The Rams are eliminated from playoff contention, but they did scrap together a nice win against the Buccaneers on the road. Josh Freeman threw another four picks and the Rams shut down Doug Martin. Moving forward, this Rams team could turn out to be one that can give some of the best teams major headaches. They have the defense to trouble any offense and Sam Bradford is capable of performing at a high level. Make no mistake, this team is worlds better under Jeff Fisher and they have a chance to finish a season above .500 for the first time since 2003. The Buccaneers need to learn how to close out a season. They fell apart in similar fashion last year and Freeman is quickly losing confidence with back-to-back four pick games. They need to devise a game-plan that will help Josh make some safe throws in order for him to regain his confidence again.
Oakland Raiders @ Carolina Panthers
A couple of weeks ago, this game would have been hard to predict since both teams were struggling to keep up with their opponents. Nowadays, the Panthers look like the team that everybody thought they would be this year: they are moving the ball very well on offense, Cam Newton is looking quite sharp, and the running game is beginning to come around. They also have an underrated defense to compliment what they do on offense. After completely shutting down San Diego last week, look for the Panthers to return home and do the same to the Raiders. Although the Oakland defense did pitch a shutout last week (against an offensively challenged team in the Chiefs), they failed to score a touchdown of their own. It is safe to say that the Panther defense is much better than the Kansas City defense, so do not expect the Raiders to win by kicking a bunch of field goals. They will have to match touchdowns with the Panthers, and quite frankly that is something that they will not be able to do. Don’t feel bad Oakland fans, this is the same Panther team that embarrassed the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons at home. They are very much improved from the 1-6 Carolina team we saw a few weeks ago.
Carolina 34, Oakland 20
New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys
It is a little difficult to pick against the Cowboys given the roll that they have been on over the past month, but here goes nothing. The Saints will trot into Jerry-world and pull off the (upset?). Drew Brees will be able to chuck the ball all over the lot, and he has to have a major confidence boost after going nuts on the Tampa Bay defense a week ago. Sure, he did pick apart the last ranked pass-defense in the league last week, but the Purdue grad has the ability to make any defense look mediocre. This is a game that could end up looking a lot like the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game versus Washington in the sense that the Saints could sprint out to a big lead on the strength of Drew Brees’ right arm. Tony Romo and the Cowboys will have to abandon the running game early and #9 will have to throw it 50+ times (hey, sounds like most Dallas games this season). This one could turn into a shootout, and it is probably easier to trust Brees in a game like this rather than Romo. Plus, aren’t the Cowboys due to lose a December game?
New Orleans 37, Dallas 30
Tennessee Titans @ Green Bay Packers
The Pack is back. Each proceeding week, they are looking more and more like the team that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. The recent emergence of their running game has really helped Aaron Rodgers. He is finding a bit more time with the opposing defense respecting the option for the packers to run the ball, and an Aaron Rodgers with time in the pocket is lethal. Let’s face it; the Titans’ defense isn’t winning any awards this year. While they are not horrible, they certainly have a lot of room to improve. Couple that with a young quarterback traveling into a hostile environment with frigid weather, and you have got yourself a possible blowout. The only way the Titans win this game is if Chris Johnson runs for 150+ yards AND their defense is able to get constant pressure on Rodgers. There are just too many things that have to go right for a Tennessee upset, so it is easier just to pick the Packers. They could be the NFC’s hottest team right now. Perhaps that loss to the Giants a few weeks back was the spark they needed to get on a roll.
Green Bay 29, Tennessee 14
Minnesota Vikings @ Houston Texans
It is very tempting to pick the Vikes here, it really is, however if there is one thing that the Texans’ defense does well it is shutting down running backs. They have only allowed a 100 yard rusher twice this season, and are very good at making a team one dimensional. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they are already a one dimensional team so they are halfway defeated before even stepping on to the field. The teams that have beaten the Texans this year had elite quarterbacks who could sling it all over the field. Christian Ponder is not quite Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, so do not expect him to dominate this football game. The only way the Vikings can win is if, once again, Adrian Peterson shoulders the load. He may have been able to do it quite a bit this season, but the Houston will probably not give one lick of respect to the Minnesota passing game. Not to mention that the Vikes like to throw a lot of quick passes. JJ Watt will be salivating over the abundance of chances he will have to swat the ball down. It is quite simple to say that if you stop Adrian Peterson, you stop the Vikings. However, most teams have not been able to do so. If any team is built to do this, it is Houston. This could be a rough week for Minnesota fans.
Houston 23, Minnesota 10
New England Patriots @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Upset alert!!! Not so fast, the Jags probably do not have a chance here. They have a knack for performing poorly at home, and with New England coming to town there is almost no chance for Jacksonville to rewrite the script that has been in place for over a year. The Pats are upset about losing to a good football team, so they should come out this week and play a stellar ball game. Chad Henne has had a couple of good performances against the Patriots in the past, but this week will not prove to be his. New England should be ready to rock and roll. The Jaguars will simply be in their way on their road to a deep playoff run.
New England 38, Jacksonville 13
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Colts can lock up a playoff spot with a win against the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead on Sunday. Andrew Luck will probably have the ball in his hands quite a bit because he will have to sling it around quite a bit in the postseason if Indy hopes to make a deep run. They should be able to take down the Chiefs in this one, but do not be surprised if they are unable to. For some odd reason this game feels like a trap for Bruce Arians and company. Despite this, this pick will reflect the Colts nailing down their first playoff berth of the Andrew Luck era.
