San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers
The Niners 2010 season falls apart at every sign of turning the corner. First they dealt with a five game losing streak compounded by the fact quarterback Alex Smith regressed to being flop he had been called in his first three seasons.
When he got injured in the seventh game, San Francisco eventually inserted 2006 Heisman winner Troy Smith and have won three of their last four games. Now halfback Frank Gore has been injured for the season, and they head into Green Bay with just one road victory this season.
Green Bay has no running game at all, which will most likely come back to haunt them in the playoffs. They rely on a good defense and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. San Francisco scores about 17 points a game, the second worst in the NFL. Green Bay allows just 15 points, the best in the league.
Packers 27 49ers 12
Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs
The honeymoon is long over for Denver head coach Josh McDaniels and Broncos fans. While losing to the Rams last week, several fans were seen with signs calling for his firing. A far cry for last year, which saw the then-rookie coach win his first seven wins before losing eight of the last nine games.
Kansas City fans are loving their second year coach Todd Haley. After four wins last year, the Chiefs are on top of the AFC West with seven wins. They have the fourth best scoring offense in the NFL, the best rushing attack, and the sixth best Giveaway/ Takeaway ratio in the league.
Haley also dislikes McDaniels, which was seen when he refused to shake hands after Denver destroyed Kansas City 49-29 about a month ago. Expect the Chiefs fans to be extra loud as Haley's team seeks revenge.
Chiefs 31 Broncos 21
Buffalo Bills @ Minnesota Vikings
Buffalo has looked better the last month, even if they only have two wins. After winning those two games, they took Pittsburgh to overtime last week and were a dropped pass away from victory.
Vikings Pro Bowl halfback Adrian Peterson comes into this game with a banged up ankle, yet appears intent on playing. Minnesota goes as far as their running game takes them. Rookie Toby Gerhart who ran for a career best 76 yards last week, will also see the ball a lot.
Vikings 26 Bills 17
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
Detroit fans have to be proud of their young team. Though they only have two wins, Detroit is a scrappy bunch that has taken quite a few losses to the wire. Their first came off a bad call by a referee than allowed Chicago to win.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had perhaps his best game with Chicago last week. While in first place in the NFC North, they desperately need this win here. Three of their last four games are against the Patriots, Jets, and a Packers team that is one game behind them.
Bears 24 Lions 20
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans
When the 2010 season began, few saw the Jaguars in the running for the division crown. In fact, most thought head coach would be replaced after his eighth year. Yet the team is in first place despite having the worst Giveaway/ Takeaway ratio in the NFL, as well as having been outscored by 54 points so far.
Tennessee is now looking like Jacksonville did. Head coach Jeff Fisher, the longest tenured NFL coach in his 17th year, is now being questioned. Perennial malcontent Vince Young had another brain fart a few weeks ago, and now owner Bud Adams will need to choose him or Fisher. It is highly unlikely they can ever team together again.
Jaguars 31 Titans 17
New Orleans Saints @ Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati will be playing out the last few games with little passion, something they seemingly have done several times in 2010, because they really have nothing left to play for other than pride.
The Saints are in a battle with Atlanta and even a Wild Card birth. They need this win badly regardless if Atlanta wins or not this week. As they get healthier, the defending champions get more dangerous.
Saints 37 Bengals 17
Washington Redskins @ New York Giants
LaRon Landry was well on his way to a Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro bid, as well as contending for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, three weeks ago. He has 85 tackles, eight defended passes, an interception, sack, and forced fumble after nine games.
The safety then hurt his Achilles and might eventually end up on injured reserve. Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers will also not play this week because of injury, but they are facing a Giants receiver corps so depleted than it will be starting guys they just signed off the streets for the second straight week.
New York has the sixth best rushing attack in the NFL, while the Redskins run defense is ranked 26th. While Jints quarterback Eli Manning might pick on mediocre cornerback Phillip Buchanon all day, Washington has no chance if they don't stop the run.
Washington quarterback Donovan McNabb is having the worst season of his career, having two more interceptions than touchdown passes. His accuracy has been wildly erratic much of the year, yet the blocking in front of him has not always given him much time. Since Washington has no real ground game due to massive injuries, the offense will rest on his shoulders yet again. He is on pace to set a team record in passing yards.
One big factor is the turnover game. New York has not held onto the ball this year, and their Giveaway/ Takeaway ratio is 26th in the league. Washington ranks ninth. Both teams desperately need this, the Redskins faint playoff hopes end with a loss and the G-Men would fall a full game behind of division leading Philadelphia.
Giants 27 Redskins 24
Cleveland Browns @ Miami Dolphins
Last week, Cleveland inserted veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme, probably the worst free agent signing this season, to play against the Carolina Panthers team that unloaded him after last year. Though Delhomme tried to lead the Panthers to victory by tossing interceptions, Browns running back Peyton Hillis made sure his team won.
