The Texans set multiple franchise records after this game was finished, but the only thing that matters is the fact that their record was elevated to a superb 9-1. Andre Johnson set a franchise record for receiving yards in a game with 273, and came within 63 yards of the all-time record (Flipper Anderson, 336). Matt Schaub also tied Warren Moon for second all-time with 527 passing yards in a game, plus he threw up five touchdowns. The Texans as a team obtained 39 first downs, which is also a franchise record. Even though these stats are flashy, there was a reason why the Texans needed them, and that was because of how well the Jaguars played. This was their best game this season by far, and it came on the arm of Chad Henne, who tossed four touchdown passes of his own. Blaine Gabbert left the game early and when Henne took over the offense exploded. Justin Blackmon racked up 236 yards of his own receiving with an 81 yard touchdown. It is obvious that Chad Henne was able to provide a spark for this offense that they have not seen in quite some time. Maybe he will take the starting job from Blaine Gabbert permanently. The Texans defense was exposed again in this game. This is the second game this season where Wade Phillips’ unit was embarrassed at home. Although they did win the game this time, Houston needs to tighten things up if they hope to hang with elite teams later this year. Then again they were able to beat Peyton Manning in Denver and they laid a beat down on Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Perhaps this game and the one against Green Bay were just blips on the radar.
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
I’m calling this game the chocolate game. Why? Because the teams playing in it are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get… Yes we all know how this is going to end. Miami is a team that can look so good one week, and then come back the next and lay an egg. The Bills are not excluded from this discussion either; they may be the epitome of a “wait and see” team. I will use their two games against division rival New England Patriots as an example. They came out and looked good in Week 4 during the first half and jumped out to a 21-7 lead. At one moment all of America thought the Bills would pull off the upset for the second consecutive year in Buffalo, then you blink and discover that the Pats threw up 45 points in the second half and turned the game into a blowout, 52-28. Fast forward to last week where the Bills looked like they had New England on the ropes (until Fitzpatrick threw a costly interception). Even though they lost this game, they looked like a halfway decent team in the process. You can never know what Buffalo Bill team will show up from week to week. As that thriller in Foxboro was going on, the Dolphins were getting pummeled at home by the Titans 37-3. This was the same team that came out and embarrassed the Jets 30-9 and played a playoff-bound Indianapolis Colt team close the next week. I am having a lot of trouble trying to decide who will win this game. Each team can look very good at times and not so great at others. The game will be played in Buffalo, but I am going to go with the Dolphins in this situation only because I think they will win the turnover battle. I do not have much faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick to be smart with the ball and I think the Dolphins force a key turnover late to seal a close victory for Joe Philbin and bring the team back up to a .500 record.
Miami 16, Buffalo 13
Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons
Can the Falcons bounce back after suffering their first loss of the season? Well they are playing the Cardinals at home so this one shouldn’t be hard to figure, right? Not so fast, the Falcons have played in some nail-biters at home versus teams who were heavy underdogs (i.e. Oakland and Carolina). In fact, they have not won a home game by more than six points this season. Arizona is 1-3 on the road, but that one win came in New England. Defense is the trademark of this team and they do have the kind of strategy that could drive an offense nuts. They have the #2 ranked pass defense in the league and could possibly shut down the electric passing attack presented by this Falcon team. Also, they have a MLB in Daryl Washington who gets after the quarterback just as well as any other in the game. The Atlanta offensive line does not always fare so well against the blitz. This game has all of the elements of a trap game for the Falcons. Well here is a 180: I’m picking the Falcons to win despite all of this. The Cardinals just do not have the same amount of firepower on offense that will match up with Atlanta’s play-makers. Both #11’s (Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones) should have nice games for their respective teams. I predict a touchdown from each of them.
Atlanta 27, Arizona 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers
For a moment let’s journey back in time and look at what happened when these two teams faced off in Week 1 this season. The Buccaneers dominated this game with their defense; holding the Panthers to a franchise low 10 rushing yards in a game and picking off Cam Newton twice. At the time nobody knew how good the Bucs run defense would be and how much Cam Newton would struggle this year. I expect this game to go the same way (minus a lightning storm at halftime). The Buccaneers should be able to control this game with their defense and keep the ball away from Carolina by running the ball on offense. The Panther defense has exceeded expectations in almost every way imaginable this season, and they actually had one of their better games last week. The Panthers really could be a four or five win team if their offense wasn’t so ineffective. I place the blame on their run game. In order to get back to the way they were last year on offense, the Panthers really need to be able to run the ball well. Things do not look like they will get better this week since Tampa Bay will probably play close to the line of scrimmage trying to cut down on the option plays that Carolina ran so well against them last season. It will be up to Cam at home to get the win because I don’t know if the Panthers’ defense will be able to bail them out again this week (Josh Freeman and Doug Martin are on fire right now- good luck shutting them both down). Because the Buccaneers are rolling on all cylinders on offense, I probably should give them the “W” here, but I am not going to. Cam Newton will break out for the first time this season and have a great game becoming yet another quarterback who can have their way with this sub-par Tampa Bay pass defense.
