Only three of the 14 games today feature road favorites, one oddly enough being the New York Jets — a team fresh off a collaboration with the Arizona Cardinals that cruelly displayed the most hideous quarterback play in the modern era.
This is because the Jets visit a two-win Jacksonville squad missing its most consistent offensive weapon in Cecil Shorts, and because New York. But even this contest will have a head-to-head battle worth monitoring, along with the other dozen-plus slated.
Jets at Jaguars: Muhammad Wilkerson vs Jags O-line
Wilkerson hasn’t captured as many headlines as his teammates but has been by far the team’s best player this year. It will be fun to catch him going against venerable LT Eugene Monroe, but he’ll probably also spend time feasting on the rest of this miserable Jags O-line.
Rams at Bills: Rams improving OL vs Bills improving DL
Both the peripheral playoff contenders have improved dramatically in recent weeks thanks to their lines gelling. For the Bills it’s been the defensive side with Mario Williams trying to meet the hype while the Rams seem to have slowed down their game of musical chairs in front of Sam Bradford, with Rodger Saffold holding his own at left tackle.
Cowboys at Bengals: Geno Atkins and Co. vs Cowboys’ struggling line
Last week Geno Atkins predictably brutalized the Chargers interior and Carlos Dunlap cleaned up. The Cowboys line isn’t quite as bad, but same goes here.
Chiefs at Browns: Derrick Johnson chasing down Trent Richardson
The Browns have only lost one game this season by more than ten points and suddenly ride a two-game win streak. I like The Cleve winning here, but if the Chiefs shut down T-Rich then I could definitely see this going the other way.
Titans at Colts: Andrew Luck vs Titans pass rush
Luck has done an incredible job of keeping plays alive and throwing under pressure for a rookie. However, he has thrown quite a few interceptions under said pressure and the Titans have excelled at eating up poor pass pro like the Colts’.
Bears at Vikings: Matt Forte vs Vikes run D
The Vikings run defense ain’t what it used to be and Michael Bush is hampered by an injury. Forte could show us what made him a legitimate Top 5 MVP candidate through the first half of last season.
Chargers at Steelers: Philip Rivers vs Troy Polamalu
Philip Rivers has turned the ball over more times than any player since 2011. Troy Polamalu’s mere presence on the field boosts the likelihood of turnovers.
Eagles at Bucs: Vincent Jackson vs coverage breakdowns
Even when there aren’t coverage breakdowns, the safety help on long passes by Kurt Coleman can be downright comical. V-Jax has been the most dangerous deep threat in the league this side of Calvin Johnson.
Ravens at Redskins: Backfield action vs Lewis/Suggs-less front seven
Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs hadn’t played anywhere close to last year’s standard but their leadership, instincts and communication in the LB corps might be necessary to slow down the ‘Skins read option and other backfield shenanigans.
Falcons at Panthers: Steve Smith vs Asante Samuel
With William Moore out, an Atlanta secondary already susceptible to the big play becomes even more of a danger with Steve Smith on the field. Asante Samuel is playing through injury and will likely see plenty of Steve L.
Dolphins at 49ers: 49ers trap blocking vs Dolphins front seven
My Twitter plug:
Saints at Giants: Darren Sproles vs Michael Boley
The Saints have absolutely annihilated the Giants in recent meetings and the difficult matchups they possess are a huge part of that, like your Sproles or your Jimmy Graham.
Cardinals at Seahawks: Larry Fitzgerald vs Richard Sherman
While Brandon Browner begins serving his suspension its up to Richard Sherman (and certainly some help) to neutralize the Cards’ only beacon of offensive hope.
Lions at Packers: Calvin Johnson vs Casey Hayward/Tramon Williams
Casey Hayward is getting some love as Rookie DPOY candidate and it’s well-deserved, but I’d like to see him battle straight up against the league’s elite a little more.