In a week where there were several tough match-ups and games that teams had to win, the NFL did not disappoint it’s fans one bit. Three teams scored 41 points to blitz their opponents in complete blowouts, those being the Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks. Who knew that the Bucs could put up that many points in a game? Especially in a divisional clash with the Atlanta Falcons. They’ll be thanking Bobby Rainey who had 3 total touchdowns on the day as well as rushing for 163 yards. Now obviously, the Bengals were actually down by 13 at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, but they rallied and scored massive 31 points before the half to not only set a franchise record but to swing momentum and eventually take the game. The Andy Dalton that won AFC player of the month was still nowhere to be seen though, luckily he’s got a bye week to sort himself out. One offence that did show up was the Buffalo Bills! 37 points against the Jets defence? Owch. Of course this was in no small part thanks to Geno Smith’s self-destruction and the effort from the Bills D to make him do so; 3 interceptions? 2 Fumbles? You’ll be hard-pushed to win with a performance like that. We had a great show from Big Ben against the Detroit Lions who despite all of the trade rumours went out there Sunday and took back the game for his team and led them to victory. Then, there was arguably the biggest game of the week, for the AFC fans at least, when the Kansas City Chiefs took on the Denver Broncos. What happened to the Chiefs defence? They barely touched Peyton Manning. So much for the team with the defence leading the NFL in sacks. Of course this led to a Broncos win and the last remaining undefeated team now has a little one in that column. Finally, Monday Night Football saw the New England Patriots controversially slip to defeat against the Carolina Panthers after the refs deemed a pass un-catchable and didn’t throw a pass interference flag. Something tells me that argument is going to go on for the next couple of days. Joy. Anyhow, the play-offs are looming, will your team be there? Let’s find out if they can help themselves on their way with this week’s previews and predictions.
Bye Weeks: Bills, Bengals, Eagles, Seahawks
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Well, the Saints just came out of the biggest game they’ve played so far with a win against the San Francisco 49ers so they’ll be feeling pretty good about this week’s Thursday Night Football. Drew Brees threw 305 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a game where the Saints had to overcome a 20-14 deficit as well as three turnovers(including a touchback after an interception, that was a shocker) and a failed fourth down conversion. But they did, that’s the important part. This was a record-setting game though as Marques Colston caught 5 passes for 80 yards to become the Saints’ all-time receiving leader with 7922. And now they face the ever-slumping Atlanta Falcons. To be honest if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can put up 41 points against the Falcons then I would expect a similar score from the Saints too. Especially if Matt Ryan continues to play this poorly, he’s thrown at least 2 interceptions in three out of his past 4 games. He had a Quarterback rating of 70.8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which was his 3rd lowest of the season. Something is going deeply wrong with the Atlanta Falcons, I know they’ve had injuries up and down the roster throughout the season but every team has to deal with that. It should not cause this kind of combustion. Besides, at least Roddy White is back on the field now and it’s not like Harry Douglas doesn’t have talent. Looks likes it’s just going to be one of those seasons for them. Brace yourselves, Falcons fans, Drew Brees is coming to town.
Prediction: Saints 34 – 21 Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions
Now, I don’t know about you, but I think it looks like this Buccaneers side has a bit of confidence about them. Recording two wins on the trot after losing the first 8 games of the season, I think they deserve it. They’re going to need to keep it up this week as they take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. The Bucs overall offence still ranks a lowly 28th in the league so I wouldn’t be fooled by the performances in the two victories but the Lions should certainly be wary at the very least. Meanwhile Matthew Stafford threw for 362 yards, two touchdowns and an interception to become the Lions’ all-time leading passer. But that display was more or less solely in the first half as Stafford disappeared for the final half hour of the game, completing 3 of 16 passes. It was a tale of two halves quite literally, and that will boost the Buccaneers prospects coming into this game. It also meant that the Lions have been winless in Pittsburgh for 58 years. Damn. Earlier in the season I would have said that this would be the perfect game for Stafford to bounce back with, but now, when the Bucs’ defence ranks 15th and is allowing total yardage of 341.7? I’m not quite so sure. Dashon Goldson has been suspended for this game though, which means the secondary will be without one of it’s primary leaders. I think this will be a lot closer than others expect it to be, even if it turns into a good old fashioned shootout.
