by Patrick Stanton
JetNation Senior Columnist
TENNESSEE TITANS (3-8) @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-0)
I thought the Steelers were going to be the team to finally beat the Colts and I was dead wrong. The Colts are absolutely evil right now and the Titans are the last team that has the power to stop them, especially at the RCA Dome. I still think theyâ€™re going to lose one before the end of the season but this isnâ€™t it. No need to quote stats here, Colts will roll easy.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (2-9) @ CHICAGO BEARS (8-3)
The Bears are holding their opponents to a sickening average of 10.9 points per game with the next closest NFL team, the Colts at 14.8. The rest of the league starts at 17.8 and gets worse. You canâ€™t help but compare the 2005 Bears to the 1985 crew that won it all. If you think Defense canâ€™t win Super Bowls, look no further then the Ravens who pulled it off with Trent Dilfer of all people at QB while Ray Lewis and crew took care of the rest. With one Super Bowl trophy in hand, all Brett Favre wants to do now is win one more game. Bad news Brett, not this week. Bears smoke the Packers.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (8-3) @ CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-7)
Welcome to quarterback hell Coach Del Rio. With the latest NFL entry into the backup QB game, the Jags find their successful season now in the hands of career backup David Garrard. In reality however, Garrard is not that bad of a QB and combined with their defense, they should be fine. Fantasy players are biting their nails trying to figure out which one of Smith/Wilford/Jones will be Garrardâ€™s go to guy. Meanwhile it could be Charlie Frye time in Cleveland if a banged up Dilfer canâ€™t go this week. Either way, it doesnâ€™t matter, Jags win and Garrard gets an easy welcome to the starting roll.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-5) @ DETROIT LIONS (4-7)
To state the obvious, these are two teams going in opposite directions. The Vikings offense is enjoying a resurgence with Super Bowl champion Brad Johnson now under center and it has spiked the entire team to elevate their play. Meanwhile back in Detroit, the latest episode of As The World Turns enters a new chapter as one retread coach is replaced, albeit temporarily, by another retread. Players calling others out in the press, fans calling for Millen to join his â€˜good friendâ€™ Mooch, itâ€™s a regular party in Motown. The Lions are free-falling faster then Michael Jacksonâ€™s Johnson at a childrens amusement park. Vikings get their 7th win and put heat on the Bears.
DALLAS COWBOYS (7-4) @ NY GIANTS (7-4)
Would it be safe to say that both teams have a phobia of the term â€œField Goalâ€??? Dallas stood by and watched in horror as Denver kicked the game winning FG in overtime while all along the Giants sidelines, the horror happened not once but three times as Jay Feely went 0-3 in the last 30 seconds of regulation and overtime. One of these teams will leave NY with a â€˜losing streakâ€™ and this time of year thatâ€™s not good. Tuna vs. Coughlin, Bledsoe vs. Manning, Barber vs. Barber, this should be one hell of a game. This one is a tossup as both teams match up pretty easily. I think the Giants are starting to sink, Iâ€™ll go with Dallas.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-4) @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (3-8)
New Orleans is red hot, riding a 1 game winning streak as they host the Bucs somewhere inside the contiguous 48 states. Ok, now that Iâ€™ve aborted by comedic career in one sentence, the Bucs are still stinging from their tough loss last week to Chicago and look to take their anger out on the nomadic Saints. Donâ€™t be fooled by the gift the Saints were handed by the Jets last week, the Saints are a very bad team and theyâ€™ll be reminded of it this week. The Bucs Defense will have no problem bringing Aaron Brooks back to Earth and expect Chris Simms to continue his resurgence against a porous Saints Defense. Iâ€™m not sure where the Saints are playing this week and in reality, it doesnâ€™t matter. They could play this game on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico with the same result. Bucs smoke the Saints.