Indianapolis 27, Kansas City 10
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins
It is awfully tough to pick the Bills after seeing the effort they put forth against Seattle last week. However, they were able to down the ‘Phins during the first meeting of these two teams and are primed to do it again. Since Miami is still grasping onto a nearly hopeless possibility of some postseason play, they should come out motivated on both sides of the ball. Reggie Bush should have a nice game while CJ Spiller may find it a little tough to gain ground against a stout Miami run defense (which ranks eighth in the league). This one has the makings of another Dolphin gritty victory; you know a 14-10/17-14/21-17 type game? The Bills have also not found a lot of success lately when traveling to the Sunshine State. They have lost three of the past four times traveling down there.
Miami 20, Buffalo 15
San Diego Chargers @ New York Jets
A couple of years ago, this would have been a must-see game. These days, the Chargers and Jets have failed to pack much of an offensive punch in their contests. Each fell to four win teams a week ago and looked horrible in the process. The Jets have not looked good at all over the past month and it is getting hard to pick them. The winner of this game will be the team that can move the ball the best against the opposing defense. In this situation, it seems right to pick the Chargers. They did have a nice showing in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, so it is always possible that they could string a performance like that together again. Also, it seems very unlikely that Greg McElroy will solve any of the problems that the Jets have. None of the quarterbacks on that team have much of a chance at turning the New York Jets’ fortunes around. That is the sad truth.
San Diego 23, New York 13
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
It is almost certain that RGIII will be stepping under center for this game as the young quarterback makes his first trip to a hostile Philadelphia. A win for the Redskins is paramount since they control their own destiny to the playoffs. They also have the easier opponent this week, so this will be a great chance for them to possibly claim an undisputed lead of the NFC East with one week to go (provided both New York and Dallas lose). While looking bad at home this season, the Eagles have a long history of making life tough on opponents in Philly during December. Their defense seems to have turned the corner and can probably do a much better job at containing RGIII since this will be their second time facing him. It is unlikely that they will be torched deep with such frequency in this game, but the ‘Skins should have an extra trick or two up their sleeves that will help them earn their ninth victory (and sixth straight). Expect Washington to run the ball well against a defense that has allowed two running backs to rush for over 100 yards in consecutive weeks (after not allowing that to happen in any game this season before them).
Washington 31, Philadelphia 16
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers
This is arguably the biggest game of the week. It is essentially a playoff game for the teams involved since the winner will probably make the postseason while the loser will miss it. It is also very likely that the winner of this game will travel to Foxboro to take on the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs (if the AFC seeding remains the same over the next two weeks). The Bengals did not look good against Philadelphia last week, but they did have a week and a half to reflect on their bad play. Ben Roethlisberger is coming back home after throwing a costly pick in overtime during their loss to Dallas. The Steelers have not won since #7’s return and their defense is not playing all that well. Luckily for them, all of this can be erased with a win here. Pittsburgh seems to be the reasonable choice here because they know what to do in these types of games. Plus they are playing at home (where they are 4-2 on the season) and have dominated the Bengals over the last few meetings. Andy Dalton may play well, but in the end it will be the Steelers who close the door on the surging Cincinnati team.
Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 20
St Louis Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Rams mounted a pretty good comeback effort last week about Minnesota, but they just could not dig themselves out of a 26 point hole by the end of the game. Jeff Fisher coached teams rarely find themselves down by that much, so expect the Rams to come back and play some much more inspired football this week. They also have slight playoff hopes (on life-support). So, they still have something to play for. Tampa Bay looks like the same team that lost ten straight to end the last season. Josh Freeman needs to get back on the horse here against a team that has looked average at best against the pass at times this year. It will be hard for the Rams to run against this #1 ranked rush-defense in the league, so look for Bradford to sling it again (who is will be coming in with a lot of confidence off of his 377 yard game from last week). Those odds play in St Louis’ favor and they should be able to go down to Tampa and win on Sunday. This one should be a very good game.
St Louis 20, Tampa Bay 19
Cleveland Browns @ Denver Broncos
The Broncos seem to be unstoppable right now. They are blowing teams out every week and sticking it to practically every opposing QB with their suffocating defensive scheme. Give a lot of credit to Jack Del Rio (who is one of the unsung heroes of this Denver team what with all of the Peyton Manning stories). He has this defense playing at a level that is reminiscent of their glory days back as the orange crush… hey, maybe it has something to do with them reverting back to orange jerseys. Anyways, the Broncos should roll the Browns to the side here. Cleveland has been playing extremely well as of late, but if they got burnt at home by a rookie quarterback in their first start, just imagine what Peyton Manning at home could do to them. It could be a long afternoon for the dog pound.
Denver 33, Cleveland 9
Chicago Bears @ Arizona Cardinals
This is a clash between two teams whose best offense is their good defense. Last week the Cardinals blew out the Lions at home, aided by two pick-sixes from Ray Horton’s unit. Well, the Bears are no strangers to defensive scores; they lead the league with eight of them. There may not be a ton of points scored, but if you like 1970’s football then this is the perfect type of game to watch. The Cards finally snapped their nine game losing streak while the Bears have lost five of their last six. There is no question that the Bears absolutely need to win this game if they want any chance at saving their season. It is that kind of desperation that will propel them to a nice victory on the road. It may not be very pretty (most Arizona games are not) but it will be effective. Chicago’s heart will still continue to beat after this week when their beloved team picks up their ninth win.
