Dallas @ Carolina
Dallas has no room for error in pursuit of home field advantage in the NFC. Their loss last week to the Eagles gave them the same record as the Green Bay Packers, though Dallas holds that tiebreaker. QB Tony Romo has an injured thumb, and at the time of press is probable to play. But the bigger loss maybe the Cowboys center, who is missing this weeks game with a knee injury. Dallas is likely to run more this week than ever, thus LB Jon Beason is a must start. Another huge play is Panthers safety Chris Harris.
Carolina is again starting rookie free agent Matt Moore this week. Moore was in the Cowboys training camp this summer and the staff liked him, but didn’t want to carry 3 QB’s so they tried to stash him on their practice squad. No luck, Carolina claimed him, and he was impressive leading the Panthers to victory against the playoff bound Seattle Seahawks a week ago. Dallas is without SS Roy Williams in this contest due to a league suspension. His backup Pat Watkins is also out, injured. So backup FS Keith Davis will start and Ken Hamlin will shift to SS this week.
NY Giants @ Buffalo
The Giants are coming off a humbling loss to the Washington Redskins and their backup QB Todd Collins, at home no less. To make matters worse, TE Jeremy Shockey was lost for the year with a broken leg. QB Eli Manning has been less than impressive as of late, but a lot of his misfortune last week was the wind and his receivers dropping his passes. The Giants will pound the ball this week against the Bills, and as a result all the Bills LB’s are strong plays.
Buffalo still has playoff aspirations, but they must be perfect from here on out and get some help from other teams. In order for Buffalo to secure a win, they must run the ball, and keep the Giants pass rush off their QB. Expect a heavy dose of RB Marshawn Lynch. Top plays are the Giants pass rush and their 8 in the box players.
Green Bay @ Chicago
Green Bay lost the last time they played Chicago, but that was under different circumstances. Chicago is now on its 3rd string QB, and showed no sign of a passing game last week. Green Bay will attack this offense, with DE Aaron Kampman outside, and stuff whatever run the Bears can muster with Nick Barnett inside.
Green Bay is playing good football right now, and is only a win and Cowboys loss away from holding home field through out the playoffs. Expect the Packers to get after Chicago early through the air, then to pound RB Ryan Grant in the second half to break this Bears defense. Brian Urlacher is a must play, even though his production seems to be tied to his desire to stick his nose in the play.
Cleveland @ Cincinnati
The Browns will attempt to tie the Steelers for the lead in the division this week. Cleveland beat the Bengal’s in a week 2 shoot out that accounted for 96 points, and 11 passing touchdowns between the two teams. The Browns have become a very balanced offense with the reemergence of RB Jamel Lewis running the ball. Keep in mind he had 216 yards on the ground the first time these two teams met, so the Bengal’s LB corps better be ready for the challenge ahead.
This game will be much difference from the first meeting, as the weather won’t allow those kinds of passing stats again. But the Bengal’s running game has been pedestrian at best as of late. QB Carson Palmer will have to pass to keep up with the Browns offense, thus the Browns secondary will be a solid play this week.
Kansas City @ Detroit
Kansas City at one time led the AFC West division just before their bye week on October 21, only to lose 7 straight games and now sit tied with Oakland the in cellar of the division. Kansas City will run the ball, and throw the intermediate routes to their TE and Wr’s. The Detroit LB corps will be busy and Ernie Sims should have an excellent statistical day.
Detroit was also a potential playoff team a few weeks back with a 6-2 record, but since have lost 6 in a row, and enter this game with no hope for the post season with a 6-8 record. The Lions OC Mike Martz will expose his QB to punishment this week from Chiefs DL’s Tamba Hali and Jaren Allen.
Houston @ Indianapolis
Houston still has slim hopes of making the post season, so this game is a must for them. The Texans have become a ball control team, but not necessarily with the run. They are able to sustain drives with their passing game. Considering the Colts should be out to and early lead, the Texans may have to pass even more than they like to keep the game close. Colts safety Bob Sanders is considered a top play this week.
Indianapolis can not improve or hurt their #2 seeding and 1st round bye regardless if they win or lose this game, so its expected they could pull their starters early in the 2nd half, especially if the game isn’t close. QB Peyton Manning says he needs more game time with rookie WR Anthony Gonzales, as its unknown when or if Marvin Harrison will return this year. Expect the Houston pass rush to get to the QB. Also expect DeMeco Ryans and Morlon Greenwood to have strong performances this week.
Philadelphia @ New Orleans
Josh Bullocks participated in practice on Wednesday, so he will likely start this week for New Orleans, after missing the last 2 games. The Saints need this game desperately if they have any shot at the post season, and without a true RB expect Drew Brees to take over this game with the vertical passing game. The Eagles secondary players are strong plays, as well as DE Trent Cole coming off the edge.
Philadelphia was just eliminated from the playoffs with the Giants loss on Sunday night. So there could be a letdown this week out of the Eagles team. But Donovan McNabb is playing for a job next year, whether it be in Philly or somewhere else, he will be at his best this week And next. Expect a heavy dose of Brian Westbrook catching the ball out of the backfield as well as lining up 7 yards deep. Saints DL Will Smith has been on a tear as of late. That trend likely continues this week.