Carolina 31, Tampa Bay 23
Cleveland Browns @ Dallas Cowboys
After playing one of their best games of the season on the road in Philly, the Dallas Cowboys come home to take on the Cleveland Browns. Since it is November I have to go with the Cowboys here, but Cleveland might give them a run for their money. To start, the Browns have not been playing too badly as of late. In their last four games the team is 2-2. They played well enough to win in Indianapolis and gave the Ravens a scare in Week 9. Also, the Browns really have not gotten blown out this season. Their worst loss was by 14 points on the road against the Super Bowl champs. Even though their record reads 2-7, Cleveland has been playing better than most people realize. Their defense has had its fair share of struggles so far this season, but it has played well, especially when Joe Haden has been in the lineup. When he has been in the Browns have only allowed an average of 17 points per game. The offense has averaged scoring 15 points per game during that stretch so simple arithmetic will tell you that the Browns have been losing most of their games simply because they have not scored a lot of points. Scoring points has also been a problem for the Dallas Cowboys this year, averaging 20.9 points per game. This is odd considering that their offense ranks #9 overall. So in a game that features two teams that have not scored a ton of points this year it may be easy to figure out what will happen in this game. I do have a radical idea though: the team that scores the most will win the game. This will be Dallas in Jerry’s Palace; but I expect a fight from the Browns.
Dallas 22, Cleveland 17
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
Just when you think the Lions have gotten it figured out and are ready to make a run for a Wild Card spot, they fall on their face in a loss to Minnesota. The Packers are just the opposite: they are on a hot streak and Aaron Rodgers is playing like himself again despite the plethora of injuries to skill position players. Although the Pack hasn’t exactly been dominating at home against inferior teams (check Jacksonville and Arizona) they have been winning nevertheless. They also own the Lions, going 17-3 against them in their last 20 match-ups. Even though the Lions will be desperate for a win, there is too much to like here about the Packers. They are coming off of a BYE so they have extra time to prepare. Plus a win here would be a nice little sendoff to the Medowlands as they will take on the Giants next Sunday night. Look for Aaron Rodgers to air it out against a Lion team that has to be devastated after a critical loss to Minnesota last Sunday.
Green Bay 34, Detroit 21
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans
I expect the Texans to ride the momentum from their big win in Chicago out through this game. The Jaguars are a team that is having major problems on offense. Maurice Jones-Drew is not expected back this week either. To make matters even worse, they will take this mediocre offense and play the #2 ranked Texans defense. I seriously doubt that the Jags will be able to gain any success on the road in Houston. In the NFL this is as close as you are going to get to a sure bet for a team to win. The Texans should handle Blaine Gabbert’s crew this Sunday.
Houston 34, Jacksonville 10
Cincinnati Bengals @ Kansas City Chiefs
This game for me is like picking between the lesser of two evils. Don’t get me wrong, the Bengals looked impressive when they blew out the Giants last week and I am not knocking them down a peg. I am simply acknowledging the fact that Arrowhead can be a really tough place to play. If there was ever a game where the Chiefs were primed for an upset it was last week against Pittsburgh when Ben Roethlisberger left with a shoulder injury. They did hold their first lead of the season and even when Big Ben was in the game they were playing well. How on earth they found out a way to lose that game against Byron Leftwich is beyond me. When a team only has one win this late in the season it seems like nothing can go right. I simply cannot pick the Chiefs to win right now with the way things have been going. It is very possible that by the end of the game Matt Cassel will be on the receiving end of more boos than the Bengals are if he fails to have any success. Also the Bengals may have a little bit of an added incentive now knowing that the Steelers could be without Roethlisberger for an extended amount of time. This means the race for the Wild Card has gotten a whole lot more interesting. Look for the Bengals to capitalize here.
Cincinnati 30, Kansas City 9
New York Jets @ St Louis Rams
Believe it or not I did have some trouble picking this game. Every couple of weeks the Jets do come out and play some watchable football and this seems to be a game where they could get something done. But let’s face it, the Rams’ punter John Hekker has a better quarterback rating than Mark Sanchez. Sadly it is actually more than double: 158.3 vs. 70.4. The Rams were also able to do the unthinkable and that is run the ball on the San Francisco 49ers. They could have won that game had it not been for an illegal formation penalty eliminating the 80-yard pass hookup with Amendola in overtime. I think St Louis gives the Jets all they can handle in this contest. Hey, at least I’m spotting the Jets an offensive touchdown in this game.
St Louis 20, New York 10
Philadelphia Eagles @ St Louis Rams
Let the Nick Foles era begin. He will indeed get the start this week following a serious concussion to Michael Vick who will more likely than not be heading off to a team like Buffalo next season. If this is indeed a glimpse into the future then a good performance from this talented young rookie would be much desired for Philadelphia fans. If you want to speak of talented young rookies, let’s talk about RGIII. He has been causing headaches for a lot of defenses in the early goings of his career. The dual threat resembles Michael Vick very much so, only his team’s fan-base actually believes in him. Another promising young rookie in Alfred Morris looks to run for over 100 yards against the Eagles defense, which has not allowed an individual back to do this since the last time these two teams played back in Week 17 last season (Evan Royster). I don’t expect the Redskins to run a ton of option plays until they establish a quick passing game. It will be tough to fool the defensive ends who play in the wide-9, as well as the fact that the Eagles do not blitz a lot so they will be able to read this a little bit better than a more aggressive defense would. Todd Bowles really turned things around last week when his defense played great against the Cowboys. The Eagles have not played against a team that has a scrambling quarterback yet this season so this will present a challenge in and of itself. The Redskins will probably confuse the Eagles with a lot of standing blitzes (much like what the Saints did). Why wouldn’t you with a rookie QB behind a bad offensive line? That could create a couple of turnovers. The Eagles will drop their sixth straight, but finally score over 24 points against the second worst defense in the league.
