Several terrific match-ups this NFL Sunday, including a huge NFC South tilt between a pair of 8-3 teams, the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings.
Another great match-up in the NFC features the 9-2 Minnesota Vikings traveling to Atlanta to face the 7-4 Falcons.
But if you don’t like attending games featuring national anthem protests, New York Giants kneeler Oliver Vernon has some advice.
“If they don’t like [the protests], don’t come to the game,” Vernon told the New York Post.
So if chose to watch at home, here is a preview of Sunday’s NFL action.
Minnesota Vikings (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
The Vikings, winners of seven straight, are a very balanced team with the #5 defense and #5 offense.
Atlanta’s #6 offense finally seems comfortable under first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, scoring 95 points in the last three games.
The Vikings are 4-1 on the road.
This should be a terrific game, and could go either way.
Carolina Panthers (8-3) at New Orleans Saints (8-3)
Great match-up between Saints QB Drew Brees and the NFL’s #2 offense, against Carolina and the NFL’s #2 defense.
A key for New Orleans has been a resurgent running attack that ranks third in the league. That is a great compliment to Brees and his play-action passing game.
The Panthers have won four straight, but barely beat the struggling Jets last week, so they aren’t exactly a juggernaut.
The Saints are healthier, at home, and should figure out a way to prevail.
Detroit Lions (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
Huge game for each team and their wildcard playoff hopes.
The Ravens have the NFL’s lowest-ranked passing attack, a combination of QB Joe Flacco perhaps losing a little physically following back and knee injuries, and a suspect offensive line.
The Ravens have the NFL’s #2 pass defense, but have faced five backup quarterbacks this season.
Lions gave quarterback Matt Stafford a contract for $27 million-a-year last summer. For that kind of money, you’ve got go out and win this kind of must-win game.
This game could go either way.
New England Patriots (9-2) at Buffalo Bills (6-5)
The Bills have the NFL’s 30th-ranked passing attack, so it’s hard to see them keeping up on the scoreboard with QB Thomas E. Brady and the NFL’s #1 passing attack.
New England’s defense is ranked 30th, but that might be misleading since opponents are usually far behind and throw the ball a lot in garbage time.
It’s hard to beat Patriots when you don’t pressure the quarterback, and the Bills aren’t doing a very good job in that department.
New England should prevail.
Houston Texans (4-7) at Tennessee Titans (7-4)
The Titans beat-up on weak opponents, so this game is right up their alley. Tennessee is very good at stopping the run, so they will force inexperienced Houston QB Tom Savage to beat them through the air, which he probably won’t be able to do.
Also not helping Savage is the Texans’ mess at left tackle. They traded Duane Brown, his replacement was just put on injured reserve, and the third-stringer is out this week with a shoulder injury.
Expect Tennessee to win this game.
Los Angeles Rams (8-3) at Arizona Cardinals (5-6)
The Rams have the 4th-ranked offense in rookie head coach Sean McVay’s first season. The 32-year-old coach is doing a heck of a job calling offensive plays.
The Cardinals have revenge on their minds from the 33-0 blowout in London at the hands of the Rams.
The Rams will be without two key starters, defensive end Connor Barwin (arm) and wide receiver Robert Woods (shoulder).
This game is a toss-up.
Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) at Seattle Seahawks (7-4)
The Eagles are the most balanced team in the league, featuring the #3 offense and #6 defense. Philadelphia’s red-hot QB Carson Wentz, faces a Seahawks secondary without two key injured stalwarts, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor. But honestlythe Seahawks have played fairly well without them, holding their last two opponents to under 200 passing yards.
The Seahawks are six-point underdogs at home, which has to tick them off.
This game could go either way.
New York Giants (2-9) at Oakland Raiders (5-6)
The Giants benched QB Eli Manning, and are going with Geno Smith. But while there is so much talk about the Giants’ quarterback situation, keep in mind they have the 31st-ranked defense, which isn’t helping matters.
The Raiders have one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses, so Smith might put up some decent numbers in his first start with the Giants. The Raiders are last in the league with seven takeaways. Oakland will be without starting wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
The Raiders should win this game, but it might not be easy.
Cleveland Browns (0-11) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)
The script basically plays out the same way every week: the Browns hang around for a while because they have a pretty good defense, but are so offensively challenged, eventually opponents pull away.
The Chargers’ run defense is terrible, so Cleveland should wear tailback Duke Johnson out with carries. The Chargers have the NFL’s best pass rush, and the Browns are without their star left tackle Joe Thomas, so rookie QB DeShone Kizer could be very uneasy in the pocket.
The Chargers should win this one fairly easily.
Denver Broncos (3-8) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)
Two offensively-challenged teams battle in what could be a snooze-fest. The Broncos will be without three starters on defense: CB Aqib Talib (suspended), DE Derek Wolfe (neck) and DT Domata Peko (knee).
The Dolphins are a lot healthier.
The Broncos are 0-5 on the road, and should make it 0-6 in Miami.
San Francisco 49ers (1-10) at Chicago Bears (3-8)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo makes his first 49ers start in his home area, having grown up in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. Expect a lot of Garoppolo’s in the crowd at Soldier Field.
The 49ers can’t stop the run, so expect a heavy-dose of Bears tailback Jordan Howard running the rock behind the Bears’ underrated offensive line.
This game is a toss-up.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) at New York Jets (4-7)
The Chiefs started off 5-0, and then the wheels came off. They’ve lost their mojo.
The Jets are more competitive this year than most people thought, but have had trouble closing out games.
Also, the Jets aren’t very good at covering tight ends, and the Chiefs have one of the NFL’s best in Travis Kelce.
The Chiefs should win this game.
Indianapolis Colts (3-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)
The Colts are bad on both sides of the ball, featuring the NFL’s 29th-ranked defense and 27th-ranked offense. Indianapolis will be without their starting center this week which could be a big problem against Jacksonville’s loaded defensive line.
The Jaguars will be without their best coverage linebacker, Telvin Smith, so expect a lot of throws to Colts tight end Jack Doyle.
The Jaguars should come out on top.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) at Green Bay Packers (5-6)
Believe it or not, the Green Bay Packers have lost three in a row at vaunted Lambeau Field. It shows you how important Aaron Rodgers is to the Packers’ success. The star quarterback has been out since October 15 with a broken collarbone.
But the Packers should be able to beat Tampa Bay with backup Brett Hundley, considering the Bucs have the worst defense in football.