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NFL Week 15 Preview

December 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are my thoughts on this week’s NFL slate of games while I continue to keep it real…

Thursday’s review first:

Chargers beat 49ers 34-7: Vincent Jackson imposed his will on the Niners defense scoring 3 times and a great challenge by Norv Turner that overturned a 49er TD that would have tied the game early in the second quarter were the keys to this Chargers victory. The Chargers didn’t turn the ball over, didn’t give up a big play on special teams (that wasn’t called back) and almost doubled the yardage of the 49ers. This was simply a dominating performance by the team that nobody in the AFC wants to see in January. The Chargers need help to catch the Chiefs and they need to win out. Good news for the 8-6 Bolts is that they finish at Cincinnati and at Denver.

Sundays Games:

Browns at Bengals: The Battle of Ohio will not be shown in Cincinnati as the game is blacked out. But, just keeping it real, the hometown fans won’t miss anything because the Browns will win anyway.

Redskins at Cowboys: Usually it’s Jerry Jones who would do something ridiculous to attract attention to an upcoming Cowboys game. Not this time. Mike Shanahan decided to create a controversy by benching Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman, with an emphasis on “gross”. Evidently McNabb was supposed to lead the long suffering Redskins to the Super Bowl this season with Division I-AA receivers and a UFL offensive line. What’s the Redskins running back’s name again? Right. It’s Donovan’s fault. This game does remind the Redskins of the highlight of their season in the opener against the Cowboys. Right before halftime, weeks before asking the “dog fighter” for his autograph after the game, Tayshard Choice caught and fumbled an ill-advised pass at the end of the first half that DeAngelo Hall returned for a touchdown. The Cowboys never recovered from that and Wade Phillips was fired five weeks ago. While Tony Romo can’t make the poor decision of throwing a screen pass in the waning seconds of the first half this week, he did what he should have done in that situation. He took a knee (and proposed to his girlfriend). Good “Choice”, Tony. Oh, let’s go with the less dysfunctional Cowboys in this one.

Texans at Titans: Time for Finnegan v. Johnson II. Or, you can tune in to see how many catches “Woody from Nashville” gets. Or maybe the Texans will lose another heartbreaker. The Texans are the pick this week over the Titans.

Jaguars at Colts: The battle of past and present Houston is the AFC South undercard to this one in Indy. The Jaguars can clinch the AFC South with a win. The Colts haven’t missed the playoffs since Jim Mora’s last year in 2001. Peyton Manning needs 972 yards (324/week) to eclipse the 5,000 yard mark for the first time in his career. He only needs 530 yards passing to set his own personal mark (4557 in 2004). Both MJD and Garrard are banged up for the first place Jags, but expected to play. The Jags won the first matchup in J’ville in week 4 on Josh Scobee’s 59 yard field goal at the gun. Both Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark played for the Colts that week. Clark is now out for the season and Addai is questionable after missing the past 7 games with a neck injury. The Colts offense has been completely one dimensional since Addai’s injury and that could repeat itself this week. The Jaguars figure to run, run, and run some more with MJD and 2nd year back Rashad Jennings. The Colts will have to prove that they can stop the run to win this game. But it just seems like it’s the Jags year, so that’s the pick.

Chiefs at Rams: The Battle of Missouri at the Ed. Matt Cassel is questionable for the game, but the thinking here is that he’ll go. If he doesn’t, the Rams should win easily. Either way, this game will feature two good RB’s in Steven Jackson and Jamaal Charles. Both are already over 1,000 yards rushing and will be the keys to taking the pressure off their respective QB’s. Assuming Cassel plays, this one should be close throughout. The Chiefs are in a must-win situation with the Chargers nipping at their heels and the Rams control their own destiny, but need to win. The Rams are 4-2 at the Ed, while the Chiefs have struggled on the road, going 2-5. Expect Cassel to struggle a bit because of his situation and the crowd to be fired up. The Rams win by less than a touchdown.

Bills at Dolphins: The Dolphins are at home (1-5) and need a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. The Dolphins are in a decent position if they win out, because the Jets have a tough remaining schedule. It looked like it was over two weeks ago when they gave away the game to the Browns at the end, but last week’s win over the Great Wall of Alosi kept them alive. Let’s assume there will be some good karma for the Dolphins in relation to the Jets and go with the Fins this week.

Eagles at Giants: Picture this: Michael Vick goes on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno with the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl and he walks in with his new beautiful Golden Retriever, Redemption. Wouldn’t that be a great story? Now imagine this: Michael Vick drops back to pass and coming around the left tackle is Osi Umenyiora and as Vick is backing away Justin Tuck blindsides him with a vicious hit. Quarterback #7 was just knocked out by the Giants this season. The Giants do seem to be getting healthier, Steve Smith notwithstanding (out, torn ACL). The Eagles are hopeful that DeSean Jackson and Asante Samuel will be able to go. Don’t expect Jackson to get the “kid gloves” treatment that he got from the Dallas secondary last week. And he won’t dare try to pull that celebration stunt in Jersey. He’d have the whole Giants defense going after him. The Giants roughed up Vick last time out. It wasn’t good enough as LeShon McCoy broke a 50 yard run with 4:25 remaining to give the Birds the lead. Eli Manning threw 3 picks and lost a fumble. The Giants weren’t dedicated to the run, 19 for 61. This week should be different as the Giants defense roughs up Vick a little bit and the two-headed RB monster of Bradshaw and Jacobs runs for over 130 yards. Manning will limit his turnovers to only 1 or 2 and the Giants will win by a touchdown. Expect a rematch in the Wild Card round.

Lions at Buccaneers: Guess what? The Bucs home game is blacked out in the Tampa Bay area for the 7th straight game. Great fans on the west coast of Florida. When the Vikings or Chargers relocate to LA, the Bucs will be the team that replaces them within five years with this kind of support. This is a matchup between two QB’s picked in last year’s first round and two DT’s picked in this year’s first round. The problem is that QB Matthew Stafford is hurt for the Lions and DT Gerald McCoy is hurt for the Bucs. It will be interesting to see who does better with those similar picks as the years go by. Hopefully injuries don’t play a role, especially with Stafford’s shoulder. The Lions are 0-6 on the road. Make that 0-7 as the 8-5 Bucs stay alive for a wild card spot in the NFC.

Cardinals at Panthers: I hope Jay Feely scores again this week. That was cool. One question for each team: Will Donovan McNabb end up in Arizona next season? Why has Steve Smith put his $2.7 million home up for sale in the Charlotte area? Another question: Who do the Panthers select with the #1 pick in the 2011 draft? If they haven’t Lucked into a great quarterback, then they’re something that rhymes with that. Cards win this week to, um; stay alive in the NFC West.

Saints at Ravens: The weather looks clear and not too cold. Advantage Saints as they travel north trying to extend their winning streak to seven games. The Ravens won that exciting Monday night game against the cursed Texans on the interception return in overtime by Josh Wilson. The key for the Ravens will be establishing that running game with Ray Rice. Rice has been down this year, averaging less than 4 yards per carry, and only ran for 100 in a game once, against the Broncos. The Saints have a good defense, but are average against the run. Rice will have to have his second 100 yard game if the Ravens are to win. This game should be harder hitting than one would expect with the Saints, but they can play pretty physical on defense as well.  Expect Drew Brees and company to take advantage of the mild weather conditions and the 10-3 Saints win this game over the Ravens to go to 11-3 into their week 16 showdown in Atlanta.

Falcons at Seahawks: The Jim Mora Jr. Bowl should go to the Falcons, unless the Seahawks special teams come to the rescue. Look for the Falcons to get ahead early and pound Michael Turner against a mediocre Seahawks run defense. Falcons will go to 12-2 for their big game next week against the Saints.

Broncos at Raiders: Tim Tebow meet Violator. The week 7 matchup in Denver was 59-14 in favor of the road team. Records were set on both sides between teams that have played twice a year since 1960. There should be some sort of “pride” showing this time by the Broncos. The Tebow factor adds a little intrigue to a game that most would expect to be one-sided. Look for Tebow to run for a few first downs, make some decent throws on the move, and walk on water. But don’t expect him to beat the soon to be 7-7 Raiders this weekend.  

