Another Sunday with big games that could make or break teams’ playoff hopes. The Falcons faces off against the Panthers which could shape up the division while the Ravens and Titans play each other in a game where either team could make the playoffs as a wildcard team and the Saints square off against the Bucs in another NFC South showdown that could put the Bucs playoff chances to bed. So here’s what to keep an eye on in Sunday’s Games.
Denver Broncos @ Philadelphia Eagles; 1:00pm
1. Brock Osweiler’s return
After his failed stint with the Texans and Browns, Osweiler will be looking to establish himself as the starting QB of the Broncos for the rest of the season. Osweiler will need to be careful with the football seeing as he is a turnover-prone quarterback. Osweiler could very much struggle in his return to the starting lineup against Philly’s fierce pass rush.
2. Jay Ajayi
What a trade this was. A 4th rounder for Ajayi? Total bargain. All eyes are on him and we’ll get to see how his Philly debut pans out against a Broncos run defense that ranks behind the Eagles and is 2nd in rushing yards per game allowed (72.9). He may not play much so Eagles fans will need to enjoy the amount of work he gets while it lasts.
3. Eagles and Broncos Defense
Both defenses are stingy against the run with the Eagles ranking 1st and the Broncos in 2nd in rushing yards per game allowed. If both defenses shut down the run, look for the opposing quarterbacks to throw the ball more often. The key with these defenses will be creating turnovers in order to set up short field position for the offense. The unit that wins the turnover battle, wins the game.
Bold Prediction: Osweiler gets benched for Trevor Siemian at the start of the 2nd half.
Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers; 1:00pm
1. Atlanta’s Run Game
The Falcons may be without Devonta Freeman in this game as he is listed as questionable with a neck/shoulder injury. If he can’t go then Tevin Coleman will step in. The Falcons run game could struggle against a Panthers run defense that ranks 4th in rushing yards allowed per game (81.6).
2. Devin Funchess
Funchess will now be Carolina’s #1 receiver now that they’ve shipped Kelvin Benjamin up to Buffalo. Fun chess is having arguably his best season as a pro and is on pace to have career highs this year. Look for him to be targeted more by Cam Newton throughout the rest of the season.
3. Carolina’s Run Game
”Keep Pounding!” Yeah… where has that been this season? Jonathan Stewart leads the Panthers with 329 yards (41.1 yards/game) and Cam Newton is 2nd with 255 yards. They rank 21st in rushing yards per game while the Falcons rank 11th in rushing yards allowed. Carolina will need to run the ball a lot more effectively in order to set up the play-action game.
Bold Prediction: A Carolina player will finally break the 100 yard rushing mark against Atlanta.
Los Angeles Rams @ New York Giants; 1:00pm
1. Todd Gurley Vs Giants Run Defense
Todd Gurley has looked like the 2015 version of himself when he was a rookie. He looks to have a big game against a Giants defense that has allowed ranks 23rd in rushing yards per game allowed (120.7). The Giants defense will need to bottle him so that they force Jared Goff to throw the ball more.
2. Sterling Shepard
Shepard looks to be back and ready to play after missing two games with an ankle injury. Look for him to jump right back into the lineup and for him to be targeted a lot by Eli Manning.
3. Giants O-Line Vs Rams D-Line
The Rams D-Line has vastly improved over the course of this season now ranking 15th in total yards per game allowed but have struggled mightily against the ran allowing 123.1 yards per game which ranks 26th in the league. The Giants O-line will need to protect Manning and win at the point of attack in order to create a push for Orleans Darkwa to run through gaps in the Rams defensive line.
Bold Prediction: Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram score a combined 3 TDs in a win against the Rams.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans; 1:00pm
1. Tom Savage
The rising star ans former Clemson quarterback,Deshaun Watson sadly suffered a torn ACL, ending his season in practice this past Thursday. All eyes are now on Tom Savage who originally was the starter heading into the season but was then benched for Watson in the season opener. Savage has big shoes to fill and will hope he can limit the turnovers to guide the Texans to a win and to the postseason.
2. Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins
If anyone will suffer the most out of Watson’s injuries it has to be Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins. Their production could drop off since Watson was able to keep plays alive with his mobility and now they’re stuck with Savage who is exclusively a pocket passer. All eyes will be on these two for this game and for the rest of the season and will look to maintain their efficient production going forward.
3. Jacoby Brissett
He threw a back-breaking interception last week late in the 4th quarter that resulted in a pick 6 to give the Bengals the lead and ultimately the victory. With Andrew Luck officially placed on IR, Brissett will remain the starter for the rest of the season and look to improve his game as the season progresses.
Bold Prediction: Tom Savage throws 3 TD passes in his 1st start since getting benched in the season opener.
Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans; 1:00pm
1. Titans Running Game
The “Exotic Smashmouth offense” will look to pound the rock against a defense that ranks 30th in rush yards per game allowed (132.8) It could be a big day for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry as the rushing attack ranks 8th in league in rush yards per game (124.6). The Titans run game will be the key to victory.
2. Titans D-Line Vs Ravens O-Line
The Ravens O-line is one of the worst units right now after letting Ricky Wagner leave in free agency and after Marshal Yanda sustained a season-ending injury. The Titans, meanwhile have only 11.0 sacks which ranks 31st in the league. However, they could get after Flacco with a porous offensive line.
3. Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco has had a poor season thus far but could look to elevate his play against a Titans defense that ranks 19th in passing yards allowed per game (229.3). Though even if he does play well, he’ll need his receivers to step up and hope they can stay healthy against the Titans.
Bold Prediction: Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray combine for 200 yards rushing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints; 1:00pm
1. Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston will need to play a clean game against a Saints defense that has exceeded expectations this season in order to come out with a win. Winston and the offense will need to score early and often in order to keep up with Drew Brees especially since the defense hasn’t lived up to its expectations.
2. Alvin Kamara
Kamara has slowly been integrated more and more into the offense since Adrian Peterson was traded to the Cardinals. Kamara can do it all, catch out of the backfield, pick up blitzes and run the ball well. Look for Kamara to get more touches on the ball and to have another solid performance against a Bucs defense that ranks 17th in rush yards per game allowed (111.7).
3. Bucs Defense
The Bucs defense has struggled mightily this season which is one reason why the Bucs aren’t winning games because they can’t keep them in games. They rank 29th in yards per game allowed (386.4). Don’t expect that to change against Drew Brees and their offense as they rank 2nd in yards per game (390.4) Things could get ugly early on if the Bucs can’t find a way to stop him.
Bold Prediction: Jameis Winston throws for 400 yards and throws 3 TD passes.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonville Jaguars; 1:00pm
1. Marcell Dareus
All eyes will be on newly acquired Marcel Dareus who will be asked to primarily stop the run which is something the Jaguars have struggled to stop ranking dead last in rush yards per game allowed (138.6). If Dareus can stop the run well, the Bengals offense will struggle mightily.
2. Leonard Fournette
He’s missed one game due to an ankle injury and looks to continue to run down the Bengals defense’s throat. He could have a solid performance against a Bengals run defense that only ranks 18th in the league (111.9 yards/game). He’ll need to carry the offense on his back considering Blake Bortles is the QB for them.
3. Bengals Run Offense
The Bengals run offense has been virtually nonexistent this season ranking 30th in the league averaging a poultry 78.4 yards/game. The run offense will need to do well against a Jaguars defense that ranks last in rush yards per game allowed. If the run game doesn’t work, Andy Dalton will be forced to throw against the best pass defense in the league.
Bold Prediction: Leonard Fournette gashes the Bengals defense with 125+ rushing yards and 2 TDs.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers; 4:05pm
1. Drew Stanton Vs 49ers Defense
Stanton will fill in for the injured Carson Palmer for the next 6-8 weeks and will look to outduel the opposing quarterback, C.J. Beathard. The 49ers defense meanwhile will be looking to cause fits for Stanton as they did against the Eagles. Going against a porous offensive line, look for the Niners defense to be aggressive against Stanton.
2. C.J Beathard Vs Cardinals Defense
Too bad Garropolo isn’t starting or else all eyes would be in him. However, C.J. Beathard is still at the helm and will look to perform better this week as opposed to last week where he threw for less than 150 passing yards and 2 interceptions. The Cardinals defense will be looking to do the same against a banged up offensive line that will not have left tackle Joe Staley available because of injury.
