The Lions have started to get their season somewhat on track with wins over the Packers and Lions, while the Eagles are in a tail spin, with finger pointing and fans wanting Chip Kelly to go back to school. However, before Coach Kelly completes the triple lindy I see the Eagles getting back on track. Sam Bradford has been cleared to practice and after Mark Sanchez stunk it up last week I see Bradford getting back on the field. The Lions did not exactly set the world on fire in their last two wins and always seem to have a Thanksgiving let down. Just think if not for John Adams we could be watching the Philadelphia Turkeys and eating eagle for Thanksgiving.
The Panthers are due for a loss, they have proven they are worthy of their 10-0 record, but they are not a flawless team and will be better for it. The Panthers don’t need the extra pressure of that unbeaten record going forward, all they need to do is focus on securing home field and winning from there. The Cowboys meanwhile know they can’t afford another loss at 3-7. Last week Tony Romo returned and ended their losing streak. The Cowboys are in fact 3-0 when Romo plays so they are in a sense unbeaten themselves. At home on Thanksgiving I think we see the Cowboys at their best as the Panthers on a short week struggle on the road.
The Packers finally stopped the bleeding and regained control of the NFC North with an impressive win on the road against the red hot Vikings. That Sunday on television in the McDonalds ad Mike Ditka got a Bears sticker and chucked off the Green Bay sweater. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Facing their arch rivals for the first time ever on Thanksgiving and the retiring Brett Favre’s number with an ailing Bart Starr on hand. It just seems like an impossible scenario for the Bears. I sense the Packers get it going early and never look back carried by emotion they win this one going away and begging to focus on becoming the Super Bowl contender they should be.
What has happened to the Falcons? This team was 5-0 and now at 6-4 they are reeling and coming off some inexcusable losses. Losing to the Buccaneers at home, the 49ers with Blaine Gabbert and blowing a 14-point lead to the Colts without Andrew Luck. The logical pick is the Vikings, but this season has been anything, but logical. The Vikings have played well all season at 7-3, but are coming off a bad loss at home to the Packers. The feeling here is that the young Vikings may have a hangover from last week and will come in flat. The Falcons meanwhile, finding a sense of desperation get a big game from Julio Jones and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Andy Dalton beware Gregg Williams has the Rams defense aimed at you. Winning seems to be secondary for the Rams as their defense looks like bounties are alive and well claiming bodies left and right. It is just too bad that they can count their own quarterback Case Keenum who did not know what day of the week it was when he was allowed back on the field with a concussion. More on this scandal later. The bottom line is the Rams quarterback situation is so bad that they rather have a woozy Keenum than a healthy Nick Foles. The Bengals with two straight losses should get back on track in this one.
Don’t look now but here come the Texans. After struggling in the early going the Texans now look like a playoff team. Since having their doors blown off in Miami the Texans have won three straight and are in line to climb over .500 for the first time all season. The Saints coming off a bye are going in the opposite direction. Their defense can’t stop a pop warner team, and the firing of Rob Ryan will do little to improve things. Ryan was not the problem; the issue is the lack of talent on defense. The Texans defense meanwhile has plenty of talent and should make the game a living nightmare for Drew Brees.
When Jameis Winston was born Matt Hasselbeck was a senior in high school getting set to go to Boston College. When Hasselbeck was drafted in 1998, Winston was in pre-school. The two will face off this week and it will be back to school for the Buccaneers rookie. The Bucs are playing well but tough road games still lie ahead. The Colts are a surprising 3-0 with their 40-year old back up and 40 is a magic number. The Colts still think they can make some noise in the playoff especially if they can get Andrew Luck healthy and with their coach trying to save his job I see the Colts bring their game up a notch to win at home.
Don’t look now but the Jaguars have a chance in the AFC South. At 4-6 they are just one game back of the Texans and Colts, and are playing their best football in years. Winners of three of their last four the Jags could get their first three game winning streak in two years by beating the Chargers. Now the Jaguars still have many holes, and most of their wins have come against inferior opposition. The Chargers are inferior opposition. The Chargers coming in with six straight losses and a 2-8 record have the look of a team that has simply quit. They did not even try last week losing to the Chiefs 33-3. With rumors of a move to L.A. and team disharmony the Chargers could possibly lose out at this point.
