NFL Week 14: Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers Sun. Dec. 11, 2011 1 p.m. EST

There is no question at this point in time that the Carolina Panthers are a team on the rise in the NFL and could quite possibly be a force to be reckoned in the near future. This season rookie phenom Cam Newton has single-handedly turned this football team around with some impressive play under center for Carolina, but the Panthers have still struggled to closeout games and as a result have a 4-8 record heading into Week 14.

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Even though the Panthers’ record isn’t very pleasing to the eye right now with the playoffs out of the question this season, Cam Newton and company have won two games in a row and have started to create some much-needed momentum moving forward. Despite gaining that momentum that the team has been looking for over the entire season, the Panthers will have a very tough challenge ahead this week by hosting the division rival Atlanta Falcons.

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 23: Quarterback Matt Rya...

Matt Ryan

As for the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan and company are coming off a disappointing loss to the Houston Texans in which they were only able to score 10 points. The Falcons have definitely turned their season around after playing some streaky football in the first half of the regular season, but this loss against a depleted Texans defense and against a rookie quarterback in T.J. Yates raises questions about whether or not the Falcons can contend for a playoffs spot.

With the red-hot New Orleans Saints cruising to a NFC South division title, the Atlanta Falcons will have to fight for a playoff berth through one of the two spots in the NFC Wild Card. At this point in time, the Falcons are in the playoffs as they hold the tie-breaker over the Detroit Lions in terms of head-to-head win percentage, but with the Lions on their heels right now the Falcons must continue to win football games and distance themselves from teams like Detroit.

Obviously, with the Carolina Panthers out of playoff contention and out of the hunt for the NFC South division title, this up-and-coming football team will be playing for the future of the franchise. With that being said, this is an important game for the Panthers as they will meet the division rival Falcons over and over again in the years to come with potential heated rivalry on the horizon.

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With a playoff spot potentially on the line and a statement game against a division rival, the Atlanta Falcons will be coming out with a chip on their shoulder in Week 14 and will do everything in their power to come out on top and continue to distance themselves from the Detroit Lions in the playoff hunt.

As of right now, the Atlanta Falcons have been favored to come out on top with a -3 point spread. Even though the Carolina Panthers will give Matt Ryan a run for their money, the Falcons will get the win and cover.

Take the Falcons at -3.

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Houston Texans sign veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia

Over the last few weeks, the Houston Texans season-outlook has drastically changed with all sorts of season-ending injuries hurting this team’s chances of making a deep run in the upcoming playoffs. With the Texans on the verge of winning the AFC South division title, Houston will make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, but their first playoff run will almost certainly be a short one with no viable quarterback under center.

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After quarterbacks Matt Schaub (foot) and Matt Leinart (collarbone) went down for the season, the Houston Texans were forced to turn to rookie T.J. Yates to shoulder the load under center and so far the results haven’t been all that promising despite the win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13 (17-10). With Yates struggling to get this once potent offense back to form, the Texans have explored other options around the league as somewhat of an insurance policy for when the playoffs begin.


Jeff Garcia signed by Houston Texans

In Week 14, the Houston Texans have a chance to clinch the AFC South division title with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals and a loss by the division rival Tennessee Titans. In all likelihood, the Titans will lose in Week 14 to the red-hot New Orleans Saints, but the Houston Texans have a tough challenge ahead of them in the form of the up-and-coming Cincinnati Bengals.

Fortunately, the Texans were able to get their hands on a veteran to fill the void as the backup quarterback to T.J. Yates in the form of Jake Delhomme. Even though Delhomme is a viable backup and might be just what this team needs to get back on track offensively, the Texans weren’t satisfied with one veteran as they have now also signed Jeff Garcia.

Despite not playing a single game since 2008, Garcia is a great veteran addition to this team and might be good enough to work up the depth chart and become the Houston Texans starting quarterback when the playoffs begin. At 41-years-old, Garcia is no longer a young buck and might not be able to be the player he once was, but I believe this was a smart move by the Texans as it gives them more than one or two options at quarterback.

There is still a chance that T.J. Yates can prove himself over the next few weeks of the regular season as the Houston Texans do have confidence in their rookie and love his poise in the pocket. This week will be a good test to see whether or not Yates can shoulder the load from here on out as the Texans will be going up against the tough Cincinnati Bengals defense that will be looking to get back on track after getting dominated by the arch division rival Pittsburgh Steelers last week (25-7).

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Anything can happen from here on out, but at least now the Texans can stop worrying about the quarterback position and whether or not they will be able to contend in the playoffs. These moves might end up not panning out, but they needed to be made.

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NFL Week 13: Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants

Coming into this NFL regular season as defending Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers were thought to be the best team in the NFC Conference and a legitimate contender to pull off the repeat. Even though the Packers were able to keep the team relatively intact and get everyone back healthy, the consensus was that this season would be a bit tougher for Aaron Rodgers and company as it is never easy to repeat in the NFL.

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Despite the doubts surrounding the Packers, Green Bay has been absolutely flawless in the first 12 weeks of the NFL regular season by winning 11 straight games and proving to the entire league that they are without a doubt the best team in the NFL. The Packers defense might not be as good as it was last season, but Charles Woodson and company have been good enough to secure big leads by Green Bay all season long.


New York Giants

Whether or not the Green Bay Packers can continue to rely on their defense to hold leads in the playoffs remains to be seen, but for the meantime this team seems to be firing on all cylinders and flirting with the possibility of a perfect season. With an 11-0 record heading into Week 13, there aren’t many people that believe the Packers can be beaten in the regular season, but they might have a tough test ahead of them on the road as they are set to square off against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium.

