NO (4-5) @ CAR (3-6) | THU 8:25 PM ET | NBC / NFL NETWORK / TWITTER
This Thursday Night Football game on NBC is a critical NFC South matchup between the Saints and Panthers. The first time these two teams played each other, the Saints won 41-38 in a shootout at the Superdome; Drew Brees torched the Panthers for 465 yards and four touchdowns. After blowing a 14-point lead last week at home against the Chiefs, this is basically a must-win for the Panthers. Carolina needs to bounce back behind their home crowd in primetime. The Saints need to bounce back themselves after a heartbreaking home loss on a blocked extra-point. I’m not sure the Panthers can guard Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, and Willie Snead, which could mean the end of their season comes Thursday night.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
PIT (4-5) @ CLE (0-10) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
The Steelers have been one of the biggest disappointments this season, but they are still just one game back in the AFC North. After looking like they stole one at home last week against Dallas with a fake spike touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, Dak Prescott led the Cowboys right down the field and Ezekiel Elliott finished it off. The Browns were in the game last week against the Ravens on TNF, but Hue Jackson decided to pull quarterback Cody Kessler and replace him with Josh McCown, even though the Browns were leading 7-6 at the half. Kessler had 91 yards and a touchdown, and his replacement had 59 yards and three turnovers. The Ravens eventually won 28-7; Cleveland is going back to Kessler this week. Hopefully he didn’t lose his confidence after the benching.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
BAL (5-4) @ DAL (8-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
With the Patriots loss last week, Dallas is now the only one-loss team in the NFL. The offense is rolling behind Dak and Zeke, but this will be their toughest opponent yet. Baltimore has allowed the least total yards per game in the league, the least rushing yards per game in the league, and fifth least passing yards per game in the league, and are the allowing the third least points per game. With Balitmore allowing a league-low 3.3 yards per carry, Elliott will have his work cut out for him. Even after his lauded concession statement this week, Tony Romo being healthy enough to play could put some pressure on Prescott; we’ll see how he handles it. Since cornerback Jimmy Smith looking unlikely to play, and because the game is in Dallas, I’ll take the Cowboys to get to 9-1.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
JAC (2-7) @ DET (5-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Quarterback play has dropped off so much from last season that Gus Bradley had to again state that Blake Bortles is the quarterback earlier this week. With years of losing and broken mechanics for the former #3 overall pick, something needs to change in Jacksonville. The offensive line isn’t great, but with Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas, and two good running backs, Bortles deserves much of the blame. It’s fair to wonder whether the Jags will draft a quarterback if they get a high pick this year. The Lions do have a quarterback, and are suddenly atop the NFC North with the Vikings losing four in a row and the Packers looking completely lost. I think Detroit will have the defense playing better coming out of the bye week, which should take the pressue off Matthew Stafford and the offense.
Winner: Detroit Lions
TEN (5-5) @ IND (4-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
I was critical of the Titans decision to keep Mike Mularkey and to have a smash-mouth offense with Marcus Mariota at quarterback, but it’s working so far, especially last week. Mariota is an emerging superstar and showed it last week with 295 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers. The second-year quarterback has a career 40:18 touchdown-interception ratio. Andrew Luck and the Colts got a big win in Week 9 against the Packers, and should be healed up from their bye week. Frank Gore had shown no signs of slowing down in his age-33 season, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Hopefully Mariota and Luck stay in the AFC South until they’re both in their 30s; it could turn into the next Brady-Manning type rivalry.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
BUF (4-5) @ CIN (3-5-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The Bills started 0-2, won four straight, and now have lost three in a row. The almost upset the Seahawks in Seattle on Monday Night Football two weeks ago, but some questionable officiating may have cost them (what else is new for the Seahawks?). Tyrod Taylor and the offense should do fine against the Bengals bad pass defense. Cincinnati couldn’t get a win in New York on Monday night, but are still in the AFC North race, despite having just three wins. The Bengals need to win this one or the tie could come back to haunt them as they try to keep up with the Ravens and Steelers.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
TB (4-5) @ KC (7-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
They didn’t look good for most of the game, but Kansas City made plays at the end and stole one last week in Carolina. They are in first place in the loaded AFC West, and Andy Reid should have them ready for the Bucs instead of looking ahead to the Broncos for Week 12. Reid is 38-19 in his fourth season with Kansas City; remember, he took over a 2-14 team. He could find his way to Canton when it’s all said and done. Tampa Bay just won by 26 against the Bears, but it’s going to be tough to pull a win out at Arrowhead. The Chiefs should force Jameis Winston to make some mistakes on Sunday.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
CHI (2-7) @ NYG (6-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
There seemed like a chance the Bears could turn their season around after taking it to the Vikings on Halloween, but last week dashed any hopes of that. If not for a Hail Mary at the end of the first half, Chicago would have ended up with three points for the game. Rookie running back Jordan Howard is about all that’s working for the Bears, as he leads all rookies in yards per carry (5.3). Yes, that’s more than Ezekiel Elliott (5.1). The problem is, Kyle Long is now out for the year, and Alshon Jeffrey is suspened for four games. At least they have their running back of the future? The Giants are a quiet 6-3 and also have a win over Dallas in the NFC East, but I think they are bound to fall off. New York is the only team in the division with a negative point differential this season. Chicago gets the upset this week.
