Will the Green Bay Packers remain unbeaten?
Week 11 of the NFL season and it has been a wild one thus far.
The Green Bay Packers are off to a 9-0 start behind Aaron Rodgers' historical pace. The Indianapolis Colts, on the other hand, have yet to win a game without Peyton Manning. Even the young Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals are coming into their own, each second in their respective divisions with 6-3 records.
With abundant playoff implications and six key divisional battles on Sunday, Week 11 promises to be one of the most exciting yet.
So what can we expect? Will the Green Bay Packers lose their first game as the Buccaneers come to town? Are the Cleveland Browns actually going to score a touchdown? Is this the week Philip Rivers finally turns it around? Can the Eagles go on the road and beat the Giants without Michael Vick in the lineup?
In the following slideshow, I make a bold prediction for every NFL game this weekend.
Cameron Wake will record two or more sacks.
Riding a two-game winning streak and a surprising surge of confidence, the Miami Dolphins are set to host division-rival Buffalo. The Bills are in a much different spot than their counterpart in this one, struggling to keep afloat in the AFC wild-card race after losing two consecutive games in lopsided fashion.
Chan Gailey's offense in Buffalo relies on Ryan Fitzpatrick getting rid of the ball quickly and efficiently. Due to this style of offense and some sturdy pass protection, the Bills offensive line has allowed the fewest sacks in the league (10) thus far. Still, look for Pro Bowl outside linebacker Cameron Wake to have a breakout game for the Dolphins.
Miami's pass rush appears to just now be clicking with eight sacks in their past two outings. Though Wake was the team leader in sacks a year ago with 14, he has been quiet recently. Expect him to bounce back and make a major impact in this crucial division matchup.
The Browns will score three offensive touchdowns.
Only in Cleveland could this be considered a bold prediction.
The Browns offense has been beyond futile in recent weeks, scoring only one touchdown in the last four games. In fact, over the past seven games, the team has averaged a measly 12.4 points per game. They rank, at the moment, 29th in the NFL in terms of scoring offense. To add insult to injury, their opponent this week, the Jacksonville Jaguars, rank sixth in the league in scoring defense.
And yet, here I am predicting the Browns to score three offensive touchdowns in this one. This is something they have accomplished only once since November of last season. Still, there has to be a feeling of desperation in Cleveland. On paper, this is one of the only remaining games the team stands a fair chance of winning.
Expect the Browns to come out fired up and put on a good show for the home fans Sunday.
Adrian Peterson will rush for 150 yards.
After rushing for more than 200 yards on two separate occasions during his rookie season, many assumed Adrian Peterson was bound to re-write the record books for the running back position. And while he has not hit that lofty mark since, Peterson has proven to be the game's most electrifying back.
The bold prediction this week is that he will rush for over 150 yards against the Oakland Raiders. But really, how bold is it I wonder?
Adrian Peterson and the Vikings will be at home this weekend, where he has averaged over 50 yards more than on the road this season (123.8 compared to 70.2.) In fact, the Oklahoma product has always played his best in the Metrodome. Over his career, Peterson averages 108.4 rushing yards per game at home to only 81.8 on the road.
So what's standing in his way Sunday? An Oakland defense that is giving up a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry this year. Additionally, the Raiders have allowed more runs over 20 or more yards (14) than any other team.
This very well could be the perfect storm for Minnesota and Adrian Peterson.
Cam Newton and the Panthers will defeat the Lions on the road.
On paper, this is one of the most lopsided matchups of the week as the 2-7 Carolina Panthers visit the 6-3 Lions. However, it would be unwise for the Lions to take Cam Newton's squad lightly Sunday.
Coming into this game, Detroit has lost three of their last four, including an embarrassing 37-13 loss to division rival Chicago last week. Carolina, on the other hand, has lost five of six. Matthew Stafford and company are expected to rebound in a big way over a team many see as a speed bump.
The Lions have been a team of extreme highs and lows this season, averaging 34 points in victories compared to a mere 16 per game in losing efforts. For a team that thinks of themselves as physical, they have been beat up in the trenches this year. Not only does Detroit struggle to run the football, they also struggle to stop the run, ranking 26th in the NFL in terms of rushing defense.
