by Justin Rasile
Arizona (8-1)- Bruce Arians better win coach of the year for the job he has done with this Arizona team. Week in and week out this team finds a way to win, no matter who is at quarterback; this team went 3-0 despite missing Carson Palmer. Now the rest of the season’s fate lies largely on Drew Stanton’s shoulders. Stanton, while he may not have the stats and the numbers that everybody craves over, has done exactly what you want a quarterback to do and that is win games and take care of the football. He does not have a turnover yet this season and that goes a long way with what Arians preaches. All Stanton has to do is hand off to the workhorse in the backfield that is Andre Ellington and this team will continue to win. Crazy stat about Ellington this year: despite being ninth in the NFL in rushing this season, the Cardinals running back has yet to break a hundred yards on the ground (although he did have over 100 yards receiving in one game). Arians consistently finds ways to get the most out of his players and I expect nothing less out of this squad on their pursuit to be the first ever team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Denver (7-2)- The Broncos and the Patriots will be in a dogfight for home field advantage in the playoffs, and they may both desperately need it. Denver does not want to play in New England and vice versa. Peyton probably doesn’t even want to see that guy from New England as Peyton has a head to head record of 4-11 against Tom. But back to this week, Denver better not sleep on the Rams. St. Louis may only have three wins but Jeff Fisher gets this team ready to play every week and they consistently keep games close. Robert Quinn is also starting to regain last year’s pro bowl form. He now has 6 sacks in his last two games and that could cause a problem as Peyton may be without another starting running back and the offensive line is always being shuffled around. Ronnie Hillman suffered a foot injury that could derail him for a couple weeks but the next man up philosophy is common and all to real in the NFL, so C.J. Anderson gets his shot to prove that he can be the main back down the stretch and one to pick up the blitzes to keep Peyton upright and healthy.
New England (7-2)- Remember after week 4 when critics were calling for Tom Brady to be benched and the whole Patriots team was written off? Well things have changed. This team is HOT right now and may be the best team in the league. They have averaged over 40 points a game since that blowout loss to Kansas City and absolutely manhandled the Broncos in the last game this team played. Belichick has had two weeks to get ready for the high flyin’ Colts and Andrew Luck’s potent offense but this will be a tough road test for the Patriots and possibly a preview of a playoff matchup. Andrew Luck has the ability, and the offense, to stand toe to toe with Brady’s team this year but this game will come down to the way the defenses play. The Colts have been very good at stopping the run but Rob Gronkowski is whom they have to worry about (shame to all of you who chose to stay away from this beast in fantasy football). The “Bionic Man” has 49 catches for over 660 yards to go along with his 8 touchdowns. He is the key to the game because if he can get off to a hot start, his fire can ignite this New England offense to unload on the Colts. Side note; in Bill Belichick’s 14 games as the Patriots head coach after the bye week he is 10 and 4. 5 of those victories are against the Bills (4 years in a row from 2004-2007). Buffalo should be pissed at that but they should be thankful that they aren’t playing the Pats this week.
Jacksonville (1-9)- The Dallas defeat was a brutal one to watch, considering I have friends who are Dallas fans. The game started off well when Denard Robinson scampered into the endzone on a 32 yard run but it quickly changed when Ace Sanders muffed a punt and Dallas quickly punched it in after that and never looked back. Dez Bryant made this team look like a bunch of junior varsity players that tackle when they feel like it. Now this team enters a bye week, just as it did last year, with one of the worst records in the league. Maybe Gus Bradley has some magic from last year where his team went 4-4 after the bye. As a fan, I want wins but at this point I also want a high draft pick as there are some phenomenal prospects coming out this season. Looking at the rest of the season, Jacksonville has a chance to win 4 of the remaining games. How many they win remains to be seen but they do play the Giants, Titans, and Houston twice. Best chance at another victory is against the TitansNight Football at Jacksonville.
Oakland (0-9)- Can this team actually go defeated? Losing all the games in one season is a tough task to achieve just as we saw the Detroit Lions do it back in 2008. Oakland is a bad team but Tony Sparano has them ready to play every week and they do have a decent core of young players, led by Khalil Mack, which they can hang their hats on. The rest of the games for the Raiders are as follows: Chargers, Chiefs, Ram, 49ers, Chiefs, Bills, and Broncos. I really don’t know where they can win but a fluke victory is always a possibility in the NFL- on any givenanything is possible. If I had to pick a victory, it may be the night game against the Chiefs on . In addition to it being a short week, Kansas City will be playing against Denver the following week. It’s one of those classic bait games that the Raiders have a shot of winning if the Chiefs don’t take the game seriously. The Rams game is also a potential victory.
Tampa Bay (1-8)- At least the emergence of big Mike Evans gives Bucs fans something to root for and watch. Other than that, the offense is a shell of what it could be. Doug Martin is nowhere to be found. Bobby Rainey has played pretty well and Charles Simms has some big hype behind him. The Buccaneers have a brutal schedule coming up. They play the Redskins, Bears, Bengals, Lions, Panthers, Packers, and end the season against the Saints. The funny, yet sad, thing is that the Bucs are technically not out of the playoff picture despite having one win this late into the season. New Orleans leads the division with four wins in what was supposed to be a top notched division, potentially having a wild card winner as well. It will be interesting to see what happens with Lovie Smith because even Greg Schiano won four games with virtually the same team.