Chicago 19 Arizona 10
New York Giants @ Baltimore Ravens
Three straight Baltimore losses have the Ravens fans worried sick. They have dropped their last two at home where they looked unbeatable at for a couple of years. So it may be jumping the gun a little bit to say that there is a definite hometown advantage in this game. Also, Eli Manning has made it a habit to rain on a home team’s parade, specifically late in the season and into the postseason. After all, the Giants do have the reputation for being the ultimate road warriors. They were embarrassed by the Falcons last week on the road though, and will face a team with a similar offense in a similar situation this week. It is probably safe to say that New York will play a little bit better on offense than they did a week ago against Atlanta. Plus, the Raven defense is not as good as the Falcons’ (that is something that hasn’t been said in quite some time). Eli Manning should get back on the ball and lead his team to a significant increase in offensive production. Maybe Tom Coughlin will not go for it on fourth down and short every time he has the ball in opponent’s territory this time. With that being said, it is best to go with the Ravens here. They simply do not lose three straight at home and four in a row. The Giants have not been playing their best football as of late either and the Ravens actually have the better team in a lot of people’s eyes. Look for Baltimore to win in a statement game for them as they gear up for the playoffs.
Baltimore 30, New York 23
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
With the way these two teams are playing, it is hard to pick against either one of them. This is shaping up to be the most intriguing game on the Week 16 slate because it pits two fierce rivals who are each playing the best football possible. It will also take place during primetime in front of a raucous crowd. Of course, the last time that Century Link Field played host to a night game was when the infamous “Fail Mary” catch occurred. Expect nothing of the sort in this contest. But a good defensive battle is easy to anticipate… or is it? The ‘Hawks have outscored their opponents by the count of 108-17 over the past two games. The Niners are fresh off of a huge win in New England and are in the driver’s seat to take their division and possibly a first round BYE. It is so hard to pick against them here given that their offense is looking brilliant with Colin Kaepernick at the helm. It is important to keep in mind that the Seahawks are 6-0 at home and have beaten very good teams there as well. This game is a virtual toss-up and should be a good one. The Seahawks will capitalize on the home-field advantage in a late-night thriller though as they trump the 49ers in Seattle to cap off Week 16.
Seattle 22, San Francisco 20
Adrian Peterson strengthens his case for both the Most Valuable Player and Comeback Player of the Year honors with another jaw-dropping performance in the Show Me State on Sunday. This beast ran for 212 yards and one touchdown as the Vikings keep their playoff hopes alive with a crucial win. Their defense played pretty well and the offensive unit was able to piece together one of its best games of the season. Bill Musgrave had it working with an excellent balance of run and pass plays, along with some great play designs and unpredictability. Christian Ponder was solid, hitting on 17/24 pass attempts for 131 yards. Sam Bradford tried to match Peterson’s monster game with a career high 377 yards through the air (with three touchdowns). Steven Jackson became just the 27th player in NFL history to eclipse the 10,000 yard-rushing mark with his 73 on the ground. St Louis did not roll over after trailing 30-7 at halftime, but the Vikings proved to be too much at the end of the day with a two score win.
Besides Adrian Peterson, the best thing the Vikings had going for them in this game was their pass-rush. They were able to wrestle Bradford to the ground four times and got in his face with great consistency. Sam hardly got a chance to scan the field and was hurried into some inaccurate passes. Everson Griffen had a huge game, contributing to the Vikings season-high 36 points with a pick-six in the fourth quarter. Blair Walsh was amazing in this one, hitting on all five of his field goal attempts; three of them from over 50 yards. This game is the very definition of a team effort for the Vikings; they played great during all three phases in this one and were very deserving of a win.
Much is to be said about the Rams’ comeback attempt in this one. They trailed by as many as 26 points in the third quarter and came pretty darn close to forcing the Minnesota sideline to sweat a little bit. They brought it inside the red-zone with less than 80 seconds left, but then failed to convert on fourth down, which ended the game for St Louis. It was very admirable to see the Rams fight until the bitter end for Jeff Fisher. It can be very deflating to let an opposing running-back run for over 200 yards while trailing by three scores. However, Bradford showed some courage and made some nice throws down the stretch while bringing his team to within striking distance. At one point, the game was 33-22. That is a deficit that could easily be comeback from. So, hats off to Rams offense for not quitting and making a game out of something that looked to be a blowout at halftime. This shows that the team has a lot of character and heart, which will bode well for them as the team goes forward into next season.
The Minnesota Vikings do have it stacked against them in their final two games of the year (at Houston and vs. Green Bay), but they have themselves in a position where they can make the playoffs if they win out. Since the Bears dropped to 8-6, the Vikings are now tied with them. Minnesota does hold the tie-breakers as well (with a better division record). If they are able to squeak into the playoffs, then they will have earned it. All any Vikings fan can hope for is to see their team play with heart, poise, and a little bit of swagger. They showed all of the above in this game and are looking like a team on the raise as the season nears its conclusion.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Philadelphia Eagles
In the season finale of Thursday Night Football, the Bengals find themselves in a must-win game against the Eagles. Before last week’s games went final, nobody would have thought that Philly had a fighting chance in this game. Cincinnati leads the NFL in sacks and the scotch-tape offensive line of the Eagles has been one of their major weaknesses this season. Also, practically their entire offense is injured; that normally spells trouble. The Eagles had lost eight straight games and were on the verge of dropping their ninth when Nick Foles pulled off a beautiful 2 minute drill and lead his team back from a two score deficit to win on the final play. At about the same time, the Bengals relinquished their two-score lead to the Cowboys and lost the game courtesy of a Dallas field goal, also on the final play. Before this game, Cincy was looking like it was ready to go on a run and they were playing really well. Their momentum was crushed with last Sunday’s loss. Even so, they can get back on the train if they are able to pick up a win in Philly on Thursday. This will be easier said than done. As an interesting little nugget, the Eagles have not dropped a game during Week 15 since 2001. Philadelphia does not frequently lose home games in December either. Therefore, the Bengals will have their work cut out for them. This time when these two teams meet, it will probably not end up in a tie like it did in 2008. It is likely that the Eagles add another win to their record given their impressive late-season statistics and the fact that Cincy has to travel on a short week to a hostile environment. This one should be close throughout, but the Bengals will come up on the short end of the stick.
