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 other articles, the Betbot, or the Last Row, or our myriad posts in the Tank. We’re just like you, though. We love a good football game, no matter who’s playing.
All times Eastern:
Denver @ Dallas – Thursday 10/24, 4:15pm
Texas Stadium, Dallas, TX
OK – let’s face it. Most people are going to watch both Thursday games regardless of what I tell you in this column. And you should – watching football and all-day gluttony is what this holiday is about. (Oh yeah, there’s that whole “thankful” part, too…) But out of the two Thursday match-ups, this is by far the more palatable.
Dallas is atop the NFC East (tied with the New Jersey Giants) and sports a 7-3 record and the NFL’s 5th ranked defense overall (10th vs. the pass, and 9th vs. the run), but will have their hands full against a Denver team with an even better 8-2 record. Denver is very tough against the run this year, being the #2 run defense in the NFL. And with Champ Bailey you’d expect their pass defense to be up there as well… But that’s where you’d be wrong. Bailey’s injuries have made him more of a liability this year than an asset, and the Broncos 28th ranked pass defense backs me up on that point.
Drew Bledsoe should be able to pass against the Bronc’s vulnerable secondary, but it should be a tough day for “Orange” Julius Jones, Marion Barber, and whatever other RBs Bill Parcells feels the need to toss into his RBBC (running-back-by-committee). Jake Plummer will have a tougher time against the Dallas secondary, which has been a little bit surprising in their performance so far this year. Safety Roy Williams on Dallas has always been known as a big hitter, but he’s traditionally given up the deep ball (and even did so in the first game or two this year). But he’s played remarkably well over most of this season, and should help Dallas bottle up Jake the Snake’s passing attack. Denver will counter Dallas’ RBBC with their own RBBC – namely Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell. In last week’s game against the Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles were able to run at will on Dallas – posting a season high 180+ yards rushing against the ‘Boys. Watch for Denver to do much of the same against Dallas. I think they’ll take the air out of Plummer’s ball a bit this week and concentrate on beating Dallas on the ground.
So unbutton the top button on your pants, take your plate loaded with turkey, mashed potatos, stuffing and gravy, wedge yourself into the spot between Uncle Micky and your brother on the couch, and feast your eyes on this game – it gonna’ be a good one.
Chicago @ Tampa Bay – Sunday 10/27, 1:00pm
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Ok – how many of you out there predicted that in week 12 we’d get to see the NFC South division-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off against the NFC North division-leading Chicago Bears? C’mon – don’t be shy out there – raise your hands. Ok – now the 4 people who did raise your hands, put them down – you filthy liars. There we go… exactly ZERO people predicted that these two teams would be where they are at this point in the season.
The Bucs bring the NFL’s 3rd ranked defense into the game – but hold on a second… Chicago is the NUMERO UNO defense in the NFL. If you’re a fan of hard-hitting defensive games, I think you’re gonna’ LOVE this contest. In fact, if they didn’t wear different-colored uniforms, I’m not sure we could even tell these two teams apart.
The Bucs are performing above expectations with a young QB at the helm in Chris Simms. The Bears are performing above expectations with a young QB at the helm in Kyle Orton. The Bucs prefer to lean on a strong running game, anchored by Carnell Williams – aka “Cadillac”. The Bears prefer to lean on a strong running game, anchored by Thomas Jones – aka “Thomas Jones”. The Bucs have one of the NFL’s top defensive squads. The Bears have one of the NFL’s top defensive squads. The Bucs are one of the NFL’s big surprises this year. The Bears are one of the NFL’s big surprises this year. The Bears wear classic blue. The Bucs wear… pewter. Well, the similarities couldn’t last forever could they?
If you’re looking for an offensive explosion, look elsewhere – this game isn’t for you. But if you’re a fan of watching guys get pounded into the turf, defensive scheming, and good old fashioned ultra-violence – this one’s for you baby.
Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis – Monday 10/28, 9:00pm
RCA Dome, Indianapolis, IN
Indianapolis is still undefeated, so almost any game they are in is probably a “Game to Watch”. But this week, they take on the Steelers – and a win on Monday night would have the Colts beating BOTH of their AFC playoff rivals in the past few years. They already beat up on New England, and now its Pittsburgh’s turn.
Just like the Bears/Bucs game, this is another clash of division leaders. The Colts are the NFL’s only unbeaten squad at 10-0 and have a strangle-hold on the AFC South, while the Steelers at 7-3 top the AFC North (tied with the Bengals). More importantly to the Colts, a win over the Steelers would really show how much better this squad is than the rest of the NFL right now.
Peyton Manning leads an offense that has shown renewed life in the past few weeks, after being content to ride the coat-tails of their defensive counter-parts for the first few weeks of the season. Edgerin James is having a great season going into free agency, and Marvin Harrison remains one of the NFL’s best WRs – along with another WR making a name for himself in the free agent market for next year, Reggie Wayne. This team is loaded on offense – that is for sure. But their defense has been the thing that has catapulted the Colts to the top of the NFL. At #8 overall, they can now wins games that they lost last year, simply because they can shut opponents down.
The Steelers have their share of productive running backs leading their team’s charge. Duce Staley now back from injury heads up a rushing attack that has seen great production from their surprising rookie, Willie Parker. Jerome Bettis is always a goal-line threat, and even Verron Haynes has posted decent numbers when the Steelers have plugged him into the lineup. (By the way – Verron Haynes is NOT a baseball player, but he sure as heck sounds like he should be with that name.) Ben Roethlisburger has been rock-solid again at QB, but he’s been banged up – and when he’s out the Steelers are a different team.
This one is gonna’ be fun to watch and if Ben Roethlisburger does indeed return (as reports have circulated saying he will suit up for this game) then it should be a real good match-up. If the gold-and-black starts Tommy Maddox, it should get ugly fast. Either way, you just KNOW you’re going to be parked in front of the TV on Monday for this contest, probably eating some of that leftover turkey on a roll with some cranberry sauce and stuffing tossed on for good measure.
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