11-17-2012, 10:45 AM
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins So ... maybe Juan Castillo wasn't the problem in Philly. Before Andy Reid fired his previous defensive coordinator, the Eagles had the league's best defensive completion percentage against passes thrown 10 yards or more. Since former secondary coach Todd Bowles took over a couple weeks back, that same defense has allowed over 70 percent of such passes to be completed, worst in the NFL. Meanwhile, with Michael Vick out of this game due to a concussion, rookie Nick Foles will make his first NFL start. Foles was actually decent last Sunday against the Cowboys after Vick was hurt, throwing for 219 yards, one touchdown, and one interception on 22 completions. However, he had a couple more potential picks dropped. Washington's pass defense should be more forgiving, but unless Bowles figures out a way to stop the bleeding against the deep ball, Robert Griffin III will light him up. Pick: Redskins 23, Eagles 20 Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers The good news: Since Ben Roethlisberger came into the NFL in 2004, the Steelers have only lost five games in which Big Ben did not start. The bad news: Four of those losses were against the Baltimore Ravens. Byron Leftwich will sub in for Big Ben, whose shoulder injury is complicated by a rib issue that could actually threaten his life. Leftwich is a serviceable starter, and as long as the Steelers can keep their recently strong running game up, things should be okay against an injury-plagues Baltimore defense that can't seem to stop anyone consistently. For Baltimore's offense, it's no surprise that Joe Flacco has thrown a higher percentage of deep passes than anyone else -- 17.8 percent of his total throws are to targets 20 yards downfield or more, per Pro Football Focus. However, per ESPN Stats & Info, Flacco has 52 overthrown passes of 20 yards or more, far more than anyone else. This game could very well key on how offensive coordinator Cam Cameron uses his weapons -- more explosions and risk, or better ball control to protect the defense? Pick: Steelers 25, Ravens 22 Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons Cardinals tackles D'Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie have combined to allow over 100 quarterback pressures this season, which begs the question: Who's coaching these guys up? Some league sources believe that the Cardinals offensive line is woefully unprepared to deal with any manner of stunts and blitzes -- these guys are just getting caught flat-footed. The Falcons aren't sackmasters, per se, but Mike Nolan puts more multiple fronts out there than we've seen from the Falcons in a long time. Rookie Nate Potter replaced Batiste in Arizona's Week 9 loss to the Packers and didn't perform worse, which we supposed could be cause for optimism if you're into low expectations. Of course, when Potter has to deal with John Abraham, and the Falcons are looking to bounce back from their first loss of the year, and the Cards' defense is starting to spring leaks ... well, yikes. Pick: Falcons 37, Cardinals 12 Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys Believe it or not, the Cowboys could be on the verge of a breakthrough that might give them an NFC East that nobody seems to want. Per Football Outsiders, Dallas plays one of the easiest schedules down the stretch, and the more we look at the job Rob Ryan is doing with Dallas' defense, the more we like it. If Tony Romo can find some consistency, and his receivers can run routes the way they're supposed to, Dallas could very well be one of the champs of the 2012 stretch run. Meanwhile, the Browns' new ownership and front office are in evaluation mode, and everyone -- including rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden -- is fighting for position. Pick: Cowboys 29. Browns 18 Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions "We're in for a major league challenge this weekend," Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay receivers on Friday.