The lesser known benefit of the flex scheduling is that the league moves matchups to the late time slot to balance the Sunday schedule. Today, we have six early games and five late games, including several with playoff importance.
I have been skeptical of Tampa Bay this year. Their best win is probably the one they just got in San Francisco, but it was still over a team with 3 wins. The Bucs are 7-0 against teams with losing records, and have won several of them in close fashion. They are 0-3 in the games played against winning teams, with two games being absolutely not competitive. Baltimore falls in the latter group, and Tampa Bay will travel north to play in much cooler conditions. Tampa Bay has another chance to make an impression against the Ravens.
Philadelphia travels to Soldier Field, where it has been the Bears defense that has keyed their 7-3 start. Chicago has been inconsistent on offense, though they have been much better on third down recently. Third down performance is important in accounting for what did happen, but notoriously inconsistent from game to game. It’s possible that Cutler and the receivers are getting more comfortable with the Martz’ system as the season progresses, though it could just be random chance. The Bears offensive line, and Cutler, have also been better at avoiding sacks after getting off to an extremely rough start.
Kansas City at Seattle: the winner of this game will be in good shape for a playoff push. Kansas City needs to get one back on the West Coast after losing a tough one at Oakland. Seattle has been wildly inconsistent this year, and usually much better at home, though they got destroyed by the Giants the last time they played in Seattle.
St. Louis at Denver: The Rams need a road victory to keep pressure on Seattle in the NFC West. Denver has dealt with the fallout of the taping violation as they prepare to salvage what is left of a 3-7 season.
Miami at Oakland: Oakland is going back to Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback, while Miami will hope that Tyler Thigpen can improve on an uneven first start while playing without Brandon Marshall. Gradkowski and Thigpen are similar players, undersized, mobile, and not the most accurate passers.
[photo via Getty]