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Seattle Seahawks (8-1) at Atlanta Falcons (2-6)
Prediction: A couple of underwhelming performances have many rethinking their opinion on Seattle. Every team goes through a couple of rough outings, though. The fact Seattle won both games in which they played below their standards is a testament to their strength. The Falcons, meanwhile, are a candidate for biggest disappointment. Injuries have piled up, but they look defeated even before they step onto the field. Is it too early to speculate about Mike Smith’s future?
Seahawks 30 Falcons 10
Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (3-5)
Prediction: This is a must-win game for Baltimore. They cannot fall three games behind Cincinnati in the loss column and expect to win the division. For the Bengals, this is an opportunity to standout from your division counterparts. Andy Dalton was rolling the last few weeks, but he played poorly on Halloween against Miami. Can they overcome losing defensive tackle Geno Atkins? I think they can, if Dalton continues to elevate his game. With that said, I still have reservations about their ability to win on the road and Baltimore‘s a desperate team.
Ravens 23 Bengals 20
Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-3)
Prediction: All of a sudden, things are looking up for Philadelphia, while it couldn’t possibly get any worse in Green Bay. The Packers do matchup well with Philadelphia. Their defense will play better against the Eagles and their running game is currently No. 2 in the NFL. Eddie Lacy’s probably the rookie of the year frontrunner and James Starks is running well. If Green Bay’s going to weather the storm without Aaron Rodgers, they’re going to need to keep running the football as well as they have. I think they will on Sunday.
Packers 27 Eagles 21
St. Louis Rams (3-6) at Indianapolis Colts (6-2)
Prediction: For whatever reason, people seem reluctant to rank Indianapolis among the elite. Let’s remember they’ve beaten Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco. Losing Reggie Wayne hurts their leadership, but it also gives T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener a chance to blossom. The Colts build their passing game around the slot receiver and Hilton is an ideal slot man. Prior to his injury, Wayne played the position, so Hilton didn’t get an opportunity to shine in that role. With Wayne out, Hilton’s now Andrew Luck’s No. 1 target. In addition, Fleener replaces Wayne as Luck’s go-to receiver on third downs. The Colts are just fine.
Colts 28 Rams 13
Detroit Lions (5-3) at Chicago Bears (5-3)
Prediction: While I’m not ready to count out Green Bay, the winner of this matchup may emerge as the NFC North favorite. Regardless, offensively, Chicago played well against the Pack. The receiving tandem of Branson Marshall and Alshon Jeffery is very good and their offensive line is the most improved unit in football. The Lions have had an extra week to prepare for this matchup, while Chicago’s operating on a short week. The Bears have the offense to win this game, but I have serious doubts about whether their defense can stop Detroit.
Lions 30 Bears 26
Oakland Raiders (3-5) at N.Y. Giants (2-6)
Prediction: Given their outing last week, Oakland will be more prepared on defense, but I don’t know how their offense scores points. Darren McFadden is hurt again and Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders need to develop some receivers. Regardless of the outcome, neither team is making a late-season surge.
Giants 21 Raiders 7
Buffalo Bills (3-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6)
Prediction: Pittsburgh’s defense is old and slow. In addition, they looked lost against New England. The offense did have some success, though, with running back Le’Veon Bell running for 100-plus yards. Ben Roethlisberger also made some good throws. Buffalo gets quarterback E.J. Manuel back, but if the Steelers have any self-respect, they should win this game.
Steelers 27 Bills 26
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) at Tennessee Titans (4-4)
Prediction: We know the Jaguars are bad. What about the Titans, though? I can’t get a read on them. I think they’re mediocre, but Jake Locker is improving and their defense is good. Moreover, if they can get running back Chris Johnson going, they could be a wild card contender. Stay tune.
Titans 31 Jaguars 14
Houston Texans (2-6) at Arizona Cardinals (4-4)
Prediction: Let’s hope Gary Kubiak gets healthy. That was a scary situation last Sunday night, and the Texans’ head coach should take as much time as he needs. From a football standpoint, he may have something in Case Keenum when he returns. There’s a Tony Romo quality to Keenum, who moves well in the pocket and displays a sneaky-good arm. Without their head coach, though, the Texans are going to have problems.
Cardinals 23 Texans 14
Game of the Week
Carolina Panthers (5-3) at San Francisco 49ers (6-2)
Prediction: A matchup featuring two of the hottest teams in football, expect Carolina and San Francisco to play a defensive struggle. Frankly, the Panthers could have the best defense in the NFC. I’ve been incline to go with Seattle, but Carolina’s front seven is probably the more physical of the two, while Seattle relies on athleticism. The 49ers’ possess one of the league’s most physical offensive lines, so the battle upfront will prove decisive. In the end, the home team wins in what’ll feel like a throwback.
49ers 20 Panthers 16
Upset of the Week
Denver Broncos (7-1) at San Diego Chargers (4-4)
Prediction: Good offenses will give Denver trouble. San Diego has a really good offense. They did have their struggles in Washington, but the Chargers are returning home for just the fourth time all season, where they’ve already beaten Dallas and Indianapolis. You can’t discount the departure of John Fox, either. Jack Del Rio will now takeover head-coaching duties as well as run the defense. This puts more pressure on him. Yes, the Broncos revolve around Peyton Manning, but he’s going to have to win this one in a shootout. He did against Dallas earlier, but Philip Rivers is quietly playing at a high-level, and I think he gets it done at home.
Chargers 37 Broncos 35
Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at New Orleans Saints (6-2)
Prediction: Put the Saints on grass and they don’t play well. Under those conditions, Drew Brees usually throws 50-plus times and turns the ball over two or three times. In the dome, however, the offense is just more efficient. The running game operates better and Brees protects the football. Dallas certainly has the offensive firepower to make this one interesting, and they did win in New Orleans in ‘09. However, they had a semi competent defense then. Now, they’re one of two teams allowing over 400-plus yards. The Saints may get them for 500-plus.
Saints 41 Cowboys 28
Miami Dolphins (4-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8)
Prediction: The bullying story in Miami is bad. Richie Incognito is a fool and deserves punishment from the NFL. There’s simply no excuse and the Miami organization looks bad for not knowing (or allowing) his antics to occur. From a football standpoint, this is a huge distraction. The Dolphins are apart of a national story and playing on national television. A week after playing well against Seattle, the Bucs are primed to take advantage of Miami’s off-field distractions and earn their first win.
Buccaneers 19 Dolphins 14
Last Week: 8-5
Season Record: 83-49