Jets at Steelers: With special teams coach Sal Alosi suspended for the rest of the season, the Jets have turned to Yankees fan Jeffery Maier to do their dirty work. Just kidding. The Jets have to find a way to get Mark Sanchez comfortable throwing the ball because the Steelers defense will not let the Jets run. No way. They could have LT in his prime and not have a chance of running the ball on this historically good run defense. But the Steelers can be beaten through the air and former Steelers WR Santonio Holmes is the perfect player to exploit that defense. The Steelers secondary has problems covering quick receivers who catch the ball at the second level as well as the tight ends in the seam. Great safety Troy Polamalu is out for the remainder of the regular season as well. If Sanchez can get the ball to Holmes in space and Dustin Keller in the soft spot of that zone, then the Jets can get back into the win column. Its gut check time in Gotham as the Jets have lost two straight and their once promising season could be heading down the toilet. This should be another physical game for the Jets. One wonders if the weekly physical grind is catching up to this team. The Steelers haven’t lost since the Patriots game five weeks ago. A win here and they should win out. While the Jets will have the microscope on them, still expect them to take a few borderline shots at Big Ben. I usually don’t make an actual score prediction, but here it is: Jets 17-Steelers 16.

Packers at Patriots: Aaron Rodgers is officially out for the Pack in Foxborough. Expect backup quarterback to be near the top of the Packers to-do list in the offseason. The weather should be really nice for the inexperienced Matt Flynn. Snow is expected and the wind should be swirling. The last time Charles Woodson played in the snow in Foxborough was….. Oh that’s it. Surely some great memories for Woodson against his former Wolverine teammate. This one should be less painful, as the Pats should get out early and play ball control throughout. Don’t expect a lot of big plays this week out of the Pats as they will try to wait on Flynn to commit mistakes for them to capitalize on. Flynn and the Packers will turn it over at least 3 times, Brady and Pats will break their turnover streak at 6 games without one. The Pats should win this one by 10 or more.

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NFL Week 15 Thursday’s game preview

December 16, 2010 1 comment

Thursday Night NFL Football:

49ers at Chargers: The two preseason favorites out west try to keep their seasons alive tonight in San Diego. The 7-6 Chargers face a must-win in their pursuit of the Chiefs, especially since they have 3 division losses already. A loss tonight would effectively eliminate them from playoff contention. The 5-8 49ers are actually in a better spot than the Chargers, despite being two games worse. The 49ers are one game behind the Seahawks and Rams, but control their own destiny if they win out. They also will still be alive with a loss tonight. If the 49ers lose tonight, but win their final 3 games, they would most likely finish in front of the NFC West. Both teams are dealing with injuries as Antonio Gates and Larry English are both out and Malcom Floyd is questionble, though Coach Norv Turner is “hopeful” that he plays. The Niners have both Takeo Spikes and Patrick Willis wearing casts on their hands, though they are expected to play. Alex Smith starts again after playing well last week, but this week they play the best defense in the league, yards against. The Chargers also have only 1 December loss in the last 4 seasons, only losing to the Raiders two weeks ago for their only loss since 2006. One thing to look for in this one is how the Chargers play in the first half. In their 7 wins, they have led 6 times after the first quarter and were tied in the other game. In their 6 losses, they trailed at halftime 5 times, each time by double digits. With that in mind, expect the Chargers to come out early and take a two score lead into the second quarter while turning the 49ers into a one dimensional team offensively. This game could be over by halftime or early in the 3rd quarter. Chargers should win by at least 2 touchdowns.

Weekly Notes:

Jets suspend low level coach; NFL does nothing about Jets’ sideline shenanigans

So the Jets suspend indefinitely and fine $25,000 strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi for cheating on Sunday against the Jets. Yes, Alosi served himself up as a perfect target for the Jets and the NFL, but does any reasonable person believe that a low level coach, not involved in game strategy, concocted this plan on his own? Or would it make more sense if it came out later that Alosi was ordered by either special teams coach Mike Westhoff or head coach Rex Ryan to set up that “wall”.

Westhoff, in fact, has come out and, violating league rules for filing grievances, accused the, wait, Patriots of doing the same thing. I know it’s shocking that the Jets would point to Patriots bad behavior to justify their bad behavior, but it happened.  If the wall is legal, and it seems like it is, then why would the Jets be so much on the defensive? If Alosi was renegade coach who did something more egregious than Belichick ever did with a video, why didn’t the Jets fire him? Smells like a Gang Greene cover-up to me.

The NFL should have come down hard on the Jets for this. Bottom line here is that a coach physically interfered with an opposition player in the middle of a play. That’s outrageous and for the NFL to sweep this under the rug when that player was helped off the field because he was injured, is ridiculous and shows the NFL’s true bias towards both New York teams. The NFL should have fined the Jets $1 million and head coach $250,000 for allowing anybody on the coaching staff to physically get involved with a live play.

With the NFL not willing to punish the Jets, it’s strange that they are still trying to cover this up. Remember, it’s usually the cover up that worse than the actual crime.

Pro Football Week 14 Sunday Recap

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Some thoughts on yesterday’s pro football games while looking for an oversized Stay Puff Marshmallow Man to walk into the Metrodome after the roof collapsed…

Giants play Vikings in Detroit at 7:20 EST on Fox (NY/MIN) and DirecTV Sunday Ticket

Favre is inactive for the game, breaking his streak of 297 consecutive starts. My guess is that he never plays again.

Giants luck out again as they did when they hosted the Saints after Katrina five years ago. The Meadowlands is actually almost 3 hours driving closer to Ford Field than the Metrodome is. Next time any Giants’ fan complains that the NFL doesn’t like them, point to the multiple instances of road games turning into home/neutral field games. How many Lions’ fans do you think will be cheering for the Vikings tonight? Do you think there are more transplanted New Yorkers or Minnesotans in the Detroit area? Oh, but the Giants have one less day to prepare for the Eagles next week. Yeah, they NEVER play the Eagles do they? I wonder how much the game plan will have changed from their first meeting THREE WEEKS ago? Stop the whining and play!

Bills beat Browns 13-6: Um. Yeah. I don’t care. Jake Delhomme losing a game isn’t headline material anymore. The good news for the Browns and their fans is that Colt McCoy will be the starter next season. The bad news for Bills fans is that Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing himself into keeping his job for next season.

Lions beat Packers 7-3: The Lions were going to get somebody, and this week they got the Packers. Aaron Rodgers suffered his second official concussion of the season and Matt Flynn is no Aaron Rodgers. Where’s Brett Favre when you need him? What was more alarming was the fact that this was the lowest scoring game of the day, yet the only one played indoors in the north. Tonight’s game at Ford Field might have more scoring each quarter than the ten points combined for the whole game yesterday. The Packers gave up 190 yards (44 to QB Drew Stanton) on the ground compared to 31 yards by the Packers (non-QBs). A solid running game was able to cover up Stanton’s atrocious QB numbers that resulted in a 39 rating. The 8-5 Packers are going to need Rodgers next weekend in Foxborough as they play the Pats on Sunday night.

Steelers beat Bengals 23-7: Carson Palmer submitted a Peyton Manning performance yesterday, without the positives. Two pick 6’s by the Steelers provided most of the margin of victory and Palmer was awful against a mediocre Steelers pass defense. Terrell Owens had 1 catch for 22 yards and Cedric Benson ran 8 times for 19 yards. Those numbers don’t usually equate to victories. Big Ben took some more hits but came through with another tough performance completing 2/3 of his passes for over 250 yards. The 10-3 Steelers are in control of the AFC North and host the Jets next week.

Buccaneers beat Redskins 17-16: The Skins find a new way to lose weekly, it seems. This week they botched an extra point with 10 seconds left. Kicker Graham Gano wasn’t guilty in that attempt, but he missed two easy field goals (34, 24 yds.) earlier. Ryan Torain wasn’t to blame either as Mike Shanahan’s newest RB find ran 24 times for 172 yards. The hero, again, for the Bucs was 2nd year QB Josh Freeman. Freeman orchestrated his 7th fourth quarter/overtime comeback victory of his career. Maybe the locals by the Bay will catch on and actually support this young, exciting team. Next week’s home game against Detroit is their first chance to change my mind about them. I’m not holding my breath.

Falcons beat Panthers 31-10: Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen apologized to the defense after the game. Only three more apologies left before Cam Newton takes over. Falcons are still the team to beat in the NFC and play at Seattle next week. That could be a look-ahead game with the showdown against the Saints the following week.

Jaguars beat Raiders 38-31: This was the best game of a rare uneventful Sunday in the NFL. Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden had huge games for the Raiders, but it wasn’t enough. My favorite rookie, Jacoby Ford, fumbled a kickoff in the 3rd quarter, leading to the Jags taking a 28-24 lead after being behind 24-14 minutes earlier. Then Ford caught a pass on the final play of the game that he should have dropped because he couldn’t get out of bounds. For the Jags, they ran, ran, and then ran some more as MJD and Rashad Jennings ran for over 100 yards each. David Garrard wasn’t great, but threw for 3 TDs and ran for 32 yards. Nobody wants to give the 8-5 Jags credit, but they keep winning and get a chance to put away the division next week in Indy. The 6-7 Raiders try to keep their faint playoff hopes alive next week against Denver.

