Sunday, December 10, 2006

NFL Week 14 Preview

Just 4 more games left and still plenty to be decided in this season.

Although the division leaders are all sitting pretty comfy right now, behind them there are dogfights going on for 2 wild card spots up for grabs in each conference.

The NFL MVPs, both offensive and defensive, are still there for the taking, although if LaDanian Tomlinson stays healthy and breaks the all-time single-season touchdown mark you can wrap that trophy up for him and put it under his tree.

The Rookies of the Year still need someone to step forward and claim them as well. Marques
Colston is no longer a lock now that teammate Reggie Bush is finally living up to his pre-season hype.

And the most important race of all will be decided in these next 4 games: who will earn the right to take Brady Quinn with the #1 pick in next year's draft? Another tight race with no less than 8 teams in the running (DET, TB, ARI, OAK, CLE, WASH, HOU, GB).

Everyone else- they all have a shot at the playoffs in the No Freakin Logic League.

So let's look at what's in store for Week 1 of the 2006 season's 4th quarter, in order of importance: (note: the Steelers already knocked off the Brownies on the NFL Networks's Game of the Week that Nobody Watches Thursday on Night.)

-New Orleans (8-4) @ Dallas (8-4) Sunday Night Football 8PM NBC
Al & John get the game of the week and they didn't even need to "flex" NBC's muscles to do it. You couldn't ask for a better game to cap off the day with- the former America's Team faces the new America's Team, battling to clinch their divisions while proving to the rest of the league that it can knock off a fellow playoff opponent.

We know the deal with Romo, the hottest thing in the country next to Nintendo Wii, and he is riding high on a wave of confidence as the Boys are 5-1 with him at the helm. But the Saints got a pretty decent slinger themselves, and Drew Brees is making a case for league MVP himself.

With Reggie Bush heating up and T.O.D. spouting off again (he claims he didn't listen to a Tuna pep talk because he was thinking about his 33rd birthday extravaganza; grow up, will ya dude?) it should be a hot time in Big D tonight. But the Saints are going to miss DT Hollis Thomas, who was suspended for steroids taken in his asthma medication.
MY PICK: Cowboys 31, Saints 28

-Denver (7-5) @ San Diego (10-2)
A few weeks ago this one was shaping up as the game of the season in AFC West. Denver was cruising along with a 5-1 record and San Diego was just starting what has become a 6 game winning streak.

But something happened along the way- to the Broncos. That something was called Jake Plummer Sucks! And by the time Shanahan the offensive genius figured it out the defensively superior Broncos were in the midst of a stretch where it lost 4 out of 6 games, including a soul-crusher versus the Chargers at Invesco in Week 11.

Now Shanahan has taken on the label 'Desperate in Denver' after he turned the reins of his once-division leading team into the hands of Jay Cutler, the promising rookie from Vandy. In Cutler's first start last week he got a rude indoctrination to the league by the Seahawks, and that was at home. It's only gonna get worse in Quallcomm.

LT might not put up astounding numbers against Denver's stingy rushing defense, but it shouldn't matter for the locked & loaded Chargers. Shawne Merriman is back and it is gonna be "lights out" for the Broncos playoff hopes after this one.
MY PICK: Chargers 27, Broncos 13

-New England (9-3) @ Miami (5-7)
The game doesn't mean much as far as the playoffs for Miami after it lost to Jacksonville last week, but this blood feud between the South Florida mammals and the Northeastern freedom fighters is always a heated affair.

Remember the Monday Nighter two years ago, when Tom terrific threw that terrifically awful pass from his backside that led to the Fins scoring the winning touchdown in a 29-28 thriller?

Yeah, unfortunately I do too. The Pats were 12-1 heading into that game and Brady was having an MVP season. Suddenly the wheels fell off and Tommy Boy had one of his worst days as a pro, throwing 4 interceptions on the night.

Or how 'bout last January's memorable game in Foxborough? The Dolphins ended the season with a 6 game winning streak after its 28-26 victory, but the Pats rested their starters for the Wild Card game the following week and Doug Flutie made the NFL's first drop-kick extra point in 64 years. Crazy stuff.

Today should be a little more calm- I hope. Both teams will have key running backs out of the game: Lawrence Maroney will not play for New England due to a back injury, and Ronnie Brown is still nursing his surgically repaired right hand. Corey Dillon (3 TDs last week) and Sammie Morris will take the majority of the carries.

That means the quarterbacks will have to shoulder a heavy load today. Shouldn't be a problem for Brady; the Hooded Genius has him throwing 40 times a game anyway. But forcing Joey Harrington to produce against the Pats defense, as banged up as it is, could prove fatal for the fish (remember Squish the Fish?!)

But if the Pats play down to the competition, and start turning the ball over left & right again the Fins could jump up an bite 'em.
MY PICK: Pats 23, Fins 12

-Baltimore (9-3) @ Kansas City (7-5)
The Ravens need this game because after losing to Cincy last week it owns a slim 2 game advantage over the Bengals in the AFC North. A loss here coupled with a (likely) win by Cincy over Oakland and that margin is shaved to a mere 1 game for the once rolling Ravens.

