After last week's epic matchup between the Saints and the Patriots, it may be hard to get pumped up for this week's slate of games. But nevertheless, there are some great games to look forward to including: Titans v Colts, Cowboys v Giants, Ravens v Packers, and Cardinals v Vikings. So let's get ready for yet another great week of NFL football. On with the preview!
Sunday 1 PM EST
Veteran backup Chris Redman will get the start this week. He threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns last week, but he will have a much tougher test going up against the Eagles blitzing defense. Despite being without starting running back Michael Turner, look for the Falcons to give back-ups Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling plenty of carries.
For Philadelphia, I expect Jeremy Maclin to play a bigger role in the offense with DeSean Jackson listed as questionable for the game. Fellow rookie LeSean McCoy should also get a lot of touches. The Eagles are 2-0 in the last two weeks, and their success is due in part to the strong running of McCoy. He had at least 17 carries in each of those games and averaged over 4 yards per carry in both.
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
Backup quarterback Matt Moore will get the start for Carolina due to Jake Delhomme's broken finger. Moore will need to play efficiently if the Panthers are going to get a win. If he can make a few plays down the field, that should open up the defense enough for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to carry to team to victory.
For the visiting team, the key will be getting the ball into Kellen Winslow's hands. He has quickly become rookie quarterback Josh Freeman's favorite target, and they will need to continue to work well together in order to put points up on the board. Look for wide receiver Antonio Bryant to get more targets, as he has been openly lobbying for more passes to be thrown in his direction.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
Check out the rest of the games after the jump...
Stephen Jackson has been a one man show for the St. Louis Rams all year. This week he gets to go up against Chicago's 24th ranked rush defense. It will be important for quarterback Kyle Boller to make smart decisions with the football. He had two costly interceptions in last week's loss to the Seahawks, and he will have to play smarter because the Rams have a very small margin for error.
The Chicago Bears came into this season with very high expectations after trading for Jay Cutler. Unfortunately things have not worked out the way they envisioned, and Cutler has not lived up to the hype. However he has played better at home, having thrown for eight touchdowns and only three interceptions. This week he will need to have success against the Rams 22nd ranked pass defense if the Bears are going to come out on top.
Prediction: St. Louis Rams
Detroit comes into this game after losing to Green Bay 34-12 on Thanksgiving Day. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions in the loss, and it is important for him to rebound in this game. While the Lions are not going to the post-season this year, it is still a priority for their franchise quarterback to continue to improve as the season draws to a close. Stafford has shown that he is capable of putting up big numbers, and he will need to play well if the Lions are going to keep pace with Cincinnati's offense.
The Bengals' running game will receive a boost with the return of Cedric Benson this week. Larry Johnson had 107 rushing yards in Week 12, but it will be Benson who gets the start against Detroit. If Johnson can build on last week's performance, the Bengals will have one of the league's best one two punches at running back. I expect Carson Palmer and Chad OchoCinco to both have big games against the league's worst pass defense.
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
With a win this week, the Indianapolis Colts will tie the New England Patriots record for most consecutive regular season wins with 21. Last week they became the first team in NFL history to win five consecutive games after trailing in the fourth quarter. I'm running out of superlatives to describe Peyton Manning and his play so far this season, he just keeps willing his team to victory week after week.
The Titans have their own winning streak to maintain, having won five consecutive games since Vince Young took over as quarterback. This will be Young's toughest test since returning to the starting lineup, the Colts' defense has held opposing quarterbacks to a 76.5 passer rating this season. Running back Chris Johnson has something to prove in this game. He had his worst outing of the year in the first match-up with Indianapolis, running for only 34 yards. If he can't get going in this game, it could be a long day for the Titans.
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
Offense has not been a problem for the Texans this season, but their defense has kept them from emerging as one of the league's elite teams. Houston needs a big game from defensive end Mario Williams if they are going to avoid getting swept by Jacksonville. David Garrard has more fumbles (11) than any other player this season, and if Williams can force him to turn the ball over it could be the difference in this game.