Saints beat Rams 31-13: Malcolm Jenkins picked off Sam Bradford with less than a minute left in the first half and returned the ball 96 yards for a touchdown, making the score 21-6. That’s as close as Bradford and the Rams would get to upset the world champs. Along with Josh Brown’s 46 yard missed field goal, that 14 point turnaround was the difference in an otherwise close game. This has the potential to be the wild card round matchup in the playoffs if the Rams win the division and the Saints make the wild card. That game would be played in St. Louis. The 6-7 Rams play home next week against the Chiefs. The 10-3 Saints go to Baltimore for a tough game against the Ravens. The final three games for the Saints should toughen them up for another playoff run.

49ers beat Seahawks 40-21: Alex Smith and Bryan Westbrook had big games for the Niners. Matt Hasselbeck did not have a good game for the Seahawks. This division stinks. The Oregon Ducks would have a chance to win this division. The Niners have a quick turnaround with the Thursday night game in San Diego. The Seahawks host the Falcons.

Patriots beat Bears 36-7: Is anybody going to stop the Pats? The Patriots became the first team in league history to go five consecutive games without committing a turnover. That’s one key to winning every week. Another stat that helps: total yards for the Pats was 475, Bears was 185. That will help as well. Deion Branch’s numbers in 9 games with the Pats: 44 Receptions for 648 yards and 5 TD’s. Randy Moss’ numbers since being traded from Pats: 18/236/2. Thanks for the 3rd round pick, Chilly. Signed, BB. The Pats host the Packers next Sunday night and the Bears might have to play the Vikings outdoors at the University of Minnesota on Monday night. How cold will it be outside in Minnesota next Monday night? That sore shoulder for Favre should feel really good in that weather. Frostbite alert!

Dolphins beat Jets 10-6: This might have been the most boring game of a bad football day. Despite their best efforts, the Jets were unable to, um, trip up the Fins. The Jets outgained the Dolphins 280-131 and won the turnover battle 3-2. How did they lose? Dolphins’ punter Brandon Fields kicked 10 times for an average of 56.5 yards per punt with NO touchbacks. The 9-4 Jets are now reeling as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers next week. The Dolphins have the longest of shots to make the playoffs, but they host the Bills next week to keep their season alive.

Cardinals beat Broncos 43-13: Who cares, except Jay Feely’s family? Feely kicked 5 field goals and scored a touchdown on a cool fake field goal late in the 2nd quarter. This game only affected those people who have to change the order of their mock drafts.

Chargers beat Chiefs 31-0: The Chargers gave the undermanned Chiefs a thorough beat down in San Diego yesterday. Chiefs QB Brodie Croyle just stinks, as his record as a starter is now 0-10. Former Mets pitcher Anthony Young was overheard calling Croyle a loser. The Chargers outrushed the Chiefs 207-48 and outgained the Chiefs overall 426-67. That’s 67 total yards gained on offense. A 67 yard drive might not even get you into the end zone during a possession. Needless to say, the Chiefs failed to get into the end zone all day. No word if this kept offensive coordinator Charlie Weis from being able to get his hands on a calzone at halftime. The Chiefs just need to win out and they play at the Rams next week. The Chargers host the 49ers on Thursday night.

Eagles beat Cowboys 30-27: Big plays, especially by DeSean Jackson, were the downfall for the Cowboys last night. Jackson only had four catches, but two went for 60 and 91 yards and running back LeShon McCoy ran for a 56 yard run that set up a field goal in the 3rd quarter. Then the Cowboys were unable, or unwilling to stop McCoy on the Eagles final drive of the game when McCoy ran 4 times for 50 yards to run out the clock. After a decent first half, the Cowboys defense reminded everybody how soft they are and that they need an overhaul in the offseason. They might want to start with corner Mike Jenkins, who is allergic to contact. The Eagles lack of discipline, Jackson and returner Jorrick Colvin, could be the downfall for the Eagles later on. Nobody can afford multiple personal fouls and continue to win, especially in the playoffs. BTW, Tashard Choice made a good, um, choice in getting Mike Vick’s autograph after the game. He’ll need the money that he gets on eBay for the autograph after the Cowboys cut him. The Eagles play at the Giants next week in a game that could determine the division winner. The Eagles can win the division if the Giants lose tonight and next week.

Tonight, in the real Monday night game, I like the Ravens. The Ravens are a legitimate Super Bowl contender with an outside chance at catching the Steelers to win the AFC North. The Texans are just an AFC South pretender, continually proving they can’t stop the pass and the coaching leaves little to be desired. The Texans should put Coach Gary Kubiak into a limo and send him to Denver. Bill Cowher would look good on the Texans’ sideline next season. The Texans need toughness, Andre Johnson notwithstanding.

Post Week 14 MVP ballot (If I had one):

1. Tom Brady QB Patriots: Flip-flopping Brady and Vick, because Brady has been historically good for the past 6 weeks, while Vick was historically good for one game.

2. Michael Vick QB Eagles: He’s been too good to ignore. The Eagles might not even be a playoff team without him.

3. Troy Polamalu S Steelers: Between Polamalu and James Harrison, the Steelers provide a level of intimidation that no other team enjoys defensively. It seems like every time the Steelers need a big play defensively, Polamalu is there to make it.

My Super Bowl pick, this week, remains the Patriots to beat the Falcons. That’s sure to change, but hasn’t in recent weeks.

NFL Week 14 Preview

December 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are my thoughts on this week’s NFL slate of games while I wonder if Jenn Sterger will be able to extort anything from the ‘Ol Gunslinger…

Thursday’s review first:

Colts beat Titans 30-28: Peyton Manning got well against the tanking Titans. He had no interceptions and two TD passes as the Colts won a lot easier than the final score indicated. Javarris James wasn’t exactly Edgerrin, but he provided some quality runs late in the third quarter when the Colts were looking to run clock and work their way down the field. On the other side, the Titans didn’t look like they were willing to establish their running game. In fact, faced with a 4th and 1 from their own 34 late in the 4th down by 6, they punted instead of giving it to 2,000 yard rusher Chris Johnson. Tough running football teams don’t just punt the ball back to Manning there. One wonders if Jeff Fisher is beginning to grease the skids for his departure at the end of the season. The 7-6 Colts can still win the division if they win out. They get extra rest to prepare for first place Jacksonville next weekend.

Sundays Games:

Browns at Bills: The Battle of Lake Erie doesn’t mean anything. Jake Delhomme is playing QB for the Browns and the Bills are at home. Bills are the pick.

Packers at Lions: The Lions have been so close, losing four games by 3 points or less. They have also lost three more by a touchdown (8 pts.) or less. The Packers won the first meeting in Lambeau by 2. The injured Shaun Hill threw for 331 and 2 TD and also ran for 53. Noted end zone dancer, Drew Stanton, takes the reins this week in Motown. This is what would be called a “trap” game for the Pack. With the Patriots, Giants and Bears remaining after this, the Packers can’t afford to let up here. If the Packers are a legitimate Super Bowl contender (I think they are), then they’ll win. Packers will win this by less than a touchdown.

Giants at Vikings: Gee, what’s the word on Favre’s status this week? He might not play. The streak may end. He can barely throw a football, let alone send a text. Puhleeeeeze! If he doesn’t play, he might not play again. The Giants have been up and down as they’ve won the past two weeks. Their season will ride on these next three games as they need 2 out of 3. The Vikings need to win out and get help. Unfortunately for them, the Packers’ sweep provides them with little margin for error. There is an outside chance at the wild card as they play the Giants, Eagles, and Bears in the next three games. The final wild card might be 9-7 and the Vikings could hold the tiebreaker should they win out. As for the game, if Favre doesn’t play, Adrian Peterson is going to need to dominate, because Tarvaris Jackson struggled last week and the Giants pass rush can fluster the best quarterbacks. The line play in this game will determine the winner as the Giants O-line is still banged up, only David Diehl returns this week, and the Vikings defensive front can be dominating at times. Eli Manning should have Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks back even though they’re listed as questionable. The Vikings have been the best soap opera in the league this season and if they lose this week, it’s over. That and Adrian Peterson are the two reasons to like the Vikings, now to be played on Monday night. This game will be on in New York and Minnesota on the local Fox station.

