Eagles @ Seahawks, 8:20PM ET, Thursday
Philadelphia is just the latest example of what usually happens to everyone’s preseason chic pick. Granted, there’s still time for the Eagles to turn things around and if they win out, there’s a chance they could sneak in the back door of the postseason. But I’m not so sure they’ll even win tonight against the Seahawks. Although they lost to Washington last Sunday, Seattle is usually tough to beat at home and the Eagles have been sleepwalking all year. That’s a very undisciplined, unfocused team that Andy Reid is running these days.
Raiders @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Just when positive things start to happen in Miami, Brandon Marshall finds himself in handcuffs. Apparently police in Broward County, Florida briefly detained the receiver after he was accused of fleeing a $142 cab fee around 5:00AM on November 14. The rest of the details are fantastic. The cab driver said that Marshall “didn’t know where he wanted to go” and “When I woke him up and told him he had to pay, he said he wasn’t and started arguing for me to take him home.” Get this, Marshall blamed the “misunderstanding” on the cab driver’s “accent,” although it sounds as if he wouldn’t have understood anyone given the condition he was in. How good of shape are you when you’re falling asleep in the back of cabs at 5:00AM?
Broncos @ Vikings, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Von Miller underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair torn ligaments in his thumb and may not play on Sunday for the Broncos. That’s bad news for a Denver team that has had to rely on its defense and the one-quarter of magic from Tim Tebow every week. Miller is a runaway candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and if he can’t go, the Broncos defense will be down one of its biggest playmakers (if not the biggest playmaker). Of course, if Adrian Peterson doesn’t suit up for Minnesota then Denver only really has to worry about Percy Harvin.
Falcons @ Texans, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Don’t be surprised if T.J. Yates surprises this Sunday. First and foremost, he played in a pro-style offense under John Shoop and Butch Davis at North Carolina and Atlanta will be down two of its top three corners (Brent Grimes and Kelvin Hayden). Christopher Owens, who will start for Grimes (knee), was the poor lad that was repeatedly torched by Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Divisional Round last January and Dominique Franks (who will start at nickel in place of Hayden), has received very little PT the past two years.
Titans @ Bills, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
While I think the Texans can survive thanks to their running game and defense, this is the time for the Titans to take the governor off and amp things up. Tennessee has a legitimate shot of catching Houston in the AFC South because of T.J. Yates’ inexperience. But the Titans need to win, including this weekend against a struggling Buffalo team. The Bills are without Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick is reeling right now. Tennessee has to take advantage.
Bengals @ Steelers, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
It’s put up or shut up time for the Bengals this weekend in Pittsburgh. If they can’t prove that they can beat the Steelers, then nobody is going to consider them legit contenders. On the flip side, if Andy Dalton and Co. pull off the upset then Cincinnati will very much remain in the thick of things in the AFC North. This game could provide a very clear picture of how the rest of the season will play out for the Bengals.
Panthers @ Bucs, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
What a complete role reversal for Tampa Bay. While the Saints and on a smaller scale, the Falcons, improved their rosters this offseason, the Bucs rested on their laurels outside of signing a punter (Michael Koenen). The Tampa front office, which has always been cheap anyway, figured it didn’t need to make any upgrades after the team won 10 games last year and now the Bucs are paying for it. They’re clearly overmatched and lack playmakers to compete with New Orleans and Atlanta in the division. If they lose at home to the upstart Panthers this Sunday, it’ll officially be the lowest point of the season for the Bucs.
Colts @ Patriots, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
There’s really not any point in breaking this game down, right? I mean, not even a little bit. The Colts haven’t played well all season and while a quarterback change may bring a little optimism to Indy’s locker room, the switch is Curtis Painter for Dan Orlovsky. That’s only about a droplet of optimism right there.
Chiefs @ Bears, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
As painful as it may sound to Mike Martz, he’s going to have to design his offense around Matt Forte and then sit back and watch Devin Hester and the Chicago defense win games from here on out. Because Martz obviously can’t run his offense with Caleb Hanie in the same manner as he did with Jay Cutler. Hanie would be okay if Fotre was the focal point of the offense but will be exposed if Martz tries to force the issue through the air. That said, the Bears should eat Tyler Palko alive so as long as Hanie doesn’t throw another four interceptions then Chicago should be fine.
Jets @ Redskins, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
The Jets need to be careful this Sunday. For as inconsistent as Washington’s offense has been this season, its defense will get after the quarterback. Plus, it’s clear that Rex Grossman makes the Redskins a more competitive team than when John Beck is under center, so it probably won’t be a walk in the park for Rex Ryan’s crew this weekend. If Mark Sanchez didn’t find some of his lost confidence last week when he threw four touchdown passes, the Jets could easily lose this Sunday on the road.
Packers @ Giants, 4:15PM ET, Sunday
Normally the Giants play their best football when their backs are against the wall and maybe they will again this Sunday. But what I witnessed on Monday night was an overmatched defense that is really feeling the effects of injuries (which date back to the preseason). Drew Brees and the Saints are explosive but even Sean Payton’s offense pails in comparison to what Aaron Rodgers and Co. bring to the table. It may be another long day for the New York defense.
Cowboys @ Cardinals, 4:15PMET, Sunday
The Cowboys have a golden opportunity to potentially take a two-game lead over the Giants in the NFC East because while they’re playing the 4-7 Cardinals, New York will host the undefeated Packers at the same time on the other side of the country. The Cowboys can’t afford to muck this up, although this is the same team that was nearly beaten by the Redskins and Dolphins, respectively, the past two weeks. With the way Dallas has a tendency to underachieve at times, don’t be surprised if Arizona keeps things close on Sunday.
Ravens @ Browns, 4:05PM ET, Sunday
As they proved last week against the Bengals, the Browns can sneak up on opponents if teams aren’t careful. Cleveland’s offense maxes out at about 17 points but the Browns defense is competitive. With Baltimore coming off a hard-fought win over the 49ers on Thanksgiving night, the Ravens better not get caught sleepwalking this week.
Rams @ 49ers, 4:15PM ET, Sunday
With Jack Del Rio being fired on Monday in Jacksonville, you have to wonder how much longer Steve Spagnuolo has in St. Louis. In defense of Spags, the Rams’ schedule was brutal at the start and injuries have taken their toll in the secondary and along the offensive line. But the team isn’t even watchable right now. Personally, I think Spagnuolo has at least one more year to turn things around in St. Louis but it wouldn’t be a shock if come Monday he were out of a job. I think it would take a blowout loss on Sunday though.
Lions @ Saints, 8:20PM ET, Sunday
Detroit’s playoff hopes could vanish very quickly over these upcoming weeks. The Saints are a solid football team overall but they’ve proven to be unbeatable at home this year. And considering the Lions won’t have Ndamukong Suh (two-game suspension) to rush Drew Brees this weekend, New Orleans may put up 40-plus points again. (Detroit is also down a few players in its secondary, which always bodes well when a team is about to take on the Saints in New Orleans.)
Chargers @ Jaguars, 8:30PM ET, Monday
Somebody had to pay for the complete mismanagement of Blaine Gabbert this season and unfortunately for him, that man was Jack Del Rio. Gabbert should have been holding a clipboard in his first year but instead he’s starting every week despite not being ready. It’s not surprising to see him struggle considering how raw he was as a prospect back in April. As for San Diego, things just keep getting worse and worse for Norv Turner. The Bolts lost left tackle Marcus McNeill to a season-ending back injury earlier this week and had to claim Jared Gaither off waivers from the Chiefs. Now Philip Rivers will have even less time to throw interceptions.