You know, I love football. I am proud of being a football fan. But there are times when I feel ashamed.
This season I’ve been feeling ashamed more often than I’d like, and it’s because of the behavior of some fans in Kansas City and, as of last week, Philadelphia, who feel it’s okay to cheer at the misery of their quarterbacks.
Look, I get it. Matt Cassel and Michael Vick have been playing poorly, and their teams have lost games because of that poor play. That doesn’t mean they aren’t trying their best to win games, and that doesn’t mean they don’t take their obligations seriously. And that definitely means they don’t deserve to have their injuries cheered.
I know that as fans, we pay these people’s salaries with our ticket sales and our patronage to the sponsors of the televised games and our merchandise purchases. It may make us feel we have a greater right to be critical. Lord knows I’ve been hypercritical of my team this season. But that doesn’t mean we should revel in it when someone goes down.
Shame on you, Kansas City. Shame on you, Philadelphia, a city I’ve grown to love. Show more respect.
On to the games…
Bye, Bye, Bye
Titans, Giants, Seahawks, Vikings
Sunday Games, 1:00 p.m.
Packers (6-3, Bye Week) vs. Lions (4-5, lost v. Vikings)
They’re back to normal.
Now that we’re entering the downhill race, Green Bay has finally found and re-attached their balls, whereas the Lions are still out in the woods looking for theirs….and after being walloped by the Vikings, I’m beginning to wonder if they’re ever going to be a factor in the playoffs. It’s sad that after steady progress, Detroit seems to be regressing slightly. This is not going to be a good game for them, as Green Bay triumphs by a possession or less.
Cardinals (4-5, Bye Week) vs. Falcons (8-1, lost v. Saints)
Ken Wisenhunt must be waking up in a cold sweat, knowing that the Firing Train is coming for him. After that strong start, the wings fell off the Cardinals, with the team giving up game after game after game. And I can’t see them doing a big upset over the Falcons. Don’t get me wrong–Atlanta will lose again, but it won’t be to Arizona. Expect it to be a hard-fought game, but in the end it’ll be the Dirty Birds cleaning up by two possessions.
Buccaneers (5-4, won v. Chargers) vs. Panthers (2-7, lost v. Broncos)
The Bucs have been improving, and they’re doing so at the right time. There’s a good chance they’ll be knocking on the door of the playoff hunt with their balanced mix of a tough defense and a pretty good offense.
That being said, they’re ripe for a trap game…and look who’s now on their radar screen. The Panthers are pretty bad, being held together by Cam Newton’s increasingly squirrelly self. The funny thing is I can easily see Newton pull another of his Superman performances out of his butt, throwing for a bazillion yards with a high completion percentage to snatch victory from the Bucs by about a possession.
Browns (2-7, Bye Week) vs. Cowboys (4-5, won v. Eagles)
And speaking of traps…yes, the Browns are terrible, but they’re one of the hardest playing, most tenacious terrible teams out there. Unlike, let’s say, the Gerbils, Cleveland plays like they want to win every game. For the first time since they re-entered the league, I can honestly see the Browns rise above their culture of losing and actually contend for something in the AFC North.
…which might prove to give the underperforming ‘Boys a real fright. This has not been the playoff bound juggernaut Dallas–or, to be more specific, Jerry Jones–portrayed themselves as being back in Week One. And this could be the end of the line for this iteration of the team–Tony Romo becomes a free agent after this season, and that could bring on a couple of years of wandering in the woods for No-Longer-America’s-Team. I can easily see Brandon Weedon and his crew taking the white-and-blue by surprise and squeezing out what might be a shocker of an upset by a possession or less.
Eagles (3-6, lost v. Cowboys) vs. Native American (3-6, Bye Week)
Oh, and here there be ugliness. Philadelphia is literally shaking itself to pieces amidst all the poor quarterback play, the increasing indecisiveness of Andy Reid, the locker room drama and any number of other factors. Having Michael Vick out due to concussion is just not going to help things, either. And the Native Americans are coming down from their early success to the usual awful game play that typifies Washington. All this being told, I have to think that the N.A.’s will be better prepared, be more consistent in their gameplay and will end up winning by about a possession and a half…
Paper Planes (3-6, lost v. Seahawks) vs. Rams (3-5-1, tied v. 49ers)
Remember, folks–ties count as losses, so like the game above, this one’s between teams with the same record.
And if you thought the Paper Planes’ loss versus the Seahawks was demoralizing, wait until they lose to St. Louis. The Rams will have a homefield advantage, with a stadium as loud, if not more so, than the one New York struggled with in Seattle. They’re playing at a level better than the green-and-white are, and they’re not dealing with an idiotic offensive coordinator who keeps repeating the same plays over and over and keeps breaking up the rhythm of his starting quarterback by putting in the back-up quarterback at seemingly random times….okay, so they are dealing with our old offensive coordinator, who must be smirking right now, thinking he got out at just the right time. The Rams are simply the better team, and they are definitely going to win by a possession or two…leading up to the even more demoralizing, career-ending game four days hence, which we’ll get to below.
Bengals (4-5, won v. Giants) vs. Chiefs (1-8, lost v. Steelers)
I know the Gerbils are the worst the NFL has to offer, but Kansas City is only a hair shy of being just as bad. Granted, they’ve got Matt Cassel back under center, which might be an improvement…but let’s be honest, they’re still not going to be nearly as good as the Bengals.
