By: David Dzienis
While the story of the week, and really the entire year, is the coronavirus sweeping its way through the league, games must still be played. We here at TSF would like to take a moment and say that we hope the people around the world affected by the virus can recover and may the world see its way through this. We just aren’t ready for the zombie apocalypse…yet. Anyway, on to the previews!
Bengals lost starting rookie sensation Joe Burrow for the year last week with multiple knee injuries. This takes the value of the whole team to a new low for the year, maybe even under that of the Jets. This team has a lot of grit, but they have no defense, and their offensive line is terrible. This is the kind of game that Saquon is drooling about on the sideline, sad to miss the opportunity to put up 200 yards. Meanwhile, turnover happy Daniel Jones has his Giants on a two game winning streak. Even more shocking, he hasn’t gifted the ball to the opponents in either win. Giants should handle business here and stay in the race for the East!
N.Y.G. 27-Cin 13
The Falcons may be one of the most frustrating teams of the year. If the receivers can stay healthy, this offense is terrifying. Temper expectations this week with a banged-up Julio Jones, as well as touchdown machine Todd Gurley sitting out. The Raiders are coming to town, fresh off of a loss. However, they should be feeling great about their performance Sunday night. They took the Super Bowl champs to the brink, almost handing the Chiefs only their second loss of the year. Derek Carr and his list of no name receivers need to come in here and elevate their game during this push to the playoffs. Jacobs and Waller are both solid, but this team needs a little more consistency from the wideouts to threaten the top echelon on a more consistent basis.
L.V. 35-Atl 27
With Burrow injured for the year, Justin Herbert has sailed into the lead for offensive rookie of the year. The man has been a revelation. His favorite target, the sure-handed Keenan Allen, looking like the world’s best safety blanket, and the return of dual threat RB Austin Ekeler, this offense suddenly looks like a top 5 unit. The Bills have not been as dominant this year on defense as years past. Shockingly, the oft-troubled Josh Allen has been the rock for this team. With his new favorite toy, Stefon Diggs, leading a competent passing attack, the Bills are leading their division for the first time in many of their fan’s lifetimes. Coming off of a tough loss to the Cardinals, with an entire extra week to stew in it, the Bills are going to need to come on strong to win this matchup. This one has all the looks of a shootout!
L.A.C. 35-Buf 38
The best game on the early docket has to be the rematch between AFC South foes. The Titans dropped the ball last time, not able to handle the hard-hitting Colts defense. They come into this matchup off a confidence building slugfest against the Ravens. As usual, this game should run through Derrick Henry. Not many players have had success running against the Colts, but Henry is the exception. With several starters missing from this defense, he should have a field day. Philip Rivers has been a solid starter for this offense. With some of the young rookies guiding the way, they have a chance to secure a season sweep against the Titans. With starting RB Jonathan Taylor out, will they have enough firepower to keep up with Henry?
Ten 34-Ind 17
The Panthers are coming off of a great performance in a shutout win over the beat-up Lions. They now get an angry Vikings team coming off of a stinging loss to the Cowboys. Both teams will be without stars, as Christian McCaffrey and Adam Thielen are both out for this game. The Panthers welcome back starting QB Bridgewater, who hasn’t faced his old team where his career nearly ended. Both of these squads are looking to stay relevant in the playoff race. Which squad’s defense shows up is likely going to determine the winner.
Car 20-Min 30
The Cardinals are now a game back from the division leading Rams and Seahawks. They dropped the ball when given the chance to sweep Seattle, but still have both games vs the Rams coming up. They need to hope Kyler Murray is back to form after he hurt his shoulder against the Seahawks. This offense is as dangerous as any in the league. Can the defense hold of Cam Newton and the Patriots, who still have playoff hopes, however faint they may be? In the last few weeks, the New England receivers have finally started contributing. Could this be the catalyst that lifts this one-track pony into contention?
Ari 31-N.E. 27
Frank Gore is a legend! The man continues to defy time at one of the toughest positions in football for longevity. This man cannot retire with a winless Jets squad. Can they upset the playoff aspirations of the Dolphins? While the Jets have looked competitive in their last two games, the Dolphins are coming fresh off of a loss to a plummeting Broncos squad. Their rookie QB was pulled for the ageless Fitzpatrick, who couldn’t quite pull off the upset. Despite the learning curve for their leader, the defense for the Jets has been a phenomenal takeaway machine. With one of the best CB duos in the league, the Jets will be hard-pressed to get that first win.
Mia 20-N.Y.J. 10
The Jags are having an identity crisis at QB. Minshew Mania seems at an end, the Luton experiment went horribly awry in a four INT game against the Steelers, and now they have to turn to journeyman Mike Glennon. Will he have the weapons to knock off the suddenly competent Browns? With rookie sensation James Robinson leading the way, it’s always possible. The Browns defense and toughness has shown up huge in the last few weeks. In terrible weather games against bad opponents, they have held strong for some low scoring wins. How will they fare in the warm Florida weather? Mayfield has a chance to show why he should stay in the driver’s seat for the future.
Cle 33- Jax 17
Tight end Taysom Hill led the way for a dominant performance in Drew Brees absence. With an accurate passing game and showing his dual threat ability in the run game, they smashed their division opponent Falcons. The defense did their part, as they have all year, sacking Matt Ryan 8 times. Can the surprising talent do the same to a Broncos team still searching for an identity? Denver is coming off of a win against the surging Dolphins but didn’t look particularly dominant doing so. Plagued by injuries on both sides of the ball, Denver has yet to show if their young talent will be a steadying hand heading into the future. The rest of their season feels much like a test to see if Lock can become the leader this team needs him to be. Unfortunately this will just be a “get through it” game for Denver as all three of their Quarterbacks are out due to Covid. This could get ugly.
N.O. 27-Den 13
Speaking of injuries, the most beat-up team in the league, playing in the toughest division in football, has a division opponent waiting for them this week. The Rams, fresh off an upset of Tom Brady’s Bucs, are in the division lead due to holding the tiebreaker of the Seahawks. With a stable of capable runners, and some of the game’s most consistent receivers, the Rams are positioning themselves for a deep playoff push. The defense, anchored by Aaron Donald, has been a steadying force all year. The Niners have a chance to reevaluate some of their backups this year and have a ton of questions heading into the offseason. With so many oft-injured stars, what does this squad need to do to return to the top of the league?
S.F 21-L.A.R. 32
Now the game everyone is looking forward to, the Super Bowl Champs facing the G.O.A.T. and his topsy-turvy Bucs. In most metrics, the Bucs have one of the leagues top defenses. The offense seems to be the issue. The run game has been inconsistent, and Brady just doesn’t seem to be on the same page as his receivers. Now that Antonio Brown is added to the mix, he has more weapons then almost any team in the league, if they could stay healthy. Both Godwin and Evans have been beat up this year and have missed time. With the addition of no offseason, they haven’t been able to sync up with their new QB. The Chiefs are still one of the leagues most prolific offenses. With Mahomes looking like the league’s best gunslinger, Kelce being the most dominating TE, and a solid running game led by CEH and Bell, can anyone really shut this team down? Tampa Bay will have to hope their defense is up to the task.
K.C. 34-T.B. 27
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