Sunday, November 26, 2006

NFL Week 12 Preview

Kind of a weird week since we've already had three games played before Sunday. But that's what happens around holiday time. Pretty soon we are going to have Saturday night games, and there will be a Thursday night game for the rest of the season, thanks to that damned NFL Network, so I guess we'd better get used to the messed up schedule.

Some interesting matchups on the board today, but one game stands head & shoulders above the rest: The 9-1 Bears travel to Foxborough to take on the 7-3 Pats in what could be the game of the season so far. Unless the Bears play like they did in the Arizona game, and the first half of the Giants game, and the Miami game. And New England plays like it did against the Broncos, Colts & Jets.

Anyway, let's get it on.

-Bears @ Patriots 4PM CBS
The last time these two teams hooked up in a game with this much importance The Fridge was jiggling his way through his 15 months of fame, Jim McMahon was wearing commissioner-bashing headbands, and the Pats were getting their asses whipped, 46-10, in Super Bowl XX. Chicago makes its first trip to New England since 1997 and they will have a new surface to work with at The Giant Razor Blade; FieldTurf was installed last week, replacing the poorer-than-high-school-field quality grass that was causing all kinds of slip ups the past few games. So no excuses with the turf.
Chicago looks like the team to beat in the weak NFC, despite their troubles of late (mentioned above.) The next closet team to them, record-wise, are the 6 teams at 6-4. So this game really means more to New England, but it will be a good barometer of how the Bears would fare against an AFC playoff foe on the road. QB Rex Grossman has had his struggles ever since the near-debacle in Arizona, but he did lead them on a second half surge two weeks ago to knock off the giants in the Meadowlands. Meanwhile the Pats had their first 2 game winning streak since the Eisenhower Administration, but bounced back by whipping the Packers in green Bay (who hasn't), 35-0 last week.
So this will be a battle of two old adversaries trying to stake a name for themselves and discover an identity before the playoffs. Are the Pats a running team that occasionally asks Tom terrific to throw the ball 40-50 times? Are the Bears a solid defensive team that struggles on offense? Questions will be answered today on the new Turf in Foxborough in what could be a preview of Super Bowl XXLI.
MY PICK: Pats 23-17

-Cincy (5-5) @ Cleveland (3-7)
The Battle of Ohio is a matchup of disappointing teams that had playoff aspirations coming into the year, especially Cincy, but just looks like a matchup of struggling teams. Granted the Bengals are coming off a nice win at New Orleans, but that was coming on the heels of that monumental collapse against the Chargers at home the week before. The Browns nearly knocked off the defending champ Steelers (who hasn't) last week but lost on a last-minute touchdown by Roethlisberger. The Bengals crushed Cleveland in the first meeting in Cincy, 34-17, but the Brownies have been competitive in every other game this year- 7 losses by a total of 52 points- and something tells me Romeo is going to have the boys fired up for the Intrastate Rivalry rematch.
MY PICK: Browns 24-21

-Jacksonville (6-4) @ Buffalo (4-6)
The Jags are harder to read than the instruction manual for a 65" HD TV. One week they look dominant on both sides of the ball (see last weeks decapitation of the Giants), others they can't get out of their own way (see the disheartening loss to the Texans 2 weeks ago.) buffalo has had a similar roller coaster ride this year, knocking off Miami & Minnesota & taking the Colts & Pats to the brink. It should be nice & cold in Buffalo for the warm-weather Jags, and that could have an effect on David Garrard's passing & Fred Taylor's running. In fact, Taylor hasn't been hurt in a while, so today might be the day.
MY PICK: Buffalo 17-14

-Pittsburgh (4-6) @ Baltimore (8-2)
The defending champs take their horror show of a season into the teeth of the best defensive team in the league, and if Ray Lewis returns from a back injury it could be along day for A-Ben-dicitis & Co. Throw in the fact that Hines Ward is questionable and this game could signify the changing of the guard in the AFC Central.
MY PICK: Ravens 27-17

-New Orleans (6-4) @ Atlanta (5-5)
The saints were the darlings of the early part of the season when they raced out to a -1 start, but have have fallen on tough times lately, losers of 3 of their last 4. The Falcons have been equally disappointing of late, suffering terrible loses to Cleveland & Baltimore with QB Mike Vick regressing back to his one-dimensional freak show self. If Atlanta can't run the ball then they are in trouble, and the Saints will be depleted with the loss of Rookie of the Year shoo-in Marques Colston; the receiver suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain last week and will miss today's game. Advantage: Falcons.
MY PICK: Falcons 31, Saints 28

-Carolina (6-4) @ Washington (3-7)
The Panthers have found new life on the season with their recent 2 game winning streak, including a 15-0 shutout of the Rams last week. Washington starts raw-but-talented QB Jason Campbell & is without RB Clinton Portis, and they lost to the Bucs last week. 'Nuff said.
MY PICK: Carolina 22-3.

-San Fran (5-5) @ St. Louis (4-6)
Don't look now but the surprising 49ers are at .500 for the first time since Montana roamed the huddle (kidding, just seems that way) and they sit in second place in the NFC West., a game ahead of St. Louis & a game behind Seattle. So this game actually has meaning for them. St. Louis has slumped recently, losers of straight after jumping out to a 4-1 record. They need this one bad, and the Niners aren't good enough to win a big road game like this-yet.
MY PICK: Rams 34-21

-Arizona (2-8) @ Minny (4-6)

Two teams going backward that appear to be playing out the string. The Vikes technically have a shot at the playoffs, but have lost 4 in a row & are fading fast. The Cards are playing for Denny Green's job & the potential #1 pick in the 2007 draft.
MY PICK: Vikes 19-7

-Houston (3-7) @ NY Jets (5-5)
Who cares.
MY PICK: Jets 13-6

-NY Giants (6-4) @ Tennessee (3-7)
The Giants need to get their act together before this season that started with so much promise turns sour in a hurry. What better way to get healthy than to face the Titans, right? Not so fast my friends. Tennessee has played much better lately as Vince Young learns the ins & outs of being a signal caller on a putrid NFL squad as opposed to BMOC on a college championship team., as their 31-13 whipping of the Eagles in Philly can attest to. This game won't be the cakewalk that the G-Men need, but if they think they are one of the best teams in the NFC, they best prevail.
MY PICK: Giants 26-16

-Oakland (2-8) @ San Diego (8-2)
The Raiders are the lowest form of life in the NFL right now. Yes, even lower than the Bucs. The Chargers are the hottest team going, winnin g 2 consecutive games after trailing by 17 points in each and boastin the leagues hottest running back, LaDanian Tomlinson, who has 19 TDs in his last 6 games. This one has mismatch written all over it, and if the Raiders keep it close it will be a miracle.
MY PICK: Chargers 41-13

-Philly (5-5) @ Indy (9-1) Sunday Night Football *FLEX GAME*
Flex means the NFL & NBC get to flex their muscles and move a game from Sunday day to Sunday night depending on the matchup and what games the other networks protect. Something tells me that CBS protected the Bears/Pats because this game is a dud now that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has been lost for the season with a torn MCL and the Colts finally lost a game. Terrell Owens' buddy Jeff Garcia takes the reigns of the Eagles offense in place of McNabb, and now this looks like a team playing out the string versus a team that can sleepwalk its way through the rest of the regular season and hope it wakes up in time for the playoffs. You know, kinda like Indy does every year. And we know they never wake up in the playoffs.
MY PICK: Mannings 26-12

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