Just a month ago, the long knives were out looking for Jason Garrett’s scalp as the Dallas Cowboys were playing lethargic football. Three wins later, they are tied for first place at 6-5. A big reason for the Cowboys turnaround is Leighton Vander Esch who has been a monster in the middle of the defense. The New Orleans Saints with ten straight wins seem due for a stinker and going into Dallas, against a Cowboys team that can run and control the line of scrimmage seem like the right team to do it.
The Baltimore Ravens have gotten back in the playoff picture by winning their last two games at home. Stepping back on the road, they face a struggling team in the Atlanta Falcons whose hopes have are pretty much gone. Joe Flacco has yet to be cleared to return, meaning Lamar Jackson will be getting his third straight start. Jackson has been serviceable but has done most of the work with his legs. Making his first road start, this game could be tougher for the Ravens rookie. Look for the Falcons to get just enough offense to snap their three-game skid.
Heading into their bye at 3-6 the Denver Broncos looked like they were dead and buried. However, after wins over the Chargers and Steelers, they have suddenly shown signs of life and can get back to .500. The Bengals will be without Andy Dalton for the rest of the season and signed Tom Savage to back up Jeff Driskel. Any team that has Tom Savage is gonna get ravaged.
The Detroit Lions are the team that invented the turkey coma, as their lackluster play has given their fans indigestion on Thanksgiving for years. This year was no different as Matthew Stafford was roasted by the Bears with a pick six and an ugly game-sealing interception in the end zone. The Los Angeles Rams got to enjoy Thanksgiving with a bye week after their thrilling win over the Chiefs limited them to 10-1. The Rams offense is too strong for even the best defenses to handle. Unless they somehow ate too much last week it is hard to not imagine them rolling to another win in Detroit.
Things are not well in titletown, as the Green Bay Packers are 4-6-1 with finger pointing becoming a weekly tradition. Unless the Packers run the table and somehow get in the playoffs, changes are coming with Coach Mike McCarthy likely to be the first casualty. Aaron Rodgers has stated the Packers can turn it around, and they are facing the perfect team to get well this week in the Arizona Cardinals. At 2-9, the Cardinals are as Charles Barkley would say turrible. Even the Raiders beat the Cardinals this year.
A new day is dawning as the Cleveland Browns have won their last two games, sandwiched around a bye week. The Browns are playing well on both sides of the ball as their defense has begun to emerge as a strength, while Baker Mayfield has been what they needed at quarterback. The Houston Texans are also rolling, winning their last eight games. The Texans are in a better position and are genuinely in the playoff hunt. Playing at home look for that roll to continue as J.J. Watt is among the favorites for Comeback Player of the Year, returning to an All-Pro Defensive level.
Picked to win the Super Bowl by many experts, the Jacksonville Jaguars looked to be right on track after starting 3-1. However, since they have put the fun is dysfunctional with seven straight losses. The offense has failed as Blake Bortles after being passable last year has resumed being Blake Bortles. The defense has faltered, as Jalen Ramsey is more mouth than skill, often eating crow as terrible quarterbacks turn him in to toast. Players arrested in London and Leonard Fournette suspended for fighting, yup this ship be sunk and it won’t get better with Cody Kessler as the Indianapolis Colts get their sixth straight win.
Why the AFC East sucks, let me count the ways. The Buffalo Bills are spinning their wheels, starting over year after year as the Miami Dolphins permanent address is NFL purgatory just outside the gates of hell. That team in green is nothing to be seen, as the Patriots use the easy road to getting home field advantage. When they play each other, it is always an elimination game because the stench of mediocrity surrounds them. The once 3-0 Dolphins now sit 5-6 as the Bills have found a way to win four games after dumping the WOAT. In Miami, the Dolphins have to find a way to win this one you would think, if not then this season truly does stink.
Leading the Eagles 19-3 in the second quarter, fans of Big Blue were having dreams of grandeur as dreams of running the table were dancing in their head. However, the rest of the way the Giants barely raised a murmur as they were put in a spell by Pat Shurmur. The Chicago Bears defense in mighty and fierce, forget Khalil Mack it is now Eddie “pick-six” Jackson owning the day. Going into the Meadowlands the Bears are clearly the superior team, but the Giants can keep it close enough to tease their fans. However, in the end, Cody Parkey drives the stake through the heart with a late field goal.
What has happened to the Carolina Panthers? Once 6-2 they have lost their last three games, and are suddenly in danger of sliding out of the playoffs. The Panthers first loss to the Steelers was ugly, the second loss to the Lions was puzzling and last week against the Seahawks was troubling. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers meanwhile, are adrift on the sea of confusion. They may have beaten the 49ers last week, but that is the 49ers who can make even the Cardinals look good. The Panthers should be able to get back on track by picking apart the worst defense in the league.
When we last saw the Kansas City Chiefs, they lost one of the most thrilling Monday Night games in NFL history against the Rams, scoring 51 points. A week to rest and recover, the Chiefs could get a boost as Eric Berry has been cleared to practice. That will help fix some holes on defense, as their offense has been beyond amazing. The Raiders defense has struggled all year as they have sorely missed Khalil Mack. Look for more fireworks from Patrick Mahomes as the Chiefs run wild in Oakland.
Many people forget that the New York Jets were originally called the New York Titans. It is easy to forget those Titans from the early days of the AFL. Now, a new name change is coming as years of poor play have earned them the name Paper Airplanes, because they never go very far. The Tennessee Titans have been a roller coaster, beating the Patriots one week and losing to the Colts and Texans the next two. The Titans should be able to shred the Paper Airplanes and get back to .500, keeping hope alive for a Music City playoff run.
At times, the New England Patriots have looked ordinary as they sit at 8-3. They are cruising to another AFC East championship, a record tenth straight, but they look vulnerable especially in their win over the paper airplanes last week. The Minnesota Vikings have also been up and down, and have not played well in games against other contenders. Heading into Foxboro, it is hard to see that trend coming to an end. The game will be close, but Tom Brady will do what is needed to get his team another close win.
Forecasted to have a down year, the Seattle Seahawks behind the play of Russell Wilson have continued to be contenders for a playoff spot. Sitting at 6-5, they won a crucial game against the Panthers last week on the road. The San Francisco 49ers have been a disaster ever since losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 3. Add in the mistake of drafting Ruben Foster, and the year has been completely lost. The 49ers have become the NFL’s slump busters as they were beaten twice by the Cardinals and had the Giants and Buccaneers end long losing streaks against. The Seahawks are not in a slump, they will, however, feast on the Niners.
No matter what happens, the Pittsburgh Steelers are sure to entertain. At times, they look like a team that can win the Super Bowl, and other times they look like they are about to implode. After losing last week Ben Roethlisberger has been critical of his team’s play despite his interceptions being the main factor in the loss to the Broncos. However, everyone around there is used to this and it is just part of the Pittsburgh experience. The Los Angeles Chargers last week rebounded nicely after a bad loss to the Broncos themselves. Both teams are among the best in the AFC, but I give Pittsburgh the edge, especially with the Chargers playing without leading rusher Melvin Gordon.
If the Philadelphia Eagles are to get back in the playoff picture, this is the game they must win. They are at home and facing a division rival that is just one game better at 6-5. That division rival the Washington Redskins comes limping in, losing three of their last four games with a banged-up offensive line, and a backup quarterback in Colt McCoy. On Monday Night Football the Eagles need to soar at home especially against the Redskins who are terrible on Mondays, losing 16 of their last 17.