By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) We’ve officially entered the second half of the 2012 season. Week 10 features some intriguing matchups, none larger than the Sunday Night match-up at Soldier Field featuring two 7-1 squads. Here’s my take on how this weekend’s action is going to play out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
Giants 27, BENGALS 23 – Noon
Far too much is being made of the Giants anemic offensive performance last week – specifically Eli Manning – against the Steelers. The fact of the matter is, the Steelers are a good football team, and they took it to the Giants in the second half. In their last two games, the Giants offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in the second half, and Manning has thrown for less than 200 yards. But they’re still – to me – the best team in football, and I like them this weekend in the Queen City.
DOLPHINS 24, Titans 20 – Noon
I think Charles Tillman just forced another Titans fumble. Sunday can’t come fast enough for the Titans, after being thoroughly dismantled last weekend at home against the Bears. The scary part is, the Bears left points on the field and still hung 51 on them. Not only was the Titans offense careless with the ball, their defense just can’t get off the field or keep opponents out of their territory. The Dolphins came up short last week in Indy, but will pick up their fifth win of the season, keeping their Wild Card hopes alive.
VIKINGS 27, Lions 24 – Noon
It’s a NFC North showdown featuring two pretenders. Remember when people were talking about how “for real” the Vikings were? Please. Never bought it. Yes, they’ve exceeded expectations, but this is a very flawed team on both sides of the ball. They have a young, vulnerable secondary – that’s let both Russell Wilson and Josh Freeman throw three touchdowns – who will have a tough time this weekend against Calvin Johnson. All that said, I still like them at home against a team I think even less of, the Detroit Lions.
PATRIOTS 34, Bills 20 – Noon
The last time these two teams met, the Patriots put up the highest point total of the season (so far), in a 52-28 shellacking of the Bills, in Buffalo. Much like every team the Bills have played this season, the Patriots ran at will, finishing with two 100+ yard rushers, 247 rushing yards, and an average of 6.2 yards per carry. Not only do the Bills have trouble stopping people, they have trouble scoring. That Ryan Fitzpatrick contract extension looks worse by the week. I like the Patriots to remain unbeaten in the division and keep the hapless Bills winless.
Falcons 30, SAINTS 27 – Noon
Before the season started, this game looked like it would mean something. Now? Not so much. The Falcons have run away with the NFC South, compiling an impressive 8-0 mark. Yes, they haven’t always looked impressive and have had some close calls, but there’s still a goose egg in the “L” column. The Saints? What a mess, particularly on defense. On Monday night the Eagles did as they pleased with the Saints in between the 20’s only to fall apart – as they’ve done all year – in the red zone. That act won’t work against the Falcons, who should have no problem scoring points.
BUCS 27, Chargers 24 – Noon
I think Doug Martin just scored another touchdown. What a performance for the Boise St. rookie last week in Oakland, Martin racked up 251 yards, averaged a first down per carry, and scored four touchdowns. Those are remarkable numbers that will boost his Rookie of the Year stock. The Chargers are their usual enigmatic selves, bum slaying the Chiefs last week, a week after they couldn’t find the end zone against the lowly Browns. Any wise follower of the NFL knows you never pick a team taking a coast-to-coast trip for a Noon kickoff, so give me the Bucs.
Broncos 27, PANTHERS 20 – Noon
With each passing week the Broncos make Peter King look less crazy. King predicted the Broncos would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and caught endless grief. Nine weeks into the season, it looks like King was onto something. Obviously, anytime you can swap Tim Tebow for Peyton Manning your team improves immediately. Even though I still have doubts about the Broncos secondary in the playoffs, right now, Manning has the Broncos offense humming, and they should meet little resistance against an inferior Panthers team.
RAVENS 28, Raiders 20 – Noon
Unfortunate timing for the Raiders top two running backs to be hobbled, as the Ravens defense has become a doormat for opposing running backs. Speaking of the Ravens, with the rejuvenated Steelers nipping at their heels, they need to get it in gear on both sides of the ball. Seeing Doug Martin do as he pleased against the Raiders, Ray Rice has to be licking his chops. The talent scale tips heavily in the Ravens favor, and I like them to extend their home winning streak to 15 games.
SEAHAWKS 20, Jets 16 – 3:05 PM
Rookie Russell Wilson is making steady progress in Seattle, keeping the Seahawks alive and well in the Wild Card hunt. There are no training wheels on Wilson either, as he attempts the second most deep passes – trailing Joe Flacco – in the league. Stretching the defense vertically keeps safety help out of the box, opening running lanes for Marshawn Lynch. The Jets? They’re completely irrelevant, except to certain four-letter networks. Boo-yah!
Cowboys 27, EAGLES 23 – 3:25 PM
The Eagles host the Cowboys in the mid-season disappointment bowl. You can’t find two teams who have done less with more this season than the two playing in this game. Safe to assume both of these coaches will be looking for new jobs at the end of the season, Reid will be for sure. These teams are similar, in that they can both move the ball with ease, but they just continually make costly mistakes at inopportune moments. In the end, the Cowboys defensive front will dominate the Eagles awful offensive line.
49ERS 27, Rams 13 – 3:25 PM
Fresh off of bye weeks, both of these teams should be well-rested. The Rams trip to jolly old London wasn’t so jolly, as the Patriots pasted them 45-7. With a trip to San Francisco on the docket, it’s hard to imagine this week will get any better. Yes, it’s doubtful the 49ers will hang 45 points on the Rams, but their defense is far better than the Patriots, and will shut down a toothless Rams offense.
Game of the Week: Texans 23, BEARS 20 – 7:20 PM
In a potential Super Bowl matchup, two 7-1 teams collide at Soldier Field. You can make a case that these are the two best teams in their respective conferences; however, there is one common detail that should give some pause: the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are the best team both of these teams have played this season, and both of them lost their respective match-ups. Thus, this will be a true-up for both teams. Several intriguing match-ups to monitor on both sides of the ball, making this the most entertaining game of the week. In the end, I think the Texans are too strong on the defensive line and will overmatch the Bears porous protection.
STEELERS 31, Chiefs 13 – Monday Night 7:30 PM
Don’t look now, but the Steelers are starting to heat up. Even with key starters – safety Troy Polamalu, and running back Rashard Mendenhall – in the infirmary, it’s been next man up in Pittsburgh, illustrating the depth of the roster and effectiveness of the coaching staff. The Chiefs, on the other hand, are duking it out with the Jaguars for the league’s first worst. This game will be over by halftime.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.