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Games to Watch – Week 16

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
-Wind podcast), and our “Side Lines” sport-toon (every Monday, Wednesday and Friday), 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:

So another Christmas is upon us, and the offices are closing up for the holiday. The employee’s refrigerator contains the remnants of three meat and cheese party platters, and the last few slices of the staff Christmas cake, baked by Tony Holm himself, are stale and neglected on the filing cabinet near Vinnie’s desk. And once again, the office is silent except for the scurrying of three little mice – Chris, Tom and one poor intern assigned to help Tim Davoll get out his column each week. (Hey, come to think of it – how does that guy rate an intern while we’ve never gotten one? Hmm … maybe our submissions of resumes from several young potential lady “interns” from the local gentleman’s club gave Tony the wrong idea … but we digress.) No matter what your last days up to the holiday look like, the point is that we are all used to certain traditions around Christmas time. And one tradition that Chris and Tom would like to continue, is giving you their annual ‘12 Games of Christmas”. So without further ado (or extra words that we’re hoping boosts our word count and impresses Tony), we bring you ‘The 12 Games of Christmas” … (in song order, not schedule order):

1st game of Christmas:

New Orleans at Atlanta – Monday 12/27,

8:30 p.m.,

It really doesn’t get any better than this – two of the NFC’s (and NFL’s) best teams squaring off in Week 16 with the NFC South divisional crown (and an important playoff bye) on the line. This game comes down to
Drew Brees (4,122 yards, 31 TD, 19 INT) and
Matt Ryan (3,321 yards, 25 TD, 9 INT). Whichever signal caller makes best use of the glut of weapons both teams possess will come away with a win. A Saints victory locks them into a playoff spot, but would put them in position to challenge Atlanta for the division crown in the final week of the season. A Falcons’ win locks up not only the division for the “Dirty Birds,” but guarantees them the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Games don’t get much bigger than this one… thanks for bringing us a great Monday Night game for Christmas Santa (and the NFL schedule makers)!!

2nd game of Christmas:

– Sunday 12/26,
4:05 p.m.,

A late-season game between the Colts and the Raiders in years past would have been a snooze-fest, but 2010 is a different kind of football season. The Colts have suffered through a slew of injuries, and even three horrendous three-plus interception games in a row by
Peyton Manning (4,257 yards, 28 TD, 15 INT), but have managed to beat the right people and stay atop the AFC South via tiebreaker over the Jacksonville Jaguars. But the real surprise isn’t how much the Colts have struggled – it’s how dangerous the Raiders have proven they can be this season. They’ve topped the San Diego Chargers twice this season and are undefeated in their division. At 7-7, their playoff hopes are a stretch at best, but they still have an outside shot at winning their division if the Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs falter. The Oakland passing attack still leaves a lot to be desired, which makes their running attack all the more impressive. The electric running duo of
Darren McFadden (1,112 yards, 7 TD) and
Michael Bush (499 yards, 7 TD) makes the Raiders a perfect spoiler for any team with playoff hopes.

3rd game of Christmas:

New York
Giants at Green Bay – Sunday 12/26,
4:15 p.m.,


Both of these teams suffered a blow to their playoff chances with losses last week. But hope isn’t lost for either of these squads – and winning this game is the first step to regaining their position in the NFC Wild Card race. And while a lot of the story in this contest will center on the battle between
Aaron Rodgers (3,289 yards, 23 TD, 10 INT) and
Eli Manning (3,458 yards, 28 TD, 20 INT), the real story is how the big play receivers on each side will perform. If
Greg Jennings (65 receptions, 1,026 yards, 12 TD) excels for the Packers, Green Bay might prove to be too much for the tough Giants’ defense. But if
Hakeem Nicks (75 receptions, 959 yards, 10 TD) and
Mario Manningham (52 receptions, 711 yards, 7 TD) can overcome a very tough Packers’ defense, then the Giants should come out on top. This one is going to be a knock-down-drag-out NFC battle with a Wild Card berth hanging in the balance. You aren’t going to want to miss this one.

4th game of Christmas:

– Sunday 12/26,
8:20 p.m., NBC

Our fourth game doesn’t feature the traditional ‘four calling birds,’ just one bird that has already clinched a playoff spot and would love to lock up the division and ensure a home playoff game. Minnesota hasn’t lived up to expectations this year, but they’ve still garnered their share of headlines – the difficulties between
Brett Favre (2,509 yards, 11 TD, 19 INT) and ex-coach Brad Childress, the Favre sex scandal, the Favre injuries, the end of the Favre consecutive games streak, the Favre … OK, OK … we get the picture Brett, it’s still all about you. Or is it? One quarterback that has eclipsed Favre for sports fans every-week headline is Philadelphia’s
Michael Vick (2,755 yards, 20 TD, 5 INT; 613 rushing yards, 8 TD). Vick started off on fire, avoiding interceptions for most of the early season, but even with some recently throw picks, he still averages a whopping four times as many touchdowns as interceptions … and that’s not even counting his eight rushing touchdowns. The best reason to watch this game is to see what the NFL’s most exciting quarterback will do… and it’s not you, Brett.

5th game of Christmas:

Carolina at Pittsburgh – Thursday 12/23,

8:20 p.m.,

You knew we had to pick Pittsburgh for the fifth game of Christmas, if for no other reason than their five golden Super Bowl rings … OK, OK … it’s really six, but beggars can’t be choosers. Let’s face facts – Carolina isn’t good. They aren’t even close to “OK.” You’ll want to check out this game to see if Pittsburgh can get one step closer to clinching the AFC North title and a first-round bye to boot.
Ben Roethlisberger (2,600 yards, 14 TD, 5 INT) has proven his toughness, but the Steelers are cruising on the shoulders of
Rashard Mendenhall (1,173 yards, 10 TD). You’ll also get to see Carolina running back
Mike Goodson (435 yards, 3 TD) perform against the NFL’s toughest run defense – and then file that info away for next year’s draft, especially if he get’s used as trade bait by Carolina, who has lots of holes to fill.

6th game of Christmas:

San Francisco
St. Louis
– Sunday 12/26,
1 p.m., 


Normally, a game between a 6-8 team and a 5-9 squad with just two weeks left in the season would be a reason not to watch … but in this case, the two teams in question, the Rams and the 49ers, are nearly tied for the division lead in the NFC West. And while the NFC West is easily the NFL’s worst division, considering the eventual winner will, at best, have a .500 record. So while the talent level isn’t all we would hope for in a “Game to Watch,” you can’t argue against the importance of this game. A Rams win would keep them in the driver’s seat for a Week 17 showdown with Seattle for the NFC West title. A 49ers win would keep alive the slim playoff hopes of the 49ers – although it would take a tie in the Week 17 game between Seattle and St. Louis. The Rams are the favorites, not only because they are at home, but because they have the only legitimate NFL star on either team at this point (with the 49ers
Frank Gore gone for the season) –
Steven Jackson (1,148 yards, 5 TD).

7th game of Christmas:

New York
Jets at Chicago – Sunday 12/26,
1 p.m.,

It’s no surprise that the Jets are still in the thick of the AFC playoff picture, and while Chicago isn’t a total postseason surprise, the fact that they already locked up the NFC North is. To be sure, it’s not all the Bears’ doing – the collapse of the Minnesota Vikings and injuries on the Green Bay Packers along with a fairly easy schedule have the Bears sitting pretty. But the Bears still need a win here if they want to solidify a first-round bye in the playoffs. Both of these teams pride themselves on their defense, but the Jets are surprisingly bad in one area that no one would have predicted to start the season. They rank dead last in the league in interceptions, with just seven on the entire season. Quite a low number considering they sport two of the NFL’s top cornerbacks,
Darrelle Revis (28 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries) and
Antonio Cromartie (40 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery). The Bears defense doesn’t have the same problem, near the top of the NFL’s interception leading teams.
Brian Urlacher (112 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 interception, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries) is playing like the Urlacher of 2007 and is a big reason why these two defenses will be fun to watch this Sunday.

8th game of Christmas:

at Tampa Bay – Sunday 12/26,
4:15 p.m.,


Tampa Bay started off the season leading the NFC South, but their failure to beat any of the big names on their schedule (Atlanta, New Orleans, Baltimore or Pittsburgh) has them at 8-6 and struggling to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Buccaneers need to win out and need some help from other teams if they want to see the playoffs this year. For their part, Seattle is a lowly 6-8 and yet they *still* have a shot at not only making the playoffs but actually winning their division. The NFC West is terrible, but if you can be the best of the worst, it’s good enough for the No. 4 seed and a first-round home playoff game. Tampa Bay’s
Josh Freeman (2,959 yards, 18 TD, 6 INT) has done a great job managing games for his team, as his 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio shows. On Seattle’s side, the only really bright spot is the recent play of
Marshawn Lynch (445 yards, 6 TD). While these two teams certainly aren’t exciting on paper, with both of their playoff hopes resting solely on this game, expect a hard-fought duel to the death.

9th game of Christmas:

– Sunday 12/26,
1 p.m.,


Remember when Washington opened the season with a big win over the rival Dallas Cowboys and
Donovan McNabb (3,377 yards, 14 TD, 15 INT) was being hailed as the savior of the franchise? We don’t really remember that either … but it happened. And now instead of talking about Washington making a playoff run, we’re talking about their nine losses so far this season – and talking about whether McNabb will even be a part of the Washington equation after the worst season of his career. On the flip side of the coin, who figured that a team with as poor a defense as Jacksonville would be looking at a chance for their ninth win this week, and still have a shot at wresting the AFC South away from Indianapolis if the Colts should stumble? And it’s all thanks to the man with three initials – MJD,
Maurice Jones-Drew (1,324 yards, 5 TD), who has been a model of consistency. First the Redskins, then (just possibly) the AFC South.

10th game of Christmas:

Kansas City
– Sunday 12/26,
1 p.m.,

No one expected Kansas City to be anywhere but the cellar of the AFC. Instead, they are leading their division with just two games to go, and their destiny in their own hands. A win here would lift the Chiefs to double-digit wins for the first time in half a decade. Tennessee is never easy with Coach Jeff Fisher’s bunch always playing opponents tough, and the always dangerous
Chris Johnson (1,267 yards, 11 TD) just waiting to break off a long run or seven against opponents.
Jamaal Charles (1,303 yards, 4 TD) from Kansas City is actually ahead of Johnson in yardage, but falls well short of his touchdown numbers. The real difference maker in Kansas City this season has to be the improved play of wide reciver
Dwayne Bowe (61 receptions, 941 yards, 14 TD). Bowe has been a fantasy fringe player for a few years, but after scoring just four touchdowns in 2009, he already has 14 touchdowns in 2010 – leading all NFL players.

11th game of Christmas:

San Diego
at Cincinnati – Sunday 12/26,
4:05 p.m.,

Talk about two teams moving in opposite directions. The Changers started the season in a complete shambles, posting just two wins in their first seven games. But, as they have over the past few years, the Chargers come on in the second half of the season, winning six of their last seven games. The Bengals, on the other hand, started out with two wins in their first three games, then went on a 10-game losing streak, and are in the cellar of the AFC. And while San Diego still trails the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West crown, the Chargers look very good on both offense and defense. The biggest surprise isn’t that the Chargers are trying to catch Kansas City for the division lead, but just who the Chargers are relying on. Sure,
Phillip Rivers (4,141 yards, 29 TD, 11 INT) is playing great, but that’s no surprise. However, the play of fullback
Mike Tolbert (737 yards, 11 TD) is a shocker – for both football fans and fantasy owners alike.

12 game of Christmas:

New England
– Sunday 12/26,
1 p.m.,

With the exceptions of one early season loss to their divisional rivals – the New York Jets, and a mid-season hiccup against the Cleveland Browns, the New England Patriots have been about as close to perfect as a team can be. And the biggest reason, by far, for their 12 wins is (of course)
Tom Brady (3,561 yards, 31 TD, 4 INT). Brady has thrown a ridiculous 31 touchdowns to just four interceptions … simply unheard of. He’s also set an NFL record by throwing for at least two touchdowns and zero interceptions in seven straight games. The numbers are even more impressive when you consider he’s done it without (arguably) his biggest weapon over the past few years,
Randy Moss, who was traded away early in the season. The Bills won’t just roll over, though, even if they’ve only won four games this season. Besides the fact it’s a divisional dogfight, the Bills might be the best 10-loss team in history – three of their losses were overtime heartbreakers and three more were by eight points or less.

OK, we’ve slaved over the NFL schedule this week, found reasons for you to watch 12 of the games on the schedule, and spelled out the ‘12 Games of Christmas.’ You just get to do the easy part and enjoy all the games this holiday weekend. Now, come on everyone! Join in for the last chorus!

Twelve New England victories,

New-Eleven Tolbert touchdowns,

Ten more Dwayne Bowe touchdowns,

Nine Redskins losses,

Eight win Tampa Bay Bucs,

Sev-en Jets interceptions,

Six win division leader,

Five … Super Bowl… rings (plus one!),

Four-to-one TD ratio,

Three star wide receivers,

Two electric rushers,

And a battle for the NFC South!!


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