RAIDERS (4-10) at PANTHERS (5-9)
Line: CAR by 9.
Cotes pick: CAR 27-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Cam Newton has a 109.8 passer rating with 10 TDs and zero picks in his past five games. There is a phrase for that. It is, Saving Ron Riveras job. Oakland tends to wither on the road, but that bet-number just feels too fat. Carson Palmer can put up enough to keep it close.
VIKINGS (8-6) at TEXANS (12-2)
Line: HOU by 7 1/2.
Cotes pick: HOU 24-19.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
Quietly, a Game of the Week nominee. Texans clinch AFC home-field throughout with a win. Vikings need a win even more, with their hold on the NFCs sixth and final playoff seed tenuous indeed. Adrian Peterson gives Minny a chance in every game and keeps this close, but Vikes are 2-5 on road and Houstons puts up a whole team against Purples one-man show.
BROWNS (5-9) at BRONCOS (11-3)
Line: DEN by 13.
Cotes pick: DEN 31-13.
TV: 4:05 p.m., CBS.
Denver has won a league-best nine in a row, still guns hard for a first-round bye and gets it with win here if New England loses. Cant give Clevers much of a shot. Earthtones are only 1-5 away from the Dawg Pound, and Peyton Manning has a 109 passer rating at Mile High.
BEARS (8-6) at CARDINALS (5-9)
Line: CHI by 5 1/2.
Cotes pick: CHI 20-13.
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox.
Chitown, once 7-1 and sailing, now needs to close out with two more wins and get help elsewhere for a playoff spot. Two strong Ds lead the NFL in interceptions (Zona 22, Bears 21), so, how bout fewest turnovers wins? Give me Jay Cutler and something to play for over Ryan Lindley and nothing but next year.
49ERS (10-3-1) at SEAHAWKS (9-5)
Cotes pick: SEA 21-20
TV: 8:20 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida).
No Monday game this week so heres the equivalent, and its worthy of the prime-time stage. San Fran is playoff-clinched but takes the West by winning here. Seattle clinches playoff spot with a win or with three other results all falling right. Niners have won four in a row in the series including 13-6 in October, but give me a very good home team (6-0) and that 12th-man advantage.