There is no denying it the Chiefs are sizzling hot. With four straight wins any talks of a meaningless season are long gone as they are back in the playoff race at 5-5. With a win on Sunday they can climb above .500. The Chiefs have not only won their last four games they are destroying their opponents coming off blowout wins over the rival Broncos and Chargers on the road. The Bills come in off a Monday Night loss in Foxboro and have to be concerned about Quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Late in the game, Taylor appeared to hurt his shoulder and had nothing on his ball trying to tie the game. Right now it looks as if Taylor would play, but that may be more because E.J. Manuel is awful than Taylor is strong enough to beat the Chiefs on the road.
This AFC East rivalry has had some crazy results lately. Since 2008 the Dolphins have won seven of eight games at the Meadowlands. The Jets meanwhile have been just as successful in Miami, making this a road field advantage series. The Dolphins despite a letdown against the Cowboys have played better since meeting the Jets in London with Joe Philbin meeting his waterloo. The Jets have not, losing four of five and having serious health issues. The Jets could be without Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold. The injury to Mangold is the bigger concern as the Jets offense has been grounded without him. The Dolphins keep what little playoff hopes they had alive with another win before angry Jets fans and chuckling Dolphins fans.
Just three weeks ago the Raiders had playoff dreams dancing in their heads, as they were 4-3 and on an upswing. However, too many trips East have begun to unravel those dreams. Playing at 1:00 for the third time in four weeks, the Raiders should be getting used to the early starts but they are still a young team on offense and an old team on defense, which does not help in either direction. The Titans have their problems, but one is not at quarterback, as Marcus Mariota has showed he has the ability to win in the NFL if the Titans can find the pieces to put around him. He has yet to win before his home fans, playing a Raiders teams uncomfortable with an early start that ends here.
This game could go a long way in deciding the muddled NFC East. The Redskins are solid at home, with a 4-1 record at FedEx Field. The Giants are the leaders of the pack at 5-5 and coming off a heart breaking loss to the Patriots and a bye. The Redskins if they are to have any hope of all of winning the division must beat the Giants at home. However, the Giants have dominated the Redskins in recent years, winning 15 of their last 19 meetings. The Giants have played well in Washington and the Redskins defense has been suspect at best. The only chance the Redskins have is for Kirk Cousins to outgun Eli Manning. That will not happen, look for big games from Manning and Bekham as the Giants maintain control of the NFC Least.
The Cardinals can smell it. At 8-2 they are clearly one of the top teams in the NFC and can be a bonafide Super Bowl contender as long as they remain healthy. Carson Palmer has been rejuvenated in the desert and has the Cardinals flying high after back-to-back Sunday Night wins. The 49ers on the other hand are a mess. They have given up on Colin Kaepernick, Jim Tomsula looks absolutely lost at coach and the entire origination is in shambles. Amazing for a team that just two years ago made three straight trips to the NFC Championship Game.
Two teams on the edge meet in Seattle, hoping to keep their seasons alive. The Seahawks have not gotten over their Super Bowl loss yet, and have played mediocre football all season, while the Steelers have gone through the ringer with injuries. This game is in Seattle and the Seahawks should have the 12th man advantage, it is their third attempt to get over .500 and as they say third time is a charm. The Steelers despite coming off a bye week must be concerned about the health of Ben Roethlisberger. With the Seahawks defense and crowd noise it could be a long day for Big Ben as the Seahawks keep their playoff hopes alive.
Has any team had an easier schedule than the Patriots? They have eight games against the two worst divisions in the NFL, a gaggle of mediocrity. They faced the Steelers at home without their top running back, and now on the road they face the Broncos and no Peyton Manning, instead they face Brock Osweiler. Brock Osweiler, is one of the quarterbacks that belong with a hat on the sidelines. The Broncos defense will give Brady fits, but Osweiler’s pop gun arm the Patriots will remain unbeaten. Sadly, it is the Broncos best option because Peyton Manning appears to be done.
The Ravens have had a nightmare season with even more horror than an Edgar Allen Poe story. Close heart wrenching losses, injuries and now they must go forward at 3-7 without Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett after already losing leading receiver Steve Smith Sr. The Browns meanwhile are the Browns inventing new ways to lose, while Johnny Manzeil drinks himself out of a job. It is clear Johnny Football rather be Johnny Walker red, or Johnny Bench as his career continues to look like Ryan Leaf. This game might just be the most unwatchable Monday Night matchup of all time. The Browns beat the Ravens in Baltimore and in a match up for last place do it again to give their long suffering fans something to cheer. Though a loss may help them get a better QB. Oh well they can always find one at the #22 pick. That seems to work out well.