Philadelphia 24, Cincinnati 21
New York Giants @ Atlanta Falcons
This is a game between two teams that seem to have their eyes on the NFC Championship this season. It is also a rematch of the Wild Card game from last season, however this time around it will be played in the dome. Matty Ice does not lose in the dome. The Falcons are a perfect 6-0 at home this season and have beaten some decent teams at home. This probably does not phase New York since they have developed the reputation for being road warriors. Unfortunately for the G-Men, they will not be able to rely on starting in Atlanta territory on 75% of their drives like they did last week against the Saints. Matt Ryan can be lights out at home as well. With this porous Giants’ secondary, this could spell trouble. Look for the Falcons to go to the air to pick up big chunks of yardage en route to a solid win at home. Besides, the Giants usually have a typical December setback. This could be that game.
Atlanta 28, New York 20
Denver Broncos @ Baltimore Ravens
With Jim Caldwell becoming the new defensive coordinator, the Ravens could be willing to run the ball a lot more with their talented backfield duo. Yards have been hard to come by through the air against this Broncos’ defense as of late. Quarterbacks are completing a very low percentage of deep balls against them, and Joe Flacco loves to go deep. Plus, the Ravens entire defense is banged up. It is tough enough to play Peyton Manning with a fully healthy defense; it is an entirely new obstacle to overcome when you don’t have a bunch of your key players. The Broncos present a ton of match-up problems as well on offense. The only way the Ravens have a chance in this one is if they can successfully trade points with the Broncos. This will not happen and the Ravens will drop their third straight.
Denver 38, Baltimore 24
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
If the Bears don’t come out motivated to earn a win in this one, then they will never do so at all this season. A Green Bay win would lead to a lockup of the division in their favor. A Chicago win won’t lead to a division championship right away, but it could after the outcomes of games during Week 16 and 17. If nothing else, a win at home versus the Pack will almost guarantee the Bears a Wild Card spot. Jay Cutler should be good to go in this one, so that will not be a problem. What will be is the Chicago run defense. Lately, teams have been able to scamper for nice handfuls of yardage against this unit. Why is this so important for the Packers? Well, since their win against Minnesota, Green Bay seems to have found a running attack. This bodes very well for the Green and Gold; it helped them out quite a bit during their 2010 run at the Super Bowl. The Packers should try to exploit this weakness and stick to the ground and run between the tackles. Running outside against the Bears may not be a good idea with Charles Tillman waiting to punch the ball out. The key to this game will be each team’s offensive line play. Each has allowed a bunch of sacks to their quarterbacks this season. With the return of Clay Mathews, the advantage of a pass rush would have to go to the Pack. Cutler may have a tough day if he is able to live in the backfield. Anyways, the Packers should win this one and their second straight division title simply because they seem to be becoming more balanced with regards to their play calling. Their defense has also been stepping it up lately and if they can contain Brandon Marshall like they did Calvin Johnson last week, this game could become elementary.
Green Bay 23, Chicago 16
Washington Redskins @ Cleveland Browns
One way or another, this game will become a battle of rookie quarterbacks (with the Redskins offering up either RGIII or Kirk Cousins to face the Browns’ Brandon Weeden) and running backs (Alfred Morris vs. Trent Richardson). Believe it or not, Cleveland is riding a three game winning streak while the Redskins boast four straight wins. The ‘Skins have looked good on offense throughout this entire year with RGIII. If he is a scratch, this game could become an issue for Washington. They do need this game badly because if they triumph here, they can close out the season against Philadelphia and Dallas. Wins in both of those games plus this one could be enough to land them in the playoffs. No matter who the Redskins send out at QB, they will be leaning heavily on their rushing attack. The Browns will be able to attack through the air against this 31st ranked pass defense. Expect them to do so as they try to build up some momentum for next year. With the anticipation that this game will come down to a defensive battle, it is only fitting to select the team that can play better defense. As of right now this is the Browns (and as a bonus this game will be played in Cleveland). Pat Shurmur’s team should pull this one off on the strength of a boatload of Phil Dawson field goals.
Cleveland 22, Washington 14
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
This is the first time of many that Andrew Luck will get a crack at the Houston Texans in his career. Houston is coming off of a disappointing and disturbing loss to New England in Foxboro. They may return home mad at themselves and ready to pound the living daylights out of someone, or they could come in and play rather lethargically as if the air was just let out of their balloon. The Colts have something to prove as well; they want to show that they can compete with the big-boys of the division and that they are worthy of playoff competition this year. A Houston win will solidify their spot atop the AFC South perch and an Indy win could make things a little interesting down the stretch. The Texans should come out firing after being held to a meager 14 points on Monday night. Luck can keep up if this game turns into a track meet, but it is only appropriate to go with a veteran (in Schaub) over a mistake-prone rookie in these types of games. Each defense is struggling, so it will be up to the offenses to even the odds. At this point, the Texans hold a slight edge in that category given their ability to run and throw the ball. Houston should bounce back and lock up their division in the process.
