Cincinnati Bengals vs Indianapolis Colts: IND -7
IND is also coming off a tough loss to PHI. However, their season is far from over and they will be fighting hard to keep pace in the division. Peyton should have a LOT of time to throw because CIN's pass rush has been terrible this year. I expect a huge game from the league's best QB and Tamme has filled in nicely for Clark. Peyton loves to use the tight end so this has been a significant sigh of relief for the Colts. IND also rank near the top in red zone/third down offense and points from long drives. Even without a real running game they manage to control the ball more than the opponent. IND is very tough to beat at home and it doesn't help CIN that they must travel on a short week. Look for Peyton and company to get back to their winning ways in a smackdown. Prediction: Bank IND -7.
Kansas City Chiefs vs Denver Broncos: OVER 42
Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TB -6.5
Between the lines, the only chance CAR have in this game is on special teams. They should be able to get some nice starting field position, but they have a league worst 5 points per game from 60+ yard drives. Given their problems at QB and RB I have no idea how they will generate offense. They do matchup ok on defense, but TB is an ascending team. Freeman and Blount should be able to do enough to get a lead and I'd be shocked if they ever look back. TB is in the middle of the road in key categories while CAR sit near the bottom. The last thing I have to say about CAR is.....with the 1st pick in the 2011 draft..... Prediction: Bank TB -6.5.
St. Louis Rams vs San Francisco 49ers: STL +6
Both teams will want to establish the run and whoever has more success will likely win the game. Thankfully for STL they have the edge in this category. Both running backs are elite studs, but STL have had better success stopping the run this year. This could leave the game up to the quarterbacks. Niether passing game have a clear advantage, but who would you have more faith in? Alex Smith is still nursing a shoulder injury and I'd be surprised if he played. Right now he seems more concerned about his differences with coach Singletary. Troy Smith has never thrown for more than 200 yards in a game. Do I need to say more? The only advantage SF will have in this game is home field. That isn't enough for me to take them at -6. I'm rolling with the road team who should keep it close, if not win it outright. Prediction: Bank STL +6.
New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers: PIT -4.5
First of all is how the Pats have looked since shipping Moss out of town. I'm not saying Moss is the same dynamic playmaker he was in years past, but this current group of receivers are not striking fear into anybody. They should have an advantage in the air vs an overrated PIT pass defense, but I think most of the damage will be done in the short-passing game. NE have little chance to have success on the ground so I expect a lot of spread sets with Brady in the shotgun. Unfortunately for NE they will need to have a lot of long drives because they do not have an edge in the return game. They have been good in the red zone and third down %, but so is PIT's defense. The main problem for NE will be can they keep up with PIT's offense for the entire game?
Things will not be easy for PIT either. They lost key guys on the offensive line last week and this unit wasn't exactly playing great before that. Normally this would make me nervous, but NE do not have a pass rusher that scares anyone. They will need to generate a pass rush with a collective effort, but PIT will be able to counter this with a strong running advantage and Ben's escapability. NE's defense is improving, but they still remain god awful in red zone defense and on third down. CLE drove the field on them 6 or 7 times. I don't expect a repeat of that game, but PIT will have enough success to establish a healthy lead. Another problem for NE is that PIT is number one in the league in turnover differential. PIT have also stayed disciplined this season. What it all means is that NE will have to earn all of their points. There won't be many gifts handed to them. If the NFL only had two quarters I'd give NE a chance to cover, but I don't see them hanging around for a full game. Prediction: Bank PIT -4.5.