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Pro Football Week 16 Sunday Recap

December 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are my thoughts on this weekend’s games as I still wonder if Tony Dungy is the best choice to be the next coach of the Cowboys

Cardinals beat Cowboys 27-26: Well, the Cowboys found another way to lose as their kicker blew an extra point in this one. That kind of summed up their year, starting with the end of first half fumble against the Redskins and culminating in this. Next week’s game in Philly should be a three touchdown blowout as this team runs to the offseason and Jason Garrett can put 4-4 as interim head coach on his resume. The good news is that the Cowboys could sneak into the top 5 on draft day. With the top level quality in this draft, the Cowboys might be able to drop down and get an additional 1 or 2.

Patriots beat Bills 34-3: Another ho-hum affair for the team that clinched the best record in the AFC. Brady continues to play “perfect” and Pats defense has given up 7 or less in 3 of their last 4 after not holding opponents under 10 all season. Seven straight victories for the Pats are the most since their undefeated regular season in 2007. The 2001 Pats won 6 straight and 8 of 9 going into the playoffs, the 2003 Pats won 12 straight, and the 2004 Pats won 8 of 9 going into playoffs. This team plays similar and the results are as well.

Bears beat Jets 38-34: Matt Forte ran for over 100 yards for only the third time this season as the Jets lost for the third time in four games. Could all of the distractions finally be catching up to the Jets? A month ago the talk was about a Super Bowl and now the coach is becoming a walking punch line and the defense is having problems stopping anybody. The Bears can clinch the 2 spot and a bye with an Eagles loss or a win next week at Lambeau.  Soldier Field is going to be a tough place to win in January. The Jets host Buffalo needing a Steelers loss and a win to get to the 5 spot.

Ravens beat Browns 20-10: The former Browns continue to haunt Cleveland worse than LeBron. The Ravens are hanging in the shadows as the playoffs approach. The Patriots get a lot of hype and already beat the Ravens earlier this season. But the Ravens dominated them last year as they eliminated the Pats from the playoffs. There seems to be even more animosity between the Pats and Ravens then the Pats and Jets. The Ravens can win the division with a win against Cincinnati and a Steelers loss to the Browns.

Chiefs beat the Titans 34-14: The Chiefs clinched the AFC West for the first time since 2003 with the help of the Bengals. The Chiefs have a stellar defense and their own triplets with Cassel, Charles, and Bowe. The best rushing team in football is going to be a difficult out in the postseason. Including this season’s five; there have been 70 quarterback seasons with 30+ TD passes. Matt Cassel is 3 TD passes away from joining that club. The Chiefs are in the 3rd spot but lose the tiebreaker if they’re tied with the Colts. The Raiders come to town to close out their season on Sunday.  

Rams beat 49ers 25-17: The 49ers lost the game and Mike Singletary lost his job later in the evening. Somebody will give him a chance to redeem himself as a defensive coordinator and not regret it. This situation just highlights how difficult it is to coach in the NFL. This team hasn’t had stability at the QB position since Jeff Garcia. The Rams win in Seattle and get into the playoffs. Sam Bradford has to be the ROY if they win on Sunday.

Lions beat Dolphins 34-27: The Lions win back-to-back road games after losing an NFL record 26 straight. The Dolphins finish at 1-7 at home, including the Browns, Bills, and Lions to finish the season. Their home losses were not bad until that string. Tony Sparano will most likely suffer the consequences and probably should since a 1-7 home record doesn’t get you into the playoffs or, more importantly, help fill the stadium. The Lions are a definite sleeper going into next season if Matthew Stafford is healthy.

Redskins beat Jaguars 20-17: Believe it or not, this game didn’t really mean that much for the Jags. If the Colts lose to the Titans next week, the Jags are in a win and they’re in position in Houston. But for that to happen, MJD will need to be healthier and productive against the Texans on Sunday.

Bengals beat Chargers 34-20: This game was the nail in the proverbial Chargers’ coffin. The Bengals have now won 2 in a row and are reportedly petitioning the league to not count their 0-8 record in October and November. Marvin Lewis is completing his contract, but the team has surprisingly not quit on him and so far it appears like he might return. As for Norv Turner, GM AJ Smith is renowned for his hardheadedness and will probably bring Norv back for what might be their final season in San Diego. He’s not old yet, but Philip Rivers will be 30 when next season ends and the window of opportunity with a great quarterback will close sooner than anticipated for the Chargers. That needs to be in their minds when they decide on their coaching situation for next season.

