- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Three teams remain in the NFC West title chase heading into the final three weeks of the 2012 regular season.
How much has changed? The Rams outscored the 49ers this season, 40-37. They've gone from 2-14 last season to 6-6-1 this season. Seattle, at 8-5, has already exceeded its victory total from last season.
The 49ers are still good, of course. They're leading the West at 9-3-1. But with the Seahawks and Rams in the hunt, the 49ers can hardly coast into road games against New England and Seattle.
Looks like we're in for an exciting finish. Here's a look at my picks for Week 15:
Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams, 1 p.m. ET: Rams fans should sit back and enjoy the Vikings' Adrian Peterson while realizing Christian Ponder is the key for Minnesota. Peterson has more yards rushing than Ponder has managed passing over the last seven games. Ponder has completed two of his last 21 attempts traveling 10-plus yards past the line of scrimmage with no touchdowns and three picks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Rams' corners should have chances to jump routes. Sando's best guess: Rams 20, Vikings 14.
Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills, 4:05: The Bills' defensive front is playing better recently. Seattle has potential manpower concerns at cornerback and wide receiver, depending on Sidney Rice's status. Still, if the Seahawks are a legit playoff team, they have to win this game, right? Marshawn Lynch is getting much of the attention heading into this game against his former team, but I'm thinking Russell Wilson will be the story, one way or another. Sando's best guess: Seahawks 23, Bills 17.
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05: Fans should covet an opportunity to see Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson in the same stadium. Too bad only one of them has an NFL-caliber quarterback throwing to him. What do the Cardinals have left after losing 58-0? Sando's best guess: Lions 24, Cardinals 9.
San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots, 8:20: Great measuring-stick game for San Francisco. The 49ers haven't played in a matchup of this magnitude since suffering a 26-3 home defeat to the New York Giants in Week 6. I think they'll fare better in this one. It's ultimately tough picking against Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, but if I were a betting man, I'd take the 49ers and the six points. Sando's best guess: Patriots 24, 49ers 20.
Noted: I went 3-0 on picks last week, upping my record to 30-13 for the season. That's pretty good for someone of my caliber. We've also got the "You called it" competition going, plus the Pigskin Pick'em group.