by Patrick Stanton
JetNation Senior Columnist
Baltimore Ravens (3-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (7-3)
You scratch my back, Iâ€™ll scratch yours. The Ravens busted out the *trap game on the Steelers last week (* Maddox was at QB) and allowed the Bengals to stay in the thick of things in the AFC North after their offensive lightning round shootout loss to the Colts. The Ravens managed to rediscover their defense last week and Kyle Boller did just enough not the blow it on offense. Back in the jungle, thereâ€™s no doubt that Cincinnatiâ€™s offense is for real after posting 37 on one of the leagueâ€™s best defenses. Iâ€™d like to think this will be a low scoring affair but my gut says otherwise. I think the Bengals are pretty upset after last week and the Ravens are about to feel their pain. Bengals win big.
St. Louis Rams (4-6) @ Houston Texans (1-9)
Looks like itâ€™s Jamie Martinâ€™s turn to tear apart the most pathetic defense in the nation. With Bulger in danger of being lost for the season due o injury, Martin will step in and take on a defense so bad that Ray Charles could throw for 250 and a couple scores against them. Martin shouldnâ€™t have any problems handing off to Stephen Jackson repeatedly, who should have a field day on the ground Sunday. For David Carr, heâ€™ll be facing a defense thatâ€™s almost as bad as his own and should continue to build on the success heâ€™s found in recent weeks. As much as Iâ€™d like to pick the Texans, Iâ€™ll go with the Rams for the victory.
Carolina Panthers (7-3) @ Buffalo Bills (4-6)
Seriously? Even as good as the Bearsâ€™ D is, did anyone think the Panthers would only score 3 points last week? Carolina needs this win bad to stay in the thick of the division race which is turning into an absolute dogfight. Depending on who gets the ball, the running back by committee attack of Foster and Davis should feast upon the second to last rushing defense in the league while Willis McGahee will continue to do, well, nothing, as he has for the past few weeks. Panthers get back on track with a win.
San Francisco 49ers (2-8) @ Tennessee Titans (2-8)
Someone is leaving this game one step closer to Reggie Bush come April. The Ninersâ€™ Ken Dorsey will be the 49ers QB of the week as he faces off against the Titans defense that ranks 20th against the run and no longer instills fear like it once did. Steve McNair, who doesnâ€™t have the attention of a good season this year to have the media remind us just how tough of a player he is every 5 minutes, should have a solid game with his team receiving leader, TE Enron Kinney leading the way once again. Regardless it will be an ugly and boring game but the Titans will do the Niners a favor and beat them, helping SF get one step closer to Bush.
New England (6-4) @ Kansas City (6-4)
Somewhere there is a psychologist using this game as a study of what happens when a coach with no emotion (Belichick) faces off against a coach with too much emotion (Vermeil). This is a huge game for the Chiefs to stay in the AFC Wild Card race and while still important for New England, they have the comfort of winning the division through attrition. Dillon is out so enter Heath Evans, who should have a rough time against a stout KC run defense forcing Brady to turn to the air against a KC Defense yielding 240 yards per game in the air on average. Likewise, Larry Johnson should shred the Patriots defense apart and both defenses should enable a high scoring affair. I see KC pulling this one out at home allowing Patriots fans another week of blaming injuries for their terrible defense.
Chicago Bears (7-3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneeers (7-3)
Well hereâ€™s something we didnâ€™t think weâ€™d see come late November. The first place Bears vs. the Tied for 1st Place Bucs in a battle featuring rookie Kyle Orton and Chris Simms respectively. The monsters of the midway are back and tougher then ever, where their league leading defense (8th run, 2nd pass) have been tearing opposing offenses apart and evoking memories of the Super Bowl Shuffle. Not to be outdone, Tampaâ€™s 3rd ranked defense (7th pass, 8th run) looks to get under the skin of rookie Kyle Orton, who continues to manage the game effectively, limit turnovers and do what it takes to win. As this game proceeds, it will be interesting to see which defense gets to which young QB first. Still, in the sun and warmth of Tampa, Florida, I think the Bucs will manage to do just enough to win and squeak by Chicago with a victory.
San Diego Chargers (6-4) @ Washington Redskins (5-5)
The wheels are starting to come off the Redskins bandwagon as both the team and its fans have been brought back to reality in recent weeks. Losing 5 of their last 7 games, the Redskins have managed to waste a 3-0 start and are in jeopardy of being on the outside of the playoffs come January. Washingtonâ€™s ground game has been ineffective thus far and will only run into more heartache as it takes on the best rushing defense in the NFL. Forced to turn to the air, look for Brunell to go to Moss early and often. As for San Diegoâ€™s offense, itâ€™s easy, get the ball to Tomlinson and Gates and let them work their magic. Gates will be a game time decision so keep an eye out for that. With Gates out of the game it could be a lot closer then some expect, but I still expect the Chargers to come away with the win.
