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:
Happy Thanksgiving, Sharks! We give thanks this week to all kinds of things: Smithwick’s beer being sold here in the
; the reduction in price of the PlayStation 3; the spirit of innovation that led man to dump a turkey in a deep-fryer; and, of course, NFL football on three days this week instead of just two. (Insert your own blessings that you are thankful for here… unless those blessings involve ‘Women’s Murder Club’. Who thought any show staring the stunning Angie Harmon could be bad?!? Shame on you, ABC!!)
OK, at first glance, the schedule might look mediocre – but (like your skinny Uncle Frank who polishes off 5 full helpings for Thanksgiving) looks can be deceiving. There are some good games out there, and you won’t have to be on the right end of the wish bone to find them.
– Thursday 11/22,
It’s been awhile since
had THE game to watch on Thanksgiving, but finally they’ve pulled it off. A Divisional battle between the Packers and Lions is just what the doctor ordered. And you get to watch the whole thing while stealing nibbles from the turkey while your significant other tells you you’ll ruin your apatite. (As if THAT were possible…)
Losing a heartbreaker to the NY Giants, the Lions and QB
Jon Kitna (377 yards passing last week and a 6th best 2673 yards on the season) are a staple at our Thanksgiving table once again. After their best start to a season in years, the Lions have dropped two straight – including a heartbreaker last week to the Giants. Their task doesn’t get any easier on Thursday; we know facing
this Thanksgiving will not be an easy task – but being ranked 7th in the NFL in points and 9th in passing yards certainly helps. The Detroit offense with a
finally healthy RB Kevin Jones (339 yards and 5 TDs), and sporting WR standouts
Roy Williams (613 yards and 5TDs) and
Shaun McDonald (519 yards and 4TDs), are having their most productive year in the better part of a decade. And while many laughed at Kitna’s early season precognitive abilities when he predicted the Lions would win 10, are definitely within striking distance of that mark – especially with a win on Turkey Day. Now if only the Detroit O could get a little help from the D… The Lions are a near worst in passing defense in the league, and only 24th in scoring D. Maybe the promise of a “Turducken” will make them hungry enough to rise up and stop the Packers.
, the “other” 9-1 team in the NFC (let’s be honest –
gets MUCH more attention), brings in a confident offense, a staunch defense, and are staking a claim to be the NFC’s rep in the Super Bowl. QB
Brett Favre is having a fantastic year, such as this past Sunday versus
when he posted his fourth game of the season with at least 3 touchdowns. Similar to
is a pass happy team, but do an even better job through the air – ranking 1st in average pass yards (298 ypg) than the Lions. It doesn’t hurt that the Pack has quality WRs like
Donald Driver (22nd in receiving yards) and
Greg Jennings (6th in receiving TDs with six). But the Pack has HAD to pass since they currently rank dead last in rushing yards (77 ypg). RB
Ryan Grant (266 yards in four games as the main RB) might be the answer to that rushing problem, but only if he can stay healthy. The key to this game, though, is that the Packers have something that the Lions don’t – a defense that doesn’t let opponents score points. Led by MLB
Nick Barnett (74 total tackles) and 2nd year standout
AJ Hawk (59 total tackles) the Packer defense limits teams to less than 16 points a game on average and has only surrendered 3 touchdowns twice this season.
Hey, this game is between division rivals, they both love to pass and hate to run. It’s going to be a no holds barred, air it out, exciting time. So cook the bird early, put an extra helping of gravy on the stuffing, and get the double slice of pecan pie in front of you before 12:30pm… because you’re not going to want to miss any of this ‘Game to Watch’!
– Sunday 11/25,
We love a good Cinderella story, as do many of you we’re sure (and we’re not talking Disney flicks… were talking sports teams). Think of some of the great Cinderella teams in our lifetime – we’re talking about teams like the 1985 Villanova Men’s Basketball team, the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, and now the 2007 Cleveland Browns or Houston Texans football teams. Well, ok… the Browns and Texans aren’t really in the same league with the ‘Cats or the Miracle on Ice boys, but you gotta’ admit that you didn’t think either of these squads would be good, let alone both challenging for playoff spots in the AFC.
Since the departure of QB David Carr, and the arrival of
Matt Shaub, the players for
as well as fans have noticed a difference – coincidence? Hardly. And it’s not just a fresh attitude that is translating into top ten averages in yards and points per game. Shaub (1658 yards and 5 TDs) has brought life to an offense that had only 6 wins in 2006. WR
Kevin Walter (545 yards and 1 TD) has led the team in receptions and yards in the absence of WR
Andre Davis (441 yards and 3 TD), who last week came back off of the injury list. Shared duties at RB with
Ahman Green (260 yards / 2 TD) and
Ron Dayne (348 yards / 2 TD) have complemented the passing game that the Texans have finally found. Too bad the same can’t be said for a Texans offense that is middle of the road in most measures, except scoring D, where they are even worse than the average team – giving up almost 24 points a game.