Bengals at Steelers: The Bengals haven’t played a full game in months and you shouldn’t expect them to this week. It should be cold in Pittsburgh and bad teams with nothing to play for usually don’t bring a complete effort to these types of games. The Steelers won a tough, gritty game last week in Baltimore. This one should be easier. Steelers win by double digits.

Buccaneers at Redskins: The Redskins are losers of 4 out of 5 and this week ended superstar Albert Haynesworth’s season. How could they? They should’ve known that he was a 4-3 tackle, not a nose tackle. Anyway, the Bucs lost a heartbreaker at home last week to the Falcons and look to get back on track at FedEx. The Bucs are 7-0 against teams .500 and under. They are 0-5 against teams with winning records. This is easy folks. The Redskins are 5-7 and will be 5-8 after the Bucs beat them despite the cold weather. Josh Freeman is a Kansas City native, so he knows cold weather.

Falcons at Panthers: The only easy pick every week is, “Who is playing the Panthers?” This week it’s the Super Bowl bound Falcons.

Raiders at Jaguars: This game could have the least amount of plays in an NFL game this season. Both teams like to run the ball and the one who is most effective, will win. The Raiders come of their most surprising win of the season, at San Diego. They were only 1-4 away from the Bay before that game. The Jags will play in front of their 6th sellout of the season. Take that Tampa Bay. The Jaguars need to win out to ensure a playoff berth. The Raiders need to win out and get help. But they might get that help this week in San Diego. Jacksonville is a tough place to play, but it’s going to be even tougher this week as the Raiders will play at 10 AM PST. They get brunch with MJD, which is fitting, because their fans usually have brunch with MGD. The venue is probably the difference in this one, which is why the Jags are the pick.

Rams at Saints: The Rams have won two straight on the road and are looking for three in a row. Screeeeech! That’s the Rams’ train coming to a dead stop on Sunday. The Saints are not the hapless Broncos or Cardinals. They have that Lombardi Trophy from last year and they’re looking for another one. The Saints have won five straight and trail the first place Falcons by a game. They need this and should be focused. The Saints have the 3rd ranked pass defense, 15th ranked run defense and 9th overall defense. Sam Bradford is in the stretch run of his rookie season and will need Stephen Jackson to carry a heavy load. The Rams are 19th against the pass and Drew Brees is still the QB in New Orleans. If the Rams can’t run the ball, this could be over quickly. Expect the Rams to keep this close for the first half and into the 3rd quarter, but the champs will be too much in the end and win by double digits.

Seahawks at 49ers: The Seahawks are 6-6 and have a chance for first all by to their own if they win and the Rams lose. The Niners are tough to figure and this week they turn back to Alex Smith. Seattle’s defense isn’t good against the pass and that should help Smith get going with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. But the key for Smith might be Brian Westbrook out of the backfield. Westbrook is getting a lot more playing time with Frank Gore out for the season. Westbrook is a top pass receiver at running back and if Lofa Tatupu can’t cover him, the Seahawks could be 6-7 at the end of the day. Here’s guessing that is what happens. Niners win and get within a game of first. Prediction for the NFC West: Niners go 3-1 the rest of the way and win the West at 7-9.

Patriots at Bears: The Pats once again put together the best game of the season on Monday night. If you thought their dismantling of the Steelers a few weeks ago was impressive, the Pats one-upped themselves with the 45-3 whipping of the Jets. This week will be different. Soldier Field is a tough place to play usually, but the weather is expected to be a “factor”. With the cold temperatures and the wind blowing, whoever can run the ball and not turn the ball over will win this game. Devin Hester might be a difference maker with his returns as field position will be at a premium. The Pats defense, except last week, hasn’t been that great. They are 19th against the run and 31st overall. The good news is that their 31st ranked pass defense has a 12th man with that blustery wind. But the weather is going to work both ways and the Bears rush defense is dominating (2nd in NFL) and their running game has been better than the Pats since they committed to the run about a month ago. If the Pats didn’t play Monday night, weren’t on the road, and didn’t look so good last week, there would be more of a debate on who would win. But with all of those factors in play, the Pats are due; maybe overdue for a letdown after this tremendous run they’ve been on since losing to Cleveland five weeks ago. The Bears are the pick because of all those reasons, especially being at home.

Dolphins at Jets: So are the Jets frauds? They are 1-3 against teams with winning records and 8-0 against teams .500 and below. That stat doesn’t mean they’re frauds, just that they win the games they are supposed to and struggle, like everybody against the good teams. The Jets are a good team; the Dolphins just haven’t gotten going this season as they’re 1-5 against those teams with a winning record. The Jets get back on track this week as the Dolphins don’t have anything to play for after last week’s final minute loss to the Browns.

Broncos at Cardinals: This game’s in the desert, but I nominate this game to be snowed out, with no makeup date. The Broncos have a new coach after firing Josh McDaniels on Monday. The difference between the Broncos and the two other teams that fired their coaches is that the Broncos are not, and were not expected to be a playoff team. But owner Pat Bowlen is looking for a spark (and a few wins) to give the fans hope for next season (and a desire to renew season tickets). The Cardinals stink and will start rookie quarterback John Skelton. Heads, Broncos, Tails, Cardinals. Heads. Broncos are the pick.

Chiefs at Chargers: This should have been a great matchup, but breakout star QB Matt Cassel is out for the Chiefs after an emergency appendectomy earlier this week. He didn’t even make the flight to San Diego. That means Brodie Croyle, with his 0-9 starting record, takes the reins this week for the first place Chiefs. The good news for the Chiefs is that this game isn’t for first. The Raiders took care of that by running over the Chargers last week. This could be the secret to the Chiefs success this week. Newly signed RB Jamaal Charles (5 yrs/$32.5mil) must be licking his chops after the Raiders ran for 251 yards against the top ranked Chargers defense. The first matchup between these two in KC was a hard hitting affair on the opening Monday night. This one should see much of the same type of physical play. The Chiefs can make a statement that they are a legitimate contender in the AFC, not just the West, with a sweep of the preseason favorite Chargers. Brodie Croyle or not, the Chiefs go in and smash the Chargers to end the Chargers season. Expect 125+ out of Charles on the ground.

Eagles at Cowboys: Michael Vick in Primetime in Jerry’s World. This could get ugly. The Eagles sent the Cowboys packing with a blowout win to end the 2008 season. The Cowboys returned the favor last year, winning in week 17 and in the wild card round of the playoffs against the Eagles to end their season. The Cowboys are 3-1 with Jason Garrett as interim coach. They’ve beat both Mannings and Detroit, while losing to the Saints in a game they should have won. The Eagles and Vick are rolling along, with wins in 4 out of their last 5 games. They also beat both Mannings. This is the first of two between these two teams in the final four games. The Bears showed how to “contain” the Eagles and Vick with Julius Peppers chasing Vick all over the field. The Cowboys have a similar talent in DeMarcus Ware. If Ware can get after Vick continuously, the Cowboys could have some defensive success. The Cowboys are without super rookie wide out Dez Bryant, who broke his ankle last week. But the Eagles pass defense is hurt as well, with Asante Samuel listed as questionable and likely to miss the game. If Samuel doesn’t play, the Cowboys passing game could be more effective. Overall, this should be a shootout, much like the Cowboys game at Indy last week. If their defense can turn Vick over a few times, they will win. But expect Vick to run for over 60 yards and pass for over 350 as the Eagles end the Cowboys ultra-faint playoff hopes of this season.

Pro Football Week 13 Sunday Recap

Some thoughts on yesterday’s pro football games while wondering if the Bengals would fall for the fake throw to third, throw to first pickoff play if they played baseball…

Saints beat Bengals 34-30: Really. That stupid play where the quarterback gets under center with the only objective being to get the opposing team to jump offside actually worked? Only the Bungles would fall for that one. In a game that the Saints should have lost, they pull it out because of the lack of discipline and complete ineptitude of the Bungles. The good news for Coach Marvin Lewis, Carson Palmer, and Chad Ochocinco is that they all will most likely not return to the Queen City next season. Lewis’ contract is up and the two players have expensive contracts and a severe drop-off in production. From the playoffs to 2-10 is impressive. The lack of winning problem in Cincinnati won’t be fixed until Owner/General Manager Mike Brown steps aside. The Saints do what good teams do. They win games that they have no right to win and keep moving towards another playoff berth. Carson Palmer actually played a pretty good game for the Bungles, but their defense literally gave away this game. The 9-3 Saints continue their drive to the playoffs next week against the Rams at home.

