Denver Broncos vs. Houston Texans
I still have plenty of hope that Matt Schaub can find himself, because it wasn’t too long ago when Schaub was a top ten quarterback. In fact, I like Schaub’s track record more than I like Case Keenum‘s upside. The Denver Broncos will almost certainly win this one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Schaub had a bounce-back game and the Texans made it competitive. I mean, the Texans did keep things competitive with the New England Patriots earlier this year. But, then again, Ben Tate was starting at running back instead of Dennis Johnson. Andre Johnson has 99 receptions this season, and no receiver has more catches or targets than the future HOFer.
Detroit Lions vs. New York Giants
There are two schools of thought when it comes to defending the Detroit Lions passing attack:
2. Let Johnson beat you, but don’t let anyone else beat you.
I’m not sure which way the Giants are leaning, but what I do know is that Johnson and Stafford can really take advantage of all the mis-matches on the Giants defense. What the Giants need to do is use all that run-stuffing talent in that defensive line and try to finally put a stop to the quiet dominance of Larry Warford and the Detroit Lions offensive line. The battles in the trenches are going to be intriguing when the Lions are on offense, but I can’t say the same about the Lions defense against the Giants offensive line. Yeah, the Giants are going to be overhauling that line this offseason, because it’s just unfair to Eli Manning.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals
The only reason why the beastly-again (it’s good to see Colin Kaepernick back in business, and the injuries to Michael Crabtree and Reggie Wayne have shown how much No. 1 WRs impact teams) San Francisco 49ers aren’t a lock for the playoffs is because of the Arizona Cardinals, who are just one game behind the Niners. The Cardinals have quietly been a playoff darkhorse, and an upset win over the Seahawks would do wonders for them. It’s not likely, and the Cards needed overtime to beat the Titans last week. But if Carson Palmer and the passing attack can step up again and Andre Ellington can continue to be a monster (he put the team on his back last week), then the Cardinals have a chance. I just don’t see it, though, since I also trust Russell Wilson to beat a good defense a lot more than I trust Palmer.
San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders
When the Raiders upset the Chargers in front of a national audience earlier this season, I was like, “What the heck just happened?”. I don’t think we’ll see a “What the heck?” moment this week, because I’m not sold on the Raiders ability to take advantage of the Chargers weak defense. The Chargers have much better coaching, a much better quarterback, and are a better team overall. A pivotal event that has helped the Chargers this season is Ryan Mathews finally emerging as a reliable feature back, and he and Danny Woodhead are doing wonders to help Rivers overcome a deficient defense. This one is going to be surprisingly close for some, but these teams almost always play tough ones; I just can’t see the Chargers on the losing side of it.
Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
If Matt Flynn, Eddie Lacy, and Co. can finally get it done for another week, then the Week 17 battle between the Packers and Chicago Bears will be one of the most anticipated games of the season. It would be a rivalry, revenge game with everything on the line and Aaron Rodgers almost certainly back for a game of that magnitude. That Week 17 game could decide a huge playoff spot, so we’ll see if the Packers can keep their hopes alive. Ben Roethlisberger has been playing some great ball lately, so the Steelers could really spoil the Packers chances in a bad weather game against a bad Packers defense. This game will also showcase two hard-nosed, rookie rushers, so there’s plenty for football purists to enjoy.
Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
These two team absolutely loath each other, and this is another revenge game on slate today. While the Ravens are fighting for a playoff spot, the Patriots are fighting for a bye week (they aren’t a lock mathematically, but still…). Joe Flacco‘s knee injury is worth noting, but it’s definitely not going to keep him out of this week’s game. Dennis Pitta is going to be a huge factor in this game, because nobody can trust the Patriots coverage in the middle-intermediate section of the field. With Pitta as a safety valve, Torrey Smith could have a big day if left on an island with Aqib Talib. Devin McCourty is incredible in deep coverage and covers for a lot of Talib’s mistakes, but, as we saw with Josh Gordon‘s huge 80-yard TD catch two weeks ago, Talib makes those mistakes when the play isn’t designed for D-Mac to help him out.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears
Lance Briggs is back for the Bears, and it’s a huge return for a defense that has been one of the worst in the NFL without him. It’s almost hard to believe how little people have recognized the awful play from the Bears defense as of late, and they’ve dealt with several big injuries on D (not as many as the Patriots have, but losing guys like Charles Tillman and Henry Melton is certainly no joke). This game is going to be a high-scoring affair, and the quarterback who makes the least mistakes compared to big plays will likely be on the winning side. Both teams have bad safeties, but what scares me from the Eagles side of it is the fact that they are going up against arguably the league’s best outside WR duo in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall…and their best CB is a slot corner (Brandon Boykin). Cary Williams limits big plays, but the Eagles No. 2 corner gives too much of a cushion to receivers; Jeffery should eat him up. For those of you who like high-scoring games, then this affair should feature plenty of points created by the passing and running games alike.