HOUSTON—Before the Detroit Lions-Green Bay Packers game last Sunday, Lambeau Field held a moment of silence for the 130 people killed in a Paris terror attack carried out by Islamic extremists.
After the game, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, a Cal-Berkeley graduate, lashed out at a fan who yelled an Anti-Muslim remark during the moment of silence. “It’s that kind of prejudicial ideology that puts us in the position we are today as a world,” Rodgers said. While the fan was clearly out of line, Rodgers is pretty naïve to think this sort of behavior is contributing to terror problems around the world. He should probably stick to football, and leave the terror analysis to others.
And Rodgers has plenty on his plate this week traveling to Minnesota trying to end a three-game Packer losing streak against the red-hot Vikings. This plays as one of the better match-ups in Week 11.
Let’s take a closer look at all of Sunday’s games . . .
Indianapolis Colts (4-5) at Atlanta Falcons (6-3)
After a strong start, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has leveled off. But facing the NFL’s 28th pass defense, without safety Mike Adams, should help him bounce back. Ryan thinks he needs to improve his accuracy.
Ryan will square off again fellow Boston College quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, 40, who fills in for Andrew Luck, out with kidney and groin ailments. Falcons coach Dan Quinn has a strong feel for what Hasselbeck brings to the table; they spent two years together in Seattle.
This game is too close to call.
St. Louis Rams (4-5) at Baltimore Ravens (2-7)
Rams coach Jeff Fisher looks fed up with his team’s 32nd-ranked passing offense. He benched quarterback Nick Foles in favor of Case Keenum. The Rams wield too many legit weapons at wide receiver and tight end to perform this poorly. Keenum, a spunky game-manager, should give them a spark. Facing Baltimore 26th pass defense should help as well.
Foles handled the demotion with dignity, something in short supply these days.
“I respect Coach Fisher to start off,” Foles said. “Of course, I want to be out there, but it’s his decision to make, and I respect it. I love Case [Keenum] to death. He’s one of my favorite people in the world, so I’m going to be right there to support him every step of the way and help him in any way possible.”
He continued, “I’m a team-first guy. I care a lot about my teammates, so I’m going to do everything I can to prepare this week to help Case and help my teammates get a win this week.”
Not helping Keenum’s case is the team’s right tackle, Rob Havenstein, sidelined with a calf injury. Also missing will be their best pass rusher, Robert Quinn.
This game could go either way.
Washington Redskins (4-5) at Carolina Panthers (9-0)
Should be a mixed crowd in Charlotte. You see, before the expansion Panthers arrived, this was primarily Redskins country.
The Redskins’ 30th-ranked rush defense better get their act together or they risk getting bulldozed by one of the NFL’s premier rushing offenses.
ESPN’s Mike Wilbon might not be a fan, but Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is playing on a high level in recent weeks, with eight touchdown passes in the last three games. The Panthers will be without starting cornerback Charles Tillman.
Don’t be shocked at an upset.
Denver Broncos (7-2) at Chicago Bears (4-5)
The John Fox Bowl happens in Chicago as his old team (Broncos) takes on his new one (Bears). Broncos QB Peyton Manning sits with foot and rib injuries, so Brock Osweiler starts. What to expect from Osweiler is anybody’s guess. He’s in his fourth season and has never started a game.
Fox should have a good plan to deal with Osweiler, who he drafted and coached for three years in Denver. He has intimate knowledge of his skillset.
Look for Denver to rely heavily on their #1 ranked defense and run the ball a lot to take pressure off Osweiler. Knowing so little on how Osweiler will perform in his first real NFL game, it’s hard to predict this game.
Oakland Raiders (4-5) at Detroit Lions (2-7)
Detroit comes off a major upset over Green Bay, so owner Martha Ford didn’t fire anybody this week. But she did hire a new team president.
And the Lions could extend their winning streak facing a beatable opponent at home. The Raiders have come back to earth after showing positive flashes earlier in the season.
