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ATPF Preview Week 11

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Week 10 in the NFL proved to be one of the most surprising in terms of results yet. Who thought the Rams could beat the Colts? And by 30 points? What about the winless Jaguars and Buccaneers both winning? We predicted the latter but both? It was a tough week to predict and ATPF’s first losing week of the season, 6-8 was pretty disappointing. The Bengals, our bogey team were incredibly naive in overtime, leading to their loss having been given a second chance and that loss hurt the most.

Moving on swiftly to week eleven and this may be the most exciting round of fixtures so far. Obviously the 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs back after their bye visiting the 8-1 Denver Broncos headlines the fixtures but the 49ers visiting the Superdome and Monday night’s clash of New England and the hugely improved Carolina Panthers are just as big. Crucial games such as Thursday Night’s AFC South clash, the Browns @ Bills game and Redskins @ Eagles will all have major impacts on the shape of the team’s seasons; it’s now or never this season for many.

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans

Did both teams have one eye on this fixture when they were both upset last week? Hard to think they didn’t because both were pretty unimaginable failures. The Colts were humbled 38-8 at home by the Rams who arrived in Indianapolis at 3-6 and with a backup quarterback starting. Tennessee meanwhile handed the lowly Jaguars their first win and lost oft-injured quarterback Jake Locker for the season too.

Had the Titans been able to win that week 10 game they would have been able to top the division with a win here, instead they are staring down the barrel of 4-6 which would be the end of their season. Tennessee truly shot themselves in the foot by gifting the Jaguars four turnovers. Their ninth ranked defense allowed just 214 total yards but was powerless againt the four turnovers. Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t the man responsible, the backup quarterback threw two touchdown passes and ran one in himself, he isn’t a big drop off from Locker. Chris Johnson returned from a season in the wilderness in week nine but disappeared again last week. Whether he needs a change of scenery or is simply running on empty now remains to be seen but as much as the Titans need him he can’t be relied on any more.

The Colts thirty point humbling may have been the biggest shocker of the season so far. The Colts committed five turnovers and allowed Tavon Austin, a rookie who was already hearing the dreaded word ‘bust’ whispered to take in a long return and two long touchdown passes. It will have been an uncomfortable few days in Indianapolis and nobody will escape blame. Everything went wrong that has been going right really, the Colts have consistently won turnover battles this year but lost by four to St.Louis. Andrew Luck has generally been pretty conservative in games this year but asked to really force it he made mistakes. The Colts defense has allowed yards but always made big plays to make up for it, on Sunday they were exposed by Austin’s blazing speed and ability to run after the catch.

Both teams were pretty poor last week and turnovers were the common theme. Neither has made a habit of losing the turnover battle previously so we can expect a cagey start here with both looking to protect the ball better. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can compete with Andrew Luck his defense may give his side the edge but Luck has been pretty cerebral on the whole this year and we would rather take our chances on him bouncing back than on Fitzpatrick whose inconsistency is the reason he is now a backup rather than a starter.

ATPF PredictionIn a low scoring, tense affair the Colts edge to victory by three or four points.

Baltimore Ravens @ Chicago Bears

Defeat for the Bears last week saw them again slip behind the Lions in the fiercely competitive NFC North while the Ravens survived an overtime forcing hail mary to eventually overcome the Bengals; the win keeps them just about in the playoff hunt.

For Baltimore the season has been as tough as you would expect for them having lost two future hall of fame defenders their starting center and a starting wide receiver. Jim Harbaugh’s team know what it takes to make the playoffs and as reigning Superbowl champions they know how to win in the postseason. The Ravens have struggled to 4-5 and realistically can probably only lose one more game if they want to play on into January. Their offense and particularly its lack of firepower has been the biggest issue, only three teams have less yards and the Ravens average just 20 points per game. Defensively Baltimore still have their share of talent minus Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger. They have given up just one rushing touchdown but the secondary is vulnerable when the rush can’t get home.

Chicago got within a two point conversion of overtime against the Lions but saw Matt Forte stuffed by Nick Fairley. Returning quarterback Jay Cutler put the Bears ahead early but again left the game injured; he continues to frustrate in the windy city. Cutler will miss this game with a high ankle sprain; his backup Josh McCown is a smart veteran but lacks the playmaking skills of Cutler. In Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery McCown has two big productive receivers but with the Ravens so good against the run can he get it into the end zone enough times to beat the Ravens? The Bears defense is ailing, linebacker Lance Briggs and corner Charles Tillman are both out and they are two of the Bears top three defenders so Baltimore shouldn’t find this unit as tough as normal Chicago defenses.