Washington 34, Philadelphia 27
New Orleans Saints @ Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have given up an average of 47.5 points over their last two games. Now Drew Brees comes to town, and has to be licking his chops after playing well against the division rival Atlanta Falcons. If both teams don’t score over 30 points against each other I will be surprised seeing as how two of the top three passers (in terms of yardage) will be playing in this game. Both teams are in a groove when they have the ball and it is games like these that make me forget that a pass defense even exists. The winner of this game will be the team that can run the ball the best. Chris Ivory has been playing very well with the absence of Darren Sproles. His 56-yard TD run was nothing short of amazing last week. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram will also be getting the ball in a system that is as close to the 2008 version of the Giants “earth, fire, and wind” combination as you are going to see nowadays. If the Saints can establish a ground game against a not so good Raiders’ run defense, then they will be golden. Without Darren McFadden the Raiders will not be able to run the ball. They will probably be playing from behind for a majority of the game as well. The Saints should dominate this game on offense in a track-meet.
New Orleans 45, Oakland 34
San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos
The last time these two hooked horns was a moment that will cause Peyton Manning will smile while Philip Rivers cringes about the mere thought of it. A comedy of errors in the second half lead to a monster Denver comeback (from down 24-0). This time around it is the Chargers who are looking to redeem themselves with a strong performance in the Mile High air where they have won three straight. This is a case where if the Chargers can win against a strong division opponent then that could provide a huge boost of confidence for them as they vie for a playoff spot. Philip Rivers said he was excited about matching up with Manning twice every season. I wonder what he is thinking now after basically going all in and showing up with nothing but a high card. A great game from him against a solid defense would spark his team and himself, but the likelihood of that happening is very slim. Drew Brees struggled to get things going against the Broncos a couple of weeks ago, as did Ben Roethlisberger in Week 1. The teams that were able to beat Denver have gotten a running game going against them. If the Broncos can shut down Ryan Mathews and Ronnie Brown (plus whoever else the Chargers try to throw at them) then they will be in good shape for the rest of the game. Peyton Manning should have another good afternoon against a team that is struggling to close out games this year. The Broncos do not have that problem; they scored 19 points in the second half last week. This one could be close early, but the Broncos will pull away late and make it look elementary.
Denver 38, San Diego 24
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Patriots and Colts were always known for playing in big games. This year the two will not disappoint; going in with identical 6-3 records in front of a raucous New England crowd. Of course the same quarterback duel we have all come to know and love is not going to be featured in this late-window contest. Instead we may witness the birth of a new one between a guy named Andrew Luck and one Tom Brady. Luck will have to be on the ball this Sunday if he expects to win. Going into the game with the expectation that you are going to have to score every time you have the ball may not be all that unrealistic. If there was any year where a rookie quarterback could beat a Tom Brady/Bill Belichick team then this would be it. We have already seen it happen once in Seattle and the Pats sometimes do not look as sharp on the field as they have in years past. I guess they are not as flashy with the passing statistics as we are used to with the emergence of a very good running game, but there is only so far an offense can go to cover up a bad defense. Perhaps the acquisition of Aquib Talib will work wonders for a team that has been yearning for a top CB for a few years. He will probably be handcuffed to Reggie Wayne for a majority of the game, giving other receivers such as TY Hilton or Donnie Avery a chance to catch more balls. Luck also has the benefit of two great young tight ends in Colby Fleener and Dwayne Allen so there will be no excuses for any poor play on the offense for Indy. Last year the Colts almost came back from something like 24 down in New England. I am expecting a close game with back and forth action, just like the good ole days between Manning and Brady. Much like many of those contests, Brady will come out on top after a late fourth quarter comeback.
New England 32, Indianapolis 29
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
With Roethlisberger out this Sunday, this game would seem as if it would be one-sided. This is not the case for 2012. In year’s past this has always been a defensive battle; one where each heavyweight dishes out punishment for a round and then waits in the corner and plans what they are going to do to the opponent next. Nothing should change here despite the fact that the Baltimore defense is not a fearsome as it once was with the loss of a couple of key players. Even when they are giving up a lot of yards in a game they are typically holding the opponent to a field goals, which causes the opposing score to be lower. Pittsburgh’s defense is, once again, at the top of the league (as it has been for so many years). They have the uncanny ability to take a good offense and shut them down (take a look at all four of their games with NFC East opponents). There ain’t no way the Ravens will drop 55 on the Steelers. With this in mind you should know that it will be a close game despite Byron Leftwich filling in. That said, I am still taking the Ravens in this game to win their third straight against their hated rivals, and third of their last four at Heinz Field. While I do believe this will still be a close game it is not mind-boggling to say that Baltimore is the clear favorite to win. For the Steelers. losing Roethlisberger is like losing vision in one eye; you will still come out swinging, but a few shots might miss and will ultimately cost you the fight. (It does take a couple of boxing metaphors to describe this heavyweight fight). The Ravens will stack the box in order to stop the run and force Leftwich to beat their secondary- that’s just not going to happen. My vote goes to the road dogs here.
