As we get deeper into this last bit of season, there are changes to the positions in the playoff hunt have been pretty surprising…so let’s get to the games right away.
(And I’m still looking for super-fans for teams other than the Paper Planes, the Cowboys, the Raiders, and the Steelers for a series of articles post-season about what each NFL team needs to do to improve for the 2013 season. Please contact me through the site.)
Firing Train Itinerary
Andy Reid, Norv Turner, Ken Wisenhunt, Chan Gailey, Ron Rivera, Jason Garrett (pending the free agency of Sean Payton)
Sunday Games, 1:00 p.m.
Ravens (9-3, lost v. Steelers, 3rd Seed AFC North) vs. Native Americans (6-6, won v. Giants, Potential NFC Wild Card/NFC East Title)
The Ravens are solid, if shaky. The Native Americans are very solid in their way–thanks to some judicious drafting, Coach Shanahan has fashioned a team that has upset what was believed to be a sure thing, namely a Giants Division Title. Washington has become a major contender, at the very least a spoiler and at the most a definite contender for a division title. And given that Baltimore has been a little shaky offensively and banged up defensively…which makes them ripe for a loss that will consolidate the NA’s position. Now granted, I still believe Joe Flacco is a really good quarterback, and has the edge in experience over RG III…but the Ravens’ vaunted d-line is punched through enough for Washington to run all over them. Expect the Crimson and Gold to triumph narrowly by a possession or less.
Cowboys (6-6, won v. Eagles, Potential NFC Wild Card/NFC East Title) vs. Bengals (7-5, won v. Chargers, Potential AFC Wild Card)
I hope Jerry Jones called up Dan Snyder and thanked him for what Washington did for dem Cowboys. Thanks to that upset on Sunday night, Dallas has gone from being on the verge of becoming inconsequential to a major contender. This is what the ‘Boys desperately needed, and now the pressure is on Tony Romo and company to build on their opportunity…
And what stands in their way? Football Spock and the Tigers….and that may be a bad thing all ’round. Cincinnati also has benefited from the actions of one of their peers; the Steelers’ rout of the Ravens has effectively made it possible for them to snatch the AFC North title from Baltimore. And quite frankly, the Bengals have been getting better with every week, whereas the Cowboys have been consistently inconsistent. So I’m thinking Cincy will win by a possession and a half at most.
Rams (5-6-1, won v. 49ers) vs. Our Bitch (5-7, won v. Gerbils, Potential AFC Wild Card)
While the Rams have been doing better than anyone expected, they’re still not a good team. And, to my utter surprise, Our Bitch is still solidly in the playoff hunt thanks to this weird parity the lesser AFC East teams seem to share. Of course, the major difference is that the Rams have played well enough to give formidable teams like San Francisco fits, while Buffalo…has not. While it’s true that C.J. Spiller has been stepping up, fulfilling the promise he had when Our Bitch drafted him, I have no faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick as a quarterback. And even though the cold will be a factor, given that St. Louis is a dome team, I still expect the Rams to win by roughly a possession.
Eagles (3-9, lost v. Cowboys) vs. Buccaneers (6-6, lost v. Broncos, Potential NFC Wild Card)
There is no help for Andy Reid; Philadelphia has finally self-destructed, a slow, painful process that has taken over a season to complete. This team is thoroughly lost, and–as I think I’ve mentioned before–I do not think they can win another game. These next four matches are a simple gift for the Eagles’ opponent, strengthening their position in the playoff hunt. I expect another ugly, one-sided game with the Bucs triumphing by roughly a possession and a half.
Falcons (11-1, won v. Saints, 1st Seed NFC South) vs. Panthers (3-9, lost v. Chiefs)
…and speaking of one-sided affairs.
The Panthers have serious problems, problems that may not be solved in time for next season. And the Falcons are maybe the most effective team in the NFL right now. There’s still another loss in Atlanta’s future, but it won’t be at Carolina’s hands. Expect a two possession win for Mattie Ice and his crew.
Chiefs (2-10, won v. Panthers) vs. Browns (4-8, won v. Raiders)
The problem with playing from a position of emotion, as Kansas City did last week, is that those performances are very, very fleeting. Soon enough, poor skill reasserts itself and you’re back to playing in a terrible manner. The Chiefs can not maintain that emotionally high level of play anymore, leaving them wide open for the superior and hungry Cleveland team. This will be an easy two possession–or more–win for the Browns.
Chargers (4-8, lost v. Bengals) vs. Steelers (7-5, won v. Ravens, Potential AFC Wild Card)
The Steelers may be bloodied but they have managed to trudge closer and closer to a playoff appearance, which is pretty impressive for a team that was almost written off due to their shakiness. They may be getting some key pieces back which will give San Diego fits. And given how unsteady the Not-So-Super-Chargers are, it’s going to be a pretty awful time for them. Expect Pittsburgh to win by a possession and a half.
Titans (4-8, lost v. Texans) vs. Colts (8-4, won v. Lions, Potential AFC Wild Card)
The Titans are playing tougher than usual right now…but the Andrew Luck Colts are playing even tougher, making their appearance in the playoffs extremely likely. Indianapolis should trample Tennessee easily by two possessions.
