Sunday's must-watch NFL games

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler looks to throw as Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy...

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler looks to throw as Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy rushes during an NFL football game Chicago, Oct. 28, 2012. (REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

John Kryk, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:54 PM ET

Planning to get your football fill this Sunday? Here's are the NFL games to watch:

1. Houston Texans (7-1) at Chicago Bears (7-1)

One of the marquee matchups of the season so far. Two great defences. Two sound if unspectacular offences. The game might well hinge on how Jay Cutler reacts to pressure, which the Texans D will undoubtedly bring. Will he be Bad Jay, who hangs in the pocket all the longer after each hit? Or will he pick apart the Texans D, as Aaron Rodgers did a few months ago? Could be a classic.

2. Detroit Lions (4-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4)

The Lions have seemingly got their special teams in order since the Vikes won in Detroit thanks to two kick-return TDs. And Mikel Leshoure is quietly cranking out yards on the ground for Detroit. For the Vikings, QB Christian Ponder has regressed (less than 65 yards passing in two of the past three weeks), and Percy Harvin is a likely scratch with an ankle injury. It’s all on AP, then, for Minny.

3. San Diego Chargers (4-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4)

The surprising Bucs, behind phenom rookie running back Doug Martin, have averaged more than 500 total yards of offence over the past few games, and have scored at least 28 points in the past four – a franchise record. The Chargers will have to keep up. Phil Rivers still misses wideout Vincent Jackson – who’s now with the Bucs. Is he over the funk he went into at halftime against Denver?

4. Atlanta Falcons (8-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-5)

If someone had told you in August that one of these teams would be 8-0, c’mawn, who’d have picked Atlanta? The Saints have shown some signs of becoming pre-eminent again on offence, and at least not awful on defence. Until the next drive, that is. So they’re hard to figure. The Falcons are not. They’re good, and aim to prove it. Again.

And on Monday:

Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)

The Chiefs are by far the sloppiest team in the NFL, and have not held a lead for one second this season during actual play (their one win came at game’s end, in overtime at New Orleans). The Steelers have won three in succession, and their defence is as good as anybody’s right now. And the Steelers are at home. On Monday night. You do the math.

Must-win:

Buffalo Bills (3-5)

A loss at New England, and the Bills fall to 3-6. And that would about do it for another season. Buffalo must win to stay in the playoff hunt. To do it, the Bills must run. And run. Once and for all, last week’s loss at Houston proved the Bills cannot ask Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead his team to win on his arm alone. Buffalo must run, and stick with it. If only to slow the game down, and lessen the carnage.

Biggest matchups:

Brady vs Bills secondary

It’s just not fair. Tom Brady made the Buffalo Bills secondary and linebacking corps appear mostly non-existent (yet again) in New England’s 52-28 win in September. This time the Bills secondary is without a starting cornerback, Aaron Williams. Shield your eyes, folks.

Sanchez vs Seahawks secondary

The polar opposite of the Brady-Bills matchup is this one. Every time Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez completes a pass to a wide receiver against Seattle’s fantastic pass-covering secondary will be cause for applause. Sanchez has looked terrible most of the time since his sharp opening-game performance. This could be his worst game yet.

Garrett vs Reid

Unless you’re a fan of either Jason Garrett’s Cowboys or Andy Reid’s Eagles, this matchup of two once-formidable NFC East rivals has been reduced to a game whose only importance might be that the loser’s head coach goes from sitting on the hot seat, to getting thrown under the bus.

Quarterback stats

One can point to any one quarterback statistic and make almost any argument.

That said, we found it odd that Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t seem to throw for a lot of yardage even though the Bills have trailed a lot this year, and even though the team always abandons the run once behind.

Throwing for a lot of passing yards in and of itself doesn’t mean a quarterback is good, anymore than it means his team must be bad if he’s always having to pass his team back into a game.

But by and large, the elite NFL quarterbacks can, and do, throw for a ton of yards when required – such as Eli Manning’s 510-yard performance in a Week 2 comeback win over Tampa Bay.

So we picked a threshold of 250 yards. How many times has Fitzpatrick hit that total this year compared to other NFL starters?

Not many.

He’s done it just once – in the 52-28 loss to New England. Only two other regular NFL starters this year have but one 250+ game – Seattle rookie Russell Wilson and San Francisco’s Alex Smith, both of whom haven’t needed to pass a lot, as each’s team has a strong running game and an even stronger defence.

QBs with two 250+ games: Phil Rivers, Ryan Tannehill and Blaine Gabbert.

With three: RGIII, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton, Matt Cassel and Sam Bradford.

With four: Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Josh Freeman, Andy Dalton, Michael Vick, Brandon Weeden, Christian Ponder and Mark Sanchez.

With five: Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Eli Manning.

With six: Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck.

With seven, the most: Peyton Manning, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford.

At which end do you generally find the best QBs? And vice versa?

Right.


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