Baltimore 24, Pittsburgh 13
Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers
When the Bears stumble into San Fran, we can only hope the lights will stay on for this affair (remember Week 15 last season vs. Pittsburgh?). I don’t care if we see two backup quarterbacks dueling on Monday Night, the main headline in this game was going to be defense. The 49ers strength lies in the fact that they do not typically beat themselves with costly turnovers. On the reverse side of the coin the Bears’ defense counts on their opponents to put the ball on the ground and make mistakes. Of course the Niners have a great defense in their own right and will absolutely suffocate its opponents at times. The Bears offense was missing some pizzazz once Cutler left with a concussion last week. This is partially because Mike Tice dialed back the play-calling quite a bit with Jason Campbell in the game. If Jay turns out to be a scratch it will be easy for the Bears to improvise. I am sure they have prepared a game plan for both situations. The 49ers plan will remain the same with or without Alex Smith on Monday night. They want to run the football down their opponent’s throat. The Texans had some moderate success with this last week and ultimately won the game because they could pound the rock. For that same reason I am going to side with the 49ers at home here. I think that San Francisco is able to run the ball (like always) and restrict the types of passes made from either Smith or Kaepernick since the Bears thrive with creating turnovers. The 49ers are not exempt from making mistakes though. I think Chicago still forces at least one turnover to keep this game close. In the end it will be San Fran in the four minute offense draining the clock down. If you missed the Bears and Texans game last Sunday night, this one is bound to be a repeat. It is going to be a low scoring, hard hitting slug-fest that reminds us old-school football fans of what life was like in the ’80’s.
San Francisco 15, Chicago 9
One quick note here: from this point forward I will be labeling all of the games I actually see live with the title “Post Game Breakdown” and those I do not get a chance to see will be recognized as “Post Game Thoughts”. I will be doing this hoping to eliminate any confusion in the future. Thank you for reading and be sure to check back Friday for my Thursday Night Football recap and after Sunday to read my thoughts and analyses on all of the other 13 games from Week 11!
Andrew Luck proved again why he was the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft. He played pretty well I thought; scoring 2 rushing TDs (one was a close call). Blaine Gabbert was not helped out much by his wide receivers. I saw a lot of bad timing and poor route running from Jacksonville in this game. That is a big reason why the Jags go 3 and out on almost half of their drives this season. Rashad Jennings was ineffective in this one, rushing for only 27 yards on 11 carries.
The Jaguars killed themselves in this game with penalties (10-155), turnovers, and missed opportunities (such as the Josh Scobee missed FG in the first quarter). It was Murphy’s Law on full display in this game- whatever can go wrong for Jacksonville did. On the other side, I though that Andrew Luck got away with a couple of bad throws. Every once and a while we are reminded that he is a rookie, but nothing costed him in this game. Darius Butler had a couple of picks, one returned for an 11 yard TD. The Colts put an end to their 3 game losing streak against Jacksonville with this convincing win.
It is probably not a good time for the Jaguars to make a quarterback change. There was a noticeable increase in production once Blaine Gabbert went down with an injury and Chad Henne came in, but that was mainly because the Colts had a big lead and were playing conservative on defense. When Henne came in during the Raider game he was not very sharp, starting off 1-6 and finishing 9-20 for 71 yards. I do believe that Blaine Gabbert is the guy for Jacksonville moving forward, he just needs some serious help at wide receiver and in protection up front.
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
When these two teams got together in Week 3 it was the Jaguars who won, but after gushing about how Andrew Luck played last week (and really all year) there is no way I am going to turn my back on him now. The Colts should be able to handle the Jags on the road this Thursday night.
The Jaguars have been bitten by the injury bug in the worst spot they could have imagined: running back. After his injury during their week 7 scuffle with the Raiders, Maurice Jones-Drew is yet to take the field again. It will not happen in this game either; he is already ruled out. This means another starting role for Rashad Jennings who hasn’t been super impressive up to this point. He has only been able to run for about 3.1 yards/carry so far this year and has scored just one TD. The Jaguars do not have the best offensive line, and the team is in a trailing position a lot so they have not had much of a chance to utilize their running game. I predict that the Jaguars will try to control the clock early in order to try and keep Andrew Luck and the Indy offense on the sidelines. Jennings may be able to have a nice game, especially if Jacksonville can manage to nab an early lead.