Prediction: Buccaneers 21 – 27 Lions
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
I genuinely thought that the back-up would save the day against an inconsistent Giants team last Sunday. I was wrong. Tolzien threw for 339 yards and 3 interceptions without recording a single touchdown. The run game was nowhere to be seen either really, I know Lacy scored a touchdown, but 27 yards off 14 carries just isn’t good enough in the NFL. This meant that the Packers slipped to their 3rd straight loss; their longest streak since 2008. With an offence that has clearly lost it’s mojo without Aaron Rodgers it is quite possible that the Packers’ next game against the Vikings is much more up for contention than everyone imagined it to be at the beginning of the season. Yes, Minnesota got trashed by the Seahawks last week, but so what? Adrian Peterson got himself 65 yards against a tough run defence and I can see him excelling this week. To be honest, he probably has to if the Vikings want to consider themselves for winning this game as they simply cannot rely on Christian Ponder to make a difference at Quarterback. He threw 129 yards, a touchdown and 2 interceptions last Sunday. That kind of performance should be from a back-up, not from a first-string NFL QB. But we all know the turmoil surrounding the farce that is the Quarterback position in Minnesota this season, maybe this game is the game that Ponder will prove his critics wrong.
Prediction: Vikings 27 – 23 Packers
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
Okay, I officially have no idea what is going on with the Texans right now. I mean, pulling Keenum out of the game and replacing him with your starter/back-up, whatever the hell Schaub is to them these days? Keenum wasn’t even having a particularly poor game. He had 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception before Schaub took over. If you ask me, it just screams of desperation from the Houston coaching staff to avoid a loss to the Oakland Raiders. It didn’t work anyway. But it makes you wonder, who will they start against the Jaguars this week? Personally, I really hope they start Keenum, the guy deserves the shot. He’s played better than Schaub ever did this season. As for Jacksonville, they lost all momentum from week 10 and stalled offensively against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday. I don’t like their odds this week either. Despite all of the fuss over the Houston Texans offensively, people tend to forget that they still have the best defence in the league, at least yardage-wise as they only allow 286.1 per game. Not only that but they only allow 4.9 yards per passing attempt. I can’t say that Chad Henne will be looking forward to this match-up to, and in all honesty I would say you can expect another Cardinals-esque performance from him and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Those were the first touchdowns they’d scored at home by the way, can you believe that? Two struggling teams, only one can win, this one goes to Houston.
Prediction: Jaguars 10 – 17 Texans
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Well, well, well, David couldn’t beat Goliath after all. The Kansas City Chiefs dropped to their first defeat of the season, which makes this divisional clash all the more interesting as the Chargers will be wanting to take advantage of Kansas’ dip in confidence. Especially as San Diego lost against the Miami Dolphins in a close one last Sunday and slipped to 4-6 on the season. The Chargers will need to improve themselves offensively though, if they are going to take on the league’s most dangerous defence and survive, let alone win. San Diego were held without a touchdown in the final 3 quarters last Sunday. That kind of stop is huge. Philip Rivers will have to do better than 298 yards, a singular touchdown and an interception against a defence of this level. I think they’ll be wanting to make a re-appearance after the defeat to the Broncos, too. The Chiefs are still 9-1 mind you, they’re pretty much guaranteed a place in the play-offs, it’s just a matter of where. I wonder if this will make them get over-confident and complacent and if that is what made them disappear against the Broncos last week. I hope not, as this game could be quite entertaining with the Chargers trying to get back in the hunt, albeit they’d have to win most if not all of their remaining gamesw; but it could happen, this is football remember. I still have doubts about Alex Smith and the Kansas City offence too, I just don’t think they have enough to take too many more games if the defence becomes lax. We’ll just have to wait and see in the coming weeks.
Prediction: Chargers 17 – 23 Chiefs
Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins
Oh boy, five in a row huh? I still had doubts in the Carolina Panthers before Monday Night’s game against the Patriots, I really did. But now they’re 7-3, just about behind the Saints in the NFC South and they’re not stepping off the pedal yet. This game should be much easier work for Cam Newton, Steve Smith and company as the Dolphins offence has been misfiring and inconsistent. This is perfect for the Carolina Panthers as their defence ranks 3rd in the league and has been keeping their opponents to an average of 13.5 points and 294 yards per game. That’s less than two touchdowns a game! There’s only one other team in the league with that kind of statistic and they’re the Kansas City Chiefs so you know just how good this Panthers defence is. The Miami Dolphins have obviously had a lot of media coverage in the past couple of weeks surrounding Richie Incognito and his bullying of a fellow offensive-lineman. This has resulted in his suspension from play and with the injuries the Dolphins already have on the offensive line, Tyson Clabo and Mike Pouncey just a couple of the names there, Ryan Tannehill has become the most sacked Quarterback in the league this season. This does not bode well for the Dolphins, but it will be a test of their play-off capabilities as they currently sit 5-5. A win here would see them leapfrog the New York Jets and put them firmly back in the hunt.