Broncos beat Texans 24-23: Tim Tebow threw for over 300 yards and a TD and then ran for one as he brought the Broncos back from 17-0 at halftime to win his first game as a starter. Tebow has sort of a Doug Flutie feel to him as the talent evaluators find problems with him, but he finds a way to win. Do the Texans move on from Gary Kubiak and if they do, will the Broncos hire him?

Colts beat Raiders 31-26: The Colts running game showed up again (191 yards) and their defense stuffed the 3rd ranked rushing offense, holding them to only 80 yards. The Colts need to win at home against the Titans or have the Jaguars lose in Houston to make the playoffs. If they win and the Chiefs lose, they get the 3 seed and a probable matchup with the Jets.

Packers beat Giants 45-17: This was a beat down in Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers returned and was well protected as he threw for 404 yards and 4 TDs. That had to be the best non-Brady/Vick performance of the year and top 5 overall. The Giants turned the ball over 6 times and that looks like it might lead to the downfall of Coach Tom Coughlin. Coughlin’s trademark is discipline and holding onto the football.  The turnovers are indicative of a team that isn’t as disciplined as they should be. Both teams are now tied at 9-6 and need to win next week. The Giants play at FedEx against the Redskins and the Packers host the Bears in Lambeau. The Skins are done but the Bears are still playing for a bye. That should work to the Giants advantage.

Buccaneers beat Seahawks 38-15: Josh Freeman is a beast as he threw for a career high 5 TD passes yesterday against the Seahawks in front of a not so capacity crowd of 46,576. Tampa Bay has their best quarterback since Doug Williams and a winning team and still don’t support this team. Ridiculous. How good was Freeman? His 21 completions were to 10 different receivers. Pretty good. He’s still at the top of the list of first and second year quarterbacks that I would want to build my team around. The Bucs need to win at New Orleans next week and hope. Hope for a Saints loss tonight and either a Giants loss or Packers loss. Or they need both the Giants and Packers to lose next week.

Tonight I like the Saints. The winner of this game might be my favorite to win the NFC as the Saints are rolling and the Falcons haven’t lost outside of the Keystone State. This game should be a pre-playoff statement game where the winner can feel like they will have an advantage if they play again and that could happen as soon as the Divisional Playoff round. The Falcons have to feel like they can do their part to eliminate the Saints if they beat them. They need to feel like it will be easily to beat the Saints tonight rather than in three weeks. The Saints had won 6 straight until last week’s loss to the Ravens. The Saints will probably have to win either tonight or next Sunday against the Bucs to make the playoffs. A win would set them up with the hapless winner of the NFC West in the wild card round. That’s almost like getting a bye week and should be enough motivation for the Super Bowl champs to win tonight.

I concur with Governor Ed Rendell about the Eagles and Vikings game.

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

1. Tom Brady QB Patriots: It’s tough to not vote for Brady when he is having, arguably, the best season of his career. Who is going to be the Patriots’ deep guy without Moss? Hah.

2. Michael Vick QB Eagles: As great as Vick has been, if the Eagles don’t win in Chicago, there won’t be any reunions in Atlanta for the NFC championship game. The Eagles have already lost there with Vick and the weather shouldn’t be better in the middle of January.

3(tie). Julius Peppers DE Bears and Clay Matthews LB Packers: These two have dominated on two of the best defenses in the league. Both seem to make key plays that lead to wins on a weekly basis. That play yesterday by Matthews to rundown Brandon Jacobs was indicative of what he’s brought in his two years in the league. Peppers is the most disruptive pass rusher of his era and his freakish athletic ability enables him to defend passes and rundown running backs like a linebacker or safety.

My Super Bowl pick, this week, is the Patriots to beat the winner of tonight’s game (Saints/Falcons).

NFL Week 16 Preview

December 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are my thoughts on this week’s NFL slate of games while I wonder where TO will be keeping it real next year…

Cowboys at Cardinals: Tonight’s game is the first of a group of “who cares” games. Both teams are positioning for a top 10 pick on draft day 2011. The Cards know they need a QB and the Cowboys fans know they need a new QB. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, the owner/president/general manager doesn’t know this yet. The Cowboys have been winning some ugly football games with Garrett and should continue tonight.

Patriots at Bills: The Pats just need a win to clinch the division and home field throughout the AFC playoffs. The Bills have won 4 of 5 and are taking themselves out of position for a top 10 pick. This week should get them back on track as the Pats clinch.

