GOLD JACKET FEATURE PRESENTATION
KANSAS CITY @ SEATTLE, 8:20 p.m. (EST)
The line: Chiefs by 2-1/2
The weather: High of 48, Rain
The story: The Chiefs are 11-3 and the No. 1 seed in the playoff picture. The Seahawks are 8-6 and on the critical list for January. So this is an easy one to pick, right? Not so fast. Seattle leads the league in rushing; Kansas City is 26th in run defense. The Seahawks won their last three home games. The Chiefs are 2-2 in their last four and should be 1-3. Seattle typically peaks for the playoffs. And the Chiefs? They typically crater. Nope, this is NOT an easy one to pick. If the Seahawks can control the ball and Russell Wilson is … well, Russell Wilson … Seattle can keep Patrick Mahomes and the league’s highest-scoring offense off the field. Fortunately for Kansas City, much of the pressure was lifted Saturday night by Baltimore with its defeat of the Chargers. All the Chiefs must do now is win one of their next two, and they're in as the AFC West champ … and maybe, just maybe, the top seed in the playoffs.
Something to consider: Wilson has 13 touchdown passes and two interceptions in six home games this season.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL OF FRAMING
MINNESOTA @ DETROIT, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Vikings by 6
The weather: Dome
The story: The Vikings need to finish with a flourish to make the playoffs, and they’re at the right place. The Lions lost six of their last eight, including a 24-9 beatdown by Minnesota where Matt Stafford was sacked 10 times, and they’re 3-4 at home. So the strategy for victory is simple for the Vikings: Do what you did last week. Which is? Play defense and run the ball. One week after dumping offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, Minnesota ran for a season-high 220 yards in a defeat of the Dolphins. Expect it again here. Detroit allows an average of 4.5 yards per carry, which puts the Lions in the bottom half of the league. The Vikings have something to play for; Detroit does not. That should make this one easy to figure out.
Something to consider: The Minnesota defense has held opponents to third-down conversion rate of 28.6 percent, best in the NFL.
HOUSTON @ PHILADELPHIA, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Eagles by 1
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 45
The story: So now the Eagles are building a locker-room shrine to “St. Nick?” Amazing what one Nick Foles victory can do for one team. But the Eagles needed something, and they found it in a familiar place – the L.A. Coliseum. But that was then, and this is now … and now they must beat a Texans’ team that not only won ten of its last 11 but its last five on the road. Another one here, and they set a franchise record. But so what? Philadelphia beat the Rams where they hadn’t lost this season (L.A.). So maybe it ends another streak. But that’s going to take another bravura performance from St. Nick, and the question is simple: Does he have it in him? He did a year ago. He didn’t earlier this season. The Texans are the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, and a win here almost guarantees a first-round bye. So it’s big for them. But it might be bigger for Philadelphia. Because a loss bounces the defending Super Bowl champions from the playoffs.
Something to consider: The Eagles have never lost to Houston. They’re 4-0 vs. the Texans.
PITTSBURGH @ NEW ORLEANS, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Saints by 6
The weather: Dome
The story: So the Saints’ Cam Jordan doesn’t think Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Famer. OK. Fine. It's a free country, and he's entitled to his opinion. But he doesn’t have a vote and, more importantly, he doesn’t have a ring. Big Ben does. In fact he has two of them. The Saints clinch home-field advantage with the victory, and that’s as meaningful as Jordan’s Big Ben comment is inane. In fact, it’s downright critical to their Super Bowl chances. Reason: They’re 5-0 at home in the playoffs under Sean Payton. But they’re 1-5 on the road. So they need to win one of their last two games -- both at home. One problem: Big Ben and the Steelers need to win both of them. They’re fighting for their playoff lives, and, yes, Cam Jordan, Roethlisberger has been there more times than you can count on one hand.
Something to consider: In six home games this season, Drew Brees completed 77.7 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns and one interception.
BEATING THE ODDS
(Picks are made vs. the spread)
RON BORGES – L.A. Chargers (--4-1/2) -- I trust the Chargers' run defense more than I trust Lamar Jackson. (Editor's Note: Sorry, Ron).
CLARK JUDGE – N.Y. Jets (+3). It’s the Packers, stupid. They haven't won a road game all year.
RICK GOSSELIN – Seattle (+2-1/2). Seattle can run the ball, control the clock and keep the Chiefs’ offense off the field.
THE WEEKEND OMG
Cleveland could score its third division win of the season Sunday, and, if you think that's no big deal, you're wrong. It is. It would mark its most division victories since the 2002 realignment.
THE SUNDAY PLAY LIST
CLEVELAND QB BAKER MAYFIELD. With three touchdown passes he surpasses Andrew Luck (23) for the second-most scoring passes by a rookie quarterback in the common-draft era. Peyton Manning is the leader with 26.
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY. He’s 29-3 vs. Buffalo and the only quarterback in the NFL with at least 20 wins against each of three opponents (the Bills, Jets and Miami).
CAROLINA RB CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY. With nine catches he surpasses Matt Forte (102) for the most receptions in one season by a running back. McCaffrey has 94.
MIAMI QB RYAN TANNEHILL. He’s 9-0 in his last nine home starts.
MINNESOTA DE DANIELLE HUNTER. He’s had 6-1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles in his last three games vs. Detroit.
CLEVELAND RB NICK CHUBB. His next 100-yard game will be his fourth this season, setting a franchise record for rookie running backs.
HOUSTON DE J.J. WATT. He needs a half-a-sack to complete his fourth 15-sack season, making him the second player in NFL history to reach that mark. Hall-of-Famer Reggie White is the other.
CLEVELAND DE MYLES GARRETT. He has 6-1/2 sacks, 6 tackles for losses, three pass deflections and two forced fumbles in seven home games this season.
N.Y. GIANTS RB SAQUON BARKLEY. With seven catches he surpasses Reggie Bush (88) for the most catches by a rookie running back in a single season. Barkley has 82.
ARIZONA DE CHANDLER JONES. He has 5-1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in his last six games vs. the Rams.
KANSAS CITY TE TRAVIS KELCE. With 108 receiving yards he surpasses Rob Gronkowski (1,327) for the most yards in one season by a tight end.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
Fourteen of the 16 games this weekend feature at least one team alive for the playoffs.
Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald has more career catches vs. the Rams (179) than any player in NFL history has against a single opponent. Jerry Rice is second with 176 vs. Atlanta.
With another two-point conversion, the Browns set a single-season franchise record with five.
New Orleans is 10-0 this season when rushing for 100 yards.
The past two weeks the Vikings have allowed an NFL-low 180 yards and produced 11 sacks.
No player in the NFL has more interceptions against a single opponent than Arizona's Patrick Peterson has vs. the Rams (7).
At 7-1, the 49ers have the best record in December the past two seasons.
Since Week 10, the Saints are allowing an average of 12.3 points per game, best in the NFL.
The 49ers average an NFL-best 15.6 yards per catch on first down.
Philadelphia won eight of its last nine vs. AFC South opponents, including five straight at Lincoln Financial Field.