Paper Planes (5-7, ‘won’ v. Cardinals, Potential AFC Wildcard) v. Gerbils (2-10, lost v. Our Bitch)
‘Potential AFC Wild Card’. Wow. Didn’t expect to write that this season. Especially after the most embarrassing game that I suspect has ever been played by two professional teams.
And yet, that phrase could seem very, very likely for the ‘Planes. The games Gang Green have for the rest of the season are ridiculously easy, although they will need to beat San Diego and Our Bitch decisively for this to even begin to happen.
And speaking of ridiculously easy–this game isn’t as easy as it looks. The Gerbils have been playing better under Chad Henne, and Henne has beaten the Planes before (3-1 against the team). Of course, the Gerbils will struggle with two of their offensive weapons out…so I’m willing to bet that the Paper Planes, even with Mark Sanchez under center, wins by less than a possession.
Bears (8-4, lost v. Seahawks, Potential NFC Wild Card) vs. Vikings (6-6, lost v. Packers, Potential NFC Wild Card)
See, this is why you have to keep fighting and fighting hard even in the home stretch. Because the Bears let their guard down last week, they’ve been kicked out of their dominance of the NFC North and lost whatever home field advantage they had in the playoffs. Chicago needs to win every game from here on in and hope that Seattle stumbles once, ideally twice.
Thankfully, the Bears have Minnesota this week, who have not totally self-destructed like, let’s say, Arizona or Philadelphia, but are still very shaky. Christian Ponder is simply not doing well, and there’s only so much we can expect Adrian Peterson to carry this team by himself–his shoulders are simply not that broad. This is going to be a low-scoring, toughly played game that will result in a Bears win by less than a possession.
Sunday Games, 4:30 p.m
Dolphins (5-7, lost v. Sucking Black Hole of Evil, Potential AFC Wild Card) vs. 49ers (8-3-1, lost v. Rams, 2nd Seed NFC West)
The Dolphins may be playing much, much better than they should have–unlike, let’s say, the Paper Planes and Our Bitch, they have been playing every game hard. But I can’t see Miami winning against San Francisco, even a San Fran team that’s been playing so erratic. Expect the 49ers to slide into a victory by a possession or less.
Cardinals (4-8, lost v. Paper Planes) vs. Seahawks (7-5, won v. Bears, Potential NFC Wild Card)
And the question is not if the Cards will lose this week–they’re playing in Seattle, where Russell Wilson is simply unbeatable–but if they’ll win a game at all the rest of this season. John Skelton may give Arizona a little bit of a lift, but it won’t stop the Seahawks from smacking the Cards with their weird-looking, ugly ass uniforms by a possession to two possessions.
Saints (5-7, lost v. Falcons) vs. Giants (7-5, lost v. Native Americans)
This game could go either way. The Saints are playing well after that horrific start, while Big Blue seem to be struggling–something we all sort of figured out when we saw them almost lose to the Bucs and get pasted by the Native Americans and the Cowboys. This is the perfect time for the Saints to run into the Giants, as they can easily pad out their win total a bit more in the hopes of climbing back into that playoff race. Add into it the fact that Drew Brees seems to love playing this team, winning again and again and again against this squad, and we may have a tiny bit of an upset. I’m going for New Orleans to win by a possession and a half.
Sunday Game 8:30 p.m.
Lions (4-8, lost v. Colts) vs. Packers (8-4, won v. Vikings, 3rd Seed NFC North)
The Lions need to win this game. Their chances of making the playoffs are almost non-existent at this point, but the more important thing is to avoid slipping back into the dreaded Culture O’ Losing. Detroit has spent so much time working on being better that they can’t afford to become that sad sack little group of mewling kittens who once went 0-16. And luckily for them, the Pack has not been very good…and especially has not been good at home lately. If the Lions man up and pull this off, they’ll act as a spoiler, messing up Green Bay’s playoff run. It’s going to be a close game–we’re talking a field goal or less
Monday Game 8:30 p.m.
Texans (11-1, won v. Titans, 1st Seed AFC South) vs. The Sucking Black Hole of Evil (9-3, won v. Dolphins, 4th Seed AFC East)
Truth be told, this is a game I’ve been waiting for all season…if only because I’ve been dreaming of seeing J.J. Watt standing over the prone body of the Crybaby Quarterback and giving the Foxboro faithful that salute. Multiple times.
The Texans are simply a better team, with a pass rush that will hurry up and knock the Crybaby Quarterback all the way back to his home (Hell, he’ll be crying more than his newborn daughter!). The only thing the Sucking Black Hole can hope for is to frequently switch up between different receivers to confuse Houston’s defense and diffuse the secondary…but I think you need to bet on the red and blue, as they’ll win by about a possession and a half over the Sucking Black Hole.
Thursday Night Games (Week 15) 8:20 p.m.
Bengals v. Eagles
The Bengals are getting better, and the Eagles have reached the point of no return. Football Spock for the win by two to three possessions.
See you next week.