Houston 30, Indianapolis 28
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Miami Dolphins
The Chad Henne bowl will be on display in Miami this weekend. He will be gazing at a shadow of himself in Ryan Tannehill. Miami is pretty much dead in the water given their recent loss to San Francisco. Jacksonville has been dead for a long time now… so there will not be much to play for in this game. With this in mind, it will be the Jaguars who manage to swallow their pride and take the road loss. Henne has not looked as explosive as he was ever since the Jags last win vs. Tennessee. This will lead to a get-well game for Miami’s defense.
Miami 17, Jacksonville 7
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
Two weeks ago these two teams seemed to be in serious playoff contention. Now in Week 15, each seems to be left on the porch with losing records. Both are coming off of equally disappointing losses to NFC East squads and will be looking to vent their frustration on one another. There is almost no reason to not expect this game to turn into a shootout. Two of the worst pass defenses in the league will be on display and each quarterback will be looking for some vengeance after not playing at the top of their games last weekend. Running against the Bucs defense is becoming impossible to do, so the Saints will have to rely on Drew Brees to carry the team… again. This usually does not bode well for New Orleans. Also, these two have split the season series for four consecutive years. Since the Saints have already won, look for Tampa Bay to pick up their seventh win of the year here and continue to add to the misery that has turned out to be the 2012 New Orleans Saints.
Tampa Bay 43, New Orleans 30
Minnesota Vikings @ St Louis Rams
The psychic who predicted that this game would turn out to be very important for a reason other than the determination of who gets the first round draft pick next season should win a gold medal. Essentially, this will become a playoff game since the loser will find themselves on their couches during the real postseason. This one is also rather difficult to predict as well. The Rams do a good job at shutting down what other teams do best. In this case, it will require them stopping A.P. The Vikings generally do a nice job at preventing big plays and pass coverage. Since the Rams do not present the big issue of an explosive offense, the Vikes can rest easy. The reason why this game is going to go to Minnesota is because of number #28 in the backfield. This beast is chasing history and will inch even closer to a 2,000 yard season with another 100+ yard performance in St Louis. The Rams do not play their best ball all the time when it comes to opponents outside of the NFC West either.
Minnesota 27, St Louis 20
Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals do not have an offense. It does not matter what their defense is able to do, their offense will not be able to help them in any way. After turning it over eight times and losing 58-0 in Seattle last week, it is easy to understand why the Lions should run away with this one. The fact that they are playing in Arizona helps, but it will not lead to the Cards snapping their nine-game losing streak.
Detroit 38, Arizona 3
Seattle Seahawks @ Buffalo Bills
After their rout of Arizona last week, one has to wonder if this Seattle team has what it takes to actually make a run at a Super Bowl. They have a great defense, a solid rushing attack, and a rookie quarterback who just gets it. There is not much else that a team needs to have success in this league. The one problem with Seattle is the fact that they do struggle on the road from time to time. Will this be a game where that happens? Probably not, but it would not be surprising. The biggest story of this game will be the fact that Marshawn Lynch is returning to Buffalo for the first time since they cut ties with him in 2009. He should get the ball in his belly at least 20 times and run like a monster as he looks to place a guilt-trip on the Bills. Russell Wilson will not have to do much in this one, his surrounding cast will handle the deed for him.
Seattle 23, Buffalo 10
Carolina Panthers @ San Diego Chargers
It is crazy to think that each of these teams are coming off of wins versus Pittsburgh and Atlanta respectively, but this is true. It is also a proven fact that if Carolina and San Diego do not turn the ball over, their teams win games. Cam Newton is looking more and more like himself over the last few games and he has not turned it over since the Panthers lost to Tampa Bay. Philip Rivers may have discovered gold in wide-out Danario Alexander. The two of them hooked up for a couple of scores against Pittsburgh last week. Cam Newton and Greg Olsen are developing the same kind of rapport on their side of the ball as well. In addition, both of these defenses can play well at times. Overall, we are looking at two teams that have the ability to shock a tough opponent on any given Sunday. With this in mind, there will be no shock with whoever picks up this win. The Panthers will win this one though because it is more likely that Philip Rivers will make an extra turnover rather than Newton who (as mentioned above) is playing safe with the ball as of late. Panthers win… barely.
Carolina 17, San Diego 16
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are like an old car battery: they do work well at times but could self-destruct at any given moment. Plus most people are counting on them to die out eventually. Throughout the years this would have been an appropriate metaphor, but this season is looking a little different since Dallas has not lost in December yet. Tony Romo is having a great year and is just piling up the yardage (much like a car with this old battery). The one downside to the Cowboys’ game is the fact that the team cannot run the ball. Things do not look to get any easier against the Steelers this week. Pittsburgh will be playing with some possible added motivation; if the Ravens lose to Denver, then the Black and Yellow would have an opportunity to pull even with them in a win in Big-D. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have been struggling recently and will have their hands full with a bunch of wide receivers that love to stretch the field. The Cowboys have been beat deep more than a couple of times this season as well. Pittsburgh may head outside of its game a little bit if they decide to attack deep throughout this one. Their defense should be able to shut down a Dallas WR corp that will be without Dez Bryant in this one. There is just too much to like about the Steelers in this matchup. Their strengths will take full advantage of the Cowboys’ weaknesses and help them win this game.
