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Games to Watch – Week 14

Hello fellow Sharks! From now right up through 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 Fantasy PRE-Wind
podcast), and our “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:

Cincinnati

@

Minnesota

– Sunday 12/13,

1:00pm

We had
originally planned to compare this game to the movie “The Quick and the
Dead”. If you imagine the NFL schedule
to be a series of tournament style wild west showdowns, you would expect two of
the best gunslingers to kill the competition, one by one, until they sat atop
their respective divisions, and were just waiting for one final gunfight. But comparing these two offenses as gunslingers
would just make you think that it would all rest on the shoulders of Brett
Favre and Carson Palmer. Nothing could
be farther from the truth. Instead of
gunslingers, this battle is much more like two opposing tanks hurtling headlong
at each other – both firing volleys of shots at the enemy, able to run over
anything in their way, and covered by a thick armor-plated hide, providing some
of the best defense imaginable. (We like
to think General George S. Patton Jr. just cried a tear of joy at the beauty of
our analogy, but with his strategic mind he’s probably planning for the fantasy
playoffs in the after-life.)

The
Bengals’ Carson Palmer (2547yd/16TD/10int) is one of the NFL greats, and he
continues to fire deadly volleys of passes at opposing defenses. His receiving corps sports a slightly more
humble (we did say *slightly*) Chad Ochosinco (910yd/62rec/6TD), who makes for
a dangerous target and an even more dangerous affront to the delicate
sensibilities of the NFL league offices.
When the Bengals can’t connect on shots against the opposition, they
simply run right over them, crushing them beneath the heels of Cedric Benson (969yd/6TD),
who looks like a man on a mission since arriving in Cincy. Built not only for dominating offense this
year, the Bengals defense is more than enough to strike fear into the hearts of
those on the opposite side of the ball.
Dhani Jones (80tkl/3sack) provides run stopping power (Cincy is #1 in
the NFL against the run), while the Bengals secondary has 11 interceptions –
anchored by CB Jonathen Joseph (51tkl/5int/1TD). The Bengals are no longer Carson Palmer
having to win a shootout at the OK Corral; they are an offensive and defensive
machine that has chewed up opponents (sweeping all six games in their division,
notably against the Steelers and Ravens) and left them broken and bruised
underfoot.

The
Minnesota Vikings were a team built on the back of one of the NFL’s great
rushers, Adrian Peterson (1103yd/12TD).
And while Peterson can still roll over the opposition like a set of
two-ton steel treads, the Vikings upgraded their offense by adding a cannon to
their arsenal, in the form of Brett Favre (3149yd/26TD/5int). Favre has cut WAY down on his interceptions
in 2009, and even at 40-years of age, still fires the ball downfield to targets
like Sidney Rice (1036yd/63rec/4TD) and Percy Harvin (681yd/48rec/6TD). This is an offense built to blast away at
opponents, weakening their defense, and then rolling over them like so much
debris. Just like the Bengals, though,
the Vikings aren’t just scary offensively – the defensive might they bring to
the battlefield is truly frightening.
With guys like Jarred Allen (38tkl/12.5sack/1int/3forced fum) and E.J.
Henderson (83tkl/2sack) on the defense, the Vikings form a wall against rushing
attacks (ranked 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed) – and make
opposing QBs pay if they hang onto the ball.
The Vikings have crushed their division, much like the Bengals, and are
outscoring the opposition by 123 points this year (third only to the undefeated
squads in New Orleans and Indy).
The Vikings bear down on their opponents like several tons of steel
flattening anything that stands in their way.

So forget
about any gunslinger references the NFL talking heads make on the pre-game shows…
these are truly two of the NFL’s best war machines in every sense of the
word. Cannon-like arms, rushing attacks
that simply run through the opposition rather than around them, and
impenetrable defenses – Patton would be proud to ride either of these teams
into battle, and he’d relish the chance to see them square off this
Sunday. This is a ‘Game to Watch’ – and
that’s an order soldier!!

San Diego

@

Dallas

– Sunday 12/13,

4:15pm

offense in check.It’s a
busy weekend at the Dolfi household; December is in full swing and the scent of
the holidays hangs heavy in the air. It’s not the scent of the freshly cut pine
tree in the living room, or the peppermint candy canes hanging from the tree,
and it’s not even the smell of the Yule log in the fireplace where Braun once
thought it would be smart to light off fireworks from last New Years (that’s
another story for another column). It’s
the heavenly aroma from the kitchen. Yes, the name “Dolfi” has a deep rich
Italian heritage, and each year like a finely tuned machine Dolfi invites
friends and family to form an assembly line to create his famous Christmas
Ravioli. Whoever works in the kitchen that day simply wants to dive in and eat
until their palates are satisfied; it has become a December tradition. December
traditions are everywhere when you think about it: ‘Secret Santa’ gift
exchanges, holiday bonuses, and Dallas Cowboys struggling (yes, we’re sick of
hearing about that stat, too). But food
for thought, there is another stat you might not know about December; the
Chargers have won 15 consecutive December games dating back to 2006, the
longest streak in NFL history. Put Dallas’s December woes, and the Bolts beautiful
win streak aside, both of these teams know what is at stake at this point in
the season – it’s go big or go home. And it all adds up for one heck of a ‘Game
to Watch’.It’s been
about 4 years since San Diego faced Dallas, and the Chargers have a
completely different look. MVP candidate Phillip Rivers (3311yd/21TD/6int)
didn’t have the season that he is having right now, and his two top receivers
Antonio Gates (994yd/67rec/4TD) and Vincent Jackson (869yd/51rec/7TD) were just
having their careers get underway. The only one who might have a clear memory
might be LaDanian Tomlinson (562yd/9TD), who has been a major contributor to
the offensive success to the Chargers in their 7 game streak. Antonio Cromartie
(27tkl/3int) and Shaun Phillips (52tkl/7sack/6forced fum) look to keep up their
aggressive ways on defense, and contain the attacking Dallas offense in check.

