Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears:
The defending champion Ravens are heading into Chicago’s Soldier’s Field in an attempt to rectify their season and possibly make a playoff run. However, the Ravens have been extremely inconsistent this season because their offense is incredibly one dimensional, even though they had one of the best running backs in the game, Ray Rice. The downfall of Ray Rice has been the Ravens’ inability to create running lanes and give him enough carries to make an impact against defenses. Although he is paid like one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Joe Flacco should not be seventh in the league in pass attempts. Flacco has not been very good this season, 25th best quarterback rating in the league, fifth most interceptions in the league, and third most sacks in the NFL. Although sacks are not directly Flacco’s fault, the best quarterbacks have the ability to limit sacks and not turnover the football. If the Ravens are going to succeed toward the end of the season, they should rely on their defense and running game to lead them through the regular season. The improvement of the running game will allow Flacco to through the deep ball, which is the best part of his game. The Ravens defense have steadily improved throughout the season. The Ravens needed time to gel since they lost many players during the offseason. While the Ravens are fighting for their playoff lives, the Bears are hoping that they can survive until their injured players return from injury. Unfortunately for the Bears, they have lost many players on the defensive side of the ball for this game against the Ravens. While the defense may struggle another week, the offense should be able to score. Although Cutler is out with an injury, Luke McCown has been surprisingly good for the Bears. Luckily for McCown, he has great options on offense, Forte, Marshall, and Jeffrey. Unlike the Ravens, the Bears have a steady offense so defenses are unable to defend the all of their weapons. The weather in Chicago looks gloomy, which will hurt the Ravens since they cannot run the ball and Flacco’s deep passes will be difficult. Chicago should be the favorite since they are playing at home and have more momentum, especially on offense.
Prediction: Bears win 27-24
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals:
After destroying the Jets three weeks ago, 49-9, the Bengals have looked like one of the worst teams in the league. They have lost two straight games and their offense has been pitiful during the last two contestants, 18.5 ppg. The Bengals may be tired because they have been on the road the last two weeks and have not taken their bye week to rest and rejuvenate. The Bengals lost their best player on defense, Geno Atkins, which has devastated the Bengals’ defense. Atkins is a great player because he can rush the passer from the interior of the line, but can also stop the run and stuff opposing running backs at the line of scrimmage. The Bengals have been able to succeed this season because Andy Dalton has improved as a passer. Although the running game has been incredibly inconsistent, as Giovanni Bernard has been up and down all season, Dalton has been able to lead the offense by finding his big play receiver AJ Green and his fabulous young tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham. While the Bengals offense has improved, the defense has taken a great stride this season and is top ten against the run and the pass. The Browns will have trouble scoring against the Bengals because their offense has been horrific since the injury to Brian Hoyer. After Hoyer went down with an ACL injury, Branden Weeden stepped in to retake the quarterback position. However, Weeden has been inefficient and the offense has managed only 18 point per game over their last 4 decision, since Hoyer was lost due to injury. While Weeden deserves blame for the Browns offense, the running backs have given him no help over the last few weeks. Since dealing Trent Richardson, the Browns have been unable to run the ball with Willis McGahee. This week, McGahee will be replaced by Chris Ogbannaya. Since the Browns have not threatened teams with their running games, opposing defenses have been able to stop their impressive wide receivers, led by Joe Gordon and Jordan Cameron. This game will probably not be very close as the Browns have shown no life on offense and the Bengals’ defense is stellar. The Bengals will want to head into the bye week with a win so they can rest happily and not fear the Ravens, who are close behind them in the AFC North standings.
Prediction: Bengals win 27-13
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles:
The Eagles have not won a game at home all season, but are looking to reverse the trend so that they can reenter the playoff picture and win the NFC East. Lately, the Eagles offense have been incredibly hot and Nick Foles stats are great over the last few games. Although Foles does not have the speed like Mike Vick, he has not caused turnovers and has found his receivers when open down the field, which results in points and big yardage. Although Foles has not played like a great quarterback, his number speak more to the skill of his wide receivers and play makers than his ability to fit balls into tight coverage. Desean Jackson and Riley Cooper have been great over the last three games at finding space in the defense and exploiting them for large gains. Also, LeSean Shady McCoy has been great throughout the season because he has the big play ability, has great hands, which makes him a threat out of the backfield, and has the toughness to fight for yardage. The Eagles should be able to score on the Redskins like their first matchup during week 1 of the season, Eagles won 33-27. If the Redskins are going to win, RGIII and the Redskins’ offense must step up and score the ball more frequently and efficiently. The Redskins have alternated wins the last seven weeks because they cannot find consistency on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. RGIII has not been the same player that put the Redskins on his back and carried them to the playoffs last season. Also, the defensive playmakers, Brian Okrapo, Ryan Kerrigan, and DeAngelo Hall, have not made plays to slow down opposing offenses. Although the Redskins’ season may appear over, they have the talent and have shown in the past that they can turn around their season, like last season. If the Redskins have any desire of making the playoffs, they must beat the Birds in Lincoln Financial Field. Although RGIII and Alfred Morris will put up big numbers against the Redskins, the Eagles should win the game. Currently the Eagles defense is playing better than the Redskins’ defense. Also, the Eagles have a lot of momentum and feel that they have a legitimate chance at turning around the season and winning the division.
