Kansas City Chiefs @ Atlanta Falcons
The Chiefs have won a staggering 18 of their 21 regular season games over the past two seasons, a run that has catapulted them into the playoff conversation. To be frank, this is a team always within arm’s reach of a postseason berth. What gets in their way is public perception; people simply don’t believe a team with a blueprint like theirs can win a Super Bowl.
The primary reason is their quarterback Alex Smith, who is derisively dubbed a ‘game manager’ and a player who errs too often on the side of caution. However, it is often a cautious approach, combined with a top-notch defense, that keeps the Chiefs in games. They don’t lose games easily with their formula.
The Falcons are on the other side of the coin. Their defense leaves a lot to be desired, but their quarterback Matt Ryan is among the best at his position and is a legitimate MVP candidate. An offense capable of putting up 30 points should scare the Chiefs, especially at home in the cosy confines of the Georgia Dome where weather isn’t an issue.
The Chiefs are a tough nut to crack though, and a fearsome pass rush will give Ryan problems. The road team can steal a march here.
Prediction: Chiefs 23, Falcons 20
New York Giants @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Giants are perhaps the most unheralded 8-3 team in the league. On course to make the playoffs for the first time since their last Super Bowl victory in 2011, the G-Men have parlayed an improved defense packed with high-priced free agents and a mediocre offense into a nice little run. That run could come to a skidding halt this Sunday, though.
In the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Giants face their tallest task of the season apart, perhaps, from their Week 1 trip to Dallas. That time they stole a win by a single point; this time they might need more than the 21 points they managed that day to secure a win. The Steelers offense has star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, and in running back Le’Veon Bell they have one of the most elusive runners in the league.
The issue here for the Giants will be keeping up with the Steelers in the scoring stakes. Pittsburgh’s offense is a tough one to slow down at home, so that vaunted Giants defense will need to bring its A-game.
Prediction: Giants 21, Steelers 28
Miami Dolphins @ Baltimore Ravens
In a possible playoff preview, the resurgent Dolphins and steady Ravens face off in what should be a frigid Baltimore. December is when teams are truly tested, as the elements begin to rear their ugly head and batter teams mentally and physically. Miami has seen a complete turnaround after a slow start, but their offensive line woes could bite them here against a feisty Ravens defense.
Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker, who has yet to miss a field goal or extra point in a year that kickers are faltering constantly, has been a key player in the Ravens’ wins. He could play a big part on Sunday if Baltimore is to snare the Dolphins and secure a victory that could rubberstamp a vital tiebreaker come playoff-time.
Prediction: Dolphins 14, Ravens 24
Houston Texans @ Green Bay Packers
The reeling Texans are surely regretting an offseason purchase that was supposed to be the move that turned the franchise from also-rans into perennial contenders. Now that move is being widely ridiculed. It was the call to sign high-priced free agent quarterback Brock Osweiler, and so far it has been an unmitigated disaster. Osweiler, far from being a saviour, has made the offense regress with his dink and dunk style.
There is only so much the other side of the ball can do for Houston against a Packers team that looked back to normal in Philadelphia on Monday night. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers dropped in some unbelievable passes to his receivers and appeared to be in total command with the team’s season on the line. He will need that kind of poise against Houston, but if Osweiler can’t match him he might have an easier time of it.
Prediction: Texans 13, Packers 28
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next week for the preview of Week 14’s action.