Forecast 5: How Week 12 will Impact the Playoff Hunt

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

Power Rankings: Week 11

32 (32) – Oakland Raiders

The Raiders couldn’t even beat a team with their quarterback barely being able to throw.

31 (31) – Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles has been struggling with his decision making to start his career. Let’s see how he handles things after a bye week.

30 (30) – Tennessee Titans

The Titans had a shot to down the Steelers, but, as they have many times this season, failed to keep a lead a the end of the game.

29 (27) – Carolina Panthers

The Panthers didn’t look good against arguably the worst defense in the NFL. In fact, they looked pretty bad. That’s been the theme for them lately, which has dropped them from a nice first place spot to an ice-thin third place.

28 (28) – New York Jets

Michael Vick got some extra time to get ready for an opportunity for the Jets to get a winning streak going against the Bills next week.

27 (29) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lovie Smith was being very optimistic about the Bucs’ chances, being only a few game out of first place. Now sitting only two games back, things are looking better. However, The Bucs have to take advantage of this opportunity — something they haven’t been able to do yet this season.

26 (24) – Washington Redskins

Things just keep looking ugly. The offense handed the opposition plenty of extra opportunities, but the defense could only keep them at bay for so long. It looks like the Redskins will actually get to pick in the top five this time.

25 (22) – New York Giants

This Giants team now looks exactly like they did last year: Eli Manning throws as many interceptions as you can count in one hand and the defense looks bad.

24 (26) – Chicago Bears

The Bears finally got another win! It might be a little too late, though.

23 (21) – Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings had a nice chance to continue their streak against the hapless Bears, but came up short. With a very tough remaining schedule, starting with a matchup against the Packers, it’s tough to imagine the Vikings making a strong push for the playoffs.

22 (19) – New Orleans Saints

This Saints offense has been struggling, and now will miss Brandin Cooks for at least a month at the time they need him most.

21 (25) – Atlanta Falcons

After two consecutive wins, the Falcons are in first place of the NFC South. However, all four of their wins have come against division rivals. Can they make it at 6-10?

20 (23) – St. Louis Rams

The Rams keep showing us that they can beat the best of the league. This really was an impressive win over the Broncos.

19 (15) – Buffalo Bills

The Bills haven’t been able to do much lately. They are a team that relies on their defense, which couldn’t hold back the Dolphins on Thursday night, falling further down the AFC East standings.

18 (20) – Houston Texans

The Texans start under Ryan Mallet looked pretty good. They still have a good shot at making the playoffs with a very fortunate schedule: only two road games and three games against the Jaguars and Titans. This stretch will show if Mallett has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback.

17 (18) – Cincinnati Bengals

A week after having nearly the worst quarterback rating possible, Andy Dalton bounced back with a big win to keep the Bengals atop the division. Will he be able to keep it up?

16 (17) – San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers did just enough to beat the Giants, when in reality they should’ve blown them out with all of the turnovers they got. Nothing has been perfect for this team this year.

15 (16) – Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers were barely able to pull out a win against the Titans. They’ll have to be more commanding in games like they were for a little bit a few weeks ago if they want to come on top of the tightest division in the league.

14 (12) – Cleveland Browns

The Browns took a step back against the Texans after recently looking pretty good. At least Josh Gordon is coming back now, which should give them a good boost.

13 (14) – Baltimore Ravens

Right at the fist place pole, the Ravens should take advantage of their late bye week to be more ready and fresh than their opponents.

12 (10) – Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks got some players back on defense, but the team still wasn’t able to come away with a win against one of the hotter teams in the league. They really can’t get things going.

11 (11) – San Diego Chargers

The Chargers needed this win over the Raiders, but what they really need is for Phillip Rivers to be healthy for them to have any shot at anything.

10 (13) – Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are finding themselves in the thick of the deep race for the playoffs in the AFC. Wit the way Ryan Tannehill has played recently, they have a good shot at it too.

9 (9) – Detroit Lions

Matt Stafford had led his team to three consecutive game-winning drives, but not this time against the NFL-best Cardinals. This is no time to slip with the Packers running full steam right beside them.

8 (7) – Philadelphia Eagles

I’m sorry Eagles, nobody can beat the Packers right now.

7 (4) – Indianapolis Colts

The Colts can’t keep playing games with their running game completely absent. That’s why they’re in danger of dropping out of first place in favour of the Texans.

6 (6) – Dallas Cowboys

DeMarco Murray sure could use this extra rest after the workload he’s had to handle this season. The same goes for Tony Romo and his bad back. It must’ve been an extra nice bye week with the rest of the NFC East all losing.

5 (3) – Denver Broncos

What a shocking loss this is for the Broncos. It shows how much they rely on Julius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

4 (8) – Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs keep winning, and thanks to a Broncos loss they’re now tied in first place. the Chiefs will give their division rivals a good fight this year for that top spot.

3 (5) – Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are looking like the hardest team to beat right now. They may have the same record as the Lions, but their play is far apart.

2 (2) – Arizona Cardinals

Game-one under Drew Stanton as the starter was a success. They have a fairly simple recipe: Stanton just has to do enough while the defense gives him the chance to succeed.

1 (1) – New England Patriots

It’s hard to beat the Patriots because they find so many different ways to beat you. They’ll keep having to do that with their brutal upcoming schedule.

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up.

Forecast 5: Big or Bad Performances in Week 11

The 2014 NFL season has been predictably unpredictable, but one of the real standout trends of this season is the emergence of truly dominant, record-breaking individual displays week in week out. We’ve had Rodgers and Roethlisberger throwing 6 TDs in a game, Marshawn Lynch rushing for 4 TDs last week and 9 out of the opening 10 weeks of the season consisted of a 100 yard rushing performance from the Cowboys’ workhorse running back. In that spirit, this week’s Forecast 5 will be focussing on individual performances to be aware of, some will be dominant, some might even be earth-shattering and some may be a cause for concern. One thing is for sure, they will all be worth watching for one reason or another. So let’s kick off with a 4th year veteran’s first ever start in the NFL…

Ryan Mallett – Texans @ Browns
After 3 boring years acting as resident waterboy in New England behind the formidable #12, Ryan Mallett finally secured a trade to Houston to team up with former Patriots’ Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien moments before the start of the season. When Mallett takes the field on Sunday afternoon, he will be under pressure he has never experienced, how he handles this pressure will be the crucial factor. Undoubtedly, Mallett has a cannon of an arm, the deep ball was his strength in college and we did see flashes in his flittering preseason performances. Where Mallett falls down, is in the short-mid range passing accuracy arena. In essence he is the polar opposite of his mentor in New England. With Mallett focussing on the deep ball and under unusual pressure as a starting QB, Joe Hayden, whose performances are steadily improving, could be in for a big day. I fear for Mallett’s debut. Without the comfort of short, easy high percentage passes Sunday afternoon just might make him flashback to the happy days of warming the bench in Foxboro.

