The first week of January can seem like a true bummer. The holiday season is behind us, most of us have to return to work after a long break, and the weather can go haywire. (Here in Charlotte, it’s been above 70 for about 10 days, but starting on January 3, real winter weather sets in.) What we do have is more exciting football as the season winds down. Two weeks left, and still about 20 teams mathematically alive for a playoff spot. Let’s see what’s on tap this week.

Arizona at Dallas – Remember when Arizona had 1 loss and was the #1 seed in the NFC? Neither do I, but the record indicates that was the case at one time. With their superstar WR still on the shelf, there’s no way they hang with a Dallas team getting hot at the right time. Cowboys 34, Cards 21

Atlanta at Buffalo – It’s cold and snowy in Buffalo. Although Atlanta may be in “win one for the Gipper” mode after their former coach Dan Reeves passed away on New Year’s Day, they aren’t built for this. The Bills are back from their mid-season slump and should easily take care of business. Buffalo, NC 27, Falcons 9

Jacksonville at New England – The weather in Boston isn’t much better than Buffalo. The talent gap is even wider than it is in Buffalo. Snoozer alert. Patriots 28, Jags 10

Kansas City at Cincinnati – Could be the game of the day. Both offenses are doing very well. KC managed to discover how to play defense at the start of the holiday season, and that will be the difference here. Chiefs 31, Bengals 24

Las Vegas at Indianapolis – Every time we think Vegas is toast, they win and show some fight. They’ll fight in this one, but Indy should dominate time of possession with their running game. This will be fairly low-scoring because there won’t be a ton of possessions. Colts 24, Raiders 14

Miami at Tennessee – Miami is a lot better than their 1-7 start, but are they good enough to win every game in the second half of the season? Tennessee has kept going without their super-stud RB. I think it goes to the last possession, where this great Miami run finally ends. Titans 23, Fish 20

NY Giants at Chicago – I model this weekly prediction post after Ron Green Jr., a longtime writer for the Charlotte Observer. In his weekly picks column, he always included a “Who Cares Game of the Week” where 2 terrible teams face off. This one would definitely qualify. bear cubs 20, little people 17

Philadelphia at Washington – The home team gave it a great effort, but the injuries have been too much to overcome. Eagles 30, The Team Formerly Known As Redskins 13

Tampa Bay at NY Jets – I’m rooting for NY, if for no other reason than to improve the Panthers draft position. But this is too much to ask. Bucs 34, j-e-t-s jets jets jets jets jets jets jets jets jets jets jets 10

Denver at LA Chargers – Both teams coming off bad losses. Despite all the orange that will be in the stands, the “home” team should pull it out. Clippers 28, Donkeys 20

Houston at San Francisco – Big win by Houston last week. Could they be on a roll to… uh, no. 49ers 31, Texans 17

Detroit at Seattle – See NY Giants at Chicago above. Seahawks 23, lion cubs 13

LA Rams at Baltimore – Another game of the day candidate. LA has shown some lapses on defense, but this opponent doesn’t have the weaponry to exploit it. Rams 27, Ravens 17

Minnesota at Green Bay – Kirk Cousins is out with COVID. As if they were going to win anyway. Now it’s a certain blowout. Packers 35, Norwegians 14

Cleveland at Pittsburgh – When the Browns look back on this season, one of the biggest regrets will be the loss at home to the Steelers, where the defense played lights-out and the special teams unit showed the world what would happen if an average Joe walked on to the field and tried to play in the NFL (blasting the kicker when he tried to throw on a fake FG). There will be opportunity aplenty in this one, but I can’t shake the feeling they won’t take advantage. Steelers 20, Browns 17

Carolina at New Orleans – The “home” fans booed Sam Darnold last week and started a “fire Rhule” chant. They’ve played better on the road all year. However, they’re facing a defense that’s just good enough to make a lot of plays against this putrid offensive line. If you’re looking for a thing of beauty, look elsewhere. Aints 19, panther kittens 9

Last week’s record: 11-5

Season: 150-90