Chances are this will not happen. I do have a lot of confidence in what Andrew Luck can do when the ball is in his hands. If he is able to play anything like he did last week then this game could turn out to be laugher. Unless Blaine Gabbert can shoulder the load on offense, then I fully expect Indy to roll here. Justin Blackmon has not gotten the chance to blossom yet and outside of him and Marcedes Lewis, the Jaguars wide receiving corps. is a collection of no-namers that a lot of people have not heard of. The first time the Jags were graced with an 80 yard TD by Cecil Shorts. I don’t mean to sound cruel but that is the very definition of a fluke win. The Colts should redeem themselves here and make the jump to 6-3.
Indianapolis 31, Jacksonville 14
Oakland Raiders @ Baltimore Ravens
About a month ago there would have been no hesitation on my part to pick the Ravens in this one. Baltimore plays well at home and the Raiders are… the Raiders. A lot has changed in the past month though; the Raiders have played well on the road going 2-1 and the Ravens have not looked like themselves since the injury to Ray Lewis. This could be because of the fact that they have played two straight road games. Whatever the case, I do not expect this one to be a cakewalk for Baltimore. The Raiders will put up a fight, much like they did in Atlanta, but will still lose.
If Ray Rice does not get the ball in his belly at least 20 times in this game then there will be a problem. After seeing Doug Martin gash the Raiders’ defense last week Cam Cameron should make it a point to feed Ray Rice. I understand that Joe Flacco plays much better at home than on the road, but come on- this one should be easy pickings. Rice should chalk up a 100+ yard performance and score a couple of times in an important win for the Ravens. They need to play with a bit of motivation in this game because Pittsburgh is coming for them in the standings. A win for the birds this week will bump their record up to 7-2 and they will play the Steelers next week on the road for the division lead (since Mike Tomlin’s crew should stomp a mud-hole in the Chiefs on Monday night to improve to 6-3). I think the Ravens will pick up the important win here.
Baltimore 34, Oakland 20
Denver Broncos @ Carolina Panthers
John Fox returns to Carolina this week in what should be a pretty interesting game. The last time Peyton Manning played the Panthers, he guided his team to a 31-7 win which brought his team to 7-0. This time around he hopes to guide his team to their sixth win of the year vs. a Carolina team that picked up their first win since Week 2 last Sunday vs. Washington. Can Cam Newton and the Panthers make it two in a row, or will it be Peyton Manning marching out of Charlotte with his head high?
The Broncos found out that it was no easy task to travel into Cincinnati last week, but they did manage to skate by with a 31-23 win. Had it not been for a Trindon Holliday 105 yard kickoff return, that game could have been a nail-biter. The Panthers could present a bit of a challenge this week for the Broncos. While everybody has been asleep on the Carolina defense, they have been able to hold opposing passers to 1,792 yards this year which is good for 13th in the league. They have only allowed 9 passing touchdowns against them which is tied for sixth in the league. The Panthers were finally able to get their running game going (be it against a shoddy Redskins defense). They ran for 128 yards (4.8/carry) and 2 TDs. Steve Smith finally erased the goose egg that he had in the TD column with a score last week. Also, they probably should have won the week before in Chicago. Let’s face it: the Panthers are playing better football so far in the second half of this season. It was around this time last year when the Panthers were able to begin throwing up a bunch of W’s. They could be primed to do it again with their remaining schedule.
Even though the Panthers could be on the right track I simply cannot pick them because of what the Broncos have: a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning, and the former Carolina head coach John Fox. He could have some inside information on what the Panthers will be trying to do in this one. There is just too much to like about this red-hot Denver team. Their defense is also shutting their opponents down as of late. The Broncos should have enough fire-power to win this one.
Denver 38, Carolina 16
New York Giants @ Cincinnati Bengals
After losing an emotional game at home against a tough AFC North opponent, the Giants draw another one in the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have been known to play the Giants close, as evidenced by final scores of 26-23 (NYG), 23-22 (CIN), and 29-27 (NYG). Those are just the last three games these two teams have had together, and I have a feeling that this one will not be one-sided either. Things will be getting really tough for the Giants soon; they have the most difficult schedule to end the year in the entire league. They need this win to bring the team to 7-3 right before their BYE.
The key in this game is whether or not the Giants’ secondary can hold up. New York has given up the second most pass plays of over 20 yards this season (45 to New England’s 48). There is no doubt in my mind that Andy Dalton’s right arm will be on display in this one. It will be interesting to see how the Giants choose to cover AJ Green. I expect a lot of double coverage or one on one with safety help over the top. If they do decide to roll with single coverage they may need an invisible force-field to prevent Dalton from getting the ball into Green’s hands. Jermaine Gresham did impress last week and could also get quite a few looks this Sunday as Green draws coverage in this game. I am still waiting for Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis to have his breakout game in a Bengals uniform. Perhaps this will be the game he does; the Giants did struggle with Issac Redman who is the same type of back.
With all of the match-up problems the Bengals present on offense, the Giants match that with a nightmarish amount of play-makers on their team. The Bengals defense has struggled with routes that break in between the numbers this season. All of the Giants’ wide receivers love to run option routes towards that area of the field which could wreak havoc for Cincy on Sunday. Eli Manning has had time to scan the field this season. He is the least sacked QB in the NFL, and that is a direct reflection of how the offensive line has performed. There have been times this year where the line has given him enough time to tie his shoe. I do not expect it to be that way in this game. The Bengals have done a good job with pressuring the opposing QBs this season, racking up 23 sacks.