Prediction: HOU 14 – 24 CLE. Mallett will end the day with a TD and 2 INT, although his stats will be skewed by a large number of yards due to his deep ball prowess.

AJ Green – Bengals @ Saints
Week 10 was not a kind week for the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense as they mustered a measly 3 points against their division rivals Browns, aided by a dismal QB performance as Dalton sported a record lower QBR of 2.0. Fortunately, week 10 will be kinder to the former AFC North leading team from Ohio. A few things work in favour of their aerial attack on Sunday. 1. The game is not a primetime game, so Dalton won’t be quaking in his boots and throw up a stinker as he does each time the Bengals are in the eye of the nation. 2. The heavily invested defence of the Saints has struggled thus far, and although Drew Brees is responsible for a number of losses, their defence is part responsible too. 3. The offensive weapons are a force. With these 3 key factors, one man will benefit more than anyone else. AJ Green. Throughout his absence, Mohamed Sanu developed into a playmaker, this will draw more defensive attention away from Green than he is usually exposed to. Additionally, his health is still improving, and at least for this week, he will have a QB capable of completing more than 10 passes. The combination of these factors, married with Green’s undeniable elite ability make it inevitable that he has a monster game on Sunday.
Prediction: CIN 30 – 31 NO. The Saints will edge a tight one in New Orleans, but the star of the show will be AJ Green with multiple TDs and closing in on 200yds receiving.

Frank Gore – 49ers @ Giants
In a season-defining game last Sunday, the 49ers triumphed in overtime against the usually impenetrable fortress of the New Orleans Saints team playing in front of their home crowd. It was a game that seen the 49ers revert to their old style of play, the style of play which led them to consecutive NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. A strong, powerful and committed run game, balanced by competitive, tough and opportunistic defence is the 49ers recipe for success. Things appear to be clicking in the bay area and I expect this to continue on Sunday over the porous New York Football Giants. The Giants themselves submitted over 300 yards on the ground last week in Seattle, that’s a problem that isn’t fixed in 7 days. Harbaugh should continue to stick with a committed run game, early and often, establish the power in the game and release Frank Gore to obliterate the Giants’ defence. The 49ers gameplan, combined with the weak Giants defence pave the way for a huge game from Frank Gore this week in New York.

Prediction: SF 35 – 20 NYG. Gore will rack up over 100 yds on the ground and 3 TDs, supported by Kaepernick’s scrambling and designed runs.

Brandon Browner – Patriots @ Colts
Sunday night boasts potentially the game of the week in Indianapolis as the Colts host the Patriots in a matchup made famous by the Brady v Manning rivalry. In a matchup that pits 2 of the best offenses in the league against each other, this game will be won and lost in the air. Andrew Luck is having an outstanding season, on par to break the record for passing yards and is more than filling the massive gap left by Peyton. With such an explosive offense, the Patriots defence will have to leave everything on the field and produce their greatest performance of the season to dethrone Andrew Luck. We all know Revis will be great, but the key really lies with controversial CB Brandon Browner. This game has 2 scenarios. Either Revis will shadow TY Hilton (the Colts’ greatest threat) leaving Browner to shadow Reggie Wayne. Or both CBs will continue to stick with their side of the field (as per Browner’s experience with the Seahawks). If the former is true, both matchups lean towards the Patriots winning. Revis can cover any WR in the league, so that is no contest, whereas Wayne is a perfect match for Browner with his ageing lack of speed and bigger frame. Browner has been very successful against those types of WRs thus far. If the latter is true, this give Luck and the Colts offense the ability to mix up their formations and look for favourable matchups, this will undoubtedly lead to another 40+ points for the Indianapolis Colts. This game lies with that decision.
Prediction: NE 38 – 28 IND. Similar to the Broncos game, the Patriots will take and early lead and hold the Colts to 7 points in the first half employing the Revis-Hilton and Browner-Wayne matchups, leading to the Colts chasing the game and scoring some garbage points late on.

Martavis Bryant – Steelers @ Titans
The resurgence of the Steelers offense lately has coincided nicely with the emergence of Martavis Bryant. Bryant offers a great alternative to one of the best WRs in the league, Antonio Brown. With at least one TD in each of his last 4 games, Big Ben and the rookie wideout from Clemson must be salivating at the mouth at the thought of facing Tennessee on Sunday. The Titans are awful, even worse than the Jets who sprung a shock win last week. That won’t happen for the second week in a row. This Steelers offense can be a crushing, dominant force, I expect that ruthless, explosive style of play to return this week in the form of 40+ points and the most one-sided victory of the week.
Prediction: PIT 44 – 10 TEN. Bryant will amount for 2 of Ben’s 4 TD passes this week, continuing to be one of the most in form WRs in the NFL

Picks of the Week
Lock of the week: Steelers over Titans
Shock of the week: Rams over Broncos
Bold prediction: Packers will beat the Eagles by 25+ points

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. Fins him on Twitter @martin12tina

Power Rankings: Week 10

32 (32) – Oakland Raiders

(Insert new clever line about the winless Raiders here)

31 (31) – Jacksonville Jaguars

With all of the high draft picks the Jaguars have had in the past years, it’s surprising that they haven’t gotten any better in the past few years.

30 (29) – Tennessee Titans

The Titans aren’t looking at much hope to winning a game. At least Zach Mettenberger is getting some valuable experience in the process.

29 (27) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers’ season may be starting to travel down the tubes, but Mike Evans is playing phenomenally, which bodes well for their future.

28 (30) – New York Jets

Of all the teams to break the Steelers’ hot streak, the Jets would probably be one of the last to come to mind. The offense didn’t do too much, but when the defense come away with plenty of takeaways (more in this game than the entire season) you only need to do so much.

27 (26) – Carolina Panthers

Usually, the Panthers start there season slow and then improve. However, I don’t know if they can make those fixes this time around.

26 (24) – Chicago Bears

The Bears’ season is getting way too ugly to watch. There are just too many things wrong with the team aside from their play on the field.

25 (28) – Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons picked up their third win of the season on Sunday — their first since a Week 3 win over the Buccaneers. Too bad they can’t play Tampa Bay every week, but the good news is that the Falcons are still within an arms reach of the division race.

24 (25) – Washington Redskins

The Redskins were in this same situation two years ago: 3-6 coming out of the bye week. Last time they won the last seven games and the division. Can they do it again?

23 (23) – St. Louis Rams

If one game could be a trap for the Cardinals it could be the Rams, but the Cardinals had their number in the fourth quarter.

