RGII returns. The Ravens and Steelers battle in a key AFC North battle. The Cowboys and Cardinals stake their claims for NFC supremacy. And, in the Sunday afternoon CBS featured game, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning square off for the 16th time. Let’s analyze the matchups….
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1)
The Bengals expect superstar receiver A.J. Green to return from a toe injury after missing the three previous games.
This is good news for the Bengals and bad news for the Jaguars, especially since they are banged up at cornerback. They put starter Alan Ball on injured reserve with a biceps injury, and key reserve Will Blackmon sits out this game with a finger injury.
The Bengals haven’t lost a home game since 2012, and don’t expect that streak to end, especially against a rookie quarterback (Blake Bortles) on the road (rookie QBs generally struggle away from home).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) at Cleveland Brown (4-3)
Why are the Buccaneers so bad?
Well, they rank 32nd in the NFL on both offense and defense. That pretty much explains it.
And their anemic offense has another problem this week–an injury sidelines their starting left tackle, Anthony Collins.
Expect a seventh loss for Tampa Bay.
Arizona Cardinals (6-1) at Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is questionable with a back injury.
He’s such a gamer that he will likely take a Toradol injection and play.
The NFL’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, against the NFL’s #3 rush defense presents a great matchup in this tilt. If Romo can play, he can exploit the NFL’s 32nd-ranked secondary with two starters coming off concussions–CB Patrick Peterson and S Tony Jefferson.
Dallas should be able to win this battle of first-place teams if Romo plays.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) at Houston Texans (4-4)
Last year playing in 13 starts (10 starts), Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw just two interceptions. This year, in seven games, he’s tossed nine. He’s also lost three fumbles.
He better be careful this week facing one of the NFL’s best players at creating turnovers, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who has 24 QB hits this year.
If the Eagles can protect Foles, their sixth-ranked pass offense should be able to get a lot done through the air against the NFL’s 28th-ranked pass defense.
This game could go either way.
New York Jets (1-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)
Looking to add some juice to their moribund offense, featuring the NFL’s 32nd-ranked passing attack, the Jets will start veteran Mike Vick at quarterback. Even at 34, Vick still possesses a howitzer arm and world-class speed. It remains to be seen if he can stay healthy, a problem in recent years.
Vick faces quite a challenge against the NFL’s top pass defense. However, this pass defense will be without two corners, starter Jamell Fleming (hamstring) and key reserve Chris Owens (knee).
While the Jets went to Vick too late to save their season, they should be more competitive with him under center and should be able to keep this game close.
San Diego Chargers (5-3) at Miami Dolphins (4-3)
Miami has the perfect formula to support developing quarterback Ryan Tannehill–they can run the ball and stop offenses on the other side of the ball. So Tannehill doesn’t have to carry this team, and can just manage the games.
This is going to be a tough matchup for San Diego offense, with their pedestrian O-line facing one of the NFL’s best fronts. They really get after quarterbacks.
Because San Diego’s 30th-ranked rushing offense doesn’t have a prayer of running the ball in this game, and Rivers is likely going to be under constant duress. Don’t be surprised if Miami wins a close one.
Washington Redskins (3-5) at Minnesota Vikings (3-5)
It looks like Robert Griffin III will be back at quarterback after hurting his ankle in Week Two.
This is a risky move by Redskins coach Jay Gruden because Colt McCoy led the Redskins to victories the last two weeks, including a major upset at Dallas.
It’s also risky because the injury-prone Griffin will be facing a ferocious Vikings front seven that puts a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Everson Griffen (8 sacks) leads the group.
If Griffin does a serviceable job in this game, the Redskins should be able to win, since the Vikings start a rookie quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) not ready to be on the field.
St. Louis Rams (2-5) and San Francisco 49ers (4-3)
The 49ers should be the fresher and more prepared team coming off a bye-week. They’ve had two weeks to lament their 42-17 blowout loss to Denver, and can’t wait to get back on the field and redeem themselves.
The 49ers won the first matchup of these two teams, 31-17 in St. Louis, so they should complete the sweep at home.
Expect a heavy dose of 49ers running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde in this game against St. Louis’s 31st-ranked rush defense, which could be without impressive rookie DT Aaron Donald (shoulder).
Denver Broncos (6-1) at New England Patriots (6-2)
The two legendary quarterbacks facing off in this matchup are both on a roll. Denver’s Peyton Manning leads the NFL with 22 touchdown passes. New England’s Tom Brady threw 14 touchdowns and no interceptions in October.
While there is so much focus on the greatness of the quarterbacks in this game, and rightfully so, what could tip this game in favor of Denver is a much better defensive front seven.
Broncos edge pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have combined for 16 sacks, and should make Brady very uncomfortable in the pocket.
Also, the Broncos have the NFL’s #1 defense against the run, led by defensive tackle Terrence “Pot Roast” Knighton.
The Patriots are without their two best front seven players–DE Chandler Jones and LB Jarod Mayo.
Due to the much better front seven, the road team should win this game.
Oakland Raiders (0-7) at Seattle Seahawks (4-3)
The Raiders have lost 14 games in a row, and that should turn into 15.
It’s hard to see a rookie quarterback (Derek Carr) going into Century Link Field and having much success.
Also, the Raiders are very banged up at corner with Carlos Rogers (knee), Keith McGill (groin), and Chimdi Chekwa all sidelined. Russell Wilson should be able to pick this secondary apart.
The Seahawks have the NFL’s #2 rushing offense. Marshawn Lynch should be able to run all over his hometown team.
Baltimore Ravens (5-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
All four teams in the AFC North are in the hunt, so division games like this are huge.
Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a 522-yard, six touchdown performance against Indianapolis, and now he faces a Baltimore Ravens team without starting cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot).
Steelers WR Antonio Brown leads the NFL in receptions, and will be quite a chore for the Ravens. Brown has rare hand-eye coordination.
But the Ravens are hard to score on, giving up the second least amount of points in the NFL this season.
The game is a toss-up.