Prediction: Eagles win 33-24
Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers:
The Lions are looking to win the NFC North for the first time in the last 20 years. Luckily for Detroit, they have a legitimate chance of winning because they are playing great football and many of the teams in their division are facing questions at the quarterback position because of injuries to their stars. Although Detroit has won the last two games by a combined 3 points, they are playing well on both offense and defense. Their defensive line has been dominant all season because they have talented players like Suh and Fairley. On offense, they have some of the most exciting and dynamic players in the league like Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, and Matthew Stafford. While the season has worn, Detroit’s offense has steadily improved because of the play of Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson. Unlike previous seasons, the Lions finally have a running back that can explode out of the backfield, but can also record big plays in the passing game. The added weapons has made Matthew Stafford one of the best quarterbacks in the league because he does not have to worse passes, in order to succeed. Consequently, Stafford has posted some of the best numbers of his career and has been incredibly careful with the ball during a majority of the season. While Detroit has improved this season, the Steelers look like a team that needs a lot of help, if they are going to return to dominance. The Steelers are different from many of their former teams because they cannot run or defend the run. Currently, the Steelers are 27th at running the basketball and 29th at defending the run. The lack of running game has exploited weaknesses in Pittsburgh’s offense because big Ben is unable to lead the team. Ben has posted some of the worst stats of his career because of age and the defenses are not showing a willingness to defend the run. Although the Steelers season is lost, the team has too many proud veterans and coach to quit on the season and look toward next season. Although it will be difficult, the Lions should win the game on the road. Unless Dick Lebeau has an answer for stopping Calvin Johnson or Reggie Bush, the Lions should put up plenty of points against the Steelers’ defense.
Prediction: Lions win 30-24
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Bucs are two of the worst teams in the league and this should be one of the worst match ups of the weekend. Although the Bucs have won their last game and are playing better football, the Bucs possess little talent at important positions. The Bucs quarterback position has been dreadful all season and Mike Glennon does not look like he has a future at the position. Glennon has only thrown for 1300 yards and has been incredibly inconsistent with the football. While the quarterback position has been horrible, the Tampa’s running back has been incredibly unfortunate with injuries. The Tampa Bay Bucs have lost two of their top running backs for the season, which has been catastrophic for Glennon, since he does not have a running game to fall back on. While the offense has been anemic, the defense has been solid all season and has a lot of talent, especially in the secondary. Throughout the season, Revis has steadily improved because his body is healing and he is returning to his status as the best corner in the league. Besides Revis, Goldson and Barron have been solid as safeties protecting against the deep passes. While the Bucs are steadily improving, the Falcons’ season has broken into shambles since the loss at home against Revis’ old team, Jets. Atlanta has been devastated by injuries, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Falcons have lost White, Jones, Jackson, and possibly Gonzalez. The loss of wide receivers has forced Matt Ryan to fit balls into tight windows and has resulted in multiple interceptions. Over the past three weeks, Ryan has thrown 7 interceptions compared to only 3 touchdowns against the Seahawks, Panthers, and Cardinals. Unfortunately for Ryan, he must continue throwing the football because the Falcons’ running game has been non existent for the whole season. Over the course of the season, the Falcons have rushed for only 579 yards. In this game, the Bucs should win at home. The Bucs have been playing better and the defense should be able to stymie the Falcons offense that has been pathetic the past few weeks. Although a win may knock the Bucs down on the draft board, Schiano needs a few more wins if he is going to keep his job.
Prediction: Bucs win 20-17
Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars:
Last week was a great week for win less teams as they both won last week, Jags and Bucs. The Jaguars have been horrible this season because their offense cannot produce any points. Currently, they are last in points per game, 12.8, because they do not have a dependable quarterback, running back, or wide receiver. The Jaguars need to find a new quarterback this offseason because the combination of Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert cannot get the job done on offense. The combination has recorded only 4 touchdowns and about 2000 yards passing while each have thrown 7 picks. While the quarterbacks have been horrible, the running backs have not been effective. The Jags are 31st in the league in running yards per game. MJD is not the same running back and is too old and worn to carry the ball 25 times a game. On offense, the Jags have scored only 9 touchdowns. In comparison, Nick Foles has thrown for 10 touchdowns in the last two games. Like the offense, the defense does not have much talent and cannot consistently stop their opponents. Also, they do not have the ability to change a game by forcing turnovers, which puts the offense in worse situations. Although the Jags are looking toward next year, the Cardinals feel that they have a chance to make the playoffs. The Cardinals have won two straight games and are over 500 on the season. The Cardinals offense has improved because of the emergence of running back Andre Ellington. Andre has shown the Cardinals that he has the big play ability to change a game at any moment. Along with Ellington, Carson Palmer has become safer with the ball and has tossed two touchdowns in each of the last two games. The Cardinals will have success in this game because their defense has been solid this season. The Cardinals are ranked 3rd in the league in rush defense, which has enabled them to make their opponents one dimensional. In this game, the Cardinals should be able to contain the Jags offense, while on offense they should do enough to lengthen their two game winning streak.
