Several divisions have some high profile match-ups this week in NFL play that should greatly affect the pecking order when all is said and done. The AFC North has a surprisingly epic Steelers vs. Bengals game. The AFC West has the Chiefs against the Broncos. New Orleans and Atlanta might present the best match of them all for NFC South supremacy. Certainly the Patriots and Jets contest would balk at that last statement, however, as the AFC East is up for grabs. It's an exciting day tomorrow in the NFL and here's our picks heading into it all:
Arizona @ Philadelphia
The Eagles were on the upswing until the Bears slowed them down. They've gone from Dream Team to a laughingstock and then a dark horse again. Their reality is somewhere in the middle. However the Cardinals are likely without Kevin Kolb in this match-up. And let's be honest, even if they had Kolb...
Eagles 30, Cardinals 10
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
Andy Dalton has had good and even great games so far. Yet it's hard to measure just what the Bengals have at their quarterback position. Is Dalton going to be the next great NFL quarterback? A win over the resurgent Steelers would make a major statement on Sunday and give the Bengals' playoff chances a real hope. However, as the Steelers defense gets healthier, they're going to throw the book at Dalton. This should be close.
Steelers 17, Bengals 14
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis
Not only will no one watch this, I don't even want to write about it.
Jaguars 13, Colts 10
Denver @ Kansas City
The Chiefs are at home here and Arrowhead will be invaluable for screwing up Tim Tebow and company and their cadence and timing. This is also a key game for the Chiefs before they hit the murderous stretch in the schedule that includes Packers, Patriots, Steelers, Jets and Bears in five weeks. The Broncos have a bit of life and this rivalry game always brings out the best. If Tebow wins, he's the new mayor of Denver. Despite last week's showing at the Dolphins, however, the Chiefs defense has been the story of the season.
Chiefs 21, Broncos 7
Buffalo @ Dallas
The Bills are finding their posturing for the AFC playoffs slipping away and now must face a Cowboys team that could use a win as well to keep up with the red hot Giants. On the road at Dallas is going to be hard, but the Dallas run defense has fallen apart the last two games. Rob Ryan needs to develop something, because even Marshawn Lynch looked like a beast against the Cowboys run defense and now they face the top rusher in the AFC in Fred Jackson.
Bills 17, Cowboys 14
Tennessee @ Carolina
Cam Newton comes off his first NFL bye week at 2-6 but has the Panthers hopeful for what's ahead. The Titans started strong and have faded quickly in the division, now trailing the Texans with their hope fading. The Panthers are the sexy pick here, yet the Titans have been that surprising club and Chris Johnson is starting to find his moxie. Mike Munchak should bounce back from last week and have the Titans moving forward again.
Titans 20, Panthers 17
Washington @ Miami
Matt Moore and Reggie Bush looked like All-Pro players last week against Kansas City. Surprisingly, the Dolphins picked up their first win and they've actually been competitive in recent weeks. The Redskins look horrible at this stage and they're searching for signs of life, so the Dolphins come at a good time. This game is a toss up with the great subplot of John Beck's return to Miami at stake. But Tony Sparano's team has a bit more life and that offensive line is coming alive behind Jake Long's leadership.
Dolphins 20, Redskins 7
St. Louis @ Cleveland
Sam Bradford is back from injury, but his performance wasn't so hot at all. Give him another week and he might be a bit better, but this is a Cleveland team hungry for any positive signs after watching the rest of their division rise week after week. Expect Philip Taylor and the rest of the Browns pass rush to get at Bradford and Colt McCoy to keep things close enough on offense to eek out an ugly win.
Browns 13, Rams 9
New Orleans @ Atlanta
This game should be exhilarating to watch. Drew Brees operating an offense is amazing enough in itself, but Matt Ryan has learned how to work with all of his new offensive tools (i.e. Julio Jones) and they can be equally as compelling. The key here will whose defense can come through and Atlanta has had a nice effort lately against the Colts, Lions and Panthers.
Falcons 30, Saints 24
Houston @ Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers have fallen faster than Joe Paterno's legacy and then they announce the loss of Gerald McCoy on the season and pick up Albert Haynesworth. The lack of pressure on an opposing quarterback plus the arrival of Matt Schaub and company means this could be ugly rather quickly.
Texans 24, Bucs 10
Baltimore @ Seattle
This could be the classic trap game. The Ravens just won an emotional game over the Steelers. They're crossing three time zones to play at a dangerous stadium in Seattle. The Seahawks cannot be taken nearly as seriously no matter what the coaches and players are saying about this game. Every team has laid an egg so far besides Green Bay and San Fran and the Ravens have already shown they know how to do such a thing. John Harbaugh needs to have his team focused or this could be an ugly surprise in store.
Ravens 14, Seahawks 13
Detroit @ Chicago
A beast of a game between bitter rivals is always fun to watch, but now that the Lions have turned the corner, this should be a great game. The Bears offensive line should have issues against Detroit's ever-pressing defensive front. Matt Stafford should find some targets wiped out (i.e. Brandon Pettigrew) by the Bears incredible linebacking corps. If he can find Megatron, then the Lions will be just fine.
Lions 21, Bears 13
New York Giants @ San Francisco
The 49ers are riding a high and now they're at home against a Giants team that's also nearly as hot. This is the ultimate match-up for NFC playoff positioning and bragging rights and the winner walks away feeling good about their chances to play well into January. The Giants offensive line is going to have to hold up against Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and the Niners strong pass rush. The Niners lead the NFL in points allowed, but their pass defense is the weak link. Eli Manning is red hot. Something tells me the Niners aren't an 8-1 team.
Giants 20, 49ers 10
New England @ New York Jets
The Patriots have lost two in a row and the Jets have found new life in the AFC East. Throw in the rivalry and the fact that they're playing at home and the Jets have to be feeling good about their position. Yet this is the kind of game at the kind of moment in a season when Tom Brady always has his team rebound well enough to cast aside the doubters once again. And this is also the kind of stage he thrives on the most. Expect a real shootout, but when it comes to Brady vs. Sanchez, there's only one way to vote.
Brady 21, Sanchez 14
Minnesota @ Green Bay
The worst of the division versus the best of the division. While the Vikings have found some new life under Christian Ponder, this is going to be another Monday Night showcase of just how great the Packers offense really is and Aaron Rodgers should bolster his MVP case at home against a division rival rather easily.
Packers 40, Vikings 20