Last week, the eleventh week of the 2014 NFL season, we were all given the gift of some solid football, not the most exciting of weeks; however, there were some great games which featured teams making statements by winning big. The Atlanta Falcons earned a 19-17 win over their NFC South division rivals, the Carolina Panthers as they improved their record to 4-6 on the season and now sit atop the lacklustre NFC South. The Chicago Bears were able to snap their losing streak, as they went on to beat their NFC North division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 21-13. The Kansas City Chiefs played host to the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks, and were able to snuff their opponents as they earned a 24-20 victory and improved their record to 7-3 on the season. The biggest surprise of week 11 would have to be the Denver Broncos going into the St. Louis and getting dominated as they went on to lose to the Rams by a score of 22-7. Also in week 11, the Patriots went on the road and into Lucas Oil Stadium, a place which hasn’t been kind to the Patriots in recent years and were able to earn an impressive 42-20 victory over their AFC foes.
We are slowly nearing the end of the season, as much as all of us fans don’t want to admit, and wins are becoming more and more crucial for those teams looking to make a playoff push. Week 12 brings us several great games that hold major importance and that will impact the standings.
That being said, here are a few games to look for this weekend.
Detroit Lions (7 – 3) vs. New England Patriots (8 – 2)
Last week the Detroit Lions travelled cross-country into the state of Arizona to do battle with the Cardinals in a tilt of NFC powerhouses. The Lions fell to the Cardinals by a score of 14-6, which dropped their record to 7-3 and helped improve the Arizona record to a league best 9-1 on the season. QB Matthew Stafford leads the Lions offense which ranks 21st in the league in terms of overall production, with the rushing attack ranking 30th in the league, a number that they are not proud of and a number that must improve. The Lions’ bread and butter is their defensive play, it has won them some games this year and currently ranks 1st in the league in terms of overall defense. Their defensive front has been able to effectively stop the run this season, making them a force to be recon with for opposing backs. The Lions have a new weapon on offense and it’s not Calvin Johnson, it is WR Golden Tate, who has over 900 receiving yards to his name, a team high. Last week the New England Patriots had themselves quite the road trip as they marched into Indianapolis and laid a smack down on the hometown Colts as they went on to win the game by a score of 42-20 and improved their record to 8-2 on the season. QB Tom Brady, who has thrown for over 2,600 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season, leads the Patriots high powered offense. The Patriots have their share of offensive weapons which include, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, RB’s Steven Ridley and Jonas Gray. Gray went off last Sunday night against the Colts as he rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns. He made quite the name for himself and it will be interesting to see how he fairs against the Lions this Sunday. The Patriots defense has been playing very well as of late, they rank 16th in the league in terms of overall defense, but don’t let the numbers fool you, they have a dynamite defense that can execute to perfection. If the Lions want to be successful they will have to move the ball more efficiently on offense. As of late their play calling has been quite predictable and they have not run the ball well at all. The Lions will need to spread the ball evenly and try not to lock into only Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate because those two will be blanketed, they will need TE Eric Ebron to step and prove himself. If the Lions can move the ball efficiently and not have to rely on yet another fourth quarter comeback, they have a shot at beating the Patriots. If the Patriots want to be effective in this game, they will need to pass the ball efficiently because it could be tough running against the Lions top-ranked D-line. Brady, the master game manager must look methodically to move the ball downfield for long, time-consuming against this defense. Brady to Gronk will be the match up to watch because these two fully understand each other and they have the ability to make life a living nightmare for opposing defenses. This game should be a fun one to watch; however, the Patriots have a distinct advantage in this game based on the way they’ve been playing as of late.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 23rd at 1:00pm from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Arizona Cardinals (9 – 1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (6 – 4)