Bears beat Lions 24-20: The Lions just can’t get a break. They continue to be in almost every game they play and they play hard, but they’re now 2-10. Drew Stanton played fairly well, not turning the ball over and running for a touchdown for the Lions. The Bears keep winning, period. The defense came up big at the start of the 2nd half after Turk McBride strip-sacked Jay Cutler and recovered the ball at the Bears’ 9 yard line. The Bears defense stiffened and held the Lions to a field goal and what turned out to be the margin of victory. Other than the fumble, Cutler was really efficient despite being sacked four times. No interceptions and he completed over 80% of his passes. If Cutler can continue to play this way, their running game continues to be effective, and their defense maintains their elite play, this team could make noise in January and ruin another Super Bowl. At least it won’t rain inside Jerry’s World in February. The 9-3 Bears schedule gets tougher. In fact, their remaining schedule is the most difficult in the league. They play the Patriots at home next week, followed by at Vikings, Jets, and at the Packers.

Packers beat 49ers 34-16: The Niners kept it close for the first half but the Pack pulled away in the 3rd quarter to go to 8-4. I’m guessing the Packers had to get used to wearing those ridiculously ugly uniforms. Aaron Rodgers continues to impress, almost reaching 300 yards and throwing for 3 TDs. The Donald Driver touchdown reception was one for the ages, as football fans had to flashback, NFL Films style, to Mark Bavaro carrying a bunch of 49ers on a Monday night game in the 80’s. Troy Smith isn’t the answer for the Niners who dropped to 4-8. The Packers go on the road next week to face the hard luck Lions.

Jaguars beat Titans 17-6: The Jags keep rolling as MJD ran for 186 yards. It didn’t look like the Titans got the wake-up call for the noon start. They didn’t start playing until 1 CST, and the Jags were already up 14-0. The Titans have the short week as the struggling Colts come to town on Thursday. Another effort like yesterday and the Jeff Fisher watch will begin. The Jags are in first place by themselves and get the Raiders at home next week. Jack Del Rio is accumulating those “Coach of the Year” votes.

Chiefs beat Broncos 10-6: Yesterday was not a good day to be a Chiefs season ticket holder, except for the win. What an ugly, unexciting game in KC yesterday. But a win is a win and the Chiefs now stand at 8-4 with an outside shot a gaining the bye in the AFC playoffs. Unless the Raiders can put together a run, the Chiefs game at San Diego next week can effectively give the Chiefs the division if they win. The rest of the Chiefs’ schedule is winnable.

Browns beat Dolphins 13-10: The Dolphins are finally done after they lost to the Browns yesterday. The killer play pretty much summed up their season as Chad Henne threw a pass that was picked by the Browns’ Mike Adams with a minute remaining and returned to the Dolphins’ 2 yard line. The Browns ran the clock and kicked the winning field goal. The headline stat of this game is the Dolphins cumulative record at home this season; 1-5. How is a 6-6 team 1-5 at home? If they only took care of half of those home games they would be 8-4 and competing for a playoff berth. Now they look at a pick in the 14-18 range.

Vikings beat Bills 38-14: Is the Brett Favre era finally done? Favre was knocked out on the first passing play of the game yesterday with a shoulder injury that ended up being intercepted. But Tarvaris Jackson didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity as he threw for three interceptions himself. Adrian Peterson ran for over 100 yards and the Bills run defense was ineffective again. This is the same team that started 3-7 for Chilly? Interim coach Leslie Frazier, now 2-0, says that Favre will play if he’s cleared by the docs. With three more starts needed for 300 consecutive starts; expect #4 in the lineup next week. The Vikings are mathematically still alive and play the Giants at home next week.

Giants beat Redskins 31-7: Yuck. Some people had this as their only viewing option at 1:00 EST on Sunday. What a nightmare. This game was over early, and was painful to even glance at every 10 minutes or so. The 8-4 Giants go on the road next week to play the Wrangler Man in the Twin Cities.

Raiders beat Chargers 28-13: This one was shocking as the Raiders ambushed the Chargers early and often. The sub-par special teams play reappeared for the Chargers as the normally reliable Darren Sproles fumbled a punt and the Raiders recovered on the Chargers’ 18 yard line. That led to a Jason Campbell naked bootleg run for a 7-0 lead. On the next series, AFC Offensive Player of the Month Jacoby Ford caught a Campbell pass for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 14-0 first quarter lead. But that wasn’t the entire story of this game. The Chargers came into the game with the best offense and best defense, yardage-wise, in the league. The Raiders ran 52 times for 251 yards. The Chargers ran 8 times for 21 yards. A third-grader could figure out why the Raiders won and the Chargers lost. Hey Norv, you can run the ball more than twice a quarter. Norv has his negatives, but typically, play calling isn’t one of them, until yesterday. I’ve mentioned this before, but that Raiders offensive line has been impressive and Darren McFadden has been the beneficiary. The fourth pick in the 2008 draft is now 130 yards from his first 1,000 yard season and the Raiders are now 6-6. Next week’s game at Jacksonville should be an interesting matchup as both teams will be focused on winning the ground game. The 6-6 Chargers are now up against the wall with the first place Chiefs coming to town next week. A loss and they can make vacation plans for January. A win and they still need help.

Cowboys beat Colts 38-35: Peyton Manning threw another two pick 6’s and the Cowboys go to 3-1 under interim coach Jason Garrett. Manning looks out of whack as he’s now thrown 11 interceptions in the last 3 games. Something has to be wrong here. He’s staring down receivers and there’s no real explanation for him forcing things. The 6-6 Colts are now a game behind the Jags and will have to beat them in two weeks. But they also have a short week this week and Jeff Fisher might be making his last stand as Titans coach on Thursday in Nashville. Another bad game by Manning and a loss by the Colts will most likely knock them out of the playoff hunt. If the Cowboys had beaten the Saints, they would have an outside chance at the playoffs. But it’s not meant to be this year for them.

Rams beat Cardinals 19-6: The Rams win another road game as they even their record at 6-6. Maybe they can go 8-8 after all. Next week they face a professional team in New Orleans.

Seahawks beat Panthers 31-14: This one was scary early as the hapless Panthers held a 14-0 lead. Alas, it wasn’t their day after all. Marshawn Lynch showed up and scored 3 times to help the Seahawks get to 6-6. They play at San Francisco next week. That week 17 matchup with the Rams might be to avoid a losing record AND the division. What an impressive division!

Falcons beat Buccaneers 28-24: 53,955 fans showed up for this one in Tampa. Yawn. If all of the professional sports teams in the Tampa Bay area moved, would anybody notice? Hey LA, we have your team and they’re young and exciting, but they won’t be bringing those bright orange unis. The Falcons continue to show why they have the best record in the NFL as they fended off the upstart Bucs once again. Did any defensive player have a better game yesterday than Brent Grimes? A cornerback, Grimes made 7 tackles, knocked away 6 passes and made the clinching interception of a Josh Freeman pass with less than 2 minutes remaining. The only person who couldn’t have been impressed was Freeman, who jacked smaller Grimes up with a hit out of bounds after the pick. That followed Matt Ryan orchestrating another fourth quarter drive to give the Falcons the lead. The 67 yard drive culminated with a 9 yard pass to Michael Jenkins for 6. The Falcons are in the driver’s seat, and are currently undefeated outside of Pennsylvania. That’s important because they don’t have any more games scheduled in the Keystone State. A win against the Saints in two weeks could give them the division and home field advantage in the NFC. It’s doubtful that anybody is going into the Georgia Dome this year and beating these guys. The 10-2 Falcons have a second bye week; no make that the Panthers next week.  The 7-5 Bucs still haven’t beaten a team with a winning record and try to revive their faltering playoff hopes against the ‘Skins at FedEx next week.

Steelers beat Ravens 13-10: I think the 90 players that suited up last night for this game all feel like they were hit by a freight train when they woke up today. What a hard hitting game, complete with a broken nose for tough-guy QB Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben is the embodiment of the city he plays for. Tough and resolute, he kept the Steelers alive with a gutty performance and delivered at the end when they needed him to. The stiff arm on Terrell Suggs on the first play after the Polamalu forced fumble was awesome. The Steelers figure out a way to win games, and Polamalu’s safety blitz and forced fumble of Joe Flacco was an example of the superior coaching that the Steelers have every year. Mike Tomlin empowers Dick LeBeau to coach the defense how he sees fit and he dialed up that great blind-side blitz that won the game. That might be the best defensive play call of the year as the Steelers now are in the driver’s seat in the AFC North. The 9-3 Steelers go home to face the Bungles next week. The 8-4 Ravens are now playing catch-up. They head to Houston for a game next Monday night.

