Now that we’re two days past Thanksgiving everyone can begin emerging from their tryptophan coma’s and look forward stuffing ourselves on another weekend of NFL football.
In the interests of full disclosure I’ll admit I only picked one correct Thursday outcome. I underestimated just how inept the Packers have become without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Also, the fact that the Lions usually figure a way to crap themselves when playing the Packers had me picking them. Instead, Detroit slaughtered the Green Bay 40-10.
I figured the Dallas Cowboys to have an easy time of things at home with the Oakland Raiders. While the prediction was correct the game turned into a nail-biter for Dallas fans before the Cowboys pulled through with a 31-24 win.
Enough with looking back to the past. Time to charge into the future to see how Sunday’s games stack-up.
Chicago Bears @Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson’s mouth has to be watering after seeing what the Rams’ running game was able to do to the Bears’ defense last week but he’s all the Vikings have going for them on offense.
For the Bears, Josh McCown will continue doing a competent job at quarterback for the offense. On defense Jay Ratliff, recently acquired from the Cowboys, is expected to start at one defensive tackle spot while Stephen Paea returns from injury to start next to him.
If those two even nominally improve the run defense for the Bears that’s all they should need to beat a team that’s beyond the point of even saving their head coach’s job.
One of the premier games of the weekend. The Eagles need the win to keep pace with the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East. The Cardinals need it to stay in the middle of the wild card hunt.
The Eagles are 1-5 at home this season. The Cardinals are 1-5 in their last six games played outside on the road. Carson Palmer has Arizona’s offense playing like they expected when the Cardinals acquired him.
Still, the Eagles are coming off their bye week and move the ball better than Arizona. Look for them to win at home.
Head coach Ron Rivera has gone from being out the door one second after the last game of the season ends to garnering votes for Coach of the Year. The Panthers are currently fifth seed in the NFC and won’t be wasting their time letting the lowly Buccaneers think they can play with them.
New England Patriots @Houston Texans
Prior to the season this game was seen as a rematch of last year’s Division Round playoff game. Now it’s a tune-up for the Patriots on their way to the postseason since the Texans have hit rock bottom after losing to the Jaguars last week.
Miami Dolphins @New York Jets
Without doubt the Dolphins will be the better team on Sunday but the Jets are 4-1 at home with two of those wins being over the Patriots and Saints.
The Dolphins have lost three straight on the road and don’t travel well to the cold weather AFC East destinations. The Jets win a tight game this week.
The Titans are the Colts closest pursuer for the AFC South crown. Two weeks ago Indianapolis came back from 14-0 and 17-3 deficits to defeat the Titans in Tennessee. Sandwiching that game for the Colts is two blowout losses to the Rams and Cardinals.
Given the troubles the Colts had has of late they should be ripe for the picking but the Titans are still stuck with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. The Colts have also been called out publicly by team owner Jim Irsay.
It’s a stretch to expect the Colts to lose at home this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars @Cleveland Browns
The stinker of the early slate of games. The Browns are back to starting Brandon Weeden after Jason Campbell was concussed by William Gay of the Steelers last week. That should still be enough to get them past the pathetic Jaguars at home.
Atlanta Falcons @Buffalo Bills
The Falcons have gone from contenders as the NFC representative in Super Bowl XLVIII to joining the Texans as competitors for the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. They are also 0-5 on the road this season.
The Bills are playing the first of three straight games that could be called the “dog” run. After finishing with the Falcons they take to the road against the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. That’s a great recipe of game to regain health.
The Bills have E.J. Manuel healthy and will be behind center for the third straight game on Sunday, have a strong defense and are coming off their bye week. This week they kick the Falcons while they’re down.
St. Louis Rams @San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are having a more difficult time as defending NFC Champions than was expected heading into this season. They are currently the conference’s sixth seed in a crowded playoff race.
The Rams have beat the Colts and Bears in consecutive weeks but haven’t won in San Francisco since 2007 (they tied last season 24-24).
Expect their run of good fortune to end Sunday afternoon.
Cincinnati Bengals @San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have been a dangerous team at home this season and they’re playing a team that has lost its last two road games in overtime. The Bengals also see the Baltimore Ravens creeping up on them in their rearview mirror and know that the Ravens can be closer than they appear.
In the battle of two explosive offenses this one goes to the home team.
Denver Broncos @Kansas City Chiefs
Another premier game, this one for the late afternoon crowd. The Broncos won game one in Denver 27-17 and both teams lost heart-breakers last week. Both are tied at the top of the AFC West division with the Broncos holding the tiebreak edge.
Kansas City is still the second best team in the NFL in points allowed, even after surrendering 41 points, including the final touchdown with 31 seconds left, to San Diego last week.
Peyton Manning is still having an elite 2013, even if he played the worst game of his season last week.
The Chiefs have one of the best rushing offenses in the league going against one of the best run defenses in the league. The Broncos are still the better team through the air though and that should be enough to win in a stadium that’s one of the toughest in the league on road teams.
New York Giants @Washington Redskins
It’s Sunday night sedative time as NBC serves up two teams contending to be the worst in the NFL. as their prime-time game (see The Terrible Ten Week 12). Why this game wasn’t flexed out for the Broncos vs the Chiefs is a mystery to nearly all.
Of these two equally inept division rivals take the home team. It’s as good a choice as any.
Monday Night Football
New Orleans Saints @Seattle Seahawks
Now this is a prime-time match-up NFL fans can sink their teeth into. These two teams are playing for the inside track to be the top seed in the NFC in January.
Both teams are virtually even in Points Scored this season while the Saints have allowed just 17 more points on defense. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson both lead strong passing games and are rarely intercepted.
This game will likely come down to the Seahawks drawing energy from their 12th Man fan base like Popeye draws strength from spinach. That will likely make the difference between two elite NFL teams.