Panthers vs. Dolphins: The Panthers have absolutely been on a roll the last six weeks, crushing bad teams and doing what was necessary to win close games against the 49ersand Patriots. Now they go up against a Dolphins team who squeaked by a freefalling Chargers team. The Dolphins managed to run well against a Chargers team that gives up 4.8 yards a carry, but will find it much more difficult to run against a Carolina defense that is third against the run. Although the Dolphins have won their last two home games, the Panthers have won their last three road games and I fully expect that streak to continue. Panthers 27 Dolphins 16
Steelers vs. Browns: With a win this week remarkably the Steelers will be right in the thick of things in the race the sixth seed in the AFC, as they face the Ravens and Dolphins, who are also in contention, in the next two weeks. Let’s not give up on the Browns just yet as they also have a heart beat in the playoff hunt, but need this win if they want to keep their hopes alive. The Browns play tough defense (ranked fifth), so Big Ben will have his work cut out for him, however he has this offense averaging 30.3 points a game in the last three weeks.
Also Browns quarterback Jason Campbell was showing promise until last week’s three interceptions. Now the Steelers have had issues stopping the run, although the Browns have been no threat rushing the ball all year (only have scored one touchdown while averaging 3.8 yards a carry). I believe the Steelers are starting a push for the playoffs while the Browns are well; being the Browns, which is why I see Pittsburgh winning in blowout fashion. Steelers 27 Browns 10
Jets vs. Ravens: Both the Jets and Ravens are still in the running for the final wild card spot in the AFC, which makes this game crucial for both teams to win. New York has played great defense (ranked sixth) and are running the ball well (averaging 129.5 a game). Yet, quarterback Geno Smith has only one game without a turnover and clearly looks lost. Some blame can go to the quality of his pass catchers, still the rookie has to start playing better or the Jets are going to fall at of the playoff race.
As for Baltimore, they will be trying to make up ground on the Jets as they sit a game back from the sixth seed. The Ravens have similar issues as the Jets, their defense plays tough but the offense is all out of wake. However, there is a glimmer of hope that Ray Rice has awakened from his slumber after having his best game of the season last week. Also, Flacco is at home where he tends to have fewer turnovers, so he should at least have a decent game. Even though this is technically the Jets week to win going by their trend; I see Ravens winning in a low scoring defensive game with Geno Smith having trouble with Terrell Suggs breathing down his neck all day. Ravens 16 Jets 6
Colts vs. Cardinals: Head Coach Bruce Arians battles the team that he helped lead to the playoffs last season, in a game that his Cardinals need to win if they want to keep pace in the NFC playoff hunt. Lately the Colts have grown accustomed to playing catch up, being outscored 68-9 in the first half for the last three games. Still they are 2-1 in that span and have a clear path to winning the AFC South.
The Cardinals surprisingly are on a three game winning streak and trying to stake their claim in the NFC playoff race. The main reason for Arizona’s success is their defense that is ranked second against the rush. However, the defense needs the secondary (ranked 20th) to step up, with the miracle working Andrew Luck in town. One thing going in favor of Arizona is Arians helped groom, Luck which should help in making the defensive game plan. As long as Carson Palmer can shed away from turnovers the Cardinals have a chance in this one. I see the Cardinals building a lead and the Colts failing short on another come back. Cardinals 21 Colts 17
Cowboys vs. Giants: Just a month ago the Giants didn’t even have a win and now are right in the thick of things in the NFC East. While the Cowboys are once again a team with enough talent to do big things but can’t stay consistent, and so far haven’t been able to beat a team with a winning record. The key reason on the Giants recent success is defense, as they have only allowed an average of 11.7 points a game during their winning streak.
The same can’t be said about the Cowboys defense as they have allowed an average of 35.6 points in the last three games. I believe a vital reason for the Cowboy’s woes is the lack of pass rush ever since Demarcus Ware has been battling a quad injury; that he says is now healed. Still, the Giants are a streaky team and as of now that streak is on the winning side. I don’t see that stopping against the Cowboys and expect a crazy game that goes down to the wire with the Giants finishing on top. Giants 31 Cowboys 27
Broncos vs. Patriots: This will be the 14th time Brady and Manning have clashed in one of the greatest rivals football has ever seen. It was also but odd seeing Wes Welker playing against New England after all the years of success he had with Brady. Even with both teams seemingly playoff bound they are taking two different routes. The Broncos are dismantling any team in their way with prolific offense. On the other hand, the Patriots have been grooming young players on offense and have had players hurt left and right on both side of the ball, yet they still find a way to win.
Still, the Patriots are the closest thing to kryptonite for Manning as he has a record of 4-9 against them. Also Brady finally has all his weapons on offense and looked pretty good against the tough Panthers defense last week. With the Patriots dominance over Manning and how they hardly ever lose two straight games I see them pulling off an upset victory, even with their defense banged up. No matter what happens remember to appreciate this game, as both Manning and Brady are getting up there in age, and won’t have many more epic battles after this one. Patriots 36 Broncos 33
49ers vs. Redskins: Both teams are on two game losing streaks, however the 49ers are still locked into the playoffs while the Redskins are one loss away from putting the nail in coffin for this season. The 49ers need to start generating a passing game as that is the key reason they have struggled this season. Going up against Washington’s dreadful secondary (ranked 26th) might just be the jump start the 49ers need. No matter what, Frank Gore should have a field day as the Redskins are just as appalling stopping the run (allow 115 yards a game).
Also with the RG3 and Mike Shannon seemingly not on the same page I see this causing more problems for their offense that now has to go up against the 49ers solid defense. The 49ers have struggled lately, but one thing is for sure, they destroy bad teams (ex. Texans, Jaguars) which I see happening Monday Night. 49ers 30 Redskins 17