The NFL’s most underappreciated rivalry is renewed on Thursday Night, as the New Orleans Saints make their first trip into the Atlanta Falcons new Mercedes Benz Stadium. This game could make or break for the Falcons, who at 7-5 are on the outside looking in at the NFC Playoff picture. The Saints are atop the NFC South and can take a step towards clinching with a win, but when these two teams meet clinching and moving forward never seems to work out. With two games in three weeks, look for the Falcons to come up with a big win at home.
With their final three games against rivals in the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills must take advantage of this game if they are to have any hope of ending their long playoff drought. The Indianapolis Colts at 3-9 have every impression of a team waiting for the season to end to make major changes, beginning with Coach Chuck Pagano, who is likely to be one of the casualties on Black Monday. The Bills one worry is the health of Tyrod Taylor, but the last time Buffalo saw Jacoby Brissett they recorded a shutout, so it may not be a difference even with Nathan Peterman.
The Minnesota Vikings have passed every test put to them this season, as they now stand as the top seed in the NFC at 10-2. Case Keenum has played exceptionally, while the Vikings defense appears to be getting stronger as the season winds down, coming off a great game in Atlanta last week. The Carolina Panthers at 8-4 are in playoff position but against teams with strong defenses, Cam Newton has struggled all season. The Panthers may be home, but they don’t have the advantage as they often play better away from Bank of America Stadium.
The Cincinnati Bengals once again self-destructed against the Steelers on Monday Night, watching a 17-point lead evaporate as they committed 13 penalties. At 5-7 their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread as they face the Chicago Bears. The Bears meanwhile have gone into hibernation, losing their last five games with an offense that seems unable to move the ball under rookie Mitchell Trubisky. Look for the Bengals to keep hope alive, while the Bears wait for the spring thaw and the draft.
At 6-6 the Green Bay Packers have a faint pulse when it comes to their playoff hopes, as Brett Hundley is showing signs of improvement, while Aaron Rodgers is back at practice and can return for the final two games. The Cleveland Browns meanwhile are just hoping for a win, as they are 0-12 this year, 1-30 in their last 31 and 4-45 since Thanksgiving in 2014. The Browns could win this one, but they will as always find a way to lose, as they usually do.
A new era began for the San Francisco 49ers last week, as they recorded a win in Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start. Playing on the road again, Garoppolo faces Houston Texans team, that while not having much to show for it has been competitive over the last few weeks, despite having their best players on injured reserve. The game will be close, but Tom Savage and the Texans defense will do just enough to record a win at home.
The Kansas City Chiefs were the last team to lose in the 2017 season, holding a record of 5-0 at one time. Since then they have been in free fall, winning just one of their last seven games. That lone win, coming against the Broncos who have been playing beyond terrible football with eight straight losses. At 6-6 the Oakland Raiders have the same record as the Chiefs, but they are rising, with wins in four of their last six, while the Raiders still have their problems, the Chiefs are just in a tailspin that won’t end until the season is over as they have also become self-destructive with their meltdown in the Meadowlands last week being a prime example.
Dilly, Dilly the New York Giants have spent an entire season in the pit of misery, as Coach Ben McAdoo created one giant mess. Things came to a head last week, when he benched Eli Manning after 210 straight starts, the outrage was so gigantic, that it ended in McAdoo being fired on Monday. With Steve Spagnuolo serving as interim coach, the Giants are going back to Eli as they host the Dallas Cowboys. The return of Eli, the joy of being rid of a buffoon as a coach and the crowd’s reaction to Manning will inspire New York to giant upset that will put Dallas in the pit of misery.
Not many teams have been more disappointing than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who have been taking on water all season at 4-8. Jameis Winston in this third season has regressed badly, as he has become very prone to fumbling the ball and throwing interceptions. The Detroit Lions at 6-6 have only faint playoff hopes as they have suffered their share of brutal losses. With Matthew Stafford’s hand a big question mark, the Lions face a tough task in Tampa as he has been Detroit’s only hope all year.
The Arizona Cardinals have played well since Blaine Gabbert has taken over at quarterback, giving some in the organization the belief that he could be in the future plans for Arizona. After upsetting the Jaguars at home two weeks ago looking for the Cardinals to continue to impact the AFC South chase by beating the Tennessee Titans. Even though the Titans have won five of six they have hardly played a good brand of football. This week that will come back to haunt them.
Frustrations are a Mile High in Denver, as the Broncos have lost eight straight and have been embarrassed several times along the way. It is clear that Vance Joseph is no longer having the time of his life, as he is looking like a coach who is about to be one and done. At 5-7 the New York Jets play hard and give their all every week, even in games they lose, earning Todd Bowles at least another season with a better team. Look for the Jets to keep their playoff hopes alive as the Broncos misery continues.
The Los Angeles Chargers are the polar opposite of the Chiefs, having won six of their last eight after starting 0-4 to join the crowd at 6-6 atop the AFC West. The Washington Redskins meanwhile are limping to the finish line, with an offensive line that has been completely decimated by injury. With the season all but ending with an ugly Thursday Night loss in Dallas last week, don’t expect to see much out of the Redskins this week as the Chargers win easily.
Last week at home the Seattle Seahawks delivered one of their best games of the year, beating the Eagles at home on Sunday Night. The Jacksonville Jaguars also put up a strong effort beating the Colts. At 8-4 both teams are in hot pursuit of a playoff berth, the Jaguars are winning on the strength of one of the NFL’s best defenses, while Russell Wilson is carrying Seattle. The Jaguars defense will get the edge here as they will have Wilson on his heels on game, winning by a field goal.
The Philadelphia Eagles hit a bump in the road, last week as the Seahawks handed them their second loss of the season, ending a nine-game winning streak. The Eagles playing on Sunday Night were clearly victim of the 12th man in Seattle. Staying on the west coast all week, things won’t be any easier as they take on the Los Angeles Rams, who clinched their first winning season in 13 years last week. The Eagles won’t have the same issues with the crowd, as the Coliseum does not create an intimidating road venue, the Rams are a solid team, but not yet at the top level, which will be shown as the Eagles fly home with a win.
Just call them the Primetime Pittsburgh Steelers, as they play their fourth straight night game in primetime. The Steelers are not just coming off a football game on Monday Night, but they are coming off an episode of WWE Raw, as their game against the Bengals turned ugly with Ryan Shazier suffering a spinal injury while Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster is suspended for his cheap shot on Vontaze Burfict. The Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have had their share of ugly moments too, so expect another battle royale. Once again, the Steelers will emerge victorious as they get set for the big showdown with the Patriots.
Nothing good can come out of a Monday Night Game in Miami, with the Dolphins hosting the New England Patriots. The Dolphins have been hideously horrendously horrifically terrible in National Televised games in 2017, being outscored 132-45 in their previous four games shown across the fruited plain. The only thing that will look good in Miami is their gorgeous throwbacks, which need to become their permanent uniforms. Please bring back these jerseys full-time, please. Take the current uniforms and toss with Jay Cutler at the end of the season.