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), 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:
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis – Sunday 9/24, 1:00pm
RCA Dome, Indianapolis, IN
Let us be Captain Obvious for a moment. There are several “givens” in life:
1) Never play poker with a guy whose first name is the name of a city.
2) Always think twice if going on a blind date with someone who’s described to you completely by their personality with no mention of looks.
3) NFL division rival games are some of the best there are….and this game has the potential to be one of the best.
In a nutshell, you have what might be one of the best passing offenses in the NFL lead by Payton Manning (the current league leader in passing yards), against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
Jacksonville has given up a stingy 17 points so far this season, and all of those in sloppy weather (a.k.a. the “great equilizer”), something they won’t have to worry about inside the RCA Dome. Even the loss of Reggie Hayward hasn’t slowed down their pass rush, just ask Ben Roethlisberger what he thought of it in the Jags shutout of Pittsburgh last Monday night or maybe ask Drew Bledsoe who looked like a leaf in a windstorm against the Jacksonville defensive pressure. Jacksonville has been better against the run than against the pass so far this season, but their run defense has been SO solid, that teams seem to be giving up on the ground game and going to the air early.
Indianapolis has faced the Giants defense (which has been very disappointing thus far) as well as the Texans (which is similar to fielding life sized cardboard cutouts).
But you can’t fault Manning for not putting up great numbers against inferior defenses – he’s racking up the stats so far with 57 of 79 passing, for a whopping 676 yards, with 4 TDs to boot. Marvin Harrison has of course been one of the main recipients of those numbers, and his 240 yards receiving on 16 catches is nothing to sneeze at either, although he has yet to find the end zone this year.
Now granted, we can tout this information and put a spin on either the Indy offense or the Jags defense like their feats are the best thing since they started selling hot wings in pubs, however that wouldn’t be very truthful. This game comes down to Byron Leftwich not doing anything to lose it for the Jags, and the Jags defense being able to shut down Manning and the Colts offense. It’s that simple.
So fire up the grill, throw on the sausage, crabs, or ribs……and get ready for a showdown we could see again come playoff time. We’re pretty sure this game is going to go all four quarters.
Chicago @ Minnesota – Sunday 9/24, 1:00pm
Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
Our first game to watch was a divisional showdown, so why not another one for our second game?
Lots of people thought Chicago would be atop the NFC North this year. Their dominant defense seemed like a lock to shut down the likes of Brett Favre and the Packers terrible offensive line, the ineptitude of the Detroit offense, and the aging Brad Johnson and a Minnesota offense who’s lost most of it’s marquee players over the past few years.
But wait just a minute… what got into the Vikings water supply? Are these guys really 2-0 to start the season, especially against the hyped up Carolina Panthers and the media-friendly Washington Redskins? Well, they are. Trouble is, Carolina hardly looks like the dominant force they were predicted to be, and the Washington Redskins get love from ESPN and every other media outlet every year, but seem to fall far short of expectations (which isn’t surprising when they have to count on Mark Brunell to lead the to victory).
This will be the biggest test of Brad Johnson and the Vikes offense to date. The Bears #5 defense is no joke, and with Bears QB Rex Grossman leading the NFL in passer rating… (you read that right by the way, ‘leading the NFL in passer rating’)… Minnesota’s defense is going to have to come up big again.
On paper, we like the Bears to win this one, but Minnesota just has that strange spark this year that makes you think maybe, just maybe, the improbable is certainly possible. In any case, when the dust settles we’ll know who rules the NFC North, we’ll know if Rex Grossman really is as good as he’s looked, and we’ll know if the Vikes are another ‘team of destiny’.
Atlanta @ New Orleans – Monday 9/25, 8:30pm
Superdome, New Orleans, LA
This game is going to feature a lot of hurricane flashbacks, teary-eyed players, and the normal primetime hoopla, but that’s all just getting in the way of the real reason to watch this game: two top 10 offenses squaring off for the NFC South lead.
Both offenses have looked good this year; they’ve just done it in different fashion. Atlanta has racked up over 500 yards on the ground through the first two games. In fact their 558 yards on the ground is equivalent to the bottom FIVE rushing teams running totals. The surprising Saints have done a similar number on opponents, but have done it through the air instead, passing for over 500 yards in their first two games.
Atlanta QB Michael Vick isn’t even bothering to throw the ball so far, instead becoming the NFL’s #8 rushing leader. Drew Brees has his QB success coming in more conventional fashion as the #7 passer in the league. Warrick Dunn leads the league in yardage, but doesn’t get the goal line looks that some RBs get. New Orleans rushing attack is split between the exciting rookie Reggie Bush and the workhorse like veteran Deuce McAllister.
No matter what way you slice it, you are going to see 2 of the more exciting offenses in the NFL right now. So that means this contest should come down to whoever can play better defense. But heck, even on defense these teams are close. Atlanta boasts the league’s 10th best overall defense, giving up 566 total yards in two games. But New Orleans is right there with them at the 12th best defense with 571 total yards in their first two games. Just 5 total yards separating these two defenses?!? It just doesn’t get much closer than that folks.
Offense vs. offense. Defense vs. defense. This one is too close to call, and with the winner getting NFC South bragging rights, you just can’t miss this one.