Prediction: Panthers 24 – 10 Dolphins
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Both of these teams come into this game with a record of 4-6, however, they come in from very different match-ups this past Sunday. The Cleveland Browns were shut out by the Cincinnati Bengals for the entirety of the fourth quarter and weren’t allowed to get back into the game. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers, led by Ben Roethlisberger who threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns(two of which were in the final 5 minutes of the game) came back from a 7 point defecit to score 17 unanswered points. Roethlisberger had a Quarterback rating of 119.4 in the game against Detroit last week, if he can play like that against a Browns defence that has a superior secondary then this game surely has to go to the Steelers. I do think that Joe Haden will be saying otherwise though, the Cornerback picked off Andy Dalton twice last week and he will be fully intending to do the same to Big Ben. It’s not like he doesn’t have the ability to either in this Cleveland defence, they rank 5th in the league and despite allowing 23.8 points per game they have also allowed one of the lowest yardage averages with 306.5 as well as an astonishingly minuscule amount of 4.4 yards per pass. I can’t see the Browns getting blown out again this week, it’s just not their style and I have a feeling that Jason Campbell will be throwing better this week. 3 interceptions by the Steelers? Unlikely. This doesn’t mean that the Steelers won’t win though.
Prediction: Steelers 20 – 17 Browns
Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams
The Rams come off a bye week to face the Bears at home in week 12, personally I think they needed the bye week to sort out some inconsistencies with the passing offence but I think overall they will be content, I mean, their last game was the destruction of the Colts in week 10. The Bears on the other hand fought hard against the Baltimore Ravens to get a win in overtime. But it puts them in good stead as the Lions lost meaning that they sit nicely atop the NFC North with a 6-4 record. Despite the large delay in play due to harsh weather conditions at Soldier Field, and believe me the pitch looked disastrous to play on afterwards, Josh McCown managed to record 216 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Moreover, Matt Forte had a big day as he had 125 total yards and a TD. This is very positive for the Chicago Bears who will be travelling to the Edward Jones Dome this week, their offence has breached the top 10 now and ranks 9th in the NFL in 2013. St. Louis will have to hope they have prepared enough in the bye week to take on a momentous Chicago side, but I think the Rams have more to give than most people expect. Robert Quinn and Chris Long will certainly be hoping to introduce themselves to McCown on Sunday.
Prediction: Bears 27 – Rams 14
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens
Oh Geno. Geno, Geno, Geno. What are the Jets going to do with you? They pulled you from the end of the game last Sunday, does that mean there’s going to be yet another Quarterback dilemma in football this season? Hold on, it’s the Jets I’m talking about, of course there’s going to be a Quarterback dilemma. Actually, I think Tim Tebow wants his job back. Kidding aside, the Jets were absolutely disastrous against the Buffalo Bills in week 11 and they cannot possibly hope to achieve anything against a Baltimore Ravens team that has certainly looked improved in the past couple of weeks even if they did lose against Chicago. Flacco did throw two interceptions against the Bears mind you, that could be an issue against the Jets secondary. Or at least before last week you would have thought it would be. The Jets were torched, they really were. Even new signing Ed Reed couldn’t save them from the onslaught they suffered at the hands of E.J. Manuel after every turnover. One key thing for the Ravens last week was Ray Rice, he seemed to be the Ray Rice that made that ludicrous 4th and 37 against the Chargers last season after rushing for 131 yards as well as scoring a TD. The Ravens are going to need him to keep performing like that in coming weeks. This week would be a good place to start though. I just think the Jets are too much of a mess in several sections to be able to contain him.
Prediction: Jets 16 – 24 Ravens
Tennessee Titans at Oakland Raiders
Both of these teams have been struck with injury at Quarterback in the past couple weeks, but that didn’t stop the Raiders from winning on Sunday. Undrafted rookie Quarterback Matt McGloin threw 3 Touchdown passes and 197 in his first ever NFL start. He might have just won himself a starting job with that performance, don’t forget that the Raiders won the game too, something they haven’t done a whole lot of in 2013. The same could be said for the Tennessee Titans as both teams sit unhappily with 4-6 records on the season. The Titans haven’t looked quite the same since Jake Locker originally went down with an injury, ever since then there have been more and more turnovers(unlike their first four games in which there were none, funnily enough, they won them all) This might just end up being the McGloin and Jennings show again this week, especially as the turnovers just keep coming from the Titans – a muffed punt being one of the reasons they lost in a second-half overhaul by the Colts last Thursday. Jennings will likely have another scorcher, he averaged 6.8 yards per rush last week on 22 carries, that’s over one and a half times what is expected from a good NFL running back. Maybe the Titans will have something to say about that average though, they’ve been allowing 4.1 yards per carry.