Oakland @ Jacksonville
Oakland gave the Colts all they could handle a week ago, but lost RB Justin Fargas in the process. RB Lamont Jordan will likely start this week, but he hasn’t shown any sign of being capable of running on a defense as stout at the Jags. Thus Oakland will be in 3rd and long situations, which will test the weakness of the Jacksonville defense, its secondary.
Jacksonville will run the ball, though Oakland was stout a week ago holding Joseph Addai in check, and out of the end zone a week ago. Jacksonville RB Fred Taylor is likely headed to his first pro bowl after the injury to RB Willie Parker last night. Expect Taylor to be motivated to prove his worth this week. LB Kirk Morrison should rebound this week in a big way, and expect Thomas Howard to also post solid stats.
Atlanta @ Arizona
The Falcons cant seem to do anything right. They lose their QB to a jail cell, lose their coach to the University of Arkansas, and now lose Bill Parcells to the 1-13 Miami Dolphins. By the looks of things Parcells used the Falcons to get a better deal out of the Dolphins. The Falcon players have all but given up on their franchise as well. The only Cardinal IDPs to start this week against the Falcons are their LB corps and possibly DT Darnell Dockett.
The Cardinals offense isn’t a juggernaut, but this week they won’t have to be to win against the Falcons. WR’s Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are less than 100%, but they are looking forward to this match up to pad their stats. LB Keith Brooking should be solid again this week, as should DeAngelo Hall in the Falcon secondary.
Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
Tampa Bay went from worst to first in the NFC South in the last year. This week they have little to play for as they will host a home playoff game in the wild card round and cant improve on that by winning or losing. Tampa is likely to rest some of their starters the next few weeks, so outside their stud players who you can’t bench, it might be wise to avoid the remaining Bucs starters.
Its rare a rookie makes the pro bowl, it almost impossible for a rookie to make the pro bowl from a 4-10 team, but that is exactly what LB Patrick Willis has done for the 49ers. The former Ole Miss standout has become one of the best LBs in the NFL, in only 14 NFL starts. This kids future is extremely bright and he is a no brainer must start this week.
NY Jets @ Tennessee
The Jets lost starting QB Kellen Clemens last week against the Patriots, so former starter Chad Pennington will get a chance to lead the Jets for possibly the final time. Pennington isn’t likely to be back in New York unless he agrees to come back as the back up, and Pennington is said to want to play and thinks he can still start in this league. Regardless who is behind center, the titans are planning an assault on the QB from DE Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Tennessee needs a win to stay in the playoff hunt in the AFC. And the Jets couldn’t be more perfect to accomplish that goal this week. The Jets run defense has been horrible and the Titans will no doubt pound the ball on the ground. Expect RB Lendale White to have a huge day, and as a result LB David Harris will have a huge day.
Miami @ New England
Miami got its first win last week, to avoid a possible 0-16 season. This week they take on the 14-0 Patriots who are trying to match their 1972 teams perfect season. Can this team rise to the occasion and spoil the Patriots pursuit of perfection? Not a chance. But there is good news for Miami IDP, the Dolphins secondary is a strong play this week.
This game has the makings of a blow out, as the Patriots are going to attempt to get Tom Brady the passing TD record, so they will not call off the hounds until that record is broken. On defense this is as big of a mismatch as when the Patriots offense is on the field. Every level of the Patriots defense should dominate the Dolphins. But the most likely beneficiary should be LB Mike Vrabel coming off the edge rushing the QB.
Baltimore @ Seattle
Baltimore has all but mailed it in this year, as proof from their loss last week to the winless Dolphins. The Ravens are starting rookie Troy Smith again at QB, so the Seahawks defense will attack up front, and attempt to bait the young signal caller into poor decisions with coverage schemes. Expect Patrick Kerney to get back on track this week rushing the passer.
The Seahawks have wrapped up their division, but lost last week, and their HC wants them heading into the playoffs with momentum. Look for a better effort this week offensively with both the pass and the run. Last week the Ravens lost LB Ray Lewis with a broken hand, so Bart Scott will likely be the recipient of his normal statistics. The Ravens secondary is also beat up, so expect Seattle to choose how they want to attack this defense.
Washington @ Minnesota
Washington standout LB Rocky McIntosh went on IR this week with a torn ACL and MCL. McIntosh and will miss 9 months to a year to rehabilitate the injury and will miss at least the beginning of next years season. HB Blades filled in for McIntosh last week and should get the start the rest of the year for the Redskins.
The Viking defense has compensated for their QB’s mistakes and allowed this team to win games, even when they lose the turnover battle. Washington will attempt to run the ball, but as teams have found out, that isn’t an easy task. Expect a nice game from Viking LB EJ Henderson as well as Chad Greenway.
Denver @ San Diego
Denver will have to throw to set up the run against the Chargers D. Denver can’t line up man to man and beat the Chargers effectively enough to win this game, so play action pass is a must. San Diego LB Shawne Merriman is questionable, but Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm are very capable of picking up the slack this week.
San Diego has the blueprint to go as far as they can go. Denver knows this blueprint and will attempt to contain Ladanian Tomlinson, but that is easier said than done, especially when your run defense is as suspect as the Bronco’s. But this is a perfect recipe for success for LB D.J.Williams.