In the thick of the playoff race, all four teams go on the road this week to face teams that may give them trouble. This week is especially important for Oakland and Denver, as both of them have difficult games coming up in the next few weeks.
Oakland @ Miami: The Dolphins are a very different team than the one that started out 0-7 this year. Matt Moore is now a top-10 QB in pure passer rating, and Reggie Bush is finally being utilized properly. The defense has come on strong and Miami played Dallas very tough on Thanksgiving Day.
The Raiders, meanwhile, have their share of troubles. Rolando McClain has legal issues and the receivers are still hurt. Denarius Moore may or may not play and Jacoby Ford probably won't either. Carson Palmer didn't have a whole lot of success against the Bears and it remains to be seen how much success he will have against the Dolphins. However, I think the Raiders' rushing attack will wear them down as the game goes along. I predict Raiders by three points.
Denver @ Minnesota: The Tim Tebow Experience keeps rolling right along, with another game-winning drive against San Diego last week in overtime. Will this be the week somebody finally figures out how to stop the triple option? I'll believe it when I see it. The Vikings haven't stopped much of anything this year and Denver doesn't seem a likely starting point.
Adrian Peterson is allegedly a game-time decision. I don't think he'll play- there's no reason for a Vikings team going nowhere to risk the health of their best player. Toby Gerhart will start instead, and he will do about as well as he did against the Raiders- that is to say, not particularly well. Christian Ponder will have to air it out against a tough Denver secondary and that does not bode well for the home team, as the Vikings have exactly one good wide receiver. The only way for Minnesota to win is for Percy Harvin to make a serious impact in the return game. I predict Denver by six.
Kansas City @ Chicago: Both of these teams have recently lost their quarterback. Chicago is just beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel, as I have read McNabb-to-Chicago rumors all day. KC already turned the barrel over and gave it a good shake, resulting in Kyle Orton finding another sucker to pay him to play football. Without a good QB, neither of these teams are very good. The Chiefs just happen to be considerably worse, and playing in Chicago in December is a daunting task for even a good team. Bears by ten.
San Diego @ Jacksonville: On paper, this seems like a mismatch. However, on paper the Chargers go to the Super Bowl every year. Remember when the Ravens came into Jacksonville on Monday Night Football? The Jags' defense shut them down. Now, Jacksonville's team was recently sold an d their coach was fired, but this is still a good defense and there's no reason to believe the Chargers are going to have a lot of success unless one is a Philip Rivers apologist, which I am not. The problem is that the Jaguar offense is simply dreadful. I think the Chargers, despite themselves, can score enough to win. Chargers by eight.