Cam Newton's team, however, does not struggle to run the football. The three-headed rushing attack of Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart has proven effective this season, as Carolina ranks eighth in the league in rushing. Though they allow more points per game than all but two teams, the Panthers have the offensive firepower to compete with anyone.
So expect another big game from the rookie putting up a historical year and do not be shocked if he comes away with his first signature win in Detroit.
The two teams will not score more than 37 points combined.
If you are a betting man, pay close attention here. The over/under line in Las Vegas is set at 41.5 for the Redskins' upcoming battle with the Cowboys.
And why wouldn't the line be up there? After all, Dallas is coming off their biggest win of the season—a 44-7 shellacking of Buffalo a week ago. The offense was firing on all cylinders, and the Cowboys looked utterly unstoppable during the victory.
Well it's a new week, a new challenge and a new opponent this Sunday.
The Washington Redskins possess a surprisingly resilient defense. Though they are just 3-6 and losers of five straight, they happen to have the league's eighth-ranked scoring defense. Additionally, the Redskins have not allowed more than 21 points at home since Week 10 of last season. Their opponent Sunday, the Cowboys, are also scoring over 10 points less per game on the road this season.
Expect a fierce battle between these division rivals when they meet, but do not expect a high-scoring affair in Washington.
Aaron Rodgers will finish with as many interceptions as touchdown passes.
We have all heard plenty about the invincible Packers, and the record-breaking pace being set by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
What Rodgers has been able to accomplish this season is certainly mind-blowing. While winning games by an average of over two touchdowns, he has thrown for an unparalleled 28 touchdowns to only three interceptions.
So will this be the week Green Bay's winning streak ends? Well, I won't go that far; however, I do believe it is time for Aaron Rodgers to fall back to earth.
The young Packers quarterback has played Tampa Bay only twice in his career, losing both games. Additionally, Rodgers threw three interceptions in each contest. And while the Buccaneers defense has picked off only eight passes so far this season, the secondary contains speed and play-making ability.
Ray Rice will rush for over 100 yards.
The Baltimore offense lost their way a week ago. In a 22-17 defeat to Seattle, quarterback Joe Flacco attempted 52 passes while star tailback, Ray Rice, carried the ball only five times.
Last week was not the first time Cam Cameron and the Ravens failed to put the ball in their running back's hands enough. In fact, Rice is averaging only 12.5 carriers per game over his past four. When AFC North rival Cincinnati comes to town this weekend, you can expect Baltimore to return to their physical roots.
Will this be beneficial for the Ravens? After all, the Bengals rank second in the NFL in defending the run, both in terms of total yards and yards per attempt. Furthermore, Ray Rice has never rushed for over 90 yards against the division foe.
On Sunday, Rice will have to see the ball more for Baltimore to come away with a win at home. Expect a heavy dose of the diminutive running back.
Brandon Lloyd will finish with 10 or more receptions.
Outside of the NFC West, I don't expect many fans will have much of an interest in Sunday's division matchup between the Rams and Seahawks. Frankly, I cannot say I blame them. After all, this game features two of the worst scoring offenses and offensive lines in the league.
Still, with Rams' running back Steven Jackson healthy and quarterback Sam Bradford back in the lineup, it will be an interesting game to watch. It's not Bradford, however, nor Jackson that I expect to have a breakout performance this week. Rather, it's Brandon Lloyd who looks to be on the verge of a big game.
Since being traded from Denver to St. Louis, Lloyd has been targeted an average of 11.8 times per game. The talented wideout seems to be building a good rapport with Bradford, and in this their third week together, should be ready to flourish.
John Skelton and the Cardinals defeat the 49ers on the road.
Who could have thought Jim Harbaugh would make this strong an impression on his 49ers team and the rest of the league this quickly?
After a surprising win against the Giants a week ago, San Francisco hosts division-rival Arizona this week as they try to extend a seven-game win streak. No run defense has been more impressive this year than the 49ers', who lead the league in the category and have yet to allow a rushing score through nine games. If the Cardinals are to win Sunday, it will be on backup quarterback John Skelton to make big plays through the air.
Arizona is also coming off a big win against an NFC East opponent, as they dispatched the Eagles by a score of 21-17 last Sunday in Philadelphia. The main positive the Cardinals took from that game: John Skelton and Larry Fitzgerald appeared to click at a high level. With the backup quarterback in the game, Fitzgerald caught seven balls for a season-best 146 yards and two scores.
