New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals -- As the Saints are starting to get healthier (expecting Reggie Bush(notes), Jeremy Shockey(notes), and Darren Sharper(notes), though Pierre Thomas(notes) will not go), the Bengals are experiencing problems all over the place. A defense that was circling the drain before a recent injury to cornerback Johnathan Joseph(notes) looked especially vulnerable against the Jets last week. With Bush on the field to provide zonebusting routes and split coverages, expect the Bengals to run a lot of Cover-1 and Cover-3, keeping their corners outside and expecting assignment correctness inside. Not an easy request against a Drew Brees(notes) offense that has been ripping it up of late - even when Brees isn't hitting those deadly seam routes downfield, he can hand off to running back Chris Ivory and bull it inside. The Carson Palmer(notes)-led dink-and-dunk offense Cincinnati's running will certainly struggle to keep up.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions -- The Bears started the season with a third-down conversion percentage of under 18 percent, but that total has inched up above 50 percent in the last month. More carries for Matt Forte(notes); that's one reason. Jay Cutler(notes) is taking the underneath stuff instead of forcing throws, and that helps. But the big news is that the Bears' iffy strategy of abandoning their line protection calls in the preseason has finally given way to an integrated set of protection concepts, giving what is a weak line from a pass-protection standpoint a better chance to succeed. They'll need that against a Lions front four, led by the great Ndamukong Suh(notes). Detroit throws more looks than your garden-variety 4-3; they'll flex a tackle back to half-linebacker depth at times, and Suh will line up just about anywhere on that line. The question is whether a Drew Stanton(notes)-led offense has the firepower to keep pace with the Bears - the answer is probably "no".
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers -- It's a good thing for new 49ers starting quarterback Troy Smith(notes) that he's a mobile guy; he'll be tested in the pocket by Clay Matthews(notes), who's probably inspired by the work his brother Casey put in against Oregon State in Saturday's Civil War. When Smith does bail out of the pocket, he'll be forced to deal with Dom Capers' array of blitzes and looks. As for Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers(notes), it won't matter that he's the team's leading rusher today, because the 49ers struggle against the pass (especially against elite receivers), and Rodgers can make all the throws in any weather.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans -- Well, throw out all your silly stats; we now know that the Jags-Titans contest is this week's Gus Johnson Game, so plan accordingly. Miracle comebacks will be the order of the day. The Titans will welcome Kerry Collins(notes) back to the fold after Rusty Smith's(notes) to-be-expected performance in his first NFL start last week. Perhaps there will be a Randy Moss(notes) sighting? The Jags are lust looking to prove that they're as good as they are lucky - they've won some nail-biters (including that amazing Hail Mary ending in another Gus Johnson Game against the Texans - dismiss the Law of Gus at your peril), and they'll most likely lead with the running game. Expect a heavy diet of Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) from Jack Del Dio's team.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs -- Ah, yes. More drama for Josh "Skippy" McDaniels. Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, who refused to shake Skippy's hand after a 49-29 Week 10 defeat because Skippy's defensive underling "Wink" Martindale was still ordering blitzes even when up 35-0, welcomes a down-trending Denver defense, especially against the run - and that's good news for Haley's offense. Halfback Jamaal Charles(notes) has transformed into one of the game's finest speed backs (reminding some observers of Chris Johnson), and Thomas Jones(notes) provides the thunder to Charles' lightning. Add in the recently dynamic efforts of quarterback Matt Cassel(notes) and receiver Dwayne Bowe(notes), and his recent $50,000 fine for a copycat Spygate could be the least of Skippy's recent worries.
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins -- Two of Skippy's more egregious mistakes face off today, as running back Peyton "I'm outrushing the entire Denver offense, and McDaniels traded me for Brady Quinn(notes)!" Hillis tries to keep his awesome season going against an improved Miami defense led by coordinator Mike "I engineered one of the best single-season defensive turnarounds in recent NFL history, and Skippy showed me the door!" Nolan. While these two teams continue the rise to relevance, Denver owner Pat Bowlen has one smart decision to make at the end of the season.
Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings -- Here are two teams looking at different views of the non-playoff picture. While the Vikings are looking at an imminent rebuild and trying to figure out whether Leslie Frazier is their main man, the Bills hit the field today with the more efficient quarterback. Yes, you read that right - Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) is rocking an 85.2 passer rating to Brett Favre's(notes) 71.0. The Bills have some rising talent - Fred Jackson(notes) is an underrated running back, Steve Johnson(notes) can be a pretty dominant receiver when he isn't Tweeting God, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams is indeed the best defensive player you've probably never heard of.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants -- Besides the copy-paste nature of Albert Haynesworth's(notes) gametime inactivity (seriously - will anyone notice?), there's also the matter of Donovan McNabb(notes) trying to make plays against the Giants' league-leading pass defense. If the Redskins want any shot at a playoff spot, they'll need to win out, starting here, and the key to that is to get to Eli Manning(notes), who has been coughing up his fair share of picks behind a depleted offensive line.