BUFFALO BILLS (4-7) @ MIAMI DOLPHINS (4-7)
If you research the term â€˜excitementâ€™, you wonâ€™t find this game listed as an example. Both of these teams give up some major yards on the ground providing for an interesting day for both Willis McGahee and Reggie Brown/Ricky Williams. Meanwhile, Buffalo has managed to stay tough against the pass putting pressure on Ferrotte to get it done when Buffalo stacks up on the line of scrimmage. Both teams are going in circles and this game shouldnâ€™t be any different. You might as well flip a coin to figure this outcome. Iâ€™ll go with Miami at home.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (8-3) @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-4)
These arenâ€™t your fatherâ€™s Bengals. The first place Bengals head into the Steel City to face a Steelers squad who got their rear ends handed to them in front of a nationwide audience last Monday. The last time they squared off I thought it would be Cincinnatiâ€™s time to make a statement but the only statement made was that the Bengals werenâ€™t ready. The past few weeks have indicated a change in that theory. The Steelers face an offense that managed to run up the score on a very tough Colts defense, a defense that Big Ben and company could only post 7 against. I think Roethlisberger is banged up bad and the Steelers are hiding it. Itâ€™s obvious that heâ€™s not the same guy he was earlier in the season. Is it time for the Bengals to make their statement and also pad a lead in the AFC North? With the Steelers at home thatâ€™s always a gutsy call but as they say, â€œNo Guts, No Glory.â€?. Bengals win.
ATLANTA FALCONS (7-4) @ CAROLINA PANTHERS (8-3)
Behold Michael Vick, the most overrated QB in the NFL. There I said it. That out of the way, the Greek god of NFL scheduling brings us yet another important divisional battle as we head into the homestretch of the regular season. With the Falcons hot on their tail, winning the division is anything but a lock for the Panthers as they look to cushion their lead against a Falcons squad that ate Lion for Thanksgiving. Carolina will look to exploit Atlantaâ€™s mediocre run defense but just whose going to exploit it is anyoneâ€™s guess. Foster and Davis havenâ€™t been exactly lighting it up lately and heading towards the playoffs, thatâ€™s never a good trend. Meanwhile, the Falcons need to keep winning to stay ahead in the race for the NFC Wild Card with 2 other 7-4 teams and a red hot Vikings squad making its move. They say cream rises to the top and as far as Iâ€™m concerned the Panthers are the cream of the NFC South. Delhomme and company will be on top of their game as I see the Panthers beating the Falcons.
HOUSTON TEXANS (1-10) @ BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-8)
Breaking news from Baltimore: The Ravens have announced that for Sundayâ€™s game, theyâ€™ve partnered with Red Bull to provide free energy beverages for all fans who actually attend. Well I ended up eating some crow last week when I badmouthed Boller and the Ravens offense and they responded with putting 29 points behind Bollerâ€™s 3 TD passes and J. Lewisâ€™ 113 yds and a TD. With Houstonâ€™s defense, Boller and the Ravens should have another good day while David Carr will get intimate with the taste of the soil at Baltimore. Iâ€™ll give Carr one thing though, despite having a scout team for an offensive line, heâ€™s a tough SOB. Ravens fly away with this one.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-8) @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-9)
If you’re going to San Francisco, Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. If you’re going to San Francisco, You’re gonna meet some gentle people there. Iâ€™m not sure if Kurt Warnerâ€™s wife will allow him to wear the flowers, but there should be plenty of offense for the Cardinals this Sunday as they take on the absolute worst defense in the league. Meanwhile, Mike Nolan continues to play musical chairs with his quarterback situation and the latest rumor has rookie Alex Smith starting against the Cards. Hey Coach Nolan, youâ€™re team is 2-9, youâ€™ve hit rock bottom, your paying this kid $49.5 million over six years with $24 million in guaranteed money and your other choices are Cody Pickett and Ken Dorsey. Whereâ€™s the debate? Even without a ground game, the Cardinals will pull this one out.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (5-6) @ ST. LOUIS RAMS (5-6)
By the sounds of it, last weekâ€™s Cinderella story Ryan Fitzpatrick will get another shot to prove himself as the Rams take on a desperate Redskins squad. Sitting at 5-6, both teams are currently on the outside looking in at the wild card race and a loss this week could all but put them on the golf course come the second week of January. The Redskins are reeling, having dropped 3 straight games while the Rams surprised everyone as the Harvard rookie came in last week and dropped 310 yards and 3 TDs in a victory against the Texans. The storyline here is can Fitzpatrick do the same against a middle of the road defense or was his day a product of a terrible Texan defense. While I think the Rams may have something with this kid, I expect the Redskins to pull this one out.
