11/17/2011 11:37 AM
With Denver's inability to rely on the run and move the ball against a Jets defense out for punishment, I think gang green rolls here even if Sanchez is his usual mediocre self. Frankly I found it hard to believe that the Broncos still outlasted Kansas City who has offensive problems of their own 17-10 despite Tebow completing just 2 passes. I guess you accept wins any way you can get them.
Atlanta is going to need a strong bounce back performance to keep pace with the inconsistent Saints, who were lucky to win that game in OT last week on one of the more stupisdest coaching decisions I have seen in quite sometime. How do you go for it on 4th and short from your own 30? When the first team to score wins in overtime, you play for field position. Inexcusable. I'm sure Mike Smith heard an earful from Dimitroff Jr.
Buffalo needs this win badly, almost as much as the Jets do against Denver Thursday night. Tiebreaker is crucial in these divisional matchups, and New England swept the season series from the Jets. The Bills need to cut down on turnovers and be more efficient in the running and passing games. Their defense is also suffering from inefficiency and injuries, so a loss to a team just playing for pride may all but end the Bills' postseason hopes as well.
The matchup between Cincinnati and Baltimore is also crucial because the winner ties the idle Steelers for first in the AFC North. While both of these teams can move the ball, their ability to capitalize in the red zone is essential. Seems like the Ravens have more success utilizing Rice and Flacco at home while the Bengals' Dalton gets the job done on the road with his balanced receiving core.
How up for grabs is the AFC West? You've got Oakland leading the pack at 5-4 with Denver, Kansas City and San Diego all 4-5. This is a significant head to head advantage for the rested Raiders especially if Carson Palmer can continue to feel more comfortable out of a short retirement. Michael Bush is coming off his best game of the season. While Minnesota has played respectable even in most of its closer games, Ponder and Petersen need to be more efficient if they have plans to pull off the upset.
This is also a big game for Detroit and perhaps a wake-up call coming off the humiliating loss to Chicago on Sunday. After starting the season with five consecutive wins, the Lions (6-3) have dropped three of four since. The Lions finished with six turnovers - four interceptions and two fumbles - one more than they had through their first eight games. Stafford had thrown four picks all season before matching that total in the span of six possessions Sunday. Not good Spooky. The good news is three of their next four games are at Ford Field, with the only road contest coming at New Orleans' Superdome on Dec. 4. The Panthers, who have lost a franchise-worst 11 straight road games, rank 30th in the NFL in scoring defense (26.3 per game) this season, and are 29th in total defense (373.2 yards per game) since Week 5.
Will this Green Bay team ever lose this season? Let's face it. Aaron Rodgers is on pace to soar past Brett Favre in career achievements. Green Bay defenders have taken their generous play prior to Monday personally at times. That unit has felt it has not held up its end of the bargain while the Rodgers-led offense continues to roll over the competition, with the Packers averaging an NFL-high 35.6 points per game. Tampa Bay and Cleveland are the only teams in the league not to have scored an offensive touchdown in the first quarter all season. Trying to improve offensively is only half the battle for Tampa Bay. Stopping Rodgers is perhaps an even more daunting issue for a Buccaneers defense that allowed scoring plays of 80 and 78 yards in last Sunday's 37-9 home loss to Houston.
Don't you love softer parts of the schedule? Looks like my Boys are making some noise in the NFC East and we still have two more matchups with big blue. However first things first. We all remember what happened last year at Fed Ex Field, with a potential victory TD wiped out on a holding call as time ran out. Demarco Murray has opened up the offense and helped turn around the season for Dallas, which seeks a season-best third straight win. Murray has rushed for an NFL-best 601 rushing yards and two touchdowns since taking over as the lead back Oct. 23, leading the Cowboys to three wins in four contests. While Jones is expected to return following a four-game absence, Murray will remain No. 1 on the depth chart. He tops all NFL running backs with 6.7 yards per carry - Jones was averaging 4.0. The Redskins (3-6) have been outscored 115-53 during a five-game losing streak. They haven't lost six in a row since opening 0-7 in 1998. While it looked like quarterback John Beck was in line to make a fourth consecutive start last Sunday, Shanahan made a late switch and went with Rex Grossman, who threw for 215 yards and two interceptions in a 20-9 loss at Miami. With the offensive woes drilling down to RB and the rest of the areas, things should be just as easy as they were last week in a bashing of Buffalo.
Not much was expected of a team which hasn't been to the playoffs since 2002, and only three of its victories have come against teams with winning records. However, the 49ers believed in themselves long before the victory over the NFC East-leading Giants. San Francisco has the league's second-best record behind Green Bay and holds a five-game lead in the NFC West. The 49ers rank first against the run, giving up an average of 73.2 yards, and have not allowed a rushing touchdown in 10 straight games. Their 31-game stretch of not allowing a 100-yard rusher is the longest active streak in the NFL. Beanie Wells has averaged 53.4 yards and scored twice in five games since a 138-yard, three-touchdown performance Oct. 2 against the Giants. He ran for 62 yards on 23 carries in Sunday's 21-17 win at Philadelphia, as quarterback John Skelton helped the Cardinals (3-6) to their second straight win without the injured Kevin Kolb.
Chicago's stingy defense is forcing turnovers and coming up with big stops, and the Bears have won four in a row as a result. San Diego's struggling offense is having trouble protecting the ball, and not surprisingly, the Chargers have lost their last four games. In a matchup of teams heading in opposite directions, Chicago's playoff hopes seemed slim Oct. 10, as a 24-13 loss to Detroit dropped it to 2-3 and three games out of first place in the NFC North. A banged up San Diego team has turned the ball over 11 times during its skid. The Chargers (4-5) allowed a season-high six sacks Thursday as they fell one game back of the first-place Raiders. This is their longest skid since opening the 2003 season 0-5. Rivers had another tough game Thursday, going 23 of 47 for 274 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a fumble. Turner, however, praised Rivers for his performance considering he was constantly under pressure. Hello, are we watching the same game here while the season is at stake?
The Philadelphia Eagles don't have much room for error now, and may be without Michael Vick this weekend. The New York Giants have already knocked Vick out once this season. Now they can land a knockout blow to their archrivals' season. Michael Vick did not practice Wednesday after suffering two broken lower ribs last week and finishing with a 32.5 passer rating - his worst with the Eagles. After Vick had career highs of 21 passing touchdowns and nine on the ground last season and the Eagles added numerous big-name acquisitions, Philadelphia was considered a clear favorite to repeat as NFC East champions. Andy Reid is dealing with other issues besides Vick. The coach said DeSean Jackson will return after the receiver was deactivated last Sunday because he missed a meeting. Meanwhile, New York is finishing stronger this season behind Eli Manning, who owns the league's second-best fourth-quarter rating at 116.5. Manning is fifth in the league in TD passes (17) and quarterback rating (97.0) and has turned in consecutive four-touchdown efforts against Philadelphia.
Now that New England has first place all to themselves, they catch a reeling Chiefs team at the right time. While the ability of the Patriots' offense to score has rarely been in question, the NFL's lowest-ranked defense's chances of stopping anyone certainly were before facing the Jets last week. However New England's front constantly pressured Mark Sanchez - defensive end Andre Carter had four sacks - and helped take some of the heat off a makeshift secondary.
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