Hello fellow Sharks! From now until Week 17, we’ll be giving our insight as to which games are the games to watch each week. This is a heavy burden, as we know a lot of you have Sunday Ticket, too much free time, and an addiction to premium brews like Natty Lite or Yuengling. A lot of you know us from our weekly podcast on this site (the Week in Review podcast), or our column (Brain and Braun), or maybe one of our posts in the Tank. We’re just like you, though. We love a good football game, no matter who’s playing. All times Eastern:
New York Jets @ New England – Sunday 11/12, 1:00pm
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Some say television is a reflection of society. For those of us that still watch network television here and there (when you’re not watching NFL Replay on the NFL Network), there is a show on Wednesday nights that you might know of, entitled “LOST”. In a nutshell, the show is about a group of people who were flying on a plane from Australia to the US, and in the process, have crashed and are now surviving on an island somewhere in the Pacific. It is a pretty good show, and if you have to invest in something non-NFL to prove to your wife you can sit with her for more than an hour and not talk about football, it will do the trick.
Anyway, the reason we bring it up is that the main characters in the show, remind us of two of the main characters in this game; Jack, a spinal surgeon who at one point is considered the “leader” of the crashed victims, and Sawyer, a con man who really is a good guy, but many times is out to prove to people he doesn’t take orders from anybody. Needless to say, Sawyer has caused many issues for Jack, and has more than once gone out on his own for the betterment of himself. Without royalties from ABC, we are going to stop talking about the show pretty much right now. (ABC please contact our business manager if you would like to work something out…)
The point of this all is that there are two guys, both of who you root for and are likable, who don’t like one another most of the time. But they recognize that the other is a formidable ally or foe, depending upon the situation.
Is this situation any different from what is brewing between Bill Bellicheck and Eric Mangini?
We recognize some of you are probably asking which one is Sawyer and which is Jack, and we’ll let you determine who would be who, but no matter which coach you put in which character’s shoes, you get two guys who get a lot of respect, have similar interests (winning and making the AFC East a division to be reckoned with), and who wouldn’t mind running over one another in the process of getting to the playoffs.
Mangini returns home to the “friendly” confines of Foxboro, where he’s had success under Bellicheck. The first time they two faced off this year, the Jets were in the game until the end, showing many in the league that the Jets weren’t going to be bottom feeders in this league as many were predicting (hey…everyone, it’s week 10 and Pennington is still playing). And with New England sporting one of the league’s worst passing defenses this season, giving up almost 230 yards of passing a game, Pennington and the Jets receivers could have a nice day. Coles and Cotchery has been solid all year, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to continue against the Pats secondary. The Jets biggest problem won’t be on offense, it will be in getting their #31 ranked defense up to stop a tactician like Bellicheck, and a field general like Brady.
Bellicheck brings the Pats back to Foxboro to lick their wounds from a loss to the Colts that still smarts, not only because it was a playoff precursor, but because the normally mistake-free Brady tossed 4 interceptions and zero TDs. Obviously, he’ll have to do better than that this weekend, but it would be almost impossible not to when your opponent is giving up almost 360 yards of offense every week.
The way both defenses are playing the pass lately, this game could turn out to be a track meet – and that should make it one heck of a game to watch.
The winner of this game won’t win an Emmy, but it will give one of these teams some momentum heading into the playoff run, and an all-important win at this point in the season. And really, isn’t a possible shot at the Vince Lombardi Trophy just a little bit nicer than an Emmy anyway?
St. Louis @ Seattle – Sunday 11/12, 4:15pm
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
The Rams and the Seahawks, part II.
A few weeks back we pegged this as one of the games of the week. So it should be a no-brainer that it makes our list this time around, too. But like all sequels, you never know what you are going to get the second time around.
Case in point: Take Star Trek I v. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. The first one was almost as interesting as watching paint dry, bald-woman in bathrobe not withstanding. The sequel was a completely different story. You get to watch a heck of a lot better action, and you get to see Mr. Rourke from Fantasy Island being a major thorn in Capt. Kirk’s side, not to mention every time he talks you just *know* you’re thinking about rich, Corinthian leather.
Then again, some sequels make us think they should have stopped at one. Take the original Blues Brothers movie. Two words: A classic. Then, someone who doesn’t have enough friends in Hollywood who are willing to tell them the truth come up with the idea that Blues Brothers 2000 would be in instant smash. ‘Nuff said.
So what are we looking at here? Well, like many movie sequels, the characters not only change, but the setting does.
The Main Character in STL v SEA I: Matt Hasselback. SEQUEL REPLACEMENT: Seneca Wallace. Wallace just needs to do one thing that the star of the first match-up did – get them in the end-zone. Field goals aren’t gonna’ cut it here. Hasselbeck looked sharp in the first meeting, and Wallace will need to look just as sharp, if not more in order to squeak out a 2-point win this time around.
The Setting in STL v SEA I: Edward Jones Dome. SEQUEL REPLACEMENT: Qwest Field. The Edward Jones dome is not an easy place for a visiting team to win, but Qwest Field has had a reputation of being a tough place for that to happen as well. The Seattle faithful might not be booing Santa Claus (word to other Philly brethren), but Mark Bulger should certainly expect a lot of it. Saint Louis has proven that they can win on the road (of course that was against GB and Arizona), but they certainly aren’t stellar on the road (the San Fran loss comes to mind). This is going to be a tough one for the Rams. And like any sequel, we’ll have to see which team shows up this week.
The Plot in STL v SEA I: Fighting for the division lead. SEQUEL REPLACEMENT: Umm…fighting for the division lead. Listen, why change a story line that’s working, right?
This was a four-quarter game a month ago, and this time around, it certainly could be the same thing as there still is no clear front-runner in the NFC West. These two teams know that this divisional game is by far the most important one thus far.
Seattle knows they need to win this one for more security in the NFC West and establish themselves firmly as the team to beat. St. Louis knows that they need to win this one or they fall behind in the NFC West, and even their explosive offense might not be enough to get back in the race.
For every Star Wars Sequel (Empire Strikes Back was awesome) there is a Highlander sequel (Highlander 2 was… well, whatever the complete opposite of awesome is). Here’s to hoping that the sequel of the Rams / Seahawks game Sunday is a little more Godfather, and a lot less Police Academy.
Chicago @ New York Giants – Sunday 11/12, 8:15pm
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Speaking of good story lines…
Does it get any better than a Sunday night game like this? We get to watch the NFC’s top two teams (with apologies to New Orleans, who is tied with the Giants) in a prime time slugfest that rivals an Ali / Frasier fight.
Ali was the boxer, and Frasier was the puncher. Ali won bouts with his speed and quickness. Frasier had a punishing right hook and the will to remain standing, even in the face of the worse onslaught. Well, these two teams remind us exactly of those historical bouts.
New York, like Ali, has built their record this year on the ability to attack quickly – so fast you don’t even see it coming. Just ask the Eagles from their week 1 tussle with the Gi’nts. The boys from the New Jersey… err New York… have a ton of weapons at their disposal with which to punish their opponents. Weapons like the NFL’s #1 rusher in Tiki Barber, the #8 QB in terms of passing yards and #3 in terms of TD passes in Eli Manning, not to mention a talented receiving corps with standouts like Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey. That’s not to say that the Giants are all offense and no defense – that’s hardly the case. After a slow start, New York’s D has come on strong, and now sits on the board as the #11 overall D, and #8 scoring D. So many ways for the Giants to hurt you, and like an Ali punch, every one stings.
Chicago, like Frasier, has built their record on the knockout punch of their defense. Sure, the Bears can muster an offense that can hang with the best of them. Grossman has been more than many Bears fans hoped for at the beginning of the year, managing to get himself a spot in the top 10 in passing yards, and tied for #4 in passing TDs. And Thomas Jones, Brent Berrian, and Muhsin Muhammad have all had fine seasons so far. But they are just the jabs that set up the killer left hook of the Bears defense. The Chicago D is #1 in overall yardage allowed, managing to only give up 250 yards of total offense a game. They give up less than 100 yards a game on the ground, and the NFL’s best passing defense, not to mention the #2 scoring defense, giving up a paltry 12.5 points a game. With a defense that hits like a freight train, the Bears D, like Frasier’s dangerous left, provides the knockout punch that wins championships.
The only thing that this game is missing is all of the players that got the Giants to where they are now. With Amani Toomer out for the rest of the year and Michael Strahan’s Lisfranc fracture (that’s a broken foot to you and me) keeping him out of the lineup for an undetermined length of time, the Giants will have to overcome some adversity to win this weekend. But if they do, then a playoff berth would be a lock for this club, and would keep a comfortable 2-game lead in the NFC East over division rival Philadelphia.
Like the first Ali / Frasier bout, we expect this one to go all 15 rounds. And with the Bears angry at their loss of focus last week against Miami coupled with the Giants loss of 2 of their team leaders, we expect it to end much the same way – Frasier… err, the Bears… win by decision.