A tough one to call this; the Bears season is in danger of collapsing behind the weight of key injuries they have suffered yet they have been the better of these two teams so far. Baltimore didn’t inspire even in winning last week but they could be ready to finish the season strongly. The Ravens defense needs to make some big plays in the passing game but if they can do so the Ravens can edge this one.

ATPF PredictionThe Ravens superior defense inspires the win; again it’s by just a field goal.

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals

After their call to Mary was answered the Bengals managed an eleven yard loss on fourth down in overtime to setup Baltimore for the game winning drive. Such plays seem to be too common in Cincinnati and a supremely talented team like they are should be better than 6-4. Cleveland beat the Ravens in week nine and had their bye week to prepare for another AFC North war. At 4-5 the underdog Browns know that back to back wins could see them join Cincinnati atop the division.

Cleveland snapped a losing run just in time when they edged the Ravens in week nine. Their defense has been one of the league’s most impressive units through ten weeks, they rank fifth in yards allowed but could improve by creating more than the eleven turnovers they have so far. Their offense has seen three different quarterbacks start and all have at least one win. Journeyman Jason Campbell, a physically gifted underachiever is now under center and his play in two starts has been the best the Browns have seen at the position this year. Wide receiver Josh Gordon and rookie tight end Jordan Cameron are both having fine seasons and both could have very bright futures in Cleveland but the Browns do need more from their rushing attack which averages a paltry 3.7 yards per carry.

Cincinnati rank in the top ten both offensively and defensively. Losing all-pro tackle Geno Atkins was a blow to the defense yet in their first game without him the Bengals allowed less than 200 yards in four and a half quarters in Baltimore. Offensively Cincinnati will go as far as inconsistent third year quarterback Andy Dalton can take them; Dalton has thrown nine picks in his team’s four losses including six in the last two. In their six wins Dalton has managed to restrict it to just four interceptions and is in pace for a 4000 yards, 30 touchdown season.

The Browns defense saw them take the first battle of Ohio but at home the Bengals and their superiorly talented offense look to hold the aces this time around.

ATPF PredictionCincinnati get back on track, win by ten.

New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills

Inconsistency is the theme to these two AFC East rivals. Defeat for Buffalo in week ten saw them slip to 3-7 but the Jets who beat the high flying Saints in week nine return from their bye ready to make a real push for the playoffs.

Gang Green are enjoying a bounce back season under inspirational coach Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Geno Smith. With the Tim Tebow sideshow gone and Mark Sanchez’s embarrassing glamour shoots no longer at the forefront the Jets have got back to doing what they do best; playing hard, physical, smart football. Ryan’s defense rank eighth in yards allowed with their defensive line the basis for their success. Geno Smith’s thirteen interceptions have put the defense under pressure but the Jets top ten rushing attack keeps Smith from being asked to do too much too often.

The Bills like their state rivals are a run first team with a rookie quarterback under center. E.J. Manuel returned from injury to start in Pittsburgh but managed just 155 yards passing. Explosive runner C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the power back are a feared tandem but injuries and lack of a passing threat have hampered them and after getting almost 200 yards between them against the Chiefs they could muster just 78 against the Steelers. Like Pittsburgh the Jets will focus first on stopping the run and take their chances with Manuel. Defensively the Bills have been pretty bad, they have given up 21 touchdown passes and all ten of their rivals so far have scored over twenty against them.

The Jets edged the first game at home, winning by seven. Since then the Bills form has slipped so it’s hard to see a reverse here.

ATPF PredictionLike the first battle the Jets win by seven.

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay finally got their first win on Monday Night but for their NFC South rivals there was more misery in a beat down by the NFC leaders Seattle. Both would have thought this could be a pivotal game before the season but with both so disappointing it is for little more than divisional pride now.

Morale will be high in Tampa after that first win against their state rivals Miami. The Buccaneers have played better than 1-8, several close games have gone against them and they could easily be around .500. Nevertheless they found a way to win such a close game at last against the Dolphins and should have gained some confidence from it. A crucial interception from big money acquisition Darrelle Revis was the key play in that win and he is starting to come back to something like his best after knee surgery. The Buccaneers defense, a respectable fourteenth in yards allowed has the talent to improve and push for a top ten end of year spot. They have been helped by rookie Mike Glennon who has limited turnovers since being handed the starting job and is starting to find chemistry with star receiver Vincent Jackson.

Atlanta have been so consistent over the last 5 years that a 2-7 season has been a huge shock. As we have continually mentioned injuries have plagued them but a porous defense and now a quarterback who has finally imploded as all those around him have has seen them become in grave danger of being the NFC’s worst team. Since beating the Buccaneers in week seven the Falcons have lost all three games and managed just one touchdown in each. Their offense minus Julio Jones seems to have lost all belief. Defensively Atlanta rank 25th in yards allowed and their inept pass rush has seen their secondary picked apart all too often.

The Falcons have taken three consecutive hammerings; their offense is as poor as their defense. Tampa Bay have a real chance to win this game if they play smart football.

ATPF PredictionBack to back wins for the Bucs who prevail by a touchdown.

San Diego Chargers @ Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are a strange team. With their season spiralling out of control they beat the high flying Bengals in week nine only to lose to the 0-8 Buccaneers ten days later. The Chargers make the long journey East on the back of consecutive defeats since their week eight bye.

Defeat by eight to the Broncos was not the end of the world for San Diego. The Chargers were too conservative in their offensive play calling early on and ended up chasing the game. With the Broncos so hard to slow down it was a bad idea to settle for field goals early on. Now at 4-5 and four behind the top two in the AFC West the playoffs look out of reach to first season head coach Mike McCoy. There is plenty to build on however in San Diego. Philip Rivers has had a bounce back year and can now again be considered an upper tier starter. The Chargers heavily retooled defense has improved dramatically as the season has gone on also.

Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill is still inexperienced and even as a sophomore is making rookie mistakes. His development from year two to three is as critical to the Dolphins as it is to his own career. With big money targets Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller signed things looked promising for Miami but the former hasn’t produced and the latter landed on Injured Reserve before a ball was thrown. The already struggling offensive line has been hit hard by the Incognito- Martin issues so Tannehill could have more of the same having already been sacked 37 times. Defensively the Dolphins are a middle of the pack team who still need more help in the secondary.

Miami’s off field crisis left them ripe for the pickings against Tampa Bay. San Diego are significantly more talented and may be the best team in the league with a losing record.

ATPF PredictionIn a battle of 4-5 teams San Diego cruise past Miami, win by over ten.

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles

A crucial battle in the NFC East which looks set to be won by the least flawed rather than most talented team; we aren’t sure who is the least flawed at this stage. For Washington defeat would surely end their chance, 3-7 is terminal. Philadelphia have gotten back to back wins and can take the division lead with a win here.

Nick Foles return from concussion coincided with Michael Vick’s latest injury and how crucial it proved to the Eagles. Foles is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league and has thrown ten touchdowns to no interceptions in two games since his return. Ball security was the issue with Vick but it is one of Foles’ strong points along with his deep ball which has terrorised the Raiders and Packers. With Riley Cooper becoming a favourite of Nick Foles and DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy both having bounce back years the Eagles offense suddenly looks pretty scary. Defensively the Eagles are still very weak, only their NFC East rivals Dallas have given up more yards.

Washington couldn’t afford to lose to the toiling Vikings as they did in week ten. They are now on life support at 3-6 and don’t look a team capable of going on a winning run. Once again they dominated the game in Minnesota. They had far more possession, far more yards and won the turnover battle but again just couldn’t turn yards into points. Their defense has barely made a stand all year and again it has been down to their offense to win games. Last year the mercurial RG3 and battering ram Alfred Morris were able to make up for their defensive ineptitude but with team’s more aware of the duo they have struggled to do so in 2013.

Both teams are considerably better offensively than defensively and a shootout could be in store. The Redskins must control the clock with Morris to slow down the Eagles high octane offense if they are to have a chance. The Eagles won in Washington in the first clash so at home they should take some beating and their superior receivers can be the difference.

ATPF PredictionPhiladelphia takes control of the NFC East, wins a shootout by seven.

Arizona Cardinals @ Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags finally got a win in week ten, riding the Titans turnovers to the victory. The Cardinals, a team supposed to be rebuilding are having a great season and in a weaker division than the brutal NFC West they would still be contenders.