Jacksonville's game plan is going to be very simple, get the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew. MJD rushed for three touchdowns the last time these two teams played, and he should have another big day in this game. Houston is giving up over 120 rushing yards a game this year. While the Texans' defense has struggled as a unit, Jacksonville will need to be sure and locate linebacker Brian Cushing before every play. The rookie from USC is leading Houston in tackles and also has two interceptions on the season.
Prediction: Houston Texans
Denver was able to halt a four game losing streak with a win in Week 12, but they don't have much room for error despite a 6-0 start. The Broncos cannot afford to take the 3-8 Chiefs lightly, because they need a win to keep the pressure on division leading San Diego. Look for Brandon Marshall to have a big game against the Chiefs secondary. Kansas City has struggled to stop number one recievers all season, and if Marshall has success early it could open things up for the running game.
Kansas City's running game has flourished in recent weeks with Jamaal Charles assuming the role of feature back. In the last three games Charles has run for 254 yards, two touchdowns, and a 5.2 yard average. The Chiefs need to develop a consistent running game to make up for their lack of play makers at the wide receiver and tight end position. If they are able to run successfully, Kansas City could get a win for the third time in the last four games.
New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins
If Miami is going to win this game, they are going to need to get more production from the quarterback position. Chad Henne has been consistent since taking over for the injured Chad Pennington, but he needs to create more explosive plays in the passing game to help the Dolphins match up with New England's dynamic offense. Look for Davone Bess and Ted Ginn Jr. to get some targets down the field to help keep the Patriots off-balance and compliment the running game.
New England comes into this game after a disappointing loss to the Saints on Monday Night Football. They will need to slow down Miami's running game if they are going to get back on track. Linebacker Jerod Mayo will be responsible for stopping the Dolphins' Ricky Williams and unless they prove that they can stop the run, it won't matter whether or not Miami can throw the ball effectively.
Prediction: New England Patriots
After last week's loss to the Ravens, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlinson made headlines when he said, "We are going to unleash hell here in December." The Pittsburgh players will get their first chance to live up to their coaches' claim against the Raiders this week. This season they have relied on their passing game more than they have in the past, but I think we will see a return to old school Steelers football against Oakland. The Raiders have the league's second worst rush defense, so Rashard Mendenhall should have a big day for Pittsburgh.
For Oakland to have a chance in this game, they are going to need a strong performance from Bruce Gradkowski. Since taking over for JaMarcus Russell as the starting quarterback, Gradkowski has given the Raiders some semblance of an offense and rookie Darius Heyward-Bey even scored his first touchdown of the year against Dallas last week. Together, Gradkowski and Heyward-Bey will need to stretch the Steelers' defense vertically, to open up some running lanes in Pittsburgh's top rated rush defense.
Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers
Washington has made a habit out of staying in games only to lose them in the end. The Redskins have taken a lead into the fourth quarter in each of the last four games, and they still ended up losing three of those four games. While their inability to finish the job against the league's elite teams has certainly been frustrating, they have actually seen some improvements on offense in recent weeks. Quarterback Jason Campbell threw for two touchdowns in last week's loss, and he will need to play well if Washington is going to keep up with New Orleans.
Last week's win over the Patriots proved once and for all that the Saints are truly one of the league's most complete teams. Their offense has been so prolific because they have so many different playmakers to exploit a defense. It will be tough for the Redskins' banged up defense to match up with New Orleans on this side of the ball. One difference maker could be Washington's Brain Orakpo, who is leading all rookies with seven sacks. The Saints must ensure there is no emotional letdown after their win on Monday Night.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
Sunday 4:05-4:14 PM EST
Weather could be a big factor in this game. Temperatures are expected to be at or below freezing and there is a chance it could snow on Sunday. Bad weather could play into the Browns hands. San Diego has become a pass first team, due to the continued maturation of Phillip Rivers and the decline of LaDainian Tomlinson. However if the conditions turn out to be as bad as expected, the Chargers could be forced to rely on Tomlinson and their running game to get this win.
