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), or our column (Brain and Braun), 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:
Eagles @ New York Giants – Sunday 12/17, 4:15pm
Giants Stadium, Meadowlands, NJ
I’m sure any of you who have kids (or once were kids), know that this time of year the Post Office is inundated with letters to Santa Claus. It’s cute to have the kiddies write Santa their ‘wish lists’ and the like, but some people go too far. Especially people who you would think are FAR too old to be mailing Mr. Claus.
Thankfully, we’ve got a friend who works in the Post Office, who loves to open up letters to Santa, read them, and send us ones he thinks we might like – and doesn’t fear time in Federal Prison. And who are we to tell him what he should or shouldn’t do? Especially when it nets us a gem like this:
I never thought I’d still be writing to you, but I need one last gift this season. Sure, I appreciate the gift you gave me against the Eagles in game 2 of this season, and the extra boost against Houston at home was a nice tidbit too, but really – I’m going to need one more.
You see, this weekend the guys from south Philadelphia come to the Meadowlands. You might remember them from the time they pelted you with snowballs several decades ago. I bet you’re still tossing coal in their stockings, hee hee. Maybe that’s why you won’t let them win a championship… Anyway, they have a defense that can’t look bad at times, but they have some talented guys who can really make my life painful if I don’t play well. They are only ranked 17th overall in terms of defense, but their passing D is ranked #7 in the league. They have the 12th most interceptions in the league and the second most interceptions returned for TDs (3). Heck, no one in the NFL has more interception return yardage than the Eagles – with almost 400 yards on the season. So they do scare me a little. Thankfully, their run defense makes people like Ladell Betts look like Barry Sanders, so my buddy Tiki should have a solid day.
That Philly offense is pretty good too, but they seem too be a little too inconsistent. They started out the season hot, winning 4 of 5, but then blew 3 straight games; a first under their coach Andy Reid. They even blew a laugher against Tennessee, but they have bounced back under their new leader, Jeff Garcia, and put away Carolina and Washington to move them in contention for the division crown with us and Dallas. This Garcia does seem to have a spark, kinda like the one I had before we dropped those four games in a row, and that’s what has me worried.
Now Santa, I don’t want you to think I’m asking for a miracle on 34th Street or anything. I mean, we really have some talent ourselves. I mean, I still am one of the top 15 QBs in the league, even with the way I’ve played as of late. My buddy Tiki Barber is #4 in rushing yardage, and he even sat out a couple games. And my new buddy Plaxico Burress doesn’t have a ton of yardage, but is tied for 2nd in receiving TDs with 9 big scores for me and the boys in blue.
But we sure could use some Christmas magic, because so many of my friends are banged up. Overall we are banged up with a slew of injuries this whole year, and with my best defensive buddy Michael Strahan doubtful for this weekend and my kicker Jay Feeley’s foot a little sore, I don’t feel as confident in the defense / special team areas as I would like. Our defense simply has to do better than their #20 ranking indicates, or it could be a long day for us.
So Santa, if you could give me an early Christmas gift of a win this weekend, all would be good with my team, and I wouldn’t have to hear how much better it is in San Diego and that people wish I was there instead of here.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I also want a Dance Dance Revolution arcade game, and one of those giggling Elmo’s – that little guy cracks me up somethin’ fierce. He starts laughing and just doesn’t stop, and then that gets me a-laughin’. Well, anyway…
Thanks Santa, as always I’ll put out some of Mom’s oatmeal-raisin cookies that you seem to like so much and some 2% milk. Man, it’s a good thing you aren’t lactose intolerant, huh?
I’ve been a good boy (I promise),
Well, in any case, this game should be a heck of a match-up between two division rivals with the winner still in the race for the division crown, and the loser having to fight for a Wildcard berth.
Kansas City @ San Diego – Sunday 12/17, 8:15pm
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
We love lists……if you are a regular reader of our column, you know that by now (and based on the emails we get from some of you, you’ve given us your own list of players who you wish would….well…that’s another column in another article).
In fact, speaking of lists, it’s the time of year when lists abound. There is Santa’s list (which if he is getting us that GPS and deep fat fryer we asked for, we promise to polish his sleigh on the 26th). There is the New Years Resolution list (hmmm…..no ring bologna for a full year?!? Sorry, it can’t be done.). And finally, there is the list of seeding in this year’s AFC conference. That last list has one of these teams at the top of it, and the other, just not making the cut.
San Diego has been the most dominant team in the NFL so far, and their 11-2 record has them looking pretty to grab home field advantage throughout the playoffs. And the promise of that big advantage will have them playing hard this week, and that doesn’t look great for Kansas City. LaDainian Tomlinson has already set the NFL single-season TD record with his 29th TD last week. He’s #3 in rushing yards to boot, just 5 yards behind the guy who will be on the opposing team this weekend, Larry Johnson and not far behind NFL leader, Frank Gore (SF). What’s been even more impressive about Tomlinson is that during the team’s current seven game winning streak, he hasn’t scored less than 2 TDs in any of those games – and often 3 or 4. That’s just sick.
