SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-4) AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-3) [4:25PM] (GAME OF THE WEEK)
This game pretty much speaks for itself, two high-powered teams looking to get one step closer to the playoffs. The Seahawks in their last game dominated the 49ers pushing them even farther out of the playoff race. The Eagles did the same to the Dallas Cowboys in their Turkey Day matchup. Now two of the most physical teams in the league will go head to head to decide, who is the better bird? The Seahawks success as of late has had a lot to do with their running game. This dynamic running game stands out for a multitude of reasons the most of which being that Russell Wilson is leading the charge. Russell Wilson has gained more yards on the ground than in the air these past few games. Marshawn Lynch has been on fire proving that still at his age, this late in the season, he still can get it done. This season Lynch 956 rushing yards 9 touchdowns and 3 receiving touchdowns. The Seahawks defensive unit has toughened up as Richard Sherman has returned to shut down corner form.
The Eagles have a new leader in Mark Sanchez, that sentence is almost as weird as watching him through a touchdown screen pass to Shady McCoy. Sanchez was expected by everyone but Chip Kelly to fall flat, he has proven otherwise to this point. The Cowboys came out flat against the Eagles, and the Eagles made them pay for it. Now this should prove to be the toughest test this Eagles team has faced all season. They must stop the red hot Super Bowl champs by beating them at their own game. It’s a known fact that the NFC East wouldn’t be the NFC East without drama and season ending heroics, this year will be no different, the Eagles will fall at the end of this one.
PICK: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (7-5) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (9-3) [4:05PM]
Can The Cardinals win another game to keep them in the lead? Both the Chiefs and Cardinals have dropped their last two games in a row. The Cardinals can afford their late game collapses a bit more than the Chiefs as the Cardinals still hold a slight lead in the NFC West. A win for the Seahawks and a loss for the Cardinals would turn the tables on a team projected to win the division. The Cardinals defense seemingly could not be stopped. Following a loss to Seattle in their first matchup with an upset loss to the Falcons the Cardinals are running out of time. The only games left for the Cardinals are inner division games, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Seattle. A loss to the Chiefs would be devastating for the Cardinals playoff chances, so its easy to classify this game as a must win.
The Chiefs on the other hand have been a little bit above average. They fought tooth and nail against the Denver Broncos but fell flat in an upset loss against Oakland, OAKLAND. The final games for the Chiefs are against Oakland, San Diego, and Pittsburgh which knowing the Chiefs as of late will all be close games. Alex Smith and Drew Stanton are pretty much the same guy when it comes down to it and that could be where the problem is. Smith and Stanton are game managers not gun slingers so in clutch moments sure they will have some wins, but for the most part the game is never really in their hands. The running game is pretty similar as well with Andre Ellington being somewhat like a poor too middle class man’s version of Jamal Charles. The key differences come on defense. With Eric Berry out indefinitely this Chiefs defense is going to struggle containing the run and the pass. This will be a close game but it looks like the Cardinals will get back to their winning ways, for now.
PICK: ARIZONA CARDINALS
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS [7-5] AT OAKLAND RAIDERS [1-11] [4:25PM]
"I think the best thing for us now is to turn all of our attention and our focus to what lies ahead, and that's this bloodbath that I think we're about to have against the 49ers,"
Here’s the thing about this game, it’s about the future. Oakland was the first team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, which meant that they are the first team to start thinking about the offseason. The Raiders have a young inexperienced upstart at quarterback and running back in Carr and Murray. Young defensive talents such as Khalil Mack represent the future of what the black and silver will look like and after beating the Chiefs in what was the biggest upset of the year the Raiders future is looking pretty bright.
There are even rumors that 49er’s coach Jim Harbaugh will be the head coach of the Raiders next year and not the 49ers. This all adds to a once bitter divisional rivalry, one thing to take away from Tucks comment is that at least one of these teams are taking this game seriously. A 49ers loss here would put them behind the proverbial eight ball in terms of playoffs. A win here for the Raiders would solidify their fans excitement for next year.
PICK: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
PITTSBURGH STEELERS [7-5] AT CINCINNATI BENGALS [8-3] [1PM]
This is the first of two meetings for these bitter divisional foes. A loss here would not put the Steelers ahead in the standing but it would be a strong message as to who will grab the AFC North Crown. The Bengals and Steelers are two of the most talented and exciting teams to watch in football. The coaching staff for both teams, have to work on their consistency, a little less for Tomlin a lot more for Lewis. Lewis has AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard as their star offensive pieces but injuries have forced them to turn to the somewhat surprising Mohammed Sanu and Jeremy Hill. Watching both Hill and Sanu they are clearly a lot more talented than the average NFL player but they lack the intangibles to really become superstars. Green and Bernard are both leaders and playmakers Hill and Sanu can just make plays. Of course this all can come down to another player, Andy Dalton. Andy Dalton has 13 picks and 13 touchdowns, that is the definition of insanity. Andy is the embodiment of the lame duck plays that the Bengals have been dealing with all season long. He has looked anything but sharp this season and they have won their last 3 games. Imagine if Drew Brees or Tom Brady were on the Bengals, they would be Super Bowl contenders right now. If Dalton does not improve the Bengals will have to look for a better quarterback option in the long run.
The Steelers have not been bad even though they are coming off a loss against the Saints. The one thing that has been an issue for them all season is O and D line health. When their offensive line is not healthy Big Ben can’t keep ticking. His timing is off and it creates a weird anomaly game where Antonio Brown still has 30 fantasy points but the Steelers lose to the Jets (insert upset team here). The key to stabilizing their quarterback is consistent play from all sides of the ball regardless of the situation. The Steelers weapons are incredible, from Antonio Brown to Le’Veon Bell these guys can ball. The Steelers just need to stay out of their own way because if they can do that they can beat the “Bungles”.
PICK: PITTSBURGH STEELERS
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (8-4) AT CLEVELAND BROWNS (7-5) [1PM]
Who will be facing Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer? Its an easy question. Brian Hoyer was named as the starter once again this week as Cleveland fights for its playoff lives in the AFC North. Johnny Manziel got the Browns close last week but ultimately ended up losing to the Bills. Manziel got his start after Hoyer threw a bunch of untimely picks and if the Bills weren’t so bad this would have been a blowout. The return of Josh Gordon will test the Colts defensive backs but ultimately it is about whose getting him the ball. From what we’ve seen it is Manziel who could be the better playmaker, but its Brian Hoyer who has gotten them to this point.
The Brown’s decisions from here on out will shape not only their ever diminishing playoff future but the future of the franchise. If you think about it, the Browns may already feel as if a Super Bowl is out of reach so why allow Manziel to run out the clock on the season. Why not save Manziel for a fresh new season with a whole year of studying the Browns offensive schemes under his belt? Hoyer will start for the remainder of the season because this season for the Browns is just about over. On the other side of the ball the Colts are rolling with Luck coming off two straight wins. The last time Luck and the Colts lost was to a guy named Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Colts will blow past the Browns with ease.
PICK: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS