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 other articles, the Betbot, or the Last Row, or our myriad posts in the Tank. We’re just like you, though. We love a good football game, no matter who’s playing.
New York Giants @ Oakland
Saturday 12/31, 8:00 – Network Associates Coliseum, Oakland, CA
Ok, ok. It’s week 17 and its getting just plain HARD to find good football games to watch this weekend (in the pro ranks, anyway). So why pick the Giants vs. the lack-luster Raiders? Well, I like this game to actually have both teams playing hard, even if Oakland is far out of the playoff race they won’t be allowed to watch the Superbowl on TV.
To say the Giants have played poorly on the road is an understatement. They are a dismal 2-4 on the road (since you just can’t count that “away” game the Giants played against New Orleans in Giants Stadium as an away game) and Eli Manning isn’t quite as sharp as the media would have us believe. In the game vs. the Eagles, Manning threw 2 ints in the closing minutes, but the Giants managed to pull out a win – but to hear the media talk, you’d have thought Eli picked up the Giants on his shoulders and marched them up and down the field to pull out the victory. *shrug* I guess if the story would play well in Hollywood, then that’s what they go with…
But this ain’t Hollywood, baby – it’s Oakland. Former QB Kerry Collins will be looking to put up a big game against his former team and try and keep his job in the process. (He won’t by the way – simply a case of too little, too late. But he’ll try darn it.) In fact, lots of Oakland players will be playing for spots on the squad next year, so I expect them to put up a fight.
The Giants have clinched a playoff berth, but unless they put away the lowly Raiders, they could let the division title slip away from them. A win by the Redskins against the woeful Eagles and a loss by the Giants would give the ‘Skins the division and force the Giants to play most/all of their playoff games on the road – and that’s something that would bring a quick season’s end to a team that seems to wilt as badly on the road as the Giants do.
So both teams will be playing hard, and while I expect the Giants to win, another bad road performance by Eli Manning certainly wouldn’t surprise me – and could just spell upset for the Raiders.
Carolina @ Atlanta
Sunday 1/1, 1:00 – Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
This was one of our Games to watch in week 13, and it is again in week 17. Like the Giants/Raiders game, this is another in which one team has sewn up a playoff spot, and another who will be sitting home during the playoffs – but it’s also a game between some bitter rivals who dislike each other enough to make this game interesting.
Atlanta’s lost last week ensured that their season would end this week – and they aren’t very happy about it. Their team was predicted to do better at season’s start, and they underperformed. QB Michael Vick is angry that people are questioning his ability to lead Atlanta to victory in the post-season, so expect him to try and make a statement this weekend. The entire Falcons squad is angry that they got bounced from the playoffs, and their earlier loss to Carolina was a part of that. So they’d love to play spoiler and make sure the Panthers at least don’t win the division. (The Panthers would win the division if the Bucs lose and they win this weekend.)
The Panthers have been up and down all season, and lost more than a couple games they should have been able to win easily. Their easy schedule has them tied for the division lead with Tampa Bay (who’s schedule might have even been easier) – but a loss would leave them only a wildcard berth. Time for QB Jake Delhomme and WR Steve Smith to put up one last big effort against a solid Atlanta D and give themselves a shot at the division title.
The Panthers won the first meeting between these two, but I think anger and spite win out over a team playing for a better playoff spot than they already have. I like the Falcons in an upset here – and I like Coach Jim Mora JR. to quote his father at some point and use the words “dilly poo”.
Cincinnati @ Kansas City
Sunday 1/1, 1:00 – Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Cincy is in the playoffs, in fact they even clinched the division, but a win here puts them in 3rd place in the AFC overall – so that’s why I expect them to still put up a fight this weekend. Kansas City is on the outside looking in, but still has a chance at the final Wildcard berth. A KC win coupled with a Steelers loss would give them the final Wildcard spot in the AFC, so they are going to fight like heck to give themselves a shot.
Cincinnati has played great all season, especially QB Carson Palmer. Palmer was rewarded with a contract extension this week which will keep him on the Bengals until 2014. Fine play from WR Chad Johnson is always in the works from this team – his performances shine brighter than his teeth, for God’s sake. Don’t forget tough running by Rudi Johnson, too. This team has the offensive firepower to beat almost anyone, and a decent defense to keep other teams from getting too close. The only question is how much the 3rd playoff seed is worth to them, and how long they’ll keep their starters in to get it.
Kansas City has played tough all year, but was faced with one of the NFL’s toughest schedules. Their offense has been solid, especially the running of Larry Johnson, but sub-par performances by Tony Gonzalez and Trent Green have kept them from being the offensive juggernaut they could be. The problem on this squad is, was, and maybe always will be the defense. A loss in this one ensures that they would miss the playoffs, and would likely trigger a Dick Vermeil retirement, as well. The players like Vermeil and would like to win this one to keep his job (and their playoff hopes) alive. The Chiefs have never lost a home game in December with Vermeil coaching, so they certainly have history on their side here.
Make no mistake, the Chiefs have had a tough schedule, but have shown that they are a competent football team. They played 9 teams with winning records so far this year, and have a 5-4 record against them. The Bengals will make the 10th team with a winning record to match up against them.
I like emotion to win out over a simple move from 4t seed to 3rd seed, and like Vermeil to go out with a bang (since he may decide on retiring no matter what the outcome of the season). In fact, the Bengals might actually be better off LOSING this game and taking the 4th seed. The 3rd seed would pit them against the Steelers (assuming the Steelers beat the Lions this weekend), who have been playing very well as of late. Watch this one just to see Vermeil cry – it’ll be a real holiday moment. J