After three straight losses and a few injuries along the way, the New York Giants have gone from being the first place team in the NFC East division to a team that is in serious danger of missing the playoffs entirely. Not only have the Dallas Cowboys been red-hot as of late after winning four straight and jumping to the top spot in the NFC East, but if the Giants don’t get back to their winning ways over the next couple of weeks they will be in danger of missing the playoffs entirely.

With the Giants in danger of a falling to a mediocre .500 record with a loss to the Packers, New York has to turn it on this weekend at New Meadowlands Stadium in what will almost certainly be their toughest game of the season. Even though I believe New York is capable of pulling off the upset and handing Green Bay the first loss of the season, the Packers are just playing out of their minds right now and will be extremely tough to stop offensively.

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As of right now, the Green Bay Packers have been given the edge to get the best of the New York Giants in Week 13 with a -7 point spread in their favor. With the Giants defense as banged up as it is, the Packers will look to take advantage and might lock up their 12th straight win before halftime.

Take the Packers at -7.

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Oakland Raiders improve to 7-4 with win over Chicago Bears

The AFC West division has quickly turned into one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL this season. With the division title up for grabs with the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders battling back and forth, every game from here on out is extremely important for these two up-and-coming football teams.

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Now that both the Broncos and the Raiders have seemingly found their starting quarterbacks for the foreseeable future in fan favorite Tim Tebow and one-time Pro Bowler Carson Palmer, Denver and Oakland are shooting for the playoffs this season and both teams seem to have a legitimate shot of making it into the postseason.

English: Erica Arana at Oakland Raiders home g...

Erica is the hotest Oakland Raiders cheerleader

Heading into Week 12, the Oakland Raiders had arguably the toughest test of any team in the AFC West as they had to face off against the lockdown defense of the Chicago Bears. With the Bears winning five straight coming into this matchup, the Raiders definitely had their work cut for them, but did get a slight edge after the potentially season-ending injury to franchise quarterback Jay Cutler (broken thumb).

With Cutler helpless on the sidelines, the Chicago Bears had to turn to backup quarterback Caleb Haine to lead this team on offense. Haine was somewhat impressive in the NFC Championship game last season against the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday in the Bay Area as the backup quarterback struggled all day long.

Caleb Haine did throw for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw three costly interceptions that turned out to be the difference in this Week 12 showdown. Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer wasn’t that much better with 301 yards passing, one interception and no touchdown passes, but the Oakland running game and kicker Sebastian Janikowski made up for the weak passing game as backup running back Michael Bush rushed for 69 yards and one touchdown while Janikowski had a career day with six field goals and one extra point.

Needless to say, the Chicago Bears were outplayed in Week 12 as the Oakland Raiders continue to make strides in their effort to get back to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Raiders went on to beat the Bears, 25-20.

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With this win, the Oakland Raiders improve to 7-4 and are still sitting in first place in the AFC West division. The Denver Broncos are still hot on the trail of their arch division rivals as they were able to get the best of the struggling San Diego Chargers in order to improve their record to 6-5.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out in the AFC West because right now it could go either way with the Broncos or the Raiders coming out on top and being playoff bound.

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NFL Week 12: Miami Dolphins @ Dallas Cowboys

Miami Dolphins @ Dallas Cowboys Thurs. Nov. 24, 2011 4:15 p.m. EST

The Dallas Cowboys are arguably one of the most popular football teams in the NFL today with a huge fan base and an enormous amount of pressure to make the playoffs every single season. Not only is there a lot of pressure on America’s Team to break into the postseason every year, but the expectations of contending for a Super Bowl title is also something expected on an annual basis.

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Despite having one of the most talented rosters in the league, the Dallas Cowboys have really struggled to become one of the elite teams in the NFL once again with superstar quarterback Tony Romo under center. There is no doubt that Romo is a talented quarterback with a potentially bright future ahead of him, but with no running game over the past few years, the three-time Pro Bowler hasn’t been able to do the job all by himself on offense.

Fortunately, this season has started to look up for Romo and the Cowboys as Dallas has finally become a legitimate threat in the ground game with the emergence of up-and-coming running back DeMarco Murray. With five straight games of 73 rushing yards or more, Murray has quickly become one of the rising stars in the NFL coming out of the backfield. Murray has only reached the endzone twice this season, but his impact has been huge for the Cowboys as this offense is finally reaching its potential.

Tony Romo (en) at a Dallas Cowboys (en) preseason.

Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys

Not only is the team starting to come together offensively with Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray leading the way, but the Dallas Cowboys have won four out of the last five games and are in the hunt for the NFC East division title. After beating the division rival Washington Redskins in overtime last week (27-24 OT), the Dallas Cowboys have moved into first place in the NFC East and seem to have the edge in the division moving forward.

In Week 12, the Dallas Cowboys will continue the annual tradition of playing on Thanksgiving Day as they will host the resurgent Miami Dolphins. Even though the Dolphins were considered to be one of the frontrunners for the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft and in the race for Stanford’s Andrew Luck about a month ago, things have started to turn around for the struggling NFL franchise as Matt Moore and company will come into this game having won three straight.

With a disappointing record of 3-7, the Miami Dolphins are basically out of the running for a playoff spot in the AFC Conference, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be giving it everything they have on Thanksgiving Day against the Dallas Cowboys.

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As of right now, the Dallas Cowboys have the edge in this matchup with a -7 point spread. Even though the Miami Dolphins might be able to make this game competitive, the Cowboys should come out on top and cover the spread.

Take the Cowboys at -7.

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