Cleveland Browns (4-6) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-5)
Can a quarterback be only as good as his wide receiver?? After losing Culpepper to injury, Brad Johnson and the Vikings have rattled off 3 straight wins and have managed to get back into the playoff race. Apparently Johnson doesnâ€™t care that Moss isnâ€™t there any longer because he has done what he has had to do to win, unlike the man he replaced. The Browns look to build upon the recent success of Rueben Droughns and make the move towards .500 football. The winning streak is nice, but I think itâ€™s time for the Vikings to come back to Earth as the scrappy Browns come into the dome and beat the Vikings.
Miami Dolphins (3-7) @ Oakland Raiders (4-6)
â€œIn Gus We Trustâ€? â€“ Possibly the most hilarious thing Iâ€™ve ever heard. The reeling Dolphins head west and into the Network Associates Coliseum, where Iâ€™m convinced their stands are filled with California mental health prisoners on weekend furloughs. Things are going from bad worse for the Dolphins and heading into the black hole is not the remedy. The Raiders offense has been somewhat dormant recently but the Dolphins should provide ample chance to change that. Itâ€™s going to be a long day for the fish as Lamont Jordan and the Raiders run all over them to get the win.
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-7)
The one-pronged Arizona attack continues this week as Denny Green abandons their ineffective ground game once again and turns to the air. That said I have some bad news Arizona fans, Jacksonville has the best pass defense in the league. Jacksonville has to be licking their chops as they come to town facing a defense surrendering a massive 26.8 points per game on average. Jaguars win this one easy.
NY Giants (7-3) @ Seattle Seahawks (8-2)
Is it just me or should we put our an APB for Seattleâ€™s traditional late season collapse? As the Seahawks enjoy the comfort of a 4 game divisional lead, the Giants find themselves amidst a dogfight for the NFC East with Dallas and looking to exploit their Thanksgiving Day loss to Denver. Both teams are playing good defense and both are solid against the run, which should provided for an intriguing match up of Alexander and Barber. Barber vs. Alexander, Manning vs. Hasselbeck? Whatâ€™s not to like about this possible playoff match up? The Giants are hungry and I think that even the Seahawks themselves are surprised about how well theyâ€™re doing, never a good combination. The Giants should prove to be the hungriest of the bunch and should leave Seattle with a win over the Seahawks.
Green Bay Packers (2-8) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)
How painful has it been to watch Favre this year if youâ€™re a fan of #4. You always like to see a player go out on top and this just isnâ€™t it. Things are plain ugly for both teams, but Philly takes the cake for off the field distractions and disasters for this season. The Eagles have lost 4 straight and have never recovered from the antics of Terrell Owens. Now led by backup QB Mike McMahon, they find themselves playing for pride and nothing more. Luckily for Green Bay, Favre on a bad day is still better then McMahon on a good day and that should allow for the Packers to beat the Eagles.
New Orleans/San Antonio/Baton Rouge Saints (2-8) @ NY/NJ Jets (2-8)
What a storyline: The Saints, displaced from their home by Hurricane Katrina, take on a Jets franchise that has never had its own home. This game will just be plain brutal to watch. On paper the Jets should be able to exploit the Saints 29th ranked run defense but as we all know, the offensive line has been a â€˜smallâ€™ problem this year. On the other side, Antowain Smith and company should feast upon a run defense worse then their own and play keep away from the Jets offense once again. Bad news for Brooks Bollinger and Jets fans, the Saints have the 3rd ranked passing defense in the league. We might just see Kingsbury in at QB before the end of the night. Saintâ€™s should end up winning this game without too much trouble.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) @ Indianapolis Colts (9-0)
Is this it? Is this the game that the Colts finally drop? Big Ben is back and if you saw the look on his face last week, you know heâ€™s ready to play. Pittsburghâ€™s defense lives via the blitz, an awesome attack really, but they had best watch themselves this week as they take on Manning who excels against it. Cincinnati blitzed the devil out of the Colts last week, forcing them into man to man coverage and it got them absolutely torched. The Patriots laid the blueprint on beating the Colts last year, establish a ball-control ground game, pound the crap out of them up front and keep Manning and the offense off the field. With Bettis, Staley and their offensive line, thereâ€™s no better candidate for doing that then the Pittsburgh Steelers. On paper, everything says the Colts should win this one: Tough defense, a still injured Roethlisberger, an opponent whose defensive style plays into the hands of Manning and an effective ground attack of its own. But itâ€™s only paper and call me crazy, I think itâ€™s time. Steelers come into Indy on primetime and beat the Colts in a close game.
Season to date: 18-12