CHEAT SHEET: Falcons leaving nothing to chance this time around
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org December 28, 2012 12:08AM
Updated: January 29, 2013 6:02AM
The Atlanta Falcons have enough trouble winning playoff games with a full head of steam. No wonder coach Mike Smith isn’t going to tempt fate by coasting into the postseason this year.
Smith’s Falcons are one of three playoff teams with nothing to play for Sunday. The Falcons (13-2) have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC heading into their regular-season finale against the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers at the Georgia Dome.
Smith gave his team an extra day of rest after their 31-18 victory Saturday against the Detroit
Lions. But he insists he’ll play all his starters, including quarterback Matt Ryan, and ‘‘play to win’’ against the Bucs. And it sounds like his key players won’t be
making mere cameo appearances.
As the Green Bay Packers discovered last season, when they were rusty in an upset home loss to the New York Giants, coasting in Week 17 is dicey, especially with a first-round bye. Smith is 0-3 in the playoffs with the Falcons,
losing to the Packers 48-21 at home in 2011. He’s giving himself the best chance to win.
Pick: Falcons 27, Bucs 17.
packers AT vikings
Time: 3:25 p.m., Fox-32.
Line: Packers by 3. Total: 46.
Records (overall/ATS): Packers 11-4/9-6; Vikings 9-6/7-7-1.
Fast fact: Packers are 4-1 SU/ATS in their last five road games. Vikings are 4-2-1 ATS at home this season.
Outlook: Bears fans can see a Blair Walsh 57-yard field goal sailing through the uprights in overtime, but Vikings will have to keep it close to get that opportunity. Packers won’t make it that easy.
Pick: Packers 23, Vikings 10.
texans AT colts
Time: Noon, Ch. 2.
Line: Texans by 7. Total: 47.
Records (overall/ATS): Texans 12-3/9-6; Colts
Fast fact: Arian Foster rushed for 165 yards on 27 carries in a 29-17 victory against Colts on Dec. 16.
Outlook: Colts will be riding an emotional wave with return of coach Chuck Pagano, who missed most of season while battling leukemia. Texans can clinch No. 1 AFC seed with victory.
Pick: Colts 27, Texans 24.
Chiefs AT broncos
Time: 3:25 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 16. Total: 42.
Records (overall/ATS): Chiefs 2-13/5-10; Broncos 12-3/9-5-1.
Fast fact: Broncos have won 10 in row (7-3 ATS). Chiefs have lost 11 of 12 (4-8 ATS).
Outlook: Peyton Manning and Broncos are averaging 31 points during their
10-game winning streak, with 30 or more in eight of them. But they struggled to beat Chiefs 17-9 on Nov. 25 in Kansas City.
Pick: Broncos 36, Chiefs 6.
Bears at Lions
Time: Noon, Fox-32.
Line: Bears by 3. Total: 441/2.
Records (overall/ATS): Bears 9-6/7-8; Lions 4-11/5-10.
Outlook: Bears don’t have a history of winning games like this one, but neither do Lions.
Pick: Bears 24, Lions 17.
browns AT steelers
Line: Steelers by 7. Total: 42.
Records (overall/ATS): Browns 5-10/8-6-1; Steelers 7-8/5-9-1.
Outlook: Disappointing Steelers determined to end bad season on winning note.
Pick: Steelers 17, Browns 7.
jets AT bills
Line: Bills by 31/2. Total: 40.
Records (overall/ATS): Jets
6-9/7-8; Bills 5-10/6-9.
Outlook: It might come down to which team wants its dreadful season to end the most.
Pick: Bills 20, Jets 17.
ravens AT bengals
Line: Bengals by 3. Total: 42.
Records (overall/ATS): Ravens
10-5/6-8-1; Bengals 9-6/8-6-1.
Outlook: Joe Flacco (114.2 rating last week) has had back-to-back 100+ games once in last two seasons.
Pick: Bengals 17, Ravens 10.
jaguars AT titans
Line: Titans by 4. Total: 411/2.
Records (overall/ATS): Jaguars 2-13/7-8; Titans 5-10/5-10.
Outlook: These teams lost to Bears and Packers by a combined 171-45 this season.
Pick: Titans 31, Jaguars 23.
dolphins AT patriots
Time: 3:25 p.m., Ch. 2.
Line: Patriots by 10. Total: 491/2.
Records (overall/ATS): Dolphins 7-8/8-7; Patriots 11-4/8-7.
Outlook: Sluggish Patriots could use convincing victory.
Pick: Patriots 31, Dolphins 17.panthers AT saints
Line: Saints by 5. Total: 54.
Records (overall/ATS): Panthers 6-9/8-7; Saints 7-8/8-7.
Outlook: Panthers and Cam Newton might be playing for coach Ron Rivera’s job.
Pick: Saints 31, Panthers 28.
eagles AT giants
Line: Giants by 7. Total: 461/2.
Records (overall/ATS): Eagles 4-11/3-11-1; Giants 8-7/6-8-1.
Outlook: Giants haven’t done much lately, but with hope still alive, you can’t count them out.
Pick: Giants 27, Eagles 17.
cardinals AT 49ers
Time: 3:25 p.m.
Line: 49ers by 161/2. Total: 381/2.
Records (overall/ATS): Cardinals 5-10/6-8-1; 49ers 10-4-1/9-6.
Outlook: 49ers will be out to re-establish momentum after losing 42-13 to Seahawks last week.
Pick: 49ers 24, Cardinals 3.
raiders AT chargers
Time: 3:25 p.m.
Line: Chargers by 41/2. Total: 431/2.
Records (overall/ATS): Raiders 4-11/4-11; Chargers 6-9/7-8.
Outlook: Norv Turner seems destined to end his career in San Diego with meaningless victory.
Pick: Chargers 37, Raiders 23.
rams AT seahawks
Time: 3:25 p.m.
Line: Seahawks by 101/2. Total: 41.
Records (overall/ATS): Rams
Outlook: Seahawks still have chance to win NFC West. But they’re due for letdown here.
Pick: Seahawks 24, Rams 16.
Cowboys AT REDskins
Time: 7:20 p.m., Ch. 5.
Line: Redskins by 3. Total: 491/2.
Records (overall/ATS): Cowboys 8-7/6-9; Redskins 9-6/10-5.
Outlook: Cowboys due to win one of these do-or-die games.
Pick: Cowboys 23, Redskins 20.