Tonight’s game in Foxborough should be almost as intense as last night’s game. The Jets are talking it and if they walk it tonight, they effectively win the division since they would have swept the Pats. The Jets haven’t played aesthetically pleasing football to the eyes, but they continue to win. Their defense has made plays when they need it and Mark Sanchez has brought the Jets back from deficits three weeks in a row before their last game on Thanksgiving. The Pats are rolling since their week 9 loss in Cleveland. They hold all of the prospective AFC tiebreakers, except one. They already lost to the Jets in week 2 and they have one more AFC loss than the Jets. This week is a must win if they want to win the AFC East. If the Jets win, the Steelers would most likely control their own destiny since they get to play the Jets in week 15. There’s a lot on the line tonight for both teams, so expect some great plays on both sides. If you’re looking for a key player tonight, ex-Jet Danny Woodhead can add his name to the rivalry if he can score a few times. Woodhead began the season with the Jets, but was cut after the first game and picked up by the Pats. Woodhead has replaced the injured Kevin Faulk superbly in the Pats offense and he’s also playing well on special teams. This is the first matchup between these teams since Randy Moss was traded. It should be interesting to see how that affects the way the Jets play defense against the revamped Patriots offense. Tom Brady looked out of sorts during the week 2 loss in New Jersey and that performance most likely led to Moss’ departure as Brady was trying to force it to the wide receiver too much. As for the result, tonight I like the Patriots at home. This should be higher scoring than last night’s game, but it should have a lot of the same emotion and passion from both teams.

Post Week 13 MVP ballot (If I had one):

1. Michael Vick QB Eagles: He’s been too good to ignore. The Eagles might not even be a playoff team without him.

2. Tom Brady QB Patriots: The QB with the Bieber haircut is playing like he did from 2001-2004 and the Patriots might be headed back to their postseason dominance.

3. James Harrison LB Steelers: He’s been fined a king’s ransom, but he’s the best player on the most intimidating defense in the league. Most impressive stat: 6 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. There isn’t an opposing receiver in the league that doesn’t know where Harrison is when they are crossing the middle of the field.

My Super Bowl pick, this week, is the Patriots to beat the Falcons. That’s sure to change, as usual.

And with that, I “Turn Out The Lights” on this week’s recap. RIP Don Meredith.

NFL Week 13 Preview

Here are my thoughts on this week’s NFL slate of games while I keep my eyes peeled trying to protect myself from a James Harrison cheap shot…

Thursday’s review first:

Eagles beat Texans 34-24: What were the refs doing after Brent Celek’s caught the ball with 6:20 left on the game clock in the 4th quarter? The play ended up being reviewed, but only after Andy Reid threw the red flag at 5:10 remaining!!! Are you kidding me? How do the clearly inept Gary Kubiak and his crack staff not notice this? The NFL.com play-by-play recap shows that play starting at 6:36 and the next play starting at 4:56. This is amazing. But even if they played for 90 minutes, the Texans would have found a way to mail it in. As for the game, the Eagles got out early and turned the Texans into a one-dimensional passing team with Matt Schaub getting hit and chased often. Mike Vick continues to play well and every game that he walks off the field healthy gets the Eagles closer to a possible Super Bowl and Vick closer to the most improbable league MVP award in league history. LeShon McCoy had a very good game scoring on a rush and a reception. He was very effective catching the ball out of the backfield. It will be interesting, however, if this “soft” type of offense will stand up to the rigors of NFC football in the north during December and January. The Eagles get extra time to get ready for the hated Cowboys next Sunday night in Dallas. The Eagles will have an opportunity to completely end the Cowboys’ season in that one. The Texans host the Ravens on Monday night next week.

Sundays Games:

Saints at Bengals: The Bengals are counting the days until the season ends and the housecleaning begins. The Saints are revving up for another Super Bowl run. The Bengals haven’t played 60 minutes against the Jets, Buffalo, or Indy in the past 3 weeks. The Saints have won four straight and are starting to round into the form of a contender. If the Bills could score 49 against the Bungles, what can the champs do? Unless weather is a factor, the Saints win easy.

Bears at Lions: Do the Lions get payback for the week 1 robbery in Chicago? Calvin Johnson’s apparent touchdown was ruled incomplete and the seasons for these two teams continued in the direction they started on opening day. This game has the makings of a letdown for the Bears and Jay Cutler. The Lions are starting 3rd stringer Drew Stanton at QB and the Bears have had everything go well for them in the last month. Expect Cutler to throw at least 2 inexplicable interceptions and to get sacked 4-5 times. The Lions will put a huge scare in the Bears, leading into the second half. But, like the season has gone, the Bears will pull it together and get their running game going in the second half to take advantage of the Lions weak run defense and that will be the difference in the game. Bears survive a close one at Ford Field and continue to hold the first round bye in the NFC. If they don’t their schedule is the toughest in the league to finish and they might not win again.

49ers at Packers: The Pack has been playing really well. They’ve now won 4 out of 5 after losing that heartbreaker to the Falcons last week in Atlanta. The Packers have lost all four of their games by 3 points, two games in overtime. That’s pretty impressive. They also have been the last team that former head coaches Wade Phillips and Brad Childress faced before their owners asked them to return their playbooks. A pretty good argument could be made that the Packers are the best team in the NFC, but their win-loss total doesn’t reflect that. Look for the Packers to get on the Niners early and often. Frank Gore is out for the year and the Packers defense is one of the best. This game could be out of hand by midway into the 3rd quarter. Packers win by 20+ and Mike Singletary doesn’t answer his phone on Monday, especially if somebody with the last name of York is on the other end.

Jaguars at Titans: The Titans spanked the Jags back in week 6 in Jacksonville winning 30-3. That made the Titans 4-2 and they appeared to be heading toward a possible division title and playoff berth. Since then, they beat Philly and then lost the last 4 games, including last week’s 20-0 shutout at the hands of an awful Texans defense. To add insult to injury, that was the game when Andre Johnson gave Courtland Finnegan a beat down of his own. Don’t expect Jeff Fisher to allow his guys to play flat this week. It looks like Kerry Collins will be back and that means their 3rd stringer, whoever he is, won’t be starting. Mike-Sims Walker is out for the Jags, who are fairly healthy as left tackle Eugene Monroe returns from a concussion. The Jags gave one away against the Giants last week. Look for the Jags to pound the Titans with MJD early and often, mixing in short to intermediate passes to Marcedes Lewis and Mike Thomas. This should be a vintage ball control type game on both sides, with the Titans running Chris Johnson. Kenny Britt might return as well for the Titans and the Jags secondary is the weakest part of their team. This could be the week that Randy Moss breaks out, especially with former Raider teammate Collins throwing to him. This should be a slugfest, maybe overtime, but the hardnosed Titans will win by a field goal late to keep their season alive. The Titans have a short week with the Colts coming to town on Thursday.

Broncos at Chiefs: Broncos 49, Chiefs 29. That was three weeks ago. No postgame handshake by Todd Haley for Honest Josh McDaniels. This week should and will be much different. Maybe not the score for the winning team, but the Chiefs will win by 3 touchdowns or more. They’re 5-0 at home and they have revenge on their mind. That last game was a fluke.

Browns at Dolphins: The Browns will start Jake Delhomme in place of the injured Colt McCoy. Enough said. The Dolphins continue to keep their faint playoff hopes alive at home with a win.

Bills at Vikings: Evidently Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson didn’t learn his lesson last week as he clearly placed the blame for his game losing drop in the wrong place. Don’t expect that stunt to gain him any favors this week either as that wasn’t the humble response that was desired. The Vikings won their first game for interim coach Leslie Frazier. Brett Favre looked so excited that he might want to return next season. Just keep him away from a cell phone after he gets out of the shower. The Vikings are still a solid team and if Adrian Peterson can go, he might outdo Rashard Mendenhall’s 150+ yards on the ground last week in Buffalo. If Peterson can’t go, it will be ex-Stanford great Toby Gerhart that gets to run wild. Favre is motivated to prove that Childress stunk and it was Chilly’s fault that the Vikings kept losing. So expect another solid Favre performance and a win for the Vikings and keep their fading playoff hopes alive.

Redskins at Giants: Great old-time rivalry game with a new venue in New Jersey. The Giants need a win badly as their remaining schedule is almost as tough as the Bears. The Giants have been injured as much as anybody and they will still be without 3/5’s of their O-line and their 2 starting wide outs. The Redskins have a chance to help ruin the Giants season. Do they have it in them as the weather gets colder and their postseason chances get more remote? The ‘Skins can actually control their own destiny over the Giants as they’re 2 behind them with 2 games coming up against the G-Men. This should be a spirited game on both sides, but although the Giants are undermanned because of injury, the Redskins are just undermanned. The Giants will pull this out in the fourth quarter to get to 8-4 and remain tied with the Eagles.

