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:
Well, any of you that listen to our “Week in Review” Podcast know that Tom Braun is sick as a dog. Chris Dolfi on the other hand is the picture of health… at least for a man who never eats vegetables, carries a few extra pounds, and a cholesterol level that reads like an SAT score. So it’s a Braun-free zone this week and Dolfi is forced to fly solo – like a kid who’s bi-costal divorcee parents shuttle him back on forth between holidays. And in keeping with the sickness theme, I’ll be showing you which games you’re going to want to watch… stat. Braun isn’t the only one feeling sick, plenty of NFL teams are feeling playoff fever – and they definitely are NOT looking for it to be cured with a loss this weekend. Let’s see which games have the prescription to cure your boredom this weekend with the pulse-pounding action you crave like an octogenarian craves fiber.
Jets @ Tennessee – Sunday 11/23,
The Jets are looking better than they have in years and are currently leading the competitive AFC East, and the Titans are the model of NFL health sitting pretty at an unblemished 10-0 so far this season. About the only thing that could make either of these squads sick would be a loss this weekend. A Jets loss would set them back in their bid to take over the tough AFC East, and they would be tied with the winner of the New England and Miami game this weekend; a Titans loss would show the rest of the NFL that they are beat-able, and possibly even give them the blueprint to do so.
The Jets offense is certainly more explosive than it has been in the past few years. QB Brett Favre (2237yd / 18TD / 12int) can beat almost anyone when he’s hot, but can be a bit of a wild gun (his 12 interceptions this season are a clear sign of that). Favre has quality WRs to help him in the aerial attack, Jerricho Cotchery (48rec / 597yd / 4TD) and Laveranues Coles (46rec / 525yd / 5TD). TE Dustin Keller (27rec / 341yd / 3TD) has been a solid addition to their arsenal as well. RB Thomas Jones (854yd / 9TD) anchors the running game, and while his 9 TDs are impressive, keep in mind he score 5 of them against two of the worst teams in the NFL this year (the Bengals and the Rams). The Jets D has been middle of the road in overall defense, but against the run they rank 4th best in the NFL this year, giving up just a scant 81 yards a contest. DE Shaun Ellis is the team leader in sacks with 7 so far this season, putting him among the top 12 in the NF and the Jets are the 3rd best in the NFL at getting to the opposition’s QB this season with 34 sacks on the season.
The Titans have been winning games on the back of their defense this season – we know it and their opposition knows it. So let’s take defense first with this team. Ranked #1 is scoring defense, the Titans allow only 13.1 points per week – but holding the opposition under 2 TDs isn’t the only thing they are good at. They rank in the top 10 in both rushing (95.1ypg) and passing (186.7ypg) defense, not to mention #6 in the NFL in sacks (28) and tied for second in the NFL in interceptions (15). DT Albert Haynesworth is one of the defensive standouts to keep your eye on, with 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles so far this season, he’s been an impact player for the Titans. The Tennessee offense has been a great supporting ‘player’ to the defense as the main act this year. QB Kerry Collins (1755yd / 8TD / 4int) has been solid since stepping in for Vince Young, and doesn’t turn the ball over much – a perfect fit for this team. The running game is one of the best in the NFL this year, with RB Chris Johnson (787yd / 5TD) and RB LenDale White (470yd / 11TD) forming a dynamic duo that our friend the Sin City Betbot 6000 calls “Scatty and Fatty”. The receiving game is less impressive, with TE Bo Scaife (44rec / 450yd / 2TD) one of the few receiving threats on the team, with WR Justin Gage (21rec / 376yd / 4TD) the only other name of note – and that’s only because Gage got almost half of all his stats in a single great game against Jacksonville last week. So look for the Titans to play smash-mouth football, running it down the opposition’s throats and playing tough defense not only this week against the Jets, but all season long.
So it’s the Jets offense vs. the Titan defense this week – and while a loss to either team won’t be devastating, it sure is gonna’ make one of these squads a little sick for a while. But one person that won’t be sick is you – because you get to watch a great match-up between two of the NFL’s best. And while I think preliminary tests show that the Titans are the likely winner, the final results will be decided on the field. But no matter what the final diagnosis is, I can tell you the prognosis equals ‘pain’ for both teams in this clash of AFC playoff contenders.
– Sunday 11/23,
This isn’t our first AFC East divisional battle to make the ‘Games to Watch’ column, and we doubt it will be the last. But you can’t argue that this one has some bad blood causing problems between these two squads, and no doctor is gonna’ be able to cure that – it’ll take an all out slugfest between two teams trailing the division leading Jets by only a game. The Dolphins Joey Porter has been talking smack about the Pats all week, but give him a break – when was the last time a Dolphin could talk smack… and mean it?!?
The Patriots offense isn’t so much sick, as seriously injured this season, with the loss of one of the NFL’s best signal-callers, Tom Brady, early in game one of this season. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? Right? Well, let’s just stick with it doesn’t kill you, and still allows you to compete for the division title. QB Matt Cassel (2200yd / 10TD / 7int) has had some big shoes to fill, but it’s not like he doesn’t have talent around him to ease the burden. The receiving corps is still top-notch, and guys like WRs Randy Moss (46rec / 615yd / 5TD) and Wes Welker (72rec / 718yd / 1TD) give any QB quality targets. But the run game has been the mainstay of the Pats this year, and that’s without a real stud at the RB position. Their multitude of RBs (five different starting RBs over the course of this season) has put up the 8th best rushing total of the NFL this season. Running backs Kavin Faulk (319yd / 2TD) and rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis (252yd / 4TD) are the current duo splitting carries and trying to keep the Pats from putting too much pressure on Cassel to win. The Pats defense has become much more important this season, since they can no longer rely on multiple TD leads in games, but they have been up to the challenge – ranking 12th in total defense (308.4ypg) and 9th in scoring defense (19.4ppg).
The Miami Dolphins haven’t been a team to watch for a looooong time, but they are changing critics’ minds so far this season. In a dog-fight in the tough AFC East, the Dolphins are proving they aren’t as soft as they have been in years past. Jets-transplant QB Chad Pennington (2374yd / 8TD / 5int) has been decent, if unspectacular this season. Thankfully, Pennington hasn’t been called on to do much for a team that relies on the run, as seen by the solid numbers put up by RBs Ronnie Brown (603yd / 9TD) and (former?) herb-lover Ricky Williams (437yd / 3TD) this season. Rookie WR Ted Ginn Jr. (38rec / 508yd / 1TD) has been a solid addition to the Dolphins and WR Greg Camarillo (49rec / 538yd / 1TD) not only leads the team in receiving, but impressed the Dolphins brass enough to ink him to a 3-year contract with Miami to keep him with the team through 2011. Miami’s defense has regained some of their stature lost in the past few years, and is in the top ten in both scoring defense (19.7ppg) and rushing defense (91.3ypg allowed). LB Joey Porter is doing more than just talking smack, he’s walking the walk this season with a league-leading 13.5 sacks this season to go along with forced fumbles.
Miami might have been suffering from a lack of self-esteem over the past few seasons, but a victory here could be the cure to that problem, not to mention being a step closer to the top of their division. The Pats are down, but definitely NOT out – and are still a roadblock for any AFC East team. No matter which team wins, the AFC East will feel the affects, and the losing team will be choking down some “bad medicine” – not to mention falling behind in the tight divisional race. No matter who wins this battle, both sides are sure to need some aspirin and ice-packs when it’s all over. And if anyone needs some medical-marijuana, we’re pretty sure we know who can get it… 😉
Giant @ Arizona – Sunday 11/23,
For the third “Game to Watch” this week, we give you a NFC East battle… well, sort of. The Arizona Cardinals used to be the cure to any NFC East team’s losing streak, acting as the penicillin for their divisional rivals. But in 2002, with the NFL realignment, they got moved to the more politically- and geographically-correct NFC West. The move has proven to be a good one for the Cards, as they are now dominating a division in disarray. Leading the NFC West by four games, and a solid 7-3 record, the Cards are trying to eliminate one more name from the lists of teams to never play in a Super Bowl. But the Giants aren’t just the class of the NFC East, they very well might be the class of the entire NFC, and as defending Super Bowl champs, the Cards have their work cut out for them.