22 (20) – New York Giants

They were doing ok for most of the game against the Seahawks, but their frailty on defense finally caught up to them. This could be the start of a tough second half for the New York Football-Giants.

21 (22) – Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are still very much in the playoff race. The bye week now should help them stay focused on the last seven games of the season.

20 (21) – Houston Texans

This was a good time to make the switch to Ryan Mallett, who had the luxury of a bye week before his first career start.

19 (19) – New Orleans Saints

The Saints are finding hard to put together some kind of winning streak, which is keeping the door open for the rest of the division.

18 (12) – Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton was truly horrible on Thursday night, throwing for less than 100 yards and three interceptions. So much for that nice contract extension if he can’t pull it together in crunch time. Luckily, there are still six games left to prove himself.

17 (18) – San Francisco 49ers

This is by no means a simple season for the 49ers, so they’ll easily take the controversial win over the Saints, especially with a chance now to catch up to the Cardinals and Seahawks.

16 (14) – Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers broke the iron clad rule: if you don’t protect the football, you won’t win games.

15 (16) – Buffalo Bills

It’s unfortunate that Sunday’s game was determined by a big Jamaal Charles run and a fumble just before the goal-line. The Bills really have to get any win they can with the way the Patriots are playing.

14 (17) – Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens may still be sitting in last place of their division, but at 6-4 and only one-half game behind first place, every game is huge, including their recent win against the Titans.

13 (13) – Miami Dolphins

Putting aside the loss, the Dolphins will have to ride the season without left tackle Braden Albert, who has been the glue of their vastly improved offensive line. The Dolphins have a bunch of other key injuries, so it’ll be a big test for them to see if they can pull it off in the tight AFC.

12 (15) – Cleveland Browns

The Browns got a huge blowout win over the Bengals on Thursday night, and it looks like they are up to the task of competing in the toughest division this season.

11 (9) – San Diego Chargers

The Chargers have been in a rut lately. Hopefully, the bye week will recharge them.

10 (11) – Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are another team that can really use every win they can get, but what’s special about them is that they always find a different way to do it. That makes it tough on other teams to stop them.

9 (10) – Detroit Lions

The Lions finally broke down the Dolphins top-3 defense to come up with a game-winning touchdown, to keep in stride with the Packers, who also won on Sunday. It’s sure nice for them to have Calvin Johnson back for a playoff run.

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8 (8) – Kansas City Chiefs

It took the Chiefs a while to pick it up and score points against the Bills, but they won a very tough matchup. It’s hard to tell if that was a good win or not, but nonetheless, it’s a win.

7 (7) – Philadelphia Eagles

The Sanchise has begun in Philly! I also have to give props to the defense for a great game too.

6 (6) – Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys finally got back on track with a convincing win over the Jaguars in London. We’ll see if Tony Romo’s back can hold up for the erst of the season.

5 (5) – Green Bay Packers

The Packers are controlling games in a different way than the Lions. All they need to do is at least stay stride-for-stride with them for a Week 17 showdown.

4 (4) – Indianapolis Colts

The bye week didn’t come at any specifically necessary time for the Colts, but they do always take advantage of it.

3 (3) – Denver Broncos

The Broncos cruised to an easy win over the Raiders. That’s a good way to bounce back from a tough loss to the Patriots a week earlier.

2 (2) – Arizona Cardinals

With Carson Palmer coming fresh off his new contract extension, he tore his ACL in Sunday’s meeting with the Rams, but the Cardinals were still able to get the win. Sitting at 8-1 and still owing the best record in the league, will Drew Stanton be able to carry them the rest of the way?

1 (1) – New England Patriots

The Patriots are fortunate to be one of the only very good teams in the league to have their bye at this time of the season, and they’ll take advantage of it.

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Booksaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up.

Forecast 5: Week 10 QBs and Their Time to Shine

Since the NFL’s conception, change has been a constant – changes in rules, personnel changes, relocations, the list is endless. One change, or potential change, that creeps into columns and sports radio/tv shows every year is a change of QB. Who will be at the helm of each team, lauding the praise when they win and bearing the brunt of the blame when they lose? 2014 has been no different, and whether it be through injury or simply inept performances, there has been a flurry of QB changes so far with heaps of drama thrown into mix. This week I’ll be looking at 5 teams who have had a rethink, forced or otherwise, and what we can expect from QBs who have been gifted their time to shine.

Blake Bortles – Cowboys @ Jaguars

In a move that surprised nobody associated with the NFL, the Jaguars’ 1st pick in the draft (3rd overall) was thrust into the starting line-up in week 3 against the Colts. Since then, in addition to continuing his promising performances in preseason, no. 5’s outings have been littered with turnovers, mistakes and ultimately losses. Although the Jags will be encouraged by the potential Blake has shown, the mistakes, unnecessary throws and crippling pick-6’s need to be eradicated. This Sunday, Bortles will lead his team out onto the hallowed turf at Wembley, under the spotlight of 80,000 fans (of which I’ll be one) and have an opportunity to shine in as close as he’ll get to a primetime game this season (discounting the obligatory Thursday night divisional matchup in week 16. Against a Cowboys defence that has been decimated by injuries and yet over performed, Bortles will hopefully embrace the spirit of the crowd and deliver a knockout blow to Jerry Jones’ dwindling Dallas Cowboys. If a healthy Brandon Weeden is at the helm, Bortles can drive the Jags to their 2nd victory of the season as the Cowboys defence continues to show frailties in a bend-but-don’t-break system that is inching towards breaking with each passing week. Unfortunately, as Romo looks increasingly more likely to lead the Cowboys out in Wembley, The Jags may well slip to a measly, and somewhat harsh, 1-9 record.

Prediction: DAL 24 – 17 JAX. Although Romo will lead the Cowboys to victory on the back of Demarco Murray, the rookie mistakes from Bortles will be greatly reduced and the memories of London won’t quite be as nightmarish as predicted earlier in the season.

Kyle Orton – Chiefs @ Bills

As the disappointing and beleaguered EJ Manuel era came to a swift conclusion, typical journeyman Kyle Orton entered the fray in Buffalo and has led the Bills to a surprisingly impressive 5-3 record, only losing out to the Chargers, Texans and AFC-leading Patriots. Orton has found a favourite target in the extremely talented Sammy Watkins – only amplifying the inability of EJ Manuel. Watkins has been very productive and will continue to open up the field for other targets, Chandler and Woods, providing further evidence the Bills were right to mortgage their future in the explosive rookie. The Chiefs defence has been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks, giving up only 40 points in their last 3 outings. And with the efficient and improving offense led by underrated Smith, the game on Sunday will be a serious test for Buffalo. Orton should, and will, focus on the star of their offense, Watkins, who will have to carry the load and bail out the Bills running game. In the Bills’ biggest test of the season, and biggest opportunity to prove the doubters wrong and solidify themselves as true playoff contenders, Buffalo will unfortunately fall short yet again.

