jets with a late 47-yard field goal as the Giants add the 13-0 Panthers to their list of perfect games.
The pick: Giants
1 P.M. GAMES
BILLS (6-7) AT REDSKINS (6-7)
Bills by 1; O/U: 44
Poor Buffalo. No, I’m not talking about the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary chronicling the four straight Super Bowl losses. Check it out. It’s a great film, with a Super ending. If the Bills played in the NFC East instead of the AFC East, they would have a shot at the division. Washington has the most favorable matchup this week of any NFC East “contender.” However, that loss to the Cowboys at home two weeks ago showed they can’t be trusted. Unlike Super Bowl XXVI, the Bills find a way to beat the Redskins.
The pick: Bills
CHIEFS (8-5) AT RAVENS (4-9)
Chiefs by 7; O/U: 41
The Chiefs’ winning streak hit seven last week, but their run of six straight covers ended. Not including last week, every Ravens game has been decided by eight or fewer points, and eight were by four or fewer points. Baltimore stays inside the number.
The pick: Ravens
TITANS (3-10) AT PATRIOTS (11-2)
Patriots by 14; O/U: 47
Much like the first two thirds of the season, everything went perfectly for the Patriots last week. They reclaimed the AFC’s top spot after they won and the Bengals and Broncos lost. New England already has covered two 14-plus spreads at home this season. Make it three.
The pick: Patriots
TEXANS (6-7) AT COLTS (6-7)
Colts by 1; O/U: 41.5
With first place in the AFC South on the line, it’s a battle of second-string quarterbacks. Actually, it might be third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst for the Colts as Matt Hasselbeck is hurting. The Texans likely will go with T.J. Yates. You have to think Indy will play angry after allowing 51 points at Jacksonville last week. I think they find a way to win.
The pick: Colts
FALCONS (6-7) AT JAGUARS (5-8)
Jaguars by 3; O/U: 49
When I first saw this matchup, my immediate thought was: Take the Jaguars. But this is the NFL, and when something looks like a safe bet, it usually means it isn’t. Yes, the Falcons have lost six in a row overall and against the spread (ATS). But if there’s any week Matt Ryan can snap out of it, this is the week against a Jaguars team that despite having its best game in ages last week, is still hard to trust as three-point favorites. This reminds me of Week 12, when San Diego, on its own six-game skid, was an underdog and easily won at Jacksonville. Give me Atlanta to win outright.
The pick: Falcons
BEARS (5-8) AT VIKINGS (8-5)
Vikings by 5.5; O/U: 42.5
Chicago had Minnesota beaten earlier this season before it fell apart late and then lost on a last-second field goal. Division rivalries tend to be tight contests, so take the points.
The pick: Bears
4 P.M. GAMES
LOCK OF THE WEEK
BRONCOS (10-3) AT STEELERS (8-5)
TV: Ch. 2, 4:25 p.m.; Radio: WNYM (970)
Steelers by 6.5; O/U: 44.5
This is the best game of the week, and could be a playoff preview in the wild-card round. The Broncos missed a chance to move into the AFC’s top spot when it lost at home to the Raiders last week. Brock Osweiler? Peyton Manning? Maybe Denver should just ask John Elway to suit up. The Broncos still have a dominant defense, so why are the Steelers such a big favorite? Because Pittsburgh can score — 35, 30, 30, 45 and 33 points in their last five games — while Denver has struggled scoring with Osweiler. The Steelers need to win to keep pace with the Chiefs and Jets, who are favorites in their earlier games. Denver getting nearly a touchdown? Vegas is begging you to take the Broncos. Don’t fall for it.
The pick: Steelers
PACKERS (9-4) AT RAIDERS (6-7)
Packers by 3; O/U: 47.5
Take this into consideration: If Minnesota wins its earlier game, the pressure will be on Green Bay to maintain its one-game lead in the NFC North. The Raiders give them a fight, but the Packers do enough to win and cover.
The pick: Packers
BENGALS (10-3) AT 49ERS (4-9)
Bengals by 5; O/U: 40.5
Week 14 wasn’t kind to No. 14. Andy Dalton broke his thumb, and all of a sudden, the Bengals went from the top seed in the AFC to the possibility of being a wild-card team. I also feel for the Bengals beat writers, who now have to make sure they use points for A.J. Green and no points for AJ McCarron. This is one of the toughest games to pick, and here’s why: Even without Dalton, the Bengals are the better all-around team. But the 49ers, or as I like to call them this week, the 4-9ers, have held offenses led by Aaron Rodgers (17), Matt Ryan (17) and Carson Palmer (19) to under 20 points in San Francisco. This has 13-10 written all over it.
The pick: 49ers
BROWNS (3-10) AT SEAHAWKS (8-5)
Seahawks by 15; O/U: 43
Russell Wilson has thrown 16 touchdown passes in the last four games. Browns quarterbacks have combined to throw 19 . . . all season! Wilson, who hasn’t thrown an interception during that span, has Seattle peaking at the right time. The Seahawks have posted 29, 39, 38 and 35-point games during a four-game winning streak. Don’t be afraid of the spread: When the Seahawks are up 21-0 in the second quarter, the number won’t feel as high.
The pick: Seahawks
DOLPHINS (5-8) AT CHARGERS (3-10)
Chargers by 2; O/U: 45.5
For the first time all season, I don’t have an opinion on a game. That will happen when two underachieving teams with nothing to play for meet in Week 15. It’s a coin flip. Tails it’s Dolphins, heads it’s . . .
The pick: Chargers
CARDINALS (11-2) AT EAGLES (6-7), 8:20 p.m.
TV: Ch. 4; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)
Cardinals by 3; O/U: 51
This late-bird special was flexed to prime time because the Eagles became relevant again after beating the Patriots. Tampa Bay and Detroit dropped 45 points on the Eagles, so look for Carson Palmer and Arizona (31.2 points and 417.5 yards per game) to flex its muscle, too. This spread is an early Christmas gift.
The pick: Cardinals
LIONS (4-9) AT SAINTS (5-8), 8:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)
Saints by 3; O/U: 50.5
Despite less-than-stellar matchups on paper, Monday Night Football has produced some exciting games on TV. New Orleans hasn’t given up on the season despite being out of the playoff hunt, and that’s why I think they’re the right play in this one.
The pick: Saints
Staff picks and standings (Best bets in bold)
All picks against the spread
98-105-5 overall, 8-5-1 Best Bets
Last week: 7-9
Jets Giants Bills Ravens
Patriots Colts Falcons Bears
Steelers Packers 49ers Seahawks
Chargers Cardinals Saints
104-99-5 overall, 6-8 Best Bets
Last week: 10-6
Jets Giants Redskins Ravens
Patriots Colts Jaguars Vikings
Broncos Packers 49ers Seahawks
Chargers Cardinals Saints
106-97-5 overall, 7-6-1 Best Bets
Last week: 9-7
Jets Panthers Redskins Chiefs
Patriots Texans Falcons Vikings
Steelers Packers 49ers Seahawks
Dolphins Cardinals Lions
Kimberley A. Martin
96-107-5 overall, 6-8 Best Bets
Last week: 8-8
Jets Panthers Bills Chiefs
Patriots Texans Jaguars Vikings
Steelers Packers Bengals Seahawks
Chargers Cardinals Saints