The New York Giants have moved comfortably into the NFC East lead, and the second best record in football, by amassing 9 wins and just 1 loss in their bid to repeat as Super Bowl champions. QB Eli Manning (2079yd / 15TD / 7int) has improved his judgment and cut down on his interceptions, making him an actual NFL threat rather than the media-created one that the NFL has been trying to sell us since Eli joined the league. The Giants run-game of Brandon Jacobs (879yd / 11TD) and Derrick Ward (531yd / 1TD) leads the entire league in rushing – and has been instrumental in keeping defenses from keying on Eli and the pass game. WRs Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, and Steve Smith (the “other” Steve Smith), the Giants three pronged receiving attack has combined for 112 receptions, 1176 yards, and 7 TDs this season, and TE Kevin Boss (19rec / 217yd / 4TD) has become a reliable red-zone target for Eli in the past few weeks. But the Giants good offense isn’t even their biggest weapon – it’s their dominating defense. Near the top of the NFL in almost every defensive statistical category, this defense is holding the opposition to just 17 points a contest – not to mention punishing opposing signal-callers with 31 sacks, 4th best in the NFL (and that’s after losing their best two pass rushers this year – one to retirement, one to injury). DE Justin Tuck and LB Mathias Kiwanuka have taken over as the sack leaders on one of the NFL’s most punishing defenses.
The Arizona Cardinals have sudden found that the once-offensively-potent NFC West has become a division ripe for the picking, with three other defenses that rank among the NFL’s worst. But don’t give all the credit for the Cards success to their poor competition in their own division; they are playing solid on both sides of the ball right now. But they will be tested by the hardest part of their schedule down the stretch, beginning with the Giants. QB Kurt Warner (3155yd / 20TD / 7int) looks like the stud fantasy QB he was when he was with St. Louis in their hey-day, and has boosted Arizona to the NFL’s second best passing (305.8ypg) and second best scoring (28.9ppg) squads. WRs Larry Fitzgerald (67rec / 939yd / 6TD) and Anquan Boldin (62rec / 792yd / 10TD) are easily the NFL’s most potent receiving duo this year, and are making opposing secondaries look foolish on a weekly basis. The aging RB Edgerrin James had been ineffective this season, but the switch to rookie RB Tim Hightower (299yd / 7TD) with RB J.J. Arrington (123yd / 1TD) as a change-of-pace-back seems like it will pay dividends in strengthening the poor Cards run attack. The Cards defense has been decent this year as well, especially in stopping the run – limiting the opposition to less than 90 yards a game on the ground.
A win by the Cardinals would go not only a long way in earning the respect of the NFC, but in curing the Arizona post-season drought they have been enduring. The Giants can underscore their dominance with a convincing win, especially against a tough Cardinal’s offense on the road. With two talented offenses in the sunny Arizona weather this weekend, the defenses will be playing a game of “Operation”, and woe be the team whose defense flinches while trying to remove the ‘bread basket’, the ‘adams apple’, or even the ‘wish bone’ of the opposing offense – they won’t just get the buzzer, they’ll get torched for a long TD to boot. So just sit back in your easy chair and watch one of the best match-ups in the NFL as two former division rivals (now NFC playoff rivals) do battle for your entertainment. And just so you don’t get sick like Braun, do what I do – crack open a few brews while you are watching… after all, alcohol does kill germs; it’s a fact.