Raiders at Chargers: Another revenge game in the AFC West as the Raiders got the better of the Chargers in week 5. The Raiders have been awful away from Oakland, going 1-4 on the road. The Chargers are 4-1 at home and they’ve won four straight overall. A solid argument can be made for Philip Rivers as the league MVP should the Chargers make the playoffs. For the Raiders, Jason Campbell has Tom Cable’s job security in his hands for the rest of the season after they put Bruce Gradkowski on IR. The Raiders moved into a first place tie three weeks ago after beating the Chiefs in overtime and have lost the past two weeks. The Chargers still have the #1 ranked offense and defense in the league which shouldn’t help the Raiders. If the Chargers can keep Jacoby Ford in check on kick returns, this one should be relatively easy for them. Vincent Jackson probably won’t play, but Rivers continues to find open receivers. Chargers win by two scores.

Cowboys at Colts: Here’s a pair of teams that didn’t expect to be a combined 9-13 at this point in the season. The Cowboys come off Roy Williams giving away the Turkey Day game and the Colts got destroyed by the Bolts last week at home. Peyton Manning has thrown 7 interceptions in the last 2 weeks. The Colts are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The Colts have been banged up for awhile now, but might get Mike Hart back after missing the last 4 games. Don’t expect Manning to continue his poor play. If the Cowboys are to win this one on the road for interim coach Jason Garrett, they will have to run the ball effectively against the Colts smaller defensive front. If the Cowboys don’t want to play ball control, this game could turn into a shootout with the Cowboys secondary having had some bad games already this season. Reggie Wayne has only scored 4 times this season and only twice in the past 9 games. Look for Wayne to score at least once, probably on troubled corner Mike Jenkins, and the Colts to survive a high scoring game in Indy to go to 7-5.

Rams at Cardinals: Ugh. Another horrendous NFC West matchup. Can’t these teams just go away? How about just fast forwarding until the postgame news conference so we can hear the wisdom of Derek Anderson again? Hey Derek, leave the laughing during Cardinals’ games to us, will you? Oh, this week’s game. The Rams might have broken through last week in Denver, or they might have just done a good job of keeping the Broncos film crew out of their practice facility last week. Either way, Sam Bradford is looking like a legitimate future star and somebody who might someday win another Super Bowl for the Rams. Derek Anderson? He looks like somebody that we’ll be Youtubing for years after last Monday night’s postgame performance. The Cardinals have a solid coaching staff, but sometimes you can’t make chicken salad out of you know what. The Rams get back-to-back road wins for the first time since 2007 and the Cardinals are now looking to get “Lucky“.

Panthers at Seahawks: Time for the weekly “Panthers stink” comment. Could there actually be two 6-6 teams tied at the top of the NFC West after this week? If there aren’t, then the Rams probably lost because the, um, Panthers stink. Seattle wins easy to get back to .500.

Falcons at Buccaneers: The Bucs haven’t sold out this game or any home game this season. This is a ridiculous statistic for the worst sports city in America. Yes it is and the Rays have my back on that. As for the game, the Bucs have an exciting, up-and-coming team that has an opportunity to make the playoffs this season. The Falcons haven’t lost outside of Pennsylvania this season. The problem with the Bucs on the field, however, is that the best team that they’ve beaten is the Rams. They are 0-4 against teams with a winning record and the Falcons have the best record in the league. The Falcons come in with a 5 game winning streak and it would be easy to envision number six, but the last game between these two came down to a bad play call that took the ball out of Josh Freeman’s hands on a 4th and 1 inside the five yard line with a little more than two minutes remaining. If will be interesting to see if they give their young quarterback a chance to make a play in a similar situation if it comes up this week. Everybody is starting to notice the Falcons and when teams begin to get noticed, they tend to let down their guard and lose a little bit of their edge. The Bucs are young and hungry will play hard in spite of the empty seats at Raymond James Stadium. This one should be as close and exciting as the previous game, but with the Bucs coming out with a late Josh Freeman comeback win to make them 8-4. The Falcons have a really favorable schedule after this and their game against the Saints in week 16 should decide the division.

Steelers at Ravens: This should be the hardest hitting game of the season. Everything rides on this game in the AFC North, especially for the Steelers. The Ravens beat the Steelers in week 4 before Ben Roethlisberger came back from his suspension. Big Ben is now hurting, but plans to suck it up with a couple of leg injuries, including a broken foot. The key for the Steelers will be establishing Rashard Mendenhall to take the pressure of Big Ben and try to wear down the aging Ravens defense. The Ravens face the always stout Steelers run defense. Although Ray Rice will probably not have a great game, the Ravens can utilize him to get into more manageable 2nd and 3rd down situations that will help make their play calling unpredictable. But it will be Joe Flacco and the passing game that will determine the winner of this one. Whoever wins the turnover battle will win this game. Flacco turned the ball over twice in the first game, but the Ravens prevailed because the Steelers offense couldn’t get going. The Steelers offense will be better with Big Ben playing this week. This one should be close, if not tied, after the two minute warning and who converts in the 2-minute offense will win this game. Broken foot or not, Big Ben is as good as anybody who has ever played the game in this type of situation and the Steelers will pull one out in Baltimore to take control of the AFC North at 9-3.

Pro Football Week 12 Sunday Recap

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Some thoughts on yesterday’s pro football games while wondering if the winner of the NFC West will get to 7 wins, much less 8…

Falcons beat Packers 20-17: Great game between 2 of the 4 top teams in the NFC decided by a last second field goal by the Falcons’ Matt Bryant. That was set-up by a good kick return and a 15-yard facemask penalty that helped the Falcons start at the 50 yard line. It was punch, counter-punch between the two teams as Atlanta would score and the Pack would counter by tying. This went on the entire game and the Pack would probably have kicked a tying field goal had there been another minute left on the clock. When Aaron Rodgers runs for 51 yards to lead the Packers, things can’t be good for the Pack’s running game. The Packers had over a 120 yard advantage in total offense, but that was wiped out because of Aaron Rodgers’ fumble at the 1 yard line midway through the second quarter that gave the Falcons a touchback. The Falcons responded with an 80 yard TD drive to head into halftime with a 10-3 lead. Besides that crucial fumble, there were no other turnovers during this well-played game. Michael Turner scored and ran for over 100 yards on almost 5 yards per carry for the Falcons. Matt Ryan was almost perfect as he completed short pass after short pass for 197 yards and completed over 80% of his passes. Aaron Rodgers played as well as anybody could expect, except for that critical fumble that turned out to be the difference in the game. An example of how effective each quarterback was, each completed passes to NINE different receivers. Incredible. The 7-4 Packers go home and play the pitiful Niners next week. The 9-2 Falcons go to Tampa to face the upstart Bucs in a big NFC South matchup. A win for the Falcons would pretty much ensure a playoff berth and effectively eliminate the Bucs from the division title.

Steelers beat Bills 19-16: The Steelers luck out in Buffalo as the Bills give one away in overtime. Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson, who was fined for wearing a “Why so serious” t-shirt underneath his jersey last week, seriously dropped the game winning touchdown pass in the end zone from Ryan Fitzpatrick in overtime. Although completely different games, the way the Steelers and Saints won their games is indicative of how bad teams find a way to lose, and good teams find a way to win. The Steelers got a very good game out of Rashard Mendenhall who ran for over 150 yards. However, the Steelers are going to have to work on their discipline as they were penalized for over 100 yards for the second week in a row after not going over 80 all year. The 8-3 Steelers have to tighten that part of their game up before heading to Baltimore next Sunday night for a showdown with the 8-3 Ravens. A loss to the Ravens would pretty much eliminate them from the division title as the Ravens won the first game in week 4.

Browns beat Panthers 24-23: Jake Delhomme reminded Panthers’ fans why he’s not there anymore by throwing two interceptions, but a John Kasay missed field goal keeps the future head coach of the Panthers (Bill Cowher?) in the driver’s seat for Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. The Browns had lost heartbreakers the past three weeks after beating the Patriots, but survived in this one. At 4-7, they have a chance to avoid a 10 loss season for the first time since 2007 and only the fourth time since being reincarnated in 1999. Next week they play at Miami.

