In perhaps the upset of the season, the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints played one of the most intriguing defensive battles in recent memory. Both quarterbacks struggled to handle pressure as Prescott and Brees both coughed up the ball numerous times. The latter also threw a game ending interception that saw the Saints fall for only the second time this season, the previous defeat coming in Week One against the Buccaneers. For the Cowboys, at least defensively, this is a team that has shown it is capable of competing against top tier offenses. However, on the other side of the ball, Dak Prescott has been anything but good. Sacked numerous times, and losing the football has almost become a feature of each game, and he missed numerous wide open receivers, including Michael Gallup for what should have been an easy score. He’ll need to clean that up if they hope to advance in the playoffs (should they make it). The Saints on the other hand looked shell shocked, as their offense was physically dominated from start to finish. This may be a problem down the road when they may face opponents like the Bears, who have fast, agile linebackers with solid corners.
Chicago Bears (8-3) vs. New York Giants (3-8)
Chase Daniel looked pretty good in his Thanksgiving start in Detroit. He’ll get another shot as the starter, as Trubisky continues to nurse his shoulder injury. This time, he’ll go up against a poor Giants defense, who have lacked a motivation and desire a quarter of the way through the season. Weapons like Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel should run riot against the Giants defense, and this week, expect to see Kyle Lauletta, the Giants second string quarterback, at some point. Eli Manning would be lucky to see the second half as he completely crashed and burned in the second half against the Eagles last week. Bears 27, Giants 13.
Cleveland Browns (4-6-1) vs. Houston Texans (8-3)
The Houston Texans are the hottest team in football. After the Saints lost, snapping their 10 game winning streak, the Texans are the current holders, with 8 straight victories. DeShaun Watson is improving each week, and the Texans defense has, arguably, the best pass rush in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns, however, are no push overs. Having knocked off the Falcons and Bengals in consecutive weeks, the Browns future is bright. It’s just not their time yet, as the Texans should be able to pressure Baker Mayfield into mistakes, as it is another bump in the road for a-soon-to-be ascending Browns team. Texans 30, Browns 17.
Denver Broncos (5-6) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)
If either team dreams of a wild card berth, this a must win game. Lately, the Broncos have been on the incline, and the Bengals have done the opposite, as typical each season. Normally, home field advantage would decide this contest, but Bengals fans have been protesting Marvin Lewis still being the head coach, and have stopped showing up all together. The Bengals do have more talent, but with A.J. Green still questionable, it becomes a game about defense, and which defense can force a crucial turnover. The Bengals are dead last in defense, so their plummet should continue in what is undoubtedly the last season for Marvin Lewis. Broncos 23, Bengals 20.
Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) vs. New England Patriots (8-3)
The Patriots rebounded, somewhat unconvincingly against a poor Jets team last week. One thing they did do well was pound the rock with Sony Michel. Over 100 yards for Michel and 200 for the team on the ground carried the Patriots, and has been a feature they’ve needed this season. Offensively for Minnesota, having multiple number one wide receivers should hurt the Patriots questionable secondary, who continue to look lost. Big factors in this game are, Shaq Mason, and Xavier Rhodes. Without Mason on the field, the Patriots pass protection and run blocking have suffered as they just haven’t been able to move the ball with him out. Viking corner, Xavier Rhodes, has been dealing with a injury that has limited him in practice all week, but he is expected to play. If he does, he could shut down a Josh Gordon. However, Minnesota’s inability to control games and close them out has plagued them all season. Leaving a window for Brady and company to win, in Foxboro, isn’t a recipe for success. Vikings 27, Patriots 34.
Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)
The Pittsburgh Steelers may have cost themselves a first round bye, after losing to the Denver Broncos, on the road, last week. In it, they’ve exposed some serious issues they have with ball security and overall game management. As to the Falcons, the Steelers have a bevy of offensive weapons, but struggle to utilize them efficiently. Ben Roethlisberger threw another goal line interception, reminiscent of the one he threw at the end of the game last season against New England. The Chargers, aside from last week’s blowout against the Cardinals, haven’t looked too dominant either. Offensively, they’re sufficient, but not really over the top. The Chargers do look like the more complete team, but expect a close Steelers win. Chargers 24, Steelers 28.
Washington Redskins (6-5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)
It’s almost miraculous how the Eagles are still in the playoff hunt. Playing in the worst division in football, combined with the fact that they barely beat a sorry Giants team with a late field goal, doesn’t really elicit much confidence. But, neither do the Redskins. Nobody, not even Redskins fans, truly believe they’re team is anything more than mediocre. And, although they were once at the top of the division with a 6-4 defense, it all seemed to good to be true. The Reskins should fall back to Earth as the Eagles continue to breathe down the Cowboys necks. Redskins 20, Eagles 28.