There are some critical games this weekend that will define the leaders at the half way post of the season.
Vikes @ Steelers
The Steelers are behind the Bengals by virtue of their loss to Cincy a couple of weeks ago. They need to keep winning not only to insure they win the AFC North but because they don’t want to go to either Indy or New England in the playoffs. This will be a real test for them. They have not been dominate on the ground for a couple of years and it won’t do much against one of the best D lines in the league. The Steelers will rely on the arm of Roethlisberger. On D they will have to balance their efforts to both control the running of Peterson and the passing of Favre.
The Vikes will be at a disadvantage against the pass as all pro DB Winfield is out for the game. Look for them to rely more on the run with AP and keep the Steeler O off the field. The O line of the Vikes has not produced up to their billing blocking for the run. AP is averaging only 5.1 which is below his lofty standards. The line will have to get to the linebackers if AP is going to be successful.
The Vikes passing game has not produced the yards per game that Favre is used to but he has no complaints. The best WR is Rice who averages over 17 yards per catch. Harvin is expected to play and he is outstanding as well. The Vikes should win this game on the road and keep their record perfect.
Falcons @ Cowboys
The Falcons come off an exciting win over the Bears and will face the division leading Saints next week. That is a classic sandwich game. The Birds will have to be focused on this game because the Boys are dangerous particularly at home. The Bird O is only average because the running game has not been up to what it produced last year. RB Turner was outstanding last year but is only averaging 3.5 per carry this season. Part of that is due to a chest injury that has limited his practice. Another aspect is that teams are game planning to stop him after his first big year as a starter. The result is that they are getting less than 100 yards per game on the ground. That puts a lot more pressure on the passing game of QB Ryan.
The Falcons D has played well at times but tends to struggle against really good teams that can run the ball. To make matters worse, they have lost both starting S. The front 7 will have to keep the Boys ground game under control and put pressure on the QB.
The Boys have been as inconsistent as any team in the league. QB Romo is struggling but the team passes almost twice as often as they run despite both backs averaging more than 5 yards per attempt. Romo will have to stop throwing picks and get more accurate in the 4th quarter. He has not come through in close games and that is preventing him from getting into the top 10 of NFL QBs.
The D has been playing OK but not great. The team is 3-2 and needs to keep winning to stay competitive in the NFC East. The Falcons will win when Romo throws another pick late in the game.
Bears @ Bengals
Both teams come in needing a win. The Bears are in 3rd behind both the Pack and the Vikes at 3-2 2.5 games behind the latter. They suffered a tough loss last week at Atlanta. While the passing game has been fine with QB Cutler, the running game has struggled. RB Forte is averaging a poor 3.4 per carry. That has resulted in the Bears averaging less than 90 yards per game rushing. They have to do better.
The Bear D has had a lot of injuries losing MLB Urlacker to the IR and star DT Harris is doubtful for the game. Because of the injuries the Bears will struggle to stop the running game of the Bengals averaging 113 yards per game.
The Bengals were playing very well but looked more like the Bungles in a loss last week to the Texans. That cost them sole possession of 1st place in the AFC North. The Steelers are just a half game behind in the tie breaker because they lost to Cincy. The O is going to have to give Palmer better protection than they did last week. RB Benson has been a jewel. He has given the team the first real rushing threat in several years.
This game will tell us which Bengals team is likely to play the rest of the season. Is it the team that beat the Steelers and Ravens or the one that blew the game to the Texans? I think it is the former and the Bengals win at home.
Saints @ Dolphins
The Dolphin D won’t be able to handle the O of New Orleans and the Saints win.
Cards @ Giants
I love QB Warner. He is one of the best in the league. But the Arizona D is so inconsistent that I can’t bet on the Cards getting the win on the east coast. The Giants win in a shoot out.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .