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Games to Watch – Week 15

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:

 

It’s been crazy once again at the ‘Games to Watch’ offices; wrapping paper everywhere, the non-stop party from the FantasySharks HR office keeps interrupting our creativity, and one of the staff writers keeps prank calling our extension because we didn’t invite them to the FantasySharks’ Wing Bowl Competition. Even with all of the chaos, we still manage to find you three games to watch that have meaning.

 None of these teams have given up hope and any of them can be eliminated by one crazy bounce of the ball.

  So let us take a break from the FantasySharks Secret Santa Gift Exchange and make sure you know what to watch this week.

  (Btw – thanks to whichever of you guys got Tom the ‘Euro-Sealer’ and Chris the ‘Rotato’. –sigh—)

 

 

Denver

@

Houston

– Thursday 12/13,

8:15pm

 

We’ve said this before, but normally you wouldn’t see two teams with losing records involved in a ‘Games to Watch’ article.

 But even with their losing records, both of these squads can still make the playoffs with some wins down the stretch.

  But a single misstep this Thursday night will result in either of them (basically) having their playoff hopes dashed. Come Friday morning, one of these two gets moved from the “still alive” column to the “nearly dead” column.

  (You’ll typically find both of those columns right near the Obituaries section in your local paper.

  If you don’t, it’s time to find a more fun-loving newspaper.)

  Let’s drop by the NFL hospital and see how both of our patients are doing…

 

Picked by many to challenge for the division crown, the Broncos have looked healthy one day and sickly the next.

 No one knows that better than signal-caller

Jay Cutler (2824 yards and 17 TD).

  Trying to get his team back “in the pink” is QB Cutler, who is in the middle of his first full year at the position and has shown life at times (a 4 TD performance in week 14 is fresh in our minds), but has shown he still has a long way to go to make people forget about John Elway (a zero TD and 2 interception showing against Oakland is a glaring example of that).

  Dr. Cutler is managing to lead the NFL’s 5th ranked offense in average yards per game, but

Denver

is only middle-of-the-road in putting points on the scoreboard and has bled away a few easy wins.

 The running game has been stuck in the hospital’s revolving door this year, and currently RB

Selvin Young is the one trying to at least make it to the lobby (569 yards and 1 TD).

 The emergence of WRs

Brandon Marshall (1029 yards and 6 TDs) and

Brandon Stokley (635 yards and 5 TDs) are a big reason why this surgical strike team is staying competitive, and take some of that pressure off Cutler’s shoulders.

  The

Denver

D is ranked 7th in pass defense on the back of their extremely talented secondary, but put forth a run defense that has been as effective as Brittany Spears in rehab.

 

The Texans head coach

Gary Kubiak gets a chance for a showdown with his former employer,

Mike Shanahan.

 The Texans, like the Broncos, have had some ups and downs; ups in their offensive production in what may be the most competitive division in the NFL and downs in the injury department (with the starting quarterback, running back, main receiver battling injuries).

  QB

Matt Schaub (2241 yards and 9 TD) has given a pulse to a Texans offense that many felt was on shaky ground to start the season, but managed to find its footing this season. Schaub’s injury had

Houston

fans thinking it might be time to pull the plug, but former Dolphin

Sage Rosenfels (1123 yards and 11 TD) has filled in nicely. The timely return of WR

Andre Davis (536 yards and 3 TD) from the injury lists and the emergence of 5th year player WR

Kevin Walters (699 yards and 3 TD) has kept the

Houston

faithful by the team’s bedside in a prayer vigil to make the playoffs.

 

Neither team has an easy road from here on out. The Broncos pay a visit to

San Diego

and the Texans have to visit division rivals Indy and

Jacksonville

.

  The Broncos can still win the AFC West if they can get hot and the Chargers falter.

  The Texans need help from almost everyone, but still haven’t been eliminated from a wildcard berth.

  This game is just the first step if either wants to make it to the post season and “stay alive” in the chase for playoff glory.

  If

Denver

should stumble, they aren’t out of it, but they’ll have to be admitted to the ICU.

  If

Houston

should falter, it’ll be time to unplug the machines and wheel them down to the basement.

  Either way, we’ll be watching this game with more interest than an episode of E.R. has generated in half a decade.

 

 

Jacksonville

@

Pittsburgh

– Sunday 12/16,

1:00pm

 

Let’s take a look at this exciting match-up between two AFC teams that look like a lock for the playoffs, but in the words of “Dragnet” Sergeant Joe Friday… “Just the facts, ma’am”.

 

 

Fact: These two teams put together have only 8 losses.

Fact:

Jacksonville

could still potentially win their division.

Fact:

Pittsburgh

could still potentially lose their division.

Fact: These two teams sport two of the NFL’s top defenses, and both have made finding the end zone more than difficult.

Fact: This is the best ‘Game to Watch’ this week.

  (OK – this last one is a bit of opinion, but c’mon.

  You think it is, too.)

 

The facts speak for themselves. These are two teams who have winning ways and look playoff bound, but neither can afford to lose momentum at this crucial time.

  Let’s give you a quick run-down on what players to keep your eye on this Sunday.

 

Jacksonville

has just about entrenched themselves as a wildcard team heading into the final games of the season. With the return of the NFL’s 3rd best QB in terms of QB rating, QB

David Garrard (2113 yards and 13 TD – and an impressive ONE interception all season) looks to lead

Jacksonville

on a push deep into the postseason.

 Its tandem at running back with

Fred Taylor (944 yards and 3 TD) and 2nd year phenom

Maurice Jones-Drew (655 yards and 8 TD) has established a running game that is 2nd in the league in rushing yards per game. Quietly, WRs

Reggie Williams and

Dennis Northcutt have amassed over 1,000 yards combined and found the end zone 10 times. This is a team led by

Jack Del Rio who’s focus for so long has been defense, but has shown as of late the offense can be potent as well.

  That’s not to say the defense isn’t outstanding.

  Their #5 ranked run D doesn’t even give up a 100-yards a game on the ground.

  The pass defense has been a different story, ranking a disappointing 27th.

  To their credit, though, the Jags D has retained their “bend’ don’t break” mentality, only allowing a paltry 17.6 points a contest.

 

Pittsburgh

finds itself in an unusual position of still trying to stave off a hungry (and surprisingly good) Browns team that is just one game behind them. The Steelers’ however’ have all the tools to do just that. After a rough outing last week against the Patriots,

Pittsburgh

looks to make its record at home a perfect 8-0 this weekend. QB

Ben Roethlisberger has had a fantastic season under center with 2751 yards in the air and 26 touchdowns. RB

Willie Parker already has reached his thousand yard season with 1217 yards, even if he has been disappointing fantasy owners with his lack of TDs (just three this season). WRs

Santonio Holmes and

Hines Ward have almost identical stats with around 650 yards apiece and 6-7 touchdowns as well. And of course, you cannot mention the Steelers without mentioning their defense. It currently ranks #1 in Points Against and Total Yards Against, and #2 in pass defense and run defense.

  It simply doesn’t get much better than that, kids. And although the team lost DE

Aaron Smith last week, they still have plenty of talent with guys like LBs

James Harrison (8.5 sacks / 1 interception / 81 tackles) and

James Farrior (6 sacks / 76 tackles) who make the Pittsburgh defense THE toughest in the NFL.

 

Ok, we ran down the guys to watch and the facts behind this match-up.

  Well, the facts and our one opinion. Let’s face it though – that opinion is going to be a fact come Sunday… and you can take that to the bank.

 

 

Washington

@ New York Giants – Sunday 12/16,

8:15pm

 

There are 4 basic elements to a novel, and we find those same 4 elements here in our final ‘Game to Watch’ this week.

  Those elements are:

Plot, Character Development, Style, and

Length.

  Let’s break those 4 elements down and not only will you see what we’re talking about, but you’ll get a darn good idea of just why a game between a 9-4 team and a 6-7 team is going to one of the best this weekend.

 

Plot:

We’ve said more than once that we love a good spite-filled divisional tussle between evenly matched opponents, and our final ‘Game to Watch’ this week is no exception.

  The 9-4 Giants look to be cruising to a playoff spot, but they aren’t quite as strong as their 9-4 record might suggest.

  Their much-hyped Eli Manning led offense has had big games to be sure, but they have lain more than their share of eggs.