Pittsburgh 20, Dallas 10
Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders
Which team is worse? That is the real logic behind this pick. It is very tempting to pick the Chiefs since they have been playing better as of late. Jamaal Charles could gash the Raiders for a couple of long scores as well. However, that 30-7 loss they suffered at the feet of the Cleveland Browns really makes it hard to roll with Kansas City in this situation. Oakland was able to hang around in their game against Denver last week as well, so they probably have more of a fighting chance than do the Chiefs. The Raiders should triumph here simply because Kansas City does not provide any reason for people to believe they can win. At least Oakland hung tough against Denver…
Oakland 20, Kansas City 12
San Francisco 49ers @ New England Patriots
If Giants @ Falcons, Packers @ Bears, Colts @ Texans, or Steelers @ Cowboys were not enough to quench a football fan’s thirst for this week, then this game certainly will. It pits two teams that are arguably the very best in their individual conferences, a great offense versus a great defense, and a surefire hall of famer in Tom Brady squaring off against the up and coming Colin Kaepernick. This also might be the second consecutive Sunday Night snow game. What is missing from this game that a normal football fan would want? Anyways, outside of how good the matchup is, there are specific things that do single out a winner. For instance, the Patriots simply do not lose in the second half of the season. They also do not lose at home… ever. Their one loss over the past two seasons came in Week 2 vs. Arizona this year (which, to this day, is a head-scratcher). Tom Brady loves playing teams that decide to use man coverage and blitz, which is partially why New England dominated last week against Houston. San Francisco will present a new challenge entirely. They can get consistent pressure on a quarterback without blitzing and can play coverage with the best receivers. The 49ers were built to beat teams like New England. An effective running game will be much desired as well if the conditions take a turn for the worst. This would heavily favor the 49ers, who specialize in counters and sweeps. The Pats defense is fast, but it may not be fast enough to stop the San Fran RBs if they are able to gain the edge. Colin Kaepernick will prove to be a game-breaker as well. Brandon Spike, Jerod Mayo, and Dont’a Hightower will be sprinting their tails off all game trying to spy and tackle this man. Eventually they will wear down and quite frankly, the Patriots don’t have any shutdown cornerbacks as of right now. The 49ers present the biggest challenge New England will face all year. For Week 15, San Francisco will seem as though they are the best team in the NFL with a win.
San Francisco 26, New England 24
New York Jets @ Tennessee Titans
Somehow, some way, the Jets are still alive in the playoff race. They have proven that they can win games this season, but that only happens if they form a good ground attack. If the Jets fall behind then they may be in trouble since they will have to pass the ball (which has been a disaster for them so far this season). Tennessee gets a home game on a Monday night; this will cause the fans to be very rowdy and they will make things difficult on Mark Sanchez. Through all of this, it seems reasonable to say that the Jets find some way to win this game. It may take a return TD, or a miraculous Sanchez comeback, but it is going to happen. Say what you want about Rex Ryan and his job as a coach. At least he has his team in a position to make a prayer about the playoffs. His team will salvage the moment and squeak by Tennessee (who may have some questions at quarterback after this season expires).
New York 16, Tennessee 13
Last week was a very busy week for me. I did not get the chance to post reviews of each game. I will make sure to get back on that for Week 15 starting on Friday. Be sure to check back!
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.
Greg Zeurlein may be the best young kicker in the NFL. His two field goals from 50 yards out proved to be the difference in a very close game that almost ended in a tie (again!!!). Sure, he missed one from 50+ yards out, and he was in a slump from that distance (missing four of his past seven), but he finished the game the way one is supposed to. His 53 yarder at the end of regulation and the 54 yarder in overtime were both nothing short of amazing. St Louis really knows how to play within the division. They are now 4-0-1 against the NFC West, and really could be 5-0. Their defense did a heck of a job against Colin Kaepernick and the all of the sudden explosive 49ers offense. Allowing only 339 yards and 13 points is pretty darn good, considering the fact that this team has been rolling on all cylinders. Jeff Fisher deserves a lot of credit for toughening this football team up and making them relevant in the NFC. They may not win every game, but they will be a force to reckon with. This game could end up being a signature win for this young Rams team. It will not amount to anything, but it will give them a ton of confidence heading into next year when they play some of the elite teams in football.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Buffalo Bills
The Jaguars seem to have gotten a grasp of a passing game, which is something they have not had for years. The Bills seem to be reverting back to their old form; the one where they could not win a game without a big play from defense or special teams. Right now their defense is one of the worst in the league overall (at 26th overall), and there is no way they can count on Leodis McKelvin to return a punt every week. Also, their punt coverage unit needs to choke down on big returns. If they let another 75 yard punt return to happen again, then they may as well wave the white flag because their offense is not going to shoulder the load. To this point the Bills’ offense has been taking a lot of heat, and despite what was said above they should still win this game. Why? Because their playoff hopes depend on it. It is do or die for Buffalo, and they will pull one over on the Jags in Buffalo on Sunday.
Buffalo 23, Jacksonville 16
Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears
There are some games that boil down to defensive battles, and then there are some games that boil down to DEFENSIVE BATTLES. Okay, that was a little redundant, but hopefully the point gets across. These teams do not always put a ton of points on the board and their defenses can shut a game out when they are on their game. Both units are very similar in the sense that they do not need to blitz to get pressure on the quarterback all the time, and they play a lot of basic coverage because they each have the secondary to shut down go-to wide receivers. This game is hard to pick since the Seahawks thrive at getting pressure on the quarterback with their front four, and the Bears offensive line is a big weakness of the team. Also, they need this game more if they want to hold on to the #6 seed for the playoffs. However, Russell Wilson is not the same on the road, and it will show in this game against an elite defense. Look for him to make one or two costly mistakes that cost his team the game against the most opportunistic defense in the league.