I am expecting this one to be a good game. Each of these teams have very different styles and methods to getting things done. The Bengals just got through with seeing one Manning at home and didn’t play too badly. Now they get the other one this week in a very important game. The Bengals need a win to keep pace in the AFC and the Giants need to build a little momentum after failing to deliver the “perfect ending” to the Super-storm Sandy tale against Pittsburgh last week. I wanted to take the Bengals in this one and came very close to doing so, but I will play it safe here and go with the Giants. Eli may need a fourth quarter comeback in what should be a very high scoring game.
New York 35, Cincinnati 31
Tennessee Titans @ Miami Dolphins
The Titans were beat badly by the Bears at home last week and are looking to right some wrongs against a pretty solid Miami squad. Is this a get right game for the Titans, or are the Dolphins yet another bad match-up for them? I think that Miami is the last team that they want to see after losing badly in Tennessee.
The Dolphins are about as fundamentally sound of a team as there is in the AFC. They make smart plays, the don’t turn the ball over too much, and they swarm to the ball on defense. I don’t see the Titans winning this game. They are much too inconsistent for my liking. Two weeks ago I picked them to beat the Colts. They were rolling at the time after big wins against the Steelers and the Bills. Then they came out and dropped two games to lower their record to 3-6. To me it seems like they are still trying to find their identity on offense. One week they are airing it out on offense and the next they are running the offense around Chris Johnson and his skill set. CK2K is inconsistent as well. One week he is running for 150 yards, the next he will do nothing. This is the kind of team that will really surprise you every week. They will either come out and play shockingly well or very bad. In this game, I think I will stick with a team like the Dolphins. They generally do what they have to do on the field. Joe Philbin has them coached up really well. I was impressed with what I saw from Ryan Tannehill last week. He can have spot on accuracy. I do have a gut feeling that Chris Johnson will have a nice game (even though the Dolphins are nearly impossible to run against), but Reggie Bush will do him one better. This one could be a low scoring affair. I’m going to go with the “Phins.
Miami 17, Tennessee 10
Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings
We have here two teams that are headed in opposite directions. The Lions started off 1-3 in the first quarter of the season. During the second half they went 3-1 with their one loss coming to the Bears. Meanwhile the Vikings started off 3-1 and have since gone 2-3. The winner of this game will be in good shape for the remainder of the season, and I predict that the loser will tail off. I have to go with Detroit here. They are heating up and looking more like the team that wen 5-0 to start last season.
Luckily for all fans of the NFL, Adrian Peterson did not lose anything with his ACL injury. It is just as entertaining to see him run this year as it has been any other. He still has that remarkable vision and the will-power to get first downs to help his team win games. The offense has run through him and Percy Harvin to this point. The only problem with that is the fact that Harvin is banged up with an ankle injury. Injuries to that area of the body tend to linger throughout the year, and we may see a drop off in his production. Not many teams are able to win games with a solid running game and no other offensive talent. The Vikes may be in trouble, unless someone else is able to step up.
Detroit has injuries too. Calvin Johnson has had problems with his knee this season that has limited him in practice. The difference with the Lions is the fact that if Johnson went down, I would expect someone else to step up at wide receiver. They have a quarterback in Matthew Stafford who can get the ball down field to anybody who decides they can get open. I have more trust in a Lion’s offense that has proven that they can play at an elite level at points this season.
Even though this high-powered attack that the Lions bring to the table has been snuffed out at times this season, I think that this time around the Lions will have the edge. Last season the Vikings (who finished 2-14) played the Lions very tough and could have won both of these divisional games. I don’t expect Minnesota to lie down in this one, but I do think that Detroit will try to attack the Vikings through the air and bust this game open from the start. If the game turns out to be a track meet, I don’t think the Vikings will be able to keep up.
Detroit 31, Minnesota 19
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
The first time these two teams met this season, the Pats put up a record 45 points in the second half and ran wild on a Bills’ defense that didn’t show a whole lot of resistance. Bill Belichick and his team have had an extra week to mull this one over and I expect them to pick up where they left off in Week 4.
New England 42, Buffalo 23
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
This was one of the games that I had difficulty trying to break down. I will give it a shot though. The 8-0 Falcons are obviously sitting atop the entire NFL with their perfect record and have won all types of games this year against many different types of teams. The Saints game against the Broncos proved to be a minor hiccup when they went out and laid out the Eagles last Monday night. New Orleans has played pretty well since Week 4 and since this is a divisional game, anything can happen. These two teams almost always play entertaining games and I am looking forward to seeing these two teams lay it on the line this Sunday.