Prediction: Cardinals win 24-16
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans:
The Raiders look like they will be without their starting quarterback and running back for the game against the Texans. Although the Raiders have been inconsistent this season, they have exceeded expectations. The Raiders have been able to win three games with a quarterback that many felt should not be in the game. However, Pryor has steadily improved throughout the season because of his dual threat ability. Although Pryor is not the most consistent passer, he is extremely fast and has rushed for over 500 yards. The Oakland offense has been below average this season because they do not have the ability to throw the ball consistently and effectively. Thus, the opponents are able to put 8 men in the box to stop the run. With the added attention, Darren McFadden has been unable to run for big yardage. Currently, he has less than 400 yards on the season because he does not have the holes and is given less carries because of Pryor’s running and injuries. In the last two games, the Raiders have lost because their defense cannot shut down the opponents’ offense. The Raiders inability to stop the pass should enable Case Keenum to record a big game at home for the Texans. Since Case took over for Matt three weeks ago, he has not thrown an interception, but has not won a game. In the last three games, the Texans have improved and have lost by only 7 points. While Case has not wowed fans and experts with his game, he has played well and has not lost the games for the Texans. Unfortunately for Case, the Texans have lost their star running back Arian Foster for the season. The Texans have had trouble scoring all season, 18.9 points per game, but they have improved over the last few weeks. Along with the improved offense, the Texans’ defense has been impressive the last few games and has kept the team in the game for a majority of the game. In this game, the Texans should win the game and give Case his first win in the NFL. The Raiders will have a difficult time winning this game because they will not be able to score enough points. The ferocious Texans’ defense should be able to force a few turnovers and stymie the Raiders offense. On offense, Case should be able to find open wide receivers and score points to win the game.
Prediction: Texans 27-13
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills:
The Jets have won during every odd day, but have lost during every even week. Luckily for the Jets, they had their bye week on an even week and are playing on an odd week this week. The Jets success this season has been due to their great defensive line. The self proclaimed Sons of Anarchy has been create at rushing the passer and stopping the run, without sending extra men into the box. Although the secondary has not been great like previous seasons, the defensive line has enabled the secondary to guard their man for less time and has concealed their true problems. Hopefully for the Jets, Dee Millner will play like a top ten pick, Cro will return to his All-Pro form, and Ed Reed has enough left in the tank to strike fear into receivers and pick off a few passes. If the Jets secondary can improve, the defense could elevate from the 8th best defense to a top five defense. While the Jets have been dominant on defense, the offense has been steady and has started to stop turning over the football. As seen from their last game against the Saints, the Jets can become incredibly successful and threatening if they do not turn the ball over and run the ball. Although Geno has not been the reason why the Jets have won 2 of their last 3 games, he should have more weapons and options in this game against Buffalo. Holmes, Winslow, and Kerley are all expect to return for the game in Orchard Park. Although the Jets may not want to throw the ball very often, the weapons should force the Buffalo D to respect the pass and open lanes for the Chris Ivory and the running game. If the Bills are going to stop the Jets this weekend, Marcel Darius and Mario Williams must pressure Geno Smith and stop the running game. This season, Williams has looked like the player that earned a 100 million dollar deal a few seasons ago. However, RT Austin Howard has been able to stop Williams over the last three contests. Williams should be determined to beat Howard and regain respect from the Jets’ coaches. Unlike their previous matchup, the Bills will have their secondary for the game. If Williams can force a few bad passes, the Bills’ talented safeties and corners may be able to pick a few of Geno’s passes. Unfortunately on offense, the Bills will be without their two best wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods. The duo has accounted for 40% of the Bills’ passing yards this season. Although CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson would be able to carry the Bills against most teams, the Jets are the number one rush defense in the league and the duo has not experienced success against the talented Jets front 7 in the past. Also, the pressure provided by the Jets last three first round picks, besides Millner, should be able to provide pressure to distract EJ Manuel and force turnovers or incomplete passes. In this game, the score should be relatively low scoring since neither of these teams have explosive or talented players on offense. However, the Jets will be returning players, unlike the Bills, so they should win the game and continue their win streak on odd weeks or their first consecutive win streak of the season.
Prediction: Jets win 21-17
San Diego Charger vs Miami Dolphins:
Prediction: Chargers win 27-24
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints:
Prediction: Saints win 31-30
Green Bay Packers at New York Giants:
Prediction: Giants win 21-17
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks:
Prediction: Seahawks win 31-16
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos:
Prediction: Broncos win 31-30
New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers:
Prediction: Panthers win 27-21
Pics and stats from ESPN.com