A Week of Consistency: Who has it? Who Doesn’t?
Minnesota Vikings (8-4) at Arizona Cardinals (10-2)
Though both teams are in prime position to make the playoffs, this game could potentially end in a blowout. As it has throughout the season, Minnesota’s ability to win relies on running back Adrian Peterson’s carries per game. In the four games this season in which Peterson carried the ball less than 20 times, the Vikings lost. Last week’s 38-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks perfectly illustrates this point; Peterson carried the ball only eight times for 18 yards. In games Peterson struggles, so does Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. In those losses, Bridgewater averages 38 pass attempts compared to 25 attempts. Though Bridgewater’s completions also go up when Peterson doesn’t play, his completion percentage drops nearly 5 percent. Yet, the implications and expectations leading up to a game against a strong defensive opponent create room for concern if you’re a Vikings fan.
The Cardinals are on a six-game winning streak and are ranked fourth in total yards allowed per game, fourth in rushing yards allowed and eighth in passing yards allowed. Simply put, the Cardinals look unstoppable. I’m betting heavy on the Cardinals to cover their current eight-point spread.
Vikings 13 Cardinals 34
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)
As the Steelers head into Cincinnati this week, not only are they trying to forget about their Week 8 16-10 loss to the Bengals, but they’re also trying to prove that their best football is yet to come. As of now, the Steelers are on the outside looking in; they’re currently behind the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs for the two wild card positions in the AFC. The Steelers rely heavily on quarterback “Big Ben” Roethlisberger, and he has certainly done his part this season. Since their Week 8 matchup, Roethlisberger has averaged 383 yards per game and has thrown for 10 touchdowns and only four interceptions. During that span, Steeler’s wide receiver Antonio Brown is also averaged 10 catches for 148 yards per game. Though Cincinnati’s defense has only let up a combined 10 points in the last two weeks, in their last matchup against a high-powered offense (Arizona in Week 11), the Bengals allowed 34 points.
The Bengals have posted 58 more points than they’ve allowed in the past two weeks, but their best football is behind them. Neither the St. Louis Rams nor the Cleveland Browns are very competitive teams, and you’d almost expect the Bengals to have beaten both teams as badly as they did. With Big Ben heating up and the Bengals non-stellar passing defense, I fully expect a high-scoring game that will come down to the last few minutes.
Steelers 35 Bengals 30
New York Giants (5-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-7)
After a 23-20-overtime loss to the Jets last weekend, with a 5-7 record, the Giants are still somehow in the playoff hunt. In fact, the entire NFC East is still in the playoff hunt. Through halftime, the Giants were winning 20-10 after their wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s 72-yard touchdown and a Dwayne Harris 80-yard punt return touchdown. Aside from that, the Giants didn’t play particularly well. Once again, this theme emerges in the NFC East this season: play well one game, play terribly another game, still remain in the playoff hunt. The division’s inconsistency makes this week’s matchup in Miami a must-win for the G-men.
The Dolphins narrowly escaped the Baltimore Ravens in a 15-13 win last weekend despite quarterback Ryan Tannehill only throwing for 86 yards. Despite a 2-2 record in their last four games, the Dolphins, like the Giants, haven’t shown any signs of consistency. Picking the winner of this game may as well be the equivalent of throwing a dart at a board.
Giants 31 Dolphins 14
Tennessee Titans (3-9) at New York Jets (7-5)
The Jets head into week 14 with the playoffs in sight; with four games remaining, the Jets face off against the Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills. With Buffalo only one game behind New York and the Steelers also looking in from the outside, the Jets desperately need to win this weekend against the Titans. After two strong wins against the Dolphins and Giants, the Jets may have finally put together some hope of consistency for fans.
Titans 15 Jets 24
Last Week’s Record: 2-1
Season Record: 28-18