Sunday, December 03, 2006

NFL Week 13 Preview

The final month of the season starts today, the time when we separate the real playoff contenders from the wannabes.

The week already kicked off with the NFL Network's Thursady night tilt, seen by hundreds of people across the country. The Bengals (7-5) kept the good times rolling, winning their third straight game in a sloppy, 13-7 thriller over Baltimore (9-3.) Cincy came within seconds of recording their second consecutive shutout and they closed the gap between them and the Ravens to just 2 games.

But enough about games that nobody sees. Let's take a look at the action on tap for today as we kick off December football. Hope the weather outside isn't too frightful for everybody- it's been 85 degrees here for the past week. I didn't even know mosquitoes came out in December, but they do.

Minny (5-6) @ Chicago (9-2)
It's official- the Bears are the worst 9-2 team in history. The way the media and fans bash the Bears and QB Rex Grossman you'd think their record is 2-9. But Rex the Blunder Dog has looked HORRIBLE the last few weeks, like 2-2 with 5TDs & 7 INTs terrible, prompting calls for backup Brian Griese. Last weeks 17-10 mess against the Pats just gave more ammo to the critics as Rexie threw 3 picks and no touchdowns as the howling for his backup got louder than the winds whipping through new Soldier Field. The Vikes have been enigmatic, winning 4 of their first 6 but then losing 4 of their next 5. They got by Arizona last week with Brad Johnson tossing 3 TDs, but will they have enough to overcome a hungry Bears team on the road?
MY PICK: Bears 28, Vikes 17

Kansas City (7-4) @ Cleveland (3-8)
The Browns are a mess. I know, tell you something you don't know. But I mean a real mess, like players fighting on the sidelines and losing 4 of their last 6 games. Meanwhile the Chiefs are rolling towards a battle with division leading San Diego in 2 weeks, and this contest appears to be a mere speed bump on their way to fighting for the AFC West crown. We know the cold won't bother the Chiefs, and I doubt the Browns, who are 1-5 at the Dawg Pound, will be able to stop the offensive force that is Larry Johnson, currently the leading rusher in the NFL(1202 yards.) The bruising back has 311 yards & 3 TDs in the past 2 games, and that number will only grow today.
MY PICK: Chiefs 27, Browns 13

San Diego (9-2) @ Buffalo (5-6)
In my weekly picks with my son I took Buffalo. He thinks I've crossed over into the land of senility. But something about this game just smells to me. The Chargers have been merrily rolling along, mounting miraculous comebacks and ripping off 5 wins in a row. During that streak MVP-to be LaDanian Tomlinson has 673 yards rushing and 17 total TDs (14 rushing, 2 receiving, 1 passing.) But the Bills have been streaking, too, winning 2 in a row in come-from-behind fashion. Although their record is a modest 3-2 at Orchard Park, with the winter storm that blew in it should make for a decided home field advantage for the Bills over the warm weather-loving Chargers. As I said, something about this game stinks, so I'm gonna stick to my guns and go with the Bills. You guys & my son can laugh at me later.
MY PICK: Bills 19, Chargers 17

Indy (10-1) @ Tennessee (4-7)
Okay don't laugh but I also took the Titans in this one. Perhaps I was just giddy from their miraculous come-from-behind win over the Giants last week, and the coming-of-age performance of Vince Young that went along with it. But Tennessee usually plays Indy tough, as evidenced by their 14-13 loss in Indy in Week 8, although the Mannings have won 7 straight in the series. Indy is coming off an impressive beating of Philly, when it finally found a running game (237 yards) and a running back (rookie Joseph Addai had 170 yards & 2 TDs) to replace Edge James. I don't really think Tennessee has enough to win this one, but I love betting against the Mannings and I do think it will be a tough game.
MY PICK: Mannings 31, Titans 24

NY J-E-T-S (6-5) @ Green Bay (4-7)
The Manginis need this game to keep pace in the AFC East if they have any hopes of making it to the playoffs this year. The Packers need this game just to save themselves from the embarrassment of losing their 5th game on the sure-to-be frozen tundra. Green Bay had a chance to win last week in the snow & sleet of Seattle, but Old Favre turned into New Favre, slinging interceptions all over Qwest Field in a 34-24 loss. This game is a measuring stick for the future of the Hall of Fame QB. If he can't lead his pack to a victory over a mediocre but feisty Jets team on his own hallowed turf, well all signs would point to him riding off into the sunset to sell cars or make the rounds at charity events all over the land.
MY PICK: Packers 23, Jets 20

