The best regular season matchup thus far takes place in Lambeau Field with New England visiting Green Bay. The possible Super Bowl preview features a battle of two iconic quarterbacks.
Believe it or not, the 3-7-1 Carolina Panthers are still very much in the NFC South race if they can win at Minnesota on Sunday. Great matchup in Arrowhead Stadium between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, in a battle for first place in the AFC West.
Let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s action . . .
Denver Broncos (8-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
One reason for the Broncos inconsistency has been their offensive line, with the two biggest issues being at center and right tackle. They hope to fair better with a tweaked unit, featuring a new center (Will Montgomery) and right guard Louis Vasquez moving to right tackle.
And this game will be quite a challenge for the re-configured unit against the Chiefs lethal pass rush, led by outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
This is a huge game for the Chiefs as they try to move into a tie for first place, and not fall two games behind. Chiefs coach Andy Reid, a tremendous strategist, can be lethal with ten days to gameplan (Chiefs last played on a Thursday night).
Also the Broncos will likely be without starting tight end Julius Thomas (ankle), so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Chiefs pull this one out.
New England Patriots (9-2) at Green Bay Packers (8-3)
A possible Super Bowl preview between two of the hottest teams in football. The Patriots have won seven in a row. The Packers are 5-0 at home.
New England leads in the league in scoring. Green Bay ranks second.
This should be a tremendous game between two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
It’s hard to figure which way this will go, but it should be a heck of a contest.
Cleveland Browns (7-4) to Buffalo Bills (6-5)
Huge game for the Bills as they try to stay alive in the AFC wildcard race.
Expect a heavy dose of RB Fred Jackson against the 29th-ranked Browns rush defense.
As for Cleveland, the biggest challenge facing them in this game is dealing with the Buffalo defensive line, perhaps the best in football. Will they be able to protect quarterback Brian Hoyer effectively?
This should be a very close game, but we give a slight edge to the Bills due to being at home, and their pass rush, which leads the league with 46 sacks.
San Diego Chargers (7-4) at Baltimore Ravens (7-4)
The breakdown of this game is pretty simple.
The Chargers offensive line has been struggling, leading to 12 sacks in the last five games. If they can play a little better, which is a big “if” against a potent Ravens pass rush, San Diego could win this game.
The Ravens are decimated at cornerback, and the Chargers have a lot of passing-game weapons, so with time QB Phillip Rivers can rip these guys apart.
So if the Chargers can protect Rivers, which is a big “if,” they should win this game.
Arizona Cardinals (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
The Atlanta Falcons are first place in the NFC South. Yes, at 4-7 they are in first place, because they own the tie-breaker with the 4-7 New Orleans Saints.
The X-Factor in this game could be whether Arizona’s superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee) plays. The Falcons, the NFL’s 32nd-ranked secondary, playing without starting CB Robert Alford, have no answer for Fitzgerald.
“I’m highly likely,” Fitzgerald said Thursday, “but it’s not my call, though.”
You can’t go by players – they always think they can play. It will be a game-time decision. If he can’t go, Atlanta could pull the upset.
Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9)
The mercurial Andy Dalton has led the Bengals to back-to-back road wins, and this week they go for the Trifecta in Tampa Bay.
What a difference it makes having WR A.J. Green back from a mid-season toe injury. Last week in a Bengals win over Houston, he hauled in 12 passes.
But don’t sleep on the Bucs in this game.
First of all, red-hot rookie receiver Mike Evans has six touchdown catches in November, and teams with Vincent Jackson to form one of the more lethal duos in the league.
Also, Tampa’s pass defense has improved over the last few weeks with the return of Al Verner from the injury list.
This game is a toss-up.
Washington Redskins (3-8) at Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
The Redskins should improve at quarterback with the switch from Robert Griffin III to Colt McCoy. That probably won’t be enough to win this game.
They are very inexperienced at cornerback, and Andrew Luck should have a big day. The explosive Colts offense leads the league with 59 plays of 20 yards or more.
It’s hard seeing the Colts losing this game at home.
Tennessee Titans (2-9) at Houston Texans (5-6)
The Titans are in trouble in this game.
When you are facing J.J. Watt, it’s not great to have both offensive tackles hurt. Taylor Lewan (ankle) and Michael Oher (toe) didn’t practice all week and are questionable.
Also they have the worst run defense in the league, and they are facing Pro Bowl tailback Arian Foster.
The Texans put QB Ryan Mallett on IR, and are going back to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. So, no real drop-off there.
The Texans should get to 6-6 at home against a rookie quarterback (Zach Metterberger).
Oakland Raiders (1-10) at St. Louis Rams (4-7)
The Rams are probably better than their record indicates.
This is a team with victories over Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco this year.
And at home, with their great defensive line against a rookie quarterback (Derek Carr) and the NFL’s 32nd-ranked ranked offense, they should make it to 5-7.
New Orleans Saints (4-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
The Steelers get three key players back from the injury list back this week, S Troy Polamalu, CB Ike Taylor, and LB Ryan Shazier.
Shazier is a very good coverage linebacker with 4.4 speed who should help them deal with the Saints star TE Jimmy Graham.
This is the big game for the 4-7 Saints as they battle the Atlanta Falcons for first place in the NFC West.
This matchup is too close to call.
Carolina Panthers (3-7-1) at Minnesota Vikings (4-7)
Believe it or not, the Panthers are still in NFC South race at 3-7-1.
And they are coming off a bye-week. So, they should be fresh and armed with a good game plan.
This should be close, but the Panthers have the edge with young veteran quarterback Cam Newton facing off against Teddy Bridgewater.
New York Giants (3-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10)
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley expects more from his rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who is struggling mightily.
“At times, he holds the ball too long,” Bradley said. “His decision-making is not as good as we need it to be. I know you can say he’s young, but we expect more. We expect more.”
You shouldn’t expect more. You rushed him into action way before he was ready. That’s on you.
Even though Eli Manning is struggling, the veteran QB should be able to lead his Giants to a win over the Bortles-led Jaguars.