With teams like Atlanta and New Orleans still relevant in playoff discussion boasting a measly 4-6 record, this year’s NFL is one of the hardest to predict in years. In addition to a select few teams who have edged clear of the pack, a plethora of playoff contenders lie ready and waiting to pounce on a wildcard spot late in the year. This week’s Forecast 5 will look at 5 teams “in the hunt” and how their bid to reach the post season will fair in the week ahead.
Chiefs @ Raiders on TNF
After opening the season with a devastatingly embarrassing loss to the Titans in week 1, the Chiefs’ early struggles continued as they stuttered into the bye week sporting an uninspiring 2-3 record. Since their early season slump, the Chiefs have been revitalised and stormed to 5 consecutive wins to tie the Denver Broncos atop the AFC West. This resurgence in results falls directly in line with the return of their franchise running back and primary offensive threat, Jamaal Charles. In each of the past 5 games, Charles has been the leading rusher on both teams combined and this Thursday he’ll be squaring up to the hapless, helpless and winless Oakland Raiders. A Raider team that ranks 27th in run defence thus far. Thursday Night Football has typically hosted blowout wins in 2014; expect that trend to continue this week with a ground and pound performance from the Chiefs. Their strengths are with the running game; they will stick with that and rush their way to a 6th straight win.
Prediction: KC 27 – 13 OAK. This game will be over early as the Chiefs pull out to an early lead and control the game on the ground with over 200 total rushing yards for the 2nd straight week.
Dolphins @ Broncos
Similarly to the Chiefs, the Dolphins have fired up the power rankings with a spell of high-energy and clinical performances, triumphing in 4 of their last 5 to take 2nd place in the AFC East ahead of the early season sweethearts, Buffalo Bills. This week, the Dolphins are pitted against the wavering Denver Broncos. Manning has begun to show signs of age lately; losing 2 of his last 3 games and the Broncos no longer boast an air of invincibility. This week the Dolphins take their no.2 ranked pass defence to Manning, 7 days after he lost 3 key offensive weapons to injury. And as if enough factors weren’t working in favour of the Dolphins, Miami travel to Denver during a week in which every state in the country has been below freezing temperatures and parts are beginning to look eerily like a scene from The Day After Tomorrow. We all know how Manning performs in adverse weather conditions… The pass defence of the Dolphins should deal with the Broncos’ aerial threat handily, and if Tannehill can continue his improvement for another week and take advantage of his undeniable ability to scramble and execute designed runs, the elite pass defence of the Broncos should be neutralised and the Dolphins can quite possibly walk away from Colorado with an extremely valuable victory.
Prediction: MIA 28 – 21 DEN. If the weather continues as it appears now, the Dolphins have every chance of pulling the upset in Denver. Look to Tannehill to have a dominant game with his legs being as important as his arm.
Redskins @ 49ers
San Francisco sit tied for 2nd place in the uber competitive NFC West behind the mighty Arizona Cardinals who appear to be the 2nd coming of the ’85 Bears (satire before anyone jumps down my throat!). Posting a strong 6-4 record and being deeply amongst the playoff picture is a great feat for the 49ers who have looked less than impressive in most games this season. Even a 5 interception performance from the bipolar Eli Manning wasn’t enough to allow San Francisco to run away with the game and run up the score. Nevertheless they are 6-4 and a sign of a great team is to win when you aren’t ay your best. The 49ers certainly aren’t at their best, however, with a stronger focus on the ground game as we inch towards December, and as Kaepernick begins to open the field more with his incredibly elusive running ability, the 49ers should steadily climb those rankings. Sunday’s game against the depressing Redskins is an ideal matchup for them to finally get a comfortable, easy win and begin to build up momentum leading into the playoffs. Washington’s offence will gift the 49ers stout defence with a couple of turnovers and the 49ers will do what they do best, dominate the game on the ground with some old school power running football.
Prediction: WAS 10 – 30 SF. Kaepernick will combine for 3 TDs in the air and on the ground to complete their 3rd win on the bounce.
Cowboys @ Giants
The last time we seen the Cowboys was in our back yard in the glorious capital of England as they trounced the powerless Jaguars with distinct ease. Even an injured Romo handily through lasers all over their surprisingly able defence; focusing on his BFF Dez Bryant who ended the game with over 100 yds and a pair of TDs. I expect the same on Sunday. The trend is that the Cowboys offence continues to put up points while their defence, although beginning to show signs of cracking, exceed expectations and cause an all too familiar sight for Giants fans…Eli Manning turnovers. A Tony Romo who has had 2 weeks to fully recover will go back to his favourite pairing of Bryant and Witten, opened up in play action by another 100 yard performance from the MVP through 8 games, Demarco Murray. Although the Cowboys defence does not rival the 49ers defence, they will still cause turnovers allowing the Cowboys to control the game from start to finish and stay neck and neck with the Eagles atop the NFC East.
Prediction: DAL 35 – NYG 20. Another day at the office for Dallas will be highlighted by another dominant rushing performance from Demarco Murray, ending the game with over 100 yards and 3 TDs.
Ravens @ Saints
Fortunately for the underwhelming New Orleans Saints, they belong to the worst division in football, the NFC South. With their 4-6 record they are tied for the lead in their division, as inexplicable as that is, they are still tied for the lead in their division with a 4-6 record (I just had to repeat that to make sure it settled in). Drew Brees has become part of the problem in Louisiana. He is no longer considered in the discussion of top 5 QBs, and his kamikaze throws, combined with the hugely underperforming, yet highly paid defence, is the reason the Saints have been so poor. Oppositely, the Ravens belong to the toughest and tightest division in football, posting a 6-4 record and sitting in 3rd place. It’s clear who the better team is in this matchup, and as unbelievable as a 3rd straight home defeat for the Saints sounds, I believe a Ravens win is written in the stars. Flacco will comfortably dunk the ball off the Steve Smith while throwing the occasional bomb to his namesake Torrey and completely expose the Saints at home yet again. A season to forget continues for the Saints on Sunday…and yet with defeat they will remain a maximum 1 game out of the playoff picture. Outrageous.
Prediction: BAL 31 – NO 19. Drew Brees will once again clock up a couple more picks as his decline continues and the Saints remain among the league’s most disappointing teams.
Picks of the Week:
Lock of the Week: 49ers over Redskins
Shock of the Week: Dolphins over Broncos
Bold Prediction: A Chiefs Wide Receiver will catch their first TD as a unit on Thursday night…followed by another.
This article was written by Martin Thomson. Martin is from Newcastle, England. In addition to being a huge Newcastle United fan; he experiences much more joy as a diehard fan of the New England Patriots. His articles “Forecast 5” will focus on certainties and surprises to look out for in the week ahead. He hopes to one day meet Tom Brady and give him that High-5 he so desperately wants. Find him on Twitter @martin12tina