[3-5] Carolina Panthers VS [6-2] Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Foles is out for the remainder of the season and the Philadelphia Eagles will find out whether or not their season is in danger when facing the Carolina Panthers. The Panther’s defense last week proved to be stout in the run game after a series of bad games. Now Luke Kuechly, the Panther’s defensive leader, will look to stop Shady McCoy and Darren Sproles.
This will be important because if the Panthers manage to stop any momentum on the ground that means Mark Sanchez will have to air it out. Mark Sanchez is an interesting and polarizing figure after several terrible seasons with the New York Jets. Could this game be about redemption or Tim Tebow 2.0 as the Panthers look to stop the Eagles backup quarterback? If the Eagles cannot move the ball and get it into the hands of their playmakers, they will struggle for the rest of the season.
Chip Kelly has expressed confidence in Sanchez, but the backup will be under tremendous pressure to keep the Eagles rolling late in the season. Its important to note that Cam Newton is 2-0 on Monday Night Football. If the Eagles lose this game, they will either tie or fall behind the 6-3 Dallas Cowboys.
[4-4] San Francisco 49ers VS [4-4] New Orleans Saints
This could be the game that knocks one of these teams out of the playoffs. The 49ers are third in their division behind the Seattle Seahawks and the first place Arizona Cardinals, while the Saints sit on top of their division at 500. The return of running back Mark Ingram and Jimmy Graham from injury have led the Saints to an offensive resurgence.
On the other side of the ball the 49er’s are just trying to keep pace in the brutal NFC West. It is almost guaranteed that one of these top contenders will miss the playoffs. Colin Kaepernick has been sacked more times than any other NFL quarterback, so it’s certainty Rob Ryan, the Saints defensive coordinator, will pepper this weak San Francisco offensive line with complicated blitz’s.
The Saints have won 12 straight home games and have exploded on offense when playing in the dome. If the 49ers lose this game it will be the first 3 game losing streak since Jim Harborough took over as head coach.
[3-5] Chicago Bears VS [5-3] Green Bay Packers
This is a rivalry game that often brings out the most brutal hits in the NFC North. In both of their previous games the Packers were blown out by the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears were destroyed by the New England Patriots. Look for both of these teams to feel the urge to make a statement to the rest of the NFL; most likely the Packers. In their last meeting the Bears were blown out by the Packers, so look for them to try to avoid the season sweep by a big NFC North rival. Matt Forte has been playing lights out this season.
Forte is on pace to have 2,000 yards between his rushing and receiving yards. He has been the lone bright spot in what has been an abhorrent Chicago offense. The weird thing about both of these teams is that their quarterbacks have identical stats. Jay Cutler has 197 completions, 293 attempts, 2093 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers has 169 completions, 250 attempts, 2092 yards, and 19 touchdowns. Rodger’s stats are slightly better than Cutler’s depending on how you look at it.
Adding Forte and Packer’s running back Eddie Lacy, Rodger’s 3 extra touchdowns could be attributed to Lacy’s overall ineffectiveness in certain games, while Forte has been the cog that keeps the gears in Chicago turning. The key to this game will be how these defenses perform, and in that aspect Green Bay is more effective which is evident in the Packer’s record. The Packers should complete the season sweep as Aaron Rodgers out duels Jay Cutler in a high scoring affair.
[5-3] Miami Dolphins VS [6-2] Detroit Lions
Both Detroit and Miami’s defenses are proving difficult for NFL offenses to handle. Detroit is first among NFL defenses in yards allowed while Miami ranks third. The Dolphins have the third best rushing attack in the NFL with the duo of Lamar Miller and Ryan Tannehill combining for 763 yards, with Miller holding all 5 rushing touchdowns.
The Detroit Lions have the best rush defense in the league creating problems for every team that faces them. Ryan Tannehill would usually be the X factor in a game like this however, with the return of Calvin Johnson, the Lion’s offense will add a new dimension to their game. Johnson has been out for most of the mid season push; his return only brings the Lions back into the limelight as playoff contenders. This is the best the Dolphins have looked, too bad for them this is the best the Lion’s defense has looked in a very long time.
[5-3] Kansas City Chiefs VS [5-3] Buffalo Bills
Justin Houston leads the best pass rushing defenses in the league. Houston is on pace to break the NFL single season sack record. The Bills have the second most sacks in the league and the second most takeaways, making them dangerous in multiple areas on defense.
Sammy Watkins has back to back games with 100 receiving yards, look for that streak to end against one of the best NFL defenses. The top Chief’s target has been tight end Travis Kelce, who has five touchdowns on the season. Alex Smith has proven to be the more reliable quarterback between him and Bill’s quarterback, Kyle Orton.
Honorable Mentions: Dallas Cowboys VS Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants VS Seattle Seahawks