NFL Preview: No More Debates for NBC, But a Heck of a Sunday Night Game

AP Photo
The Associated Press

This week’s menu of NFL games includes a battle of undefeated teams as Green Bay visits Denver.

Another undefeated team, the Cincinnati Bengals travels to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers, getting back franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Another undefeated team facing a major challenge this week are the Carolina Panthers, no lock to beat a mercurial Indianapolis Colts desperate for a win.

Let’s take a closer look at this week’s lineup of NFL action . . .

Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Denver Broncos (6-0)

It’s not debatable. John Harwood’s employer—NBC—broadcasts a great game on Sunday Night Football.

While many highlight the matchup two legendary quarterbacks, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers vs. Denver’s Peyton Manning, that isn’t the game’s sexiest element. A suffocating defense, ranked #1 in the NFL, spearhead the Broncos’ attack, so it’s the matchup of this unit against Rodgers that plays as the most intriguing aspect of this game.

This contest could go either way.

Indianapolis Colts (3-4) at Carolina Panthers (6-0)

The sky is falling in Indianapolis.

The Colts enter this matchup on a two-game losing streak. The GM and the owner just engaged in a shouting match in the locker room. But guess what Chicken Little? They are still in first place in their division, the anemic AFC South.

And those two loses in a row came to a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, New England’s Tom Brady and New Orleans’ Drew Brees. Carolina’s QB Cam Newton is good, but not on that level.

Don’t be shocked if the Colts pull the upset.

New York Jets (4-2) at Oakland Raiders (3-3)

The Jets are pretty banged-up. But they should win this game.

First off, the Jets’ resurgent passing game, led by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and star receiver Brandon Marshall, should pose a big problem for the Raiders’ pass defense, ranked last in the NFL. Also, the Jets’ athletically gifted defensive line should cause major problems for the Raiders massive offensive line—huge, but not mobile.

This match-up favors the Jets, led by the NFL’s #2 defense.

New York Giants (4-3) at New Orleans Saints (3-4)

The Saints are hot, winning three of four. Expect it to be four of five.

This is a bad match-up for the Giants. Their 30th-ranked pass defense doesn’t match-up well with Drew Brees and the Saints’ third-ranked passing offense. And the game is in the Superdome where the Saints rarely lose.

The Saints should get to .500.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

This is the much-anticipated return of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from a knee injury.

The excitement in the Steelers clubhouse was palpable this week with Big Ben back in the fold.

The Bengals are red-hot and healthy (only one player on the injury report, unheard of in Week 8). This is a must-win for the Steelers to stay in contention for the division crown, and the return of their franchise QB should give them a jolt.

This game could go either way.

Minnesota Vikings (4-2) at Chicago Bears (2-4)

What a difference Adrian Peterson makes for the Vikings.

The talented tailback, suspended last year for using a switch to discipline his son, stands as the biggest reason the Vikings are 4-2. Behind an average offensive line, he has the Vikings ranked 6th in rushing. Even with teams using extra defenders around the line, he still moves the chains.

So the Vikings are winning despite their 30th-ranked passing offense. The Bears should be tough coming at home off a bye-week. This game is too close to call.

Seattle Seahawks (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (2-4)

The Cowboys are reeling, losers of four in a row.

Aside from quarterback issues, they haven’t forced a turnover since Week Two. The Cowboys might get superstar receiver Dez Bryant back this week from a foot injury. It will be a game-time decision.

Your guess is as good as mine on this tilt.

Tennessee Titans (1-5) at Houston Texans (2-5)

The Houston Texans are one game out of first place in the lowly AFC South.

And while they aren’t playing well right now, they should be able to win against the worst team in their division. The Titans play without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota due to a knee injury, and will start Zach Mettenberger. It really doesn’t make a difference – both players are projects learning on the job.

The Texans should win this game and stay in contention in their division.

San Diego Chargers (2-5) at Baltimore Ravens (1-6)

The Chargers boast the NFL’s #1 offense and they are 2-5. What gives?

Too many turnovers, coughing up the ball 13 times. They are also clearly distracted by all the rumors about a move to Los Angeles. This is a bad match-up for the Ravens 28th-ranked pass defense against the NFL’s top-ranked passing offense.

This game should be close, but San Diego has the better quarterback, so this gives them the edge.

San Francisco 49ers (2-5) at St. Louis Rams (3-3)

This game likely won’t set a scoring record.

The 49ers have the 32nd-ranked offense, and the Rams the 31st. Neither team gets much from the quarterback position. These are two lowest-rated passing offenses in the NFL. So, the tiebreaker could be the respective running games, and the Rams enjoy the edge with emerging star Todd Gurley, who looks like the next Adrian Peterson. The 49ers’ starting tailback Carlos Hyde is out with a foot injury.

So the pick here is the home team.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Atlanta Falcons (6-1)

Tampa Bay has three key players out—wide receiver Vincent Jackson, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and safety Major Wright.
Also, in the quarterback match-up, you have a rookie, Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston, versus seasoned-veteran Matt Ryan. And the Falcons are at home.

Atlanta should win this game.

Arizona Cardinals (5-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)

For the second year in a row the Browns run defense is awful, ranked 32nd in the NFL. And the Cardinals bring to town the NFL’s second-leading rusher, Chris Johnson.

But Arizona suffers from some injuries: starting linebacker Alex Okafor sits, and starting cornerback Jarraud Powers is iffy as is speedy wide receiver John Brown. If Powers and Brown watch from the sidelines, that should help Cleveland.

But the Cardinals are the better overall team (#4 offense and #4 defense), with a healthier culture, and should figure out a way to win this game.

Detroit Lions (1-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-5)

The Lions owner, Martha Ford, 90, is flexing her muscles.

She’s very unhappy with her team, so the Lions blew up their offensive coaching staff earlier this week. The Lions new offensive coordinator is Jim Bob Cooter, 31, whose name alone should add some pizzazz to Detroit’s underachieving offense. He sounds like a character from Dukes of Hazzard, and if you look at his background, Boss Hogg would be keeping a close eye on the guy.

These are two bad teams, but the Chiefs, coming off a win over Pittsburgh, is the better of the two, and should win this game being played in London.