The Seattle Seahawks stand at 10-1 going into their week 12 bye and with games coming up against tough NFC opponents such as New Orleans and San Francisco, they need to be at the top of their game on both sides of the ball. Most people know that Seattle has an elite defense, ranking 2nd in passing yards allowed per game, 1st in interceptions and 3rd in points allowed per game. They have stars at every level, Cliff Avril,Chris Clemons and Michael Bennett are tremendous pass rushers up front and stout linebackers Bobby Wagner,Bruce Irvin and KJ Wright form one of the best young linebacking corps in the league. The best part of their defense is the notorious Legion of Boom led by the loquacious and hard hitting corners, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner (who will be out 4-6 weeks with a groin injury), to go along with the best strong safety and free safety combo in the league in Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Most importantly the Seahawks’ success will rely on the offense, led by Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the new addition Percy Harvin. After Wilson was selected in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, he has shown he has all the tools to be an elite quarterback. He has a strong arm, a great feel for the game and most importantly, great leadership qualities. This year Russell Wilson has the 5th best passer rating in the league at 105.1, proving he can make the most out of a mediocre wide receiving corps that Seattle had for the first 10 weeks of the season. Now with Harvin back from injury, the Seahawks are exponentially better on the offensive side of the ball. Here are a couple of reasons why.
1.)Harvin gives Russell Wilson a primary target
This year Russell Wilson ranks among the NFL’s elite in passer rating, while throwing for 2,362 yards to secondary and tertiary options such as Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. With Harvin, the 67 million dollar man, Wilson has a serious deep threat, a player who might just be the fastest player in the league and has a reputation for making big plays. Obviously people know Harvin’s strength is speed and this fits Wilson’s style perfectly as his deep throw accuracy is one of the best, Wilson has a passer rating of 117.6 with balls thrown between 21 and 30 yards and a passer rating of 141.4 with balls thrown 31-40 yards. Harvin will also open up opportunities for players like Tate and Baldwin because the defense will be so focused on Harvin that these other players will have less press coverage. Teaming up with Wilson will also be a change for Percy Harvin as he gets an elite quarterback to throw to him. Look at Percy Harvin’s numbers with an older Brett Favre, 790 yards and 6tds in 15 games in 2009 and 868 yards and 5tds in 14 games in 2010 and with Christian Ponder, 967 yards and 6tds in 16 games in 2011 and 677 yards and 3tds in 9 games in 2012. Neither Favre nor Ponder were on the current level of Russell Wilson, showing that Harvin’s potential hasn’t even been tested. Great quarterbacks tend to have great receivers to help them out and Harvin will be a first for the ever-evolving Wilson.
2.)Opens lanes for Marshawn Lynch
Harvin or no Harvin, Marshawn Lynch has been playing like a beast this year, ranking 2nd in rushing with 925 yards and tied for 1st with 9tds. But with Harvin, Lynch could improve in the final weeks of the season. Look at Adrian Peterson’s numbers in 2008, 1,760 yards with 10 tds and 125 yards receiving and in Percy Harvin’s rookie year, 2009, AP had 1,368 yards with 18tds and 436 yards receiving.Although Peterson did have more yards in 2008 with 1,885 as opposed to 1,804 in 2009, he had 8 fewer tds and 49 more rushing attempts in ’08. This lessened workload helped Peterson sustain a balanced season while still being a productive runner. This could be the same case for Lynch as he won’t have to run as much and he can focus on the very effective screen plays that only expand this offense. Lynch averages 6.1 yards per catch with balls thrown behind the line of scrimmage, an indicator of Lynch’s effectiveness in the screen game. The other positive with Harvin’s return is the vaunted play action pass the Seahawks love to run. Imagine this, Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch in the spread option with Harvin in the slot. They have three potential deadly options, 1.) Give the ball to Marshawn 2.) Have Russell Wilson pull out the ball and scramble 3.) Have Russell Wilson pull out the ball and find Harvin on a deep route. Defenses will have to guess and then react to these different options, making it difficult to stop all of the weapons. This will open lanes for Lynch as corners and safeties will not be able to crowd the box and defend Harvin simultaneously. Most people will watch Harvin and his improvement but I will be watching how Marshawn Lynch plays with Harvin on the field.
3.)Kick Return and Rushing
Percy Harvin came out of Florida with the reputation as a “game wrecker”, a compliment for an explosive player of Harvin’s nature and with 4.4 speed he certainly is a game wrecker. Look at the kick return numbers for Harvin: 42 returns for 1156 yards and 2tds in 2009, 40 returns for 933 yards and 1td in 2010, 16 returns for 520 yards and 1td in 2011, 16 returns for 574 yards and 1td and then the return last week for 58 yards. Now if you average these numbers out, Harvin averages 28.1 yards on kick returns for his career. This average would be good for 2nd in return yards this year, showing just how dynamic Harvin is. He is also a menace coming out of the backfield with 6.4 yards per carry and 4tds in his career. Now with only five weeks left, I don’t know if there is time for Pete Carroll to design some Percy Harvin run plays, but if they do formulate a few designed read option runs, the Seahawks could be even more dangerous. Come playoff time Harvin could also prove to be a vital piece in the return game if he can replicate returns like the 58 yard one he registered against his former team last week.
