Our two undefeated teams have a couple of good challenges in front of them as both team take on playoff contenders. The Colts will battle the Jaguars and the Saints take on the Cowboys.
However, there is one big question, at least for the Colts. When should they start sitting starters?
Some other questions this week are—How will the Bengals respond to Chris Henry's death? Will the Steelers stop their five game skid? How will Randy Moss respond to the criticism Carolina sent his way after last Sunday’s game?
Feel free to comment and answer these questions, along with who you think will win this weekend.
Last week: 11-5
Many have questioned if the starters are going to play or asked how long they will play if they do.
It’s only week 15. If Indy starts resting guys now they are going to go four weeks before they throw out their top squad. That would leave guys rusty, not close to fresh. It is not something they should do.
As long as Peyton Manning is throwing the ball, he has plenty of options in his favorite target Dallas Clark, his new toys Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, and the always dangerous hookup with Reggie Wayne.
They also have two good running backs that can get the job done between Joseph Addai and Donald Brown.
If Indy does indeed sit players, i.e. Manning, all bets are off. But I just can’t see them doing so this early.
Two more December losses (0-2 in ’09) and an away matchup (3-3 on the road in ’09) against one of the two undefeated teams cannot leave the Cowboys feeling very good about things.
New Orleans is still being chased by Minnesota for home field advantage in the playoffs, so they still have something to play for.
Dallas has lost five in a row against New Orleans and they are in the bottom half of the league in pass defense by yards allowed. They’ve also only averaged about 15 points per game in their last eight games. I see it hard for them to keep up with the New Orleans offense.
New Orleans wins.
Buffalo’s pass defense, unlike the rest of the team, is actually relatively strong.
But come on! Whenever someone questions the Patriots, 99 times out of 100 they come back and beat the snot out of the next team just to prove a point.
Remember the beat-down the Pats put on the Jets the week after Bill Belichick made that questionable fourth-down call against the Colts?
So after the Carolina Panthers criticized Randy Moss all week (I still question why), how many times do you think Brady throws his way? You think they try to break the receptions record Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall set last week? Seriously, Randy Moss is going to do a lot of damage.
New England wins.
Arizona suffered a minor setback losing to San Francisco last week, but they are more concerned with the health of receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald has indicated he is ok, and is expected to play, but you have to expect he will be limited if he does.
Detroit isn’t very good, and there’s no reason for the Cardinals to lean more on Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston in order to make sure Fitzgerald is okay for the stretch run, and very possibly, the playoffs.
Tennessee has lost only one game with Vince Young as the starting quarterback, but he may not play this week, which could be a big blow.
The Titans have just not been dangerous enough with Kerry Collins at quarterback. Chris Johnson has had a spectacular season, but he cannot do it himself.
Here’s how I can see the battle tilt in Miami’s favor.
The first is that they have not allowed a runner to gain 100 yards rushing since week 11 against Carolina and DeAngelo Williams, and have allowed only two players to reach 100 yards all season (the other being Thomas Jones in week eight).
Both those games also ended in Miami victories. So this means that they can either A) contain Johnson’s productivity, or B) let Johnson get his yards and just stop everyone else.
The second option isn’t far-fetched. Three times this season, Johnson has rushed for 100 yards yet the Titans have still lost. Two of those games were against average AFC teams in Jacksonville and Houston, the other being Indianapolis, who while undefeated, is still vulnerable against the run.
With an in-conference record of 3-7, most of the Titans’ damage has come at the expense of the NFC.
Positive for both teams—they both beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
One positive for Kansas City’s team—Jamaal Charles. Last week he erupted for 143 yards and a touchdown, as well as 38 yards receiving. This week he goes up against another poor rush defense.
Kansas City wins.
It’s really hard to see St. Louis beating anybody, and that was a common belief before all the personnel issues they’ve come up with this week.
QB Kyle Boller was sent home from practice while rookie Keith Null (West Texas A & M) got all the first team reps. Guard Richie Incognito was released, guard Jacob Bell was placed on IR, and center Jason Brown was home fighting a cold.