Winner: Chicago Bears
ARI (4-4-1) @ MIN (5-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
If you don’t have an offensive line, it’s impossible to win in the NFL. The Vikings offensive line is in shambles, and it’s the main reason they’re on a four-game losing streak after starting 5-0. Pat Shurmer as the offensive coordinator has been a boost to the Sam Bradford and the offense, but Minnesota has no running game to speak of. The Cardinals will try to put a stop to Stefon Diggs’ hot two-game stretch with 13 catches in both games by putting Patrick Peterson on him. With Carson Palmer’s play falling off a cliff, Arizona could be a good destination for Tony Romo next season. With all their struggles, the Vikings still the the league’s top scoring defense. Look for Cordarrelle Patterson to make an impact with Diggs occupying PP21.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
MIA (5-4) @ LA (4-5) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX
Something is cooking in Miami. The Dolphins have won four games in a row, in large part because of the emergence of Jay Ajayi and the running game. Also, the defense had been opportunistic recently, with eight interceptions in the last four games, with half of them coming last week versus Philip Rivers. The trade with the Eagles this offseason for Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell is paying dividends, with both having a pick last week, including a pick-six by Alonso. This year’s #1 overall pick Jared Goff will finally see the field this week for the Rams, but he’s coming into a tough spot with the Dolphins improving defensively and the LA offensive line being among the worst in the league. The Rams need to feed Todd Gurley this week for the rookie to start his career with a win.
Winner: Miami Dolphins
NE (7-2) @ SF (1-8) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
The Patriots lost to the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football thanks to a very questionable no-call (no surprise with Seattle again…), and Rob Gronkowski (chest) was injured in the process. Fortunately, they won’t need him this week. Growing up a Niners fan, this will actually be the first time Tom Brady has played in San Francisco; it would be surprising if he didn’t have a huge homecoming after last week’s loss. Though they were actually stingy against David Johnson last week, it was probably an outlier for the 49ers’ soft run defense. Unless San Francisco somehow gets Joe Montana and Jerry Rice in their primes, this game won’t be close.
Winner: New England Patriots
PHI (5-4) @ SEA (6-2-1) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
Two of the best defenses in the league face each other this Sunday as the Eagles travel to Seattle, but Philly will probably have to score points if they want to win; allowing just 9.5 points per game at home, the Eagles are allowing 24.0 points per game on the road. Carson Wentz needs to be a lot better to beat Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Over the past five games, Wentz has just two touchdowns and six turnovers. The Eagles might have to make an impact on special teams to get an upset in Seattle.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
GB (4-5) @ WAS (5-3-1) | SUN 8:30 PM ET | NBC
Green Bay’s season hit a low last week as they got blown out by the Titans. Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams both had big games, but that was about it for the Packers. They just claimed former Seahawks RB Christine Michael off waivers, and James Starks is healthy, but Ty Montgomery needs to see the field for Green Bay. The versatile playmaker was playing deep into last week’s loss when Brett Hundley and the backups were in, which was very surprising. Kirk Cousins has a new catchphrase after last week’s win over the Vikings, and he could be saying it again after what Marcus Mariota did to the Packers last Sunday. This should be a competitive game, but I think Aaron Rodgers finds a way to get a win on SNF.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
HOU (6-3) @ OAK (7-2) | MON 8:30 PM ET (IN MEXICO) | ESPN
Brock Owsweiler has been so bad for the Texans that it doesn’t even seem like they’re 6-3 and atop the AFC South, but they are. Somehow Houston still won last week despite Osweiler passing for 99 yards. This game is in Mexico City, Mexico, so perhaps he’ll do better south of the border. The Raiders should be glad that it probably doesn’t matter what part of the world Derek Carr is playing in. Like their win over the Broncos, though, they will probably try to run on the Texans; Houston has a bottom-tier run defense but the second best pass defense. Latavius Murray and co. should have another big night in Mexico City.
Winner: Oakland Raiders