Welcome to the first edition of Rob's Roundup! Starting this week throughout the rest of the season I'll be tackling the previews/predictions of the NFL's current slate of match-ups. As an added bonus, I want to hear from you -- the readers of Football Nation!
Every week, I'll be answering your questions about your favorite team/player in my mailbag. You can submit your questions to me via Facebook, Twitter or my email, all of which are listed directly below.
Now then, let's dive into our first batch of viewer questions!
What's your Super Bowl prediction?
-Joe Suraci (@Scrotchasaurus)
Right now, I'd have to say I see the Broncos & Falcons in the Super Bowl, after beating the Texans & 49ers in their respective conference championships. Peyton Manning & the Broncos seem to be hitting their stride on offense & defense, while the Falcons won't have to be distracted by a potential perfect season anymore & will win more than one playoff game this year. Expect a shootout with Manning out-dueling Matt Ryan in the end. 34-27 Broncos.
What are your thoughts on the Eagles' defensive line struggles this season? And Jason Babin crying?
Philadelphia's defensive line struggles this season are puzzling for the simple reason that they have the talent to be a top 3-5 group in this league but just aren't producing. While Jim Washburn's group is still missing DT Mike Patterson, the core group of Babin, Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham & Cedric Thorton, as well as Derek Landri, Darryl Tapp & Phillip Hunt should be terrorizing quarterbacks this season but just aren't. The Eagles (14) have less sacks as a team this season than Jason Babin (18) had himself last year. The defensive line, much like the entire team, just hasn't shown any aggressiveness or heart all season.
As for Babin's rant, any player who is unaware of Philadelphia fans' expectations of their teams by now needs to educate themselves on the fan base here. That said, there is a fine line that the fans of this city often cross when attending games. If the fans were indeed harassing coaches & players about their families as Babin allegedly reported, then the fans should be ashamed of themselves. At no point in life should your passion for your favorite team ignite a verbal or physical incident of any kind.
What are your rookie of the year predictions?
-Ashley McGrail (@a_mcgrittz)
On offense, from now until the end of the season, it's RGIII's award to lose. With the highest quarterback rating (93.9) & completion percentage (65.6) among rookies, Robert Griffin III should easily obtain OROY honors, barring any major setbacks. Only three interceptions thrown by the Redskins' rookie phenom on the season couldn't hurt his chances either. One issue that could propel Andrew Luck ahead of Griffin is a potential Colts playoff push driven by Indy's rising rookie quarterback.
On defense, it should come down to Carolina's outside linebacker Luke Kuechly & New England's defensive end Chandler Jones. Among rookies, Jones currently leads rookies in forced fumbles (3) & is second in sacks (6), while Kuechly ranks third among all players in tackles (87) with 5 passes defended, an interception & a recovered fumble. I'll give the edge to Jones as he has more favorable match-ups in the coming weeks than Kuechly.
Atlanta Falcons, smoke & mirrors. Yes or No?
Definitely no smoke & mirrors here John. As I stated above, I think the Falcons will finally break through the ceiling & reach the Super Bowl this year. Atlanta's window will be wide open for many years to come as long as they keep their core together. Although Michael Turner is getting up there in age & Tony Gonzalez will probably retire in the next year or two, the Falcons will manage & continue to put more talent around quarterback Matt Ryan. Expect the dirty birds to be contenders for a long time.
Remember to message or tweet me your viewer questions for next week's article to see your name on Football Nation! Now, onto this week's predictions. The bold team represents the predicted winner of each game.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
While both teams look to rebound from losses last week, Buffalo will have to make due without starting running back Fred Jackson, who sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter of the Bills' 37-31 loss to New England. The silver lining in this scenario could be the reemergence of C.J. Spiller, who leads the Bills in rushing with 632 yards & leads the NFL in yards per carry with 7.3. The Dolphins look to get back to the .500 record they've flirted with all season after their lopsided 37-3 defeat in Tennessee, their largest defeat at home since 1968. While Spiller & Reggie Bush look to steal the show on the ground, the game will come down Ryan Tannehill & Ryan Fitzpatrick's ability to limit their turnovers. Although the Dolphins have taken the last six of eight from the Bills, expect Buffalo to steal one at home from Miami on Thursday night.
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons
With Atlanta's undefeated season now in the rear view mirror, the Falcons look to get back on track at home against the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are desperately trying to get back to .500 after starting the season 4-0 & losing their last five. The key match-up here will be the Falcons' aerial attack versus the Cardinals' second ranked pass defense, specifically Roddy White or Julio Jones against cornerback Patrick Peterson. Officially freed from the distraction of a potential perfect season, expect the Falcons to return to playoff form Sunday, making short work of the Cardinals at home.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
The first match-up between Michael Vick & Rookie of the Year candidate Robert Griffin III will have to wait, as the Nick Foles era will start, temporarily at least, Sunday in Washington. With several jobs hanging in the balance in Philadelphia, the Eagles will try once more to right the ship with the rookie quarterback from Arizona under center. The Eagles' defense has the unfortunate task of containing RGIII, who could have a field day if Philly continues to miss assignments & tackles. With their offensive line in disarray & a rookie quarterback under center, expect the Eagles to provide a heavy dose of Lesean McCoy, who for whatever reason has been less involved in the offense every week. The Eagles are 3-0 this season when McCoy rushes 20+ times. While both teams are fighting for their playoff lives, expect the Eagles, who have their backs against the wall, to escape Washington with a win Sunday.
Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys
With the Giants on a bye & the Browns in town, the Cowboys' best chance to seize the NFC East from New York begins now. After dispatching of the Eagles in Philly last week, Dallas looks to get back to .500 and within a game of the Giants for the NFC East crown. The Browns, meanwhile, look to get their first win on the road all season. The young squad has struggled to put points on the board in their last two games, managing only one touchdown in that span. For the Cowboys, they have to cut down on penalties if they want to compete from here on out. Dallas was penalized 13 times for 75 yards in Philly last week, six of those penalties were called on rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne. Barring a monumental meltdown against the Browns, Dallas should close in on the Giants with a win at home here.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Detroit has a golden opportunity to jump back into playoff contention, in the form of the ailing Green Bay Packers. Green Bay went into the bye week nursing multiple injuries to key players, and it looks like they'll be without them for at least one more game. Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews & Greg Jennings have been all but ruled out for Sunday's game, as well as tackle Bryan Bulaga being placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season. However, if the Packers' Super Bowl victory a couple years ago, it's that this team can overcome injuries. Detroit has looked anything but the dark horse contender that made a playoffs a year ago. The Lions have also struggled in divisional play this season, as they are 0-3 against NFC North opponents. Though this one should be tightly contested, expect Aaron Rodgers to discount double check him & the Packers to victory.
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
Following a decisive victory against the defending champion New York Giants, the Cincinnati Bengals are riding a wave of momentum into the NFL's basement, located in Kansas City. The Bengals made life miserable to Eli Manning & the Giants, sacking him four times while forcing two interceptions & two fumbles, one that was recovered by Cincinnati. The Bengals look to keep their playoff hopes alive against a Chiefs squad who pushed Pittsburgh to the limit in overtime on Monday night, only to fall short once again. On the second play of overtime, quarterback Matt Cassel threw an interception that the Steelers would take advantage of with a field goal shortly thereafter, defeating the Chiefs 16-13. Kansas City wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (thigh) & Jon Baldwin (concussion) are questionable for this game but will be very limited even if they do play. The Bengals should have no problem dispatching of the Chiefs here.
New York Jets at St. Louis Rams
Together they stand, divided they fall. The Jets, marred in controversy, look steal a win in St. Louis against the Rams. New York has once again made headlines for all the wrong reasons this week, as multiple anonymous teammates & members of the Jets organization took to the media to bash back-up quarterback Tim Tebow, with one player allegedly calling him "terrible". Meanwhile, the Rams look to improve to 4-2 at home after a heartbreaking 24-24 tie in San Francisco last Sunday. The Jets 30th ranked rush defense will have their hands full trying to contain Steven Jackson, while Mark Sanchez should see plenty of pressure from a young & athletic front seven for St. Louis. Expect the wheels to officially come off & for the circus to continue in New York as the Jets let another victory slip away in St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Two young quarterbacks going in different directions face off Sunday in this NFC South match-up. While Cam Newton has endured a brutal sophomore slump, Josh Freeman is putting up the best numbers of his career. Freeman has 18 touchdowns to just five interceptions on the season, including 10 touchdowns & no interceptions in his last four games. Newton, on the other hand, is free-falling into mediocrity this season. A year removed from from accounting for 35 touchdowns on over 4,700 total yards, the second year quarterback from Auburn has come under fire multiple times this season for his poor decision making & leadership skills. Another player to watch out for in this game in dark horse Rookie of the Year candidate Doug Martin. Martin has posted 605 total yards & 6 touchdowns in his last three games. A shootout could occur here between these two high octane offenses, but the edge goes to the red-hot Bucs.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
In a potential Super Bowl preview, the Texans held off the Chicago Bears in a defensive slug-fest last Sunday night, 13-6. A match-up against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars should be just what the doctor ordered. The Jaguars continued to stake their claim to the first pick in next year's draft last Thursday night in a 27-10 loss to the Colts. With star running back Maurice Jones-Drew still sidelined for the foreseeable future, look for the Texans to turn up the heat defensively on young quarterback Blaine Gabbert. This one could get ugly quickly. Texans by double digits
New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders
After matching the club record for points allowed in a 55-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, things don't look to get any better for the Oakland Raiders this week against the New Orleans Saints. After starting the season 0-4, the Saints have won four of their last five & are now back in playoff contention. Although the Raiders defense has been abysmal as of late, the Saints' defense isn't much better. New Orleans ranks 31st in both passing & rushing yards allowed. Luckily for the Saints, they likely won't have to deal with Raiders' running back Darren McFadden, whose sprained ankle should keep him sidelined for at least another week. Look for the Saints to air it out early & often against the Raiders secondary, forcing Oakland to play catch up throughout the game. New Orleans gets back to .500 with a victory here.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
San Diego is still kicking themselves from what happened the last time these two teams met. Leading 24-0 in the third quarter at home, San Diego allowed Peyton Manning & the Denver Broncos to score 35 unanswered points en route to a disheartening 35-24 loss. A Denver win Sunday would propel the Broncos to a three game lead over the Chargers in the AFC West, practically guaranteeing Denver to a division title. Manning is playing like he never left, completing 69.7% of his passes, a career high. Philip Rivers, who has already struggled for much of this season, will have to deal with Denver's premier pass rush that currently leads the NFL in sacks with 31. Expect the Broncos to deal San Diego's playoff chances another blow with a double digit victory here.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
It's not Manning versus Brady, but Andrew Luck against the Patriots' most successful quarterback of all time is still quite an intriguing match-up. In a potential playoff preview, the Colts & Patriots meet Sunday in a battle of 6-3 teams. Luck, an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, has revived the Colts after Peyton Manning's departure & Indy's atrocious 2-14 campaign last season. He may have a tough time, however, keeping up with Tom Brady & the Patriots' explosive offense. New England is getting it done on the ground this year just as much as they do through the air, ranking fifth in rushing yards per game with 146. In the first of hopefully several match-ups between Luck & Brady, expect the Patriots to eventually pull away from the Colts in a shootout.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh's undefeated record (4-0) at home this season looks to be in jeopardy as the Steelers look to take control of the AFC North against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night. Ben Roethlisberger is out indefinitely with a sprained shoulder & more importantly a dislocated rib. Former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich will take over the reins in Roethlisberger's absence, which doesn't bode well for Pittsburgh. Leftwich hasn't started and won a game since October of 2006. Since then he's been 0-6 as a starter. The Ravens look to capitalize on their club record 55 points last week against the Raiders. Baltimore will blitz Leftwich early & often in an attempt to force multiple turnovers from the often error-prone quarterback. Even without Big Ben on the field, this will still be a defensive struggle between two intelligent & powerful defenses. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh will be unable to defeat the Ravens without their star quarterback.
Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers
It might up to both teams' back-up quarterbacks to solve the opposing defenses in this potential playoff preview. Alex Smith & Jay Cutler may both be sidelined after receiving concussions in their respective games last week. While the Bears look to rebound from their ugly loss to the Texans, San Francisco looks to pick up the pieces after a shocking tie to the Rams. While experience should favor Bears' back-up Jason Campbell, Colin Kaepernick has more production value for the Niners. No matter the quarterbacks on the field, this game will come down to the defenses & who makes more plays. I'll give the advantage to the home team, the 49ers. Don't be surprised to see another overtime at Candlestick Park on Monday.