Last Week: 9–5–1
Byes: Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, San Francisco
Another solid winning record last week. My apologies for picking the Bears over the Packers; that almost never happens in the Aaron Rodgers era. Philadelphia showed up in a big way and knocked off the previous unbeaten Vikings in the most notable upset of the week. As a long-time defensive coordinator, I absolutely loved the 6–6 slugfest between the Cardinals and Seahawks Sunday night. What a beauty! Several teams on bye this week, but some key matchups nonetheless.
Jacksonville (2–4) at Tennessee (3–4), Thursday 5:25 p.m.
This division is not worth discussing. Whoever wins it is going to get destroyed in the wild card round of the playoffs.
Prediction: Titans 23 Jaguars 21
Washington (4–3) vs. Cincinnati (3–4), Sunday 6:30 a.m. in London, England
Washington saw its four-game winning streak go up in flames against the Lions, and the Bengals got a much-needed win against the hapless Browns last week. I like the Bengals in this one as they continue to right the ship. If you haven’t had a chance to see Bengals receiver A.J. Green play, he is worth the early morning wake-up.
Prediction: Bengals 38 Washington 27
Oakland (5–2) at Tampa Bay (3–3), Sunday 10 a.m.
This rematch of Super Bowl XXXVII sees the Raiders and their perfect road record take on a Tampa team coming off a nice road win in San Francisco. Fun fact about that Super Bowl: the Raiders did not change their offensive terminology or audible language from the year before, when Bucs coach Jon Gruden was their head man. As a result, the Bucs defence knew what plays the Raiders were running. This time, the Raiders get the win on the strength of quarterback Derek Carr and big-time receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
Prediction: Raiders 37 Buccaneers 27
New England (6–1) at Buffalo (4–3), Sunday 10 a.m.
Buffalo had an emotional victory over the Patriots in New England on October 2, and will look to sweep the season series in this divisional rivalry. In the last matchup, multiple Bills were fined for starting a pregame altercation because Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett ran through their team warm up. This time the Patriots have Tom Brady at the helm. The Patriots are coming off a huge road win against the Steelers last week that saw them move the ball both on the ground and through the air. I like Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount to have another strong game against a suspect Bills run defence, as the Patriots win a high-scoring affair.
Prediction: Patriots 43 Bills 35
Detroit (4–3) at Houston (4–3), Sunday 10 a.m.
Despite the retirement of all-world receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions offence has played extremely well this year. The reason is the evolution of Matthew Stafford into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The Texans just aren’t the same without star defender J.J. Watt, and free-agent quarterback signing, Brock Osweiler, has underwhelmed. I like the Lions on the road to hit the 5–3 mark at the midway point of the season.
Prediction: Lions 36 Texans 23
Arizona (3–3–1) at Carolina (1–5), Sunday 10 a.m.
Last year, the Panthers absolutely destroyed the Cardinals at home in the NFC Title game. The game was a disaster for Cards QB Carson Palmer who finished the game with four interceptions. The Panthers and their disappointing 1–5 record are rested after the bye week, whereas Arizona is coming off an emotional and physical tie against the Seahawks. I like the rested Panthers despite their early season defensive issues to win at home against a weary Cardinals team making the trip to the East Coast.
Prediction: Panthers 34 Cardinals 31
Seattle (4–1–1) at New Orleans (2–4), Sunday 10 a.m.
See the above thoughts about a beat-up team travelling to the East Coast, and add the factor that the Saints are an outstanding offence at home and this matchup points to a Saints upset.
Prediction: Saints 24 Seahawks 23
New York Jets (2–5) at Cleveland (0–7), Sunday 10 a.m.
Cleveland is thrilled to have veteran quarterback Josh McCown healthy and back at practice this week, after rookie Kevin Hogan was pressed into duty last week when another rookie Cody Kessler succumbed to injury. Budding superstar Terrelle Pryor’s hamstring injury is improving and he will be a key component in the Browns success this week. The Jets will be starting the shaky Ryan Fitzpatrick a week after benching him, due to the injury to Geno Smith. The Browns have to win at least one game, right?
Prediction: Browns 29 Jets 24
Kansas City (4–2) at Indianapolis (3–4), Sunday 10 a.m.
Last week, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck willed his team to victory in a spectacular performance over the Titans. The Chiefs are a much better team than Tennessee, and have the talent on both sides of the ball to pick up a key road victory.
Prediction: Chiefs 38 Colts 23
San Diego (3–4) at Denver (5–2), Sunday 1:05 p.m.
The Chargers beat the Broncos two weeks ago and earned a big win on the road last week in Atlanta. Meanwhile, Denver got back on track after a two-game losing streak by trouncing the Texans. I like the Broncos to win a close contest with a strong game from rookie running back Devontae Booker. Booker will be getting his first start due to the injury to C.J. Anderson, and he has impressed this year with a 4.8 yards per carry average.
Prediction: Broncos 21 Chargers 20
Green Bay (4–2) at Atlanta (4–3), Sunday 1:25 p.m.
This game has shoot-out written all over it. Atlanta comes into the game with the #1 offence in the NFL and the Packers finally got things going last week with a big offensive performance against the Bears. The Falcons lost last week after failing to convert after a controversial coaching decision to go for it in overtime on fourth down. Matt Ryan outplays Aaron Rodgers in a thriller.
Prediction: Falcons 42 Packers 35
Game of the Week
Philadelphia (4–2) at Dallas (5–1), Sunday 5:30 p.m.
Every team in the NFC East has a winning record, so this divisional matchup has huge playoff implications. The Eagles and Cowboys have both gotten out with good starts to the season despite having rookie quarterbacks at the helm. I like the Dallas offence much more than the Eagles, but football is a game of three phases. The Eagles have scored kickoff return touchdowns their last two games and boast a defence that has had a knack for forcing turnovers and getting to the quarterback. As such, the Eagles will get the road win on the strength of their superior defence and special teams. Look for a big interception in the fourth quarter by Eagles safety Rodney McLeod who already has three on the season while leading the team in tackles.
Prediction: Eagles 28 Cowboys 24
Minnesota (5–1) at Chicago (1–6), Monday 5:30 p.m.
The Vikings are a legit football team with an incredible defence. The Bears have been one of the worst teams in the league this year and will be facing an angry, motivated divisional rival. The Vikings crush the Bears despite the return of Bears pivot Jay Cutler from injury.
Prediction: Vikings 31 Bears 13