Denver Broncos (4-3) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)
These two teams have had seasons that have followed different paths. The Broncos started slow and are starting to look like a good side. The Bengals were the opposite, starting well and suddenly look like they couldn't buy a win. Both sides will prefer to throw the ball and offensively the Broncos look stronger, ranking 4th in passing and 14th in rushing. The Bengals are 11th in passing and 23rd in rushing. The Bengals defense started well but now rank, 16th against the pass and 22nd against the run. The Broncos are 8th in pass defense and 15th in run defense, so they outrank the Bengals in every category.
Prediction - The Broncos are a better team and should win.
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) @ Cleveland Browns (2-6)
The Ravens won this fixture earlier in the season but it wasn't as comfortable as many expected. This is a very different Ravens team to the ones we've saw in recent years. They are relying more on Joe Flacco than they ever have and in truth it's getting mixed results. Ray Rice is putting up good numbers every week but for some reason the Ravens are limiting his workload. The defense has also been poor, ranking 24th against the pass and 30th against the run. They are giving up 400 yards per game and that's not a championship defense. The Browns are inconsistent. They've had good weeks and bad weeks but they are playing quite well at the moment and have won two of their last three games. Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson are still settling into the NFL. The more experience that duo get, the better the Browns should be.
Prediction - I can't see the Ravens running away with this and expect it to be a tough, tight game. I think a field goal wins this and the Ravens will get it.
Arizona Cardinals (4-4) @ Green Bay Packers (5-3)
This is another clash between two sides who had differing starts to the season. The Cards were 4-0 and have lost four straight to slide to 4-4. I can't think of many worse places for a team who are 0-4 in the last four weeks to go to, than Lambeau Field. The Packers had a slow start but find themselves at 5-3 and in a strong NFC North, they need to keep winning. Both of these sides have had issues, protecting their quarterback. It has led to below par performances and both sides could improve on their passing game. The Packers rely heavily on the pass and have a few injuries on offense. The Cardinals are good against the pass too, ranking 4th in the league. It should all contribute to a good game between two sides who need the win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Prediction - The Packers to edge this one by a touchdown or less.
Chicago Bears (6-1) @ Tennessee Titans (3-5)
The Bears head to Tennessee looking to extend their record to 7-1. The Bears haven't always been impressive but the 6-1 record is all they will be worried about. The Titans suffered a tough loss last week to the Colts. A win there and they'd have been 4-4 and in with a real shout of the playoffs. The Titans need to win today as I think 3-6 would be too deep a hole for them to get out of. The Titans are poor defensively and are giving up over 400 yards per game. The Bears are better running the ball and rank 9th in rushing and 30th in passing. The passing game should be doing better but at 6-1, the Bears won't be complaining. Chris Johnson has been much improved in the last few games but today he goes against the best defense in the league, against the run. If the Titans are to have any joy, they'll have to pass the ball but even then, the Bears lead the league in interceptions and defensive touchdowns.
Prediction - The Bears will win and go to 7-1.
Miami Dolphins (4-3) @ Indianapolis Colts (4-3)
Credit when it's due, I never thought this game would be a battle between two sides with genuine playoff aspirations. Both have done well to get to 4-3 and by Sunday night, someone is going to be 5-3 and in poll position for the playoffs. The Dolphins could still win their division, although the AFC South looks like it's going to belong to the Texans. The Colts will be looking to pass the ball, as they rank 9th in passing and Miami are 27th against the pass. The Dolphins best tactic is to run the ball, as they are 11th in rushing and the Colts are 27th in run defense.
Prediction - This should be a tight game between two, evenly matched teams. I think home advantage will decide it and the Colts will win.
Carolina Panthers (1-6) @ Washington Redskins (3-5)
This is a battle between arguably the two best, running quarterbacks since Michael Vick came into the league. Both have had good days and both have had bad days. Cam Newton has slowed away down since his breathtaking start to last season. RG3 has been excellent this year but he was shutdown last week by the Steelers and it's always interesting to see how a young quarterback recovers from a setback. I am particularly interested to see how both defenses cope with the opposing quarterbacks, as they are used to practicing against similar players every day and you'd expect them to know how to counter that style of offense.
Prediction - RG3 to come out on top in a Redskins win.