Jets at Bears: The good news for the Jets is that it looks like Mark Sanchez will start. The good news for the Bears is that it looks like Mark Sanchez will start. Why? Sanchez has thrown for only 4 TD’s and 17 INT’s in games played in less than 45 degrees. Guess how cold it’s supposed to be in Chicago for this one? Add in the Bears stifling run defense and you can imagine Sanchez running from Defensive POY candidate Julius Peppers frequently. The Bears have won 6 of 7 and the key has been Matt Forte and the ability to protect the football. After breaking 45 yards just once in his first 7 games, Forte has gone over that total in 6 of the last 7. The only game Forte didn’t run that well was against the Patriots. He’s averaged over 81 yards per game in those 6 victories. The Bears have also taken care of the football by winning the turnover battle by 8 in their 6 wins. The Jets win this one and they’re in the playoffs. The Bears need this to keep ahead of the Eagles for the NFC 2 seed and a wild card round bye. Look for the Bears defense to force 3 or more turnovers and either score on defense or special teams to give them the win at Soldier Field.

Ravens at Browns: The annual Art Modell Hate Bowl is being held tomorrow in northeast Ohio. The Ravens need to win and they’re in. If they win out they can win the division if the Steelers lose next week.

Titans at Chiefs: The Titans broke their losing string last week, but that was more of a win for the man who pays the checks as they beat Bud Adams’ hometown team. This week, they face the Chiefs who are 6-0 at Arrowhead. The Chiefs are playing well with Cassel at QB and Jamaal Charles might win the rushing title. The Chiefs need to win out with two home games. This will be the first of two needed wins.

49ers at Rams: My favorite division. The Rams control their own destiny and the Niners control theirs if the Bucs beat the Seahawks. Got that? The Niners go back to Troy Smith this week but are still 1-6 on the road. The Rams get the win and play for the division next week in Seattle.

Lions at Dolphins: The Lions broke their NFL record 26 game road losing streak last week in Tampa and stay in Florida to play the Fins. The undercard might be Ricky vs. Gunther. Pedro Martinez against Don Zimmer, football style. The Dolphins are 1-6 at home and heading for 1-7. Lions win.

Redskins at Jaguars: MJD is doubtful, heading towards out. That leaves Rashad Jennings to attack the worst defense in the league. The Skins are slightly better against the run at 27th in the league. The Jags need help to win the division or get a wildcard. But they don’t have a chance if they don’t win this one. The Rex Grossman era started with a 4 TD game in a loss last week for the Skins. Look for bad Rex to show up and the Jags keep their playoff hopes alive.

Chargers at Bengals: The Chargers are 2-4 on the road and need two straight and a Chiefs loss to win the division. They also have a long shot at the wildcard. The weather in Cincy is sure to be un-San Diego like as they expect a wintry mix. This was the site of one of the coldest games in NFL history when the Bengals beat the Chargers on their way to Super Bowl XVI. It’s been over 20 years now since the Bengals appeared in the Big Game. The Bengals broke a 10 game losing streak last week, but will get back into the loss column against the Chargers.

Texans at Broncos: This is the Gary Kubiak Bowl where the winner might have Kubiak as head coach next season. Why? Because he keeps his job by winning and he’s reportedly the favorite in Denver if he’s available. Tim Tebow starts for the second time. Let’s go with the Broncos in this one.

Colts at Raiders: The Colts now control their own destiny after running and stopping the run last week for the first time all season. Can they keep this up? The Raiders have a great running game as they have run for over 239 yards in 4 games already this season. If the small Colts defensive front can’t handle the physical Raiders front, the Jags are back in it. The Raiders are also 5-2 at home and are starting to make the Coliseum a tough place to play for the first time in years. The Raiders have a solid defense and Peyton Manning might need to find somebody besides Reggie Wayne if Asomugha is covering him. This might be the best matchup of the day and the Raiders get a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

Giants at Packers: There isn’t a game with more on the line than this one this week. The Giants win and they’re in. The Packers win out and they’re in. Aaron Rodgers returns after missing last week with his second concussion this season. The Giants have knocked out 6 QB’s already this season and an already woozy Rodgers in their sights. The Giants shouldn’t be in this position as they have blown some games (last week) with careless turnovers and play calling. The Packers have to feel the same as they’ve lost 4 games by 3 points and two others by 4. So expect a close game at Lambeau. Matt Flynn showed that he can play with a solid performance last week and could be called on again. If Eli can limit his turnovers, the Giants win. Look for a steady dose of Brandon Jacobs in the cold and short passes to Kevin Boss to keep the chains moving. A screen pass to Ahmad Bradshaw will break this open in the second half and the Giants win by 3 or 4.

