The baseball playoffs have resulted in a heavy bye week in the NFL, with no late afternoon NFC games on FOX as the Cardinals-Giants will air on the network at 7:30 eastern. As a result, we have eight early games and only the Oakland and Jacksonville game late. Oh, and the Patriots and Jets. It’s a good thing neither of those towns have a good baseball team or we could have had a real conflict.
The early set of games features Baltimore’s first game after Ray and Lardarius, though Terrell Suggs is supposed to be active. How much he can contribute is a different question. Houston is coming off the embarrassing home loss where they gave up six touchdowns to Aaron Rodgers, and will be eager to prove that was an anomaly against Joe Flacco. The Texans run game is their strength on offense, as well as the play action and bootlegs that creates. Baltimore has struggled the last two weeks agains the run, so you can be sure it will be tested early.
The Giants and Redskins meet in the first NFC East divisional game for Robert Griffin III. The Giants come in with an explosive passing offense and Hakeem Nicks starting to get healthy, and a defense that is in better shape than where it was in the week one loss at home to Dallas. The Giants have re-emerged as a favorite, but a step back loss here means they drop to 0-3 in the division.
Other early games:
Green Bay at St. Louis: Jeff Fisher has the Rams back to respectability, but Green Bay comes in off an amazing offensive performance. The Packers still have enough receivers to spread the Rams out, moreso than the Dolphins did last week.
Dallas at Carolina: The Cowboys get the Panthers coming off a bye, so we’ll see if the Carolina offense took the time to improve. Dallas goes against the Panthers questionable run defense without DeMarco Murray.
Tennessee at Buffalo: An old AFL matchup should result in some offense as both defenses have struggled. Matt Hasselbeck should benefit from Kenny Britt getting healthier and Kendall Wright emerging.
Arizona at Minnesota: Two surprise teams at 4-2 enter, one leaves with at least two consecutive losses and the shine off a bit. The Cardinals have to turn back to John Skelton, have been getting horrid offensive line play and very little running game. You would think the only way Arizona wins is by making it ugly.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay: The Saints offense comes in without Jimmy Graham. The Bucs will look to take advantage on the ground, as Doug Martin needs a breakout game.
Cleveland at Indianapolis: The Browns first game under the Jimmy Haslem ownership begins in Indianapolis. The Colts were blitzed early by the Jets, with Andrew Luck and the offense having their worst game of the year. He’ll try to get back on track with Reggie Wayne going against Joe Haden.
[photo via US Presswire]