Delhomme will be playing again this week, only because rookie Colt McCoy still has a tender ankle, and that benefits Miami. While the Browns have the fourth worst passing attack in the league, Miami has the fourth best pass defense in the NFL.
It again will come down to Peyton Hillis, something the Dolphins fully realize.
Dolphins 17 Browns 13
Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers
Oakland is in a rut, and that mostly comes from the fact halfback Darren McFadden has run for a pathetic total of 16 yards the past two games after having churned out 757 in his first seven games.
San Diego, on the other hand, is rejuvenated and getting healthy as well. Rookie halfback Ryan Matthews returns with wide receiver Malcom Floyd. They have won four in a row, and it seems likely they win the AFC West yet again when the dust settles.
Chargers 34 Raiders 17
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta not only has the best record in the NFL, but they are the hottest team in the NFL today with five straight wins. They do it with balance and the fact that they rank second in the NFL in the Giveaway/ Takeaway ratio. Some pundits now view them as the best team in the NFC right now.
Tampa Bay is a Cinderella team in 2010, and one of their four losses this year was by six to the Falcons about a month ago. Their defense is stingy in allowing points, and Josh Freeman is a young quarterback who has a bright future.
The balance Atlanta swallows opponents up with will probably be too much for the young Buccaneers to overcome in the end.
Falcons 24 Buccaneers 16
Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks
Carolina's focus might be on who to draft next season, because this season was over early. Seattle wins despite giving up 66 more points than they scored, and having given away the ball more than they have taken it away.
First year head coach Pete Carroll is a sure fire Coach of the Year candidate, because his Seattle team has no business being on the cusp of making the playoffs in 2010.
Seahawks 20 Panthers 18
Saint Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
The Rams are in a battle with Seattle for first place in the AFC West. Arizona has already tolled up the tents and made vacation plans as soon as the season ends.
Saint Louis has a balanced offense and underrated defense. They could present a problem in the playoffs if they forget their youth.
Rams 31 Cardinals 20
Dallas Cowboys @ Indianapolis Colts
Dallas is playing better since they changed head coaches, but that is because they run the football more. The only way they beat the porous Colts defense is this way, but halfback Marion Barber is out with an injury. Felix Jones and Tashard Choice must step up.
The Colts will look to expose the Cowboys questionable safeties by having quarterback Peyton Manning carve up the middle of the field. Indianapolis has no running game, so they go only as far as Manning can take them.
Colts 28 Cowboys 24
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore is undefeated at home this year, while Pittsburgh comes to town with a quarterback who may have a broken foot. Factor in how much these teams dislike each other, and a brawl will commence for 60 minutes Sunday night.
Both teams sit on top of the AFC North with 8-3 records, yet they are evenly matched in many other areas as well. The Ravens have scored just seven more points and allowed 11 less points so far.
Baltimore may need this worse, because the schedule the rest of the way may favor the Steelers. Both play Cleveland and Cincinnati, but the Ravens face two teams, Houston and New Orleans, fighting for the playoffs. Pittsburgh's only hard game appears to be the Jets.
Pittsburgh is second best in the NFL in Giveaway/ Takeaway ratio, while the Ravens haven given away the ball two more takes than they have taken it away. This is a big stat that shows who has the more opportunistic defense. Baltimore must match Pittsburgh here if they want a good chance of winning.
As similar as these teams are in so many ways, the turnover factor could decide the outcome.
Ravens 26 Steelers 21
New York Jets @ New England Patriots
Game of the Week
This game might decide who wins the AFC East. They both hold a 9-2 record, tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NFL right now. Statistically, it appears the Jets have an edge.
New York has the second best running game in the NFL, and the fourth best defense. They have scored 77 more points than allowed, which is third best in the NFL. They are sixth in Giveaway/ Takeaway ratio, and the 187 points they have allowed is fourth best.
Despite New England having the worst pass defense and second worst overall defense in the NFL in yards allowed, they have the highest scoring team in the league. Their Giveaway/ Takeaway ratio is second best in the league, and the 68 points that they have scored more than allowed is fifth best.
They also have quarterback Tom Brady, a future Hall of Famer having one of the finest seasons of his storied career. Brady has tossed only four interceptions all year, and the Jets have picked off just seven all year. Two came last week.
If New England can stir any semblance of a running game, the Jets could be in trouble. New York's second year quarterback Mark Sanchez has just eight interceptions this year, as opposed to the 20 he had last year.
Obviously the turnover factor looms huge here. New York has created five more than the Patriots so far. Yet New England has experience in winning the big game. Jets head coach Rex Ryan has long trumped his squad as Super Bowl caliber, and winning a game like this would prove him more than just a dreamer.
Jets 28 Patriots 27
Overall Record 80-60