With the playoffs right around the corner, nearly every game in the NFL could eliminate a team's hopes of playing in January.
Whether it's two teams contending for a shot at the postseason or a team trying to play spoiler against one with playoff dreams still remaining, there are several teams in the league that must take care of business to take one step closer to their ultimate goal.
With a lot on the line, here is a complete list of predictions for each game followed by a closer look at three of several NFL teams that are in desperate need of a huge win this weekend.
|San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||Broncos|
|Buffalo Bills||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jaguars|
|Chicago Bears||Cleveland Browns||Bears|
|Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||Colts|
|New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||Dolphins|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||Eagles|
|Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||Seahawks|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||49ers|
|Washington Redskins||Atlanta Falcons||Falcons|
|New York Jets||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||Chiefs|
|Green Bay Packers||Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys|
|New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||Saints|
|Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||Cardinals|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||Bengals|
|Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||Lions|
Chicago Bears (at Cleveland Browns)
The Bears have been an up-and-down team all season, but with Jay Cutler starting in place of Josh McCown, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago, he inherits a team that looks like a strong contender in the NFC North.
Per Bears sideline reporter Zach Zaidman, head coach Marc Trestman reiterated he is completely comfortable rolling with Cutler despite Josh McCown's recent hot streak:
Marc Trestman on Jay Cutler's return as #Bears starting QB: "I have no concerns."— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) December 12, 2013
ESPN Stats & Info breaks down both quarterbacks and begs the question of whether this is the right move for Chicago:
In any case, Cutler will have a full arsenal. With weapons like receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, paired with Matt Forte coming out of the backfield, the Bears should be just fine on offense. The real question in this game will be whether the Bears' defense can stop the Browns' receivers.
The tandem of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron have amassed a combined 2,225 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. With quarterback Jason Campbell looking great in his last start against the Patriots, passing for 391 yards and three touchdowns, the Browns look like they are capable of putting up more huge offensive numbers.
If the Bears can come out and get on top early, much like they did against the Cowboys in Week 14, the defense should play well enough to earn the victory.
Prediction: Bears 27, Browns 21
Carolina Panthers (vs. New York Jets)
After a drubbing at the hands of the New Orleans Saints in Week 14, the Panthers needed some good news. Instead, what they got was the news that Jonathan Stewart would miss more time due to a sprained knee, and he could be out for the season, as Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reported:
As for the New York Jets, their postseason dreams were extended with a win over the Oakland Raiders. Geno Smith had a good week behind center, throwing for one touchdown and rushing for another. The Jets, however, will go into a place where only one team, the Seattle Seahawks, has won all season.
The biggest reason the Panthers will win this game is their defense.
After struggling against Drew Brees and the Saints, Carolina's defense will look to return to form as a top-five defense in both passing yards and rushing yards against the Jets.
If Cam Newton can also have a bounce-back game against the Jets, the Panthers will move one step closer toward making the playoffs, with a home game against the Saints in Week 16 coming up.
Prediction: Panthers 24, Jets 10
Dallas Cowboys (vs. Green Bay Packers)
The Dallas Cowboys, much like the Panthers, received a beating on Monday Night Football from the Bears.
With a pass defense that appears to be on track to allow more yards than the record-setting Saints did last year, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reported, a start by Aaron Rodgers could potentially doom this team.
While it may have been "Aaron Rodgers Day" in Wisconsin today (get it, 12/12?), the Packers' quarterback still hasn't been medically cleared to play, according to Marc Sessler of NFL.com. One sign of good news, though, did come for Packers fans celebrating today, as tight end Andrew Quarless told Sessler that Rodgers took first-team reps on Wednesday.
ICYMI: Packers TE says Aaron Rodgers took first-team reps http://t.co/SGvkj7k1jU— NFL (@nfl) December 12, 2013
On the other side, Tony Romo is coming off a three-touchdown performance and looking to prove that his team does not struggle during the month of December.
Here are the numbers: On the road, the Cowboys are 2-5; at home they are 5-1. With a Green Bay Packers team that just won their first game since Week 8 coming to town, the Cowboys appear to be in a good position to get a win and stay in the NFC East race.
If the Cowboys can find a way to stop whoever is behind center for the Packers and Eddie Lacy, they will keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles with just two weeks remaining in the schedule.