Saturday, December 16, 2006

NFL Week 15 Preview

I know what most of you are thinking: why the hell is he doing his NFL preview on Saturday afternoon?

I have 2 reasons, one more important than the other:

1.) There is a game tonight (DAL/ATL)

2.) The Bay News 9 X-Mas party is also tonight

The former means I would have to do a post about that game today anyway, and the latter means I will be in NO condition do any writing, thinking, or talking tomorrow before the games start at 1:00.

Bay News 9 is the local 24-hour cable news channel my wife works for, and they know how to throw a lavish shindig. Butter-soft prime rib, non-stop drink..., err, dancing and seeing my # 1 fan Jen Holloway in a backless evening gown always makes for a fantastic night..

Then after the party we hit the after party in sports anchor Chris O'Connell's hotel room upstairs, which oftentimes is better than the work gala.

Like 2 years ago when a petite brunette quietly walked in, was mobbed by a throng of drunken revelers, then beat a hasty retreat before she was consumed by the star-crazed mob.

Who was the tiny starlet? None other than perennial Daytime Emmy bridesmaid Susan Lucci (yes she is that pretty, and little, in real life.)

So with that kind of a night (and morning after)ahead of me I figured I'd better get a jump start on the Week 15 preview. You know, before the effects of 10 Tangueray & tonics set in.

Tonight @ 8PM, NFL Network:

Dallas (8-5) @ Atlanta (7-6)
Both teams enter the first Saturday game on the NFL Net with some issues dragging behind them. Dallas and QB Tony Romo were finally knocked off their perch by a hungry Saints team last Sunday night and the Falcons have been bogged down by a controversy involving its coach this week.

Jim Mora Jr. evidently got his lack of oratory control from his dad because he let loose with a foolish stream of consciousness regarding the head coaching position at his alma mater, the University of Washington, on a radio show Thursday. When host Hugh Millen jokingly pitched for the former Husky to someday take the helm at the school, Mora replied with an unlikely response: "...if (Ty Willingham) ever decides to move on, and get in the NFL, or, you know, go back to Notre Dame or whatever ... if that job's open, you'll find me at the friggin' head of the line, with my résumé in hand, ready to take that job."

Oh really, Jim? What if your team is in the middle of a playoff race (as it is right now)? "I don't care if we're in the middle of a playoff run, I'm packing my stuff and coming back to Seattle." Nice. Way to support your current team, Jimbo.

Everybody in the league already despises this guy; each week there are numerous references to what a lousy coach he is, how he has too strong a personality and players don't like him, and then he goes and does something like this. Even though he issued an apology and said he was joking, the fact that he did this mere days before his teams biggest game of the season, a game that will decide the Falcons playoff fate, is classless, idiotic, and selfish.

For that reason alone I'm picking the Falcons to tank it tonight in hopes of getting Mora canned, then it can start over with a real hot young candidate next year.
MY PICK: Cowboys 35, Falcons 24


Tampa Bay (3-10) @ Chicago (11-2)
Another week another problem for the "never take the easy road" Bears. After having doused all the talk about horrible quarterback play and a turnover-prone offense with its thrilling 42-27 victory over St. Louis on Monday, night now it is faced with a more serious issue.

Nose tackle Tank Johnson was involved in not one but two disturbing incidents in the past 3 days. Thursday morning police raided the suburban Chicago home of the 25-year old former Washington standout and found 6 guns Johnson had no license to own as well as a stash of maryjane.

Johnson wasn't home but later was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of a firearm without a license. His friend and bodyguard, William Posey, who lives at the residence, was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. Johnson later issued an apology to his teammates and was suspended for the game against the Yucs.

But things took an even uglier, more bizarre turn last night: Posey was shot and killed while at at an upscale nightclub early this morning with Johnson. It's not clear if a brawl inside the club and the subsequent shooting involved Johnson or Posey, but the fact that he was at a club in the wee hours two days after the last incident and his friend & protector was killed is both shocking and tragically ironic.

Will this confluence of unfortunate events, coupled with the loss of massive T Tommie Harris for the season, conspire to allow the Bucs to sneak out of the Windy City with a victory?

Haaaaaahaaaahaaaahhaaaaaahaaaaaa (okay, stop laughing Walleye!)

I would have to say no to that one, just because the Bears could beat the hapless Yucs with half a defense and Devin Hester alone. The electric rookie Hester had twice as many kickoff returns for a touchdown last week (2) as the Bucs have had in the entire history of the franchise. Throw in the fact that Bucs record when the temp is under 40 degrees is 2-22, the wind could force some of Bruce Gradkowski's weak passes to actually go behind him, and the miserable Buc offense hasn't scored a touchdown in 11 quarters, and all signs point to a Chicago victory.
MY PICK: Bears 24, Bucs 6

Houston (4-9) @ New England (9-4)
Believe it or not this is a big game for the Pats. Plagued by a lackluster offense (shutout last week for the first time since 2003), myriad turnovers (11 in the past 3 games) and an tendency to play down to its opponents (see the 28-21 squeaker over Detroit 2 weeks ago)all add up to a
must-win-to-right-the-ship situation.