Prediction: KAN 27 – 24 BUF. Although individual performances will be impressive, and Kyle Orton will have another solid outing, Kansas City will be just too strong and edge a tight one in Buffalo.

Micheal Vick – Steelers @ Jets

Michael Vick’s career has looked destined to end on more than one occasion already, however after QB performances even Ryan Leaf would be embarrassed about from the enigma that is Geno Smith, Vick has been gifted another opportunity to lead the Jets out on Sunday. Fortunately for Vick, the Steelers defence has been haemorrhaging points of late and will play a large part in making Michael Vick masquerade as a functional NFL quarterback. With Percy Harvin, an incredible but frustrating talent, and the overrated yet productive Eric Decker, Vick has at least some functional weapons who he will take advantage of. By taking Shazier out of the game, Vick can keep the Jets close in New Jersey, but can he lead Gang Green to an unexpected victory over the high-flying Steelers? I doubt it. Although Ben will not throw for 6 TDs this week, that offense will still put up points. Vick will keep the score respectable but Dick LeBeau will triumph over the Jets QB and New York will succumb to a 9th defeat out of 10.

Prediction: PIT 30 – 24 NYJ. Vick will litter Harvin with targets, fuelling a 100 yd receiving game for the polarising figure on the way to yet another loss in the 2014 season.

Mark Sanchez – Panthers @ Eagles

Mark Sanchez’s career looked all but over as he was ran out of New York chased all the way to Philadelphia by every Jets fan, much to the dismay of the rest of the AFC East. Since then, Sanchez has proved himself a capable QB, playing impressively in preseason and effortlessly defeating Matt Barkley for the backup QB position in Philadelphia. With Nick Foles out for up to 8 weeks, Sanchez has the opportunity to ride the Eagles train to the playoffs and go some way to eradicating the memory of the infamous butt fumble from his career. With Foles’ discouraging first half of the season in the bag, the Eagles are still 5-3 and sit atop the NFC East. If Sanchez could lead the Jets to the AFC Championship game, TWICE, then he is more than capable of leading the Eagles, a team with greater talent, superior coaching and an easier division, to the post season. Sanchez will begin his reign in Philadelphia with a comfortable victory over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers’ front 7 has been among the most disappointing units in the league and if given time, Sanchez will pick apart the defence and begin another QB controversy in Philadelphia.

Prediction: CAR 19 – 28 PHI. In a surprisingly efficient performance, Sanchez will lead the Eagles to victory on the back of 250+ yds, 2 TDs and 0 picks, immersing LeSean McCoy into the offense in a way Foles has struggled to thus far.

Cam Newton – Panthers @ Eagles

This game has both QB’s looking to impress from very different situations. As I mentioned above, Sanchez gets his opportunity due to Foles injury. For Cam it’s a little different, he was showing great promise as a pocket passer earlier in the season after his ankle surgery as he was forced to try and win with his arm. In the last few weeks, his running has come back but his accuracy, in particular on Thursday night football against the Saints was wildly off. This should be a chance for him to improve his passing and also get his yards on the ground. I still think the team comes up short, but Cam will have a solid outing and start to get into a rhythm passing the ball.

Predictions: CAR 19 – 28 PHI. The team will come up short, but Cam will rush for over 40 yeads and Throw for 2 TDs and over 250 yards passing. A bit improvement on recent weeks.

Picks of the Week

Lock of the week: Broncos over Raiders

Shock of the week: Bears over Packers

Bold prediction: SF @ NO will be the lowest scoring game of the weekend

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

OTI Full Slate: Week 10 Preview

A little less emphasis will be put on the game picks this week as intend to break down some of the major plot points of the season and give you my thoughts on the end of year awards. Plus how can I not react to the awesome news that the Wembley games next year will feature a divisional game!

Yes the Jets Vs Dolphins game isn’t maybe the sexist divisional game that could be played, 49ers Seahawks, Packers Bears and Ravens Steelers would all be more intriguing, but it doesn’t sidetrack from the major point here, a divisional game!

These games can always have huge implications on playoff standings and divisional rankings, but the rivalry and bragging rights always mean more to fans. And I hope that many Jets and Dolphins fans turn up to the game and make it an intense atmosphere with booing, shouting, singing and everything else that can be brought on by rivalry.

Also playing back to back games is a real step towards a team in London, but I like many more people still have problems with a team in London, but I absolutely cannot wait until next year. For now though let’s focus on this season and whose stood out.

2014 MVP: Andrew Luck and it isn’t even close. Yes Brady, Manning and the usual suspects can put up a very impressive resume I’m going with Andrew Luck. His offense has exploded this year and yes it is his offense, make shift O-line and a useless run game have forced Pep Hamilton to realise “hey I got a great QB here”.

Offensive Player of the year: Demarco Murray. This man has been exceptional in every game apart from the Cardinals game, were he had Weeden under centre. Golden Tate crossed my mind because his filled in a great void in Detroit but Murray is unstoppable. Antonio Brown gets a mention to.

Defensive Player of the year: JJ Watt and Von Miller tied. I think Watt has dominated this year and has looked like the best NFL player, but Millers come back from ACL surgery and his own dominance has forced him into the conversation and I think they both deserve it.

Coach of the year: Bruce Arians. Anyone remember when we all thought the Cardinals would fall apart due to injury and suspensions. Well even if they finish 12-4 or 11-5 Arians deserves this title for the 2nd time in 3 years.

Now to the Games:

San Francisco 49ers 20 @ New Orleans Saints 23:

Teams who are desperate for the win are always very dangerous and I would caution that even though the Saints are great at home a win is anything but certain. But I think they will win but it’s going to be one hell of a watch.

Atlanta Falcons 30 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10:

This is going to be one hell of a drab game, but if the Falcons win and the Saints lose just remember they will only one game back. Josh McCown won’t make the team any better and if Lovie Smith is there next year I’ll be shocked, because I wouldn’t want him bringing through my next young QB.

Dallas Cowboys 24 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 21:

Wembley may not get the opportunity to see Tony Romo play but the run game should be able to help the Cowboys over the line against the Jags, but they seem to be becoming a frisky team and may just be able to pull out a win.

Pittsburgh Steelers 35 @ New York Jets 17:

The Jets have severely struggled to punch the ball in once they reach the red zone, unlike the very in form opponents. Big Ben and Brown could have another big week and I would definitely start them in your fantasy team.

