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), our new “Sine Lines” sport-toon (every Mon, Wed, Fri), 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:
Just past the halfway point through the NFL season and here at the Games To Watch offices, we turned off Halo 3, dialed back on our No-Doze, and decided to get down to work figuring out what games you don’t want to miss – a tall order after what some considered “Superbowl 41.5” last week. Listen, there still are some GREAT games to be had this season, and this week is no exception. 10 of the 13 games out there are division rivalries – and we all know that a great game begins with a hint of bitterness. Read below for our recipes for some great games.
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh – Sunday 11/11, 1:00pm
If we hopped back into our time machine (yes, we do own one… but the damn Delorian needs yet another flux capacitor) and went back to September, we’d be hearing calls for the Brady Quinn era to begin. Now in Cleveland, the Brady you are more likely to hear about is how Cleveland will fare against Tom Brady in the playoffs.
Typically, you don’t use ‘Cleveland’ and ‘Offense’ in the same sentence unless you are talking about LeBron James and the Cavaliers. But the Browns offense, led by one of fantasy football’s nicest surprises, QB
Derek Anderson, is ranked 4th in the NFL with averages in points (28 per game) and total yards (365). It’s been part of the reason that the Brownies are on the verge of winning 4 games in a row. That’s extra special for Cleveland, since they haven’t strung together 4 wins since 1994. You remember 1994, right? Ice skating got violent when Nancy Kerrigan got a clubbing, males everywhere winced in pain as they read about Lorraina Bobbet’s knife wielding antics, and O.J. was on trial… umm… the FIRST time he was on trial.
Cleveland’s offense sports names all of us are becoming familiar with this year… Anderson is on fire (6th best in passing yards and 4th best in TD passes) – 9 of his 17 found their way into WR
Braylon Edwards hands. Speaking of Edwards, his 42 catches for 736 yards puts him as 4th best in the NFL in receiving yards. Don’t forget about the resurgence of RB Jamal Lewis to relevancy this year – top 20 in rushing yards, but tied for #4 in rushing TDs with 6. Heck, even TE
Kellen Winslow managed to stay away from motorcycles (ok, cheap shot) and emerged as one of the top receivers in the league with 657 yards this season. The bottom line is Cleveland has an established offense that has done damage against some decent defenses so far, and there is no sign of that offensive onslaught letting up anytime soon. Now if only the Brownies defense would figure out how to stop someone once in a while, and they’d really be stacked. The Browns are the absolute worst in the league in yardage allowed, and nearly that in points allowed (giving up over 400 yards and 29 points a contest). Their defense is the only reason Cleveland isn’t better than 5-3 so far.
Now, travel 115 miles east and you have a team that plays in the same division as Cleveland, but has a much better pedigree… especially in recent years. A team that not only has a strong offense, but currently sports the #1 ranked defense in the NFL – the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s been said that offense wins games, but defense wins Super Bowls… if that’s true, no wonder the Steelers fill out a fist full of Superbowl rings over the years. And this year’s defense ranks right up among the best ever in Steeltown. #1 in total yardage (not even 250 a contest), #4 in rushing D, the best pass defense in the NFL (not even allowing 162 yards through the air per game), and #1 in scoring D (allowing just 12.3 points a game).
Everyone crows about Safety
Troy Polamalu, but the Steelers LBs corps has been among the best in the league all year.
James Harrison’s 6.5 sacks rank him among the top 12 in the league and his 4 forced fumbles ties him for second best.
James Farrior’s 5 sacks aren’t too shabby, either.
Unlike Cleveland, the Steelers aren’t limited to success on one side of the ball, though. QB
Ben Roethlisberger’s 1742 yards passing may only be 12th best overall, but his 20 passing TDs are second only to NE’s Tom Brady. His supporting cast of
Santonio Holmes, and
Heath Miller make sure the Steelers O isn’t a one-trick pony.
So grab yourself an icy Iron City Lite and tell Primanti’s that you want two pastrami & cheese with an egg on top – your taste buds will win like one of these two clubs, and your arteries will lose like the other. But your eyes will definitely come out on top watching one of the best games of the weekend.
Dallas @ New York Giants – Sunday 11/11, 4:15pm
Last week was a blockbuster game with Indy and New England… but this one is like mini-Indy v. mini-NE – and probably more important to each of these teams than last week’s tussle of the titans was. This is a recipe for a great game of the week if we ever saw one. Don’t get us wrong, Emril Lagasse and Mario Bataldi know their way around a kitchen, but let us show you our culinary skills by whipping up a taste of the NFC East.
After showing Philadelphia that the division champion
WILL come through Philadelphia (and apparently slice through the Eagles like a hot knife through butter), Dallas gets on a plane once again to go to the Big Apple (well… the Meadowlands, anyway). Although they have an average defense that has many stats in the middle of the NFL rankings, offensive side of the ball is a different story. Led by QB
Tony Romo and averaging over 33 points a game, they rank as the league’s #2 offense, behind only New England in total yardage and points. Romo is top 3 in yardage and TDs, and top 5 in QB rating – well worth the fat contract he just inked. The RB duo of
Marion Barber (who cooks up over 5 yards a carry) and
Julius Jones keep the opposition honest. In the air,
Terrell Owens does not disappoint with a splash of smack talk, and the stats to back it up (730 yards and 6 TDs so far this season).
