Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders
There may not be any team hotter than the Denver Broncos at this point. They are currently riding the longest winning-streak in the league and are playing well on both sides of the ball. While John Fox and company seem to have gotten their act together, the Raiders look like they are falling apart. Although they are not committing as many penalties as past teams have, Oakland is really struggling to keep up with some teams. They have been unable to get a running game going and are quite a few steps behind on defense (seemingly) every week. The team has to rely on 32 year old Carson Palmer to shoulder the load week in and out, and he is just not the type of quarterback who can do that. Fully expect the Broncos to dominate in this one. Their defense plays some of the best coverage in the entire NFL and they are quite stingy when it comes to the run. Palmer may not even get his regular “garbage-time” stats in this one if Denver keeps applying pressure with their front four and are holding down base in the secondary. Oh yeah, and they also have #18 to help them out, in case a solid defensive effort won’t get the job done.
Denver 37, Oakland 12
St Louis Rams @ Buffalo Bills
Nobody expected the Rams to play the 49ers like they have this season (going 1-0-1 against them). Come to think of it, they are still loss-less (if that’s a word) within their division. However, this game is going to be played on the road outside of the division. It is actually outside the conference as a matter of a fact. In those games this year, the Rams are an unimpressive 0-3 and are being outscored 89-34. Jeff Fisher has his team playing at a much higher level than in the previous handful of years, but they are not battle-tested for colder weather in December quite yet. Also, the Bills played one of their best games last Sunday against Jacksonville. Granted, it is Jacksonville, but they could have squared off with more than half of the teams in the league and won with their performance. They were running the ball quite well and have developed quite the one-two punch with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Bills will try and pound the rock for a majority of this game and will grind out a victory over this very hard-nosed St Louis team.
Buffalo 20, St Louis 16
Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers
This game is very exciting because Gus Johnson and Charles Davis will be on the call. For NFL fans, this will be the first game this dynamic duo will commentate. With Gus, every big play seems like it can be a play of the year. His enthusiasm is something that is unprecedented by any other announcer, and how fitting this assignment will be, seeing as how this game could turn out to be a shootout. Matt Ryan has not been playing his best ball as of late, and narrow wins over inferior teams have been the result. On the other hand, Cam Newton has been playing very well. He has not turned the ball over since Week 11 and the offense has looked good in the process. If he is on his game, expect Carolina to leap out to a pretty big first half lead, say 24-10? Unfortunately once the second half hits, Matt Ryan will come out and bring his team back, much like he had to do in the Week 4 match-up between these two. The Panthers’ defense is slowly on the decline. They will not be able to slow down the Falcons in the second half. Ryan should throw 3+ scores and lead his team to a nice comeback victory in Charlotte.
Atlanta 34, Carolina 30
Dallas Cowboys @ Cincinnati Bengals
Every season the Cowboys seem to find themselves in contention for a playoff spot. They fight, and fight, and fight, but when December comes they simply fall apart. Perhaps this will be the year that they can finally turn everything around. Meanwhile, the Bengals are on the rise again. Last week’s victory over San Diego propels them to a decent 7-5 record. Their playoff hopes were dealt a serious blow when the Steelers emerged victorious against Baltimore. Now that they have Big Ben back, Cincinnati will most likely have to win out in order to make life a little easier on themselves. With this type of desperation, the Bengals should come out highly motivated in front of their home crowd. There is no doubt that the Cowboys will want to scale back on the amount of throws they have Tony Romo making, thus they should attempt to get a running game going. Well, these Cardiac Cats have proven that they are not always easy to run against; therefore the Cowboys’ plan of action will be thwarted. Romo will probably make a critical mistake late in this game that will ultimately cost their team a big win. Let the December slump live on as the Bengals take down Dallas in Cincy.
Cincinnati 28, Dallas 22
Kansas City Chiefs @ Cleveland Browns
Unless you are a die-hard Chiefs/Browns fan, then most people probably do not care about this game. However, there are a few storylines that are going on during this game. For instance, the whole Jovan Belcher situation still looms largely over this team. They got a big win at home over Carolina last week but are still in shambles over the whole occurrence. Another win will help quell the sickness that this city is feeling. The Browns are climbing their way back into relevance with the rookie duo of Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson and a solid defense. If they want to prove that their stock is indeed moving upward, they will need to win against a 2-10 squad. Plus, Romeo Crennel will be making his return to Cleveland for the first time as the head coach of another team. His version of the Brady Quinn train will not be able to get the job done in the dog pound. Trent Richardson will gash Kansas City’s defense and Brandon Weeden will not have to worry about winning a game with his arm like he did last week. Cleveland should stand victorious at the end of the day.
Cleveland 17, Kansas City 13
Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts
It took a late comeback on behalf of the Indianapolis Colts the last time these two teams met. This time around, no such thing will be needed. The Titans have been very un-impressive over the last few weeks. Jake Locker is struggling to keep the ball out of the other team’s hands and Chris Johnson has been a no-show. Their defense is not playing horribly, but they are not playing very good either. Just last week they let a guy named Lestar Jean burn them for a 54-yard touchdown… Absolutely no one ever saw that one coming. Luck is very aggressive with his down-field throws and should pick up a couple of big plays in a nice win over the Titans. Just as a side-note, the Colts are easily headed for the playoffs. If they can’t win this type of a game then they may be in trouble come January.
