suntimes
SPARKLE 
Weather Updates

CHEAT SHEET: Falcons leaving nothing to chance this time around

storyidforme: 41180514
tmspicid: 11652921
fileheaderid: 5319240

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.

TOP PLAYS

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
10-5/10-5.

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.

OTHER GAMES

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

Time: Noon.

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

Time: Noon.

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

Time: Noon.

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

Time: Noon.

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

Time: Noon.

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

Time: Noon.

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
7-7-1/10-5; 10-5/11-4.

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.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.