Last week as they were getting thumbed 41-28 by the Buccaneers it became apparent that the Falcons had quit on the season. When a team goes from 13-3 and starts 2-8 it is hard to fight the urge to quit, and with the season all but over in Atlanta the Falcons may just mail in the rest of the season. However, one team can still bring out there best and that is the Saints who come to the Georgia Dome on Thursday. The Falcons should be able to keep it close and put a scare in the Saints, but in the end Drew Brees will have the answers as the Falcons red zone failures get in the way of an upset.
The Jets trend of alternating wins and losses continued last week, as they came up with a stinker in Buffalo. Despite the loss, the Jets remained in playoff position as eight teams are within one game of the sixth seed. The Ravens last year’s Super Bowl Champions are one of those eight teams hanging in there at 4-6, a tough loss in Chicago last week makes this home game a must win. To get the win the Ravens will turn on the pressure on Geno Smith, who is looking more and more like rookie project than a franchise quarterback as there alternating result trend ends with a two game losing streak.
With both teams at 4-6 this may be the biggest Browns-Steelers game in years, as the winner will still be in the playoff chase while the loser slips into critical condition. The Steelers coming off an embarrassing loss in Foxboro have won two straight and have everyone in the Steel city ready for the playoffs, but the problems that have existed all season are still there and the Browns underrated defense will take advantage of the Steelers flaws on the offensive like to make for a rough day for Ben Roethlisberger.
The Buccaneers have gotten off the deck with two straight home wins, but now they face a much tougher task with a trip to Detroit. The Lions last week lost their grip on first place as QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson disappeared after a record breaking first half. The problem could have been with the rain conditions in Pittsburgh, but indoors that will not be an issue as the Lions get back on track and go into Thanksgiving with a head of steam, as they beat the Bucs easily.
Two NFC North teams come in desperately needing a win, with huge question marks at quarterback. Since the loss of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers offense has been stuck in the mud, as third stringer Scott Tolzien has played like a third string quarterback, while Vikings starter Christian Ponder has also played like a third stringer. The Packers should get the benefit of a home crowd and will need a superior effort by their defense to keep their playoff hopes alive with a win over the Vikings.
When does a team on an eight game losing streak get listed as a ten point favorite? When they play the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that twice this year was 20 point underdogs. The Texans clearly should win this game, and if they don’t chances are they will not be favored at any point the rest of the season. At 2-8 the Texans are one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL, but a loss here would make them one of the worst teams in the NFL and there is too much talent for that.
The Chiefs suffered their first setback of the season losing to the Broncos in Denver. With a rematch against the Broncos at Arrowhead next week, the Chiefs need to battle the urge to look ahead as they face the Chargers this week. The Chargers come in with three straight losses and are again, playing in the early game, where they usually struggle. I expect a strong game from the Chiefs defense as they get back on track for the battle with the Broncos II.
The Dolphins got somewhat back on track last week with a win over the Chargers, but now they have their work cut out for them as they face one of the hottest teams in the league in the Panthers. The Panthers won their sixth straight game on Monday Night by holding off the Patriots. The Panthers defense has been one of the best in the league, allowing just one first half touchdown in their first ten games. With the Dolphins offensive line still a mess they will be lucky to score one in the second half as well.
When the Rams last played two weeks ago, Tavon Austin had a breakout game as they steamrolled the Colts. The worst thing for a team off a game like that is the bye week. The Bears come in with Josh McCown starting for the fourth time in five games. McCown has actually played better than starting Quarterback Jay Cutler, as Coach Marc Trestman’s system has been made to order. With the Bears defense playing well and McCown getting wins I see the trend continuing in St. Louis.
Last year when Colts Coach Chuck Pagano was undergoing treatment for Leukemia, Bruce Arians stepped in and won Coach of the Year as the Colts made the playoffs. Arians as the offensive coordinator knows most of Andrew Luck’s tendencies. Arians has done a solid job this season as coach of the Cardinals, but it is their defense that has excelled. With some pointers from Arians, I see the Cardinals defense being able to shutdown Luck and the Colts defense to get another win at home.
Last week Raiders rookie Matt McGloin showed himself to be a more than capable backup as he led them to a road win over the Texans, which earned this week’s start. The same cannot be said for Titans backup Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick who has yet to win any of his starts this year. The Titans going on the road see hope begin to fade as McGloin has another solid game for the silver and black.
After their 0-6 start the Giants were all but dead and buried, but one sliver of a hope remained as the NFC East as a whole was struggling with mediocrity. The Cowboys are the best of the bunch on paper and have so far won all three division games. The Giants have all but guaranteed victory, saying there will be blood. The only problem is the blood will be theirs as the Cowboys send the Giants back to reality and establish they are the team to beat in the NFC East.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have had their share of classic showdowns, and once again in primetime the two premiere quarterbacks of the last decade meet. The Broncos offense has been red hot all season, while the Patriots lacking in receivers have had their struggles. Wes Welker is scheduled to make his return to Foxboro with the Broncos, if he passes the concussion testing. The Broncos will win the game and it will be another thriller as Welker catches the game winning pass.
In his second season Colin Kaepernick has struggled throwing the ball as the 49ers have not had their full complement of receivers all season. At 6-4 and off a two game losing streak the 49ers are in trouble of not even making the playoffs. The Redskins meanwhile at 3-7 are unraveling and fighting among themselves. The Redskins defense has been terrible all season, as they have allowed at least 24 points in nine of ten games. This is the game where Kaepernick gets back on track and the 49ers get a win.