And in spite of their record, Cincinnati has been good. This Andy Dalton led-squad may be the most solid crew Marvin Lewis has had–and yes, that includes all of the Carson Palmer/Chad Johnson combos. They’ve just managed to walked into some truly dreadful situations, and happen to be playing in a division where there are two superior teams over them. They’re probably got their morale elevated thanks to decimating the Giants so badly, and I can’t see them losing against the lowly Chiefs, so expect Dem Bengals to beat down Kansas City by two to three possessions.
Gerbils (1-8, lost v. Colts) vs. Texans (8-1, won v. Bears)
Are you kidding me? My God, can you imagine how many times J.J. Watt will tip Blane Gabbert’s pathetic lil’ passes? This is a thorough train wreck. Or it could be a trap game…
No, I don’t believe that, either.
I don’t think I need to expend too much thought on this game. The Texans destroy excellent teams like the Bears, so imagine what they’ll do to the Gerbils. Expect a rout by three possessions or more.
Sunday Game 4:30 p.m.
Saints (4-5, won v. Falcons) vs. Raiders (3-6, lost v. Ravens)
The Saints are on a roll. The Raiders are not. And while one of Oakland’s wins is against a truly elite team, I don’t expect them to repeat that miracle against New Orleans. There’s momentum on the side of the Black and Gold, and that momentum is going to flatten the Raiders by about two possessions.
Chargers (4-5, lost v. Buccaneers) vs. Broncos (6-3, won v. Panthers)
Even though the traditional AFC West rivalry is between Denver and Oakland, I’ve always found this match-up more intriguing…well, at least until now. San Diego has been collapsing under the weight of itself, which I think is going to lead to Norv ‘Good Enough For Government Work’ Turner looking for a new position (a position that I may speculate on as we get closer to the end of this season), while Denver, after a shaky start, seems to be thriving under Fetus Head Manning. Denver should take this after some back and forth to win by a possession.
Colts (6-3, won v. Gerbils) vs. The Sucking Black Hole Of Evil (6-3, won v. Our Bitch)
This could be another trap game–Hell, it could be the most likely of the trap games I’ve called this week. The Sucking Black Hole’s degrading of play has been disguised by its big blowouts against teams they should blow out (That’s right, Our Bitch. Hell, yeah, Paper Planes!), and the Colts are coming in between one such blow out and a short week where they’ll be dining on roasted Paper Plane. They’re probably going to underprepare, thinking the Thanksgiving tilt is more important, and that is going to be to Andrew Luck’s advantage…
Because Andrew Luck is good. And he’s getting better with each week. I mean, look at where Indianapolis is and where we expected them to be at the beginning of this season. It’s likely that the Colts will be cruising into the playoffs–easily cruising! They’re a formidable squad, and the only thing that might work in the Sucking Black Hole’s favor is their rather average defense. Expect a high scoring see-saw of a game that will result in Luck and his crew leading Indy to a victory of less than possession.
Sunday Game 8:30 p.m.
Ravens (7-2, won v. Raiders) vs. Steelers (6-3, won v. Chiefs)
This could be interesting for one thing–the fact that Byron Leftwich is starting for Pittsburgh.
I am a Leftwich fan–hell, there was a time I was campaigning for Leftwich to come and be the backup for the Paper Planes back when he was first cut–and there’s no doubt in my mind that he can win games. His only downside is that he’s got Glass Body syndrome (but then…if Leftwich goes down, the Steelers have Charlie Batch, who can also win games). Byron will keep the team competitive, and make sure Pittsburgh’s playoffs hopes are still realistic.
That being said, I am not sure if Leftwich could win this game. The Ravens may be winning against garbage teams, but I’m willing to bet that The Marlboro Man and the Ravens’ admittedly slightly pitted Wall O’ Pain will be able to do enough to squeak a win out by about a possession and a half.
Monday Game 8:30 p.m.
Bears (7-2, lost v. Texans) vs. 49ers (6-2-1, tied v. Rams)
This may look on paper like an even match-up, but I’m not so sure. The Bears’ defense is proving to be stouter and tougher than San Fran’s, and that will most likely be the deciding factor in this game. Expect Chicago to pull ahead late in the game to win by about a possession or less.
Thursday Night Games (Week Twelve) 8:20 p.m.
Ahhhhh, the day I dreaded when I started this practice of previewing the Thursday Games of the next week ahead of time. It’s the Dubious Thanksgiving Classics, which means not one, but three lousy games to sit through, beginning with…
Texans vs. Lions
…this massacre. The Lions, even as good as they’ve gotten, are simply not prepared for Houston. Even taking into account Detroit’s tendency to rise above their usual game play on Thanksgiving (although even that’s up for dispute this year, as the Lions have been getting other national games of late), there’s no way they can provide any opposition for the Texans. Expect a rout by about two to three possessions in an overall one-sided game.
Native Americans vs. Cowboys
This one might be the one game where the host team wins. The ‘Boys may be smarting, but they should be able to dominate over the Native Americans by about a possession.
Paper Planes v. The Sucking Black Hole Of Evil
….and here comes this apocalyptic mess. Yes, the Planes have done well under Rex Ryan against The Sucking Black Hole. Yes, they need this game desperately, if only for face saving reasons. Yes, they played one of their best games of the season in their narrow loss in Foxboro. But they also have done horribly on days when they’ve had short rest, and coming up against the team that inarguably hates them the most, that has been ready for them, will make this akin to walking into a buzzsaw. The Sucking Black Hole takes it by two to three possessions.
See you next week.