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:
Chicago @ New York Jets – Sunday 11/19, 1:00pm
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
We love Chicago. We love the pizza, the entertainment, and obviously the football. We also love New York. We love the pizza, the entertainment, and obviously the football. (We have a tendency to repeat ourselves….keep reading.)
For the second week in a row, the Chicago Bears come back to New York to pick up anything they left in the Lost & Found bin at the Ritz. Last week’s trip was well worth it, Chicago’s win declared them the best team in the NFC. It was a hard fought game, as was expected. On the surface (and it seems like I’ve heard the term “Trap Game” a million times so far this year in the media), one might think this is a trap game for the Bears; play a tough team and win, and then you let down for the next game.
The Jets also come back to New York to try and pick up where they left off last week. Last weeks trip to New England was well worth it, the Jets’ win declared them a contender in the AFC East, if not the AFC as a whole. It was a hard fought game, as expected. One might think this is a trap game for the Jets, too: play a tough team and win, and then you let down for the next game.
Like we said….we have a tendency to repeat ourselves.
The Bears bring their #1 ranked defense to the table, allowing a paltry 250 yards a game in offense, and giving up less than 2 TDs a game. And while their defense typically keys their wins, the Bears aren’t without players to watch on offense. Thomas Jones is having a great year, coming into the game at #10 in rushing yards (725 so far this season) – even if he hasn’t found the end zone much this season. Muhsin Muhammad has been solid, and Bernard Berrian has been a nice surprise in his break-out 3rd year in the NFL. But the key to the Bears offense has been Rex Grossman, and that’s going to be doubly true this weekend. Grossman has played better than many expected, but has started to show signs of weakness over the past few weeks. And the Jets D wreaked havoc on the Pats Tom Brady last weekend by throwing a bunch of different blitz packages at him throughout the game. And Rex Grossman is no Tom Brady. If Grossman can look like he did early on in the season, the Bears D will keep it close enough for Chicago to win this one pulling away. If he looks anything like he did against the likes of Arizona or Miami, the Jets could have a big day on D.
The Jets are actually looking like a playoff team right now, a pretty surprising feat when you consider many had them looking at 6 wins (max) this year. Pennington has been serviceable, if a little banged up – and it’s good to see him finally making it through a season (although time will tell). The Jets running game is a RBBC situation with Barlow and Washington splitting carries, but neither one seems to be able to make a move as the clear cut stud. The Jets WRs are solid, too, with Coles and Cotchery putting up better numbers than most preseason pundits had predicted. But the real star of the Jets is their new head coach, Eric Mangini. His play-calling has been great, and he’s made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. This is the last team that the Jets face all year that has a winning record, so another big upset for Mangini and company would go a long, long way to securing them a playoff berth.
Whether it’s the Bears rushing attack or the Jets passing attack, this game might not surprise some of you that it is going to be close. Then again, it might not surprise some of you that it could be a blowout. We can honestly say that we want to watch this one because we have no idea what’s gonna’ happen. One thing that definitely will be a surprise is what excuse is going to fly with your wife or girlfriend, letting you park yourself in front of this game instead of stringing Christmas lights.
Atlanta @ Baltimore – Sunday 11/19, 1:00pm
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
If you’re in Baltimore on Sunday, there are three things to do.
1) Take in the Aquarium. (It’s top notch and they have a great downtown area.)
2) Enjoy the delicacies from the Chesapeake. (Maryland Blue Claws are pretty well done by now, but you might still find a few of them around while you smother them in JOs or Old Bay.)
3) Take in the number one rushing offense vs the number 2 rushing defense over at M & T Bank Park.
Guess which one we pick.
Even though one of these teams escaped with a win last week after overcoming a big deficit, and one took a hit from a team it should have dominated, both have had much better games this season. This week, they’ll we’ll both need to bring their “A” game if they indent to put a “W” on the board.
These two teams are as familiar with one another as Brad Pitt is with Jennifer Aniston this past year; they haven’t seen a lot of one another, but probably read about one another in the papers. This is the first time Atlanta takes the trip to Baltimore and their last meeting was in 2002. In that game, Baltimore scored 17 points…that is the good thing. The bad thing was that Atlanta scored 20 (the most notable score being a defensive return of a fumble for a TD).
