I know all of you have been sitting on the edge of your seats since my fantasy football post last week, so I thought I’d tell you that my team pulled out the victory and got me into the playoffs. Third seed even!
In any case, there are seven teams in the NFL that currently sit at 7-5. One team is in the NFC, six are in the AFC. None of them are currently winning their division, and every game counts from here on out if they are to keep their playoff hopes alive. Let’s highlight their matchups this week among the full slate of games, and since we’ve been hearing so many negative things revolving around Rolling Stone Magazine and the release of/credibility attack of/apology for its article involving rape allegations at the University of Virginia, let’s put some positive light on the name. Each game will be represented by a Rolling Stones song, and we’ll remember how great of a band it was.
Dallas Cowboys (8-4) at Chicago Bears (5-7)
Predicted: 31-24 Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Miami Dolphins (7-5)
Song: Miss You
This game very well may be the most important remaining game for each of these two teams. After a disappointing comeback loss to the Chargers last week, the Ravens are not where they want to be. They know that if they can manage to beat the tough Miami defense, their chances of making the playoffs will be much higher. This is arguably the toughest matchup that Baltimore will face over the next four weeks (next is Jacksonville at home, in Houston, and Cleveland at home). Look for the team to do its best to establish the run and ride the hot streak of runningback Justin Forsett (37o yards, four touchdowns in last three games).
The Dolphins are extra hungry for this victory because they know that they have to travel to Foxborough next week to take on the Patriots. They also know that their remaining two games are very winnable (at home against the Vikings and the Jets). Miami can only feasibly afford to lose one more if any, so the pressure will really be on each of these next two weeks. After a too-close-for-comfort game in New York against the Jets on Monday Night, the players know that questions about them are developing all over the league. The offense was nothing special and the defense allowed 173 rushing yards, bringing the total allowed over the last two games to 373. It only allowed 423 over its previous six. Can Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins prove the doubters wrong? Can Cameron Wake and the defense get back on track and stop the ground game?
The big news coming into this week is the four-week suspension of Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. Ngata is arguably the most important person on the Baltimore defensive side. The team will definitely miss him as it travels to Miami to take on the Dolphins.
Prediction: 24-20 Dolphins
Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-7)
Prediction: 27-17 Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) at Detroit Lions (8-4)
Prediction: 24-10 Lions
Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cleveland Browns (7-5)
Song: Rock and a Hard Place
Brian Hoyer was pulled from the game last week and now people everywhere are once again screaming for Johnny Football after he led a drive capped by a rather impressive 10-yard touchdown scamper. National attention found its gaze set on Mike Pettine and the Cleveland quarterback controversy. Now, Hoyer has another shot and should be buoyed by the very apparent faith that his coach has in him. Unfortunately, he draws the league’s leading offense in the Indianapolis Colts this week and will have his hands full trying to score enough to keep up with them after they dropped 49 on the Redskins last week. Between the quarterback controversy, all of the negative media attention, and this really tough matchup, Brian Hoyer and the Browns are really stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Prediction: 31-23 Colts
Houston Texans (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)
Prediction: 28-7 Texans
New York Jets (2-10) at Minnesota Vikings (5-7)
Prediction: 23-10 Vikings
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1)
Song: Doncha Bother Me
Here we go. If the final four games on the schedule for these teams were a sandwich, we would be more interested in the kind of bread than in the meat inside. The Steelers and the Bengals play this week and again in week 17. The AFC North divisional race is tight. The Bengals lead at 8-3-1, and the other three teams are all 7-5. It’s anyone’s crown. Paramount in each of these two teams’ remaining schedules are these two games against each other. Can the Bengals below-average run defense stop stud runningback Le’Veon Bell? Will Antonio Brown be going about his usual business and scoring multiple touchdowns? Which Andy Dalton will we see?
Both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati know that they can play spoiler to the other team’s playoff chances. They’re saying to each other “Doncha bother me.”
Prediction: 24-17 Bengals
New York Giants (3-9) at Tennessee Titans (2-10)
Prediction: 20-17 Giants
St. Louis Rams (5-7) at Washington Redskins (3-9) – Pulse 120’s Week 14 Upset Special (If you can call 3-9 over 5-7 an upset)
Prediction: 28-27 Redskins
Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Denver Broncos (9-3)
Song: Doom and Gloom
On paper, the Buffalo Bills are very much still in the playoff race. However, when you look at their remaining schedule, all you see is doom and gloom. Though they are indeed 7-5, just look at at this: week 14 at Denver, week 15 vs Green Bay, week 16 at Oakland, week 17 at New England. Yikes. They’re facing the cream of the crop in these last four weeks, and the one game against an easier foe is an away game. Buffalo appears to have the lowest chance out of all of these 7-5 teams to make it to the postseason dance.
Prediction: 28-13 Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-3)
Song: Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
Although they are 7-5, the Chiefs are third in their division behind the Broncos and the Chargers. They are still in the race. All four of their remaining games are winnable, and the decision may very well come down to a crucial week 17 game at home against San Diego. The Cardinals are looking like a shell of the team they were a few weeks ago. They come into this game after dropping two straight to the Seahawks and the Falcons. Losing again here would be terrible for their intentions of not dropping out of contention. Larry Fitzgerald is expected to return, and that will be huge. Still, Kansas City is no pushover. It won’t get any easier for them.
Third in the division? Please. The Chiefs are out there asking San Diego “Can’t you hear me knocking?”
Prediction: 24-17 Chiefs
San Francisco 49ers (7-5) at Oakland Raiders (1-11)
Song: Gimme Shelter
The road to the playoffs is a very uphill one for the San Francisco 49ers. They may only be two games behind the division leading Cardinals who seem to be sliding down the ranks, but the Seahawks have turned it on lately and they look more like the team that defeated Denver in last year’s Super Bowl. After this week, Colin Kaepernick and the Niners face a tough game against San Diego sandwiched between two important divisional showdowns. They know it’s going to be hard, so they’re looking for shelter to weather the coming storm. They’re hoping that this cushy game against the 1-11 Raiders can give them that and that they can find their offense in the process (11 points per game scored across their last three games).
Prediction: 20-10 49ers
Seattle Seahawks (8-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-3) – Pulse 120’s Non Primetime Game of the Week
Prediction: 27-20 Seahawks
New England Patriots (9-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-4)
Prediction: 27-21 Patriots
Monday Night Football
Atlanta Falcons (5-7) at Green Bay Packers (9-3)
Prediction: 38-14 Packers