3. Carlos Hyde and Adrian Peterson
Both running backs will be looking to have a bounce back performance against the opposing teams. Since both quarterbacks are rather suspect, Hyde and Peterson will need to carry the load and the team on their backs. They need to perform well to take pressure off their respective QBs and not force them into third and long situations.
Bold Prediction: Both defense’s force a combined 8 turnovers.
Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks; 4:05pm
1. Kirk Cousins Vs Legion of Boom
Kirk Cousins will have a tough task ahead of him facing the Legion of Boom with a banged up offense as Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao, Ty Nsekhe, and Trent Williams will not be playing. Others are ruled questionable so Kirk Cousins will have an even bigger challenge with the injuries around his offense. The Legion of Boom will surely perform much better against the Redskins after allowing the Texans a total of nearly 500 yards of offense.
2. Eddie Lacy Vs Redskins Run Defense.
Lacy will be the starting running back against the Redskins on Sunday who only has 108 yards rushing on the season. Pete Carroll told reporters that Eddie Lacy will be featured more and said “They’ll see a lot of Lacy on Sunday.” Washington’s defense ranks 13 in rush yards per game allowed (105.1).
3. Russell Wilson Vs Redskins Defense
Wilson will be looking to have a repeat performance of last week throwing 4 TD passes and for 400+ yards against the Redskins banged up defense. The Redskins defense will be looking to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket and apply pressure to make life difficult for him. This matchup will be intriguing to watch seeing as the Redskins pass defense ranks 13th in the league allowing an average of 217.4 yards/game while Seattle’s passing offense ranks 3rd averaging 272.7 yards/game.
Bold Prediction: The Legion of Boom keeps Kirk Cousins in check keeping the offense under 250 yards of offense and forces 5 turnovers.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Dallas Cowboys; 4:25pm
1. Zeke Vs Chiefs Run Defense
Ezekiel Elliott will be looking to rush for another 100 yards against a Chiefs defense that ranks 28th allowing an average of 131.8 yards per game. If Kansas City can not stop Zeke, the game could get very ugly and could turn into a shootout while and could lead to extended drives of 10 or more plays which would tire the Chiefs defense out easily.
2. Kareem Hunt Vs Cowboys Defense
Kareem Hunt was finally held under 100 yards of scrimmage last week against the Broncos but will look to once agains eclipse that mark against the Cowboys defense. If the Cowboys defense can do what the Broncos did, Alex Smith will be forced to throw the ball more and they’ll look to force Smith into turnovers, something Smith has rarely done this season.
3. Dez Bryant Vs Marcus Peters
Dez Bryant still has not recorded an 100 yards game this season and don’t look for that to change as he’ll match up against one of the league’s best corners in Marcus Peters. Peters is coming off a game in which he picked off Trevor Siemian twice and will be looking to do the same against Dak Prescott.
Bold Prediction: Ezekiel Elliott accounts for 200 yards of offense against Kansas City.
Oakland Raiders @ Miami Dolphins; 8:30pm
1. Marshawn Lynch Vs Miami Runs Defense
Lynch is coming off a one game suspension after making contact with an official and leads the Raiders with 266 rushing yards on the season. However, it is very likely that Lynch makes no difference in this struggling raiders rushing offense which is going against a Miami defense that ranks 8th against the run allowing 95.4 yards per game.
2. Raiders Receivers Vs Dolphins Secondary
Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have a combined 815 yards this season and will match up against the Dolphins secondary that has only allowed an average of 210.9 pass yards per game which ranks 11th best in the league. If the Dolphins secondary can shut these two down, look for Derek Carr to struggle against this defense.
3. Jay Ajayiless Dolphins Vs Raiders Run Defense
Now Damien Williams and Keynan Drake will be looking to make the Jay Ajayi trade look good for Adam Gase and the Dolphins front office. They could very much do well against a Raiders defense that ranks 22nd in rushing yards per game allowed (120.4). If they don’t perform well, even more questions will be asked of the Ajayi trade.
Bold Prediction: Damien Williams and Keynan Drake account for 200 yards against the Raiders.