The future for the Seahawks is very bright with Harvin in the fold as I believe the Seahawks will finish the year with a record of 14-2, win the #1 overall seed in the NFC and control home field until the Super Bowl. I then envision the 12th man and the Emerald city celebrating in early February as Paul Allen’s 67 million dollar investment pays off with a Super Bowl ring.
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.
Week 9 is full of poor games that will not excite the NFL fans. Although the games are not interesting, a few teams desperately need a win if they are going to contend for a playoff spot this season.
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills:
The Bills and Chiefs are both coming off close wins in their week 8 match-ups. The Chiefs have surprised many teams this season. However, the Chiefs success is not a flash in the pan. Although the Chiefs possessed the worst record in the league, 2-14, last season, they had a lot of talent, 5 pro bowlers, and greatly underachieved because they did not have a quality coach or quarterback. However, this offseason, the Chiefs acquired the best quarterback and coach that were available in free agency. The Chiefs have not lost this season because their defense is great and forces turnovers. The Chiefs’ defense has allowed the least amount of points in the NFL. The Chiefs have experienced a lot of success this season because of their ability to rush the passer. The combination of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston has brought terror and pressure to opposing quarterbacks. On offense, the Chiefs have been efficient at controlling the time of possession battle and not turning over the football. Jamaal Charles is one of the best running backs in the league and Alex Smith is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league and know how to play with a great defense. In Buffalo, the Bills have overachieved since the loss of EJ Manuel. Although Thad Lewis does not have the talent like other quarterbacks, he has led the Bills to a win over the revival Dolphins and almost beat the AFC North leading Bengals. However, Lewis has experienced success because he has relied on his running game. The combination of Jackson and Spiller has provided the Bills with some offensive weapons, although they do not have much talent at the wide receiver position. In this game, I am predicting the Chiefs to win. The game will probably be close since all of the Chiefs’ games are close, but their defense has propelled them to victories. The Bills will have trouble scoring since Spiller is still returning from injury and Lewis does not have the talent to beat the Chiefs’ defense.
Prediction: Chiefs win 20-10
Minnesota Vikings vs Dallas Cowboys:
After a devastating loss to the Lions on a last second rushing touchdown by Mathew Stafford, the Cowboys will try to get over the 500 mark and extend their lead in the NFC East Division. As usual, the Cowboys have been extremely inconsistent this season, but it has not been to the fault of Tony Romo. This season, the Cowboys’ defense has been the downfall of the team. While the Dallas offense is ranked 4th in points per game this season, the Dallas defense is only 16th in the league in points against. The downfall of Dallas’ defense has been their loss of DeMarcus Ware. Ware is one of the best and most valuable players in the league because he is a great pass rusher. He is able to single handily disrupt an offense because he can apply pressure on the quarterback. On offense, the Dallas pass offense has become one of the best in the league. Dallas’ improvement can be attributed to Romo’s ability to stop committing turnovers and Dez Bryants’ improvement. Dez is one of the best wide receivers in the game because he has all the physical talent. However, his mental maturity is the reason why he has become the second best wide receiver in the game. Bryant has given the Boys a deep threat to stretch the defense. While the Cowboys’ passing game is one of the best in the league, the Vikings have been worse than a nightmare. The Vikings have started three different quarterbacks, but every one of them has been horrible. The Vikings’ quarterbacks have been so bad that even Adrian Peterson cannot find room to run. Peterson is the best running back in the league, but he cannot run in front of one of the worst offensive lines in the league and against 8 men in the box. The Vikings did look better in last week’s game, but they will not win on the road at Dallas. In this game, I am favoring Dallas. Dallas will be returning DeMarco Murray and possibly DeMarcus Ware.
Prediction: Cowboys win 27-13
Tennessee Titans at St.Louis Rams:
Although the Rams almost came away with an upset against the Seahawks last week, the Rams are in a bad position. Two weeks ago, the Rams lost their starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, for the season with a torn ACL. The loss of Sam Bradford signified the loss of the Rams’ season. Bradford’s replacement, Kellen Clemens is the worst quarterback in the league and does not have the ability to lead a team to a victory. Combined with the loss of their starting running back, Daryl Richardson, the Rams have no ability to score unless they score on defense. While the Rams’ season looks lost, the Titans are trying to rebound and make a playoff push. Before the loss of Jake Locker, the Titans looked like a team primed to make a playoff run and surprise the NFL “experts”. However, Locker has returned from injury and hopes to guide the Titans back into the win column. The Titans should be able to win this week because they are playing a team with a vastly lower talent level. Also, the Titans have had two weeks to prepare for the Rams and their horrible offensive attack. The Titans are extremely talented on defense and will lock the Rams to under ten points in the game. Derrick Morgan and the rest of the defense has been dominant and has forced a numerous amount of turnovers. In this game, Verner will be licking his chops and looking to pick off the worst starting quarterback in the league. In the game, the score should be relatively low scoring as both offenses have not been dynamic or threatening this year. While Jake Locker looked like a franchise quarterback at the start of the season, he will need some time to recover from his knee injury. Also Chris Johnson has been horrible this season and does not pose a threat to defenses, like a few years ago.
