Written and Ranked by Harley Schultz
1. Carolina Panthers vs. WAS
OK Kirk Cousins, you got your easy game against New Orleans, now you get to face the varsity. Among teams playing this week, Carolina leads the league in takeaways. They also rank fifth in sacks. Cousins threw for four touchdowns against the Saints but it was only the second time all year that he has thrown for multiple scores. If you throw out last week’s game and his three-touchdown performance against an equally inept Tampa secondary, Cousins has seven touchdowns and nine interceptions over his other seven starts.
2. Denver Broncos @ CHI
Jay Cutler is well known for his facial expressions on the sidelines. You could fill up a fair amount of bandwidth with the number of Cutler memes that exist in cyberspace. We’ll get even more screen captures during this game as Cutler tries to move the ball versus his former team. Denver’s defense leads the league by a fairly large margin in total yardage allowed, passing yards allowed, and sacks. Plus they will get back a surly Aqib Talib, following his one game suspension for channeling his inner Moe Howard. Thanks to their ball-hawking defense, the Broncos lead the league in DST touchdowns scored. This doesn’t bode well for a Bears team that has allowed the most total DST touchdowns this season.
3. Seattle Seahawks vs. SF
Do you think Seattle’s fan base might be a little surly after handing a game to Arizona last week at home. I actually feel sorry for Blaine Gabbert here because he will feel the brunt of their anger. Seattle is not the dominant force they once were, but they are still really tough at home. Only six teams have allowed fewer points per game, and prior to their Sunday Night meltdown they had allowed only 15 points total in their previous two games. This included holding San Francisco to a three spot in Week 7. In that game, the more nimbly-footed Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times. This shouldn’t be too big of a surprise as they currently rank second-worst in sack percentage.
4. Houston Texans vs. NYJ
The Houston Texans are tied for tenth with only 23 sacks however 16 of those have come in their last four games. They also have nine takeaways during that span. Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely play in this game but his hand could be hampered following his surgery. If he has trouble taking snaps or handing off, the Texans pass rush could swat the ball away from him. Playing with the injury last week, Fitzpatrick failed to complete 50% of his passes and the Jets turned the ball over four times.
5. Arizona Cardinals vs. CIN
“Primetime” Andy Dalton reared his ugly head once again last week. For his career, Dalton has a QB-Rating of only 73.6 (17 points lower than in day games) in night games. He also has thrown for 40 fewer yards per game and he has turned the ball over 16 times while scoring only 15 total touchdowns in 12 career games. We get more of “Primetime” this week as Cincy travels to Arizona to take on the Cardinals. Last week, also in primetime, Arizona forced only one turnover versus the Seahawks, but on the year no team has more interceptions.
6. St. Louis Rams @ BAL
Say what you will regarding their tactics, the St. Louis Rams defense is stifling. Only two teams have recorded a higher sack percentage than the Rams and they currently rank seventh in per game takeaways. Meanwhile, Baltimore has turned it over multiple times in six of their games, including four times last week.
7. New York Jets @ HOU
The New York Jets have amassed ten sacks over the last two weeks. They also have the fourth-most takeaways. These stats come mainly from the fact that they have two shutdown corners and a defensive line that no one can run the ball against. In addition, Antonio Cromartie may return from his thigh injury this week helping fortify that stellar secondary. Houston may very well be forced to start T.J. Yates this week. For his career, Yates has 11 turnovers and only five total touchdowns.
8. Minnesota Vikings vs. GB
Coming into this season a matchup against the Green Bay Packers would mean an easy benching for your Minnesota Vikings DST. Aaron Rodgers isn’t quite himself right now and no amount of R-E-L-A-Xing will make this matchup easier for him. Minnesota currently ranks eighth in passing yards allowed and second in points allowed, including a top ranking in points allowed at home. They also have allowed only two 300-yard passers since the start of last year. In addition, Rodgers is not likely to get his game back on track unless he can stay upright. Over their last six games, the Packers have given up 19 sacks.
9. Cincinnati Bengals @ ARI
The Arizona Cardinals have turned the ball over seven times in their last two contests. One of those turnovers was even returned for a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals currently rank sixth in sacks and they have nine over their last three games. They also have allowed the fewest points per game this year, including allowing a total of only 30 points over that three-game span.
10. New England Patriots vs. BUF
New England trails only Denver in terms of sacks. They have recorded multiple sacks in every game except one. One of those sack fests came in Week 2 against Buffalo. In that game, Tyrod Taylor was planted eight times and he threw three picks. The Bills have struggled protecting the pocket all season. They currently rank seventh from the bottom in sacks allowed per game.
11. Kansas City @ SD
San Diego has an offensive line held together with day-old bubblegum, paperclips, and a couple pink My Little Pony barrettes. They also have roughly 1-3/7 healthy wide receivers. With no time to throw the ball and no one to throw it to anyways, Philip Rivers could be in for a long game. This will especially be true if Kansas City can bring the pass rush they have used to amass eleven sacks and seven interceptions over their prior two contests.
12. Baltimore Ravens vs. STL
St. Louis’ offense is one-dimensional. If you shut down Todd Gurley, they will be forced to beat you with new starter, Case Keenum. This is the very same Keenum that has 12 career touchdowns and 11 career turnovers. Baltimore’s strength is their run defense. They rank tenth in rushing yards allowed per game and fourth-best at home in that same category. Furthermore, only two teams have topped 81 running back rushing yards against them and only three teams have scored a running back rushing touchdown against them. If Gurley struggles this week, St. Louis will quite possibly get shut out.
13. Philadelphia Eagles vs. TB
The Philadelphia Eagles have eight sacks over the last two games. They also are tied with Carolina for the second-most takeaways behind the Giants. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has been more giving than the local food shelves at Thanksgiving. They rank seventh from the bottom in terms of turnovers, including five the last two weeks. Plus they have also allowed three DST touchdowns already this year.
14. Oakland Raiders @ DET
The Green Bay Packers failed to sack Matthew Stafford last week, but prior to that Detroit allowed 13 sacks over the prior two weeks. This season, Oakland’s secondary has been burned worse than a redhead on spring break in Florida without sunscreen. In Oakland’s defense, they have been able to rack up a few sacks despite giving up a metric ton of yardage. Over the past three weeks, they have lassoed up eight of their 19 sacks. The Raiders also have multiple takeaways in all but two games.
15. Miami Dolphins vs. DAL
Tony Romo makes his return to the field, but how rusty will he be? Will he throw one of his famous pick-sixes with the game on the line? Dallas took up the mantle for him while he was out allowing three more DST touchdowns, giving them four on the year. Miami is currently tied for sixth, having scored a DST in two of their last five contests. The Dolphins also have 19 sacks and six takeaways in their last five games.
Atlanta Falcons vs. IND
Matt Hasselbeck gets the nod for Indianapolis this week. Despite his litany of weapons, I just cannot get behind Hasselbeck as a legit starter at this point in his career. Atlanta currently is amongst the league leaders with three DST touchdowns. The Colts meanwhile just gave one up to Denver last week. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hasselbeck complete more touchdown passes to Atlanta this week than to his own team.