Chicago 22, Seattle 14
Indianapolis Colts @ Detroit Lions
Offensive fireworks should fly in this contest that pits two of the top five offensive teams in the league. The Lions took the Houston Texans to the brink on last Thursday’s game, so that could bode well for them in this game versus a team that does not always play its best ball on the road. The Lions played almost flawlessly against Houston last week and almost pulled off an upset, so it is easy to say that if they play like that again then they should win this week. However, the Colts are a pass first team and will not waste a ton of time trying to pound the rock if it is not working. Also, they are not coming off of a short week after playing nearly five quarters against a division rival. That said, they did not look overly impressive against the Bills in Indy last week. Detroit looked like it once did last season. Even though their playoff hopes are all but dead, expect the Lions to play with pride. Remember, had Jim Schwartz not thrown the red flag on the 81 yard touchdown last week, the Lions could have won that game. They should play with a sense of urgency this week and knock off the Colts in a thriller.
Detroit 30, Indianapolis 27
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
The Packers should be coming into this game with an “us against the world” mentality after getting shellacked by the Giants last Sunday night. Their offensive line was just tossed to the side like a plate of broccoli and asparagus at a child’s party. Aaron Rodgers was even pulled in the fourth quarter since Mike McCarthy was tired of seeing his star QB being slung around. That’s gotta be the first time in his career that that has happened. So, the Pack should come out on Sunday with a point to prove. They will want to reassure their fans that they are a dominant team and they can stand toe-to-toe with major competition in the NFC. Right now, the only winning team from this conference that they have beaten is the Chicago Bears. How good are the Packers really? The nation should find out when they come out and beat up on the Vikings. Percy Harvin is listed as doubtful for this game, so the Packers will have one less threat to worry about. As long as their offensive line can hold up and the defense can contain Adrian Peterson, Green Bay should have no trouble here. This will be a good bounce-back win for them.
Green Bay 34, Minnesota 16
Carolina Panthers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Cam Newton looked like a boss last Monday night against the Eagles, but that was against a defense that has numbers comparable to Washington and New Orleans since Todd Bowles has taken over. It will take more than a couple of busted coverages to prove that Cam is on the right track. But the numbers do not lie. When Cam does not turn the ball over, he wins. In fact, the Panthers almost always win when they win the turnover battle. With this stat in mind, the outcome of this game practically speaks for itself. The Chiefs turn the ball over all the time. If the Panthers cannot win the turnover battle in this game then they will have some major problems. It is still a very questionable decision, relying on Brady Quinn to quarterback the team. Maybe the Chiefs should give Donovan McNabb a phone call… They are going to need a quarterback for next year because without one, this team may not be able to win.
Carolina 19, Kansas City 12
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
This is the most underrated New England team that there has been in the NFL for quite some time. When most people think of potential AFC Champions, they think of Houston and Denver, perhaps even Baltimore. The Patriots are getting overlooked it seems, but knowing Bill Bellichick, that would sit just fine with him. New England has the #1 offense in the league and is #1 in points scored per game. Ryan Tannehill is not getting into any shootout with Tom Brady, that much is a guarantee. The Dolphins’ defense should make this game interesting for a little while, but a second half outburst of points has become the norm for the Patriots. Look for this game to follow the same mold as the Pats rack up yet another impressive win down in Miami.
New England 42, Miami 22
Arizona Cardinals @ New York Jets
The last time the Cardinals took the Field against the Jets, it was a disaster. Brett Favre was quarterbacking for New York and he threw for a career high six touchdown passes in that game. In that same game Kurt Warner was the head honcho for the Cards. My how times change. Nowadays people can find an abundance of mediocre quarterbacks on each sideline with an equally pitiful running game. Someone has to win this game. It could be a 2-0 final, or something of that nature. The Jets have to be embarrassed after surrendering enough points to lose them the game in less than five minutes against the Patriots. For some reason, it seems like the Jets are out to redeem themselves again… The Cardinals are still searching for a quarterback who is actually worthy of the name. Four picks from Ryan Lindley was very Sanchez-esq last week when they lost their seventh straight against the Rams. The key to this game is going to lie with whoever can get their running game going first. Believe it or not, this is something that the Jets will actually have an advantage in. Thus they are getting the nod in this game, but quite frankly nobody will be surprised if they come out and get crushed.
New York 15, Arizona 10
San Francisco 49ers @ St Louis Rams
The Niners may be heading into St Louis with a big thank you card. When these teams met in Week 10, the Rams injured Alex Smith which gave Colin Kaepernick a chance to take over at the quarterback position. Since then San Fran has looked unstoppable on offense and could be considered as the top team in the NFC. Remember the first time when the 49ers and Rams played, St Lois was up by two touchdowns when Smith left with a concussion. Kaepernick was able to lead his team back and put them in a position to try for a win. Of course, just by looking at their records one would know exactly how that game ended. Going out on a limb here, it is pretty safe to say that this game will not end in a tie. Jeff Fisher has his team playing well against others within the division, they are 3-0-1 against their NFC West rivals. Unfortunately for them the 49ers come into town on fire, and they are given the Herculean task of trying to douse the flames. That is not gonna happen. San Francisco should roll here, elevating their record to an impressive 9-2-1 on the season.