We said
it earlier, but you’re probably about as sick of hearing the words “Dallas” and
“December” put together in media coverage as much as “Lindsay Lohan” and
“drinking binge”. Dallas knows what they have to do, and
even though a schedule doesn’t favor an easy ride, Tony Romo (3325yd/20TD/7int)
and Jason Witten (744yd/73rec/1TD) are going to look to do what they do best
against the Chargers LB corps. Factor in the emergence of WR Miles Austin
(928yd/52rec/9TD) and a ground game split between Marion Barber (669yd/4TD) and
Felix Jones (427yd/2TD) and it becomes very obvious why the Cowboys are 3rd in
the entire NFL in total yardage. Defensively, Demarcus Ware (47tkl/9sack/3forced
fum), Mike Jenkins (38tkl/4int), and company look to slow down the San Diego passing and running game, and
help prove to the coast-to-coast critics that past history doesn’t predict
future performance.

This Sunday
the following is going to be happening at the Dolfi homestead: About 2:00pm “Dolfi Style” Ravioli will be
made (we would give you the recipe, but Nona, god rest her soul, would haunt us
for eternity). About 3:30pm Braun will be slurring his words
from the spiced Eggnog. And about 4:05pm the kitchen helpers will be moving
the big screen TV from the kitchen back into the living room as everyone gets
set to watch San Diego at Dallas.
If they won’t miss it, why would you?

Philadelphia

@ New York Giants – Monday 12/13,

8:20pm

As we sit
here writing this, the painful rumbling from our stomachs has increased in
volume and severity enough to have us popping Zantac like Tic-Tacs. It could be
from the five varieties of shrimp we ate at the Chinese buffet last night
(Japanese, Walnut, Deep Fried, Honey, and Lemon Pepper). It could also be that
Vinnie in the cubicle next to us has had a few visitors lately, and by the
discussions we overheard, we’re afraid our friend might have to make some
“payments” of belated gambling debts in donated plasma (or body parts). OR,
maybe it could just be nervous anticipation for a do-or-die game this Sunday just
after 8pm, when the Eagles take the bus north to the Meadowlands and play in
the current Giants stadium for their last regular season meeting.

The
Giants are basically on a roller coaster ride this year. Early in the season
they were among the league elite. They then go on a 4 game skid, to look like a
team on the decline. But they are on
another upswing after completing the sweep against the Cowboys last week. Eli
Manning (2925yd/20TD/11int) has been instrumental in the team’s wins but even when
he is off his game, this Giants offense has found ways to win (like last week when
Manning only managed 11 completions). Manning loves to air it out to Steve
Smith (979yd/78rec/5TD) and rookie Mario Manningham (675yd/46rec/4TD). On the
ground, Brandon Jacobs (722yd/4TD) is beginning to find his rhythm, and Ahmad
Bradshaw (596yd/4TD) is one of the NFL’s best “change of pace” backs.
Defensively, the Giants have given up more points than anyone else in the
division, but hold opponents to just over 300ypg, which puts them at the 6th
place entire NFL. If they can avoid
giving up the big play, this is a team that can be very dangerous.

The
Eagles locked up the services of Coach Andy Reid this week, keeping him in the
City of Brotherly Love through 2013. Donovan McNabb (2427yd/16TD/6int)
has had a very successful career under Reid (even factoring in a disappointing
Super Bowl loss), but this year is a bit different. With new youthful weapons
around him at the receiver position in DeSean Jackson (769yd/44rec/6TD), Jeremy
Maclin (623yd/46rec/4TD), and out of the backfield in RB LeSean McCoy
(530yd/3TD), many questioned how far the Eagles might go due to a youthful
learning curve. Yet there they sit at the top of the division vying for
dominance against the rival Cowboys. On the opposite side of the ball, Trent
Cole (42tkl/9.5sack/1fum) has proven to be a formidable foe for offensive
linemen, and giving up just about 300ypg, puts them in nearly the same
statistical boat as the Giants – minus giving up the big play. If Assante Samuel (30tkl/7int) gets the
opportunity to make a break on the ball, he can make it a very long day for an
opposing QB.

There you have it – an NFC East battle that will
have a major impact on who wins this division, and the NFC Wildcard race. While you prepare for one of this weekend’s
truly great games, we’re going to slip out for some Tums, Rolaids, Alka
Seltzer, Imodium, or a cocktail of all four. We just can’t stomach the
anticipation of Sunday Night Football. Forget about Philly’s easy victory over
the Giants earlier this year – that game was an aberration, and these two teams
know each other as well as any two teams in the NFL which always makes for a
great coaching battle and an even better battle in the trenches. It’s going to be a dogfight for sure and most
certainly one of the best ‘Games to Watch’ this week.

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