Tennessee Titans 13 @ Baltimore Ravens 27:

The Titans are doing the right thing by given their rookies as much playing time as they can, a move the Raiders should do as well. But the Ravens need to desperately bounce back in the most competitive division in football. The loss of Jimmy Smith is going to hurt for a long time.

Kansas City Chiefs 20 @ Buffalo Bills 17:

Whoever loses this is most likely not going to be one of the AFC Wildcard teams. The pass rush ability of both teams is going to dictate the game, and Buffalo is going to struggle to win if Sammy Watkins isn’t on the field. I think Kansas has more offensively and wins.

Miami Dolphins 20 @ Detroit Lions 23:

A very underrated game this week, and it features two of the bets D-lines in the NFL. Wake is a beast and Vernon is emerging instead of Dion Jordon. But the Lions are at home which I think gives them the slight edge but the form the Dolphins are in I wouldn’t but it past them.

Denver Broncos 42 @ Oakland Raiders 13:

The Raiders could not be playing the Broncos at a shoddier time, the Broncos are going to play angry, fast and powerful, Miller is going to be hunting and Manning will be slinging. The Raiders have looked so much better recently and might not finish 0-16 but not this week.

St Louis Rams 17 @ Arizona Cardinals 27:

The Rams as mentioned in previous posts are so frisky when playing in division and they have to find a way to win outside it and they can be competitive. But Arizona just keep winning and I love it for so many reasons, and I truly believe they could have won with Palmer in Denver.

New York Giants 12 @ Seattle Seahawks 30:

The Giants aren’t going to score a Touchdown this week, Seattle needs to keep up the pressure on the Cardinals but they looked so inept last week on offense and it has to worry so many fans especially if they have to win on the road in the playoffs.

Chicago Bears 24 @ Green Bay Packers 38:

I do love these games when they come around because Packer fans are so creative in their abuse of the Bears. Important to watch Rodgers hamstring in this game as they can take a while to feel 100% again, but the pass rush of the Bears is so bad I expect him to not do much running.

Carolina Panthers 17 @ Philadelphia Eagles 23:

Sanchez is back and I think his going to do ok because the Panthers can’t stop the run and all he has to do is feed it to McCoy and he should be golden. Like the Falcons the Panthers might expect New Orleans to lose so they’ll still be within a shout of the division.

This OTI Piece was written by David Ironmonger. David hails from London, England. He has been a New Orleans Saints fan since watching them grace the Wembley Stadium Turf. He enjoys many sports, football (our version), cricket, rugby and golf. You can let him know your feedback on Twitter @NFLbritview & you can also view his personal blog NFL Brit View .

Power Rankings: Week 9

32 (32) – Oakland Raiders

One step close to 0-16…

31 (31) – Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars finally had another good game offensively, but the defense had no answer for Bengals running back Jeremy Hill. We’ll see if the London air can help them grab their second win of the season.

30 (30) – New York Jets

Michael Vick, experiment one: The Jets couldn’t amass much offense against the Chiefs, one of the better defenses in the league, but Vick completed 75 percent of his passes and didn’t throw any interceptions. They’ll continue with “experiment two” next week.

29 (29) – Tennessee Titans

The Titans won’t have an easy time making a playoff run, sitting at 2-6, but they are only three games out of a playoff spot.

28 (28) – Atlanta Falcons

With a slim chance of making a comeback, aa second meeting next week with the Buccaneers is a good start.

27 (27) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs were almost able to nab their second win of the season against the Surprising Browns, but fell short. At least next week they’ll have a chance to get revenge on the Falcons, who embarrassed them to a near 50-point shutout on a Thursday night in front of the whole nation.

26 (23) – Carolina Panthers

The Panthers defense is well short of how good they were last season, and the offense is not built to lead this team — hence the slide.

25 (22) – Washington Redskins

It was a Jekyll and Hyde day for the Redskins. In the first half, the defense played lights out once again, but in the second half they were constantly beat for touchdowns, forcing the offense to keep trying to get back the lead.

24 (24) – Chicago Bears

The Bears have been quickly tumbling down the hill lately. Hopefully the bye week will stop that momentum and kickstart a turnaround, if it isn’t too late.

23 (26) – St. Louis Rams

The Rams are 3-5 right now and have beaten some pretty good teams. Just imagine how much better they could be if they had a quarterback.

22 (25) – Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings defense has been much improved behind new head coach Mike Zimmer. Now, heading into the bye sitting at 4-5, they’re still in it.

21 (18) – Houston Texans

The Texans are now sitting at 4-5 and head coach Bill O’Brien said that he’ll “evaluate the quarterback position.” They don’t really have any better options than Fitzpatrick at this point, and they still have a shot at the playoffs.

20 (15) – New York Giants

The Giants are now having to deal with another big loss to the defense, as now cornerback Prince Amukamara is likely out for the rest of the season. The Giants may have to play high-scoring shootouts for the rest of the season.

19 (20) – New Orleans Saints

The Saints are starting to hit a stride and look to be front-runners in the NFC South after the Panthers’ recent descent.

18 (10) – San Francisco 49ers

It was a controversial end to Sunday’s game against the Rams, but regardless, it’s counted as a loss, which put a nice little dent in the 49ers playoff run.

17 (13) – Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens stood no chance against the hottest offense in the league with their top cornerback, Jimmy Smith, out with an injury.

16 (19) – Buffalo Bills

The Bills have had a great start to their season, sitting at 5-3 right in the thick of the playoff race. Let’s see what kind of adjustments they made for the second half of their season to make the leap.

15 (17) – Cleveland Browns

The Browns just keep winning. On Thursday night they have a huge matchup with the division-leader Bengals and could really use the win. The Browns are only 1-2 in their division.

14 (21) – Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense is an unstoppable force right now, and with a fair easy remaining schedule, I could see them losing five games maximum this season.

13 (16) – Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are a perfect example of a dark horse team. Both their offense and defense are ranked near the top of the league in the major ranking categories, and if Ryan Tannehill continues to play well they’ll be very tough to beat.

12 (12) – Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals ground game had no trouble despite the absence of Gio Bernard, as rookie Jeremy Hill drove them to another win — a much-needed win in the very tight race for the AFC North.

11 (11) – Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks keep coming away with close wins, thanks to an abundance of injuries, but come playoff time (if they make it), I’d imagine that they’ll be close to their old ways.

10 (9) – Detroit Lions

The Lions have been playing very well this season, but the second half wont be easy. The next three games are against teams with a combined 19-6 record, while the Packers’ second half starts against a 13-12 record in that same span.

9 (6) – San Diego Chargers

The Chargers need to pick themselves up immediately. They were playing to well in the first six games to go on with this three-game skid. The Raiders game next week is perfect timing.