The performance in Miami last Sunday was downright embarrassing for many reasons. Tom Brady had another terrible outing in South Florida (12-25, 78 yards), which has now been the site of 4 of his worst days as a Patriot passer. The offense as a whole amassed only 12 first downs and 189 total yards, both season lows, while losing three fumbles and committing 9 penalties. Very un-Patriot like.

It has become painfully obvious that the Pats and Brady are missing the deep threat receiver that was lost when Deion Branch took his Super Bowl MVP abilities to the Pacific Northwest. Doug The Predator Gabriel was released this week, and Reche Caldwell and Co. just aren't explosive enough to let Brady work his down field magic.

With Lawrence Maroney banged up and Corey Dillon getting older by the minute the running game has not been able to balance out the lack of a passing attack. Hopefully that will all change against a team that is 26th in the league in pass defense and 20th against the run.

New England has a chance to wrap up its 4th straight AFC East crown with a win & Jets loss. Let's hope the opportunity doesn't slip through its hands.
MY PICK: Pats 26, Texans 13

Quick hits for the remaining games- I gotta go get ready for the bash:

Miami (6-7) @ Buffalo (6-7)
Two AFC East foes meet in chilly Buffalo in a battle for 3rd place in the division. Bills QB JP Losman has developed into a fearless, gutsy leader of the team and he and WR Lee Evans are turning out to be a formidable combo. Look for a letdown for the 'Fins after the win over the Pats.
MY PICK: Bills 21, Fins 17

NY Jets (7-6) @ Minny (6-7)
The Jets got smacked down by the Bills last week at the Meadowlands which hurt its chances of catching the Pats for the East lead; lose this game and the division goes to New England. The Vikes bounced back from the stink bomb it laid at Chicago, but a win over Detroit isn't very impressive.
MY PICK: J-E-T-S 27, Vikes 19

Detroit (2-11) @ Green Bay (5-8)
Wow this game should really suck.
MY PICK: Packers 28, Lions 6

Jax'ville (8-5) @ Tennessee (6-7)
The Jags looked mighty impressive in rolling up 300+ yards on the ground against the Mannings last week. The Titans and Vince Young have also looked impressive in reeling off 3 straight thrilling come-from-behind victories. What gives in this one? Jacksonville is too helter skelter, while VY is riding high.
MY PICK: Titans 23, Jags 20

Cleveland (4-9) @ Baltimore (10-3)
The Ravens can wrap up the AFC North with a win and Bengal loss Monday night in Indy. Think RayLew, Air McNair & Co. will be hungry to rip apart the team from its former home? I do too.
MY PICK: Ravens 26, Browns 9

Washington (4-9) @ New Orleans (9-4)
The Skins have shown improvement under the direction of QB Jason Campbell but the Saints proved to everyone that it is a force to reckoned with after its pummelling of the Cowboys.
MY PICK: Saints 31, Skins 20

Pittsburgh (6-7) @ Carolina (6-7)
The difference between the AFC & NFC? Despite identical records the Steelers are out of the playoff race but the Panthers are in the hunt for a wild card. Chris Weinke (1-16 career) should start again for the Panthers, but the Steelers are still without Palumalu & Hines Ward, so I think the former 'Nole gets off the schneid.
MY PICK: Panthers 17, Steelers 14

Denver (7-6) @ Arizona (4-9)
Jay Cutler vs, Matt Leinart? Promising rookie thrown into the fire of a playoff race by a bonkers coach vs. disgruntled #10 pick proving to the league that he is a leader of a franchise on the rise? And Denver's favored?
MY PICK: Cards 21, Broncos 20

Philly (7-6) @ NY Giants (7-6)
Ah, nothing like a good old-fashioned NFC East hate-fest between two teams scrapping for a wild card top get the juices flowing. Philly has been rejuvenated under castoff QB Jeff Garcia, while Brother of Peyton & the G-Men are slipping into oblivion thanks to a slide that has seen it lose 4 of 5. Who wants it more? Better yet, which team has the better leadership at the quarterback position-the one with the former Terrell Owens whipping boy or the one with the former #1 pick?
The Garcia magic stops here.
MY PICK: Giants 23-20

St. Louis (5-8) @ Oakland (2-11)
MY PICK: Rams 17 Raiders 12

I will do a preview of the Sunday & Monday night contests tomorrow evening. I should be recovered enough to formulate an opinion by then.

And a sentence.

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