14. Giants vs. Cowboys
Hard Knock Life
The Giants are in a tough position. Both their starting QBs are out, and outside of the defense, they have nothing to hang their hat on. Their entire season is like a blowout with a lot of time left on the clock. It's over, but they still have to go through the motions. The Giants just got destroyed by the Raiders of all teams. If they couldn't handle the Raiders, then I shudder to think what will happen when they face the team that hung 40 on them.
13. Panthers vs. Bears
This game was a slog. The Panthers have to be disappointed they played the team that had the true number one pick last year because they were bad, and it turns out the Panthers are worse. The Panthers couldn't get anything done, and Bryce Young didn't look good. The takeaway for the Panthers should be that their head coach isn't doing a good job developing Bryce Young. It doesn't seem like his strengths are getting maximized to make a functional offense.
The Bears backup QB Bagent got his second win, but it wasn't much to write home about because the Bears didn't have to do much to win. The takeaway for the Bears should be that the defense has been optimized with Sweat. In back-to-back games, the team has been able to depend on the defense, whereas earlier in the season, Bears fans would have to rightly assume the defense would fail and couldn't be counted on.
12. Jets vs. Raiders
The Jets are trying to stay alive in the playoff picture. In every game, they are fighting for their life. How long can Zach Wilson hold out? All the franchise's hopes are hanging by a thread. The Jets play the Raiders this week, and they should be able to beat them, but with the Jets, no game can be taken for granted.
The Jets aren't the only ones fighting for their lives. Just two spots down in the playoffs are the Raiders, and they have a new coach with something to prove. The Raiders coach is trying to prove he belongs as one of the 32 head coaches and should remain this team's head coach. So will the Jets hold on for another week, or will the Raider interim head coach get one step closer to being just the head coach?
11. Broncos vs. Bill's
The Bills are trending down. They just played the Bengals, who annihilated them in the playoffs, and it still wasn't even close, and that's demoralizing. Now the Bills are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. This could be the year they don't make it. The peak of the Josh Allen era was in 2020 when the Bills made it to the conference championship and got destroyed by the Chiefs. The next year, they returned and lost overtime to the Chiefs in the divisional round. The Bills played well, and everyone figured the Chiefs were lucky and the Bills would get over the hump next year.
However, the next year, the Bills barely made it out of the wildcard round against third-string QB Skylar Thompson, and then the Bengals smacked them at home in the divisional round. The Bills are having less success every year. They may be in trouble this year.
The Broncos are trending up after fixing their defense in the last couple of weeks and dominating the Chiefs. Now, the Broncos and Bills will be put to the test. Are these trends real?
10. Falcons vs. Cardinals
What Ya Got
The Falcons seem rudderless. They benched their QB and lost to Josh Dobbs, who got on the team a few days earlier. It's officially time to question Arthur Smith. He doesn't utilize any of his best offensive weapons well, like Bijan, who the Falcons drafted very high. You could almost forget Arthur Smith was the guy who coached Derrick Henry because he seems to have forgotten his Titans days. If Arthur Smith can't beat the Cardinals, then he may as well sign his walking papers.
The Cardinals are bringing Kyler Murray back. It's been a long time, and even though Kyler is making a comeback, his time with the Cardinals is over. The question is how will Kyler look when he gets back. He doesn't have a great starting cast. He specializes in off-script plays and QB rushes, but he's coming off a leg injury. Will he feel comfortable doing that?
9. Packers vs. Steelers
You Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone
Both The Packers and Steelers are traditionally great franchises playing in their post-hail-of-fame QB era. Long gone are the days when Big Ben and Rodgers battled it out in the Super Bowl. The Steelers are on the upswing at 5-3 and getting better each week. The stability they are experiencing can be attributed to Mike Tomlin and the tone that he sets. He has never had a losing season, and that is the baseline.
The Packers are having the opposite season. The Steelers are 5-3, and the Packers are 3-5. The Packers won last week, but the Rams fell apart and had to start their second-string QB. The Packers get more exposed each week. Love's play is already in question, and now he has to play the Steeler's defense. This can make or break Jordan Love. Can the Packers pull a rabbit out of the hat, or will the Steelers run through him?
8. Vikings vs. Saints
The Vikings and Saints are both five and four, but their roads have been very different. The Saints have looked good but struggled to win consecutive games. It is up and down with them. The Saints are currently on a two-game win streak, but the Vikings, who started out losing three straight, are currently on a four-game winning streak. The Saints brought Carr in to give them a real QB to lead them back to the playoffs, and so far, Carr fits the bill. The Vikings just lost Kirk Cousins and have signed Josh Dobbs, who won a game after being thrown in at the middle of the game a few days after signing.