8 (14) – Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are 5-1 over the last six games, including a dismantling of the Patriots. Halloween just passes, but BEWARE!

7 (8) – Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles don’t seem to have the best luck with health to their quarterbacks, as Nick Foles is set to miss 4-6 weeks, but Mark Sanchez did enough in his relief to secure the win for the Eagles against the Texans.

6 (4) – Dallas Cowboys

After a hot start, the Cowboys suddenly dropped two in a row. The Cowboys may be able to get Tony Romo(’s back) back next week in London against the Jaguars, which would be a big relief.

5 (5) – Green Bay Packers

The bye week should’ve been helpful to avoid a slump after a bad loss to the Saints a couple of weeks ago.

4 (7) – Indianapolis Colts

One thing that’s good about the Colts is that most of the time they can rely on the offense being able to produce a lot when the defense gives up a good amount of points.

3 (1) – Denver Broncos

One team the Broncos can’t seem to beat in the regular season is the Patriots. That leaves both of their losses at the hands of two of the better teams in the NFL. Can the Broncos beat the tough teams?

2 (3) – Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals were fortunate to face Brandon Weeden instead of a Tony Romo-led Cowboys, but they still played as well as they usually do, keeping DeMarco Murray under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. sitting alone at 7-1, the Cardinals are the team to beat.

1 (2) – New England Patriots

The Patriots look unbeatable right now. The Bills and the Dolphins look good in their division, but they’re still a few steps behind New England.

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Booksaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up.

 

Forecast 5: Quickfire Week 9 Predictions

Since the first 8 weeks of the 2014 NFL season have flown by quicker than Oscar Pistorious running away from prison, an appropriate article this week would be 5 x 5 quickfire predictions for the upcoming week. Looking at 5 of the biggest games this Sunday (and Thursday), I’ll try to pin down exactly what will happen in the most unpredictable league in the world, focusing on some massive matchups this week, including, of course, episode 16 of Brady vs. Manning.

Saints @ Panthers on TNF

  1. After an impressive and surprising performance last week, the Panthers defence will slip back into their early season form succumb to the Saints offense, giving up at least 4 TDs
  2. Mark Ingram will lead the way with 100yds on the ground and a couple of TDs
  3. Kelvin Benjamin will continue his outstanding rookie season with another TD against the much-maligned Saints defence
  4. Cam Newton will rush for a pair of TDs but his day will be tainted by inconsistent passing and turnovers at home, gifting possessions and ultimately points to the dangerous Drew Brees
  5. Speaking of Brees –he’ll have a modest game playing with short field position and taking advantage of a dominant performance on the ground

Score Prediction: NO 31 – 24 CAR. The Saints are on a high after their big win of the Pack and will battle for their first road win of the year

Cardinals @ Cowboys

  1. The Cowboys outrageously over-achieving defence will continue their impressive season, holding the Cardinals under 20 points
  2. Tony Romo will give in to Jerry Jones’ taunts and play hurt on Sunday after suffering a back injury in the shock defeat to the Redskins
  3. Demarco Murray will achieve his 9th consecutive 100 yard rushing performance, carrying the load for a struggling Romo behind the dominant offensive line (on the ground)
  4. Carson Palmer will throw for his usual 300+ yds with a couple of TDs and an interception returned for a score
  5. Larry Fitzgerald will prove his week 8 numbers were a one off by recording less than 4 catches in week 9

Score Prediction: ARI 17 – 14 DAL. The Cowboys will fall to their second straight loss but a valiant effort will keep their season on the right path

Broncos @ Patriots (Manning vs. Brady)

  1. Sunday night’s showdown will be another battle of the ages, the hype will be justified and the fans will rejoice in witnessing another explosive, tight and dramatic episode of probably the greatest QB rivalry in the history of the NFL
  2. Peyton will take advantage of a malingering Patriots pass rush and spread the ball seamlessly with over 75% completion percentage…but with turnovers in the cold, crisp climate
  3. Brady will be once again outstanding in the predicted cold weather of Foxboro and throw for 1 more TD and at least 50 more yards than Manning
  4. As the 4th quarter clock counts down, the teams will be separated by only a couple of points
  5. Lady luck will be shining over the Patriots in this one as they win the turnover battle (helped by not having Stevan Ridley on the field this year) and emerge triumphant at Gilette Stadium

Score Prediction: DEN 27 – 30 NE. Brady will deliver only the Broncos’ 2nd loss of the season and set up another enticing post season encounter

Ravens @ Steelers

  1. This will not marry to the one-sided matchup in week 2 and will come down to the 4th quarter in a typically tight AFC North battle
  2. Although typically tight, this game will be an atypically high-scoring affair between the 2 franchises, combining for over 50 points
  3. Big Ben will continue where he left off with 3 TDs on Sunday, appearing to have turn the corner on their previously inability to convert their impressive offensive performances into points
  4. CJ Mosely will continue his fine form and sack the big QB a couple of times
  5. Baltimore will fail again in a chance to take some control over the AFC North, allowing this to remain as the most fascinating division in football

Score Prediction: BAL 20 – PIT 31. The Steelers will improve to 6-3 on the back of Big Ben to take sole lead of a very tight AFC North

Colts @ Giants

  1. After the week 8 masterclass in how not to defend the pass, the Indianapolis Colts will take a large step in the right direction, holding Eli under 200 yards and only 1 TD
  2. The ground game will be the key to the Giants staying close in this one, with 2 TDs on the ground
  3. Manning will throw a season low 22 passes but with high completion percentage in a return to the new system as per weeks 3 through 5
  4. Luck himself will once again throw for 300+ yards and a couple of TDs, continuing his bid to be the NFL’s leading passer in 2014
  5. Despite also throwing for a couple of turnovers, the Colts will triumph with T Y Hilton stealing all the accolades

Score Prediction: IND 28 – 24 NYG. The Colts will ride this win to extend their lead atop the AFC South while the Giants surrender further ground in the NFC East

Picks of the Week

Lock of the Week: 49ers over Rams

Shock of the Week: Jets over Chiefs

Bold Prediction: JJ Watt will record 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles

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

Power Rankings: Week 8

32 (32) – Oakland Raiders

I don’t think the Raiders have have a great chance of winning a game this year. Their best chance is against the Rams in Week 13, the only team on their schedule not above .500.

31 (31) – Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles has thrown 12 interceptions and lost three fumbles this season in only six games, including three interceptions in the team’s only win. Bortles hasn’t been learning from his mistakes, and he has to start doing that in order to make progress, but it wont be that easy. In Sunday’s game against the Dolphins it looked like he was slow processing the offense.

