Pittsburgh Steelers' Head Coach Mike Tomlin
We are now in the 11th week of the NFL season. Every team has played nine games, and now is the time of year where division races heat up. This week has one of the great rivalries of the past decade as the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots play each other in addition to Brett Favre playing against his former team and an NFC East rivalry that will determine who has the best record in the NFC East.
This is my slide show with picks for the winners of each game. As always, there will be upsets, injuries, and surprises. My record for picks last week was only 6-8, bringing my season record (through only two weeks) to 16-11.
With that said, let's get started.
Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher
The Miami Dolphins will enter this game without quarterbacks Chad Henne and Chad Pennington. That means that the focus will be on the Dolphins' running game to carry the offense through the game. The Bears have the second ranked rush defense, so that will be much easier said than done, with a front seven that has Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and Lance Briggs.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears have struggled to run the ball for much of the season, and the offense has had to lean on quarterback Jay Cutler, who has played very well for the most part. The Dolphins' defense, however, is sixth in the NFL at stopping the pass.
Prediction: Match up issues for both offenses cause this game to be a low scoring game, and likely very close as well. I'll go with the Bears because of the Dolphins' quarterback issues.
Bears 17, Dolphins 13
Baltimore Ravens' Running Back Ray Rice
The Ravens are Super Bowl contenders that just came off a tough loss against Atlanta. Expect them to come out with a purpose in this game. The Ravens have the players on both offense and defense to be able to compete with anybody.
The Panthers aren't so fortunate. They have been facing an uncertain quarterback situation all season between Matt Moore and rookie Jimmy Clausen. The running game for the Panthers has been terrible. Pair that up with the 25th ranked scoring defense, and you have a 1-8 team.
Prediction: Unless the Ravens get overconfident, this game won't even be close. Baltimore goes to 7-3.
Ravens 27, Panthers 7
Houston Texans' Running Back Arian Foster
The match up between the Texans' high powered offense and the Jets' shutdown defense should be the highlight of this game. Andre Johnson will get to go against Darrelle Revis, who completely shut Johnson down the last time these teams played each other. We will see if Revis can duplicate that performance on Sunday.
Arian Foster also gets to go against the fifth ranked rushing defense in the league, which will be yet another match up to watch.
In order for the Texans to win this game, they must get their woeful defense together. The Texans are allowing 28.6 yards per game and 409.7 yards per game. Both numbers have to improve drastically if the Texans still hope to make the playoffs. For now, Mark Sanchez should have a field day against this defense that isn't stopping anybody.
Prediction: The Jets will get too many points for the Texans to keep up.
Jets 31, Texans 21
Cincinnati Bengals' Quarterback Carson Palmer
After a few weeks of coming close, the Bills finally got a win last week against the Lions. However, the Bills are 28th in the league in total offense and 26th in the league in total defense. They still have their fair share of issues.
If there ever was a time for win number two though, it could be against the struggling Bengals, who have now lost six games in a row. Although Terrell Owens is having a good year, Carson Palmer and the running game for the Bengals are struggling.
Prediction: Both teams are having bad years, but I'll take the Bengals at home.
Bengals 24, Bills 20
Pittsburgh Steelers' Linebacker James Harrison
The Oakland Raiders have found their way back to being a relevant team, and have won three games in a row. They are only 1-3 on the road though, and have to play the Steelers on the road. The Raiders are second in the league in rushing but the Steelers' defense is having a historically good year shutting down the run.
The Raiders still struggle to stop the run, so expect Rashard Mendenhall to have a good game.
Prediction: The Steelers were embarrassed last week on national television. Expect them to come back with a vengeance.
Steelers 27, Raiders 14
Cleveland Browns' Quarterback Colt McCoy
The Browns have looked excellent over the past three games, and nearly pulled off their third upset in a row. Peyton Hillis is going to be matched against the 23rd rush defense in the league. Expect him to have a big game. The Jaguars are also allowing opposing quarterbacks to have a QB rating of 105.7, so Colt McCoy could have a solid game as well.
The Jaguars have some good players on offense as well. Maurice Jones-Drew is a good running back, and David Garrard is an underrated quarterback. However, the Browns' defense has been excellent over the past couple of weeks.
Prediction: The Browns have been one of the NFL's pleasant surprises, even though they are only 3-6. This team is getting better fast, and should get another win in Jacksonville.
Browns 20, Jaguars 14
Dallas Cowboys' Quarterback Jon Kitna
If I told you coming into the season that these teams would have the same record after nine games, you would have called me crazy. Nonetheless, both teams are just fighting for pride at this point in the season. The Cowboys pulled off the huge upset against the Giants last week and now face a Lions team that hasn't won a road game since the 2007 season.
Prediction: The Cowboys are 0-4 at home and the Lions are 0-5 on the road. Something has to give. I'll pick the Cowboys to make it two in a row.
Cowboys 27, Lions 24
Kansas City Chiefs' Running Back Thomas Jones
The Cardinals are having a rough year at 3-6. Their passing attack has fallen off this year after an excellent stretch under Kurt Warner. The running game isn't getting the job done. The defense has been terrible. Now, many are thinking "same old Cardinals." However, in the mediocre NFC West, they still are only two games out of a division lead, and mathematically have a chance at winning the division.
