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Upset of the Week
N.Y. Jets (5-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-7)
Prediction: The Jets are riding high after their victory over the Saints two weeks ago, but they’re not as good as their record indicates. Yes, their defense is very good, but they possess no passing game whatsoever. The Bills’ defense is good enough to stack the box and stop the run. They did it earlier this year versus the Jets. In that game, Geno Smith managed to beat them with his arm for the tune of 333 yards. He won’t have that same luck on the road, however.
Bills 23 Jets 13
Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)
Prediction: It’s evident that Chicago rushed Jay Cutler back into their lineup. Frankly, Cutler can’t seem to catch a break. He leaves during the 2010 NFC Championship and people blame his lack of toughness for costing the Bears the game, even though he was playing awful throughout the first half. Last week, he tries to stay in the game only for the announcers to call for his removal. Granted, one game is the NFC championship and the other is a regular-season game, but I can’t be the only person that saw the irony. Regardless, Josh McCown will find Baltimore’s defense much more difficult to throw the ball on than Washington or Green Bay.
Ravens 27 Bears 16
Cleveland Browns (4-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
Prediction: I’m not sure what the expectations are for Cincinnati. They’ve been to the playoffs four times under Marvin Lewis and they’ve been one-and-done each time. They’re a good home team, so maybe they’ll get their first playoff victory under Lewis this year, but they aren’t a serious contender until they win a big game on the road. In other words, don’t read too much into a victory over Cleveland.
Bengals 28 Browns 17
Oakland Raiders (3-6) at Houston Texans (2-7)
Prediction: I’d like to apologize for picking Houston to win the AFC. However, maybe they’d be in a divisional race right now, if they went with Case Keenum to start the season. He’s playing very well, despite the team not yet winning any games he’s started. That’ll change this week, as the Texans get a victory against the lowly Raiders.
Texans 34 Raiders 14
Atlanta Falcons (2-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)
Prediction: I’d like to apologize for picking Atlanta to win the NFC. Simply put, I rode the bandwagon too long. The Falcons are bad. They can’t play defense and their offense looks lost. The Buccaneers did get their first win last week, but without a running game, they have no offensive firepower whatsoever. There are no excuses for Matt Ryan. He should be able to muster up enough offense to lead Atlanta over Tampa Bay.
Falcons 27 Buccaneers 21
Arizona Cardinals (5-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)
Prediction: Led by an underrated defense, Arizona’s contending for a wild card in the NFC. In fact, both Arizona and San Francisco could be 6-4 after this week, with the remaining game between the two in Phoenix.
Cardinals 28 Jaguars 3
Washington (3-6) at Philadelphia (5-5)
Prediction: Despite going against a third-string quarterback, Philadelphia gave up 396 total yards to Green Bay. Fortunately for them, Nick Foles is playing out of his mind and going against the No. 27 ranked defense in football. In fact, this game features two of the worst defenses in football, as Philadelphia‘s sitting at No. 31. I’ll go with the home team, but I have little confidence in the pick.
Philadelphia 37 Washington 34
Detroit Lions (6-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)
Prediction: The Lions are playing well on both sides of the ball, while Pittsburgh remains a mess. If the Steelers can’t cover Danny Amendola, then how will they stop Calvin Johnson? They won’t.
Lions 35 Steelers 21
San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Miami Dolphins (4-5)
Prediction: No team’s had more bizarre losses this season than San Diego has. They’re season would look entirely different had they beaten Houston and Washington. I’m not ready to give up on them sneaking into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed, though they need Philip Rivers to play as he did in the first month of the season. Regardless, for this week, they should be able to lean on their running game en route to beating Miami.
Chargers 31 Dolphins 21
San Francisco 49ers (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (7-2)
Prediction: Outdoors and in the cold, San Francisco could beat the Saints. In doors, however, the 49ers aren’t going to win many games with a passing game that ranks last in the NFL. The Saints, meanwhile, can’t afford to get complacent with Carolina in hot pursuit.
Saints 34 49ers 21
Minnesota Vikings (2-7) at Seattle Seahawks (9-1)
Prediction: Percy Harvin will make his NFL debut against his former team. That’s about the only incentive to watch this game, as the Seahawks should handle business at home.
Seahawks 38 Vikings 10
Green Bay Packers (5-4) at N.Y. Giants (3-6)
Prediction: With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are probably 7-2 and a touchdown favorite over the Giants. Without him, they’re on a two-game losing streak and a touchdown underdog. If the Giants win this game, they’ll be a game back of Dallas, who they play next week. That means it’s possible the Giants and Cowboys are both 5-6 heading into Thanksgiving week. That’s a scary thought, especially after New York’s first month of the season.
Giants 33 Packers 17
Game of the Week
Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) at Denver Broncos (8-1)
Prediction: Nobody expects Kansas City to win, but the Chiefs matchup well with Denver. Timing is so important for Peyton Manning, because if you hit him enough, he’ll rush his throws. The Chiefs have the NFL‘s best pass rush, so they can do that. In addition, they have the running game to keep the Broncos’ offense off the field. Because their at home, though, I’m picking Denver. However, don’t buy into the media’s hyperbolic reaction following this game. Many analysts will call the division for Denver, but the Broncos have a tougher schedule going forward, and Arrowhead Stadium could provide a different result the next time these two play.
Broncos 30 Chiefs 20
New England Patriots (7-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-3)
Prediction: ESPN finally has a game they can hype as a regular-season showdown between two playoff contenders. The Panthers, who were my surprise playoff pick, are getting it done with a dominate defense. Luke Kuechly is a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate, even if the pass rushers in Kansas City are overshadowing him. On paper, Carolina matches up well with New England. Their pass defense is excellent and their pass rush could give Tom Brady problems. In addition, they can run the ball up the middle, which has been a huge problem for New England since Vince Wilfork suffered a season-ending knee injury. This is one of those games, though, where coaching could determine the outcome. Bill Belichick is one of the games greatest strategists and has had an extra week to prepare for this matchup. Plus, Carolina’s coming off a slugfest with the 49ers. This one’s ripe for a Patriots victory.
Patriots 23 Panthers 21
Last Week: 9-5
Season Record: 92-54