Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
In the preseason, this was one of the games that a lot of people had circled on their schedules as a must see game. With the Falcons fall from grace this season, it’s now just another game. However, after looking at the matchups, I’m not sure that this is an easy game for the Seahawks.
The Falcons’ offensive line has had major issues all year and will continue to have them against a stout pass rush from the Seahawks front seven. Last week the Bucs exposed the Seahawks run defense because of their lack of discipline. If Steven Jackson is healthy, he should have a good game getting down hill and running a ton of draw plays. Also look out for the shovel pass that the Falcons like to run. Matt Ryans ability to quickly decipher defenses plays well against a Seahawks defense that isn’t totally variable in what they do in coverage. Seahawks are very much a line up and play type of defense.
On offense the Seahawks will likely hammer the ball downhill against a Falcons defense that hasn’t faired well against the power run game this season. The Seahawks offensive line has been the weak link in the chain and has looked especially worse of late. Russell Wilson throws on the run as well as any QB in the league and that helps them a ton. The Falcons defense needs to play gap contain against the run and will need to scheme blitzes to get to Wilson.
The Seahawks are the better team but I see some areas where the Falcons can give them trouble. With the right game plan and execution, the Falcons can win this one, especially at home. To me, this is a toss up game. The Falcons are better than their 2-6 record and I think this is a game where they surprise the Seahawks. Falcons win a close one.
Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Bills have EJ Manuel back this week after having to roll with Jeff Tuel last week. That’s a major improvement, even though Tuel wasn’t awful last week. Manuel was playing solidly for a rookie when he went down with an injury and might need some time to shake the rust off. He’ll have a tame gameplan to open this week, I’m sure. He’ll be very controlled early on and the game will dictate how much the Bills open up the offense. This could mean more touches for CJ Spiller who looked fantastic last week. He showed the burst and agility that few others in the league possess.
The Steelers defense was a victim of good game planning by the Patriots last week. The Patriots identified multiple flaws in the defense and targeted them Troy Polamalu was a big focus for the Pats and his aggressiveness was used against him. Overall, the Steelers defense just isn’t very good at this point. They look old and slow and lack a presence at nose tackle which has always been the lynchpin of that defense.
The Steelers offense is showing signs of life with Le’Veon Bell’s emergence as a good (not great) back in their type of offense. The offensive line continues its struggles and will have a long day against a tremendous front seven that the Bills will run out. Ben Roethlisberger will be running for his life most of the day I believe. He’ll need to extend plays and be smart with the football in those situations for the Steelers to have a good shot at this game.
I don’t think the Steelers are really this bad but they also don’t seem to have the killer instinct every week either. The Bills will win this game unless Manuel comes in and looks like he’s not ready to return. Turnovers could be detrimental to the Bills but I think the game plan, as it has been all year with EJ, is condensed and caters to Manuel. Bills win by less than a touchdown.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
The Lions’ offense has basically torched every opponent that has dared step up to them of late. The dynamic of Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, and Matthew Stafford appears to be too much for defenses to deal with. This isn’t the same Chicago defense we saw last year. Without Henry Melton and Lance Briggs, this defense has severely underwhelmed to this point. They had a solid showing last week against the Rodgers-less packers but that was the exception to the rule this year. They haven’t figured out what works for them. Last year they weren’t really a cover 2 team as most expect, but this year they have played a little more of it and it doesn’t seem to suit them.
The Lions cornerbacks aren’t playing well right now. None of them seem to be covering anyone well and it’s making the offense have to work harder every week. DeAndre Levy’s phenomenal play of the last 2 weeks has helped cover some gaps but eventually the Lions get burned on the outside. Ziggy Ansah is an absolute physical monster but has been up and down due to unrefined pass rushing skills. He’ll take himself out of plays, especially against the run, and he needs to learn to remained disciplined to his duty or else he leaves teammates out to dry.
Barring a setback, Jay Cutler is supposedly returning from a torn groin (ouch!) this week. I really think the Bears will spread the Lions out and really go after their corners on the outside with Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall. Both could have big days and Matt Forte could see a ton of draws or screens to keep an overly aggressive pass rush from pinning it’s ears back.
This is a fascinating matchup as there are a lot of ways both of these teams could approach this game. I am slowly coming around to the Lions offensive coaching staff but I still have more faith in Marc Trestman. This should be a high scoring game where the last team with the ball has a chance to win it. I don’t trust that Cutler is 100% and that makes the difference to me. Lions win a very close and fun game.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Mike Zimmer won’t have Geno Atkins, Leon Hall, or Rey Mauluga this week. He and the sub personnel is good enough to overcome that, especially against a Ravens offense that has been anemic. Ray Rice doesn’t look like the same player, even if he says he’s not injured. Joe Flacco is a pocket quarterback that doesn’t have much of a pocket lately due to a poor offensive line. I’m not really sure why the Ravens run so much zone blocking when their strength is power either. So much wrong with the offense and Torrey Smith is really the only bright spot.