San Francisco 34, St Louis 24
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans
The Texans need to be careful here. They have been very lackadaisical in pass coverage during the past two weeks and they nearly lost to two teams that they should have beaten handily. With this being said, the extended week should do Houston some good. They played ten tough quarters of football over the course of five days and won both games. The team had to be exhausted after that brutal stretch. Now they get to go to Tennessee and take on the NFL’s wild card of the year team in the Titans. Mike Munchack’s crew is worthy of this moniker because they will be a team that can play surprisingly well one week (check their games vs. Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Miami) and then come out an fall flat on their face during other weeks (like last week against Jacksonville). This game could spell trouble for Matt Schaub and the Texans. If they don’t jump out to a lead, the Titans are going to win this game. Let’s call this one the massive upset of the week. Jake Locker is going to play the game of his career here and Tennessee is going to shock the world with a thin win over rival Houston.
Tennessee 24, Houston 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Denver Broncos
Tampa put up a fight against the 10-1 (now 11-1) Falcons. They took them right down to the wire with a back and forth 24-23 finish. This is odd because Matt Ryan only threw only six incompletions on 32 tries (for 353 yards). This tells one that the Buccaneers could have easily won this game had it not been for shoddy pass defense. Well, things do not get any better when they travel to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Denver has only lost at home once this year (against Houston) and are able to get into the hurry-up offense that Manning likes to run even better because of the noise level. Mike McCoy will get the looks he wants with the Buccaneers’ defense, but most people already know that it is Peyton who calls most of the shots in Mile High nowadays. The Tampa Bay defense may be gassed after a few possessions if the Broncos are able to move the ball effectively. Since Willis McGahee is out, Denver probably won’t be trying to run the ball a whole lot to start the game. Look for them to jump out to an early lead and for the defense to shut the door (courtesy of a big play from Von Miller or Elvis Dumerville).
Denver 37, Tampa Bay 33
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have gotta be licking their chops for this one. They will have a chance to sweep the Steelers for a second year in a row and all but guarantee themselves a division crown with a win at home on Sunday. But Pittsburgh has other plans in a Charlie Batch bowl. Hopefully this time the Steelers won’t turn the ball over eight times. If they do, this game will become a laugher fast. Todd Haley should have a decent game plan that works to Pittsburghs’ strength (without Big Ben)- and that is running the ball. If the Steelers can establish any kind of running game early, then they might have a chance. If not, then they will turn into the proverbial speed bump for Baltimore as they go flying into the playoffs with their eye on a first round BYE. It is going to be tough for Pittsburgh to down the Ravens in Baltimore. This is something that has not happened in almost two years (12/5/10) and it was against… the Steelers. The bottom line is that Joe Flacco and company do not lose at home. The possible return of Troy Palumalu could help a little bit, but it is unlikely that one player will drastically alter the outcome of a game. This one probably will not need another Ray Rice miracle to settle, but then again stranger things could happen. Baltimore should improve to 9-3 in this one though.
Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 9
Cleveland Browns @ Oakland Raiders
The Browns spanked the Steelers last week winning for only the second time against them in eight years. This should leave them feeling motivated as they travel west to take on the Raiders, who look like the same old disappointing team that fans have gotten used to over the years. Injuries have hurt the badly on offense, but much like the Eagles it is their defense that is the downfall of this team, not the other crippled units. The Raiders spent most of their time getting beat down by the Bengals last Sunday in a 34-10 loss. Since both teams are 3-8, this game wont mean anything besides building pride. Right now, the more prideful team has to be the Browns. They have been looking good lately, and play well enough to keep themselves in games. Cleveland should be able to win for the fourth time this season in Oakland in what should be a street-fight of a game. It will be one of those where each quarterbacks put up huge numbers but the scoreboard will read little change.
Cleveland 13, Oakland 6
Cincinnati Bengals @ San Diego Chargers
San Diego took a shot in the gut with a loss to Baltimore late in overtime last Sunday. Now they have to worry about a Bengal squad that seems to have hit its stride after ending their mid-season slump a few weeks ago. In the past, this game generally provided exciting action and was typically a close affair (as evidenced by scores of 27-24, 49-41, and 34-27). This game will probably not end up all that close. The Chargers will most likely come in and look like an uninspired bunch. It is almost impossible to not be a balloon that just lost all of its air after losing they way they did a week ago. Their playoff hopes vanished into thin air as well, leaving this game as one to help them finish out the year. Cincy should pick up its fourth straight win here as they have their eye on some January football vs. a team like New England or Denver.
Cincinnati 24, San Diego 7
Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
What more is there to say about the Eagles that hasn’t already been said? They cannot block the opposing defense, their defense can’t make a stop if their lives depended on it, and to make matters worse their offense is playing with only four of its original eleven opening day starters. Meanwhile, Dallas is looking like it could be heading for another December collapse. Hopefully for Tony Romo’s sake he is able to pull his team out of the slums and win a divisional game in the twelfth month of the year. DeMarco Murray is still listed a questionable for this game, and he will be a game-day decision. As for LeSean McCoy, his status is not quite so promising. He is listed as doubtful with a concussion. Bryce Brown was a nice surprise last week for Philly, but his two fumbles are something that have got to be a red flag with this guy. Any mistakes in this game and Dallas will end up winning. It is very hard to pick the Eagles to win anything with the way they have been playing lately, but it would be just like the Cowboys to lose a game at home in December to a team within the division that is struggling mightily. The Eagles should pull the upset here as Bryce Brown has another nice game. By the way, Tony Romo’s arm just might fall off if he has to throw over 40 passes in this game.
Philadelphia 10, Dallas 9
There will be a post breaking down the Giants/Redskins game as well as some thoughts and reactions to all of Sunday’s action in the near future. Stay tuned!