A lot of important games this week for teams attempting to stay alive in the playoff hunt. The best game on the schedule is Pittsburgh at Cincinnati. Actually, it’s the only game featuring two teams with winning records.
Let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s action.
Atlanta Falcons (6-6) at Carolina Panthers (12-0)
They say the modern NFL is a passing league. Don’t tell that to the undefeated Panthers, ranked 27th throwing the football.
Atlanta’s massive nose tackle Paul Soliai will miss the game, which should help the already strong Panthers running game. After starting 5-0, the Falcons have lost 6 of 7.
It should be 7 of 8 once this game is over.
Buffalo Bills (6-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
The Bills enter this game pretty banged-up on defense with three starters out—cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebacker Nigel Bradham, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams.
Bills running back LeSean McCoy looks to dominate his former team’s 27th-ranked rushing defense. He’s still ticked at Eagles coach Chip Kelly for trading him.
Huge game for two teams still hanging on to slim playoff hopes. This contest is too close to call.
Dallas Cowboys (8-4) at Green Bay Packers (4-8)
Green Bay’s offensive line is beat-up. Center Corey Linsley is out, and right tackle Brian Bulaga is iffy, so protecting QB Aaron Rodgers could prove a problem.
The Packers lost their last two home games after winning 13 in a row at Lambeau Field. It’s hard seeing the Packers losing three home games in a row, especially against the offensively-challenged Cowboys.
Detroit Lions (4-8) at St. Louis Rams (4-8)
The Rams offense is awful, and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti was throwm under the bus this week, joining the 94.5 million Americans out of the workforce.
And to make matters worse, injuries ravage their defense. D-end Robert Quinn, safety T.J. McDonald, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins all sit.
While the Lions still reel from their last-second loss to Green Bay, they should beat the Rams, who might already be packing for Los Angeles.
Indianapolis Colts (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)
Colts 40-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck plays with neck and rib injuries. His blindside protector, left tackle Anthony Costanzo, sits. Ugh.
The Jaguars are loaded at receiver, and the Colts have one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses.
Jags QB Blake Bortles is coming off a five-touchdown performance at Tennessee. So, don’t be shocked if he enjoys a similar outing against the Colts, and Jacksonville pulls the upset.
New Orleans Saints (6-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)
The Buccaneers have myriad injuries on their defensive line, so Saints QB Drew Brees should have a lot of time to throw.
The Saints are mired in a four-game losing streak, but they showed they aren’t an easy out, losing 41-38 loss to the undefeated Panthers last week.
Don’t be surprised if the road team pulls an upset.
Oakland Raiders (5-7) at Denver Broncos (10-2)
Like the Broncos’ #1-ranked defense needed any help, pass rusher extraordinaire DeMarcus Ware returns from a back injury.
The Raiders field the NFL’s 28th-ranked pass defense, so Denver should succeed through the air. Conversely, the Raiders are going to have a hard time throwing against the NFL’s #1 pass defense.
Denver should win this game.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)
The Bengals are beat up in the secondary, never ideal when facing QB Ben Roethlisberger. Speaking of pass defenses, it’s a weakness of the Steelers, ranked 29th in the NFL. So the latest in installment of this fierce rivalry should play as a shoot-out that could go either way.
“We don’t like them, and they don’t like us,” said Steelers guard David DeCastro. “It’s going to be bloody on both sides,” said Bengals receiver Marvin Jones.
San Diego Chargers (3-9) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-5)
If the Chargers fire their coach, Dr. Sanjay Gupta might be a good replacement. Just like last year, they are a MASH unit.
QB Phillip Rivers is ill and might not play. They already lost top receiver Keenan Allen for the season, and two more wideouts, Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman, sit with injuries this week. They will also be without starting cornerback Brandon Flowers and defensive tackle Corey Luiget.
Kansas City defeated the Chargers by 30 points in San Diego three weeks ago, and should have little problem beating them again.
San Francisco 49ers (4-8) at Cleveland Browns (2-10)
Johnny Manziel is back at quarterback for the Browns, but who is he going to throw to? The Browns are devastated by injuries at wide receiver. Also, the Browns’ top corner Joe Haden is out with a concussion.
The 49ers might be out of it, but they are playing very hard for first-year coach Jim Tomsula, and should win this game.
Seattle Seahawks (7-5) at Baltimore Ravens (4-8)
The Ravens might be starting their third quarterback this year, with Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub both injured. If Jimmy Clausen starts, it will be the second time he’s faced Seattle this year. He started for the Chicago Bears against the Seahawks on Sept. 27 in Seattle. Whoever starts at QB for the Ravens, they will be without left tackle Eugene Monroe against the Seahawks’ ferocious pass rush.
The Seahawks should win their fourth in a row.
Tennessee Titans (3-9) at New York Jets (7-5)
The Titans are going to have a hard time running against the NFL’s #1 ranked rush defense, so this will force Marcus Mariota to throw a lot, never a good idea for a rookie QB on the road.
The Jets need this game badly to help their wildcard hopes. The Jets are the much healthier team and at home. They should win this game.
Washington Redskins (5-7) at Chicago Bears (5-7)
The Redskins, tied for first place in the NFC East at 5-7, desperately need this game. The Bears are ravaged by injuries which should help the Redskins’ cause. The Redskins are 0-5 on the road, and the Bears are 1-5 at home.
This game is too close to call.
New England Patriots (10-2) at Houston Texans (6-6)
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is almost unblockable. However, he broke his hand this week, so perhaps that will make him somewhat blockable.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien is the Patriots’ former offensive coordinator. He knows a lot about what makes Tom Brady tick. That should come in handy.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski might come back this week from a knee injury. If Gronk plays, the Patriots should win, if he doesn’t, an upset is quite possible. Brady has missed him immeasurably.