Seahawks at Buccaneers: Seattle is home of the 12th man and the Buccaneers are just looking for 12 fans. Expect a post Christmas crowd of less than 50K again in the worst sports region in North America. The Seahawks win out and they’re in the playoffs. The Buccaneers can win out and get in with a Saints loss on Monday and a little more help. The Bucs are 8-1 against teams with sub .500 records. With the Bucs still playing for something expect them to win.

Vikings at Eagles: It looks like the Favre era might finally be done. But he does like the primetime spotlight. The Eagles win and they are in, but they need to beat out the Bears to get a bye. Otherwise they might be seeing a ticked off Giants squad bent on revenge in two weeks. Look for this to be a game for a quarter or two before the Eagles break it open. The Vikings haven’t put together a full game defensively in weeks (months?). Mike Vick continues his MVP march with another big game Sunday night and the Eagles are NFC East champions.

Pro Football Week 15 Sunday Recap

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Bengals beat the Browns 19-17: Well, the Bungles blew their chance at the #1 pick in the 2011 draft with this win. Does anybody else find irony in both Ochocinco and Owens not starting, with Owens season also ending on an injury? Classic. Just keeping it real.

Cowboys beat Redskins 33-30: Late field goal by the Cowboys beat Rex and the Skins. Grossman had 4 TD passes in his first game replacing Donovan McNabb. I guess the Shanahan’s might have been right after all. And they also lost, which keeps their hopes for a top 5 pick alive. They might not get Lucky, but they might get a Mallett.

Titans beat Texans 31-17: Another Titans-Texans matchup; another fight…. between Texans’ teammates! Brian Cushing and Antonio Smith went at it. In an awesome gesture, Jeff Fisher awarded offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger the gameball following the game. Heimerdinger is fighting cancer and still performing his coaching duties. Next week the Texans road show goes to Denver. Does the winner get Kubiak for next season?

Colts beat Jaguars 34-24: The Colts stepped up and won a big game running the ball and stopping the run. The Colts outrushed the Jags 155-67 and were up 254-84 in total yards at the half. The Colts came out and took the Jags out of their game and the “bad” Peyton Manning from their losing streak of a few weeks back didn’t show up. The Colts were plus 2 in the turnover battle and their only mistake was on the controversial punt return Mike Thomas in the second quarter. Jags coach Jack Del Rio made some questionable coaching decisions, almost as if they weren’t confident, nor, expected to win. That seemed uncharacteristic for the normally solid Del Rio. They are both now tied at 8-6 and the Colts hold the current tiebreaker. That could change, but the Colts just need to win out. The Jags are lucky that they host the Redskins (tanking games??) on Sunday. The Colts travel to the Bay Area to face the Raiders. They better bring their run stuffers next week as well.

Chiefs beat Rams 27-13: The Chiefs needed a win to stay in front of the Chargers, and Matt Cassel returned and delivered. The Chiefs outrushed the Rams 210-69 and were plus 1 in the turnover battle. Sam Bradford had a dreadful day, throwing for 2 INTs and a 40.9 rating. The Chiefs had been a question mark on the road until recently winning two of three. The 9-5 Chiefs can eliminate the Raiders next week by winning against the Titans at home. The Rams are still tied with the Seahawks for first and try to finish off the 49ers at home next Sunday.

Bills beat Dolphins 17-14: Give the Bills credit for not quitting as they’ve won 4 out of their last 6, including a loss to the Steelers when Steve Johnson dropped the game winning TD pass in overtime. Prediction time: The Bills will draft Cam Newton and Chan Gailey will use him similarly to how he used Kordell Stewart in Pittsburgh. The Dolphins have been eliminated and the Tony Sparano watch is on. The Fins are 1-6 at home and Bill Cowher is making eyes at his job. Not a good combination for the coach that engineered the greatest turnaround in NFL history two years ago. Either the Dolphins will give him a chance or forget that they haven’t given him a good quarterback without a trick shoulder. It will be interesting to see if Cowher is the next person to “bring his talents to South Beach.”

