The Buccaneers are coming off a disappointing loss at home, while the Rams are coming off a losing streak stopping win against the Lions. This could be the final NFL game in St. Louis, with a move back to Los Angeles possible for next season. The concern for the Bucs is Jameis Winston hitting the rookie wall and playing on a Thursday Night on the road. The 14th game of the season is past any length a player in college plays, and the short turnaround won’t help. Meanwhile Todd Gurley meanwhile looks like he had gotten a second wind, the Rams defense will have Winston on the run, as Gurley runs all over.
Ever since he trimmed his Grizzly Adams’ beard, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been fitz magic. The Jets are 3-0 and in the Wild Card hunt. The true reason behind the Jets rise is the return of Nick Mangold, who helps the keep the Jets offense moving by protecting Fitzpatrick and opening lanes for Chris Ivory. The Cowboys meanwhile have had a season to forget without Tony Romo. The Jets defense should be able to keep Cowboys under wraps and Fitzpatrick should get enough to keep gang green flying high on Saturday Night.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Chiefs, as they have been the hottest team in the NFL since starting 1-5. Winners of seven straight the Chiefs have played well on both sides of the ball. The Ravens meanwhile just can’t get this season over fast enough. Ravaged by injuries and sitting at 4-9, Baltimore is coming off a blowout loss. Previously the Ravens had been in every game but with a third string quarterback in Jimmy Clausen they had no shot. They won’t fare much better against the Chiefs.
It will be a sight for sore eyes in Indianapolis as Andrew Luck returns to the field for a division showdown with the Texans. Both teams come in with records of 5-6, the winner of the game will win the division and present the AFC South in the playoffs. This is a problem for Houston as they have never won in Indianapolis. Overall the Texans have never played well against the Colts, losing 23 of 27 meetings including a matchup earlier this year in Houston, with Matt Hasselbeck leading the way. The Colts have been terrible the last two weeks on the road. Coming home in desperation mode with Luck on the field they will get back on track.
What has happened to the Atlanta Falcons? When the season began they were among the NFL’s best, winning their first five games. However, since they have won just one of eight and their offense has played worse every game. Last week they were blanked by the Panthers 38-0. The Jaguars meanwhile are surging, coming off a 51-16 win over the Colts. The last two weeks they have scored 93 points. With Blake Bortles finding his game and Matt Ryan lost in the sauce, I see the Jaguars keeping their faint hopes alive while the Falcons fly away.
In the season finale of the fifth season of Seinfeld, George Costanza discovered the key to his success by doing the opposite of what he would normally do. Picking the Chicago Bears this year has been fought with peril, as they have gone against logic all season, winning in Lambeau but losing at home against the 49ers and Redskins. They are actually 4-2 on the road, and while all reason says they will lose on the road to Minnesota, using George’s philosophy I will pick the Bears.
This game is going to be ugly. The Patriots are the best team in the AFC and the Titans are perhaps the worst. The Patriots got Rob Gronkowski back last week and got back on track, while the Titans were rolled over in the Meadowlands by the Jets. It is hard to imagine the Titans even keep the game close for a quarter. Marcus Mariota is the only bright spot, but the rookie wall seemed to smack him last week, and the Titans defense has been scorched the last two weeks by Blake Bortles and Ryan Fitzpatrick. This one will be ugly.
If not for four late fourth quarter collapses, the New York Giants will be among the best teams in the NFC at 10-3. Instead at 6-7 they need every game to assure themselves the NFC East championship. The Panthers at 13-0 are coming off an impressive 38-0 win at home against the fall Falcons, but they have been on the verge of losing in recent weeks. The Panthers would almost be better off losing once before the season is over as the pressure of 16-0 is unbearable compared to 15-1. The Giants are good at beating the unbeaten just ask the Patriots or the Broncos who came to the Meadowlands 13-0 in 1998. The Giants getting a big game from Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. edge Carolina to get to .500 as the 1972 Dolphins pop the champagne.
The Bills have been road weary as of late, playing away from Buffalo for the fourth time in five weeks. The Bills have lost their previous three games on the road, and come in to Washington where the Redskins have been strong all season, winning five of seven at FedEx Field. Kirk Cousins has been especially strong at home. The Redskins in the middle of the mediocre muddle to win the NFC East, face a must win here with their final two games in the division on the road. The loss will all but seal the 16th straight season without the playoffs for the Bills.
The miracle win on Thursday Night in Detroit was the thunderbolt the Packers were waiting for. After playing lethargic football for two months that win got them back on track to win the NFC North. The Raiders are coming off a surprise win in Denver, but have had their up and downs. The Raiders have not fared well against the top level quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers is one of the league’s best and from the Oakland area. Coming home I expect Rodgers to have a big game as they assure the Raiders of another non winning season.
As the season comes to and the Seattle Seahawks are flying high and again looking like a Super Bowl contender. The Cleveland Browns are playing for the first draft pick. The Browns got a rare win last week, but coming into Seattle don’t expect another. The Browns are just one giant mess like Johnny Manzeil after a night out on the town. Fortunately for their fans they can read the Manzeil drink list and feel no pain as they get smashed in the Seattle rain.
Eventually playing Brock Osweiler was going to catch up with the Broncos, as he just does not have the arm strength to be a winning quarterback. The Broncos are now a running team any way that relies heavily on their defense, but to have any chance to go far they will need a healthy Peyton Manning. Even if Manning was 100% winning in Pittsburgh would be a tall order for the Broncos, as the Steelers are now firing on all cylinders. I see another big game by Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers continue their late charge.
Bowl season starts this week with a full 40 games as bonus the Dolphins and Chargers play in the Postage Bowl as both teams have mailed it in this season. The Dolphins will have different look and the Chargers may new city as they could head north to Los Angeles. The Dolphins blanked the Chargers in Miami last year, so I think the Chargers would like a measure of revenge. Heading west off a Monday Night loss I see another flat performance by the Dolphins.
Last week was an epic disaster for the Cincinnati Bengals. Not only did they lose at home against the rival Steelers, but they lost Andy Dalton for the season to a broken thumb. A.J. McCarron did come on and play decently, but two critical errors prevented them from getting the win. On the road in San Francisco, McCarron will need to avoid the costly mistake. The 49ers have played better since the quarterback change, but Blaine Gabbert is still one of the worst in the NFL. Look for McCarron to get his first win in his first start as the Bengals defense keeps the Niners under wraps.
The Cardinals are fighting to win their first division championship since 1975, not only can they clinch the NFC West they can keep the inside track to a bye week with a Sunday Night win in Philadelphia. The Cardinals have played well in primetime this year, winning their previous four games under the lights. With all the attention given to the Panthers, Patriots, Packers and Broncos the Cardinals are often ignored as an elite team in the NFL. However, at 11-2 they are one of the best teams on both ends of the ball. The Eagles defense has struggled at times and with Carson Palmer’s ability to stretch the field I see the Cardinals getting the win on the road.
The Saints have showed some pride in recent weeks, nearly beating the Panthers two weeks ago and all but ending the Buccaneers playoff hopes with a win in Tampa. The Lions meanwhile gave a flat performance off that heartbreaking Hail Mary loss to the Packers. I see the Lions hangover continuing as Drew Brees will be able to dissect their defense. Matthew Stafford may be able to keep the Lions in the game for a while, but in the end it will be a win for the Saints on Monday Night.