With the Thursday night game out of the way, time to shift focus on to the rest of the weekend.
Ravens vs. Jets
This may not be a match up between two high quality teams. However, it is a game that commands our attention because this has implications on the last playoff seed in the AFC. If the playoffs were to start today the Jets win out on tiebreaker over the Dolphins at 5-5 with the Ravens being one of five teams at 4-6. If the Jets and Dolphins both lose this weekend we could be one step closer to a major tie breaker quagmire. However, since the Jets lost last weekend and are on the every other week plan, they'll probably mess this up and win on Sunday.
Jets 21 Ravens 10
Steelers vs. Browns
A battle between two of the aforementioned 4-6 cluster of teams in the AFC that only have playoff aspirations due to the Jets mediocrity. This is a game where i'm not high on either team and this game is likely to be poorly played but someone has to win. My pick is for that team to be the Steelers.
Steelers 28 Browns 14
Buccaneers vs Lions
The Buccaneers finally showed what they are capable of by handily beating the Falcons (with a major assist from Vincent Jackson who helped Zeplen's team improve to 6-5). Even though they're still terrible, i'm not quite sure i'm sold on the Lions winning games that they should. Despite a strong first half, I felt they played down to the level of their competition. My gut feeling is they're catching Tampa at the right time and they're not preparing adequately to win.
Buccaneers 31 Lions 28
Vikings vs. Packers
So, the Packers have turned into a Vikings caliber team. Both teams come into this game starting mediocre QBs but are either elite (Peterson) or surprisingly competent (Lacy) in the running game. For the Packers, this is a must win while the Vikings would like nothing more than to kick the Packers while they are down. Scott Tolzein has shown some flashes of brilliance and some decent arm strength but can't seem to keep way from the INTs. Until Rodgers comes back, I can't justify picking the Packers to win a game.
Vikings 35 Packers 14
Jaguars vs. Texans
If this was opposite world, were losses were wins this would be a potential match up for the AFC Championship game. As it stands, this game is a battle for 15th seed in the AFC and for top draft positioning. Everything about this game screams unwatchable.
Texans 13 Jaguars 7
Chargers vs. Chiefs
The Chargers have a chance to go to 5-6 and hope the Jets and Dolphins come back to join a giant cluster. In reality, this is another opportunity for the Chargers to stay close in a game but find a way to lose by 7 points or less.
Chiefs 27 Chargers 24
Panthers vs. Dolphins
The Panthers keep on rolling coming off a close win over the Niners and a controversial win over the Patriots. What hasn't been controversial is that Cam Newton has helped Zeplen's team stay in the playoff hunt especially after a strong showing on Monday. The Panthers seem to be my double down team of the week as I also picked up Brandon LaFell on the waiver wire this week. As for the Dolphins, i'm pretty sure nobody wants them to win a game at this point.
Panthers 38 Dolphins 10
Bears vs. Rams
The Bears are sitting at 6-4 and have a decent shot at the playoffs (even if they haven't been that impressive and are having to rely on their backup who has been doing a surprisingly decent job. The Rams are in a battle with the Giants for the 11th seed in the NFC without the ability to benefit from a highly incompetent division. Neither of these teams are great but the Bears have more motivation to play for.
Bears 23 Rams 17
Colts vs. Cardinals
One of the more under-rated matchups of the weekend. The Cardinals under first year coach Bruce Arians (who served as interim coach of the Colts last year) brings a team that is fighting for the last spot that is being carried by a strong defense. Maybe if they gave Ellington the ball more, maybe that would help improve things on the offensive end (it keeps the ball out of Carson Palmer's hand).
The Colts are having a strong follow up to their playoff appearance last year (even if many people thought they would regress to average this year). Currently, they are battling New England & Cincinnati for playoff positioning to get the first week bye. While I think the Colts are the better team, I think the Cardinals find a way to pull this off as they have a higher sense of urgency.
Cardinals 24 Colts 14
Titans vs. Raiders
The only thing compelling about this is this gives both teams a chance to be in the 5-6 free for all in case the Jets lose. Not sure how relevant it is since both teams are likely going 7-9 in the best case scenario. Gonna go with the Titans on this one.
Titans 17 Raiders 10
Cowboys vs. Giants
Two teams that are only slightly better than the Titans and Raiders but have a lot more to play for due to the NFC East being absolutely terrible. Momentum seems to be on the Giants side as they've won four in a row and have a history of making out of nowhere runs. This is also the type of important game where the Cowboys come up short.
Giants 31 Cowboys 24
Broncos vs. Patriots
On to the Sunday Night match up. The Broncos are coming off a key win over the Chiefs and Tom Brady is coming off a loss to the Panthers and the refs from said game. My instinct is that Tom Brady channels that anger productively and makes this game more one sided than expected.
Patriots 45 Broncos 28
49ers vs. Redskins
Might as well be called the under-performing QB bowl. The 49ers are struggling to maintain playoff positioning. Not ideal, but at least they're not in self destruct mode like their opponenet.
49ers 21 Redskins 10