The battle of New York between the Jets and Giants, and a marquee match-up between Seattle and Minnesota, highlight Sunday’s NFL action. Let’s take a closer look at each contest . . .
Houston Texans (6-5) at Buffalo Bills (5-6)
To remain in contention for an AFC playoff spot, Buffalo must win this game. Getting talented defensive end Mario Williams back from a foot injury should help. However, with the right side of their own offensive line out due to injuries, they face major issues protecting their quarterback from Houston DE J.J. Watt.
Spearheaded by their defense, the Bills should figure out a way to win a close one.
San Francisco 49ers (3-8) at Chicago Bears (5-6)
Bears leader John Fox should be a “Coach of the Year” candidate. He has done two things not many expected: keep the Bears competitive in a rebuilding year and resurrect QB Jay Cutler.
Chicago should get to .500 at home against the offensively-challenged 49ers.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-9)
The Browns are head cases, literally and figuratively. Four Browns players are out this week with concussions.
Expect Cleveland, with journeyman Austin Davis now at quarterback, to lose their seventh straight.
Baltimore Ravens (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)
The Dolphins are a mess.
Interim coach Dan Campbell fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor this week. Earlier this season he axed defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Special teams coach Darren Rizzi better not buy green bananas.
This game favors the Ravens, winners of three of their last four.
Seattle Seahawks (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (8-3)
One of the better match-ups this week.
Are the Vikings for real? This game will be a litmus test against the Seahawks, who have won four of five.
In a quarterback-driven league the Seahawks have the edge in this game with accomplished veteran Russell Wilson facing off against youngster Teddy Bridgewater, still a work in progress
New York Giants (5-6) at New York Jets (6-5)
The battle of New York. Well not really, since both teams train and play in New Jersey.
The Jets play without starting cornerback Darrelle Revis, but that shouldn’t make much of a difference. He’s not having a great year and they enjoy depth at the position.
We give the Jets a slight edge in this match-up since their defensive line is one of the NFL’s best, and the Giants offensive line remains a mess.
Arizona Cardinals (9-2) at St. Louis Rams (4-7)
The Rams are just not very good right now.
They have no answer at quarterback, and take the field without four injured starters: CB Trumaine Johnson, DE Robert Quinn, G Andrew Donnal, and placekicker Greg Zuerlein.
The Cardinals, who do have an answer at quarterback in Carson Palmer, should prevail.
Atlanta Falcons (6-5) at Tampa Bay Bucs (5-6)
The Falcons are in freefall, losers of four in a row.
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan hates the team’s new offensive system under first-year coordinator Kyle Shanahan. It’s not a great fit for his skill set.
This game favors the upstart Buccaneers playing at home.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) at Tennessee Titans (2-9)
Titans owner Amy Adams fired second-year head coach Ken Whisenhunt after a 1-6 start. It hasn’t made much of a difference. Interim head coach Mike Mularkey is 1-3.
The problem wasn’t Whisenhunt, but pedestrian talent and a rookie QB (Marcus Mariota) learning on the job.
With the Jets, Patriots, Texans, and Colts to follow, this might be the Titans last chance to get a win, which they should be able to do against a team battling them for last place in the AFC South.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) at Oakland Raiders (5-6)
The Chiefs travel to the Bay Area without Justin Houston, one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers, which is good news for Raiders QB Derek Carr.
Andy Reid has done one of his better coaching jobs, righting the Chiefs’ ship after a disastrous start to the season. Kansas City has won five games in a row, and expect it to be six, against a team distracted by relocation rumors.
Denver Broncos (9-2) at San Diego Chargers (3-8)
A dangerous game for the Broncos.
While the Chargers are out of it, they’re coming off a win, and would love to beat their long-time division rival.
Chargers QB Phillip Rivers is having a great season, leading the NFL’s #2 ranked pass offense. The absence of two key Denver’s defenders, safety T.J. Ward and pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, makes a Chargers upset not a shocker. .
Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) at New England Patriots (10-1)
The Patriots will be without Tom Brady’s two favorite weapons – TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Julian Edelman.
However, the Eagles fly in the wrong direction, losers of three in a row. There are rumors they might trade their coach to the Tennessee Titans, where he would be reunited with his college QB, Marcus Mariota.
Even without two key targets, the Patriots should have little trouble winning this game, especially with how well their underrated defense is playing.
Carolina Panthers (11-0) at New Orleans Saints (4-7)
The Saints are falling apart.
Coach Sean Payton has one foot out the door, with Miami a possible landing spot after the season. Payton fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan two weeks ago, but it was the Saints’ offense that failed to show up in last week’s loss to Houston, scoring just six points.
The undefeated Panthers should figure out a way to beat the Saints, who have bad karma right now.
Indianapolis Colts (6-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
Very tough spot for the Colts, traveling to Pittsburgh with a voluminous injury list and facing a hungry opponent in dire need of a win.
The Steelers will have Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback after he passed a concussion test late in the week. Pittsburgh should win this game.