The Vikings are definitely the underdogs here, but Josh Dobbs is a gamer, and the head coach, Kevin O'Connell, is one of the best coaches in the league. Also, a signing that people need to talk about more is Flores. Flores has turned this defense around, and if you look at when the Vikings started this streak, you will notice it was right around when the defense began to gel with the defensive system.
7. Colts vs. Patriots
The Colts and Patriots were once one of the great rivalries in the NFL. Peyton vs. Brady, but it will be Gardner Minshew vs. Mac Jones today. The Patriots have been having one of their worst seasons. The Patriots have actually been playing better than their record indicates. This is one of the most beatable teams the Patriots have played. Will the Patriots get the job done?
The Colts have been giving their opponents all they can handle. The Colts have had some bad breaks, but they have heart. The Colts have never given up, and because of that, they are one game away from being .500. The team's success so far and the way they played reflects the head coach. Right now, the Colts have made one of the best coaching hires in the league.
6. Commanders vs. Seahawks
The Seahawks got smacked last week. The Ravens took all the credibility of the Seahawks. Now, the Seahawks need to smack a team to prove to the world and themselves that they are who they say they are. Justin Fields and the Bears smacked the Commanders. If the Seahawks are really as good as they think they are, they should be able to do it.
For the Commanders, the situation is simple. They have been putting on an offensive show every week but haven't finished the games. Can the Commanders put up points when it matters and finish a game?
5. Bucs vs. Titans
The Bucs and Titans are both sitting at 3-5. They both have talented rosters and have played competitively in their games, but they have not come out on top enough for one of these teams that will change. The Titans need to get Henry going again. Now that Will Levis and Hopkins are there, the Titans are two-dimensional, but the run game is less productive than it once was. The Titans could stack some wins if they can recapture some of their rushing glory.
The Bucs need to get their defense right again. When Baker Mayfield arrived, people wondered if he could get it done, but he wasn't the problem. The defense hasn't lived up to expectations. Last week, Baker Mayfield put together what should have been a game-winning drive, but the defense didn't close out the game against a rookie QB with only 40 seconds left. They have talent on defense, but if they don't tighten up, they won't be winning anything.
4. Jaguars vs. 49ers
Fresh off the bye
The Jaguars and the 49ers are two top teams coming off a bye. Both are at the top of their division. This is an interesting match. The Jaguars have all the momentum. The Jags are on a four-game winning streak, and the 49ers are on a three-game losing streak. Yet, it's the Jaguars who have more to prove. We all think the 49ers will get it right, but we need to find out if the Jaguars can handle such a talented roster.
The 49ers have the most to lose. If they lose their fourth straight game, then it's time to press the panic button for the 49ers. After a bye and a big splash acquisition, the 49ers have to get back on track.
3. Lions vs. Chargers
The Lions are currently on the longest active drought in the NFL. The last time they won a playoff game was 1991. It's been three decades since they won and seven years since the last time they even made it. This Lions team looks like the one that should finally break this drought, but there is a lot of season to be played.
The Chargers started rough, but they have been putting together some wins. The Chargers are currently undefeated vs. the NFC North, but now they are playing the best team in the North. Can the Chargers handle a real playoff-type team? Can the Lions handle a very talented Chargers team at 4-4 who really need a win to turn things around? Which one of these exciting franchises will come out on top?
2. Bengals vs. Texans
On paper, many people would expect this to be an easy win for the Bengals. However, Joe Burrow is playing the new him. The new young, poised phenom is going to a bad franchise and changing it to a winning culture. CJ Stroud is just coming off the best game of the year, where he won a shootout against the Bucs that included a 40-second game-winning TD drive.
On top of everything the Texans are bringing to the table, the Bengals will be missing star receiver Tee Higgens, Chase is banged up, and defensive end Sam Hubbard is out. This has all the makings of a trap game. Can Joe Cool steady the ship and get the Bengals through this game? The Bengals can't afford to drop games. They are in a competitive division and started slowly, losing two division games. They are sitting at the 7th spot in the playoffs and must keep winning if they want to hold on.
1. Browns vs. Ravens
AFC North All-Star Game
The Ravens are leading the division like they always do. However, unlike usual, they are relatively healthy, and they are getting a chance to compete at full strength and remind people who forgot in the last two years that the Ravens are one of the best teams in the NFL. They have the number one scoring defense and a top 6 offense. Lamar finally has received help and a more balanced offensive coordinator.
On the other side are the Browns, who are lowkey the Raven's biggest threat. The Browns boast one of the scariest defenses in the league. The offense just got Deshaun Watson back, and now we get to see what would have been a QB dream match-up a few years ago. These teams both have great defenses and weapons. Who's defense will hold up longer? These teams match up well, but who will break through? If the Browns win, then they will split with the Ravens in the division and be one game behind them in the race for the division. If they lose and get swept, the Ravens will most likely shut the door on Brown's chance of winning the division.