Giants beat Jaguars 24-20: The beat-up Giants survived a serious challenge in this game and to their playoff hopes by coming back against the Jags. The key to this win for the Giants was not turning the ball over after leading the league with 30 turnovers during the first 10 games. In addition, cornerback Terrell Thomas strip-sacked David Garrard with less than two minutes left and Antrel Rolle recovered the fumble to seal the game for the Giants. The Giants overcame a dominate Jags running game to force the game winning fumble and also an interception by Garrard at the beginning of the 2nd half that led to a field goal. The Giants solid running game and Eli Manning’s accurate and effective passing helped put the Giants back into the win column after losing the previous two. The Giants are now tied with the Eagles at 7-4 and play the rival Redskins next week at home. The 6-5 Jaguars go on the road to Tennessee to play the Titans, who despite their troubles are only a game behind the Jags for first place.

Vikings beat Redskins 17-13: Favre and the Vikings showed up for interim coach Leslie Frazier and made the two interim coaches a combined 3-1 after their predecessors went a combined 4-14. But remember, these players didn’t quit on those coaches. Favre looked like he was only 36 or 37 running for the game clinching first down and the Vikings are now 4-7 with a long shot chance at the playoffs. Bad news for the Vikings as Adrian Peterson hurt his ankle and didn’t return. He’s day-to-day. Favre didn’t force anything and the Vikings committed to the run. They try to get to 5-7 next week against Buffalo at home. The Redskins are now 5-6 and have a slightly better chance to make the playoffs. If they are to make a run, they better win in New Jersey against the Giants next week.

Texans beat Titans 20-0: Jeff Fisher is a good coach, but not good enough to win with Rusty Smith at quarterback. Who is though? Maybe Ditka with the ’85 Bears defense. The only good highlight of the game, because these teams are irrelevant now, was the fight between noted antagonist Courtland Finnegan of the Titans and star receiver Andre Johnson for the Texans. No word on if the Houston Aeros minor league hockey team will be contacting Johnson about a potential enforcer’s role following the season. If the NFL really wants to suspend the two combatants, they should do it for the rematch in Nashville during week 15. These two teams are actually a little more than mathematically alive at 5-6 each, only a game behind the Colts and Jaguars. The Texans have a short week to continue their attempt to save their season. They play Thursday night against the Eagles who put together a dog performance against the Bears. The Titans play the Jaguars in a must-win game at home.

Dolphins beat Raiders 33-17: If the Raiders didn’t have Jacoby Ford, they would still stink. As of right now, they only smell. After getting taken to the woodshed last week in Pittsburgh, the Dolphins came out and spanked them in Oakland this week. A healthy Chad Henne was impressive, throwing for over 300 yards and 2 TDs, seemingly finding Davone Bess for big plays all day. Bess and Ford have to be two of the most enjoyable receivers to watch that nobody knows about. Ford has over 100 yards in two of the last three games and has more than a couple of highlight reel catches and returns. With Bruce Gradkowski having a mediocre game (2 Ints), do the Raiders go back to Al Davis favorite Jason Campbell at San Diego? Next week will be must win for them so this is a story to watch as Campbell was much more effective during the week 5 win over the Chargers than Gradkowski. At 6-5, the Dolphins are the only team with that record who really doesn’t have a chance to make the playoffs. It probably takes them winning out and even then, they would need some help. They try to keep it going next week at home against the Browns.

Chiefs beat Seahawks 42-24: The Chiefs have been poor on the road, but a trip to the NFC West leading Seahawks got them straightened out for the week. Dwayne Bowe caught 3 TD passes from Matt Cassel, who threw 4 TD passes against his former college coach, Pete Carroll, who never gave him a chance to start at USC. You know what payback is, right Pete? And if that didn’t get Carroll jacked up, the three turnovers and almost double the offensive yards for the Chiefs had to. The Chiefs are now 7-4 and have payback on their mind as the Broncos come to Arrowhead next week. Maybe if Josh McDaniels lets Todd Haley use his video camera, he’ll shake his hand after this one. The Seahawks are still in first place at 5-6. I think their magic number is one, but I’m not entirely sure. They play at home next week against the Panthers who should petition the league to return to the NFC West, citing a similar quality of play to their own.

Bears beat Eagles 31-26: Do we have to take the Bears seriously now? The Bears showed great offensive balance while not committing any turnovers. Jay Cutler threw for 4 TDs and was only sacked 4 times. Well, the Bears weren’t perfect. Julius Peppers was all over the field harassing the formerly invincible Michael Vick, who threw his first interception and fumbled 4(!!!!) times without losing one. The opposition defenses have chased and battered Vick in the last two games following his great performance on Monday night against the Redskins. Despite the constant pressure, Vick still impressed with 333 yards passing and 2 TDs. The issue for the Eagles, however, continues to be their lack of a substantial running game out of their backs as LeShon McCoy ran only 10 times for 53 yards. A great average, but an effective running game is often more about the number of carries than the average. The Bears continue to bend, but don’t break on defense and forcing the Eagles into 4 field goals and an interception in the end zone was the biggest factor in their win. The Bears are always coming up with timely, big plays defensively that are a major factor in their success. The Eagles fall to 7-4 and a tie with the Giants who they beat last week. They go home for a short week and play the pass defense challenged Texans at the Linc on Thursday night. The Bears go to 8-3 and are a game up on the Packers as they head to Detroit to play the well-rested Lions. The Lions were robbed on opening day in Chicago when Calvin Johnson’s apparent touchdown reception was called incomplete due to a bad rule. It will be interesting to see how they play the Bears this time around.

Rams beat Broncos 36-33: I wonder what the Broncos coaching staff will say after watching the video of this one? Maybe they’ll deny that they watched it. Sam Bradford took another step in his accelerated development as a good NFL quarterback by throwing for over 300 yards and 3 TDs in picking up a key road win for the Rams. They are now tied with the Seahawks in the worst division in sports, the NFC West, with five weeks remaining. I’m not so privately rooting for the division champ to have a 6-10 record. Not because I want the playoff system changed, but because it would be funny. The Rams have a key division game next week at Arizona who plays tomorrow night.

Ravens beat Buccaneers 17-10: The Bucs were eventually going to play a good team, and this week it was the Ravens. There’s no word if the fan-free Bucs were intimidated by the sellout crowd in Baltimore, or the fact that the Ravens were just a better team. Joe Flacco was solid for the Ravens, throwing for almost 300 yards and 2 TDs. On the other side, the Ravens harassed future star Josh Freeman all day and he couldn’t get anything going until a TD drive late in the game when they were down by 2 TDs. The Ravens played their typical physical style of play and it should be interesting to see how this game affects the Bucs next week when they play the Falcons at home. At 7-4, the Bucs division title chances are on the line against the NFC best Falcons. The Ravens have a showdown of their own as their hated rival, the Steelers, come to Baltimore for a potentially division deciding grudge match on Sunday night. Both teams stand at 8-3 and a win would put that team in the driver’s seat for a first round bye in the AFC playoffs.

Chargers beat Colts 36-14: There’s something about playing San Diego on a Sunday night that causes Peyton Manning to turn the ball over to them constantly. That was 6 interceptions in their 2007 meeting. Tonight it was two pick 6’s to Kevin Burnett and Eric Weddle (nice pass interference) and another two interceptions thrown by Manning and a fumble by Javarris James that gave the Chargers a plus 5 in the turnover battle. It was the Chargers offense that scared the Colts coming in, but the #1 rated Chargers defense scored two touchdowns compared to one for the #1 rated Chargers offense. Are the Chargers really a legitimate contender to win the Super Bowl? Until Norv Turner is the head coach of a team that wins the Lombardi Trophy, everyone will expect the Chargers to let them down in the end. For the Colts, it just looks like they are too beat up to consistently compete with good football teams. Against bad teams, Manning is still able to carve them up with his replacement players, but the good teams have stopped them in recent weeks. It looks like the Super Bowl loser curse is alive and well as the Colts might miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001, Jim Mora’s last season as head coach. The 6-5 Colts try to right the ship next week against the Cowboys at home. The suddenly 6-5 Chargers are alive and well. They host their archrivals, the Oakland Raiders, next week trying to avenge a week 5 loss in Oakland.

Tonight, I hate both teams and their entire mediocre division. Could one of these teams in the NFC West have enough respect for the game and at least finish at 8-8? Probably not, especially with these two 3-7 treasures. Note to both teams, find yourselves a quarterback! I have to pick one, huh? How about a tie? The pick is the Cardinals, because they are at home and are better coached. Please forgive me if I forget to watch this one.

This week, my Super Bowl pick is the Patriots beating the Falcons. As usual, that’s subject to change next week, and probably will.