14. Bills vs. Jaguars
Storyline: Are the Bills for Real?
I've talked about how the Bills have struggled to be consistently great on offense in my power rankings. A big part of that is the fact that they have trouble running the ball. They play the Jaguars, who they should absolutely slaughter from start to finish. Jaguars are also an easy team to take advantage of on the ground. If the Bills can run the ball well and dominate on both sides as they should, it will restore some confidence in the Bills as genuine Super Bowl contenders. On the other hand, can Trevor Lawrence, the number one pick in the draft, elevate his team and steal one against a very tough Bills defense or at least get close? This is a chance for him to inspire hope for the Jaguars future.
13. Jets vs. Colts
Storyline: Whose Comeback Story is it Anyway?
On one side, we have a QB who Andrew Erickson of PFF/Fantasy Pros has coined White Knight Mike White. He had an electric performance for the Jets that busted a lot of people's predictions, including my own. However, can he do it again now that defenses can prepare for him, or was he a flash in the pan? On the other side, we have Carson Wentz, who has been quietly putting together some encouraging performances, but loudly not getting it done. If he is to cement his place as a starting QB with the Colts, he has to beat the Jets.
12. Cowboys vs. Broncos
Storyline: Can the Cowboys Survive?
Reports are that Dak Prescott is returning from his injury. The Cowboys haven't lost any momentum in his absence, and they are playing a team that lost to the Browns backups. The Broncos have Jerry Jeudy back, and they have a defense that definitely has the talent to cause problems. However, the Broncos haven't been able to put together against good teams all season. The Cowboys biggest threat is their yearlong battle with health. Can they survive this game, and not have any major injuries and still get the win?
11. Saints vs. Falcons
Storyline: What Remains?
Both these teams just had big losses. The Falcons just lost Calvin Ridley, and there is no telling how that will effect all the other weapons in this offense. Especially, against a Saints defense that seems to be peaking. The Saints lost their QB Winston, and they lost their receiver, Thomas, again. However, they are both still alive and kicking, and they get to come into a rivalry game with playoff implications and show the NFL who they will be for the rest of the season. Will they crumble or rise to the occasion?
10. Eagles vs. Chargers
Storyline: Run Game Woes
The Eagles are a team that has struggled to run the ball at an acceptable rate in the NFL, which caused them to struggle and to be perceived as a winnable game for the Lions. However, last week they got a statement victory by running the ball and letting the world know they are far superior to the Lions. This week they play a better team, but that team is basically just as bad against the run. Can the Eagles continue to run the ball to success, or will they fall back into their old ways? The Chargers are slipping, and they are slipping badly. The word is out. Everyone knows they can't stop the run. They let Mac Jones and the Patriots run all over them and beat them. They need to find a way to get back on track, and the Eagles are a good team to do it against. If they drop this game, Charger fans should be extremely concerned.
9. Panthers vs. Patriots
Storyline: Gilmore's Revenge
Gilmore gets to play the Patriots that let him go this week. He also gets CMC back as well. If Sam Darnold plays, he will also want his revenge from the seeing ghost game from when he was a Jet. The Patriots are at a crossroads right now. A win takes them to a team over five hundred, but a loss makes them a losing squad. They beat the Chargers, but it was easy. The Panthers will force the Patriots to really earn this victory. I think the Panthers defense will put a lot of pressure on the Patriots offense. With CMC back, the Panthers will be more effective against the Patriots defense than people expect.
8. Texans vs. Dolphins
Storyline: Trade Warfare
These two teams have traded often, and the Dolphins almost received Watson. Surprisingly, they have the same record. Now one team must move forward, and one must stay back. I know Tua probably wants to beat the brakes off the Texans, who have had Watson rumors swirling all season around Tua. I expect a statement win from the Dolphins. However, I also acknowledge that this is a winnable game for the Texans, who are better than people think, especially now that Tyrod Taylor is returning.
7. Raiders vs. Giants
Storyline: Phoenix Game
Both of these teams have faced a lot of adversity this season. The Raiders have lost their coach, and now star receiver Henry Ruggs has been dropped from the team. Can they keep winning and continue to rise from the ashes? The Giants, on the other hand, have been devastated by injury. Now, their running back Barkley has COVID. Can they rise to the occasion and beat the Raiders. The Raiders are a beatable team, but so are the Giants. Who wants it more, and who has the most left in the tank?
6. Cardinals vs. 49ers
Storyline: Timing is Everything
The previously undefeated Cardinals are in disarray. Their QB, Kyler Murray, has an injury and might not play Sunday. AJ Green is on the COVID list and probably won't play. Hopkins has a hamstring injury and probably shouldn't play. Meanwhile, the 49ers come in on a winning streak, and I don't expect that to end here. The 49ers have traditionally handled the Cardinals, and these two teams don't like each other. However, the 49ers are coming to town at the right time.
5. Vikings vs. Ravens
Storyline: Last Week We Took an L, Today We Bounce Back
Vikings took an embarrassing loss to the Cowboys back up QB, Cooper Rush. Cousins once again shrank in Primetime, and played more conservatively than the backup and loss. He wasn't the only one. Trevon Diggs locked down Justin Jefferson. Dalvin Cook also had a very pedestrian performance. The Ravens had an embarrassing loss to the Bengals in Week 7, before their bye week. They got absolutely destroyed on defense, giving up forty one points while the offense was shut down, only scoring seventeen points. However, both these teams get a chance to recover and regain the momentum they lost last time. I think the Ravens will take this one because they have an elite QB, but if the Ravens defense plays as badly as they did last game, Vikings could take it.
4. Bears vs. Steelers
These two teams are actually remarkably similar. They both have horrible offensive lines and depend mostly on their running games. They both have very talented receivers underachieving. They also both have struggling QBs. The Bears QB, Justin Fields, is struggling because he is a rookie, and that's what they do, while Big Ben is struggling because he is the opposite of a rookie. Both teams defenses are also excellent, when healthy. The Steelers defense is more healthy than the Bears defense, but I think Fields will take another step forward this week.
3. Browns vs. Bengals
Storylines: Little Brother
Bengals have been Browns little brother. The other Ohio team they could still beat when times got hard. However, that might have changed this year. Because its only year two of Joe Burrow, and they already look better than the Browns. This Sunday, we will find out if they are better or if they are still just little brother.
2. Titans vs. Rams
Storyline: Trials by Fire
The Titans lost their biggest weapon, Derrick Henry, and their first test without him is one of the best teams in the NFL. The Rams have a really good defense and offense, and they are on a roll. I'm fascinated to see how the Titans will attempt to combat the Rams. Even if the Titans can just close in this game, I would be impressed.
1. Chiefs vs. Packers
Storyline: Jordan Love's Debut
The Chiefs are struggling right now. They got an uninspiring win over the Giants. I'm interested in the Chiefs will they, won't they story with the playoffs. The far bigger story is Jordan Love. Jordan Love is like a myth. Everyone has heard of him, but few have actually seen him. Well, now he is thrust into action against a struggling Chiefs team, and we get to see if he is a future star or not. Also, what if he hits the ground running, beats the Chiefs, and looks fantastic? We get to peek into the future of the Packers. They have had back-to-back legendary QB's Farve and Rodgers. Is it possible they have a third?