Expect the ball to be in the air in this game. I have a feeling that each team will try to establish a running game early and fail simply because the two defenses may be stacking the box early in order to put the opposing offense in 2nd and 3rd and long situations. I can expect that both of these teams will be able to climb out of that type of hole, therefore I will have to tip my cap to the team that can sustain their drives the longest in this game. The Falcons are great at drawing up 10+ play 6 minute+ drives that result in touchdowns. The Falcons do a good job at finishing what they started. Last week against Dallas was a little bit different. They were unable to punch it in until the fourth quarter, but their defense held them afloat for a majority of that game. The Saints at this point could not count on their defense to help them out if their offense is slowed down. Take the Denver game for example. New Orleans did not move the ball very well in that game. A good team should be able to rely on its defense to stop the opponent, but that was not the case. Granted, it was against a Peyton Manning led offense but there is no convincing me that this type of thing would not happen again if Drew Brees was off during a given week. At this point the Falcons are doing whatever it takes to win. The Saints are doing the only thing they can to win. My trust in this game lies within Matt Ryan. Atlanta has shown me something this year; I have picked against them in consecutive weeks and they won both times. It is time for me to jump back on the bandwagon. I like what is going on in Atlanta. This just might be their year.
Atlanta 30, New Orleans 26
San Diego Chargers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I am not a big believer in the Chargers at this point. They have yet to beat a team that has more than one win (at the time when the two played). Philip Rivers can still be considered as an upper-echelon quarterback but what he has around him isn’t exactly the A-Team. I think that he is trying to develop a chemistry with all of his new receivers while still favoring his old targets, which is usually a sign of disaster. Back in 2009, he was able to stand in the pocket and scan the field for an open target. Nowadays it almost seems like he is hesitant to deliver the ball to some of his new targets and he is opting to squeeze the ball in to his more “established” receivers. Also, after seeing what Doug Martin has done the past couple of weeks and what Josh Freeman has been doing most of this season, it seems almost criminal for me to pick against the Bucs. Well, you can lock me up because I am picking the Chargers here.
Rivers may be in a perfect position to get his game right against the suspect Buccaneers pass defense which ranks 32nd in the league. It may be hard for San Diego to get their running game going but they may not need it in this one. Tampa Bay will probably jump out to an early lead, but Philip Rivers will take advantage of their defense and throw for a nice pile of yardage in a come-from-behind effort. I am putting the Bucs on upset alert because their pass defense will not be able to hold back the Chargers aerial attack. This may give a few San Diego fans feeling very nostalgic as they may get a reminder as to what the offense used to be like when Rivers was in good rhythm with all of his receivers Just a side note here: I bet Rivers is going to be telling Vincent Jackson just how much he misses his big-play ability at the conclusion of this game.
San Diego 26, Tampa Bay 21
New York Jets @ Seattle Seahawks
Russel Wilson leads all rookie QBs with 13 passing TDs, with 9 coming at home vs. only 1 pick. The Jets have only won once on the road this year, and it was an overtime game that they could have just as easily lost. We are still waiting to see some more of Tim Tebow, who has not had a huge impact on the season yet. If the Jets score a TD, maybe Rex Ryan should do what he said he was going to do in August- go for the two point conversion. That may be the only thing that could spark this offense in a game where points could be at a premium. The Seahawks are undefeated at home, and I do not expect the Jets to change anything. The ‘Hawks will soar higher than the Jets in this one.
Seattle 17, New York 8
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
Where to begin with this one… well lets start with the fact that the last time that either of these two teams won a game was back in Week 7. When was the last time that either of these team was to score over 30 points? We have to turn the calendars back to January 1st when the Eagles totaled 34 points against the Redskins. Both of these teams have shared similar fates this season- failing to live up to expectations and committing a handful of turnovers. Both Dallas and Philly are in must-win mode this week because the loser of this game may be looking forward to next year where they may see a new head coach.
The Eagles’ offensive line needs to shape up in a hurry. If they play another game like they did on Monday night, then they will have to scrape Michael Vick up off the turf with a spatula. I would be willing to bet that DeMarcus Ware is licking his chops right now because he knows he may have a couple of free shots at Philly’s QB on Sunday. Rob Ryan will probably have Ware lined up at right defensive end more than usual so that way he can attack Vick from his blindside. I expect the Cowboys front seven to put a lot of pressure on the Eagles by blitzing early and often in this one. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinwig should have a game plan ready for this though. If he is smart, he will design a lot of quick passes, screens, and draws early in order to slow down the pass rush. What I don’t understand is why the Eagles don’t have Vick doing some hard play-action passes into big roll outs to his left. Unless the opposing defense decides to bring a dog blitz, then this should work. Last week he delivered a 77-yard TD pass to Jackson on this type of a play. If the offensive line is not holding up, then why not get Vick out on the perimeter where he can make more plays and use his athletic ability to dupe the defense into missing tackles on his scrambles. If all else fails, give the ball to “Shady” McCoy. He went bonkers on the Cowboys defense last season. Plus they already have an airtight pass defense as it is so LeSean should get his fair share of carries if the Eagles want to win.
