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Games to Watch – Week 13

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 ‘Side 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:

We don’t know if it is the 10,000 people on line at the Piggly Wiggly getting ingredients to make pecan pie, or the Food Network having 20 shows dedicated to how to make gravy, but we can’t wait until Thanksgiving. We’re going to do the deep fry thing this year, inject about 2 lbs of butter and herbs into the turkey, and basically let the tryptophan lull us into a deep slumber during the Detroit game. (Tennessee @ Detroit – smells like ‘Turduckin’ for Jeff Fisher.) Heck, we don’t even know if we’d need the turkey to fall asleep during that one). Anyway, that is our recipe for a great turkey… but that is not the only recipe we’re serving up for you this week…

Our secret recipe for Thanksgiving Football ‘Games to Watch’:

2 Thanksgiving birds

3 cups of bitter history

6 heaping teaspoons of desire to make playoffs

4 tablespoons of solid defense

2 slices of stud running backs

A pinch of aerial attack

A dash of a divisional rivalry

Mix well and put in a pressure cooker for 180 minutes. Pound three teams flat. Let the winners rise. Digest immediately.*

*For best results, serve with angry, tirade-laced press conference afterward.

Arizona

@

Philadelphia

– Thursday 11/27,

8:15pm

There are three things we can state with 100% assurance this Thanksgiving holiday. First, you will eat far too much. Second, when you have determined you have eaten too much, you will then unbutton your pants and grab just one more helping. Third, No matter what time your family eats Thanksgiving dinner, you’re going to be nursing a turkey sandwich later that evening and watching the “Battle of the Birds” on Thanksgiving night. (That is why this game edges out the Giants / Redskins game, which should be a good one, for one of our “Games to Watch” this week.)  Sure, we know it isn’t the marquis match-up you hoped for, but it’ll be better than watching the Lions get creamed by the Titans or the Cowboys trashing the Seahawks. And really – this game isn’t as bad as you might think, despite the horrible offensive performances the Eagles put up in their last two contests. So relax, throw some left-over turkey on a roll, make sure you put some stuffing right on the sandwich, and settle back into your each chair to see a solid NFL Thanksgiving Day offering… at least until you finally succumb to the tryptophan.

The Cardinals face their second old NFC East divisional opponent in a row when they face off against the Eagles in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving night. QB Kurt Warner (3506yd / 21TD / 8int) is having an MVP-type season, and is currently the second most efficient QB in the league. It shows in the Arizona offensive stats, too. The Cards have the second best passing game in the NFL, which is in no small part due to WRs Larry Fitzgerald (72rec / 1010yd / 6TD) and Anquan Boldin (73rec / 879yd / 11TD) – easily the best receiving duo in the league right now. Their suspect run game seems to be turning around under rookie RB Tim Hightower (320yd / 9TD), who hasn’t been gaining much yardage, but has proven reliable in finding the end zone. The Cards defense had a tough time holding down the Giants this past weekend, even with a defense ranked in the top ten in overall defense and in rushing defense. But they are looking to have some better success against an Eagles team whose offense seems to be in complete disarray right now.

On the surface, it might seem like the Eagles have little chance in this match-up, but Philadelphia should keep this one close not only because the history between these two teams are filled with close late-season contests (from when they were NFC East opponents), but also because Philadelphia seems to have an amazing talent in the past few years to rip off several wins once they are basically out of the playoff picture. QB Donovan McNabb (2770yd / 14TD / 10int) was benched for the first time in his career this past week when he floundered badly against the Ravens (after playing equally as poorly in the game before against the hapless Bungles… err… Bengals). Kevin Kolb isn’t the answer to the Eagles woes, though, so expect to see Donny Mac start this weekend. The run game is nearly non-existent right now, with RB Brian Westbrook (547yd / 6TD) still not back 100% from injury earlier this season. WR DeSean Jackson (47rc / 699yd / 1TD) is the Eagles only real receiving threat, but genius-in-his-own-mind Coach Andy Reid, seems to avoid looking for Jackson in the red zone. Go figure. What makes the Eagles dangerous right now is their defense. Ranked #6 in overall defense and #10 in scoring defense (20.8ppg), the Eagles D is equally adept at stopping the run or the pass (top eleven in both categories). The Eagles are also leading the entire NFL in sacks right now (39) – quite a step up for a team that had trouble pressuring the QB in the past two seasons. They are also top ten in forcing fumbles – and their offense needs every bit of that help. If DEs Trent Cole and Jaqua Parker can keep up their pressure (12 sacks and 8 tackles for losses between them), Philly can make this one exciting.