But the Bolts success simply isn’t limited to LT2 and the run game. Phillip Rivers has been one of the pleasant surprises in the NFL this season, near the top of the NFL QB leaderboard as the #5 ranked QB this season. He’s put himself in that position by not throwing stupid passes and allowing only 6 interceptions against him for the whole season – which is fantastic for a young QB like Rivers. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a TE like Antonio Gates to make a new starting QB’s confidence soar. Whenever a TE is in the top 20 for receptions and top 21 for yardage, it’s a big help to any QB, especially considering that the TE is often the guy you look to when the deep coverage is tight and things start breaking down. Oh yeah, their top 10 defense certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
But don’t be fooled – even with all that talent on their sideline and playing at home, the Chargers can’t pencil this one in as a win. Kansas City has some pretty big motivators for them in this contest as well.
The Chiefs are in the thick of the Wildcard race in the AFC, but desperately need a win this weekend to at least keep pace with the two current Wildcard teams, Cincinnati and Jacksonville. The recent death of their owner Lamar Hunt could also serve as a rallying point for a KC team that is down, but certainly not out.
The Chief’s aren’t without weapons of their own, however. We already mentioned that one of the two guys who have rushed for more yards than LT2 this year was LJ – Larry Johnson. His 13 TDs (2nd most rushing TDs in the NFL) are nothing to sneeze at either, it’s just that Tomlinson’s 26 rushing TDs make everyone else’s achievements look paltry in comparison. Trent Green is a solid enough QB, and although his early season injury kept him sidelined for a good portion of the year, he’s back leading the offense. Actually backup Damon Huard has been the far better of the two statistically speaking, but he is still valuable on the sideline should KC decide that Green just isn’t getting it done. Oh yeah, just like San Diego, Kansas City is benefited by having the #2 TE in the game behind Gates on their squad – Tony Gonzalez. Gonzo is only a few spots behind Gates on the receiving lists, and he can certainly put up big numbers when the Chief concentrate on getting the ball in his hands.
So, like we said earlier, we love lists. Currently SD is on KC’s “hit” list. If SD wins Sunday, it’s as good as giving KC a “to do” list for the first week in January… which would include cleaning out lockers, making off season plans, and trying to figure out where it all went wrong.
Cincinnati @ Indianapolis – Monday 12/18, 8:30pm
RCA Dome, Indianapolis, IN
Commercials suck. We all hate them. They get in the way of perfectly good TV shows and movies, not to mention breaking up sporting events. Oh sure, they’re good for that quick bathroom break, but isn’t that what they make TiVo for?
Why are we talking about commercials? Well, one of our most hated sets of commercials is anything with Payton Manning in it. Oh, it’s not because we hate Payton or anything – it’s just that he is in FAR too many commercials, and they are b-a-d, bad.
OK – so what the heck does that have to do with anything?!? Well, to be honest, not much – we just wanted to get that off our chests. Also, maybe the Colts would win more games if Payton concentrated on leading his team to victory instead of wearing fake mustaches on TV or asking grocery clerks to autograph loves of bread.
Hey, finally another good Monday night contest! We get to see one of the AFC powerhouses, Indianapolis, going up against one of the two current Wildcard leaders, Cincinnati. These are two teams moving in opposite directions as of late, though.
After three straight losses, the Bengals have rebounded with solid play and put up four big wins in their last four games. On the flip side, the Colts were cruising to home field advantage through the playoffs without dropiing a single game, until 4 weeks ago. After that loss, they dropped two more to go 1-3 in their last four – not exactly what we’ve come to expect from Indy.
The Bengals have benefited from solid play by the receiving corps, lead by Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh. Johnson had been sputtering a bit this season, without a 100+ yard game through his first 8 games, but exploded with a 260 yard outing in week 10 of the NFL season, and hasn’t put up less than 91 yards receiving in any game since then. He currently leads the NFL in receiving yards by a healthy margin of more than 100-yards (1247 yards). But T.J. hasn’t been chopped liver, either. He currently ranks #16 in receiving yardage, just under 900 yards himself. His last 5 have been solid as well, excepting an aberrant performance against New Orleans a couple weeks back. Of course it doesn’t hurt that those two have the NFL’s current 2nd best rated QB in the league throwing to them. Carson Palmer looked shaky to start the season coming back off an injury in last year’s playoffs, but has rebounded to be one of the NFL’s best again. Rudi Johnson, the Bengals RB, is #9 in rushing yardage – another thing keeping Cincy in the Wildcard race.
The Colts certainly have the horses to put up big numbers. We all know when Manning isn’t even playing his best he still ends up as the #6 QB in the league. Heck, he’s still second in passing yardage – which is why the Colts sport two of the NFL’s Top 5 receivers. Marvin Harrison is currently ranked #5 with almost 1100 yards this season, and Reggie Wayne is only behind league leader Johnson at #2 with 1,129 yards himself. Wayne is also tied for #5 in receiving TDs with 8 on the season – not too shabby for ‘the other guy besides Harrison’. The lack of a strong running game has hampered them a little bit, but Joseph Addai is serviceable. What’s killing Indy is their defense right now. They’re in the lower half of the NFL in yardage allowed (ranked 18th), but they give up FAR too many big plays right now – the 22.7 points per game they give up tie them for 24th among NFL defenses.
The Bengals NEED a win here to keep their hold on a Wildcard spot. The Colts NEED a win here to stop the tailspin they’ve fallen into, before they crash and burn this season. This one should be a track meet, with plenty of fantasy scoring for those people lucky enough to have anyone from the two teams in their fantasy playoff lineups. But maybe both teams could make thing even more interesting by putting up Payton Manning’s commercials vs. Chad Johnson’s commercials – winner gets double advertising, the loser gets all their ad spots yanked and are forced to make money by actually playing football. Heck, we can dream, can’t we?