Prediction: Titans win 17-6
San Diego Chargers at Washington Redskins:
During the first half of last week’s game, the Redskins look like they were ready to turn around their season and make a run to the playoffs. However, their performance in the second half showed a different team. The Broncos absolutely destroyed the Redskins are reeled off 31 straight points and won the game. After making the postseason last season, the Redskins have been horrible and have massively underachieved. Unlike Wilson and Luck, Griffin has not been able to lead his team to wins, although he has solid weapons such as Alfred Morris and Pierre Garcon. The Redskins need start winning games, if they are going to win the division for the second straight season. The major problem with the Redskins have been their defense. The Redskins currently rank second to last in points against and fourth to last in yards per game. If the Redskins are going to change their fortunes, the Redskins’ stars on defense are going to have to play like stars and force turnovers. While the Redskins have underachieved, the Chargers have exceeded expectations. Phillip Rivers is finally receiving protection, which has enabled him to play like an MVP candidate. Along with Rivers, Ryan Mathews has started playing like a first round pick over the last couple of games. Currently the Chargers are in the playoffs as the last Wild Card team. Although they will not win the division because they have two of the top teams in the league, the Chargers have a good chance of making the playoffs, if they can win the games they are suppose to win. This is a game that the Chargers must win. Fortunately, they should win the game because they are playing better football and have been preparing for this game for the last two weeks. Also, they did not have to travel across country because they have been on the east coast for the last three weeks.
Prediction: Chargers win 31-27
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers:
At the beginning of the season, the Falcons were suppose to be the favorites in this game. However, both teams are going in opposite directions. The Panthers have played like one of the best teams in football after starting poorly, while the Falcons have been decimated by injuries and are unlikely to make it back to 500. The Falcons are hoping that they hit rock bottom last week against the Cardinals. The Cardinals are one of the worst teams in the league and the Falcons still managed to lose 27-13 at home. Although the Falcons passing game has been hurt by their injuries to their star wide receivers, Atlanta’s running game has been absolutely anemic. Last week, the Falcons accumulate 27 yards of running offense on 1.9 yards per carry. Compared to the Falcons, the Panthers are polar opposite because of their ability to run the ball effectively. The Panthers are currently the 8th ranked running team in the league. The Panthers have been able to turn around their season because of Cam Newton. Over the last few seasons, Cam has played great because he is throwing and running the ball effectively. However, the Panthers have greatly improved from last season and may make the postseason because of their defense. The defense has been able to improve because their young players have succeed. Carolina’s last two first round picks Luke Kuechly and Star Lotulelei have been playing like pro bowlers and has made their defense the number two scoring defense against in the league. Currently, opponents are only averaging 13.7 points per game. The Panthers should win the game and show they are for real and have a good chance of making the playoffs.
Prediction: Carolina wins 27-17
New Orleans Saints at New York Jets:
After playing a great game against the New England Patriots, the Jets laid an egg against the Bengals on the road. The Jets have been like Jeckel and Hyde. They have lost on all the even weeks while they have won on all the odd weeks. While Geno Smith has been surprisingly good this season, he has been inconsistent because he is a rookie and should not be starting in the NFL. However, the Jets have achieved such success this season because their defense has been great. In particular, the Jets defensive line is one of the best in the league. The Jets line is extremely young, but effective and is led by Muhammed Wilkerson, one of the top three defensive linemen in the league. Besides for the struggles of Geno, the Jets have lost because their secondary has not met expectations this season. Dee Milliner has not played like a top ten pick and Antonio Cromartie has not played like the Pro-Bowler from last season. However, these two players have an incredible amount of talent and Rex is one of the best secondary coaches in the league. Also, in this game, Antonio Allen will be extremely important to the success of the defense. Two weeks ago, Allen played great and shut down Rob Gronkowski and this week he must shut down the great tight end Jimmy Graham. If the Jets want to win this game, they must take the game plan from the Patriots and apply it to the Saints. The Jets need to run the ball frequently and play great defense so Geno does not have to do too much this week. On the Saints side, they cannot over look this match up, if they want to contend for home field advantage in the NFC. When the Saints went to New England, the weather severely hurts Brees’ throwing ability. Currently the Saints are a game behind Seattle in the NFC. If New Orleans has to travel to Seattle in mid January, it could greatly inhibit their ability to score the ball and maintain their offense. If the weather plays a major factor in this game, it will be beneficial for the Jets. However, the Saints have too many weapons on offense for the Jets poor secondary to stop. The Jets’ success is stopping the big plays because of their pass rush. However, the Saints like to throw underneath routes and the Jets do not have the skill to stop all their weapons and Drew Brees, one of the top five quarterbacks in the league.