Eagles beat Giants 38-31: Just in case you want to see it again, here’s THE punt return. Here’s the Original Miracle at the Meadowlands with Herm Edwards. It’s ridiculous that this happens again. I was expecting Tom Coughlin to go Woody Hayes on the punter. First, Cliff Lee goes to the Phillies instead of the Yankees and now this. Don’t forget Michael Vick running 10 times for 130 yards and a TD. It reminded me of using him in Madden when he was with the Falcons. This wasn’t a good week for the Giants to choke either, with Billy the Chin making eyes at Coughlin’s job as well.  The Eagles win the division now with a win or Giants loss. The Eagles might need to win out to get a bye since the Bears hold the tiebreaker. The Birds host the Vikings next Sunday night. The Giants try to get off the psychiatrist’s couch to play the Packers in Green Bay. They can make the playoffs with a win.

Lions beat Buccaneers 23-20: The Lions broke their NFL record 26 game road losing streak by going to empty Raymond James Stadium and beating the Bucs in overtime. But like a tree falling in the woods, if nobody saw this game, did it really happen? Just kidding Detroit. The Bills and Lions have continued to play hard and have to be considered dark horses to contend next season. If Matthew Stafford can’t ever get healthy, the Lions might have something with Drew Stanton. The Bucs ride virtually comes to an end as they need to beat the Seahawks at home next week and win in New Orleans to have a chance. Even then, they need help.

Panthers beat Cardinals 19-12: The Panthers retain the #1 pick with the Bengals loss. The Cards move up to a tie for 4th. I wonder if Shanahan can get them to swap first rounders and give them McNabb in the deal. That would be interesting.

Ravens beat Saints 30-24: Ray Rice finally came through with a big game as he ran 31 times for 153 yards and caught 5 balls for 80 yards and he scored twice. On the other side, the Saints ran 14 times for 27 yards. Add in a plus 2 in the turnover battle and it’s pretty easy to see why the Ravens won yesterday. With the Steelers loss, the 10-4 Ravens are now tied for first, but losing the tiebreaker and need help. They play at Cleveland next week in the annual Art Modell Hate Bowl. The 10-4 Saints go to Atlanta where they will need to win and hope that Atlanta loses against Carolina in their last game.

Falcons beat Seahawks 34-18: With the Saints loss, the Falcons only need a win or Saints loss to clinch the South. A win would also give them home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The 6-8 Seahawks are still in first and play at Tampa next week.

Raiders beat Broncos 39-23: The Raiders overcame Tim Tebow parting their defense and running 40 yards for a TD early in the game. Darren McFadden went over 1,000 yards for the first time with 20 carries for 119 yards as the Raiders ran for 264 yards. For those counting at home, that’s 98 points and 592 yards RUSHING in two games against the Broncos. The Raiders have now gone over 250 in rushing yards in 3 games, with another game of 239. Until yesterday, next week’s opponent, the Colts, were having issues against the run. They better bring that “A” game next week as well.

Jets beat Steelers 22-17: The Jets went to Pittsburgh and gutted out a very good win. They just need one more win to get the wild card. Special teams were the key as Brad Smith took the opening kickoff the distance to provide the margin of victory for the Jets. This was a pretty well played, tough game as there were no turnovers. Although the Steelers didn’t play bad, the return put them behind and the safety kept them from being able to kick a game-tying field goal at the end. The Steelers get to recover quickly when they host the Panthers on Thursday night. The 10-4 Jets get a trip to Chicago for another warm weather game against the Bears.

Patriots beat Packers 31-27: If the game was 60 1/2 minutes long, the Pack might have won. The Patriots came out flat against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers and needed 2 turnovers and a 71 yard return from guard Dan Connolly on a kickoff to win this game. But that’s what good teams do and the Pats have now gone an NFL record 6 straight games without a turnover. The 8-6 Packers still have a chance as they host the Giants next week in a must win game for their playoff hopes. The Pats can clinch the AFC East and the home field next week with a win at Buffalo or a loss by the Jets.

Tonight I like the Vikings and their fans. As I’ve been late and seen the first drive, the fans look ecstatic that this game is outdoors and it would be great if the Vikings could get that ridiculous home field advantage back in the Arctic region of the US. They would have NO problem selling premium seats and luxury boxes with at least 2-3 games being played in freezing conditions. Those would be the “hottest” selling premium seats in the league.

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

1. Michael Vick QB Eagles: Flip-flopping Brady and Vick again, as yesterday put Vick on top. Is it appropriate to call this MVP race a “dogfight”?

2. Tom Brady QB Patriots: It’s amazing that Brady is only second on this list because Brady has been historically good for the past 7 weeks.

3. Minnesota Fans: It’s going to be in the single digits with snow tonight in Minnesota.

My Super Bowl pick, this week, is the Patriots to beat the Eagles. That’s changed from the Falcons because the Eagles karma is tough to ignore.

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.

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.