Jets (9-3) at Steelers (11-1)

Line: Steelers by 5 1/2

Lowdown: The Jets get another chance to debunk the soft-schedule theory for their success. These are mirror-image teams, relying on defense and the running game. As well as Ben Roethlisberger played last week, the Steelers might even have edge at quarterback.

The pick: Steelers


Rams (6-6) at Panthers (5-7)

Line: Panthers by 7

Lowdown: The Rams will ask 39-year-old QB Chris Chandler to overcome their defensive deficiencies, a tall order. The Panthers have won four in a row and are beginning to see light at the end of the playoff tunnel.

The pick: Panthers

Seahawks (6-6) at Vikings (7-5)

Line: Vikings by 6 1/2

Lowdown: Injuries have turned Seattle's defense into a sieve. Monday night's loss to Dallas may have been devastating. The Vikings have won five of six at home and beat the Seahawks, 34-7, last year in Minneapolis.

The pick: Vikings

Buccaneers (5-7) at Chargers (9-3)

Line: Chargers by 5 1/2

Lowdown: Chargers WR Keenan McCardell faces his former teammates and No. 1-rated secondary. The Bucs' defense is up to its old tricks after shutting down Michael Vick.

The pick: Bucs

Colts (9-3) at Texans (5-7)

Line: Colts by 11

Lowdown: Peyton Manning threw for five touchdowns and the Colts put up 49 points the last time they saw the Texans. Houston complained the Colts ran up the score.

The pick: Colts

Bears (5-7) at Jaguars (6-6)

Line: Jaguars by 7

Lowdown: After the loss to Pittsburgh, the Jaguars are in desperation mode. RB Fred Taylor has rushed for 100-plus yards in five straight games against NFC teams and the Bears have allowed six 100-yard rushers this season.

The pick: Jaguars

Lions (5-7) at Packers (7-5)

Line: Packers by 9 1/2

Lowdown: The Packers haven't lost to the Lions at home since 1991 and are 16-2 in December under Mike Sherman. The Lions finally found a running game in Kevin Jones.

The pick: Packers

Bengals (6-6) at Patriots (11-1)

Line: Patriots by 11

Lowdown: Can the Bengals pull off two straight road upsets? Doubtful, especially when Corey Dillon is taking revenge on the other side of the ball.

The pick: Patriots


Raiders (4-8) at Falcons (9-3)

Line: Falcons by 7 1/2

Lowdown: The Raiders have no running game at all, which means Atlanta can go after QB Kerry Collins in a big way. The Falcons are 2-1 vs. AFC West.

The pick: Falcons

Browns (3-9) at Bills (6-6)

Line: Bills by 11 1/2

Lowdown: The Browns get another read on rookie QB Luke McCown, while the Bills try to inch back into the AFC wild-card picture.

The pick: Bills

Saints (4-8) at Cowboys (5-7)

Line: Cowboys by 7

Lowdown: All of a sudden, Bill Parcells' QB critics have vanished.

The pick: Cowboys

Dolphins (2-10) at Broncos (7-5)

Line: Broncos by 11 1/2

Lowdown: Jake Plummer's critics are gathering in Denver.

The pick: Broncos

49ers (1-11) at Cardinals (4-8)

Line: Cardinals by 7

Lowdown: Dennis Green could play QB in this one.

The pick: Cardinals

- Ken Murray

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