The Chiefs got off to a great start, but have lost two games in a row. This game is an excellent chance for them to redeem themselves against a struggling team at Arrowhead Stadium.
Prediction: The Chiefs win easy unless they get complacent.
Chiefs 30, Cardinals 10
Tennessee Titans' Receiver Randy Moss
The Redskins got steamrolled at home by the Eagles, and now have to face Vince Young, Chris Johnson, and Randy Moss in the Titans offense. The Redskins' will likely be trying to earn their pride back after what happened last week, but it was obvious to anybody watching their Monday night game that the Redskin defense has some serious issues.
The Redskins looked good earlier in the season, but they are now struggling to stay relevant in a division that has the Giants and Eagles.
Prediction: The Redskins play much better than they did last week, but don't get the win.
Titans 24, Redskins 17
Minnesota Vikings' Quarterback Brett Favre
I don't think there's any secret to the big headline in this game: Favre against the Packers for the fourth time. Brad Childress is also in danger of being fired almost every week as the Vikings have struggled all season.
In terms of match ups, the Packers' defense is giving up 114 rushing yards per game, which is a good sign for star running back Adrian Peterson.
The Vikings' defensive line got almost no pressure on Jay Cutler last week, and that has to be a concern for the Vikings. The other concern is the play of Brett Favre, who has been turnover prone all season.
Prediction: Last year, the Brett Favre led Vikings swept the Packers. This year, the Packers return the favor.
Packers 27, Vikings 14
New Orleans Saints' Quarterback Drew Brees
The Saints' defense has improved quite a bit from last year, allowing only 16.8 points per game. With all the talent that the Saints have on offense, it's only a matter of time before they regain their explosiveness on that side of the ball.
The Seahawks have been inconsistent all year, looking like a team that could contend one week and then getting blown out the following week several times this year.
Prediction: The Saints are the more talented team by far. They get the win and go to 7-3.
Saints 31, Seahawks 17
Atlanta Falcons' Quarterback Matt Ryan
The Rams have been one of the pleasant surprises in the NFL this year, and they are 4-1 in home games. Sam Bradford is showing signs of why the Rams took him number one overall, and he is playing like a seasoned veteran so far this season.
The Falcons had a big win last week against the Ravens, and are now 7-2. They have a balanced and very effective offense with quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Michael Turner, and receiver Roddy White. Their defense has played well enough to win, and should continue to do so.
Prediction: The Rams are getting better, but they still don't have the talent to match up with the Falcons just yet. Falcons win.
Falcons 23, Rams 14
San Francisco 49ers' Quarterback Troy Smith
The 6-3 Bucs have to go to San Francisco to play the 49ers. The Buccaneers haven't been spectacular in any phase of the game, but they find ways to put together wins. Josh Freeman is one of the more impressive young quarterbacks in football.
The 49ers were favored to win the NFC West, but have struggled all year. Troy Smith might be the starting quarterback the 49ers have been looking for, but only time will tell.
Prediction: Given how both teams have looked so far this year, I have to go with the Bucs.
Buccaneers 20, 49ers 14
Do I need to tell you who these guys are?
This has been one of the biggest rivalries of the past decade. Both teams are annual Super Bowl contenders, and both have future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Peyton Manning got off to a hot start and was an early MVP favorite, but a host of injuries has caused the Colts' quarterback to struggle over the past five games, where he is only averaging 6.1 yards per pass attempt. The Colts have found ways to win four of those games, but things don't get any easier considering the Colts have to play the Patriots.
The Patriots' defense is young and inexperienced, but they are improving. The Colts' defense isn't particularly great statistically, but they find a way to make plays when the Colts need them to.
Prediction: Expect another classic game between the two teams, but the Colts have too many injuries to pull off the win.
Patriots 31, Colts 28
Philadelphia Eagles' Quarterback Michael Vick
This is the showdown for first place in the NFC East. The Giants got embarrassed last week by the Cowboys, and will be out for redemption. The Eagles, on the other hand, are coming off one of the most impressive offensive performances in NFL history, and Michael Vick has been nothing short of amazing all year.
Both of these teams are complete football teams. Both teams run the ball well. Both teams throw the ball well. Both teams play excellent defense. The winner of this game is in the driver seat in the NFC East with the Redskins and Cowboys both struggling.
Prediction: How can you possibly pick against Michael Vick with the way he's playing right now? The Eagles get the win at home.
Eagles 35, Giants 31
San Diego Chargers' Quarterback Philip Rivers
Although quarterback Kyle Orton is having an impressive year, the Broncos are struggling to run the ball and are struggling on defense. Knowshon Moreno needs to step up for the Broncos to really get going.
The Chargers have won two straight and might be setting up for yet another strong finish to the season. Philip Rivers has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year, and the Chargers are second in the NFL in total defense. All the Chargers have to improve is special teams, where several key blunders have cost them games.
Prediction: The Chargers win at home.
Chargers 31, Broncos 17