Last week the Arizona Cardinals played host to the Detroit Lions and were able to earn a tough 14-6 win and improve their record to 9-1 on the season. QB Drew Stanton is now leading the Cardinal offense after their number one starter; Carson Palmer suffered a season-ending knee injury just one week ago. Drew Stanton has made appearances in five games so far this season and has thrown for over 900 yards, five touchdowns and only two interceptions, so it’s fair to say that he is a dependable back-up quarterback. WR’s Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd and RB Andre Ellington are the playmakers on this Cardinals squad and will look to help lead their team to their tenth win of the season in the hostile environment that is CenturytLink Field. Arizona is a team that ranks 20th in the league in terms of overall offense and 13th in the league in terms of overall defense. They are a very balanced team, meaning they can perform well on both sides of the ball. Now, don’t let the numbers fool you, they may not be in the top 10 in terms of their rankings, however, they’re a damn good football team that can grind down their opponents and earn tough, hard-fought victories. Last week the Seattle Seahawks went on the road to battle the Kansas City Chiefs and were handed their fourth loss of the season after they fell to the Chiefs by a score of 24-20. QB Russell Wilson, who has thrown for over 2,000 yards, 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season, he leads the league 11th ranked overall offense. With RB Marshawn Lynch and the mobile QB Russ Wilson at the helm, it’s no surprise that the Seahawks rank 1st in the NFL in terms of rushing offense. However, their passing game has struggled so far this season, it ranks 30th in the league in terms of production and the Seahawks desperately missing the presence of a superstar wide receiver who can put up the numbers. On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks defense ranks 3rd in the NFL in terms of production and they have proven that they can stop both the run and the pass, though they are nowhere near as dominate as they were last season. If the Cardinals want to be successful in the bitter NFC West clash, they will need to be functioning on all cylinders and have QB Drew Stanton executing plays that he’s comfortable with, not forcing any throws and taking what the defense gives him. Some teams have had success running the ball against the Seahawks so that means RB Andre Ellington, if used effectively, can have a decent game against the Seahawks. The key to beating the Seattle defense is playing high tempo, no huddle offense because the Seahawks love to substitute their defensive players and when teams play tempo on them, they can switch thus meaning they are playing more snaps with fatigued players in the game. If the Seahawks want to be successful in this game they will need QB Russell Wilson to be at his best because the Cardinal’s defense is no joke. The Seahawks will need a receiver to step up and prove themselves because as of now, the Seahawks don’t have any receivers with more than 500 yards, and that’s a shame, especially when you’re the defending champions. This is going to be a close defensive game with the potential for either team to take the victory; however, the Seahawks have a slight advantage simply because they’re playing at home.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 23rd at 4:05pm CenutryLink Field in Seattle, Washington.
Baltimore Ravens (6 – 4) vs. New Orleans Saints (4 – 6)
The Baltimore Ravens are coming off of a bye week; however, in their last game in week 10; the Ravens had earned themselves a 21-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans which improved their record to 6-4 on the season. QB Joe Flacco, who has thrown for over 2,500 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions so far this season, he will be leading the 12th ranked Ravens offense. RB Justin Forsett and WR Steve Smith lead the team at their respective positions by putting up some fantastic numbers and have given this Ravens offense a new look and style. The Ravens are a team that can effectively run the ball and pass the ball which is good because they don’t have to rely on one aspect of the offense to win their games for them. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens defense ranks 11th in the league in terms of overall defense (which we are used to) and can thank the defensive front seven for that. Last week the New Orleans Saints played host to the Cincinnati Bengals in a game which saw them fall to their AFC foes by a score of 27-10. QB Drew Brees, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns, leads the Saints and their 2nd ranked overall offense. Brees has put up some solid numbers this year; however, he has thrown for 10 interceptions already which is unheard of when it comes to the typical Drew Brees standards. The Saints are loaded with playmakers on offense with guys like TE Jimmy Graham, WR Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and RB Mark Ingram, who have helped the Saints with their offensive ranking. The Saints defense, which looked incredible last season, has struggled so far this season, in particular in the pass defense. The Saints defense ranks 20th in the league in terms of overall production and that ranking isn’t ideal for a team that’s looking to regain control of the NFC South division. If the Ravens want to be successful in this game, they will need to pass the ball effectively against this struggling Saints secondary. Joe Flacco will need to hook up with Steve Smith and Torrey Smith in hopes of torching the Saints secondary. The Ravens will also need to figure out how to cope with the noise that the fans will generate inside the Superdome. If the Saints want to be effective in this game, they will need Drew Brees to have himself a great day in the passing department and take advantage of the Ravens secondary that has also looked a tad vulnerable at times, like their counterparts in this game. Brees cannot turn the ball over anymore; he must take better care of it and ensure his offense is on the field more often and not Baltimore’s. The Saints need this win if they want any shot at making the playoffs, however, it’s going to be very tough to earn against a very balanced Ravens squad that is also hungry for a win and is eager to gain ground in the division and leapfrog the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Game details: Kickoff on Monday, November 24th at 8:30 pm from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.