Makes you wonder how much longer Steven Jackson is going to put up with all this.
Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are both questionable, which does not bode well for Atlanta.
The Jets are only 3-3 at home, but Atlanta is an abysmal 1-5 on the road.
The Jets have a very good defense and Darrelle Reevis is one of the best corners in the league. If Ryan can’t go, I don’t see Chris Redmond being able to break through the Jets defense, especially if Turner isn’t available to take some pressure off of him.
New York Jets win.
San Francisco is very good defensively, but their offense is average at best.
The Eagles have a hot offense with playmakers at every position. They are flat out just putting points on the board. In their last three games the Eagles have averaged 32 points per game.
The 49’ers are an abysmal 1-5 on the road and are 1-3 against NFC teams not in the NFC West.
Baltimore has ten straight wins against teams with losing records.
Chicago is another team doing poorly on the road, with a 1-5 record as the visitors.
Baltimore is famous for their defense, and although they are not as strong as in years past, they will pressure turnover machine Jay Cutler to no end.
First, my condolences to the family, friends, and teammates of Bengals receiver Chris Henry. Any time something like this happens, it’s sad.
It’s always tough to gauge how a team will react to the situation at hand at a time like this. The Bengals' practice Thursday was supposedly a very somber one.
With a win, Cincinnati could clinch the division.
However, after last week’s disappointing loss, what has happened now, and facing a red hot Chargers team, I see them slipping a bit here Sunday. I just don’t see them putting it back together yet.
San Diego wins.
Bruce Gradkowski tore the MCL in both of his knees, paving the way for Charlie Frye—not former first overall pick JaMarcus Russell—to start this game.
Frye hasn’t thrown a pass since October 12, 2008, when he was still with Seattle. Just for extra measure, Oakland also signed former Bills’ first round pick J.P. Lossman to be the third-string quarterback.
Only the Raiders.
Even with top cornerback Nmamdi Asomugha, Oakland is still in the bottom half of the league in passing defense by yards allowed and is tied for 27th in interceptions.
Last week, Brandon Marshall went off for 21 catches, 200 yards, and two touchdowns. It may not be as big a week, but Marshall should be successful again.
Two teams going in opposite directions. Green Bay has won five games in a row, with wins over Dallas and Baltimore, while Pittsburgh has lost five in a row, with losses to Kansas City, Oakland, and Cleveland.
Pittsburgh has not been able to score with the frequency that Green Bay has, which has me skeptical about how they can keep up.
Hine Ward is questionable, which hinders what Pittsburgh does on offense, not only in the passing game, but because Ward is a very good blocker as well.
On defense, Troy Polamalu is out again and other Steelers players in the secondary have struggled to make plays. Which can only mean bad things against Aaron Rodgers, one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL this season.
Green Bay wins.
Tampa Bay just isn’t that good at any position on either side of the ball. On the road against veteran quarterback Matt Hasselback it’s just tough for me to see an upset.
Minnesota put away a good Bengals team last week with a very good effort, scoring 30 points against one of the stingiest defenses in the league.
Sidney Rice has had a breakout season and Percy Harvin is a candidate for Rookie of the Year. The success of these two makes Adrian Peterson’s job easier and Brett Favre look very good. They are huge reasons why Minnesota has such a great record this year.
Carolina actually has a solid pass defense but is terrible against the run. With Harvin struggling with migraines, look for Peterson to take over and have his first game with 100 rushing yards since week 10.
The Giants are trying to desperately hold onto their slim playoff chances, which is odd as they started the season 5-0. They also are 5-0 against teams with losing records this year.
What the Giants need to do is establish the run. A lot has been put on the shoulders of Eli Manning this season and, for the most part, he has not delivered.
Receiver Steve Smith started off the year hot, but hasn’t been heard from much lately. The Giants need to get Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw going, and they should be able to so against a Washington defense that ranks in the bottom half of the league.
In their seven wins, they have averaged around 141 rushing yards per game. In their six losses, they averaged only about 106 yards per game. The more they can use the rush to set up the pass and take pressure off Manning, the more successful they will be.
New York Giants win.