Getting down to business in the second half of the season, teams are beginning to push for the playoffs while others are fading from their early relevance. A fast start will get you nowhere if you cannot back it up with a strong finish, and the marathon that is the NFL season is starting to take its toll on a number of teams.
As the playoff picture takes shape, here are a couple teams on somewhat of a slide right now that will continue their futility this week en route to a deeper hole after early season excitement.
Buffalo Bills (5-4) @ Miami Dolphins
This would normally be a good game to get back on track for Buffalo, but they catch the Dolphins who have won two straight and have seemingly found their swagger. The Bills haven't been able to stop feature backs all season and have relied heavily on turnovers to keep them in games.
They have lost three of their last four in part because they haven't gotten those turnovers on defense and are a combined -7 in turnover differential over those games. They had their worst game last week in Dallas where they were -4 in turnovers and couldn't stop DeMarco Murray on the ground or Tony Romo through the air.
The talent level won't be the same in Miami Sunday, but they will be on the road where they are 1-3 this season. Reggie Bush's recent resurgence could be a big problem for them as well. Bush has averaged over six yards per carry over his past three games and should fit the mold perfectly for the type of back that Buffalo struggles to stop.
Watch out Buffalo, a loss to lowly Miami will put you at 5-5 and effectively end your season early.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) @ Green Bay Packers
The Buccaneers beat division-leading New Orleans five weeks ago, but have since lost three straight games and find themselves three games back in the division. A blowout to Houston was not the direction they needed to be heading in with the unenviable task of traveling to Green Bay to play the undefeated Packers.
The Packers have unleashed an offense this season that has moved on any and every opponent with ease. Green Bay has allowed opponents to stay in games with some shaky defense, but Tampa Bay doesn't possess the type of offense that can score in bunches. They will try to force turnovers and wear the Packers offense down, but the Packers won't be stopped. They can score on long drives or in quick spurts and Aaron Rodgers has taken care of the ball better than any other quarterback in the league.
Any team can win any Sunday in the NFL, but with the way Green Bay is playing they are about as sure a bet as any. Tampa Bay will find themselves much further back in the division than they expected to be at this point where they try to avoid matching their loss total from all of last season this week.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) @ Baltimore Ravens
The Bengals rattled off a great 6-2 start and a tie for the AFC North lead. Now they are in the middle of a four-game stretch in the division where they will be tested against the cream of the AFC North crop. They already took a loss against Pittsburgh last week and now travel to Baltimore where the Ravens have been unbeatable this year.
While Baltimore has looked very beatable and has lost some iffy games on the road, they are a different team at home. Cincinnati will also be without a couple key cogs from the team that started 6-2. Star rookie receiver A.J. Green is questionable after injuring his knee last week and they will also be without top corner Leon Hall who helped them have a top 10 pass defense all season.
While the Bengals are not built around just two guys and have a very talented core, it is asking a lot for rookie quarterback Andy Dalton to lead them to these tough road wins against the division's best.
A likely loss in Baltimore will drop the Bengals to 6-4 with another tilt in Pittsburgh looming in just two weeks.