As far as the Browns are concerned the last five games in the season should be all about Brady Quinn. The hometown hero has not lived up to the expectations that made him a first round pick, and he will need a strong finish to this season if he wants to be the opening day starter in 2010. Cleveland has been on a quarterback carousel the past few years, constantly switching between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. Until they are able to find a competent signal caller, expect the Browns to remain cellar dweller in the NFL.
Prediction: Cleveland Browns
New York has given up 15 sacks in their five losses this season. In their six wins they allowed only three. The Giants will need to play well in pass protection if they want to climb back into the playoff picture. Most importantly, they will need to stop DeMarcus Ware. A strong performance from Brandon Jacobs could help to slow down the Cowboys' pass rush by establishing the run. The last time these two teams played at Giants Stadium, Jacobs rushed for 117 yards on 1 7 carries.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo will be trying to rid himself of the stigma that he cannot perform well under pressure. While he has been one of the league's most prolific passers since 2006, when he took over the starting job, he is just 5-8 during December. There is no denying his talent, but he needs to produce in the clutch if he wants to silence his doubters. The continued development of Miles Austin should lead to some big plays for Romo this December. He is currently leading the league with six touchdowns of over 20 yards.
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
The 49ers have played well at home this season, but they have struggled away from the friendly confines of Candlestick Park. San Francisco is just 1-4 on the road, and Qwest Field is always one of the toughest places to visit in the league. Last week we saw the 49ers transition away from a run first offense to a more pass oriented attack. I think we will see more of that in this game. If Alex Smith continues to play well, San Francisco should be in good position to win. The 49ers are 6-0 when he has a quarterback rating of at least 95.
Seattle snapped a two game losing streak last week against the Rams. An improved running game led the Seahawks to their fourth win of the year. Justin Forsett has played well filling in for the injured Julius Jones. He has rushed for over 100 yards in two of the last three games, and he has four touchdowns during that same span. San Francisco's defense is ranked 4th in rush defense DVOA, but Seattle must maintain balance in their offensive play calling in order to keep them guessing.
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers
Sunday 8:20 PM EST
We saw last week that the Arizona Cardinals are a completely different team without Kurt Warner in the lineup. Backup Matt Leinart got the start last week, and the Cardinals only mustered one offensive touchdown all game. Warner is listed as questionable for Sunday, but if he is unable to play for the second week in a row, Arizona could be looking at its second straight loss in as many games. The Cardinals will need big plays on defense and special teams to keep pace with the Vikings high powered offense.
For Minnesota fans this has been a dream season. Quarterback Brett Favre is playing the best football of his career, but the Vikings should look to run the ball against Arizona's defense. The Cardinals gave up 154 rushing yards to Chris Johnson last week, so I expect Adrian Peterson to have success running the football. Minnesota should have no problems scoring on offense, but they will need to continue to get pressure with their front four to slow down Arizona's passing attack. If they don't, their secondary could be compromised by Larry Fitzgerald.
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings
Monday 8:30 PM EST
Baltimore has alternated wins and losses since their Week 7 bye. If they can get a win in Green Bay, they could get on a roll with both the Lions and the Bears coming to play Baltimore in the next two weeks. After getting off to a slow start, the Raven's defense has played well in recent weeks. The unit allowed just 11.6 points per game in November, and they did not allow a team to score more than 17 points in any game. While Baltimore has had plenty of success throwing the football this season, I expect them to put an emphasis on running the football to try and keep Aaron Rodgers on the sideline.
Green Bay has won three straight games thanks in part to the play of Rodgers. He has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions in the last three weeks. If Rodgers is able to continue his efficient play, the Packers should be in good shape to win their fourth game in a row. Green Bay's defense will need to figure out a way to confuse Baltimore's Joe Flacco. The second year man has had an unbelievable run of success to start his NFL career, but he has not played as well on the road as he has at home.
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens