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:
Here we are, the second week of December. The weather is getting colder, your fantasy playoffs started either last week or this week, and you are scrambling to get all your holiday shopping done on time. So not only are you stuck wondering which WR to start for the playoffs, but you have to worry about what you’re going to get for your Uncle Frank besides that carton on Menthols you picked up at the Gas-N-Go; lots of tough decisions. Anyone who has ever seen the look of utter devastation the wrong gift can leave on a loved one’s face knows just how important making the right choice can be.
Remember the joy on your wife’s or girlfriend’s face that year you bought her those diamond earrings or that tennis bracelet? Remember the year you got her the “Thigh-Master” because you thought she’d appreciate your wanting to help her get healthy? (Ouch! That icy stare burrowing into your forehead, followed by a week of silence… umm… not that WE ever gave our sweetheart something like that, but umm… you might have… possibly…) And it’s not just your spouse who is difficult to pick out gifts for. What about kids’ gifts? If you have kids of your own, or even nieces or nephews, you know that for every ‘Tickle Me’ Elmo, Nintendo Wii, or Hannah Montana toy under kids’ trees this year there is an equally disappointing counterpart, like a hand-knitted sweater, algebra flash cards, or a stocking filled with underwear and tube socks.
So let us take at least one of your tough decisions out of your hands this week as we run down the top three games that you just aren’t going to want to miss – if you can manage to get out of the mall with your sanity intact. Follow our advice and you won’t get stuck with a metaphorical “Little Orphan Annie decoder ring”, instead you’ll be treated to an “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock”, or at least the NFL equivalent – three great week 15 ‘Games to Watch’.
– Sunday 12/14,
Word on the street says that the Falcons and Buccaneers put in for some of the $700 billion bailout money. Supposedly the Bucs want to buy a fresh young franchise quarterback. The Falcons want to buy a few new key defensive faces to reduce the 345 yards per game they’re giving up. But hey… these are tough economic times, and these two will have to make due with what they have. They should be happy, right? After all, both are on the cusp of making it to the playoffs – and both teams actually still have a shot to win their division. The only thing in their paths is the other team – so this game promises to be worth the watch.
Tampa Bay has had a great deal of success on the defensive side of the ball with young players like LB Barrett Ruud (tied for 7th in the NFL in total tackles with 103) and veterans like CB Ronde Barber. Until last week, the Tampa D was in the top 10 rushing defense, yet even after a tough loss against Carolina, still holds teams to less than 18 points a game. Their #4 passing defense keeps teams from airing it out very often, so expect most teams to run against the Buccaneers this season, especially a strong running team like Atlanta. But the Bucs aren’t solely winning games on the strength of their defense – the offense, to be fair, has its share of strengths. QB Jeff Garcia (2223yd / 10TD / 3int) may be 38, but still runs an incredibly efficient offense (#5 in QB rating) – including throwing the least amount of interceptions among starting NFL QBs. WR Antonio Bryant (66rec / 936yd / 5TD) has really been the only receiving threat of the season for the most part on this squad. On the ground, the trifecta of RBs like Warrick Dunn (689yd / 2TD), Earnest Graham (583yd / 4TD) and a recently-healthy Carnell Williams (2TD in his three games back) might not be Earth Wind and Fire, but they still wreak havoc on defensive lines with three fresh, capable backs pounding their way down the field. Tampa isn’t flashy. Tampa isn’t vain. Tampa is, however, a team to be reckoned with, and is a handful to any team it plays – especially Atlanta, who Jeff Garcia has beaten the last six times he has faced them.
Atlanta is a surprise to many, Much like Baltimore, you wouldn’t think that the Falcons would have this much success offensively with a rookie quarterback and a rookie coach. Facts are the facts though, and QB Matt Ryan (2940yd / 14TD / 7int) is leading Mike Smith’s team on the cusp of a playoff birth – quite a turnaround from one of the NFL’s worst teams last year. Ryan’s success has certainly helped WRs Roddy White (78rec / 1249yd / 6TD) and Michael Jenkins (39rec / 589yd / 3TD) begin to shine in Atlanta. White has even moved into the lead for NFL receiving yards with his great numbers last week. The Atlanta improvements on offense don’t stop with the receiving game, though – some of that success also comes from the 2nd ranked rushing team in the league. RB Michael Turner (1269yd / 14TD) is currently ranked #1 in rushing TDs and #2 in rushing yards. He will certainly cause some difficulty to the Tampa defensive front this week – and he hopes to pound away as much as Carolina did last Sunday. With an offense sporting some of the NFL’s tops performers, it seems like the Falcons should be leading the division. But their defense is ranked a disappointing 22nd in total yardage allowed – even if they are just outside the top ten in scoring defense. And their rushing defense that gives up a sizable 121.8 yards per game is going to have everything they can handle against the Cerberus* that is the Buccaneers running game.
*[Editor’s Note: Cerberus was the three-headed dog said to guard the gates of the underworld in Greek mythology. You probably knew that, but I wanted to show my father that my four years of college in a liberal arts curriculum weren’t a total waste of his money.]
The NFC South isn’t always the talk at the water cooler, but this is one of those games that might change that. Expect a smash-mouth, rumbling ground attack by both teams looking to exploit their opponent’s weakness with their greatest strength. This is going to be a dogfight with both teams knowing the benefits of a win here, and the consequences of a loss. And not even a Senate bill will be able to bail the loser out of the hole they will have dug themselves with a loss here.
– Sunday 12/14,
Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, and any of the Grand Theft Auto titles have nothing on this match-up this week when talking about rough game-play. Granted…the first three are video games, but the Steelers and Baltimore promises to be as close to a legal blood-letting as the NFL can muster. The division crown is on the line, not to mention a home game in the playoffs and, quite simply, bragging rights between two of the biggest kids on the block. (Think Scut Farkas from “A Christmas Story” vs. Johnny Lawrence from “Karate Kid” for a great visual.)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (2616yd / 14TD / 12int) is one of many on the
offense that finds himself on unstable footing with his offensive line. At times, they’ve let him down like earlier this season when the Eagles seem to have sacked him at will. Other times, they’ve opened holes the size of Olympic swimming pools for RBs Willie Parker (597yd / 4TD) and Mewelde Moore (521yd / 5TD). Even with a sometimes shaky O-line, receivers like Hines Ward (60rec / 757yd / 6TD) and Santonio Holmes (44rec / 676yd / 3TD) have succeeded when called upon. On the flip side of the ball is where we find the reason the Steelers are in contention for a first round bye in the AFC. They’re defense is truly dominating this year –
ranked #1 in points allowed per game, total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, and passing yards allowed.
And the defensive starts don’t stop there – guys like S Troy Polamalu (who leads the NFL in interceptions with 7) and S Ryan Clark make this team as difficult to throw against as they are to run against. In short, the defense has always been a keystone of great Steelers teams and has forged
into what they are… one of the NFL’s most punishing squads.
Ok, ok –
is doing great with a rookie coach and a rookie QB – but that isn’t a trend we expect to see anywhere else, right?
Rookie signal-caller Joe Flacco (2410yd / 13TD / 10int) in his first season may not have stats like Drew Brees or Kurt Warner, but he does have a tendency NOT to make mistakes and let the offense thrive on the ground, and certainly not throw interceptions. (Yes – we are aware he has 10 interceptions, but only THREE of them have come after week 6 in this season, so Flacco certainly has seemed to learn his lesson about minimizing turnovers.)
While Flacco is the general of the offense, the real weapon used in this offense is the double-barrel of RBs LeRon McClain (606yds / 7TD) and Willis McGahee (521yd / 5TD) – resulting in a ground game that is proficient and effective. When Flacco does make safe choices in the air, his first option is typically the sure-handed Derrick Mason (65rec / 871yd / 4TD) or the deep-treat of Mark Clayton (30rec / 494yd / 3TD), and although both have missed practice time this week both should see the field this weekend. Just as the Steelers’ success has been on the back of its strong defense, the Ravens have had similar results behind theirs. The Ravens rank 2nd (right behind the Steelers) in total yards allowed per game and are also just behind the Steelers’ in passing defense. Players like S Ed Reed (5int – including the NFL’s longest interception return for a TD in history), LB Terrell Suggs (56tkl / 6.5sack), and the heart-and-soul of this defense, Ray Lewis, have insured that this defense keeps the Ravens in every single game, giving them a good chance to beat anyone in the league.
’s Willie Colon predicts a bloodbath. Terrell Suggs bragged they put a bounty on Rashard Mendenhall before their Sept 29 game. Ben Roethlisberger predicts both teams will limp out of M & T Bank Stadium. With predictions like this, from the guys who plan to be in the trenches, how on earth could you miss this game?!? This may be one of the best “Games to Watch” of the year – unless you don’t enjoy punishing defenses, scrappy offenses, divisional rivalries, and great football.
Then it’ll just be seeing which team not only wins the division, but gets to wear the title of the NFL’s bully – while the other team licks its wounds and hopes that they can hang onto a Wildcard spot.
– Sunday 12/14,
Time bombs can be a devastating weapon.
Tick, tick, tick.
Seconds count down.
Tick, tick, tick.
The targets are frequently unaware of the danger until…
Tick, tick… BOOM!
The strike is swift and devastating, and you don’t even see it coming.
These two teams are loaded with offensive personnel that have the potential to be a time bomb.
At any second, one of them could blow up in their opponents face, and in the case of some of the WRs, sometimes in their own team’s face. BOOM!
The New York Giants are more than the NFL’s defending Super Bowl champions – they are also one of the very best teams in the league this year.
Their offense is the NFL’s #6 offense in terms of total yardage, including leading the NFL in rushing (154.6ypg), and they are #2 in the league in scoring (28.2ppg).
NFL and media darling QB Eli Manning (2747yd / 20TD / 8int) leads the G-men, and has really improved this year.
Oh sure, the media wanted you to believe Eli was one of the top QBs last year, but it honestly wasn’t true.
This season he’s improved greatly in limiting his turnovers – in the top ten in QB efficiency.
WR Plaxico Burress was the Giants big-play WR, but… BOOM!
Suspended for missing team meetings.
BOOM! Shoots himself in the leg, and is suspended by the Giants for 4 games.
Plaxico is one time bomb that is currently blowing up the Giants faces.
471yd / 1TD) are left to pick up the slack, and while not as explosive as Burress in the field, they are also thankfully less explosive off the field.
run game is tops in the NFL for good reason.
Don’t forget the G-men’s D, though.
Their defense is ranked #8 or better in yards allowed (total, passing, and rushing) and scoring defense.
And the defense has a few time-bombs that could explode on a
offense that has looked shaky at times over the past few weeks. (BOOM! Justin Tuck and his 11.5 sacks and 7 tackles for losses just might be one.)
We could go on and on, but seriously – it’s no surprise this team was Super Bowl champions, and has a good shot at repeating.
The Cowboys started out exploding time-bombs on their opponents early in the season, but an injury to QB Tony Romo (2769yd / 22TD / 11int) slowed them mid-season.
With Romo now healthy, that should mean that
is ready to make a playoff run, but hold on.
One of the biggest time-bombs in the league was waiting to go off – Terrell Owens (55rec / 848yd / 9TD). BOOM!
T.O. showed his frustration in a few early losses.
rebounded and T.O. was quiet.
Then when Romo got hurt… BOOM!
T.O. said he wasn’t getting enough plays called his way, even though fully 40% of the game of which he complained about was called his way.
With Romo back,
fans hoped the T.O. time-bomb would again be exploding on opposing defenses, but… BOOM! Now T.O. has lashed out at his biggest supporter, Tony Romo himself.
Owens claims that he suspects Romo of having secret meetings with TE Jason Witten (64rec / 771yd / 3TD) for the purpose of favoring
over Owens. Umm… huh?!? (It was only a matter of time
fans – just ask San Fran or Philly fans.)
RB Marion Barber (870ru yd / 7ru TD / 366rec yd / 2rec TD) is one of Dallas good time-bombs, but unfortunately for the texas faithful, he’s banged up and will be a game-time decision.
wants to beat the Cowboys. The
defense started out slow, but has improved over the course of the season, in the top ten of all yardage allowed categories.
Now if only they could turn Adam Jones into the defensive time-bomb he can be ON the field instead of the one who gets in drunken brawls with his own bodyguards OFF the field. (BOOM!)
Ok, do we think this is going to be the closest game of the weekend?
Then why did we pick it as a game you simply can’t miss?
First, a win here for the Giants locks them in as NFC East Champs.
A loss by the Cowboys would be a crushing blow to not only their divisional hopes, but for their chance at one of the hotly-contested Wildcard spots.
The Eagles showed the NFL the blueprint for beating the Giants, it’s up to
to try and follow it.
Besides, a divisional rivalry is always fun – especially if one of the players is the always explosive Terrell Owens.
You know you just HAVE to watch this game because T.O. will either come up with a big, exciting TD grab, or if
goes south early, he’ll explode on his own teammates.
Either way, it’s gonna’ be a ‘Game to Watch’.