, to everyone’s surprise, has found a hero in QB
Derek Anderson. His 2231 yards and 20 TD have put him in the top 9 in yardage and 4th best in TD tosses – not bad for a guy that Baltimore thought wasn’t good enough for them.
, traditionally known as a running team, has found points through the air with talent like WR
Braylon Edwards (752 yards and 10 TD) and TE
Kellen Winslow (703 yards and 4 TD). Did we mention both of those guys are in the top 8 in the league in receiving? That’s amazing considering the talent around the NFL these days. On the ground, RB
Jamal Lewis (515 yards and 6 TD) leads the team and keeps opposing defenses honest. And not only is this team competing for a wildcard spot, but it is well within reach of winning the division outright if Pittsburgh falters again like they did against the hapless Jets. Like
, their defense isn’t really helping matters… in fact, it’s the sole thing holding this team back from being a dangerous contender with teams like
and Indy. They rank last or near last in every defensive category, and they make sure no matter how good the offense is, that any opponent is always in the game.
In short, if you combine these two team’s wins from last season, you end up with a record of 10-22, last place in their respective divisions, and shoe-ins for early draft picks in 2007. Fast forward to the present, you’re now looking at two teams who have a legitimate shot to both grab playoff spots in the tough AFC, especially if they can muster a little defense.
Cinderella stories? The jury is still out, but we’ve judged this contest a darn good ‘Game to Watch’ between two teams that you just might be seeing more of come January.
– Sunday 11/25,
What would our Thanksgiving edition of ‘Games to Watch’ be without a good old fashioned Thanksgiving story? The traditional story we were all told as children goes something like this: The pilgrims sailed to the shores of the new world, and then ran into some hard times. They needed the Indians help to survive in the hostile climate, and then to show their thanks, they celebrated after the harvest with food, feasting, and praise. In other words, exactly the story of this week’s
game. Ok, right about now you’re thinking we’ve dipped into our Thanksgiving wine a little early, but you’ll see – it all fits.
Remember back in 1976, when a new football franchise came to the shores of the NFL? Yep, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sailed onto the scene and promptly faced some hard times in the hostile climate of the NFL – becoming one of the poster children for poor play in professional football. Flash forward to 2002, and the Bucs win the Super Bowl, but then they begin to slide back into their losing ways once again.
is fighting hard to come back from last year’s 4-12 flop. This year the Bucs have still struggled, but they can get some real help from the Redskins in order to survive this season with a good enough record to go to the playoffs. Should
oblige and lose the game, there will be plenty of feasting and praise by the
Tampa can help themselves, too – and already have behind the play of QB
Jeff Garcia who has played smart all season, as evidenced by his 6th spot among NFL quarterbacks in efficiency rating, and even more importantly by his 2nd best interception numbers among signal-callers with a measly 3 for the whole season. Don’t let yourself think he just plays it safe though, he is in the top 12 in passing yardage. The Bucs are also in the top half of the league in rushing yards per game, which is more impressive when you realize that they are down to their 3rd RB when both
Carnell Williams and
Michael Pittman were injured. But RB
Earnest Graham has performed well (556 yards and 5 TDs), even managing to be tied for 10th in TDs among NFL rushers. WR
Joey Galloway is doing his part as well (711 yards / 6 TDs), one of the NFL’s top 20 wide-outs and the 3rd best yard per catch average. But maybe
’s best weapon is their defense. Top 5 overall, 3rd best against the pass, and second best in scoring D (only giving up 15.1ppg) – the Tampa D is certainly keeping them in every game. LB
Barrett Rudd has been particularly outstanding for the Buccaneers: 83 tackles (61 solo), 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. Smart play on BOTH sides of the ball is why
is leading the NFC South, and a win this weekend will really put them in the driver’s seat for their division.
But the Redskins don’t plan to go lightly. QB
Jason Campbell has been average so far, but has managed to top 2000 yards. That’s not bad, considering he isn’t getting much help from his WRs who seem to be allergic to catching TD passes, and only manage one guy in the top 40 receivers (WR
Antwaan Randel El). TE
Chris Cooley doesn’t get gobs of yardage, but he is tied for 9th with 6 TDs. The heart of the
offense is RB
Clinton Portis, whose 802 yards is 6th best in the NFL and his 6 TDs tie him for 5th among running backs this year. And don’t let
’s 5-5 record fool you, either – they are a better team than their record shows. Keep in mind that their 5 losses came to some of the best teams in the NFL right now; the two best teams in the NFC,
, as well as a Giants team that looks playoff bound as well, sporting one of the NFC’s better records, and undefeated
. Only their slip up two weeks ago against Philly was a loss to a team playing worse than 7-3.
So pull up the TV trays, start chowing down on those turkey sandwiches (make sure to put some leftover stuffing on the sandwiches – trust us, you’ll thank us later), open up that pumpkin spice beer your micro-brew loving friend dropped by with, and loosen your belt for the 7th time over the long weekend. And watch this Thanksgiving story unfold.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!
— Chris & Tom