The final week of the regular season, it's the end of the road for many teams but with playoff places and division titles still to be won there's some crunch-time clashes this Sunday. Reuben Thomas introduces the action game by game...
'Improved protection for Roethlisberger has been the key to the recent Steelers improvement and he looks for a seventeenth win over Cleveland'
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
AFC North Showdown as the Ravens travel to Cincy to take on the Bengals. After being humbled last week by the Pats the Ravens may have lost their momentum and a banged up Flacco will have difficulty against a solid Bengals defence. Unbeaten at home all year and with a chance at snatching the AFC's second seed the Bengals won't let up especially as Dalton and Green both look to set new franchise records.
Recommended Bets: Bengals @ 1.42/5
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
Heroics on the last drive secured a massive win for the Panthers last week as they took control of the NFC South and even gave themselves a shot at top seed. With the Saints still waiting on any slip up Cam Newton and co. must finish with a win in Atlanta. The Panthers will likely rely on their ground game against a weak Falcons front line and hope that Kuechly and his defensive partners can put Matt Ryan under enough pressure to make sure he doesn't repeat his usual dominant displays against Carolina. But with Tony Gonzales signing out from the Georgia Dome don't expect the Falcons to make it easy.
Recommended Bets: Falcons @ 3.211/5
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC North and the Browns travel to Heinz Field. It's almost unthinkable that the Steelers could make it to the playoffs after a 0-4 start to the season, on Sunday they fight just to make it to level wins and losses but it could still be enough to buy them a ticket to the January mixup. Improved protection for Roethlisberger has been the key to the recent Steelers improvement and he looks for a seventeenth win over Cleveland.
Recommended Bets: Steelers @ 1.351/3
Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings
Two sorry NFC North teams meet in Minnesota to bid farewell to the Metrodome. The Vikings' awful start to the season meant they were ruled out of playoff contention weeks ago but the pain is still fresh for the Lions after yet another late season collapse of form. Both team's coaches are likely on their sidelines for the last time and both teams will rest their marquee star, namely Petersen and Megatron. Pretty dismal atmosphere expected for this old stadium's swansong.
Recommended Bets: Vikings @ 1.748/11
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans
It's the bottom two in the AFC South as the Texans aim to end their unenviable thirteen game losing streak as they face the Titans, the last team they managed to beat. Tennessee will be hoping to win their last home game and improve their coach's chance of retaining his position for next season. Two toothless teams which have failed miserably but it could be a cheery end to a nightmare of a season for Houston.
Recommended Bets: Texans @ 3.8514/5
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
The other two teams from the AFC South; the Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Indy to take on a Colts team that has found it's feet again, after winning the division they now will play for the win that could earn them playoff first round bye. Whilst Luck is still missing Reggie Wayne he has been aided by an improving rush attack and the Colts should be too strong for the poor Jags on Sunday.
Recommended Bets: Colts @ 1.21/5
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins
Moving to the AFC East it's the Jets travelling to Florida to take on the Dolphins who must win and rely on others to sneak into the party. After a winning run set them up to make a late playoff entry Miami then tripped up against the Bills in a confidence sapping shutout last week. Tannehill will have it all to do as the Dolphins running game has disappeared and the Jets for all their faults have a fierce Defensive Line. Rex Ryan is another head coach fighting for survival but with limited resources a win to gain a .500 record may be enough to give him another shot next year. Can his charges earn him the faith from the owners?
Recommended Bets: Jets @ 3.1511/5
Washington Redskins @ New York
Last year's top two are this year's bottom two in the NFC East as the Redskins head to the Big Apple to take on the Giants. Another two teams doing their coaches no favours and Shanahan seems to be in the most trouble, he will be hoping his team avoid an eighth straight loss but the choice to rest RGIII for the final games suggest that he has the confidence he will still be around next year.
Recommended Bets: Giants @ 1.584/7
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
First of the later games sees top versus bottom in the AFC East as the Buffalo Bills take on the division champions Patriots. Looking to secure at least a second seeding in the Conference Belichik's Pats will be pleased to see the Bills coming to town, a team that Brady has enjoyed unparalleled success against in the past. But the Bills are no pushover, a total defensive dominance over Miami last week and a pounding rushing game will make it a hard slog for the Patriots.
Recommended Bets: Patriots @ 1.282/7
Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders
AFC West and the seemingly Super Bowl bound Broncos travel to the Raiders. Although the Broncos are constantly adding names to their injury list they remain on track to gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Against a poor Oakland defence even an average display from Peyton should lead to a destruction of the Raiders and a comfortable win for Denver.
Recommended Bets: Broncos @ 1.222/9
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
Make or break game in the NFC North as the Packers head to Soldier Field to take on the Bears, the winner takes the division. The Packers have been given a huge lift with the news that both Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb are likely to start, that will give an enormous boost to their offence which has been over reliant on an impressive Eddie Lacy recently. Lacy may continue to be used heavily though against a pathetic Chicago line. The Bears still have a potent passing attack and their only hope will be to turn it into a shootout.
Recommended Bets: Packers @ 1.738/11
Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego
AFC West and an unpredictable match that sees the Chiefs with little to play for travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers who must win and hope for other favourable results. The nudge is that Kansas will rest their stars such as Jamaal Charles and go fresh into the wildcard game. Expect the Chargers to take advantage of the lacklustre and easy going nature of their opposition this week.
Recommended Bets: Chargers @ 1.261/4
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals
The 49ers head to the desert to take on arguably the hottest team in the league in the Cardinals. After last week's win in Seattle it seems unthinkable that the Cardinals may miss out on the playoffs but that's the probable outcome even if they win on Sunday and end at an impressive 11-5, the NFL is cruel. San Fran will be looking to improve their positioning in the playoff shake up.
Recommended Bets: 49ers @ 1.9620/21
St Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
Take two for the Seahawks as they look to wrap up their division and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they take on the Rams who they've beaten eight straight times in Seattle. After last week's surprise home loss the Seahawks need to show improvement, Russel Wilson has failed to impress recently and even Marshawn Lynch seems to have slowed down, it's a bad sign for the Super Bowl favourites at this stage of the season. The struggling offence won't be given any easy breaks by an aggressive Rams defence that contains NFL sack king Robert Quinn. But expect the Seahawks to come out with renewed concentration and a big performance on Sunday to lift their confidence as they march into the playoffs.
Recommended Bets: Seahawks @ 1.21/5>
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans
With the NFC South still up for grabs the Saints must win to make the playoffs but the reward could be so much more. After back to back losses and the painful ending to the match against Carolina last week the Saints will be determined to see out the season unbeaten at home and beat the Bucs convincingly. Drew Brees has been sub par in recent weeks but expect him to come out with big numbers on Sunday, Tampa won't be able to keep up.
Recommended Bets: Saints @ 1.182/11
Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
Final game of 2013 and it's the NFC East duel between the Eagles and the Cowboys, winner takes all, looser stays home in January. The Cowboys eventually gave up hope that Tony Romo could get fit and his back surgery this week sees Kyle Orton start at quarterback for the Cowboys. Romo's absence is obviously a huge blow for the 'Boys and will give the Eagles a boost. Considering they put up 54 points last week and have Foles, Jackson and McCoy playing at the top of their game the NFC East title looks to be heading towards Philly.
Recommended Bets: Eagles @ 1.422/5