Arizona Cardinals @ Dallas Cowboys
Start-time: Sunday, 18:00
TV: Live on SS2
These two teams have performed a dazzling high-wire act so far, but it's well to remember that they are treading a tightrope nonetheless. One slip and there's potentially no safety net. Aside, of course, from the redoubtable records they've amassed already - Arizona Cardinals 6-1, Dallas Cowboys 6-2.
Still, both sides appear reliant on big plays and bigger playmakers to get themselves out of a jam. And considering their respectively different but difficult run-ins, the suspicion persists that these are play-off pretenders, not play-off protagonists who can go all the way to the Super Bowl.
Take Dallas drill-sergeant Tony Romo as an eloquent case in point. He's got his Boys out of some tight holes, but he taken some bullets to his back (notably last week against Washington) leaving the quarterback's very participation as a "game-time decision". Which would usually mean that this match is a game-time bet.
However, head coach Jason Garrett reckons his QB will line up under center and the Vegas line concurs, making the Cowboys marginal jollies for this. That's probably got more to do with their real star, rusher DeMarco Murray, continuing in the form of his life. There are no surprises with Murray. He comes straight at you with speed and power, yet it remains a knockout combo that's seen him record eight straight games with over 100 yards in ground gains (141 against the Skins at 7.4 yards per carry).
In short, a healthy Romo or not, Dallas can move the chains. And if receivers Dez Bryant and Jason Witten can atone for some uncharacteristic drops, the Cowboys are worthy favourites against a Cardinals outfit which is also adding up to more than the sum of its parts.
This overachievement is largely founded on a high-risk defense which brings a blazing blitz and a quarterback, Carson Palmer, who keeps digging it out on late downs at the right time. Who knows, at the ripe old age of 34, maybe he can yet validate his Heisman Trophy gong in the pros?
Nevertheless, there's a few too many rabbit-out-of-a-hat moments going on in Arizona for my liking. Surely their House of Cards can't keep standing up to the blows? Philly blew a host of red-zone opportunities last weekend (Nick Foles' composure is looking highly questionable) and Dallas should make them pay even with an already dodgy D losing lead tackler, Justin Durant.
Back Dallas Cowboys to win on the Match Moneyline @ 1.814/5 or better
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
Start-time: Sunday, 21:25
TV: Live on SS2
The best two squads in the AFC line-up for another cracking installment in the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rivalry and it's a close one to call. A few weeks ago, the Denver Broncos (6-1) would've been firm favourites and they've certainly done nothing wrong since. Instead, it's the New England Patriots are doing something right after a stuttering start.
The Pats have now posted four successive victories and have made Foxborough a fortress again. You'll hear a lot about rumours of Brady's demise being exaggerated. After all, he's just completed 30 of 35 for 354 yards and five touchdowns against Chicago in one of the greatest sets of figures in his storied career. However, the real reason for his resurgence has been the return of Rob Gronkowski to full fitness.
"The Terminator of Tight Ends" sent the terrified Bears scampering for cover in all directions last week with a truly dazzling display. Gronkowski is elusive for a big man, taking double-coverage with him wherever he goes but still getting open. He frees up the pitch for Brady and his teammates (cue Tim Wright and Brandon LaFell stepping up) but still snaffled three TDs of his own for 150 yards. In short, Gronk makes Brady look good.
Then again, the Bears can make any offense appear above average. And at least the Broncos have unlocked some defensive flair of their own, allied to an overpowering offense which needs no introduction under Manning The Master. Denver's five-time MVP is well on track for his sixth award and he's even discovered a new receiving outlet along the way.
Emmanuel Sanders is the wide-awake wideout (four TDs is less than a week, three coming against San Diego) and he now completes a troika of terrors on the flanks alongside the white-hot Demaryius Thomas and third-wheel Wes Welker. Throw in Julius Thomas - the league's number two tight end behind Gronk - and it's a heady mix. Bill Belichick may speak confidently of his "shored-up secondary" but this is their litmus test.
Homefield advantage is huge for the Patriots in one of the game's more foreboding arenas. Yet Manning possesses the more potent weapons and is teasing something out of running man Ronnie Hillman (109 yards off 20 carries, admittedly over the bandaged Bolts) to add a little balance and variety. He should close his head-to-head with Brady to 10-6.
Back Denver Broncos (-3) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.855/6 or better
Back Denver Broncos to win on the Match Moneyline @ 1.664/6 or better
Back Over 28.5 Denver Broncos Total Points @ 1.9420/21 or better
Back Denver Broncos Touchdown to be First Scoring Play 4.57/2 or better
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Start-time: Monday, 01:30
TV: Live on C4
While most pundits will save the rave reviews for the winner of Manning v Brady, this game could actually prove the late-night climax to Sunday's live card. Especially after Ben Roethlisberger put up perhaps the finest performance at quarterback the NFL has ever seen last time out.
That's not hyperbole. Big Ben chimed in for 40 of 49 completions, chalking up a staggering 522 yards and six touchdowns. It was the fourth-highest total in league annals and would've topped the charts, were it not for the Pittsburgh Steelers running the clock down to cement their 51-34 triumph over Indianapolis.
It was an awesome effort (even his incomplete passes were thrown on the money) and ably abetted by two talented receivers finally delivering. Antonio Brown and Heath Miller proved the scourge of an Indy D which were looking pretty useful in recent weeks, and took some of the pressure off Le'Veon Bell's shoulders. Bell's rise as a breakout RB with receiving capability to match seems assured if the men around him persist in similar vein, says Roethlisberger. And that's eloquent enough testimony for me, even against the Baltimore Ravens.
So the only question is: can Big Ben and co. repeat the feat? A repetition of the numbers is a long shot, but the overarching theme can be sustained. The Ravens' defensive line got pushed all over the park (for 27 points) by Cincy's Andy Dalton, so there's no reason why the Steelers' stacked O can't make further gains at home.
Granted, the Ravens are always dangerous on both sides of the ball. An eleventh-hour end-zone strike to Steve Smith Jnr in Cincinnati was nullified for marginal interference, but it again demonstrated that you write Joe Flacco off at your peril. Still, the margins favour a fit and firing Pittsburgh, with Baltimore nursing some niggles (wide men Torrey Smith and Michael Campanaro and key cornerback Jimmy Smith).
This divisional duel at Heinz Field is a statement match for the Steelers. Expect them to stamp their post-season credentials in style.
Back Pittsburgh Steelers (+1.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.56/4 or better
Back Pittsburgh Steelers to win on the Match Moneyline @ 2.111/10 or better
Back Pittsburgh Steelers to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.01/1 or better
Back L. Bell to be First / Anytime Touchdown Scorer 9.08/1 or better