Oakland lost one of their bear pass rushers, Aldon Smith, to a one-year NFL suspension. The Lions feature one of the NFL’s most underrated pass rushers, Ghana’s Ziggy Ansana, who boasts seven sacks.
Oakland heads in the wrong direction, so Detroit has a very good chance at winning this game.
New York Jets (5-4) at Houston Texans (4-5)
The Texans will be without starting quarterback Brian Hoyer, sidelined with a concussion. Replacing him will be a quarterback signed in late October, journeyman T.J. Yates, who was out of the league for the first two months, after Atlanta released him following training camp.
Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Houston quarterback for most of last season, has a strong feel for the Texans’ defense after facing them in practice in 2014. He also faces a Texans secondary without starting cornerback Kareem Jackson.
The Jets had 10 days to prepare for this game, and get healthy, coming off a Thursday night game.
New York should win this game.
Dallas Cowboys (2-7) at Miami Dolphins (4-5)
Dallas’ #26 passing offense should improve with the return of franchise quarterback Tony Romo.
The Dolphins are very banged-up. Jelani Jenkins and Spencer Paysinger are doubtful and Koa Misi is questionable. Also their starting right tackle sits, so Dallas pass rusher Greg Hardy should have a field day against a backup.
With a huge boost from the return of their star quarterback, the Cowboys should win this game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)
With starting quarterback Sam Bradford out, Mark Sanchez starts for Philadelphia. There should be no drop-off to the backup. They are commensurate talents.
Sanchez faces a challenge against Tampa Bay’s #7 ranked defense. But the banged-up Buccaneers see too many quality players in street clothes, and rookie quarterbacks generally don’t play as well on the road. It could be a rough day for Jameis Winston.
Expect the Eagles to prevail.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) at San Diego Chargers (2-7)
After a 1-5 start, the Chiefs are back in playoff contention with three straight wins. But they need more from their 25th-ranked passing offense to keep up with NFL’s #1 passing offense led by San Diego’s Phillip Rivers.
“He’s playing at a very high level right now,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid on Rivers.
But not helping Rivers cause is the absence of both starting receivers due to injuries. However, he always seems to manage to put up points, so Chiefs QB Alex Smith, a San Diego-native, who has just 10 TD passes in nine games, needs to bring his A-Game.
This game could go either way.
Green Bay Packers (6-3) at Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
It’s hard seeing Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, a bona fide superstar, losing four games in a row. But this could happen against the upstart Vikings.
One reason for the Packers’ slump is a lack of explosive passing plays. They clearly miss star receiver Jordy Nelson, on injured reserve with a knee injury.
This game is a toss-up.
San Francisco 49ers (3-6) at Seattle Seahawks (4-5)
In the Sanctuary City Bowl, the 49ers and Seahawks square off.
The 49ers made a QB change that looks pretty good right now after upsetting Atlanta in Blaine Gabbert’s first start. And Gabbert doesn’t have to look over his shoulder, because the man he replaced, Colin Kaepernick, went on season-ending injury reserve on Saturday.
But the 49ers better protect Gabbert better than they did Kaepernick in the first meeting this season, a Seattle win. DE Mike Bennett registered 3.5 sacks and four QB hits.
The Seahawks should be able to win this game at home.
Cincinnati Bengals (8-1) at Arizona Cardinals (7-2)
The Bengals’ offense really struggled in a loss to Houston on Monday, and now they need to turn around on a short week, and travel to Arizona to face the NFL’s #3 defense. Good luck with that.
The Cardinals, the NFL’s most balanced team, also boast the NFL’s #1 offense, featuring former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who admitted earlier this week that playing his ex-team is a big deal to him. To put it lightly, he was basically run out of Cincy and he hasn’t forgotten.
“It’s not just another game,” Palmer said. “I’m not going to bore you with that. There is definitely a lot on this one for me in particular.”
And the Bengals will be without two key defensive starters, DE Mike Johnson and CB Adam Jones.
The Cardinals should prevail.