By Joseph Fazio
New England Patriots (9-2) at Buffalo Bills (5-6) (CBS, noon, Sunday)
If there is one team in the AFC East that has a chance to defeat the New England Patriots, it would be the Buffalo Bills. The Bills always seem to give the Patriots trouble whenever they face off. However, when quarterback Tom Brady steps into Bills’ territory, he has career games. The previous three games for Brady at Buffalo included 11 touchdown passes, 1,142 passing yards and a 68 percent completion percentage. The Patriots have to deal with wide receiver Chris Hogan being listed as doubtful and tight end Martellus Bennett being placed on injured reserve. Brady himself has missed the previous two practices, but the Patriots say he will play.
The Bills took home a big win against the Kansas City Chiefs thanks to kicker Steven Hauschka, making 3-of-4 field goals, including a 56 yarder. Tyrod Taylor will continue to be the starting quarterback after a decent game, throwing for 183 yards and a touchdown. Star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who missed last week’s game, is listed as doubtful. Outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has been unstoppable on defense, recording 62 combined tackles and ranking fourth in forced fumbles. With a beat up New England offensive line, Alexander will be a great threat for Brady.
Prediction: New England 40, Buffalo 18
Minnesota Vikings (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (7-4) (FOX, noon, Sunday)
Quarterback Case Keenum is a likely front runner for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. After starting nine games last year for the Rams, Keenum may have found a home in Minnesota. Keenum ranks sixth in completion percentage (minimum 200 attempts) for starting quarterbacks. Wide receiver Adam Thielen surpassed the 1,000 receiving yard mark after recording 89 receiving yards against the Detroit Lions. A win against the Falcons would extend the Vikings’ winning streak to eight.
After going 4-4 in the first half of the season, the Atlanta Falcons have had a strong second half, winning three straight. Quarterback Matt Ryan ranks sixth in average yards per completion. Running back Tevin Coleman has stepped up his game, ranking fifth in rushing touchdowns. Although the Falcons’ offense has done considerably well, they will go against defensive end Everson Griffen, who ranks first in sacks with 12.
Prediction: Minnesota 30, Atlanta 20
San Francisco 49ers (1-10) at Chicago Bears (3-8) (CBS, noon, Sunday)
He has been waiting more than four years. He has lived in the shadow of one of football’s greatest quarterbacks. But now it’s time, it’s “Jimmy Time.” Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will finally get to lead his own team, as the 49ers head to Chicago. Garoppolo is undefeated as a starter, winning two games last season for the Patriots while Tom Brady was suspended. In those two games, Garoppolo recorded four touchdowns and 502 passing yards. Garoppolo will have some weapons with him, including running back Carlos Hyde. Hyde has rushed for 639 yards and four touchdowns. If there is a hope for the down in the dumps 49ers, his name may be Jimmy G.
The Chicago Bears are in a serious quarterback dilemma, having to choose whether to play Mike Glennon or rookie Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky has been the starting quarterback for the past seven games, but his performance has been less than hopeful. With the Bears on a four-game losing streak, it may be just a matter of time before Glennon could see some action. Running back Jordan Howard has been the saving grace this season, ranking fourth in rushing yards with 847. With a lackluster 49ers’ defense, Howard could have a field day running past every defender to the end zone.
Prediction: Chicago 20, San Fransisco 13