11/02/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak
Three big AFC matchups, an inter conference clash, and a marquee NFC matchup highlight this week's NFL schedule. Lets take a look at the biggest games this week:
Arizona at Dallas
If you asked NFL fans who would have the league's best record at the halfway point of the season, I doubt too many would've said the Arizona Cardinals. But at 6 and 1, the Cardinals are not only tied for the best record in the NFL in 2014, they're off to the franchises best start in 40 years. Since coming back from injury, Carson Palmer has led the Cardinals to four straight wins. He was stellar in last week's win over Philadelphia as well, passing for 329 yards and a 2 TD's. Arizona's defense deserves a lot of the credit for this season's success as well. The Cardinals have the league's 3rd best rushing defense, giving up 77.9 yards per game. But Arizona allowed the Eagles to rush for 110 yards, and will be tested even more by the NFL's leading rusher in the Cowboys DeMarco Murray. Murray has rushed for 1,054 yards and scored 7 TD's in 2014, and has reached 100 yards rushing in every game so far this season. Dallas may be without QB Tony Romo however. Romo suffered a back injury in last week's loss to Washington, and will be a game time decision. If he can't go, Brandon Weeden will get the start for the Cowboys. That might be good news for a Cardinals defense that gave up over 400 yards passing to Philadelphia last week. Arizona has won the past 3 matchups, but the Cowboys won the last game played in Dallas back in 2006.
San Diego at Miami
Talk about a streaky team: After losing their season opener, the Chargers won their next five games. Since then, they've lost 2 in a row. In their defense though, the Chargers have suffered significant injuries on both offense and defense. San Diego has given up 20 or more points in their past 3 games after giving up more than 20 just once in their first 6 games. Miami comes in this week streaking in the opposite direction, having won their past 2 games. The Dolphins have the 6th best rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 138.8 yards per game. They'll face a banged up Chargers defense that has allowed nearly 300 yards rushing in their past two games. The Dolphins 3rd ranked passing defense will be challenged this week by San Diego, which ranks 8th in the NFL in passing yards. Philip Rivers has passed for 2,213 yards and thrown 20 TD passes in 2014. Miami has struggled throwing the ball this season, ranking 25th in the league, and will face a Chargers defense that is 6th best against the pass so far this season. Miami will be looking for their 4th win in 5 home games this season. San Diego hasn't won in Miami since 1982.
Philadelphia at Houston
While the Eagles are battling for the top spot in the NFC East at 5 and 2, Houston is trying to stay in the AFC playoff picture at 4 and 4. After starting the season winning their first 3 games, the Eagles have lost two of their past four. The Texans win over Tennessee last week broke a three game losing streak. Houston has the 29th ranked passing defense in the NFL and will be facing the 6th best passing offense in the Eagles. Nick Foles has passed for 2,39 yards and 12 TD's, but 7 of his 9 interceptions this season have come in the past four games. The Eagles have allowed opponents to rush for an average of 116. 7 yards per game, and will face the Texans 5th best rushing offense. Houston is averaging 139.4 yards per game, which is 5th best in the NFL. That's due to Arian Foster looking like the Arian Foster of old. Foster is 2nd in the league in rushing with 766 yards this season, and comes in off of a 151 yard, 2 touchdown performance in last week's win over the Titans. Philadelphia has won all 3 matchups between these teams since Houston entered the NFL in 2002.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
First place in the AFC North will be on the line as the Steelers and Ravens meet for the second time this season. Both teams come in at 5 and 3, but both have two losses in the division as well. Baltimore won the first meeting of the season in Week 2 by the score of 26 to 6. The Ravens held the Steelers to just two field goals in that game, and forced three turnovers as well. Pittsburgh comes in off of a huge offensive performance in last weeks 51 to 34 win over Indianapolis. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 522 yards and 6 TD's in the win. The Steelers had two 100 yard receivers in the win. Antonio Brown had 10 catches for 133 yards and 2 TD's, while TE Heath Miller caught 7 passes for 112 yards and one score. Le'Veon Bell put up 148 yards of total offense in the win as well. Baltimore comes in off of a 27 to 24 loss to Cincinnati in which the Bengals scored the game winning touchdown with less than a minute left in regulation. The Ravens defense will try to slow down Roethisberger and the Steelers offensive attack without starting cornerback Jimmy Smith, who was injured in the loss to the Bengals. Baltimore has won the past 2 games between these teams and 2 of the past 3 played in Pittsburgh.
Denver at New England
The top two teams in the AFC meet in this week's marquee matchup. And it's another chapter in the Tom Brady and Peyton Manning rivalry as well. Brady has gotten the better of Manning in their head to head meetings, winning 10 of the 15 games they've played against each other in. Both teams come in on four game winning streaks. The Patriots are averaging 39.5 points per game during their streak, while the Broncos are averaging just over 37 points during their streak. So far this season, Manning has thrown 22 touchdown passes, which is tied for tops in the NFL. He's passed for 2,134 yards and has only thrown 3 interceptions. Brady isn't too far behind Manning, passing for 2,059 yards and throwing 18 TD's against just 2 interceptions. These teams split the two games they played last season. The Patriots came from being down 24 to 0 to beat the Broncos 34 to 31 in the regular season meeting, but it was the Broncos who won 26 to 16 in the rematch in the AFC Championship game. Besides all of the talk about the offense, the Broncos boast the NFL's top rushing defense as well, giving up just over 72 yards per game. New England has won the past four regular season meetings between these teams, and the Patriots have won 13 consecutive home games as well.
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