Prediction: Titans 17 – 21 Raiders
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
The Colts pulled off yet another historic come-from-behind victory against the Titans on last week’s Thursday Night Football, I expect Andrew Luck will be thanking his ability in the clutch at this moment in time. Saying that, Luck failed to record a passing TD on the night and had to use his legs to gain a score as well as relying on Donald Brown who had 80 yards and 2 touchdowns off of 14 carries. The Cardinals will like that Andrew Luck didn’t have a fantastic performance, especially as his performance the week before was even worse. I don’t doubt that the Colts will beat the Cardinals mind you, Arizona may have the 9th ranked defence and may have a record of 6-4 but against a real play-off contender they will have much more trouble than they did last week against the Jags. The Cardinals were actually down by a touchdown at the end of the first quarter last Sunday, that was surprising. Naturally, Carson Palmer’s stats look better than usual due to the opposition he was throwing against so don’t expect him to throw another 400 yard game with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. In fact, expect him to play the complete opposite.
Prediction: Colts 27 – 14 Cardinals
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
The Dallas Cowboys return from their bye week to be de-throned from the lead of the NFC East and face a divisional rival in the shape of the in-form New York Giants. The Giants have won 4 games in a row now, most recently taking the scalp of the Green Bay Packers. But I wouldn’t suggest that the Cowboys should be overly concerned by it, after all, the Packers were playing without Aaron Rodgers. Now, this week, the Cowboys get the chance to do the double over the Giants and to position themselves at 6-5 on the season, tying up with the Philadelphia Eagles. Personally, I think that Dallas has been playing typical Dallas football and blowing so hot and cold that it is almost impossible to predict how this game will turn out as nobody knows which Cowboys are going to come out and play. Tony Romo had been playing reasonably well up until the past couple of weeks, even in losses he was maintaining decent yardage and a TD or two here and there. I wonder if we’ll see the same Cowboys that came out and gave the Broncos that massive game earlier in the season rather than the ones that were steam-rolled by the New Orleans Saints. As for the New York Giants, the defence has been stepping up greatly in the absence of killer Quarterback and offensively play with Jason Pierre-Paul securing an interception last week which helped stack points up against Green Bay. This could make all the difference as both teams face off in week 12.
Prediction: Cowboys 24 – 21 Giants
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
What did I say? The Broncos would topple the Chiefs and they did. There’s just too much raw power and proficiency in this Denver Bronco offence, even the running game is doing great. Peyton Manning threw for 323 yards and a TD against the Chiefs, by now, these stats just become average to him. Moreno and Ball teamed up to rush for a total of 104 yards while Ball scored 2 touchdowns. Everything in the Denver offence worked without much difficulty. This is what the New England Patriots can expect to happen this Sunday if they don’t start bucking their ideas up. Admittedly Brady did throw for nearly 300 yards and a touchdown but he also threw an interception on the last play of the game that caused his team to lose. Obviously, this wasn’t entirely his fault, his defence had allowed Cam Newton to throw 3 TDs on them, one of which coming with 59 seconds to go so I don’t blame him for the interception. I do think that Brady will have to score more when it comes to facing off against Peyton Manning though, which is what should be worrying for Patriots fans, can you really outscore the Denver Broncos? I highly doubt it.
Prediction: Broncos 31 – 23 Patriots
San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins
Let’s be honest, even though the 49ers lost to a last-second field goal attempt in week 11, they played as well as any other team has against the New Orleans Saints. Kaepernick had 2 touchdowns at the end of the game but there just wasn’t enough offensive yardage, the 49ers totalled less than 200. Thankfully for San Francisco, they face a Redskins side that has been allowing 389.9 yards and over 30 points per game. That tells you just how bad the Washington defence is right there. And it’s something that the 49ers will definitely be able to take advantage of. Though the Redskins did put up a fight last week(you could even argue that the 15 yards lost by the mis-fielded punt in the bottom of the 4th quarter was the reason they lost) I don’t think that they’ll have enough in the tank to be able to take on the 49ers and come out with a victory. I know the Niners haven’t been the best on either side of the ball in their past couple of displays but they just have that quality that Washington doesn’t. RGIII is still refusing to look after his body which doesn’t particularly help as it means he is likelier to get hurt and well, he probably has already knocked himself about a bit too much. There is one question I have of him this season, why is he playing so poorly in the first half and then when crunch time hits he suddenly starts scoring even though it’s too late? Unfortunately, he’s still turning over the ball when crunch time hits too.
Prediction: 49ers 28 – 20 Redskins