Detroit Lions (3-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
Both sides are waiting on key players on the injury report and it could have a big impact on this match. Calvin Johnson is listed as questionable for the Lions and there are reports suggesting he may only be used on 3rd down plays. For the Jags, Blaine Gabbert is listed as probable and with Maurice Jones-Drew already ruled out they really need Gabbert on the field. The Jags are struggling on offense and rank bottom in passing and 27th in rushing. Their defense isn't much better and rank, 23rd in pass defense and 25th in run defense. The Lions rely heavily on their pass and are 2nd in the league. If Johnson misses out or is limited, then even that unit could struggle.
Prediction - I predict a tight game and the Lions will eventually increase Johnson's workload and it will swing the game in their favour.
Buffalo Bills (3-4) @ Houston Texans (6-1)
Much has been made in the build up to this game about Mario Williams returning to Houston as a Buffalo Bill. I've no doubt he'll relish the challenge and I'm sure the money is great, but it has to be said that it wasn't a great career move. The Texans have looked great so far and their only defeat came courtesy of an Aaron Rodgers masterclass. It's hard to see how this Bills team are going to stop the Texans. The Texans have been blowing a lot of teams away and it's hard to see how the Bills are going to stop the Texans. Arian Foster should have a fun day against a run defense who are giving up 177 yards per game.
Prediction - Easy win for the Texans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) @ Oakland Raiders (3-4)
Both sides have shown improved form in recent weeks and Oakland in particular are looking for their third win in a row. Those last two wins have come against weak opposition but they are a win today away from .500 so they still have plenty to play for. Josh Freeman has finally found some form for the Bucs. In his last four games he has thrown for 1309 yards, 10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Those are the numbers of an elite quarterback. Freeman has that in his locker but we don't see it often enough. I am a big fan of the Bucs running-back, Doug Martin. The rookie has been having a great year and looks like he has a promising career ahead of him. The Bucs biggest challenge will be stopping the Raiders passing the ball. The Bucs are 31st in pass defense and the Raiders are having a lot more joy passing the ball than throwing so the game will come down to how well the Bucs defense plays.
Prediction - I think the Bucs are the better side and will win.
Minnesota Vikings (5-3) @ Seattle Seahawks (4-4)
These are another two teams who are having a better season than I ever thought they would. Both sides rely on elite running-backs and have inconsistent quarterbacks. Many thought Adrian Peterson would struggle to rediscover his form after injury but he has been as good as ever and is a big part of why this Vikings team are 5-3. He has an injury at the moment but looks set to play. Another reason is receiver, Percy Harvin. He has been fantastic this year and is tied with Wes Welker for the most receptions this season with 60. The Seahawks have done a good job of being a classic, old school football team. They are built on a strong defense and a good running game. Marshawn Lynch is the main man and is behind just Adrian Peterson in rushing yards this season.
Prediction - Seattle are 3-0 at home and I think it's the only way to separate these two. Seahawks win.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) @ New York Giants (6-2)
I am really looking forward to this game and it looks like being a great game between two teams who on their day can be as good as any in the NFL. The Giants rely on their passing game and in particular the deep pass to Victor Cruz. The Steelers are number 1 in the league in pass defense so it looks like being a great battle. The Steelers also rely on their passing game and pass defense is a weakness of the Giants. The Steelers have been poor running the ball so far but in the last two weeks Jonathan Dwyer has played well, so if he can make it three weeks in a row, then the Steelers could make things difficult for the Giants.
Prediction - I think the Giants are the better side but I like the Steelers match up here and will take them to win.
Dallas Cowboys (3-4) @ Atlanta Falcons (7-0)
This should be another cracker and there are some great match ups in this one. The Falcons offense relies on Matt Ryan finding his trio of top class receivers Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. The Cowboys strength is their pass defense and it looks like being an epic battle between two top class units. Equally, the Cowboys are pass heavy and when Tony Romo isn't throwing interceptions, he is putting up big yardage. He is averaging just under 300 yards per game but his 13 interceptions are killing an otherwise strong Cowboys team. The last thing Romo needs when he is throwing picks is a ball hawking corner like Asante Samuel. If Romo makes a mistake, Samuel will pounce.
Prediction - I can't see the Falcons run ending this week and they'll be 8-0.