The Texans have been an epic fail this season, losing their last ten games after starting the year with Super Bowl aspirations. The Jaguars lost their first eight games, but have taken three of their last four games and showed some pride despite little talent. The Texans gave the Patriots all they could handle at home last week, but lost to the Jaguars the previous week and now in a rematch they need a win to avoid falling into the abyss. The pride they showed Sunday appears again as the Jaguars who have yet to win at home continue their struggles in front of their home fans.
After struggling most of the season, the defending champion Ravens are making a late push for the playoffs and have made it back to .500 at 6-6 which currently has them in the sixth spot in the AFC. The Vikings meanwhile off two straight overtime games are in a state of flux at quarterback, which has symbolized their entire season. Going on the road it won’t matter who the Vikings start under center as the Ravens will be able to contain Adrian Peterson and climb back over .500 for the first time since Week 5.
Two first place teams meet with each looking to get a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The Bengals come in off a strong road win in San Diego, while the Colts come in struggling over the last four games. The Colts have had trouble ever since the injury to Reggie Wayne and now face a Bengals team that is unbeaten at home. Despite their 8-4 record the Colts have often got off to slow starts, and have been able to overcome it, thanks to Andre Luck’s ability. However, against a strong team like the Bengals falling behind will lead to a loss. The Bengals defense should be up to the task as the Colts back into a division championship.
The Packers had hoped Aaron Rodgers would be able to play in this game. However, right now that does not look likely as he has yet to be cleared to play. Since Rodgers got hurt the Packers have gone winless, as three different quarterbacks have all looked terrible. The Falcons finally ended their losing streak last week and though their season is all but over at 3-9 they seem to be determined to finish strong after their comeback win over the Bills last week. Without Rodgers the Packers just look lost and even at Lambeau Field it is hard to pick them in this game.
With both Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden recovering from concussions the Browns have signed Caleb Hanie in case neither is able to start. I guess a certain Twitter Browns fan needs another nameplate for his next Twitter post. This one has the potential to be ugly. No matter who throws him the ball Josh Gordon may be able to have a big game, but it likely won’t be enough as the Patriots are always able to capitalize on mistakes and no matter who the Browns start there will be plenty of mistakes. Meanwhile Tom Brady has found his groove and should be able to carve up the Browns at Foxboro.
Ever since the Jets beat the Saints and stood at 4-3 during the bye week it has been one big struggle for Gang Green. To say Geno Smith has been awful would be an understatement as the Jets second round draft pick has gotten progressively worse as the season has gone on, not throwing a Touchdown pass in November and completing just four passes before being benched last week. Smith is starting again, but look for a quick hook if the struggles continue; meanwhile undrafted Rookie Matt McGloin has done a good impersonation of a quarterback in his two starts with the Raiders. I see McGloin continuing his strong play as the boo birds are out in the Meadowlands.
Don’t look now, but Nick Foles is the hottest quarterback in the NFL with 19 touchdowns and no interceptions. Foles has played the Eagles right into playoff contention at 7-5 with four straight wins since taking over as starting quarterback. The Lions are also 7-5 and in first place in the North, but they have tripped over themselves along the way often being forced to overcome as many as three or more turnover per game. In the NFL when you have two even teams the result comes down to who makes the fewer mistakes and right now that team is the Eagles.
It is hard to believe that these two teams are still in playoff contention, after the troubles they have gone through. The Dolphins troubles are well documented, while the Steelers have dealt with an unhappy Ben Roethlisberger. For once the Dolphins offensive line is the stronger unit as the Steelers line has been decimated by injury. The return of Mike Wallace should bring the ire of the fans at Heinz Field and after a slow start the Wide Receiver has been playing strong as of late, one would expect to see a big game against his former teammates as the Dolphins stay in the race while the Steelers face away.
Despite their loss last week the Buccaneers have been playing good football as of late, winning three in a row after their 0-8 start. The Buccaneers have gotten solid efforts on defense with Lavonte David becoming one of the league’s top pass rushers, as Mike Glennon has not been terrible at quarterback. The Bills meanwhile blew a tire in Toronto, fumbling twice late in the game as the lost to the Falcons in overtime. A demoralizing loss like that is bad for a young team that was just on the outside of playoff contention.
After starting 9-0, the Chiefs have stumbled and lost three straight games. Two of the losses came against the Denver Broncos, seriously hurting their chances to win the AFC West. The Redskins meanwhile are a mess, Robert Griffin III, has been awful and the Red Skins defense which has allowed at least 24 in 11 of 12 games has been worse. This is the perfect get back on track game for the Chiefs, even though it is on the road. The Chiefs should be able to put up big points against the Redskins defense, while RGIII will have trouble with the Chiefs defense, this one will be a blowout.
After missing four games following heart surgery, Coach John Fox returns to the Broncos sideline with his team controlling its own destiny to get home field in the playoffs. In his absence the Broncos had perhaps their toughest stretch with two games against the Chiefs sandwiched around a trip to Foxboro. Other than their second half collapse the Broncos emerged in strong shape and one has to believe they will get a big boost with Fox’s return. Look for Peyton Manning to have another big day as the Titans continue to miss Quarterback Jake Locker.
Both these NFC West teams came back to earth last week after making a November surge. At 7-5 the Cardinals stand in better shape for the playoff race, but the Rams would like nothing more to play the role of spoiler. The Rams won the first meeting in Week 1, but the Cardinals have been strong at home. The Cardinals also played well despite their loss in Philadelphia while the Rams looked like the team that could not win in October. The Cardinals strong secondary should keep Tavon Austin n check and that will be enough to get the win.
In the 2004 NFL Draft the Chargers picked Eli Manning with the first overall draft pick. However, Eli Manning made it clear that he would not sign with the Chargers, the Giants would quickly broker a deal, sending several picks including Philip Rivers chosen with the fourth pick to bring Eli to New York. Manning has won two Super Bowls with the Giants, but Rivers has been a consistent All-Pro in San Diego. The fans in San Diego have not forgotten Eli’s slight and they will be anything but classy as the Giants come to town. In two meetings since the draft the Chargers have made life miserable for Eli and I see that trend continuing as the Chargers keep their faint hopes alive.
At 11-1 the Seahawks have clearly been the best team in the league, creating an intimidating presence at home thanks to the tough physical defense. The Seahawks already beat the 49ers at home and can clinch the division with a win on Sunday, but in this league things are not that easy. The 49ers have been playing the type of football that sent them to the Super Bowl last year in the last two weeks and still would like something to say in who is the best in the NFC. It can be argued that the 49ers are the second best team in the NFC and a win here could set up a playoff showdown with a trip to the Meadowlands on the line.
After being exposed in Seattle the Saints find themselves in an even bigger game with first place on the line against the Panthers. The Panthers come in with eight straight wins and are playing their best football in franchise history with their defense being one of the best in the NFL. However, the Saints offense is nearly unstoppable at home as the fast track at the Superdome and home field crowd has turned the Superdome into the house of horrors for NFC South foes. Look for the Saints who have more experience in these big primetime games. to be the one who exposes the Panthers this time around.
At 6-6 the Bears are teetering on the edge of falling out of the playoff, it has been up and down all year as the Bears have been bitten by the injury bug. The Cowboys meanwhile have won two straight and are stepping up in their efforts to win the NFC East. This one should be a game that Cowboys can win easily, but that is the lament of the Cowboys should, could and will are three different things. Alshon Jeffrey has been red hot as of late and the Cowboys secondary is vulnerable to allowing big games. This has all the makings of a Cowboys let down on Monday Night.