|It's been a season of reflection for the Chiefs. (AP)|
This week presents some very important games. Who is better Chicago or Houston? Will is be Dallas or Philadelphia that keeps its fading hopes alive in the NFC East? The same conflict goes for NFC North rivals Detroit and Minnesota.
At such a crucial point in the season, it's time for the good teams to emerge and the others to fade, but there is debate over which teams fall into which categories.
Austen's Seven-Point Pick - @Pittsburgh over Kansas City
Austen: The Steelers are making a push to reestablish themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL, which isn't all that hard with the way the AFC teams have been playing. The Chiefs are THE worst team in the league right now. I cannot see anything but a blowout.
Stally: This is among my top three sure picks. I didn't have it as my top choice, but I don't fault anyone that does and agree the Chiefs are the worst team in the league.
Stally's Seven-Point Pick - @New England over Buffalo
Stally: I'm not even worried about jinxing this: Tom Brady has never lost a home game to the Buffalo Bills ... and he plays them every single year. This is far and away my first overall pick.
Austen: This and the Steelers game are the clear 1A and 1B of this week. Both should be blow outs, but I think the Steelers are playing better than the Pats and the Chiefs are worse than the Bills, so I stand by my first pick.
Austen's Six-Point Pick - @San Francisco over St. Louis
Austen: If the 49ers fall to the Rams at home, the league will have to reevaluate this team. The 49ers are one of the deepest teams in the league, and I cannot see them losing to a Rams team that simply does not have enough difference makers on either side of the ball.
Stally: I'm so confident in my old employer that I would have taken them over the Steelers. Austen said there's a 1A and 1B, throw this in as a 1C.
Stally's Six-Point Pick - @Baltimore over Oakland
Stally: The Ravens are 4-0 at home, 2-2 on the road. Fair enough to say that they're safe when they're in Maryland and I don't see the 3-5 Raiders changing that this weekend.
Austen: This should be a blowout, but the Ravens cannot stop the run and cannot rush the passer. Also, Joe Flacco can always have a horrible day and lose the game for his team. I have the Ravens, but not with much confidence.
Stally: With Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson out, I don't think there's going to be much of a run for the Ravens to stop anyway.
Austen's Five-Point Pick - @Seattle over New York-Jets
Austen: This pains me to take the Seahawks so high, but I can more easily see a season-ending injury to Mark Sanchez than a win for the Jets in this one. The Jets defense cannot stop the run, so Russel Wilson and Marshawn Lynch should have big days. The Jets offense has little to no weapons and I cannot see anyone coming up big for them against the best secondary in the NFL. And I have not even mentioned the Jets biggest weakness, the offensive line, going up against the best defensive line rotation in the league. I see bad things in the Jets' future.
Stally: I had this one ranked over the Ravens-Raiders to be honest. I just thought Austen would be too stubborn to pick against the Jets this high. Shame on me. I hate the Jets and love to pick against them for every reason Austen just listed ... except a Sanchez injury, I'll cheer against that.
Stally's Five-Point Pick - New York Giants over @Cincinnati
Stally: This game was the cut off between easy pick and tough decision. The first five Austen and I agreed on quickly, the rest will get muddled. Before we get into this being a road game, let me point out that the Giants have had better road records than home records in each of the past two seasons, while the Bengals have been just the opposite. I also don't think it much of a reach to say the 6-2 Giants are a better team than the 3-5 Bengals, even if I'm the first one to point out that I believe the Giants have had some lucky wins.
Austen: I have the Bengals in my upset special of the week. The Giants cannot get anything going on offense and their secondary is absolutely decimated. I do not think they have anyone who can matchup to either A.J. Green or Jermaine Gresham with all those injuries. The Giants defensive line might have to win this game for the team, but I think their November struggles will continue this season and they will fall to the Bengals.
Austen's Four-Point Pick - @Tampa Bay over San Diego
Austen: A crosscountry trip for a bad team going on the road against a good team all points to the Bucs winning this one. The Bucs are one of the best run defenses in the league, somehow, so Phillip Rivers will have to generate all the offense in this one. He has yet to come up big for his team and I do not think he will do it in this one. Once again, Rivers' turnovers will cause them to fall in this one. Oh yeah, and I'm not sure if you heard but the Bucs offense has been on fire lately.
Stally: If we're expecting Rivers to need to generate the offense, I agree, there's an easy choice here. This one is only close in terms of name recognition, where the Bucs are underrated and the Chargers are overrated. This should be a Tampa Bay win, probably by a lot bigger margin than many of us expect.
