Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger get to face each other as the unstoppable New York Giants host the improving Pittsburgh Steelers, while the undefeated Atlanta Falcons have a Sunday night date against the turnover-prone Tony Romo and Dallas Cowboys and the AFC’s Best, the Houston Texans, will have a big rushing battle against the Buffalo Bills.
Denver Broncos (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-4), 1:00 PM
Simplest way to predict this? Peyton Manning has never lost to the Cincinnati Bengals. With the Broncos defense vastly improving over the course of the season, Andy Dalton’s struggles of late should mean that this is going to be an easy one for Denver. If Dalton keeps his interception rate at this level (one per 14.4 attempts under blitzes), it’s going to be an easy one for the Broncos.
Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-6), 1:00 PM
Cleveland haven’t won against the Ravens since 2007, and Baltimore, despite the heavy loss to the Texans and losing Ray Lewis to injury, aren’t a team known to fall into pits of despair and losing streaks. The Browns run defense isn’t among the best in the league, and this should mean Ray Rice will be getting plenty of touches. For the Browns, using Trent Richardson is pretty much the only option.
Arizona Cardinals (4-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-3), 1:00 PM
While the Cardinals have a strong defense that can make Aaron Rodgers look less terrific this week after throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the three game winning streak. The problem for the Cardinals: Unable to protect the quarterback and absolutely no running game, finishing with only seven yards last week. The games between these two tend to be high scoring affairs, but the Cardinals struggle putting points on the board while the Packers are a more subdued bunch this year.
Chicago Bears (6-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-4), 1:00 PM
Chris Johnson has rushed for 385 yards and two TDs on 58 carries in the last three games; Matt Hasselbeck has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 931 yards with four TDs and two INTs while going 2-2 as a starter in place of the injured Jake Locker. Still, the best defense in the nation, who is responsible for 41 points so far this season, is probably going to be too much for the only two good things about the Titans. Jay Cutler and his slumping offense have a good chance to kick-start their season against a defense that allows 421 yards per game.
Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Indianapolis Colts (4-3), 1:00 PM
Teams have found a way to limit Reggie Bush, who hasn’t run for more than 60 yards since September, but the Dolphins are winning because of a stingy run defense and surprising play at quarterback, first with Ryan Tannehill and last week with Matt Moore. The Colts have been very good at home, mostly due to the turnover problem featuring mostly on their road trips. A lot will depend on how Andrew Luck handles the blitz packages Miami love to use.
Carolina Panthers (1-6) at Washington Redskins (3-5), 1:00 PM
Despite all of the compliments, Robert Griffin III isn’t leading the Redskins to the postseason. Not a good enough defense. But the Redskins have a fantastic running game; mostly because of Griffin himself, averaging 6.8 yards per carry, and also thanks to Alfred Morris with 717 yards so far this season. The Panthers, despite their record, are close in every game they play except for the week 3 loss to the Giants. Cam Newton needs to stop acting like a superman and do everything himself if the five game losing streak is to stop somewhere.
Detroit Lions (3-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6), 1:00 PM
The Jaguars surprised many people by actually putting up a fight against the Packers, despite not having Maurice Jones-Drew. They even gained more yards, but turnovers, dropped passes and having a punt blocked doomed them once again. Against the pass-only Lions, they’ll have to be at the same defensive level as last week to have a chance to win.
Buffalo Bills (3-4) at Houston Texans (6-1), 1:00 PM
Any chance at all for the Bills? The Bills actually have a ground game that can match with the Texans’ Arian-Foster led attack, but Houston are fantastic against rushers, limiting them to 83 yards. If the Bills, who can’t stop the run (allow 177 yards per game) can get on the board first and force Houston to go mostly to Matt Schaub, they have a chance.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) at Oakland Raiders (3-4), 4:05
A game that will be decided on run efficiency and red zone defense/offense. The Bucs have Doug Martin, who has huge against the Minnesota Vikings on week 8, but now have lost Carl Nicks for the season, which will make their ground game much tougher to establish. The Raiders, averaging only 85 yards per game, are hoping Darren McFadden will pick up where he left off in last week’s win over the Chiefs. A big key will be executing in the red zone, where they’ve been one of the worst in the NFL with 8 of 23. The Bucs are fifth in the NFL in opponent’s red-zone TD percentage at 38.1 percent.
Minnesota Vikings (5-3) at Seattle Seahawks (4-4), 4:05
The Seahawks are undefeated at home, where their physical defensive style goes along wonderfully with their fantastic fans. Russell Wilson feels much better in CenturyLink Field. Both teams love to run the football through Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, both with over 750 yards this season so far. The key will be if the Seahawks can keep their excellent run defense (allowing 85 yards per game) and if both quarterback can manage to shake their struggles of completing big plays.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) at New York Giants (6-2), 4:25
It is just the 7th time in NFL regular season history that two multi-Super Bowl winning QB will face off. The last time also involved Ben Roethlisberger, beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots last season. The Giants keep winning despite long stretches of producing nothing on offense and creating no stops on defense.
Still, they won, thanks to a few inches, against the Cowboys last week. For the Steelers, they’ve finally been able to establish a running game over the last few weeks, and consistency is going to be the key for both teams in this one. If Manning doesn’t have a bi-polar like performance, the Giants are hard to catch. If there won’t be any balance, the Steelers running game will prove to be the key in this one.
Dallas Cowboys (3-4) at Atlanta Falcons (7-0), 8:20 PM
A real must win for the Dallas Cowboys before the NFC East crown and the postseason becomes nothing but a forgotten dream. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Tony Romo has been intercepted 13 times this season, and despite an impressive comeback against the Giants last week and a good game against the Ravens previously, he’s going to have to start trying to make something out of nothing each time he is under pressure. The Falcons are harder to figure out, but Matt Ryan’s efficiency and big defensive plays in the fourth quarter seems to be the connecting link.
Interesting fact: Dallas has won its last three games against opponents that were 7-0 or better at the time of the game going back to 1991, with two of those victories coming on the road. Even stranger is that each of those teams rebounded from suffering their first loss to the Cowboys and went on to win the Super Bowl that season.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (2-5), Monday Night Football, 8:30 PM
There’s no controversy surrounding the Saints’ players (at the moment). It’s all about a terrible defense that can’t stop the pass or the run, allowing 475 yards per game and is unable forcing turnovers and getting to the quarterback. Michael Vick will get another chance to prove he can have a game that combines good passing numbers and a minimal turnovers output, with his spot at quarterback in danger, not to mention Andy Reid’s job.