OK, we have all the byes out of the way. Everyone has played 13 games in 14 weeks. With the end of the college football season, we now have 3 Saturday games moved over from the Sunday slate. Troy Aikman has taken to coming up with new descriptions for teams in contention for a playoff spot but not currently in the top 7. He hates “in the hunt,” so he’s recently tried “sniffing it” and “loitering.” Funny. Let’s see if we can predict some of this madness correctly.

San Francisco at Seattle at (Thur) – Seattle has become vulnerable to a strong running attack. The team that McCaffrey used to play for exploited this last week. He should have a field day this week. 49ers 31, Seahawks 17

Indianapolis at Minnesota (Sat) – Indy started strong under Jeff Saturday, but have floundered since. Minnesota had a red-hot start but have been inconsistent since. I think the horn carries the home team to victory. Norwegians 23, Colts 16

Baltimore at Cleveland (Sat) – Having some lifetime Browns fans in my family, I kinda-sorta root for them when the Panthers aren’t involved. This year has been profoundly disappointing, including watching a very rusty DeShaun Watson flail around. Many Browns fans are still calling down curses on the long-dead Ravens owner Art Model for moving the team to Baltimore. Those memories rise again after the old Browns beat the new ones. Ravens 20, Browns 10

Miami at Buffalo (Sat) – Lots of press about the demise of the Dolphins. It’s not that they were a fraud early that are now being exposed, but more of the terrible timing of them running into really hot teams. This will be close early before the home team pulls away late. Buffalo, NC 31, Fish 17

Atlanta at New Orleans – Once again we have NFC South Chaos. If Atlanta and Carolina win and Tampa Bay loses, we will have 3 teams tied for first at 6-8 with 3 games to go. New Orleans has remained wildly inconsistent with Andy Dalton at QB, and the defense has underperformed. I think the first step toward utter division chaos plays out. Falcons 26, Aints 20 

Detroit at NY Jets – With apologies to Mike Greenberg and Rich Eisen, the stout Jets defense isn’t going to be able to stop the red-hot Detroit offense. Who knew that Detroit-Carolina Christmas Eve game would have major playoff implications? Lions 28, J-E-T-S jets jets jets jets jets jets jets jets jets jets 17

Dallas at Jacksonville – It’s now been fully proven that JAX was only that terrible in 2021 because they had a coach who is as backward as the river that runs through the city. Much better squad with a real coach. But this defense is a whole different thingy. Cowboys 28, Jags 10

Kansas City at Houston – Very impressive effort by Houston in Dallas last week, leading at the 58th minute. There’s not enough on defense to do that to 2 powerful offenses in a row. Chiefs 31, Texans 14

Philadelphia at Chicago – After a very good start, Chicago has settled into Dennis Green Syndrome – “The Bears are who we thought they were!” Ugliest game of the week. Eagles 38, bear cubs 13

Arizona at Denver – The Who Cares Game of the Week. Arizona tries to rise after Murray went down with an ACL tear. Donkeys 19, Cards 13

New England at Las Vegas – The McDaniels Bowl? I expect BB to exploit weaknesses that McDaniels didn’t even know he had. Patriots 23, Fakers 20

Cincinnati at Tampa Bay – The talking heads have determined the Bucs have already won the NFC South, and all that’s left is to see if they will win it with 8 or 9 wins. But Atlanta and Carolina are only 1 game back with 4 to play. Tampa should really be up against it with the red-hot Bengals in town. As I said earlier, I’m here for all of the chaos. Bengals 30, Bucs 17

Tennessee at LA Chargers – Two teams that we’ve never been able to figure out. All LA home games are road games, but they should still come out on top. Clippers 27, Titans 17

NY Giants at Washington – This game got flexed into the Sunday night slot. NY is reeling, and Washington may have Chase Young back to terrorize QBs. One ship going north, one going south. Commanders 27, Giants 13

LA Rams at Green Bay (Mon) – So it turns out Baker Mayfield can actually win football games. Who wudda thunked it? After the miracle comeback last Thursday, a frustrated Panthers fan tweeted some shade toward our offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, “McAdoo, we have questions.” This week’s Monday Night Football came could also be called the “What Happened to That Guy” Bowl as Mayfield battles Rodgers. It’s supposed to be nice and cold. Selfishly, Rodgers needs to be the exclamation point to my fantasy football win. Packers 26, Rams 21 

Pittsburgh at Carolina – So do I stick with my Old Jedi Mind Trick or pick with my heart? Well, there’s always the analytical approach: Pittsburgh has QB issues – the starter is concussed, and the backup belongs in a church flag football league. The Panthers have won 3 of 4 including a road win against a playoff contender. It’s clearly a different team under Wilks. Also, there will be a minimum of 50,000 Steelers fans in the stands for the Panther “home” game. Most of our season ticket holders aren’t football fans. They’re investors who sell 4-6 game tickets on StubHub to opposing teams’ fans, enabling them to earn a profit on paying for football tickets. I was all set to go black & gold until that Seattle win last week. Forget mind tricks. Go with which is the superior team on the field. PANTHERS 23, Steelers 17

Last week’s record: 7-6

Season: 120-86-2