  Any team with a winning record that they’ve played, they’ve lost.

  In two games against the hapless (5-8) Eagles, the Giants could only manage 16 points – both times.

  And they barely squeaked by the winless Dolphins 16-13.

  For their part,

Washington

hasn’t looked any better.

  They started out well through their first 9 games or so, then dropped 4 straight.

  But the bottom line is that the Giants haven’t locked up their playoff berth quite yet, and the Redskins can still find their way into the playoffs with some help from the rest of the NFC.

  The Redskins can’t afford any more losses, and a win against the Giants would give them much needed momentum right now.

  For all of these reasons, and the bad blood between these teams, we can guarantee you that you’ll be looking at another 1 TD game between these teams this year, and we’ll only know the winner at the sound of the gun.

 

Character Development:

The Giants are led by media darling (and possibly the most overrated QB in the past decade)

Eli Manning, and his play has been erratic all season.

  While we don’t always buy into the QB rating as a solid indicator of performance, Eli Manning’s 23 ranking in QB efficiency speaks volumes.

  You won’t hear announcers talk about it, for whatever reason they’ve decided that as Peyton’s little brother he just

has to be good.

  With 18 TDs to 17 interceptions, we’ll let you (and common sense) be the judge.

  Luckily for Eli and the Giant faithful, the team from

Gotham

has a real talent at WR in

Plaxico Burress.

  His 900 yards and 10 TDs make up a huge chunk of the Giants passing offense.

  TE

Jeremy Shockey is a good target as well, and his 55 catches and 600 yards are a nice compliment to Burress.

  The Giants running game hasn’t suffered as greatly as the media would have us think in the wake of the retirement of Tiki Barber. Even a slew of injures to RBs

Brandon Jacobs and

Derrick Ward hasn’t stopped the Giants ground game.

  Those two have combined for over 1200 yards so far, and coupled with

Reuben Droughns 6TDs, the Giants rank a surprising 7th in rushing yardage this year.

  The Giants defense has been doing most of the work in the wins for this team.

  They rank 7th overall, 7th against the run, and 10th against the pass.

  Sack artists

Osi Umenyiora (12.5 sacks),

Justin Tuck (9 sacks), and

Michael Strahan (9 sacks) make the Giants one of the most feared pass rushing teams in the biz.

 

The Redskins’ QB

Jason Campbell hasn’t fared any better then Eli has for the Giants.

  Ranked 20th in efficiency,

Campbell

looks no better than a journeyman QB at this point in his career, but he’s still young, so time will tell.

  TE

Chris Cooley is the main receiving threat on this team by far.

  His 58 catches and 677 yards are team bests, and his 7 TDs equal the amount scored by the rest of the entire TEAM through the air so far.

  Ouch.

  Thank goodness for RB

Clinton Portis on this team, his 956 yards and 7 TDs are helping keep the ‘Skins in games.

  Now if he can just cut down of his fumbles, he’d really be something.

  Portis is tied for first in the dubious category of fumbles lost, and tied for second in fumbles.

  That simply can’t continue if

Washington

wants to see the postseason.

  The Redskins D, like the Giants D, is a major reason why they’ve been in many games right until the end.

  Ranked 11th in total defense, and sporting an impressive 6th ranked run D, the Redskins have been able to hang in there with most opponents.

 

Style:

This isn’t going to be a pulse-pounding action novel of a game, with action abounding throughout the contest.

  Neither team is good enough on offense right now for that.

  This isn’t going to be a joyous celebration of the human spirit novel of a game.

  It’s far too bitter a rivalry for that.

  With the way that both of these teams seem to be able to hang in right until the end of games, winning or losing it on often the final drive, this game is going to be like a suspense novel.

  It’ll start out a little slow, but the tension will be building and building as each page of the game turns – ultimately culminating in a pulse-pounding finish that will go down right to the wire.

  John Grisham and Steven Coonts eat your hearts out.

 

Oh, we almost forgot…

 

Length:

60 minutes for the players, 3 and a half hours for you to watch this ‘Game of the Week’ while your wife watches former “Facts of Life”-er Nancy McKeon in yet another Lifetime movie about battered wives.

  Thank God for Sunday Night Football.

J

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.