Well, the only thing better than one bird on Thanksgiving is two – and this game has got them. You get a helping of nostalgic old-school NFL East divisional rivalry, and a tough defense against one of the NFL’s top offenses. It just doesn’t get much better than that. A win for the Cards should lock up the NFC West for them, a win for the Eagles lets them charge fans for playoff tickets that will likely never materialize unless they run the table and get some help from lots of possible NFC wildcard contenders. So when your Thanksgiving dinner is over, watch these two teams turn up the heat… and while we don’t know which team will win for sure, in the end one bird will be just right, while the other will just be cooked.

Pittsburgh

@

New England

– Sunday 11/30,

4:15pm

Even though it is out of division, these two teams have ruined one another playoff hopes in recent years, and a regular season match-up will bring one of them pleasure as the teams are trying to win their own respective divisions. Even if neither of these teams eventually wins their division, there is no doubt this game will have major implications in the AFC Wildcard race.

Pittsburgh doesn’t have enough running backs on it’s roster to run the “turkey” wishbone (in case you haven’t noticed, we’re trying to “pepper” in as many Thanksgiving references as possible… consider this a warning), but it’s foundation with oft injured RBs Willie Parker (485yds / 4TD) and former 3rd stringer Meweldi Moore (432yd / 5TD) has been establishing the workload for the team in several of its wins. QB Ben Roethlisberger (2233yd / 11TD) has not had a gravy year under center, with his shoulder becoming a nuisance as the season wears on. Typically he looks to veteran WRs Hines Ward (718yd / 5TD) or Santonio Holmes (566yd / 2TD) on the opposite ends of his throws when he wants to wing it out there. The most notable thing about the Steelers though is on the defensive side of the ball. Its #1 defensive ranking (allowing just 14.5 ppg *and* a meager 235.4 yards total on average) gives the offense some wiggle room to develop a recipe to score points. Main ingredients on defense include LB James Farrior, with 81 tackles on the season, the always exciting Troy Palamalu (5int), not to mention a great defensive line that does the stuffin’.

New England might be without Brady, but they have more than a few pilgrims who are stepping up to the challenge of filling the void. With three-quarters of the season complete, Matt Cassel (2615yd / 13TD) exploded in Miami last week with 415 yards passing, and has struggled at times to fill the void left by the Tom Brady injury. But lately Cassel has been using the trimmings around him to salt some games away. WR Randy Moss (740yd / 8TD) and Wes Welker (838yd / 1TD) have been main ingredients of the Pats success as of late. And while the Pats have been hit by the injury bug at running back as well, they have recently been reheating some leftovers as their main RB dish. RBs Kevin Faulk (372 yards / 3 TD) and Sammy Morris (356 yards/ 4 TD) should get the majority of carries this week. The aging Patriots defense has been

Listen… when Sunday rolls around, you should be exhausted from your hard Thursday of gluttony, your Black Friday purchase of Rock Band World Tour, and your Saturday filled with buying a Christmas tree. So just relax on Sunday, grab whatever leftovers are left, top them off with a river of brown gravy, and get ready to watch one of the best games of the week. It’s a recipe of disaster for one of these two teams, but a delicious match-up of happiness for football fans everywhere.