Atlanta (5-6) @ Washington (4-7)
Talk about needing a win badly. If Two Fingered Vick and his Dirty Birds lose this tilt to the hurting 'Skins they can all but kiss the playoffs goodbye. Washington is playing without its top running back, Clinton Portis, and has replaced veteran starting QB Mark Brunnell with talented 3rd year slinger Jason Campbell. The former LSU standout led the Skins to an impressive 17-13 win over enigmatic Carolina last week, so he's got the confidence to knock off a supposed playoff squad. Like I said, the Falcons NEED this win or the rest of the season is meaningless, even in the weak NFC, so I look for Atlanta to get back to what they do best- pound the ball on the ground and don't allow Vick to throw the ball too much to his butterfingered receivers.
MY PICK: Falcons 30, Skins 19

Detroit (2-9) @ the Pats (8-3)
Thank you schedule makers!
MY PICK: Pats 45, Lions 3

Arizona (2-9) @ St. Louis (5-6)
Something tells me the improving Matt Leinart takes out his frustration over his USC Trojans losing to UCLA last night on the Rams today. Just a hunch.
MY PICK: Cards 21, Rams 20

San Fran (5-6) @ New Orleans (7-4)
The Niners have been the surprise of the league, already winning more games this season than they did all of last year (4.) Behind an improving QB Alex Smith and awesome running back Frank Gore (2nd in the NFL with 1177 yards) San Fran is actually in the race for the playoffs. But the Saints are marching again, ripping Atlanta last week to move into 1st place in the NFC South. Drew Brees is having an MVP-caliber season (3463 yards, 19TDs) and he has 2 new offensive weapons to throw to- Marques Colston and Devery Henderson. Oh yeah, they also have 1st round pick Reggie Bust; maybe this will be his breakout game (762 total yards, 2 TDs to date.)
MY PICK: Saints 35, Niners 14

Houston (3-8) @ Oakland (2-9)
UGH! WARNING:Do not watch this game for any reason. May cause permanent brain damage!
MY PICK: Raiders 3, Texans 2

Jax'ville (6-5) @ Miami (5-6)
Despite the records these are two teams headed in opposite directions. The 'Fins are making a late push for the playoffs while the Jags are making a late push for the most baffling team in the league. Jacksonville has had some impressive wins this season (Dallas, Giants, 41-0 over the Jets) and equally devastating losses (Washington, Houston TWICE and last week's collapse against Buffalo.) Meanwhile Miami is finding its groove behind replacement QB Joey Harrington (say bye-bye to South Beach, Duante Culpepper), winning 4 in a row including impressive victories over Chicago and Kansas City. In other words both teams need this one badly, but which one will take the Battle of Florida?
MY PICK: Dolphins 17, Jags 15

Dallas (7-4) @ NY Giants (6-5)
This is the game everyone is waiting for. The NFC East crown is on the line as these two hated rivals square off in what could be the game of the year. Personally both teams make me sick- I've had enough talk about Tony Romo the Greatest American Hero, Bill Parcells, T.O.D., Tiki retiring, Strahan ripping teammates, and the implosion of Eli Manning to last a lifetime. But the game does have drama. The G-Men need this win to right the sinking ship, silence their many critics, and show that they still have the strength to get to the playoffs. Dallas just wants to keep the good times rolling as they have gone 4-1 since Romo took over for Drew Bledsoe and it knows that a win today will wrap up the East for them. Still, I like the Giants to pull it together enough to knock off their arch enemy.
MY PICK: Giants 27, Cowboys 24

Tampa Bay (3-8) @ Pittsburgh (4-7)
Oh boy, just what the doctor ordered for the reeling Steelers- a visit from the Yucs. This game will be a homecoming for Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski, and the Tampa Bay QB will have about 100 family & friends on hand for his first professional game in his hometown. Too bad he is as erratic as a shotgun, and he has no help from a stagnant runnig game to bail him out. The Steelers aren't much better, losers of 4 of their last 6, but they will be without the services of hard-hitting safety Troy Polamalu and WR Hines Ward. Call this game the poster child for what happens after you win a Super Bowl. Both have tasted the sweet nectar of championship glory and now are wallowing in the muck of the dregs of the league.
MY PICK: Steelers 16, Yucs 13

Seattle (7-4) @ Denver (7-4) Sunday Night Football
Two solid teams with big postseason aspirations square off in snowy Denver for a chance to prove the other can beat a fellow playoff team. Seattle has their offense intact with the returns of Shawn Alexander & Matt Hasselbeck, although Hasselbeck hurt his hand on a helmet in the win over Green Bay last week, his first game since missing 6 weeks with a bum knee. Denver has lost 2 in a row to division foes San Diego & Kansas City, forcing coach Mike Shahanan to make a QB change, from erratic Jake the Snake Plummer to untested rookie Jay Cutler. Bad decision, in my opinion, to go from a playoff tested veteran (mo matter how bad he is) to a rookie in the midst of a playoff race. especially since Denver's normally solid running game has been virtually non-existent all season. If the Broncs lose this one the next job to be replaced might be that of Shanny, who for all his genius has yet to find a way to win the big one in the Mile High City.
MY PICK: Seahawks 23, Broncos 17

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