Not to be the ‘sui chefs’ of the NFC East, the Giants are vying for the title only a game back of the Cowboys. They come off a bye week and a lackluster performance against Miami in London two weeks ago (we suspect it was the ‘bangers and mashed’ served at the team hotel that caused the problems). Like Dallas, the Giants run in the middle of the pack when it comes to several averages across the NFL; unlike Dallas that extends to both sides of the ball. Don’t let that fool you though – they’re obviously managing games very well with as many wins as they have. QB
Eli Manning (13 TDs and 1584 yards) hopes to fry the Dallas defense with his main two utensils WR
Plaxico Burress (8 TD, 564 yards) who may not like to practice but has a knack for finding the end zone, and RB
Brandon Jacobs (back to back 100+ yard games) who’s been very good since returning from injury. And while the Giants D started shaky, they have managed to work their way up to the 7th best D in overall yardage – largely on the back of their stifling pass rush.
In a nutshell, this game has all the ingredients for a perfect November afternoon:
1 cup of division rivalry
2 heaping tablespoons of NFC playoff desires
3 teaspoons of ‘great’-ed offensive weapons
And just a dash of spite, hate, or chilled ill will (or all three) – season to taste
Throw all ingredients in a ‘Giants’ bowl for 60 minutes… serve while hot.
There you have it… our recipe for a GREAT ‘Game to Watch’. But you might wanna’ keep the Rolaids close – and don’t say we didn’t warn ya’.
Indianapolis @ San Diego – Sunday 11/11, 8:15pm
Last week we all tuned in to see Superbowl XL1.5 (reminds us of more than a few NFL coaches shirt size), but a loss to the Colts wasn’t nearly as bad for coach
Tony Dungy’s squad as you might think. Sure, they can’t finish undefeated. Sure, they likely lost home field advantage to the Pats. They even ate some humble pie… but look at what they DID gain. The Colts are the defending Superbowl champs (the media seems to have forgotten this) – and now they get to fly under the radar for the rest of the season while the Pats take on all the pressure. They get the benefit of playing with a chip on their shoulder, and with the way their D is playing right now, you don’t want to face this club like that. And when the Pats and the Colts see each other in the playoffs (and they WILL see each other), the Pats might just take the Colts a little more lightly than they did this time around – and that would be a tragic mistake. (Not as tragic as a Philly cheese steak without whiz, but pretty damn close.)
But those are the after-effects of last week, and this is a new week – but the Colts are still in our spotlight this weekend. Indy needs a win this weekend to retain their lead on the AFC North and hold off the surging Titans – and to show their resiliency after their over-hyped loss. The Chargers need this game badly as well. They lead the AFC West, but at 4-4 they have to prove that they can play with the AFC elite.
Indy is one of the best offenses in the league, behind only New England and Dallas in terms of overall yardage and points per game (30.5). You know the cast of characters in this offense; QB
Payton Manning (top 7 in almost every single QB category – that’s consistency), WR
Reggie Wayne (730 yards receiving, tied for 5th) and TE
Dallas Clark (6 receiving TDs, tied for 6th), and RB
Joseph Addai (in the top 3 in rushing yards and TDs). And the Colts D is no less talented (or scary) – ranking 5th in overall D, and 3rd in pass defense and scoring (only giving up 15.8 a week). DE
Dwight Freeney tied for 2nd in forced fumbles and S
Antoine Bethea tied for 8th in interceptions are just two of the recognizable names, but as a team they can lock teams down. (Heck, they even held New England to their lowest output of the season – and that’s not an easy offense to contain.)
San Diego isn’t the team they once were. RB
LaDainian Tomlinson even said “We’re not an elite team at all” – but they better start finding their way back onto that list in a hurry if they want to compete with the Colts and hang on to the AFC West lead. They have the offensive talent to do it, but their offense isn’t really showing it – only cracking the top 10 in scoring, and middle of the pack in all the other categories. Tomlinson is still a talent (6th best in rushing yards, and tied for second in rushing TDs) – but he’s not as dominant as in years past. TE
Antonio Gates is 11th best overall in receiving yards – damn nice for any TE, and his 5 TDs keep him near the top of that leader board as well. The recently added WR
Chris Chambers has given them another legitimate receiving threat, but QB
Phillip Rivers simply MUST do better – 16th in passing yards and 17th in QB efficiency simply isn’t going to cut the mustard. But the offense hasn’t been the big disappointment this year – that belongs to the Chargers D, who went from one of the more solid defenses in the league to ranking in the 20’s in every yardage category, and only 17th in scoring. If they hope to have a chance, they have to fix that in a real hurry.
Well, there ya’ have it – it’s an important game for both teams, and we should see some offense from both of these clubs. But the defense will be the key to winning this game for one of these teams, and that doesn’t bode well for San Diego. No matter what happens, this one is interesting for the AFC implications… but there will be enough offense to keep it interesting to any fan – and cap off a great week 10 across the league.