Sunday’s Best: Giants (10-1) at Redskins (7-4), 1:00 PM ET FOX
The game of the week is a toss up between this matchup and Steelers at Patriots. But I’ll go with a divisional rivalry any day of the week, although Pittsburgh-New England should be just as good. The Cowboys’ victory over the Seahawks on Thanksgiving put a lot of pressure on the Skins to keep pace in the NFC Wild Card race. A win over the G-Men would keep Washington in the thick of things with Dallas, Carolina, Tampa and Atlanta for the Wild Card, while a loss wouldn’t push them out of things, but it certainly would be detrimental. One thing about the Redskins is that they play to the level of their competition. One week they’re losing to the Rams and allowing the Browns to hang with them, the next they’re crushing the Cowboys and Eagles on the road. But the Giants have been one of the best road teams over the last couple years and soundly beat the first place Cardinals last week in Arizona. The G-Men have proven that they’re the best team in the league, but they’re going to have their hands full against a physical Washington team in desperate need of a victory.
Upset Watch: Panthers (8-3) at Packers (5-6), 1:00 PM ET FOX
My pick of the Lions over the Buccaneers last week proved to be a disaster despite Detroit jumping out to a 17-0 lead. Considering the Packers are 3-point favorites, this technically doesn’t count as an upset and less you factor in the records. The Pack were embarrassed last Monday night by New Orleans, but the Panthers haven’t played well in weeks. Jake Delhomme has struggled in the first half of Carolina’s past three games and the once stout Panther defense is coming off a game in which they surrendered 45 points to the Falcons. This is a nice matchup for a struggling Green Bay defense, but they must stop the run. Carolina loves to pound the ball on the ground and if they’re successful, the play action pass opens up with Delhomme and Steve Smith. But if the Packers can sell out to stop the run, their secondary is good enough to at least contain Smith and limit him from making big plays. Aaron Rodgers should have relative success working the ball up the field against an average Carolina secondary, although Ryan Grant must keep them balanced offensively for Green Bay to notch a win and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Intriguing Matchup: Steelers (8-3) at Patriots (7-4), 4:15 PM ET CBS
Could this be a potential playoff preview? Matt Cassel has the Patriots’ offense back on track, but they’ll be tested Sunday against one of the best defenses in the league. It’s doubtful Cassel will be able to throw for over 400 yards for the third connective game, which means Bill Belichick must get his running game going or else Dick Lambeau can dial up plenty of blitzes to get the young signal caller out of rhythm. A win is so important for both teams. A victory for Pittsburgh would keep the Steelers at least one-game above Baltimore in the division, while the Pats need a win to keep pace with the Jets in the AFC East. This should be one of the most physical matchups of the week and I’m willing to bet it will be a low scoring affair.
Other Notable Games:
Broncos (6-5) at Jets (8-3), 4:15 PM ET CBS
The Jets are now the talk of the league after they upset the Titans last week, while Denver looks to put its embarrassing loss to the Raiders behind them.
Bears (6-5) at Vikings (6-5), 8:15 PM ET
First place in the NFC North is on the line Sunday night. Since they beat the Vikes earlier this season, Chicago would capture the tiebreaker between these two teams if they can come away with a victory.
Saints (6-5) at Buccaneers (8-3), 1:00 PM ET
A win for New Orleans and we can officially welcome them back to the NFC playoff party. But a loss would essentially put the Saints out of their misery.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, AFC playoff race, Arizona Cardinals, Bill Belichick, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Jake Delhomme, Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFC North, NFC Playoff Picture, NFC Playoff Race, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Grant, Steve Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins