Here comes Week Snowman. No. 8 should be great, continuing to ramp things up since there appear to be only a limited amount of teams harboring playoff aspirations. Here are this coming week’s top 10 matchups.
Pro Football – Thursday
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: Count on re-igniting the ground game being a major part of the plan after an uneven performance against the Jets. The Dolphins have blown out a pair of opponents to begin the Dan Campbell era but are facing their biggest challenge here, one that will answer questions about how the coaching staff matches up. As has been the case the past two weeks, Miami’s pass rush will play a huge role if we’re going to see an upset bid.
Pro Football – Sunday, Nov. 1
San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens: Philip Rivers has an improved offensive line to operate behind now that guys are getting healthier. Considering his special relationship with Keenan Allen, a marginal team becomes far more imposing as a result. The Ravens come off a road Monday night game and have been on the road for consecutive weeks, which could complicate matters.
Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns: Arizona might wind up dealing with a Monday night hangover after a home date with the Ravens. The Cardinals will run into a Browns squad that struggled offensively last week and will be looking to right the ship despite their lack of weapons. Given Johnny Manziel’s issues, getting Josh McCown back up to speed is Cleveland’s top priority. The Cards won’t make that easy.
NY Giants at New Orleans Saints: Look for Eli Manning’s return home to carry major implications given the standings in the NFC East. After Sunday night’s win over Dallas, the Giants have officially survived their brutal 0-2 start. The Saints have survived a rough spot too and seem to be getting the best from Drew Brees, who spent the first portion of the season injured and establishing new post-Jimmy Graham relationships.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers: Look for Ben Roethlisberger’s return to be the most important development here. Despite a damaging loss at Arrowhead, the Steelers still have managed to overcome an injury to their quarterback and remain a threat in the AFC. The Bengals are looking to remain undefeated and send another message.
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Cardinals: Colin Kaepernick has been hit-or-miss all season and takes the field looking to win a divisional game after falling short against Seattle. The Rams defense was dominant against Cleveland and will be tough to overcome, but a healthy Anquan Boldin would certainly help matters. Nick Foles has quietly gotten the job done for the Rams, but this is all about keeping Kaepernick from finding a rhythm.
NY Jets at Oakland Raiders: Coming off an awful setback against the Patriots, New York hits the road for its longest trip under Todd Bowles. Since Derek Carr and Amari Cooper have become such a force, this no longer looks like an easy bounce-back game, but Brandon Marshall does have some atonement in mind given the missed opportunities in Sunday’s loss to New England.
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys may have Dez Bryant back and also probably found a starting running back given Darren McFadden’s performance against the Giants. Unfortunately, Matt Cassel proved that mistakes could again be his downfall, which should be an issue against a Seahawks secondary that badly wants to make up for lost time and restore their reputation as the best unit in the game.
Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos: Two undefeated teams spent all week thinking about one another, so the Sunday night matchup should be brilliant. Aaron Rodgers vs. Peyton Manning sounds like an awful mismatch, but the Broncos’ defense has been tremendous and certainly gives the home team a chance here, particularly with a road environment involved. The Broncos have to run the football and will need Manning to be on in recognizing coverage and blitzes, an underrated part of his game that has also fueled his undefeated start.
Pro Football – Monday, Nov. 2
Indianapolis Colts at Carolina Panthers: While it’s looking increasingly likely that Chuck Pagano won’t be part of what the Colts do going forward, he’s still at the helm of the team most likely to come out of the NFL’s worst division. That makes this contest against undefeated Carolina very interesting. Andrew Luck simply hasn’t looked like himself and faces an elite secondary led by Josh Norman that has made a living changing games. Luke Kuechly made it back too, so the Colts will be facing the best defense they’ve seen all season.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He's also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].