Okay, so, we have no more undefeated teams, only one winless team remaining, and thus far, every time that one team seems on the verge of taking a division by the throat, something happens to prevent that. Look at Atlanta the last couple of weeks, or Seattle and Minnesota last weekend.
This weekend, two teams, the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys, have the unique opportunity to win big divisional games that would, in effect, put them in very solid position to win the division. In both cases, wins would give them a three-game lead over their next closest rival, and as we reach the midseason point, they might find themselves in position to race for home field advantage or, failing that, a playoff bye.
In other contests, some teams are fighting to stay in the picture. That includes the game in London this coming weekend, as well as the game between the Packers and Falcons, where suspicious looking losses recently by both the Packers and Falcons have many people scratching their heads and wondering if these teams are anywhere near as good as the hype. Plus, the Cardinals try to get past the muffed field goals that prevented them from winning (and losing), as they try to get back to their winning ways, and hope to avenge last January's loss in the NFC Championship Game at Carolina in the process.
Some intriguing stuff for this coming weekend in the NFL. Let's take a closer look:
(Thursday Night) Jacksonville at Tennessee - Jacksonville seems to have reached that point in the season where a quick series of losses takes them out of the playoff run. The Titans, in the meantime, look surprisingly good, although they are probably not quite ready to make a real playoff run yet. Still, barring a letdown or an upset, Tennessee should be able to power their way past Jax to move to a winning record as mid-season approaches. My pick: Tennessee
(London) Washington at Cincinnati - Washington lost a heart-breaker last weekend in Detroit, while the Bengals recovered from some recent disappointing losses to crush Cleveland. The Bengals are technically the hosts, although this is more likely neutral territory for both teams. Still, I like the Bengals to continue their recovery with a win to stay in the AFC North race. My pick: Cincinnati
Seattle at New Orleans - The Seahawks and Cardinals did not exactly play the most inspired ball last weekend, although from Seattle's perspective, the tie was closer to a half of a win than a half of a loss. They still enjoy a comfortable lead in the NFC West, and still have not lost now in well over a month, and are playing extremely well. As for New Orleans, they suffered a tough loss last week, and will likely suffer another one in this contest. My pick: Seattle
Detroit at Houston - The Lions look hot, and are brimming with confidence. The Texans are not, and never seem capable of beating quality teams when they have to. Yes, the Texans are at home, but most likely, that will not be enough against a Detroit squad that seems to believe, and seems to be running on all cylinders at the moment. I like the Lions to win, and to start to emerge as possibly the second best team in the NFC North. My pick: Detroit
Kansas City at Indianapolis - The Chiefs are a tough team, capable of some huge wins when they need it. And with the Broncos and the Raiders setting the pace in the AFC West, KC needs this one! The Colts are a vulnerable team, never seemingly playing up to their capabilities. That is what they would need to have a chance at beating the Chiefs, and I just don't see them doing it. KC should be able to wear them down, and put them away in the second half. My pick: Kansas City
Arizona at Carolina - A rematch of the NFC Championship Game earlier this year. Carolina blasted past the Cardinals back then, but that was then, and this is now. The Panthers have struggled and mysteriously, they have played as awful this season as they played awesome last season. Sooner or later, they will win again. But the Cardinals, with the revenge factor on their side, have been playing quite well the last few weeks. look for that to continue, and for the Cardinals to continue to do what they do well, and exact a measure of revenge this weekend, adding to Carolina's growing list of woes. My pick: Arizona
NY Jets at Cleveland - A lot is going right with Believeland these days, but the Browns are the one exception. They are the one curse that still seems to be very much intact these days, thank you very much. Right now, the Browns have remained the sole remaining winless team for several weeks, and they are getting pretty desperate to change that. However, the Jets have been playing better lately, after having struggled mightily themselves for a long stretch of the season. They want to build on their success last week, and honestly, it's tough to imagine that they will fail to do so in Cleveland. My pick; NY Jets
New England at Buffalo - The Patriots visit the only team that has managed to beat them this season, and this time, they have Brady. It will be a tough, bruising game, and I would not be surprised if there are some injuries after this one. The Bills were red hot before suffering a loss at Miami, although they remain a tough team, especially at home. Still, New England seems to have recovered fully from that shut out loss to the Bills, and are playing lights out. If they continue to play as well as they are capable of, they should win. My pick: New England
Oakland at Tampa Bay - Neither of these teams has qualified for the playoffs since they met in Super Bowl XXXVII. Yet, they both are making what appears to be serious runs towards the playoffs this season - especially the Raiders! Tampa Bay is improving, but Oakland appears to have arrived at a good place, where they are back among the ranks of serious playoff contenders. Look for them to get this road win as well, to stay in good position in the tough AFC West. My pick: Oakland
San Diego at Denver - The Chargers seemed to take heart of the big win against Denver that they enjoyed a couple of weeks ago, and if they can keep winning, that may be the turning point that saved a season that was spiraling out of control. A victory in Atlanta had to boost their confidence mightily, although going to Denver is always a tough challenge. The Broncos have that suffocating defense, home field, and the revenge factor all on their side, and San Diego would have to pull off their biggest upset yet to win this one. My pick: Denver
Green Bay at Atlanta - The Packers are the visiting team, and they are not playing anywhere near the level that most people expected them to play at to this point. The Falcons, after a tremendously hot start, have cooled off these last few weeks. Still, they are at home, and they should be able to win this particular game against the suddenly struggling Pack. My pick: Atlanta
(Sunday Night) Philadelphia at Dallas - The Eagles beat the Vikings last weekend to stop the bleeding of their two game losing streak. But now, they have to go down to Big D to take on a well rested Cowboys team that is brimming with confidence. This is a golden opportunity for the 'Boys, as a win would put them two games up on everybody else in the division, with a tie-breaker to boot over Philly and Washington (although my Giants beat them!). The Eagles, meanwhile, have the chance to close the margin and get back to a share of the lead in the division with a win. The Cowboys, however, have a strong offensive line, and young, emerging talent at quarterback and unning back, not to mention the talent that they have elsewhere. All a bit too much for the visiting Eagles, I suspect. My pick: Dallas
(Monday Night) Minnesota at Chicago - The Bears have home field advantage, but that is about the only advantage that they will have going into this game. Minnesota has a tough defense and everything to fight for. Plus, they want to get back to winning, after suffering their first, and so far only, defeat last week at Philadelphia. Look for them to jump ahead early, and essentially sit on their lead rather than to beat down the overmatched Bears. My pick: Minnesota