30 (29) – New York Jets

Geno Smith was as bad as can be on Sunday, starting the game 2-8 for 5 yards and 3 interceptions, before getting benched. Let’s see what Michael Vick can do for the remainder of the season with some practice with the first-team.

29 (30) – Tennessee Titans

Zach Mettenberger’s stats show that he had a pretty decent first start, but it really wasn’t anything more than an average first-start for a rookie. Nearly all of his passes were 10 yards and shorter, including passes behind the line of scrimmage, going 24-28 in that region. He was 5-16 in the rest of the field. We’ll see how good he does when he actually has to make something happen.

28 (26) – Atlanta Falcons

It had looked like the Falcons would finally get a big win, but their fourth quarter defense failed them once again. They’re still only 1.5 games out of first place, but that barely makes things less gloomy for the coaching staff.

27 (27) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It was an unfortunate overtime loss for the Bucs, who can’t seem to get everything right just once this season.

26 (25) – St. Louis Rams

The Rams couldn’t keep things interesting for too long, having gotten romped 34-7 by the hands of the Chiefs. Now they suffered another couple of devastating season-ending injuries to Jake Long and Brian Quick.

25 (28) – Minnesota Vikings

Rookie linebacker Anthony came up big on a fumble-six, if you will, in overtime to get the Vikings a much needed win. This was the first of a three-game stretch of winnable games fort eh Vikings, and they barely just came out with the first. We’ll see how they can fare against the Redskins and Bears in the next two weeks.

24 (23) – Chicago Bears

The Bears are not doing well now. After the defense got dismantled by the Patriots, it doesn’t seem like they’re getting back on track this season.

23 (22) – Carolina Panthers

The defense went back to playing well after giving up 37 points in four of the last five games, but the offense was only able to come away with a few field goals, and now the Panthers have been sprung from first place.

22 (24) – Washington Redskins

The Redskins played an excellent football game all-around, especially on defense, to take down the Cowboys, one of the hottest teams in the league. The defense created so much pressure on Tony Romo and the two young cornerbacks made plays all game and contained two tough receivers in Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams. That’s two wins in a row for the Redskins. Could it be the start of a run?

21 (21) – Pittsburgh Steelers

There was no stopping Big Ben on Sunday (40-49, 522 yards, 6 TDs, 150.6 QBR). It’s hard to tell where this game came from, but the Steelers sure could use the momentum from this one.

20 (20) – New Orleans Saints

The Saints finally broke stride, and Drew Brees had an interception-less game to suddenly hop into first place of the NFC South. Next week at Carolina is a huge game for both teams.

19 (19) – Buffalo Bills

The Bills defense facing Geno Smith: easy. They really took the pressure off of Kyle Orton, who only had to toss 17 passes, and he still threw four touchdowns. They’re looking forward to the rematch in four weeks.

18 (18) – Houston Texans

Arian Foster had a field day against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. He’s a prime candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, and when he has a good game the Texans roll.

17 (17) – Cleveland Browns

The Browns didn’t have a good game, only pulling away from the Raiders in the fourth quarter in a low-scoring field goal-full start, but at least they got the win. Now they’re sitting at 4-3 only on-half of a game out of first place.

16 (16) Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins offense didn’t play as well as it has been, but the defense took advantage of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, getting two pick-sixes, to lead the team to a win. Those two interceptions were really the difference in the 14-point game. It’ll be nice if the Dolphins can rely on their defense more often as they did on Sunday.

15 (14) – New York Giants

The Giants are not only fortunate enough to have their bye week before a tough four-game stretch agains the Colts, Seahawks, 49ers, and Cowboys, but that the bye gives them needed relief after a big loss to the Eagles and a falling to the Cowboys. The loss of Jon Beason will hurt this defense.

14 (15) – Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are really starting to pick up steam. After beating the first place Chargers last week and controlling the Rams on Sunday, they’re making things interesting in the AFC West.

13 (10) – Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco has been on fire lately, but he really took a step back against the divisional rival Bengals, throwing two interceptions and only completing half of his passes. They were still close as the defense and the run game keep them in it, but when Flacco plays well, the entire does is good.

12 (13) – Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals barely came away with a win over the Ravens, but it was a big win. the Bengals are sitting in first place of the AFC North, but the standings are very close as the last place Browns are only one-half of a game behind them. So this divisional win will be important down the stretch.

11 (12) – Seattle Seahawks

While the Seahawks got the win on Sunday, the team is still troubled in multiple ways. They barely beat a team that has been struggling, and there seems to be a big rift in the locker room.

10 (11) – San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are heading into the easier part of the second half of their season, where they face teams with a combined record of 11-18 before finishing off the season with games against the Seahawks, Chargers, and Cardinals. If the can win more than half of the next four games it’ll really help their chances down the stretch.

9 (9) – Detroit Lions

The Lions waiting until the second half to play the way they normally do in a last-second victory against the Falcons. It was bad that they went down and couldn’t score at all in the first half against a team in a huge rut, and the Lions wouldn’t have been able to comeback in a game like that against almost any other team in the league.

8 (8) – Philadelphia Eagles

The basic mistakes were the things that hurt the Eagles: they turned over the ball, the had 11 penalties, and the secondary gave up two 75+-yard touchdowns. When the Eagles cut down on those mistakes they play really well.

7 (6) – Indianapolis Colts

As good as the Colts offense was on Sunday — scoring 34 points — their defense, which has two of the better cornerbacks in the league, had no chance of stopping Ben Roethlisberger’s hot hand.

6 (4) – San Diego Chargers

The Chargers had too many injuries in the secondary to withstand the Broncos’ offense. That’s now two losses in a row against division teams. they Chargers need to get back on track next week against the Dolphins.

5 (3) – Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers turned into this season’s Drew Brees on Sunday night against the Saints, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Hopefully, this doesn’t turn into a slump.

4 (1) – Dallas Cowboys

DeMarco Murray had another great game statistically, but other than that nothing went quite right for the Cowboys. The Redskins defense caused a bunch of turnovers and nearly had a couple more, got their hands on a lot of passes, and the pass rush confused Tony Romo all game to the point where his back hurt him on a free hit. Hopefully the snow ball stops rolling now before it gets too big.

3 (7) – Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have a recipe for success: a strong run defense, not throwing interceptions, and not missing field goals.

2 (5) – New England Patriots

Tom Brady and the Patriots offense cruised to an easy win over the Bears. Now, sitting pretty at 6-2, the crushing loss to the Chiefs is way in the back of everyone’s minds.

1 (2) – Denver Broncos

The Broncos are playing lights out now — even better than last season. Now that’s a high bar.

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Booksaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up.

