The season is half over.
And as the calendar turns into November, teams are getting serious about their playoff aspirations.
Teams at the top of the standings are out to prove their dominance. Teams in the middle of the pack are looking to go on a run.
And the teams at the bottom? Well, the majority of them are evaluating for next season and looking to play spoiler.
Buffalo is the only team without a win so far, but they have put together some inspiring outings lately with two overtime losses in a row. Can they put it together to finish off a team on the ropes?
Staying in the AFC East, the Patriots and Jets get the attention—and for the most part, rightfully so—but Miami never seems to go away. With the exception of the New England game, they are within a single score in their losses.
They are on the road again, where they have an unblemished record. But the competition won’t be easy.
Many have called Baltimore one of the better, if not top, teams in the entire NFL.
Who will win this week?
Bye week: Denver, Tennessee, St. Louis, San Francisco, Washington, Jacksonville.
Last week: 11-2
Tampa Bay is enjoying a good season thus far.
What they need here to really put themselves on the map is a win against the team with the best record in the division. But are they that good yet?
The Bucs are 1-1 in the division, with the win over the lowly Carolina Panthers and the loss coming to the New Orleans Saints. Are the Bucs really that good where they can beat the Falcons?
Tampa will have a rough day against a good team. They will be affected most in the rushing game.
They are ranked 30th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 149.4 yards per game. Atlanta, meanwhile, has the-fifth best rushing offense, with 137.4 yards per game.
Michael Turner and the disciplined Falcons offense will grind out the game and show the Buccaneers that they are a still a bit away from the top of the division.
The Bills have yet to win a game.
But they have looked much better since Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken the starting quarterback position, especially in recent weeks. Last week, they lost in overtime to the AFC West leading Chiefs, and the week before they took a talented Ravens team to the brink, also losing in overtime.
Chicago has lost two in a row, but it hasn’t been against as good of competition and the results have not been as encouraging. The Bears have been outplayed, and they made a lot of mistakes in their latest game.
Against Washington, Jay Cutler threw four interceptions, and the team has another two fumbles.
With the home crowd behind them and some solid play recently against strong competition, the Bills will finally get in the win column.
Colt McCoy is getting thrown into the fire early in his NFL career.
His first start came against the Steelers and their tough D and Ben Roethlisberger’s return, then against Drew Brees and the Saints. Now he goes up against the NFL-best Patriots and Tom Brady.
He came away with a big win against the Saints, but the Pats are really clicking right now.
They haven’t been flawless—their pass defense could certainly tighten up—but on offense, a number of guys are contributing in a number of different ways, reminiscent of the Patriots of old.
Brady is fired up, and they are playing solid, winning football. Emphasis on the second word.
New England wins.
A 9-0 loss to the Packers?
The Jets looked like the Week 1 Jets, which is pretty scary—in a bad way.
What really hurt New York were Mark Sanchez’s two interceptions. And after opening the season with zero interceptions in five games, he has four in his last two.
The Jets need to get back to handing the ball off to LaDanian Tomlinson more. He only averaged 2.7 yards per carry against Green Bay, but the Jets do still have the third-best rushing offense in the NFL.
Let Tomlinson grind it out and win the game.
He should have a good amount of success against Detroit, and its defense that allows 130.4 rushing yards per game.
New York wins.
The way the Saints rush the ball is atrocious.
But against Carolina, it won’t matter.
New Orleans can still throw the ball well, fifth best in the league actually. And Carolina just cannot score points.
Add that DeAngelo Williams, their best weapon on offense, missed last week and may not play again this week, and it’s hard to believe they’ll be able to keep up with the Saints.
New Orleans wins.
Baltimore has shown weaknesses this year.
Ray Rice has been banged up and vulnerable, so the ground game hasn’t been as potent. Even with new weapons at wide receiver, Flacco has a career-low 59.3 completion percentage.
And last week, the Ravens' defense gave up an unbelievable 514 yards to the Buffalo Bills.
The Dolphins are a more talented team than Buffalo. With the exception of the Patriots game, they have been an extremely competitive team.
Their defense is ranked in the top half of the league in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game. And their passing offense, with the help of Brandon Marshall, is ranked 12th in the NFL with 232.4 yards per game.
The Dolphins are also 4-0 on the road. They will be up to play this game, and last week against a lowly Bills team proved that the Ravens are beatable.
Now is the time for San Diego to go on their midseason roll.
They have started off slow, but they’ve done this before. They’ve been a middle-of-the-pack team, like last year, and then go on a tear, rising to the top.
They won last week, and are in perfect position to go on their first winning streak this season.
They have the No. 1 passing game in the NFL—Philip Rivers is third in the NFL in passer rating, first in yards and tied for second in touchdowns. The Texans, coming off a disappointing loss to the Colts, are dead last in pass defense, allowing a shade under 300 yards passing per game (299.4).
The Chargers' defense should also be able to contain the Texans offense. It is a good unit, as they have the top-ranked pass defense and second-ranked rush defense.
San Diego wins.
When a team trades a third-round draft pick for a player and releases him one month later, there is a clear sign of dysfunction and mismanagement.
There is only one team in worse shape than the Vikings right now (Dallas).
However, Arizona is not cruising through this season. There is a rotating door at the quarterback position, and the Cardinals will be going back to Derek Anderson for this weekend.
The constant changing of the guard under center has lead to no chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald, basically wasting him.
Minnesota still has Adrian Peterson, and both their rush and pass defense rank in the top half of the league.
Matt Hasselback will miss this game because of a concussion.
Chaz Whitehurst gets his first NFL start, but it will be a rough day for him.
The Giants are tied for third in the league in sacks, while the Seahawks are tied for third in the league in sacks allowed. Seattle also doesn’t have a strong running game to alleviate pressure.
The Giants will come at Whitehurst hard and often.
New York wins.
Indianapolis has Peyton Manning, so they are always in every game.
However, they do not run the ball well, and their defense against the run is terrible. It’s bad enough to cost the Colts the game.
The Eagles have the ninth-ranked rushing game, gaining 129.3 yards per game. LeSean McCoy sits just outside the top 10 in the league in both rushing yards and yards per carry.
The Eagles will also receive a boost with the return of Michael Vick as the starting quarterback. Everyone knows his strength is running the ball.
Add to the fact that Andy Reid has never lost after a bye week, the Eagles have many things going in their favor at home.
The top two rushing attacks go at it in this vital AFC West showdown.
It won’t necessarily come down to the passing game, either. Both are generally not that good—although they have made some plays lately.
Which team will be able to stop the other's potent running attack?
The Raiders are very vulnerable on the ground, giving up 127.4 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Chiefs not only execute on offense, they also get the job done on defense, surrendering only 96.4 yards per game on the ground.
The Chiefs have been rolling this year, and their defense will carry them here.
Kansas City wins.
It seems like every week Roy Williams makes a comment about how the team will run the table, make the playoffs, and everything will be fine.
The problem is that you start running out of games to turn things around.
Dallas was embarrassed by Jacksonville last week, and quarterback replacement Jon Kitna threw four interceptions.
The Packers only shutout the Jets.
Seems pretty lopsided here.
Green Bay wins.
One would think the difference between the Bengals last year and this year is their running game.
Last year, they were very physical and efficient when they ran the ball, and that opened up the passing game. This year, they just don’t.
It’s hard to imagine why Marvin Lewis hasn’t figured that out, but that seems to be the biggest difference.
It doesn’t matter how many yards Carson Palmer throws for; it just doesn’t result in wins.
Pittsburgh shuts down the run, and then they control the line of scrimmage, pounding the ball with Rashard Mendenhall.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is also 5-0 on Monday Night Football.