Andy Dalton might have won Offensive Player of the Month for October but I still think he’s more often bailed out by the talent around him than it is him elevating the talent around him. He’s the governer on an offense that could really be opened wide with a top echelon QB. Dalton has played very well but he always still leaves me wanting more. Gio Bernard is so much fun to watch. Jay Gruden’s progression as an offensive coordinator and a play caller has been remarkable. The Ravens will have issues getting to Dalton who has a very strong offensive line in front of him. There are also some coverage issues because of safety play for the Ravens and to me that spells doom.
The Ravens essentially have to have their best game of the season to have a shot, even with all of the injuries to the Bengals on defense. Bengals by 6 or more. That’s a dicey guess in Baltimore but they’re clearly the better team at this point.
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers
The tempo of the Eagles’ offense will be a major factor in this game. The Packers defense is a blitz based defense, especially in sub packages, and they’ll have to have a strong game plan to adjust to the speed of Chip Kelly’s offense. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers will have some decisions to make in preparation this week and then may need to make some quick adjustments based on how his guys execute.
With Seneca Wallace at QB, this game could really go either way. Seneca wasn’t terrible but he’s got to speed up the pace at which he processes information. Hopefully with a full week of practice he’ll be better prepared to make his presnap reads and that will help him tremendously post snap. The Eagles’ defense is pretty porous and they can’t cover. With all the weapons of the Packers, they’ll have their hands full even if it isn’t Rodgers throwing the ball.
Nick Foles’ seven touchdowns were fun to watch, but as I’ve said Foles and the Eagles are much better against zone coverage. The Packers are a much better man coverage team and we could see Foles have some issues with that this week. Pressure and tempo are the two main factors for both teams in this game. This is another toss up game and so I’ll take the Packers simply because I think McCarthy will have his team prepared a little better for what they’re about to face.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
A player that needs to be receiving more attention this year is the Titans’ defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. Casey is ferocious inside and consistently beats double teams. He’s athletic and intelligent and is one of the biggest reasons the Titans defense has played well this season. He allows Jerry Gray to do a lot of things with their defensive scheme.
Jake Locker has surprised me enormously this season. I still don’t think he’s ready for a wide open offense but he’s been way more accurate and intelligent with the football than I ever expected him to be. Chris Johnson needs to focus on getting downhill with more authority. He dances too much and that is detrimental. He wants to hit a homerun all the time.
The positives I see in the Jags is that they’re coaching staff is testing out different things every week and they seem to be evaluating and evolving based on that. It’s sort of like a preseason approach where they’re trying to win but evaluation is just as important. Also, Sen’Derrick Marks looks like the real deal at defensive tackle. He gets good penetration and can create problems inside for offensive lines.
The Jags do have a shot in this game but they’ll need to keep the score to a minimum. Run the ball, mix coverages, and try to create turnovers even if it gives the ball carrier a few extra yards. I don’t think it happens, but they might give the Titans a scare. Titans by a FG or less.
St. Louis Rams at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts offensive line is going to have serious issues with the Rams’ pass rush. The Colts and coordinator Pep Hamilton may decide to try to pound the ball more than they have in awhile in this game to counter that. The Rams haven’t been disciplined against the run and this is the best opportunity for Trent Richardson to get his run game going.
Kellen Clemens has look ok as a backup for Sam Bradford. He’s good enough to get the ball to his playmakers if only coordinator Brian Schottenheimer would infuse Tavon Austin into the game plan more. Aside from his TD last week, Jared Cook has been nonexistent in the pass game since week one. He hasn’t had more than 45 yards receiving since a big showing in week one. Zac Stacy is a good, sustaining runner that provides the Rams with some stability on offense.
The Colts defense changes it’s scheme based on opponent and it’s hard to predict each week. My guess is that they crowd the box and force Clemens to throw more than the Rams want him to. If they can stop Stacy from gaining substantial yards early, they may force the Rams offense into going to the pass.
This game will be closer than most believe I think. If Sam Bradford were at quarterback I would think that the Rams could really take this one. I’ll give them a shot still, but I think it’s a FG game.
Oakland Raiders at New York Giants
This is a Giants team that is starting to find some consistency on defense. They’ll also (apparently) get Jason Pierre Paul back this weekend and that should help even more. The Giants are playing a lot more cover 3 and are mixing up their sub packages to help defend the intermediate areas of the field better. It also keeps the corners from getting beaten deep.
The Radiers’ Terrelle Pryor seems to be regressing as of late. He really looks lost when trying to read a defense. Teams are refraining from blitzing him too much and have started dropping more players into coverage. He’s having issues deciphering what he sees and making the correct throw. The Giants defense should have a field day against him. Denarius Moore and Rod Streater appear to be legit NFL wide receivers. I also like Mychal Rivera’s prospects as a moveable tight end if he continues to improve. The offensive line has been bad but not really as bad as you’d expect with all the injuries.
The Giants offense needs a strong run game to be successful. It really suffers from not having a viable threat out of the backfield. As the offensive line gets more and more playing time together, they seem to be finding some chemistry. It’s still bad that even as they’ve been a little better, they’re still below average. It’s also silly that with that offensive line the Giants are still calling so many deep shots. They need to find a balance.
The Giants are a far better team than the Raiders and I think this weekend may wake some people up that the Giants may not quite be out of the race for the NFC East just yet. Giants win by 10+.