NEW YORK JETS (2-9) @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (6-5) **UPSET SPECIAL**
Come on admit itâ€¦..you were laughing when Brady threw all those interceptions last week werenâ€™t you? When your team is mired in a season as bad as the Jets find themselves in right now youâ€™ll take a little enjoyment anywhere you can get it. Meanwhile in New England, Patriots fans find themselves in the midst of mediocrity, something they havenâ€™t suffered through much in past years. The Jets â€œSeason to Forgetâ€? continues to rumble on and its latest stop is Gillette Stadium against the now-mortal Patriots. Jets QB Brooks Bollinger, coming off a strong outing against New Orleans, looks to take on the 31st ranked defense and get his first victory of his career while Tom Brady and the Patriots â€œRB Of The Weekâ€? hope to exploit the soft underbelly known as the Jets run defense. Patriots fans can say what they want, but losing Weis and Crennel hurt and it has shown through 12 weeks. Iâ€™m going out on a limb here because hell, I have nothing to lose really. I think itâ€™s time for Bollinger to get his first win and I see the Jets beating the Patriots at home.
DENVER BRONCOS (9-2) @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (7-4)
I have to admit that even Iâ€™m a little surprised at the success Mike Shanahan is having in Denver this season. At 9-2, the Broncos have a firm 2 game lead in the AFC West and currently hold the second best record in the AFC. However with Kansas City and a surging San Diego hot on their trail, the Broncos do not have the luxury of getting complacent. Citing the obvious, this is a must win game for both teams, specially the Chiefs if they hope to control their own playoff destiny. The Chiefs, who thrive on their running game, face the best rushing defense in all of football thus putting the onus on Trent Green to win the game through the air against the 28th ranked pass defense. Meanwhile the two-headed monster of Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson face off against a tough Chiefs run defense and on paper this has the chance to turn into a shootout through the air. Despite the Chiefs ability to stop the run, look for the Broncos to try to pound the ball early and establish their ball control offense while minimizing Trent Greenâ€™s time on the field. As much as Iâ€™d like to pick KC, I just canâ€™t do it. I see Denver coming away from KC with their 10th win.
OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-7) @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (7-4)
Can you imagine how miserable law enforcement and security personnel around the greater San Diego area are right now, knowing that half of Raider Nation will be out on prison furlough this weekend and in town for the game? You canâ€™t talk about Oaklandâ€™s trip to SD without talking about fights, arrests and stabbings. The Raiders come to town and square off against a red hot Chargers squad that has rattled off 4 wins in a row and are playing some very good football as of late. The Chargers have been notoriously tough against the run all season and should give former Jets backup Lamont Jordan fits all day. If the Raiders are to win this game, it will have to be through the hands of Kerry Collins and Randy Moss, both of which have been anything but spectacular as of late. Ladainian Tomlinson is at home licking his chops right now as he prepares to face a Raiders defense surrendering an average 118 yards per game on the ground while an equally hot Drew Brees has Charger fans chanting, â€œPhilip who?â€?. (They say hindsight is 20/20, but do you think Rivers regrets that hold out now?). The Chargers are on a roll and the Raiders arenâ€™t the team to stop them. While Raider fans may have the edge in the stands, their team doesnâ€™t stand a chance and the Chargers should roll away with the win.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-2) @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-6)
Iâ€™m trying to figure out what is worse: a) going to 3 straight conference title games and losing b) going to a Super Bowl and losing c) or tanking your post Super Bowl season. These are two teams going in completely two different directions right now. Hasselbeck and the Seahawks currently hold the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs with 5 games to go and have no intentions on looking back. While I applaud their intentions, itâ€™s always nice to check your blind spots once in a while because as they say, â€œObjects in the mirror are closer then they appearâ€?. With Carolina and Chicago sitting at 8-3, the Seahawks can ill-afford to take it easy right now and unless they think playing in Soldier Field in late January is their idea of fun, theyâ€™d be wise to maintain their current pace. Looking forward, the Seahawks play Green Bay, San Francisco, Indianapolis & Tennessee to finish out the season and with the exception of the Colts, they control their own destiny if they have to get past the Eagles. With Philadelphiaâ€™s average run defense and below average pass defense, the Seahawks should be able to effectively manage the game with time consuming drives while their defense continues its recent surge against a one-dimensional Eagles offensive attack. Despite the prevailing thought amidst fan circles, Mike McMahon is no savior and Ron Jaworski himself couldnâ€™t save the Eagles this year. Just as in Detroit, McMahon is too quick to abandon the pocket and take it on the run. When he doesnâ€™t rush for yards, leaving the pocket usually equals interceptions for the former Scarlet Knight. Eagles fans might be booing Santa Claus by the end of this game as the Seahawks come to town and dispatch the Eagles back to their nest.
Season To Date: 26-18