The 5-4 Cardinals have had a brutal schedule; they have beaten the Lions and Panthers but fallen to Seattle, San Francisco and New Orleans, that’s five likely NFC playoff teams. Their offense hasn’t been hugely effective but in veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald and rookie running back Andre Ellington they have a couple of playmakers. Defensively the Cards are just outside the top ten but have forced twenty turnovers and in cornerback Patrick Peterson they have arguably the most talented cornerback in football.

Jacksonville are dead last in total offense and just one place better in rushing. Maurice Jones-Drew was a factor in their win but he is a long way off his form when the NFL’s leading rusher in 2010. With Justin Blackmon suspended for the foreseeable future Chad Henne has few targets and the stop gap isn’t likely to improve greatly on his three touchdowns to seven interceptions ratio anytime soon. The Jags defense are allowing almost 400 yards and over three touchdowns per game, way too many for their feeble offense to overcome.

The Jags had their day in the Sun but that one win may be it. Arizona have faced some tough opponents so far so will welcome this easier task.

ATPF Prediction- The Cards success continues, they beat the Jags by two scores.

Detroit Lions @ Pittsburgh Steelers

The Lions defense finally came to the aid of their ultra-productive offense when twice denying the Bears a game tying two-point conversion in the final minute at Soldier Field. Pittsburgh’s 0-4 start put them in a huge hole but they are 3-2 since and beat the Bills comfortably a week ago.

The Steelers are not the sort of 3-6 team that playoff teams like the Lions will fancy playing, especially at Heinz field. Since they regrouped during their bye the Steelers have returned a much better and much harder to beat team. Their defense had an aberration in New England but has otherwise been sound if some way off Steelers teams of the past. Offensively rookie running back Le’Veon Bell has given them some balance and the Steelers are up to fifteenth in offensive yards. Journeyman Jerricho Cotchery is proving a go-to-guy in the red zone for Ben Roethlisberger and Bell has four touchdown runs; no other back on the roster has scored this season.

Detroit can be unstoppable at times; Matthew Stafford is a real gun-slinger but his huge arm and unshakable self confidence teamed with the league’s best receiver Calvin Johnson and playmaker Reggie Bush makes this a unit which can terrorise even the league’s better defenses. The Lions defense has two dominating defensive tackles in bad boy Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley who came up with the potentially season defining play for the Lions last week. The secondary of the Lions can be gotten at but Suh and Fairley will hope to collapse the pocket against a poor Steelers offensive line.

The Steelers are a team lacking talent at a number of positions and playmakers are few and far between. The Lions meanwhile are stacked with playmakers and have better talent in every position offensively. Last time Pittsburgh played a top tier offense they conceded 55, that won’t be repeated but reflects their weakness against the very best.

ATPF Prediction The Lions strong run continues, they win on the road by ten.

Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans

Two teams in woeful form match up here and picking a winner isn’t easy. The Raiders were going along ok until they were torn apart by the Eagles and beaten by the Giants. They are now at 3-6 and easily the worst team in the AFC West. Houston’s record is even worse, they stand at 2-7 and could or maybe should have won all of their last three games, instead they have lost them all.

The Texans have been a big disappointment, last year they narrowly lost out on homefield advantage but still won a playoff game but this season has been a disaster. Head coach Gary Kubiak had a stroke two weeks ago, assistant head coach\defensive coordinator Wade Phillips lost his father the week before that and on the field quarterback Matt Schaub imploded and was benched and star running back Arian Foster is on injured reserve. If it could go wrong in Houston it has done. With three straight home games now Houston desperately needs to regain some pride. To have the league’s stingiest defense and a top ten offense and be 2-7 is unheard of.

The Raiders have enjoyed the play of dual threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Pryor leads the team in passing and rushing and while he has a lot to learn he is a regular on the highlight reels. With oft injured Darren McFadden again out in week ten Pryor struggled and completed less than half of his passes against the Giants. Teams are starting to direct their focus to keeping him in the pocket and from there he isn’t effective. The Raiders inexplicable defensive no-show against Philadelphia has spoilt an otherwise satisfactory season by the heavily retooled unit.

The Texans will be the death of us but again we are on their side. Statistically they are streets ahead of their rivals and at home surely can at last win one.

ATPF PredictionTexans defense strangles the ineffective Raiders and Houston wins by ten.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos

 The game we have been waiting for. The unbeaten Chiefs have had a week to prepare for their visit to Mile High and they are fully aware that a win would not only make them odds-on favourites for home field advantage but would also make a perfect season a real possibility. Denver have just a single blip on their record and have been irresistible at times. This is the best two teams in the AFC squaring off and when you throw in the divisional rivalry you have a game to savour.

