The league has finally started to separate itself, and the last two weeks have had some very difficult to predict games. But there are still a ton of teams in the balance (I'm talking to you Dolphins, Saints, and Falcons, among others) and this week could see some more things crystallize. Of course, it could also see some teams slide or drop into that middle ground. Man, October football is great!
Panthers (4-1) at Buccaneers (3-2)
This looks like the game to see this week. These teams are eerily similar. Both can run the ball-with powerful duos instead of one feature back. Both can stop the run. Tampa Bay has the edge on the ground. The Panthers, though, can throw it, and are a little better at stopping the pass. These teams are close. Both, though, have struggled with penalties. The more disciplined team wins this game, and it's easier to be disciplined at home.
Bears (3-2) at Falcons (3-2)
Another exciting game involving an NFC South team. The Bears appear to be the favorite in a weakened NFC North, but the Falcons have played better than expected. I look for the Bears defense to win this one, and here's why: What the Bears have given up they've surrendered through the air, and Atlanta has been doing its damage on the ground.
Rams (0-4) at Redskins (4-1)
This one looks easy. Is it one of those deceptive, "why they play the games" contests? No. The Redskins are for real, and the Rams are really this bad. The new coach gets them some points, though.
Bengals (0-5) at Jets (2-2)
The Jets are coming off a bye, Brett Favre just threw 6 TD passes, and the Bengals are in shambles. That's why I know I'm out on a limb here. But the Bengals are too good to stay winless much longer. Not good, but better than 0-6. Cincinnati goes into New York and stuns the J-E-T-S.
Raiders (1-3) at Saints (2-3)
That decision to fire the coach - and withhold pay - made a bad situation worse. The Saints are hurting, and I think their injuries keep them out of the postseason, but they get a win here to even their record. They're just plain better than the Raiders, they're at home, and Oakland is a mess.
Lions (0-4) at Vikings (2-2)
Are the Lions or the Rams the worst in the league? It doesn't matter, because both are much worse than the Vikings, who have been inspired by Gus Frerotte of all people. The Vikings continue their recent roll.
Ravens (2-2) at Colts (2-2)
Both of these teams need a win here if they want to stay close to the Steelers and Titans, respectively. The Colts have struggled every week, but the Ravens rely entirely on a defense. That D is good, but not good enough to stop Peyton Manning and all his weapons. Indy should be riding high after escaping the Texans, as well.
Dolphins (2-2) at Texans (0-4)
Everyone is on the Dolphins bandwagon after seeing them take down the Patriots and Chargers. Not me. They had a game plan for the depleted Patriots, and the Chargers are not as good as they were. LT just isn't getting it done, for whatever reason. Can they really get up for an 0-4 team the way they did against their last two opponents? I don't think they can.
Jaguars (2-3) at Broncos (4-1)
This is a tough one. The Jaguars can run it and the Broncos have a soft defense. The Jags also seem to have Denver's number. This time, though, I don't think they can stop Jay Cutler. The Broncos get a scare, but come out on top.
Packers (2-3) at Seahawks (1-3)
Nothing like a trip to one of this season's biggest busts to right the ship. That Packer D is a problem, but the Seattle offense just isn't. Aaron Rodgers will have a pretty good day.
Eagles (2-3) at 49ers (2-3)
This is a battle of two teams more talented than their records. The Eagles, though, have proven more than the Niners. Most teams would be 1-3 over a stretch of Dallas, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington. Folks outside the NFC East are reluctant to admit how good those four teams are. This just in: VERY good. Maybe the Eagles are the worst of the bunch, but that's still better than average. This game, though, will surprise people with how good it is.
Cowboys (4-1) at Cardinals (3-2)
Is Dallas the most talented team in the league? Maybe. Arizona can run and gun with them, though..and both teams have questions to answer on the defense. This will be a wild one, and I give the advantage to the home team. An unpopular pick, I'm sure...and I'll gladly eat crow if I'm wrong.
Patriots (3-1) at Chargers (2-3)
The Patriots are without their golden boy...we know already. The Chargers have theirs (Ladanian Tomlinson) but he hasn't really shown up this year. The Pats just won one tough game on the West Coast, and I think they finish the trip with another W. Belichick can really coach 'em, and he has figured out how to make that offense work with Matt Cassel at the helm.
Giants (4-0) at Browns (1-3)
The undefeated defending champs against the 1-3 Browns coming off a bye. I'll take the champs, though not by 38 like last week.
Bills: They get good news in an extra week for their ailing QB to heal, and more good news, I say, in Jets and Dolphins losses. They also learn, though, that the PAtriots are going to be their to push them all year.
Chiefs: This poor team gets a week to stew over their spanking in Carolina. We'll have to wait to find out of they or Oakland are the worst in that division. If you ask me, it has two bottom five teams.
Steelers: Another team with an extra week to heal. They need it after a punishing Monday Night game against the Ravens and another hard-hitting match with Jacksonville. They showed that the NFC North is heirs to seize by winning those two games with injuries, and the week to rest will only help.
Titans: The open date might actually hurt them, because they might see the Colts creep a little closer and it pauses that roll they've been on. They should bat the Chiefs in their week back, but a loss to Indy in week 8 could really change things in that division.