The Cowboy’s problems do not happen at the line of scrimmage, but rather deep down the field with interceptions, mis-communications, and dropped passes. Tony Romo currently leads the NFL in interceptions with 13, but much like how I believe Vick cannot be held responsible for all of his turnovers I think that Romo receives the short end of the stick a majority of the time as well. A couple of his picks happened when he was just trying to make a play, and others have come on those mis-communications with wide receivers. They Cowboys are a couple of plays away from being 2-0 in the division and 5-3 in the standings. The defense has done its best to keep the opponent from scoring this year, but there is not much anybody can do when the offense is turning the ball over and giving them a short field. Turnovers have plagued both of these teams this year. There is no doubt in my mind that the team that turns the ball over the least will win this game.
I do think the Eagles can work around their problems better than the Cowboys can. If a team knows their offensive line will not hold together throughout a game, then they can game-plan for that. Nobody can game-plan for poor execution, and that is what has hurt the Dallas the most all year. The Eagles should win in a squeaker if they can manage the Cowboy’s pass rush better than they did against New Orleans.
Philadelphia 20, Dallas 17
St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
If the Rams could not score any more than 7 points against the New England Patriots last week, then they will be hung out to dry this week in the Golden State. I don’t say this much but the Rams might get pummeled by the Niners if they do not sustain drives.
San Francisco 27, St Louis 6
Houston Texans @ Chicago Bears
This is arguably the most intriguing game on the slate for the weekend. It is a match-up between two teams with top 10 defenses that sit atop their respective divisions at 7-1. For a majority of the week it was looking like Charles Tillman was not going to play in this game because he and his wife were expecting their fourth child on Sunday, but the delivery day was pushed back to Monday so he should be good to go. In games like this with two teams that know how to get after the ball on defense, one must ask: which team is better suited to win in these conditions? The Bears are playing at home in this one and do have the strength of their fans on their side. The Texans are undefeated on the road this season and can air it out against a team if they have to, or pound the rock with their explosive young back in Arian Foster. Because of their adaptability, I am leaning towards Houston in this one.
This one could be one of those in-your-face, bruising games with a lot of hard hitting and trash talking involved. Punches will certainly be thrown (via Tillman trying to force his eight fumble this year). JJ Watt will be looking for some more tipped passes and his 11th sack of the season. The ball will probably be on the ground a lot because of incompletions. The Bears and Texans really do match up well on paper. For every star offensive player on one side, there is another to counter. For instance we have Arian Foster vs. Matt Forte, Andre Johnson vs. Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler vs. Matt Schaub; this one is going to be good.
My key to the game is going to be the Houston pass rush. If they can put a lot of pressure on Cutler, then I can almost guarantee that the Texans will win. Case in point, the Packers brought down Cutler eight times in the Bears’ only loss of the season. Carolina nearly pulled off an amazing upset victory when they threw Cutler around and sacked him six times. Wade Phillips should consider sending a couple of exotic blitzes at the Bears Sunday night. I don’t think their offensive line will be able to handle them all that well. We may see more quarterback knockdowns than points in this one. I am going to stick with the Texans, but it will not surprise me at all if the Bears win this game.
Houston 23, Chicago 13
Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Steelers are going to win this game. The Chiefs can’t seem to get out of their own way with turnovers and poor play on the field. I thought that they may be able to play a little better last week against the Chargers but that did not happen. This game could be even uglier than last week’s debacle in San Diego. Matt Cassel will need to play a turnover-free game if the Chiefs have any hope of pulling off the upset in this one. I will revert back to what I said for the Jets @ Seahawks game: the Steelers are 3-0 at home this season. I would not believe that they could hand Pittsburgh their first loss at Heinz Field on Monday night. Then again, the Chiefs did almost pull off an upset against Pittsburgh last year with Tyler Palko at QB and I suppose anything is possible. Like the old saying goes: “On any given Sunday…” or Monday in this case. For this one I am going to go with “any given Thursday”, Thursday being draft night next April. The Chiefs could be giving guys like Matt Barkley or Geno Smith a call in the very near future. I have to go with the Steelers in this one.
Pittsburgh 28, Kansas City 10
Please check back later this week as I reflect on every single one of these games, right after they happen. Thank you for reading!
Much like Chicago, the Lions crush an AFC South opponent on the road in impressive fashion. They did something that they have not done in quite some time, and that is rely on a strong running game. I did not watch this game, but I saw that Calvin Johnson had another big game but was held out of the end zone again. Mikel Leshoure tallied three touchdowns against a defense that struggles to defend the run. I noticed that the Jaguars were held scoreless for a majority of this game, so that tells me that the Lion’s defense played well. As we push towards the second half of the season, the Lions find themselves right back in the thick of things at 4-4. While a division title seems out of reach at this point, they are alive and well with regards to the wild card hunt. We may see three playoff teams coming from the NFC North this season. In the meantime, the Jaguars should start deciding who they want with their first pick in the NFL Draft next year…
I’ve got a funny feeling about this one. After both teams exceeded expectations last week (notice how the Jaguars still lost), the two will meet down in Florida, a state where the Lions are just 15-20 all-time. Jacksonville did not let Green Bay walk all over them last week, and will not allow Detroit to do it either. However the Jaguars are 0-3 against the NFC North this year and 5-14 against the NFC since 2008. The numbers just don’t add up. I do think Detroit will be able to pick this one up and fight their way back to .500, but it will not be as easy as most people think.
Detroit 27, Jacksonville 24