Stally's Four-Point Pick - @Minnesota over Detroit
Stally: I'm not really sure why the 4-4 road team is a two-point favorite over the 5-4 home team. It's fair to say that the Vikings aren't as good as we once thought, but is it fair to say the Lions are any better than the doubters have said all along? No, I don't think so. We're seeing two average teams in this one and I'll take the home one, as Minnesota is 4-1 at the Metrodome this year.
Austen: After a great start to the season, Christian Ponder has been atrocious basically since Week 5. Since then, he has yet to score more touchdowns than turnovers. In the last three games, he has failed to throw over 63 yards twice. No, that's not a misprint. 63 yards. That's a play for some quarterbacks. And on top of all this, Percy Harvin is out of this game. Adrian Peterson might have a tough day because there is officially no one left to generate offense in Minnesota. I think the Lions are the clear favorite here.
Austen's Three-Point Pick - Denver over @Carolina
Austen: Cam Newton is in for another tough day. He has to face a pass rush with speed all over the place. Champ Bailey should shut down Steve Smith, leaving Newton with very few options in the passing game. The only chance they have is if their mediocre defense can somehow force Peyton Manning into some early turnovers and their struggling rush offense steps up and makes some plays. I just don't see it happening though.
Stally: For some reason, I do see it happening and I'm taking the Panthers for the upset. I'm going on nothing more than an intuitive hunch. When Carolina loses by 30, we can all share a laugh, but I'm taking them this week.
Stally's Three-Point Pick - @Miami over Tennessee
Stally: It pains both Austen and I to admit this, but the Dolphins aren't half bad. The Titans are. They're 3-6 record is about what they deserve at this point and I don't see them winning this one.
Austen: The Dolphins should hold Chris Johnson in check and that's the only way the Titans can win any games. Jake Locker is back, but I don't think it makes any difference on this offense, which has actually played better without Locker in the lineup.
Stally: I agree. Matt Hasselbeck should remain the starter.
Austen's Two-Point Pick - Dallas over @Philadelphia
Austen: The Cowboys do some things right, the Eagles do nothing right. The Eagles had over 400 yards of offense and still only scored 13 points against the worst defense in the league. The Saints' pass rush was atrocious and still took down Michael Vick seven times. DeMarcus Ware could sack Vick seven times himself in this one. The Eagles' season ended last week when right tackle/Vick's blindside protector Todd Herremans went down for the season. He was the Eagles' only good offensive lineman and his loss is something this team cannot overcome. The Eagles are toast and the Boys will take advantage of their weaknesses.
Stally: That first sentence basically said it all. Something is broke in Dallas for sure, but there are still pieces that can be put back together and the Eagles are miserable. In fact, Philadelphia has been miserable all year, they just managed to squeak out three of their first four games by a total of four points.
Stally's Two-Point Pick - @Chicago over Houston
Stally: Austen said on the phone that he hopes that this one is on locally in New York City. Considering NBC recognizes the importance and made it the Sunday Night Football game, I'm assuming that it will be on across America! This should be a great measuring stick for two of the leagues new powerhouses. I think that the Bears stifling defense will be too much at home for the Texans, who were exposed in primetime by another NFC North team (the Packers) a few weeks ago.
Austen: I have the Bears, but not with much confidence. J.J. Watt terrifies me with what he might be able to do to Jay Cutler, who is due for a multiple turnover game. If the Texans can shutdown Brandon Marshall, Cutler will get frustrated and turn the ball over and Marshall tends to give up when he does not get the ball. I think the Bears will make just enough plays to overcome the Texans, but this should be a tight one and might be the most exciting matchup of the season thus far.
Stally: More exciting than Eli Manning vs. Ben Roethlisberger!?
Austen's One-Point Pick - Atlanta over @New Orleans
Austen: The Saints have been playing better, but they still stink. Michael Turner should have a good game, which means a lot of deep passes off the play action. That spells disaster for the Saints. The Falcons might have a more complete offense than the Saints right now and they clearly have the better defense, by far. In a divisional game, anything is possible, but with my last pick I have to take the undefeated team over the squad that is struggling to get to .500.
Stally: I'm taking the Saints because I do believe that division rivalries cancel out some advantages. The Falcons certainly won't be phased by the Superdome in terms of the conditions, as they're built for a dome, but that crowd has a way of giving New Orleans a big advantage.
Stally's One-Point Pick - Indianapolis over @Jacksonville
Stally: This one is in the books and if I'd known the Colts would roll to a 27-10 win, I would have picked them earlier. I always have my doubts with a road team on Thursday night, especially when the team is mediocre (like the Colts), but Jacksonville is terrible and that was apparent.
Austen: The only reason this one remained on the board this long is because the Colts are a different team at home and Jacksonville always has one surprising upset each year. The Colts are going to the playoffs and the Jags are just terrible.