Forecast 5 – True Tests of Week 8

As we edge nearer to the midway point of the season, teams are beginning to show their hand, the early season shocks have started to subside and an accurate picture of the overall winners and losers of the 2014 NFL season is beginning to come to fruition. Week 8 hosts a number of key matchups that will give us a much clearer view of who is really here to stay as elite members of the NFL, and who is masquerading as a success thus far. So let’s take a look at some of the true tests the NFL has in store in week 8.

Chargers @ Broncos

The San Diego Chargers could be 7-0 right now, if not for 2 narrow defeats to tough opponents in weeks 1 and 7. Philip Rivers is a front-runner for MVP, their receiving core has stepped up instead of relying on the impressing wide-out Keenan Allen as per last season and Branden Oliver has taken over the RB reigns seamlessly with a few Sproles-esque performances. Unfortunately for San Diego, they face a tremendously tough trip to Colorado on Thursday night to take on their division rivals and the best team in football, the Denver Broncos. Still flying high off the record breaking night last Sunday, Peyton and his outrageously talented offense will come out guns blazing, looking to avenge a shock defeat last year on a similar Thursday night prime time platform. If the Chargers are to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders, they need to show up Thursday night. They need to battle. And they need to stick with the Broncos until the bitter end. The Chargers defence has faltered in recent weeks leading to some doubt over their credibility as a championship worthy team. However, in a nationally televised game against the best offense in the league, a battling performance by the defence and yet another stellar performance on offense will cement the Chargers as true contenders for the Vince Lombardo trophy. They don’t need to win…they just need to battle, execute and prove to the world they can hang with the best.

Prediction: SD 27 – 31 DEN. The Chargers will be able to hold their heads high after a narrow defeat to Denver as Rivers once again steals the show with 3 TD passes in this aerial bout.

Ravens @ Bengals

After firing out of the blocks in the first 3 weeks, all the way to the top of many “expert’s” power rankings, the Cincinnati Bengals are winless in their last 3 games. Without their elite threat at WR in the form of AJ Green (crucially sidelined with a toe injury), the Bengals offense has really struggled, and the wavering attempts from their talented defence to stop any opposing team is not helping Andy Dalton and the offense out in the slightest. On Sunday they play host to a very impressive Ravens side, a team who have dominated the past few weeks and resurgences from the Smith “Bros” have helped them along the way…and also, thankfully, helped erase any memory of Ray Rice! If the Bengals are to be taken seriously, they need to prove they are not a one-man team who goes winless without their superstar wide-out, in addition to proving they can win in primetime but that’s a whole other issue. Unfortunately, the Ravens appear to be too strong for the weak Bengals defence and with rookie stars like CJ Mosely facing off against perennial bottler Andy Dalton, another defeat for the Bengals creeps over the horizon this Sunday. Steve Smith will continue with another ageless performance, Torrey Smith will draw his weekly pass interferences setting up great field position and Flacco will put the final nail in the coffin of the Bengal’s dream start to the season.

Preditcion: CIN 14 – 28 BAL. The game will be much more one-sided than the score line suggests as the Bengals stutter to their 4th game without a win.

Bears @ Patriots

Gilette Stadium in Foxboro hosts 2 deeply confusing teams this Sunday at 1pm E.T. The New England Patriots have begun to look like the Patriots of old following 3 straight victories taking their season total to a 5-2 record and sole place atop the AFC East. However, none of the victories so far have been against an elite team, and with injuries continuing to ravage the team (add Chandler Jones to Stevan Ridley and Jerod Mayo to name a few) the elation from 3 straight victories looks to be wavering slightly. On Sunday, the Bears come to town as the league’s most frustrating, primarily down to Jay Cutler’s rollercoaster season, and confusing team due to their 0-4 home record and 3-0 away record. As the stats show, Jay Cutler and the Bears are a totally different team away from Chicago and will be facing off against a depleted Pats defence with zero run-stopping capabilities, enter Matt Forte, one of the league’s most dynamic running backs. On their day, the Chicago offense can score points, and lots of them with an incredible receiving core and a QB with a cannon of an arm. However, Tom Brady and the Patriots still have something left in the tank and can score points at will too with the unstoppable Gronk, ever-reliable Edelman and emerging LaFell. This sets up the game on Sunday to be an explosive bout between 2 offensive juggernauts. Expect points galore in an old-fashioned shootout as the Patriots edge a tight one in Foxboro.

Prediction: CHI 31 – 34 NE. With Revis eliminating Marshall from the game, Matt Forte will have a career-day, but it will not be enough to stop the Patriots going 6-2 as Brady continues his fine form since the drubbing in Kansas City.

Bills @ Jets

The Buffalo Bills have been a surprise package in the NFL this season and look to be well on their way to a disgustingly rare winning season. A change at WB has brought stability to a franchise often in disarray. Orton is getting the best from Sammy Watkins and the defence continues to be stout. If the Bills are legit and want to be respected league-wide, they need to knock off teams like the Jets, the games they are expected to win. Buffalo have had solid, and even good, half season before, but never seem to be able to continue it down the stretch. They undoubtedly can win on Sunday, and with Watkins as an explosive weapon combined with the stingy defence, they should continue their strong run of form and still be snapping on the heels of the Patriots come Sunday night. The Jets showed a hint of revival last week, but even the addition of Percy Harvin isn’t enough to turn their season around.

Prediction: BUF 21 – 7 NYJ. The Bills will climb to 5-3 as Geno Smith returns to his erratic, turnover-fuelled ways.

Raiders @ Browns

Before you panic, I’m not saying the Raiders have a true test on Sunday to see if they are legitimate playoff contenders…this true test is for one Raider only, Derek Carr. Carr has had a solid start to the season and has already demonstrated he can be lightyears better than his elder brother. One problem persists though, the Raiders are still WINLESS. It is all well and good proving you have potential and showing flashes of composure and great talent, but at some point you have to win a game. The Browns came crashing back to Earth on Sunday against the previously winless Jags and host Carr and the Raiders on Sunday. If Carr wants to improve, develop and be considered a good NFL QB, he needs to win games, and needs to start winning at least a couple of games soon. His first win will come Sunday in Cleveland, giving the Oakland faithful some dangerous hope. And when Carr walks into the dog pound and leaves victorious, expect a big boost in his confidence which will be translated down the stretch in the form of a few more wins.

Prediction: OAK 24 – 17 CLE. Carr will throw for 1 and rush for 1 TD on Sunday, delivering a sickening second loss in a row against winless teams for the Browns

Picks of the Week:

Lock of the Week – Cowboys over Redskins

Shock of the Week – Jags over Dolphins

Bold Prediction – Jonny Football will be called into the game to take over from a faltering Hoyer

This article was written by Martin Thomson. Martin is from Newcastle, England. In addition to being a huge Newcastle United fan; he experiences a lot 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.