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Mon, 14 Nov 2011 10:42 AM EST

1. Put up or shut up in Chicago : In spite of the lightning-rod nature of Mike Martz’s play calling and Jay Cutler’s quarterbacking, the Bears have been doing well, slipping below the radar during a 5-3 start. Sunday’s home game against the Detroit Lions is the chance to step up and be counted in the playoff race. The Green Bay Packers are 8-0, so although neither team may want to fess up, Chicago and Detroit are fighting for wild-card spots. It doesn’t look like anybody can catch Green Bay in the National Football ConferenceNorth.

2. Put up or shut up in Cincinnati : At 6-2, the Bengals have the record of a playoff team. Over the next a month, we’ll find out whether the Bengals have the profile of a wildcard team or a challenger to win the American Football Conference North. In that span, the Bengals play 2 games vs . the Pittsburgh Steelers and one against the Baltimore Ravens. Baseball odds

3. Do or die in Atlanta : The NFC South lead will be on the line when the New Orleans Saints face the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are wrestling at 4-4, so the division is turning back into a two-team race. The Falcons like to use plenty of Cover 2, especially on 3rd downs. This year, opponents are changing 41.9 of their 3rd downs against the Falcons ‘ defense, and the Falcons ‘ defense has an 82.1 passer rating against it. Thanks to the development of Jimmy Graham at tight end and Darren Sproles ‘ catching passes out of the backfield, Brees can now destroy the Cover Two defense. The Falcons could have to try some man-to-man. The Falcons have lost four of their past five games vs . the Saints, and Sean Payton is 8-2 against the Falcons.

4. Do or die in Dallas : The Dallas Cowboys have underachieved at 4-4, but the schedule is set up for them to make a run at the National Football ConferenceEast lead. They host the Bills on Sunday and then have winnable games vs . the Redskins, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals. If the Cowboys are a playoff team, they have to start showing it now. It’s win or else. Baseball spreads

5. Battle for the NFC No. Two seed : Jim Harbaugh is the Coach of the Half Year for taking the 49ers to a 7-1 start. Their magic number for clinching the NFC West is 4, meaning two wins by the 49ers and two losses by the Seattle Seahawks and Cardinals would allow the 49ers to clinch the division title as early as the week after next. With the National Football ConferenceWest championship well in hand, the 49ers may concentrate on seeding. Even though it might be tough to catch the Packers, the 49ers can put an early lock on the No. 2 seed if they can defeat the 6-2 New York Giants on Sunday. The Giants, who upset the New England Patriots last week, are in the hardest part of their schedule.

6. After losing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for the season, the Bucs made the despair move of claiming DT Albert Haynesworth after he was cut by the New England Patriots. Haynesworth had only 5 tackles in 6 games as a Patriot, but this is the 1st time since he’s left Tennessee that he’ll be playing in an one-gap scheme that permits him to be a bad force. The Bucs require something. They’re slow starters. Their offense hasn’t had a Q1 touchdown in eight games this season, and the youngest team in football is acting a little juvenile. Offensive mistakes are skyrocketing. Josh Freeman is occasionally having his young receivers line up wrong. The Texans come in with the league’s most dominating running attack. Getting Haynesworth may forestall the Bucs from becoming bullied.

7. A varsity game at Arrowhead : Chiefs fans and their tailgate barbecues often give a collegiate atmosphere to Chiefs games. On Sunday, the presence of Tim Tebow makes this game less like a Broncos-Chiefs game and more like a Nebraska-Kansas game.

8. Who’s the winner in the Kolb trade? Though the price was high, the Cardinals assumed they found their franchise quarterback when they acquired QB Kevin Kolb from the Philadelphia Eaglesfor a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Though the 2 groups considered this a win-win move, it’s been lose-lose for both franchises. Sunday’s game in Philadelphia will be a chance for both teams to compare notes. Kolb was 1-6 during his first 7 starts and was bailing out of the pocket too fast. He’s not likely to play in Sunday’s game versus the Philadelphia Eaglesdue to a turf toe and a mid-foot sprain. DRC, in the meantime, hasn’t felt comfortable in a lot of the section defenses the Eagles have put him in. Though he hasn’t given up a touchdown, he’s had 13 passes finished on him for 191 yards and on occasions has looked lost.

9. How the National Football ConferenceWest has effects on other divisions : The Seattle Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams are 1-7 vs . National Football ConferenceEast teams. They are 0-6 vs . the AFC North. If that trend continues, it affects playoff races in both conferences. The Baltimore Ravenstravel cross-country to face the Seattle Seahawks, who, if they lose, may match the Rams at 0-4 against the AFC North. The Ravens and Steelers are each 2-0 vs . the NFC West and are depending on the four-game boost from this division. The Philadelphia Eagleshope to keep their playoff hopes up when they play the 2-6 Cardinals. They’re counting on winning three games against the Seattle Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals. At 3-5, the Browns are not thinking playoffs but the subsequent 2 weeks may get them back to .500. They host the 1-7 Rams and the 2-6 Jaguars over the following 2 weeks.

10. The Panthers host the Tennessee Titans, who at 4-4 are attempting to stay in the playoff race. Newton is averaging close to Three hundred yards a game passing and appears like a lock for Newbie of the Year. Ponder makes a Monday night appearance vs . the Green Bay Green Bay Packers. Ponder’s first start was vs . the Packers, and he threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Gabbert’s game versus the Colts is fascinating in the sense that if the Colts can’t defeat the Jags, Indianapolis may not win a game this season. Colts coach Jim Caldwell wishes to get a victory to calm exasperated owner Jim Irsay, who is growing uninterested in the losses.

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