The Chiefs turnaround from league’s worst to league’s best has been unbelievable. Andy Reid is a lock for coach of the year for his turnaround of this team after he was sacked in Philadelphia. We knew the Chiefs had talent but Reid and his coaching staff have added to what was already in place and then maximised what the Chiefs have to build a truly formidable team. Defensively Kansas City have as much talent as anyone, they have seven or eight players who have played at a pro-bowl level so far. The 23 turnovers and 33 sacks so far show the big play ability of this defense led by unstoppable pass rush duo Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. The offense is centred around Jamaal Charles, a running back who is still underrated around the league, make no mistake this guy is a genuine contender for Adrian Peterson’s best in the business tag. The Chiefs west coast passing attack which relies on short, accurate passes and receivers gaining yards after the catch has been perfect for quarterback Alex Smith who is having a career year in KC.

The Broncos are a far more open, attacking team. Their league leading offense led by soon to be MVP again Peyton Manning averages over 450 yards per game and Manning has already thrown a staggering 33 touchdown passes; he is set to break all sorts of records. Manning has four genuine playmaking receivers each with different skill sets and a running back as reliable as any in short yardage and goal line situations. The Broncos defense has gotten in its share of shootouts and is vulnerable to the deep pass but with Von Miller back they were far better against the Chargers this past Sunday and the talent on Jack Del Rio’s unit is not of a team in the bottom half of the standings.

The Chiefs wonderful run could come to an end here and if it does there is no discredit in losing to the Broncos on the road. As good as the Chiefs defense is it’s hard to see them stopping Manning and co doing their thing and the Chiefs simply won’t be able to keep pace if their defense can’t force turnovers.

ATPF PredictionThe Broncos end the Chiefs streak at nine, win by ten.

San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints

Defeat for the 49ers after an abject offensive display against the Panthers has put them two behind the Seahawks and also a game behind the Saints who now hold second position in the NFC. New Orleans bounced back from a shock defeat to the Jets by dismantling the Cowboys.

The Saints offense is always among the league’s best and against the Cowboys they were irresistible, scoring seven touchdowns. Drew Brees is the catalyst behind the league’s second best offense and second best passing offense. Brees already has twenty five touchdowns and over 3000 yards but against the Cowboys the running game showed up also as three different backs rushed for a touchdown. New Orleans defense was the league’s worst a year ago but has been turned around under Rob Ryan and is now seventh in yards allowed. If Ryan’s unit continue at that level the Saints are major contenders for the Superbowl.

San Francisco’s five game win streak was ended when they lost a brutal game 10-9 at home to Carolina on Sunday. The 49ers, the preseason NFC favourites had looked to be coming good after a slow start but couldn’t find a way to breach the Panthers excellent defense a week ago, managing just three field goals and not scoring a point in the second half. Colin Kaepernick couldn’t even muster 100 yards passing and was intercepted as the Panthers defense overwhelmed him. The 49ers were excellent themselves defensively, forcing two turnovers and holding Carolina to just 151 yards. With Aldon Smith back there is little doubt that they are a top five defense.

An intriguing battle between the Saints multi-dimensional offense and the 49ers hugely talented defense. As good as they are the 49ers won’t be able to totally shut Drew Brees down but can Kaepernick and the defense bounce back against another sound unit? Home field advantage is said to be worth around three points but the Superdome is surely worth more. The 49ers are too good to write off but beating New Orleans here is near impossible.

ATPF PredictionA really close game but the Saints can score last, win by a touchdown.

Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks

The Vikings season ended long ago but they have improved of late and after just failing in Dallas they beat the Redskins in the Metrodome in week ten. Seattle bounced back after a couple of uninspiring efforts to overwhelm the struggling Falcons and improve to 9-1 and remain the team to beat in the NFC.

Minnesota’s second win of the season and first in North America was inspired by a second half comeback where their defense held Washington to just three points. Quarterback Christian Ponder is back under center and may just about be the best of a bad bunch in Minnesota. Adrian Peterson is hot again now and seems to be better with Ponder at quarterback. The Vikings defense has on the whole been poor, only two teams have given up more yards but after a strong second half showing last week they could be ready to improve down the stretch; plenty of jobs depend on it.