Indianapolis 27, Tennessee 11 (why not?)
New York Jets @ Jacksonville Jaguars
It is difficult to pick the Jets to win two weeks in a row. They have not done such a thing in exactly one year. Their offense played horribly last week. Luckily for them they were playing the only other offense that may be worse in the Arizona Cardinals. If there is any other team that may be able to compete with the Jets in terms of playing some ugly football this year, it may be the Jaguars. They have looked pitiful at times this season and have been unable to move the ball on offense; until Chad Henne took over. Last week was not pretty for him, but they were playing in Buffalo against a desperate Bills team (in a driving rain storm. He could have a bounce-back game against the Jets here. It probably doesn’t matter who Gang Green starts at quarterback, they are probably going to look bad. Despite all of this, they will somehow win this game. There may be no reasonable explanation as to why, other than the fact that something funky is bound to happen. Maybe if Tim Tebow gets some more playing time (provided that he is healthy), the Jets can win; that may be the best bet at a “reason”. Anyways, New York should find a way to win back to back games for the first time this year.
New York 13, Jacksonville 10
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
The Bears have to be a little rattled after allowing the Seahawks to drive right down the field in overtime against them, costing them their ninth victory. Now they have fallen back into a deadlock with Green Bay who found a little bit of a running game against these Vikings. For Chicago, a loss here would all but spoil any odds they had at winning the NFC North (unless they can edge Green Bay themselves next week). Nevertheless, they will want to keep pace with the Pack by winning this game. It is harder to outduel the Vikings in Minnesota though. If they can jump out to a lead, the dome should be rocking and it will quickly become a hard place to play. If the Vikings do gain a lead, it is very unlikely that they will lose it. Their pass-rush should give the Bears a massive migraine and Jay Cutler may be begging for mercy if his o-line does not hold up. Adrian Peterson will help shut the door with another stellar performance. Yes, this pick is based on the idea that the Vikings will be able to gain a lead and hold it throughout. It will not be an upset by any means, but it will be a shot to the gut of Chicago.
Minnesota 22, Chicago 17
San Diego Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
As mentioned before, the Steelers will get Ben Roethlisberger back for this game. His return could not have come at a better time for a team that is slowly gaining a head of steam with their surprising win over Baltimore. The Chargers seem like they are in every game, but they always find some way to flub it up in the end. There is good news for them though: they will not have to worry about making a big mistake with the game on the line this week. Why? Because the Steelers should have this game put away by the end of the second quarter. Their defense is coming off of another solid performance against the Ravens (in Baltimore). They should be able to build off of that by dominating the Lightning Bolts here. Philip Rivers will probably make another couple of turnovers since he will have to be throwing the ball a lot during a comeback effort. The Steelers lone loss at home this year came when Big Ben was out. Don’t expect another one to come in Week 14.
Pittsburgh 28, San Diego 6
Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Andy Reid naming Nick Foles the full-time starter for the rest of this season, the Eagles have every reason to believe that Michael Vick will not be donning the green and silver in 2013. Thus, this will be another preview of what is to come for Philly in the near-future. This team has been running the ball well as of late, and they have been relying on it to keep them in games. Considering the fact that Foles is still a rookie, this is a pretty good idea. However, the Buccaneers are a team that swallows running-backs behind the line of scrimmage with regularity. The Eagles like to create lanes that lead their rusher to the outside of the field. This requires some lateral running… which will play right into the hands of Tampa Bay. Philadelphia should expect little to no success running the ball (even if LeSean McCoy is good to go for game day). Andy Reid is not an idiot though; he will probably work with Foles a little bit more this week with the anticipation that he will have to be throwing the ball a lot if the Eagles are to have a shot. Tampa Bay did not play all that badly last week against Denver, and should find themselves victorious in this game. All six of their losses have come against good quarterback(ed) teams (both Mannings, Romo, RGIII, Brees, and Matt Ryan). Nick Foles doesn’t exactly fit this bill. Philly’s defense is scary too, what with all of their busted coverages. Josh Freeman loves to get the ball down the field in a hurry as well. Vincent Jackson should have a monster game as the Bucs get back on the ball down in Tampa.
Tampa Bay 31, Philadelphia 20
Baltimore Ravens @ Washington Redskins
Both of these clubs are coming out of games against their division rivals. One was victorious and the other lost. Nobody would guess that it was the Redskins who were winners as the Ravens became losers. This is how the chips have fallen, and this becomes a pretty big game for each team because of it. The Redskins absolutely need to win this game while the Ravens want to win it. A Baltimore loss coupled with a Pittsburgh win will make this division even tighter. Things do not get easier for the Ravens either since they have a dates with the Broncos and the Giants coming up. A win here will be much desired by John Harbaugh. Is it out of line to call this an upset pick? RGIII is playing like a veteran and the Redskins offense is quickly becoming the most exciting to watch in all of football. Also, the Ravens may be without Terrell Suggs this week with a torn bicep. The running game offered up by the ‘Skins will be nearly unstoppable in this game. Add to that the fact that the Ravens are playing on the road and this one becomes even harder for Baltimore to win. Joe Flacco may struggle yet again away from home.
