Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
Dallas looks done, there’s no doubt about it. Jerry Jones can only keep head coach Wade Phillips around for so long. The Giants have the NFL’s best total defense, so Jon Kitna will have his work cut out for him. Offensive weapons Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten all look to have big games. Overall, since Romo’s injury, Dallas has gone to a rush-first offense, saving Kitna sacks. But with 24 sacks on the year so far, New York will try and fluster Kitna.
Offensively for New York, Ahmad Bradshaw has excelled as the feature back and Brandon Jacobs has more or less accepted his role as backup and third down back since his helmet-throwing incident in Indianapolis. Eli has looked fantastic this year having thrown 14 touchdowns and 1,700 yards thus far. He will try to pick apart the 11th-ranked total defense this year, which is giving up more than 300 yards per game and a defense that has struggled with discipline and penalties all year.
New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Since Big Ben Roethlisberger’s return following his suspension, he has thrown for more than 750 yards and five touchdowns. The explosive Pittsburgh offense will see a young but dangerous New England defense. With Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork plugging the middle, Devin McCourty has had a stellar rookie season so far at cornerback. They are the 31st-ranked passing defense so Roethlisberger will look to utilize receivers Hines Ward and Mike Wallace.
Tom Brady has had another excellent season at quarterback for the Patriots. Without Kevin Faulk, New England’s rushing hopes lie with the “Law Firm” Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis and the surprise breakout Danny Woodhead. They go against the fourth-ranked total defense in Pittsburgh, who is giving up just 300 yards of total offense per game and a miniscule 58.9 yards rushing. Brady will need to keep safety Troy Polamalu guessing similar to what Drew Brees did in Pittsburgh’s week eight matchup with New Orleans.
Pick: New England Patriots
Baltimore Ravens @ Atlanta Falcons
Our Thursday night matchup pits Matt Ryan and his 11th-ranked offense against Ray Lewis and Baltimore’s eighth-ranked defense. With Lewis running the middle, it will force the NFL’s fifth-ranked running offense to work for their yards. It may force Ryan to look to Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White more. So far this year, Ryan has seemed to bounce back from his struggles last year and has thrown 12 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.
Joe Flacco will be looked on to carry the Baltimore offense in Atlanta against a defense giving up less than 100 yards per game. The Atlanta passing defense is at best suspect and Flacco will look to integrate receivers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh as well as running back Ray Rice, especially if the running game struggles. With both teams beginning to look to the playoffs, this looks to be a stellar game.
Pick: Atlanta Falcons