Atlanta has the better offense on paper this time around, too. Warrick Dunn is the #8 RB is terms of rushing yards, with 761 and counting. And his QB, Michael Vick, is the #14 overall rusher – not too shabby for a Quarterback. Unfortunately for the Atlanta WR corps, Vick is only the #23 quarterback in passing yardage, and even worse than that in QB rating. So while Atlanta’s WRs suffer on the #30 passing offense in the league, there is still no shortage of offense when your team rushes for a league best 198.9 yards a game. When your team routinely tops 200 yards in rushing, it’s not just a help to your offense – it controls the clock and gives those defenders some extra rest. And their D needs every bit of that rest with a laundry list of injuries (DE John Abraham, DE Patrick Kerney, CB Kevin Mathis, CB Jason Webster, someone stop us…).
Baltimore will meet the Atlanta top-flight rushing attack with the NFL’s 2nd best run defense, allowing a paltry 79.7 yards a game. Ray Lewis and Bart Scott lead the way with 130 tackles between them so far this season, and the team has 32 tackles for a loss on their opponents this season. Too bad Lewis looks like a scratch this weekend, but the rest of the Raven’s D is certainly capable of picking up the slack. The bye week was good to Baltimore, too, giving Brian Billick a chance to take over the play-calling from Jim Fassel, who was unceremoniously fired going into the bye week. It’s certainly helped resulting in 2 of McNair’s top three games of the season. Even Jamal Lewis managed to crack the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. And with WRs like Clayton and Mason is his corner coupled with the new play-calling, McNair is starting to put up respectable numbers – and has another good chance of doing so against this banged-up bunch from Hotlanta.
So back to the original 3 things you can do in Sunday if you are in Baltimore. It’s not really that much of a choice; the smart money is on #3. The only thing better is if you went for the Trifecta: you end up dining on crabs, near the aquarium, while watching the ATL / BAL game.
San Diego @ Denver – Sunday 11/19, 8:15pm
Invesco Field, Denver, CO
Watching this game is going to be like watching a heavy-weight fighter shadow box; you get an opponent who matches you move for move, but in the end, you have a pretty good idea of who will tire first.
They both sit at the top of the AFC West, with identical 7-2 records – equally matched. They both sport strong running offenses AND defenses – equally matched. But the tale of the tape turns into a mismatch when you look at which team wins the games. The home team in this series has won 10 of the last 11 between these two.
Look, you knew this one was gonna’ be one of the games of the week – the San Diego #4 overall offense (and the #2 rushing offense – sporting Superman AKA LaDainian Tomlinson) against the Denver #5 rush defense (giving up only 86 yards a game). Denver is no slouch to the running game, though, with the #4 overall rushing offense. Thankfully, San Diego is just as stout in run D as the Broncos are, with the Chargers ranking 6th in run D, giving up less than 90 yards a contest.
San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson comes into the game as only the #2 running back in terms of yardage, but his 16 TDs are DOUBLE the #3 RB in the league – and fantasy owners are riding Tomlinson all the way to their playoffs this year, with the rest of their lineup being almost irrelevant. Philip Rivers has been the pleasant surprise for Bolts fans, though, and with good reason. Rivers has not only been leading the Chargers on big comebacks as of late, but he is one of only 3 QBs in the league with a QB rating over 100. His lack of mistakes on the field is amazing considering this is his first year as a starter. Of course, it doesn’t hurt having guys like Antonio Gates and more importantly the most feared rusher in the NFL to take the pressure off a young QB.
Denver’s offense doesn’t have a huge stud like Tomlinson, but what they lack in stature, they make up for in numbers. Their RBBC sports Tatum Bell (who’s 649 rushing yards puts him in the top 15 in the NFL), Mike Bell (who’s 305 yards of rushing in relief of Tatum is nothing to sneeze at), and even a few reverses from their best acquisition of the year, Javon Walker (6 rushes for 120 yards is a nice bonus from your WR). Heck, even Jake Plummer can run a little if forced to. Walker doesn’t just do well on the odd reverse though; his 731 receiving yards rank him 8th among receivers this season. Imagine how good he could be if Jake Plummer wasn’t one of the worst rated QBs in the league, with as many interceptions (10) as TDs this season.
If the Chargers can put pressure on the mistake-prone Plummer, they could make a run at overturning the ‘home team wins’ stat that has dominated the series between these two. But that’s a big ‘if’ with Shawne Merriman still on suspension from the league, and Luis Castillo listed as questionable. Without those two, the Chargers D hasn’t looked nearly as sharp – just ask the Bengals who put up a fat 41 points against this D.
So even though it seems like this clash for the AFC West lead is pretty evenly matched, it looks like the edge still lies with the home-town Broncos in this one. And if they can tire San Diego early, they’ll leave the Chargers chasing their shadows.