Minnesota Vikings (5-4) vs. Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1)
The Vikings have gone 2-1 against the Cardinals in their previous three meetings, and have had a different starting quarterback in each game. The Vikings will once again have a different signal caller as Sam Bradford looks to end the Vikings’ 4-game losing streak. The Vikings’ current streak is surprising considering they started the season 5-0. Their offense ranks 26th in the league in points scored, while the defense ranks first in fewest points allowed, as they have surrendered only 4 rushing touchdowns and 10 passing touchdowns through 9 games. Their stellar defense has racked up 22 sacks and forced 20 turnovers. The Cardinals’ defense has also registered 22 sacks but will need to do more than rush the passer: they will need to shut down Minnesota’s running game. The Cardinals’ offense is full of playmakers, and head coach Bruce Arians utilizes them well. The Cardinals rank 20th in points scored and 3rd in points allowed, which makes this match up pretty even. An underlying motivating factor is that both of these teams are 2nd place in their respective divisions and are looking to make a resounding playoff push.
Los Angeles Rams (4-5) vs. Miami Dolphins (5-4)
The Rams haven’t beaten the Dolphins since 2001. However, the story of this game won’t be breaking a streak; it will be the debut of the number one overall draft pick Jared Goff. Goff was perfect player for the Rams to take with the number one pick upon relocating back to Los Angeles as the home-grown, golden-haired Californian had dazzled scouts during his days at the University of California. Despite the praise he has received from powerful people in the football world, and his good size at 6’4”, Goff has yet to see action in the NFL. The Rams head honchos have said that they don’t feel that Goff was ready to play right away, which is surprising considering they traded six draft picks, including two first-rounders, to the Titans for the number one overall pick (and two other picks) in order to select Goff. The Rams offense is last in the league in points per game, while the Dolphins offense is 19th in points per game and has left no questions about who’s ready. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 1,823 yards in his junior year at Boise State, but fell to the Dolphins in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. After an underwhelming rookie season, Ajayi is now averaging 90.6 rushing yards per game and a league leading 5.7 yards per carry. He will receive the bulk of the touches offensively for the Dolphins.
Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)
The Seahawks just cut their leading rusher Christine Michael, who has been claimed off waivers by the Green Bay Packers. Michael has seen his production slowly drop off throughout the course of the season: after carrying the ball 20 times in week 3, he has recorded only 5 carries in each of his past two games. He was cut out of a lack of faith and trust from the coaching staff. In the wake of the new hole in the offense, rookie Alex Collins, who the Seahawks selected out of Arkansas in the fifth round of the draft, should see significant playing time. I say “should” not because I’m predicting it but because he deserves it. Collins established himself as a workhorse in college, recording 665 career carries and averaging 5.6 yards per carry. So far in his short NFL career, he has been called on to tote the ball 10 times, gaining 19 yards and one touchdown but could very well be in store for a breakout game. The Seahawks’ defense ranks 2nd in the league in points allowed and have been a hallmark for Seattle sports for the better half of the decade. They will look to knock the high-flying rookie Eagle quarterback back down to Earth. Carson Wentz, the said rookie, has played very well, as is expected from a number two overall pick. His offense ranks 10th in the league in points per game and is backed by a defense that ranks 3rd in the league in points allowed. When the birds meet, the talons will come out; and we will see who has the most dominant defense in the league (outside of Minnesota).