In these days of quick scoring passing games, shutouts have become rare in the NFL. The Rams have shutout their last two opponents, something they have not done since they were the Cleveland Rams in 1945. The Cardinals ended a two game skid last week, but their offense is stuck in neutral with Larry Fitzgerald hobbled and Drew Stanton playing for Carson Palmer. The Cardinals defense has also been solid, but the Rams at home with a chance to get to .500 will be at the top of their game to get the win.
The AFC North has been historically good, with all teams strongly above .500, and the NFC South has been historically bad with all teams well below .500. No surprise the two divisions have crossed over and played each other all season, with the North dominating with an 11-2-1 record. Strangely both NFC South wins have come against the Steelers in Heinz Field. This game will be in the Georgia Dome, and the Falcons defense has no ability to stop the versatile Steelers offense, if they are to win they must do so with their offense, and close games usually don’t favor the Falcons.
The Ravens scored a big win in Miami last week, putting themselves in prime playoff position, especially with the loss of the Bengals. Coming home they must be on guard for a letdown against a terrible Jaguars team. The Ravens got a good passing game and a strong enough pass rush to make life miserable for Blake Bortles, who tends to make mistakes when his team is trailing, creating an ever deepening hole for his players.
The NFL is often a game of highs and lows. Teams can look unbeatable one week and the next look like a team that needs a top ten draft pick. Sometimes teams can get too high and full of themselves that a slice of humble pie is not a bad thing, especially as the playoffs approach. The Packers have become the team to beat in the NFC and Aaron Rodgers is on his way to a MVP season. However, the Bills got a defense that is capable of slowing good teams, and with a bounce here and there can get the win at home, especially with the Packers coming off an exhaustive Monday Night Game and looking ahead.
The Panthers are coming off their best game of the season, beating the Saints 41-10 in the Superdome. However, on Tuesday the Panthers may have suffered a back breaking injury as Quarterback Cam Newton was injured in a car accident. The Panthers did beat the Buccaneers in the season opener with Derek Anderson under center, and the Bucs have been especially awful. However, if one thing can be said about the putrid NFC South is every good game is followed up but a clunker and the Panthers will deliver a clunker with the Buccaneers earning a third win on the season.
It’s the most anticipated start of the season, as Johnny Manziel gets the call against the Bengals. When these two teams met last month the Browns defense gave Andy Dalton nightmares in Cincinnati. Just because the quarterback has changed does not mean the Bengals can solve the Browns defense. This is a big game of pride for the Browns who can clinch at least a .500 season and stay in the playoff chase all while putting a sting on their rivals within the Buckeye State.
One of Houston’s biggest problem since getting the Texans as an expansion team is their AFC South rivalry with the Colts. The Texans have been in the NFL since 2002 and have not won a game in Indianapolis. This includes the year in which the Texans won the AFC South and the Colts went 2-14 as they sucked for Luck. Andrew Luck is already one of the best quarterbacks in the AFC and can secure the Colts a second straight division title with a home win. In addition, look for another big day from T.Y. Hilton, who the Texans just can’t figure how to stop.
Since beating the Seahawks at home the Chiefs have been reeling, losing to the previously winless Raiders and to the Broncos at home. The Chiefs played slightly better against the Cardinals last week, but came up short again, as their inability to get their receivers involved has caught up with them. It is hard to imagine they can lose twice to the woeful record, especially since a loss Sunday will seal their fate. There is too much pride in this team and they will make a stand to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Miami Dolphins love to be in the middle of the pack, since their fluke 2008 division title the Dolphins have finished 7-9 or 8-8 every year but one. This is a fate worse than being terrible as you never get the playoffs and never get a good draft. The Dolphins are on target again for mediocrity. They did beat the Patriots in Week 1, but head to Foxboro with a banged up secondary. The Patriots being the bullies they are will go out and look to humiliate the Phins and end any hope for Miami to get to the playoffs in the most brutal way possible.
Last week we learned the Giants have some fight left as they destroyed the Titans, while the Redskins showed they are a lost cause in a shutout loss to the Rams. The Redskins quarterback situation is a mess. Kirk Cousins had his chance and failed, while Colt McCoy after looking good in his first few starts again looked like the real Colt McCoy against the Rams. Robert Griffin III continues to struggle and has been isolated by his teammates so much he has taken to playing by himself at the end of practice.
The Charges have been able to keep Peyton Manning from having a big game, but have not had much success in beating the Broncos over the last few years. The Broncos have been involving C.J. Anderson more and more with great success and could be on the verge of becoming a more rounded versatile team that is harder to beat. With the division title in reach I see the Broncos continuing to fee Anderson who helps open more lanes for Manning to get another win on the road.
This game is on the schedule and therefore must be played, but with both teams at 2-11 and in desperate need of a quarterback you can almost have a sense this will be a game of here I insist you take it. The Jets have at least showed some pride with solid performances in losses to the Dolphins and Vikings the last two weeks. The Titans meanwhile have used a book of stamps to mail in their performances as of late.
With teams tightly bunched at the top of the NFC Wild Card hunt any slip up could be the difference between a playoff berth and sitting home and watch a terrible team NFC South team in the playoffs, as you sit home with ten wins. The Lions have a tough finish with their final two games on the road against division opponents. With this being their last home game, they must get a win and they do, as the Lions defense will again give rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater fits.
The 49ers season did not end on Thanksgiving with a loss at home to the Seahawks nor did it end last week against the Woeful Raiders. Their season ended last off-season when they discussed trading Coach Jim Harbaugh, despite immense success in his first three season. The locker may support their coach, but the talk of such deal completely undercut his authority. Add the fact that their defense has dealt with injuries and Colin Kaepernick has been awful and you have a team in need of changes. The 49ers even when at their best have trouble in Seattle, the Seahawks have been on the rise and you have the makings of a blowout.
The NFC East is on the line as both teams come in with identical 9-5 records The Eagles laid a hurtin’ on the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but Dallas is unbeaten on the road. The Eagles themselves are coming off a home loss to the Seahawks. The Eagles defense was able to solve the Cowboys line and harass Tony Romo all day. I see more of the same, though the game will be much closer as the Eagles win by a late Field Goal.
Just how bad has the Bears defense been? Dick Butkus has begun spinning in his grave and he aint dead yet. The Saints have been a mystery as of late, losing four in a row at home and winning two straight on the road. With their season on the brink for Brees and the Saints to deliver a Monday Night win as the heat continues to rise against Jay Cutler and the Chicago Chipmunks.