By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) If the Turkey day trifecta didn’t satisfy your appetite for NFL football, there’s a full slate of NFL action left to be played. There are some marquee NFC matchups this weekend, none larger than the Giants-Packers matchup, which could a NFC Championship game preview. Here’s my take on how this weekend’s action will shake out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
BENGALS 27, Raiders 20 – Noon
The Bengals have turned in two solid performances in a row, outscoring the Giants and Chiefs by a combined 59-19. Andy Dalton has been spectacular, and AJ Green continues to dominate the league. Green has now scored a touchdown in nine straight games, which is four shy of Jerry Rice’s record of 13. Seeing how awful the Raiders pass defense has been this year, it’s safe to assume Green will notch number 10 in a Bengals victory.
Steelers 16, BROWNS 13 – Noon
With Charlie Batch making the start at quarterback, and Plaxico Burress lining up at wide receiver, memories of the 2003 Steelers come rushing back. The past few weeks have been painful for guys lining up behind center for the Steelers, so, protect your ribs, Charlie. The Browns manage to keep most of their games close, they just don’t have enough talent on offense to finish the deal. This game could set offensive football back several years, so tune in at your own risk.
COLTS 24, Bills 21 – Noon
Last week, I said the Colts would be exposed – particularly their secondary – by the Patriots, and they were. Don’t get me wrong, the Colts are a wonderful story. Even the most fervent Colts fan couldn’t have expected them to be in the situation they find themselves in. However, the fact they’re in a position for a playoff appearance is an indictment of just how bad the AFC is. The Bills eked out a win against the Dolphins last week, but I like the Colts at home.
Broncos 34, CHIEFS 13 – Noon
With each passing week, Peter King looks less crazy. The Broncos are legitimate AFC title contenders. Running back Willis McGahee suffered a torn MCL, which is a big blow to the Broncos running attack. However, during the Broncos five game winning streak, their offense has scored 15 touchdowns, of which, Peyton Manning has thrown 13. Manning is on fire and is the leading candidate to win both the Comeback Player of the Year and MVP awards. The Broncos will roll the awful Chiefs in Arrowhead.
Titans 27, JAGUARS 20 – Noon
Two of the AFC South’s finest (that’s sarcasm, folks) square off in Jacksonville. I’ve picked on the Jaguars for years, which I’ll readily admit, is lazy journalism. But, I’ve gotten on them most for their selection of Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert was the biggest reach of all the 2011 first-round quarterbacks, and will most likely be the final nail in general manager Gene Smith’s coffin. Watching Chad Henne – who should’ve been the starter all year – actually make the Jaguars offense work is a further indictment. I like the Titans offense to put up some points against the awful Jaguars defense.
BEARS 23, Vikings 20 – Noon
I think Aldon Smith just sacked Jason Campbell again. Monday night was a total train wreck for the Bears. Against legitimate teams – the Packers, Texans, and 49ers – the Bears offense has mustered a meager two offensive touchdowns, and has been outscored 68-23. I called the Bears a fringe Wild Card team in the preseason which is exactly what they are. Their offense continues to be light years behind their defense, and by the time they catch up – if that happens – it will probably be too late. With Cutler back under center, I like the Bears to grind out a win against the Vikings at home.
Falcons 30, BUCS 27 – Noon
Huge NFC South matchup, as the Falcons fly to Tampa to battle the Bucs. All season long, I’ve said the Falcons are not in the NFC Elite – Packers, Giants, 49ers – and their play over the past few weeks proves it. The Falcons have done this before, stacking wins in the regular season only to be completely dismantled in the playoffs. They can’t run the ball when they need to, and don’t put enough pressure on the quarterback to be a contender. The Bucs are an interesting team, who has played hard all season. Their secondary, however, is not good, and will be their undoing against Atlanta.
Seahawks 20, DOLPHINS 16 – Noon
The Seahawks make the longest trip possible in the NFL, heading 3,297 miles to play the Dolphins in Miami. I am going against my own rule of never picking a team making a coast-to-coast trip for a noon kickoff, simply because the Seahawks defense is the best unit playing in this game. The Dolphins run defense is stout and will have some success against Marshawn Lynch, but Ryan Tannehill has looked more and more like a rookie over the past few weeks. This won’t bode well against a stout Seattle defense.
Ravens 27, CHARGERS 23 – 3:05 PM
I’m beginning to wonder if fans in San Diego have started a countdown until Norv Turner is fired? If they’re looking for any assistance and my assumptions are correct, as of Friday the 23rd it will be 38 days until Turner hits the unemployment line. He could have company as general manager AJ Smith should be in like next to him. The Chargers have been notorious underachievers under Turner, as even when they had the necessary talent to compete for a title, they faded in the playoffs. The Chargers are strong against the run, but their secondary is in shambles, so it will be bombs away for Baltimore.
49ers 27, SAINTS 24 – 3:25 PM
The last time the 49ers played in a dome following a win against an NFC North team they were outplayed from the opening whistle by the Vikings. Will it happen again this weekend? Not likely. The Bears banked on Colin Kaepernick crumbling in his first NFL start, and they were dead wrong. Kaepernick was brilliant, showing great touch on his passes, reading the defense and audibling into the right call. This week against the Saints, the 49ers secondary faces a stiff challenge. However, the Saints rank dead last in run defense, and the 49ers are the best running team in the NFL. I expect the 49ers to play keep away for the win in New Orleans.
Rams 20, CARDINALS 17 – 3:25 PM
Ah, remember when people were selling you on how great the Cardinals were, and I was telling you they’d end up the season at best an 8-8 team? If not, I just reminded you. The Cardinals offensive line makes the Bears offensive line look like the early 80’s Redskins “Hogs.” Against a team like St. Louis, who has a very active and athletic front, I foresee bad things happening to Arizona.
Packers 31, GIANTS 27 – 7:30 PM
The last two Super Bowl winners meet in a 2011 NFC Championship rematch, and a potential 2012 NFC Championship game preview. Given the reports of Eli Manning’s “dead arm” there’s cause for concern in New York. Their bye week came at a perfect time, giving them a week to regroup, reassess, and refresh their bodies. They’ll need it against a Packers team that is hitting their stride at the right time. Both of these teams are going through the same patterns they have the last two seasons: stumble a bit, but put it together in time for the playoffs. I like the Packers on the road in a statement game.
EAGLES 17, Panthers 16 – Monday Night 7:40 PM
There have been plenty of uninspiring Monday night games this season, and it’s sad to think this one may not be the worst of the year. In three weeks, we’ll be graced with the must miss matchup of the Jets-Titans. Oh, Eagles. Much like your NFC East counterpart Cowboys, every year I marvel at the talent on your roster, project greatness, only to be proven a fool. It’s time to push reset in Philadelphia, and Carolina for that matter. Both of these teams can expect massive overhauls in the offseason. Carolina has struggled on the road, so even with Nick Foles at the helm, I have a feeling the Eagles will somehow pull this game out.
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.