Chicago

@

Minnesota

– Sunday 11/30,

8:15pm

Our final heapin’ helpin’ of some football hospitality* features a divisional rivalry that will go a long way in deciding who will eventually win the hotly contested NFC North. Sure, the NFC North isn’t one of the NFL’s strongest divisions, but they sure are one of the most balanced. Except for divisional (and NFL) whipping boys, the Detroit Lions, you have Chicago, Minnesota, sitting atop the division in a tie at 6-5, with the dangerous Green Bay Packers trailing just a game behind at 5-6. And with teams like Tampa Bay, Carolina, Dallas, and Washington ahead of them in the NFC Wildcard race, it is win the division or go home for the NFC North. Whoever wins this one gets an early Christmas present in the form of the divisional lead, the losers will likely be spending January in their multi-million dollar mansions complete with personal chefs and Jacuzzis. Hmm – while that might not sound like it’s a hardship – remember that not making the playoffs forces them to spend a few solid months with their wives at home with them every day. *shudder*

*[Editor’s Note: In accordance of our agreement with both CBS and Filmways Productions, we’d like to remind all of our “Black Friday” holiday shoppers that all 274 episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies are available on 44 DVDs for your gift purchasing pleasure. Seriously guys – please stop getting FantasySharks.com into these legal messes, especially around the holidays. Please? –sigh-]

The Chicago Bears are still true to their blue-collar roots; they rely on running the ball and a solid defense to wear their opponents into submission. Rookie RB Matt Forte (909ru yd / 6ru TD / 45rec / 336rec yd / 3rec TD) is closing in on a 1000-yard rushing season, and his 45 receptions give him almost 50% more catches than the closest receiver. Forget about being a big part of the offense, right now Forte IS the offense. QB Kyle Orton (2049yd / 11TD / 4int) is just expected to manage the game without turning the ball over, and he’s done well in that roll this season. The best actual receiver on the team is a tight end, TE Greg Olsen (33rec / 391yd / 2TD), which shows you how little this team focuses on the pass. Chicago’s defense is probably better at getting the Bears field position than their offense. Ranked #2 in the league in interceptions (17) certainly helps. LB Brian Urlacher (7 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions) always plays solid, and Safety Kevin Payne gets fan points not only for his 3 interceptions, 63 tackles, and 1 sack, but for a great football name, too. Now if the Bears could find someone to score besides Matt Forte and K Robbie Gould, they’d really be dangerous.

The Minnesota Vikings have a lot in common with their divisional rivals. They feature one of the top NFL rushers, try not to get too crazy throwing the ball around, and rely on a solid defense to keep them close. RB Adrian Peterson (1180yd / 8TD) is putting together another great season to thumb his nose at “Sophomore Slump” believers, and one of only two NFL running backs averaging over 100-yards a game this season. Aging veteran QB Gus Frerotte (1877yd / 11TD / 12int) needs to learn to not turn the ball over as much and let Peterson and the defense win him some games. His dismal QB rating of 75.0 ranks him just 26th in the league – Fre-rotten. WR Bernard Berrian (34rec / 673yd / 4TD) is leading the Vikes receiving crew, but just like the Bears, leading Minnesota in receiving is like saying you’re the smartest kid that rides the short bus. Almost no one in the league stops the run better than the Vikings, allowing just 70.4 yards per game on the ground each week. DT Kevin Williams and DE Jarred Allen have combined for 16.5 sacks and 8 tackles for losses – anchoring a Minnesota D-line that can push the opposition around.

Well, there you have it, another “Game to Watch” that you just aren’t going to want to miss – no matter how much the kids beg you to put on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Tell them they’ll just have to wait for one of the other 41 opportunities to see it before Christmas and if they don’t let you watch the game in peace, you’re liable to Scrooge them on Christmas. And right about the time we find out which of these two is in the lead of the NFC North, you’ll have polished off the very last bit of stuffing, and even licked the bottom of the gravy bowl. And you can begin thinking about that Christmas feast in less than a month. 😉

Happy Thanksgiving from Chris, Tom, and the entire FantasySharks.com family!!

About Fantasy Sharks

FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.