Do not be surprised to see a letdown game from Harbaugh's 49ers this week.
Matt Ryan will have his best game of the year.
Coming off an emotional overtime loss against the division-rival Saints, the Atlanta Falcons are faced this weekend with a must-win game if they want to stay afloat in the NFC playoff hunt.
Amidst the loss a week ago, quarterback Matt Ryan finished with a season-best 351 passing yards, as the Atlanta offense resembles the unit we saw a year ago. It has been a down year for Ryan, who came into the season with very high expectations following a breakout 2010 campaign in which he threw 28 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions.
He has been cold all year, it seems. In three consecutive weeks, Ryan has failed to hit 60 percent of completions, and the Falcons simply are not scaring opponents with their ability to throw the ball. He has never played his Week 11 opponent, the Titans, so he will be venturing into uncharted territory Sunday.
It's now or never for Matt Ryan and Atlanta. With their backs against the wall, expect the Falcons to take the ball to the air to beat Tennessee.
Ryan Matthews will rush for over 100 yards.
It may be time for the San Diego Chargers to push that panic button. Notoriously slow starters, the Chargers jumped out to a 4-1 record before losing their next four games. The struggles of quarterback Philip Rivers have been well-documented during this ugly stretch, and he will need to turn it around if San Diego wants a shot to win the crowded AFC West.
Still, the blame should not fall solely on Rivers' shoulders. He has not played particularly well, but the Chargers offense has seen their fair share of injuries. With running back Ryan Matthews back in the lineup, San Diego looks ready to return to their explosive form.
Matthews has only hit the century mark once this season, in the team's last victory (against Denver in Week 5.) However, the former first-round pick plays his best football on the road. Through his two-year NFL career, Matthews is averaging 70.3 yards and 4.7 yards per carry on the road, opposed to just 51.8 and 4.1 respectively at home.
Establishing the run may not be an easy task against the Chicago Bears defense. In fact, no individual has rushed for over 75 yards since Jahvid Best ran for 163 in Week 5. Still, Chicago is giving up over five yards per carry on the ground this season. Expect a big one from Matthews this week.
The Eagles will score a touchdown on special teams.
Just about everybody should remember the Eagles' DeSean Jackson's last punt-return touchdown. Philadelphia and New York fans certainly do.
It was one of the most magical moments I have ever witnessed in NFL football, if not in all of sports. With just 12 seconds on the clock in a tie game with serious playoff implications, Giants punter Matt Dodge kicked the ball away to Jackson.
Jackson muffed the punt at his own 35-yard line, moved right, reversed his motion and darted through the middle of the Giants' punt coverage team. In that return, the Eagles took command of the NFC East and pushed to New York out of the playoff picture.
Fast forward to Week 11 of this season. It's the Giants in the driver's seat in the East, with a 6-3 record. The Eagles, on the other hand, have not scored a special teams touchdown since that fateful December game and are sitting in the cellar of the division at just 3-6. This year, Philadelphia ranks just 31st in the NFL in yards per punt return with a pathetic average of just 4.3. The team has not returned a kick for a touchdown since 2008.
If the Birds are to win in New York on Sunday night without quarterback Michael Vick or wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, they will need an elusive special teams touchdown to shock the Giants in the Meadowlands once again.
Dwayne Bowe will finish with over 120 receiving yards.
Last but not least, we have our Monday night showdown between the Chiefs and Patriots. The matchup would have marked the first time Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel has faced his former team since being traded from New England.
For Cassel, it won't exactly be the return he was picturing. The former Patriot is sidelined this week after he injured his throwing hand in a loss to Denver. It will be up to former Pittsburgh Panther, Tyler Palko, to lead the offense on the road in prime-time. However, the New England defense may very well be a sight for sore eyes on Monday.
Despite their 6-3 record, the Patriots boast the league's-worst passing defense, giving up an average of 308.9 yards per game this season through the air. Part of that can be attributed to their tendency to jump out ahead of teams, seeing as opponents have averaged over 40 throws a game against New England.
If Kansas City is to compete under the lights, it will take a huge effort from talented receiver Dwayne Bowe. Though he not hit the 100-yard mark in four games, expect Bowe to shine this week against the Pats' soft pass defense.