The 2014 NFL season is 11 weeks in the books and there has been plenty of excitement. The Cleveland Browns continue to stave off critical injuries and keep their playoff dreams alive. At 6-4, the Browns currently sit last in our division. In brighter news, Josh Gordon’s suspension has ended and he is allowed to return to action. The playoff race is so close that every game from here on out matters. Here is a look at some important matchups this week.
Houston at Cincinnati: Both teams are coming off convincing wins. Houston hopes to boost their playoff dreams as Cincinnati looks to strengthen their division lead. Andy Dalton rebounded with three passing TD’s. Rookie Jeremy Hill finished with another 150 yard game, making that two in his last three games. With his success, there is no need for Giovanni Bernard to rush back from his hip injury. Dalton and Hill must perform well if the Bengals want to win. On the other end, Ryan Mallet had a terrific first career start and intends to turn around Houston’s season. Arian Foster may be questionable to return, but no worries, Alfred Blue proved he can handle the workload. There is a good chance we see the Texans upset the home team.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis: The Colts are division leaders, but find themselves in the playoff watch with Houston looming one game back. Andrew Luck will look to get back to his winning ways, especially against a young, rebuilding team like Jacksonville. Coming off a bye week, the Jaguars hope their game plan swings are in their favor. Denard Robinson should be the focal point of the offense as Indianapolis got burned last week, allowing 201 yards and four touchdowns to New England’s Jonas Gray. History suggests that Indy will get back on track and win this one in Indy.
Kansas City at Oakland: This divisional contest kicks off on Thursday. Although Alex Smith recorded a season low 108 yards last week, Kansas City was able to defeat the Seattle Seahawks, thanks to Jamaal Charles’ two scores and 159 yards on the ground. However, the Chiefs were also gashed by the run, 124 yards by Marshawn Lynch. Oakland’s Darren McFadden hopes he can mirror that performance, but he has to see more than eight touches for 21 yards. The Raiders may still be winless, but they look competitive. They limited San Diego to 13 points after giving up an early first quarter touchdown. The longer that Oakland stays winless, the more dangerous a team they will become. They are desperate for a win and it could come any week now. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be this week as the Chiefs look to secure that top wild card spot.
Miami at Denver: Denver hosts Miami after suffering a disappointing loss at St. Louis, only scoring seven points and losing Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas, and Montee Ball to injuries. Denver’s C.J. Anderson rushed for just 28 yards and things won’t get easier as they welcome a stingy Miami defense, only allowing 302.5 yards per game. The Dolphins are more than capable of getting after the quarterback as they are third in the league with 30 sacks. Ryan Tannehill isn’t going to blow you away in the stat sheets, but he does enough to manage and win the game. Lamar Miller produced 86 yards against a tough Buffalo defense and the same should occur versus the Broncos, despite them being tough on the run. Actually, they allowed Tre Mason to rack up 113 yards, the most they surrendered all season. There is a good chance Miami pulls an upset, but you can never count out Peyton Manning.
St. Louis at San Diego: St. Louis is coming off a defining game for their defense as they were able to disrupt Manning’s comfort zone, forcing two interceptions. The Rams surging defense have limited the likes Manning, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick. Additionally, they found stability with their running backs when Tre Mason emerged as the lead back. Shaun Hill also looks to have secured his job with 220 yards, a touchdown, and most importantly a victory. Don’t be surprised if St Louis stays close with San Diego. They didn’t look flashy when they defeated Oakland, but they’re still in the playoff hunt. Ryan Mathews returned from an MCL sprain to record 70 yards, but it appeared as if Philip Rivers played through severe rib and knee pain. Despite the injuries, the quarterback still expects to start this game. The Rams smell an upset brewing as they face a Charger offense that has cooled down in recent weeks.
Baltimore at New Orleans: Baltimore should be prepared and well rested for this contest as they come off their bye week. The Superdome is a tough environment to play in so the Ravens must be up for the challenge. Meanwhile, New Orleans looks to bounce back from a bad loss to Cincinnati. Drew Brees will continue to feed Jimmy Graham, especially with rookie wide out Brandin Cooks recovering from a broken thumb. Expect Colston to impact the game and see more targets. Additionally, the Saints will continue to run with Mark Ingram, as he failed to reach 100 yards for the first time in four games. New Orleans is more desperate for a win as they hold the same record, 4-6, as the division-leading Atlanta Falcons.
Cleveland at Atlanta: Atlanta enters this match with the division lead despite a 4-6 record, due to a perfect 4-0 division record. Matt Ryan is an above average quarterback who has experienced struggles this season caused by a banged up offensive line and a subpar ground attack. The Falcons’ run game has kicked it up a notch due to Steven Jackson gaining at least 60 yards and a touchdown in two of his previous three games. With all the defensive line injuries Cleveland has suffered, this should be the point of attack for the Falcons. On the other hand, Atlanta’s defense is last in yards per game (403.4) and passing yards per game (281.2). This is the perfect opportunity for Josh Gordon to find his football legs and get into rhythm. Also, with the Falcons’ run vulnerable defense (122.2 ypg), expect Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West to have some success. This should open up the passing game for some big plays from Gordon. Unfortunately for Atlanta, this is not a divisional matchup. Cleveland hopes to take advantage of Atlanta’s inconsistencies against non-NFC South opponents. The Browns should further their playoff quest and be victorious.
New York Jets at Buffalo: Buffalo endured a tough loss to Miami, surrendering two late touchdowns and a costly safety. Meanwhile, the Jets have had two weeks to prepare for the Bills and hope to keep the momentum going from a win over Pittsburgh. Don’t anticipate great games from the running backs, as both teams’ run defense rank in the top ten. Both offenses don’t score a ton of points and lack threatening aerial assaults. This should be a low scoring game, but Buffalo is still in the playoff hunt at 5-5, so look for them to come out strong at home.
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