The Chiefs need this game because it got lazy last week in Cleveland and blew a 14-point 4th- quarter lead against a Browns team that was playing a quarterback nobody had even heard of (Derek Anderson?)

Now it is in the thick of the fight for a wild card race with at least 4 other teams, and it can't afford to drop this one with a date next week in San Diego looming.

So when two desperate teams like this get together who would I chose to win? Just remember my little knowledge nugget: The Chiefs don't lose at Arrowhead in December (18 straight since 1996.)
MY PICK: Chiefs 17, Ravens 16

-Indy (10-2) @ Jax'ville (7-5)
The Mannings are in a mini-slump. After racing out to a 9-0 record it has lost 2 of its last 3, and not looked good at all in doing so. The main problem,as it has been all year, is the rush defense; Tennessee rolled up 219 yards on the Dungy-led defense in last week's shocking loss to the Titans, and the Cowboys put up 117 on the ground 2 weeks before that in Dallas' win that knocked Indy from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Jacksonville is an enigma- it either puts up quality wins or suffers devastating losses. Just when everyone was about to write them off last week it upended the streaking Dolphins. The Jags need this game for a playoff position, and it usually plays Indy tough, but I find it hard to believe that Manning will allow his team to lose 2 in a row
MY PICK: Mannings 27, Jags 21

-NY Giants (6-6) @ Carolina (6-6)
This game is a de-facto playoff contest. The four 6-6 teams and even the 5-7 clubs in the NFC have a shot at a wild card spot, but cannot afford any losses down the stretch.

Therefore this meeting of 2 sliding (Giants have lost 4 straight, Carolina has lost 2 in a row & 4 of 6) Super Bowl contenders is for all the marbles. The winner remains alive for another week, the loser can start the "what could have been" portion of the 2006 season.

To make matters worse Carolina will be without starting QB Jake Delhomme, who is out with a bruised thumb. Former FSU standout and 2000 Heisman trophy winner Chris Weinke will make his first start in 4 years; he is 1-15 as an NFL starter in his career. Yikes.

Good time for the G-Men to get back on track after a string of devastating losses and in-house backstabbing. Because if it loses this one, well I shudder to think about the aftermath in the Big Apple.
MY PICK: Giants 24, Panthers 14

-Buffalo (5-7) @ NY Jets (7-5)
Crazy as it sounds this one actually means something to both teams. Buffalo has played much better than expected, as 5 of its 7 losses have been by 8 points or less. And the Manginis have performed well under their young first-year head coach, including destroying Green Bay last week in Lambeau 38-10.

But the Jets need this game to keep pace in the WC and the Bills are basically out of it. Would Buffalo love to knock the J-E-T-S out of the race? Sure.

But it ain't gonna happen.
MY PICK: Jets 15, Bills 10
-Oakland (2-10) @ Cincy (7-5)
Oakland sucks.
Cincy's hot.
MY PICK: Bengals 37, Raiders 11

-Philly (6-6) @ Washington (4-8)
Don't look now but the Jeff Garcia-led Eagles are back in the playoff hunt. Despite losing starter Donovan McNabb for the season to a torn ACL, and Pro Bowl backup Garcia being booed during wins, the Eagles have clawed its way back into contention.

But the Skins have been playing well, albeit losing, since Jason Campbell took the reins from Mark Brunell 3 weeks ago and would love nothing more than to smack the postseason snot out of its NFC East enemy.

I like Campbell to get his first win against the arch rivals today.
MY PICK: Skins 20, Eagles 17

-Atlanta (7-5) @ The Yucs (3-9)
The speedy Bucs defense used to own Mike "the Trick" Vick because he could never do all the things he liked to do against that quick unit.

Well the unit is no longer as quick, but for some reason it seems to always play well against the Atlanta offensive schemes.

Does that mean I'm predicting a Tampa bay upset? Hell no, I'm not crazy. The Yucs defense should play the Dirty Birds tough, but it's doubtful the offense will have enough to get it done.
MY PICK: Falcons 17, Bucs 13

-Seattle (8-4) @ Arizona (3-9)
The Cards are playing with confidence after upsetting the Rams on the road last week.

Seattle is regaining its NFC Champion form with the return of its two superstars.

But this game has "trap" written all over it, and the 'Hawks could fall right into it.
MY PICK: Cards 26, Seahawks 23

-Tennessee (5-7) @ Houston (4-8)
The Titans are rolling on the strength of 2 come-from-behind wins against the Manning brothers. Vince Young returns to his hometown and rubs it in the Texans' faces for not selecting him in the draft.
MY PICK: Titans 30, Texans 17

Green Bay (4-8) @ San Fran (5-7)

San Fran is actually pretty good.
Green bay is actually very bad.
MY PICK: 49ers 26, Packers 21

-Minny (5-7) @ Detroit (2-10)

Oh boy is this one exciting or what? Minny starter Brad Johnson threw 4 interceptions last week and lost to a Bears team that had 34 yards passing going up against the laughingstock of the league (sorry, Tampa bay). Yawn. Wake me when it's over.
MY PICK: Detroit 19-16

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