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On Thursday night, the Miami Dolphins earned a critical victory over the Buffalo Bills to take over sole possession of second place in the AFC East and inch a step closer toward a Wild Card spot.
That was the start of Week 11, but there are many more NFL games on the slate this Sunday and on Monday night.
XN Sports will take a look at five marquee matchups, providing you with some insight and one bold prediction. Last week, we predicted Aaron Rodgers would have a field day against the Bears defense, San Francisco would earn a rare victory at New Orleans, and Mark Sanchez would add more misery into the lives of Jets fans as he led the Eagles to a convincing win against Carolina.
Onto Week 11 …
Seattle Seahawks @ Kansas City Chiefs
For a game with so much at stake for both teams, it doesn’t necessarily bring that “sexy” factor to the table. Quietly, the defending champs have reeled off three consecutive wins and sit two games back of the now Carson Palmer-less Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. Last week, Marshawn Lynch was the Seahawks’ game plan, finding the end zone four times in a rout of the Giants.
The Chiefs, too, have done nothing but win since their bye week. Kansas City has won four in a row to supplant San Diego for second place in the AFC West behind Denver. Last week the Chiefs knocked off Buffalo, and at 6-3 are currently occupying one of the conference’s Wild Card spots.
Bold prediction: Seattle is .500 away from the Pacific Northwest, with losses against San Diego and St. Louis. Overall, on the road the team is averaging a shade under 22 points per game. However, what Seattle does best — run the ball — is exactly what the Chiefs’ greatest weakness is. Lynch’s season was revived in Week 10 against the linebacker-less Giants defense, and now gets the league’s 20th-ranked run defense. On the other end of the spectrum, no Kansas City receiver has caught a touchdown yet. That trend continues against Richard Sherman and Co., who are out to make a statement. Lynch and Russell Wilson combine for five rushing scores as the Seahawks hand the Chiefs their most lopsided home loss of the year.
Cincinnati Bengals @ New Orleans Saints
This game has the feeling of a must-win for both teams. Cincinnati has plummeted in the standings recently, but has had 10 days to soak in the disastrous loss to Cleveland. Andy Dalton had by far his worst performance of the season against the Browns defense, but faces an uphill battle heading down to New Orleans after the Saints fell in overtime to the 49ers.
New Orleans is 3-1 in the Superdome following that rare loss. The team is 4-5 but remains on top of the NFC South standings. Still, despite Carolina’s and Atlanta’s deficiencies, the Saints just feel like they’re the class of the division, which is saying what? We’re still waiting to see the Saints team that beat the Packers, though.
Bold prediction: It’s hard to imagine the Bengals playing as poorly as they did last Thursday again, but they are running into an anxious New Orleans team poised to bounce back at home. Drew Brees should have no issue picking apart this aging Bengals secondary, while Mark Ingram — who has been feasting lately — gets the 31st-ranked run defense in his own building. Everything here spells a Saints victory — so much so that this rout opens the door for Jason Campbell to get the start Week 12 at Houston.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Green Bay Packers
One of the better games of Week 12, the Mark Sanchez-led Eagles head to Lambeau Field to take on Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, who nearly broke the single-game touchdown record when he torched the Bears for six before halftime Sunday night. The Eagles were clicking on all cylinders Monday night against Carolina, with Sanchez conducting the offense well but also getting big-time contributions from his defense and special teams units.
Green Bay reminded us just how dangerous of a team it is by wiping the slate clean with the Bears a second time this season. The Packers remain in the hunt behind division-leading Detroit, and are 4-0 in their own building.
Bold prediction: This game has the makings of a shootout, so the obvious question is whether Sanchez can keep pace with Rodgers? Well, logic suggests no, but logic doesn’t apply when you’re running a Chip Kelly offense. Didn’t Ben Roethlisberger throw twelve touchdowns in a two-game span just a couple of weeks ago? That doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility for Rodgers. Though it won’t be a 55-14 win, the Packers get six more touchdowns from their quarterback in a game that’ll easily break the over/under of 55.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions
The NFC-leading Cardinals are re-welcoming Drew Stanton back into the fold, and as I wrote earlier, the team’s chances of nabbing a No. 1 seed in the conference and making a march toward the Super Bowl will come down to the play of their surprising defense. Stanton went 2-1 filling in for Carson Palmer earlier this year, and surprisingly enough, the offensive production didn’t suffer too much of a drop-off with the new face behind center.
The Lions have made a living on their own surprising defense this season, but with Calvin Johnson back in the fray and already dominating, this team looks all the more formidable. In fact, Detroit is one of the four or five teams looking to supplant Arizona as the top seed in the conference for the postseason. This one is tremendous in terms of NFC standings.
Bold prediction: With Patrick Peterson manning up on Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh lining up against a weak interior Cardinals line, defense will be the headline for this matchup. Stanton is bound to have a hard time against this stingy Detroit front seven, while Matthew Stafford will have his work cut out for him against the Peterson-Antonio Cromartie tandem in the secondary. But sticking to the theme of bold, what’s more fitting than leaning on Stanton to come up clutch. For all of those who doubt him, Stanton did come in last week to lead Arizona over the Rams late. He does the same against NFC North-leading Detroit, as the rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro splits the upright for the Cardinals win.
Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
The Sunday nightcap features a bout between two AFC heavyweights both in contention for the No. 1 seed in the conference. The Colts are coming off a bye week, two weeks removed from handing the Giants a beat-down on Monday night. Andrew Luck is playing at an MVP level, while this defense has certainly rounded into form.
However, the challenge is greater when fellow MVP candidate Tom Brady rolls into town. New England has won five straight games, the latest a signature defeat of Denver at Foxborough. The Patriots have averaged more than 40 points per game during this win streak, while the defense has been equally as impressive, holding opponents to 21.6 points per game.
Bold prediction: This is a clash between the new-school and old-school, as Luck goes toe-to-toe against the ageless Brady. Indianapolis has had an extra week to prepare for New England but New England is also coming off a bye week. Last year, the Patriots rolled the Colts to the tune of a 43-22 victory in the divisional round of the playoffs. However, the Colts have grown offensively and made tremendous strides on the defensive side of the ball, too. Logically, it makes sense to side with the Pats, who appear to be primed for the AFC’s top seed. So if Denver beats Indy and New England beats Denver, doesn’t it just make sense that Indy tops New England in the third leg of the trilogy?
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