Seattle’s defense conversely is consistently excellent and even more so at CenturyLink Field where the ‘12th man’ plays a big part. They are third in yards allowed and should cause Ponder fits if they can get the lead and force him to pass. The Seahawks offense is still waiting for the energy and playmaking skills of Percy Harvin but behind the relentless Marshawn Lynch they now rank eleventh overall and second in rushing.

Nothing is ever certain in football but the Seahawks on all known form will win this comfortably. Their defense should come up with a few big plays as usual and they will have little problem scoring points against the Vikings 30th ranked defense.

ATPF PredictionSeahawks win by twenty in a one sided game.

Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants

The Giants are really making a go of it after their 0-6 start and won a third straight game on Sunday. Green Bay minus Aaron Rodgers were comfortably beaten at home by the Eagles and without their star quarterback looked a shadow of their usual selves. Rodgers injury looks sure to cost the Packers the NFC North but they may even miss the playoffs altogether.

The Giants undoing early in the season was turnovers. They crept back in against the Raiders and the three they had there will have been a warning to Kevin Gilbride’s unit that ball security has to remain a focus. Eli Manning has weapons, Reuben Randle, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are a talented trio but Manning has to make better decisions when throwing to them. The Giants defense has improved greatly in recent weeks and bailed them out against Oakland. Early in the season they would have lost that game.

The Packers drafted in former backup Matt Flynn who has failed to hold down a starting job since leaving the Packers two years ago this week. Flynn knows the system and will likely start ahead of Scott Tolzien who threw two interceptions against the Eagles. Flynn has plenty of targets and if he isn’t too rusty he should score points here. Running back Eddie Lacy was quiet against the Eagles but if the passing game can have success he could get back to his rookie of the year audition. Green Bay will have to play solid defense if they are going to win without Rodgers, Dom Capers unit gave up over 400 yards to the Eagles and are at best a middle of the road unit. The paltry eight turnovers the unit has forced can be hidden when Rodgers is tearing teams up but when he isn’t around such big plays become really needed.

The Giants have a great chance to win a fourth straight game here, their turnover prone offense faces a decidedly inopportune defense which helps. Their improving defense has a nice matchup also against the Rodgers-less offense.

ATPF PredictionThe Giants make the most of their opportunity, win by ten.

New England Patriots @ Carolina Panthers

The Patriots flexed their offensive muscles two weeks ago by scoring no fewer than 55 points against the Steelers. Their offense was already getting healthy and has now had a bye week to further heal. Carolina meanwhile are red hot, they have won five straight and beat the 49ers in San Francisco last week.

The Panthers defense has a real case for being the league’s best. They haven’t given up two touchdowns in a game since week five and held the 49ers to just three field goals last week. Rookie Star Lotulelei has rounded out a front seven which was already excellent but is now outright dominant. Cam Newton has learned that he can be a star on the team rather than the star on the team and he is doing a nice job of taking what is available rather than trying to always create big plays. Running back DeAngelo Williams had the only touchdown in San Fran and remains a productive player for the Panthers.

The Patriots leant on their defense early in the season with their offense so banged up. Since Vince Wilfork and Aqib Talib went down however the defense has unravelled but at the same time the offense got players back. With the unstoppable Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola both fit and joining Aaron Dobson they looked like the Patriots of old against Pittsburgh. Running back Stevan Ridley has also worked his way back to full health and has been a major factor in the last few games also. Tom Brady once again has an arsenal of weapons to go to war with; he will need them all against this defense.

What a matchup we have between the Patriots offense and Panthers defense. We normally favour a great offense but the Patriots have only been great once, the Panthers defense has been great for weeks now. Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams should both have room to manoeuvre and can guide the Panthers to another huge win here.

ATPF PredictionThe Panthers edge a close one, a field goal is the approximate margin of victory.



Author: Dave

I have been an NFL fan since my first visit to the USA where I stayed in both Dallas and Houston. I have also visited New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Kentucky. I was hooked the first time I watched a Cowboys game whilst out there although I must confess I had little idea what was going on! Like a lot of British fans I just kept picking more and more up and now follow the NFL news daily and hopefully have a decent level of knowledge myself! I am a Cowboys fan for my sins, I loved the twin cities of Dallas-Fort Worth in my time there and the iconic Cowboys were of instant appeal. First and foremost however I'm a football fan and all my articles will be written impartially. I hope you enjoy our site, feel free to leave us your comments and opinions.

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