Washington 35, Baltimore 21
Miami Dolphins @ San Francisco 49ers
The Dolphins have to be heart-broken after losing to the Patriots last week. They probably played one of their best games this season and still lost. That is about as gut-wrenching as it gets. While that game was going on, the 49ers found themselves in another tough battle with the Rams. They would later go on to lose that game as well. Each team has a solid defense along with the offerings of a good young quarterback. In this situation though, the Niners should impress the nation once again. It is incredibly difficult for an east coast team to make the trek across the country into the bay area to take on the 49ers defense. Miami will probably be a step too slow in a loss against Colin Kaepernick, who should get back on the 8-ball against a so-so Miami pass defense.
San Francisco 23, Miami 3
New Orleans Saints @ New York Giants
If the Saints aren’t already out of playoff contention, a loss in this game would make it official. It is entirely possible that they will come into the Meadowlands very lethargic after losing badly on the road to Atlanta last Thursday night. If this is indeed the case, then the entire nation will be raving about how the Giants are the “most impressive team in the NFL”. That is what happened following their impressive win over Green Bay. Speaking of which, let’s refer back to that game in order to help make this pick. If a team possesses a great quarterback, it will not matter if they do not have the offensive line to protect them. The Giants got after Aaron Rodgers in that game and beat him up quite a bit. Last week the Falcons did a number on Drew Brees after causing him to throw five interceptions and holding him without a touchdown for the first time since 2009. These horrific stats were because of the constant pressure that Brees had in his face. This provides solid evidence that when a team cannot protect their quarterback, they will have major issues. This trend should continue against the G-Men, who will be seeking another win after being blasted by the Redskins. Drew will throw a touchdown, but it will be the Giants who ultimately win because they will be getting consistent pressure on the Saint’s QB.
New York 28, New Orleans 20
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
Let’s make this one short and sweet: the Seahawks are perfect at home this year. They have a great defense along with a great young quarterback. The Cardinals have a horrible offense and do not have a quarterback… There is nothing that points to them winning this game. They did beat Seattle back in Week 1, but that was during Russell Wilson’s first start in the NFL and the Seahawks were on the road (where they are nowhere near as effective). This time around, Arizona has no chance. Sorry Cards fans, this final score will not be pretty.
Seattle 17, Arizona 0
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
The Packers own Detroit in Lambeau. This has been said countless times and will continue to be said until the Lions can beat them in Green Bay. This is something they have not accomplished for almost a quarter of a century (21 years)! With the way the Lions are playing right now, it is not very likely that they will win this year either. To be fair, it is not like Detroit is losing badly. They are just coughing up games late that they should be able to put away. Look no further than the past two weeks. They were winning by double digits against the Texans and the Colts at home and managed to lose both times on the final play of the game. Talk about heart-breaking. These days, the Packers don’t seem to be rolling up teams at home anymore. They have not had an overly dominant performance in the frozen tundra since they spanked the Bears 23-10 back in September. A big win over the Lions would provide a boost of confidence for them as they gear up for a big division showdown against the Bears next week. Don’t think that the Lions will have nothing to play for… they would like nothing more than to screw up the Pack’s division champion goals on their own field. Both teams should be playing with quite a lot of motivation. Green Bay will make it 22 in a row over Detroit in Lambeau during what could quite possibly be the season’s first snow game (oh the excitement!).
Green Bay 41, Detroit 31
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
Both of these teams have their eye on a first round BYE for the playoffs (after each come into this game having already clinched a playoff spot). It is very unlikely that these will be the #1 and #2 seeds in the American Football Conference, therefore, the winner of this game may be guaranteed that spot (while the loser could slip to #3 or #4). It is not a stretch to say that the winner of this game will pretty much earn themselves the #1 seed. With their loss to Pittsburgh, the Ravens will probably not be making a first round BYE run, so they will be ruled out for now. If the Patriots win, they will have tie-breakers over the Broncos (after beating them in Week 5) and these Texans. However, if the Texans win, the Pats will slip to 9-4 and the Texans will jump to 12-1 (which will guarantee them a first round BYE in the very least). There is probably no need to get this technical about it; all the viewers should know is that the winner will probably end up earing the #1 seed in the AFC. On this day, it should be the Patriots. The weather may end up not cooperating for this game and the Texans have already played in the rain this season and they were not very impressive on offense. Since that game, the Texans defense has been torched a couple of times through the air. They were able to settle down last week vs. Tennessee, but Jake Locker and Tom Brady are polar opposites. Brady should give the Texans’ defense some fits in Gillette on Monday. Do not be surprised if the Pats run away with this game either. Unless the Texans’ offense plays perfectly, New England will win at home in December (what else is new?).
New England 34, Houston 24
Check back after the conclusion of each of these games for a breakdown/thought or two.