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:
Ahhhh… autumn is finally here. The leaves changing to their vibrant fall colors, the scent of brats on the grill (yes, we realize we talk about food a lot), the kids playing “fumble rumble” in the leaf pile, and NFL football.
It’s that time of year that we like the best. It’s that time of year that makes us smile, want to spend time in the crisp fall air, and simply enjoy being alive. Which makes us feel kind of funny picking games this week where hate and revenge take center stage – kinda’ like anything involving O.J. Simpson. (Quick trivia note: Interestingly enough, Jessica Simpson is
not related to O.J. Simpson. Yep, we were surprised, too.)
– Sunday 10/7,
We love a good flick, and although the “summer movie season” has passed us by, this game is like a late release, trying to squeeze into an Oscar spot. Like all good films, you have your character development, your story, and the inevitable climax.
The Character Development:
February 5, 2006
, the last time these two saw each other across a freshly lined field. When the dust settled, Steeltown had another title, Jerome Bettis retired,
Ben Roethlisberger was still riding motorcycles, and
Shaun Alexander was broken-hearted but not broken-wristed.
Flash-forward to the present,
October 10, 2007
. The times and some of the faces may have changed, but the black cloud of a Superbowl controlled by officials still lingers for some fans and players alike. Both teams are looking strong thus far in the season and, although it is early, they make strong cases that they could just meet again come playoff time. Oh sure, there have been some speed bumps on their respective roads, for example both stumbled in one of their 4 contests (ironically, both lost to an up-and-coming Arizona squad), but they both enter this weekend atop their respective divisions.
has shown a recipe for success thus far with an offense that has showed a great deal of production (8th in overall offensive production and 12th in scoring), and a stingy defense (only 53 points against total – 5th best in the league). QB
Matt Hasselbeck and RB
Shawn Alexander have gotten back to top form, which is one of the main reasons
sits atop the NFC West. Hasselbeck has already cracked the 1000 yard passing mark, tossing 7 TDs in the process, and sporting a QB rating over 100. Alexander already has a couple 100-yard games under his belt, and has the 2nd most carries in the NFL. And don’t forget about the standouts on the Seattle D – guys like LBs
Lofa Tatupu and
Julian Peterson, who have forced 6 fumbles between them; Peterson has 5 sacks, and Tatupu picked off 1 pass and leads the team in tackles. CB
Marcus Trufant leads the secondary with 2 picks of his own.
has assembled a very similar path to success that
has taken this season. A dominating defense (47 points total allowed – 2nd in the league in yards allowed) anchored by the always exciting
Troy Polamalu. On the offensive side, the Steelers may not have the bruising Bettis anymore, but they are just as effective with fast
Willie Parker as their main weapon. Parker is averaging over a hundred yards a game, and is the only guy carrying MORE than
’s Alexander (Parker has 93 carries already this season). And while QB
Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been quite as effective as Seattle’s Hasselbeck, he is still sporting a respectable 94.1 QB rating this year, and actually has one more TD than Matt this year, with 8 so far.
This is a match-up of two VERY solid teams on both sides of the football. It wouldn’t at all be surprising to see both of these squads make it deep into the playoffs. This game isn’t getting quite the build-up we expected, not just as a rematch of Superbowl XL, but because it’s a tussle between two of the better teams in the NFL right now. Trust us on this one, this is easily one of the top games this week – and could be one of the best games we’ve seen yet.
Jets @ New York Giants – Sunday 10/7,
Typically, we wouldn’t be touting a 1-3 team versus a 2-2 team as a ‘Game to Watch’. You may think we’ve taken a complete leave of our senses, like Britney Spears on a bender. But there is more than meets the eye here.
New York City; the Big Apple; Gotham – the city that manages to bring us Broadway Shows, The Empire State Building, and the Knish. And while we always like to refer to both these teams as a New Jersey Jets and Giants, since they don’t want to play games in their own state, we’re going to give you all our thoughts (in bullet form – similar to the city’s crime element) on this game in a ‘New York Minute’. Read fast, so we can get it all in…
**The Jets try to stop sinking like a snitch with cement shoes in the Hudson and avoid ending up on the bottom of the AFC East. The Giants find themselves in the position of a possible 3 game win streak – but their lack of defense in their first three games has many New Yorkers scratching their heads to be sure.
Chad Pennington has quietly developed one of the better rated passers in the league through the first 4 weeks (105.8 rating), showing he can make good decisions.
**The last meeting between these two in 2003 came down to a field goal with 4 seconds remaining in overtime. Giants 31, Jets 28 – Now
that is an exciting finish!
**Bragging rights to a stadium named after ONE of these two teams and located in a different state from either team’s ‘hometown’.
**Fun with the Vegas odds-makers – usually the home team gets -3 from the start, but who would you really consider the ‘home’ team here?? (Officially this is a Giants home game.)
** The Giants D started out this season looking horrible… but over the last 90 minutes of playing time, the Giants defense has given up 3 points TOTAL. That’s quite a turnaround.
** The Giants Defense surged from 26th in sacks to tie for 1st in the NFL after last week’s performance (and exploitation of Eagles replacement O-lineman Justice).
** Traffic around Giants stadium, as well as 80% of the NY Metro area, is going to be a nightmare. Avoid it unless you revel in traffic jams.
** The Giants Linebacker situation wasn’t good to start with, and then
Chase Blackburn almost ruptures an eardrum when a reporter bumped into him while he was using a Q-tip?!? Seriously – we can’t even make this stuff up.
** The struggling Jets won’t make their chances any better if S
Erik Coleman can’t go due to a concussion. That would be a real blow to the Jets, as Coleman currently leads the team in tackles (29).
** Giants QB
Eli Manning started the season with a great fantasy performance against the Cowboys, but his accuracy has dropped below 60% now, and lately he looks about as shaky as the chances Lindsay Lohan gets her 6-month NA chip.
** The Jets O-line has protected Pennington pretty good so far, so the Giants D will not have the cardboard cutout of a line that the Eagles put out there last week.
Listen – a grudge match like this doesn’t come along every day, so ya’ gotta’ tune in when it does. This is one of those rare games where you can really throw all the stats out the window and count on the rivalry to bring out the best in both teams. The Giants are the favorite here, obviously, but this one might be closer than people think. Another game down to the wire between these two wouldn’t surprise us.
Tampa Bay @ Indianapolis – Sunday 10/7, 4:05pm
Our final ‘Game to Watch’ this week pits the undefeated Colts versus the NFC South leading Bucs. When you think about how both of these teams have played thus far this season, this game started out to be a race between two finely tuned machines… but after both teams suffered a slew of injuries last weekend, this match-up is more like a bad trip to the car dealership to see what can be salvaged, what last-minute fixes can be made, and if either of the two engines will have enough power to make it to the finish line this weekend.
Let’s look at the damage to the Colts first. WR
Marvin Harrison left last week’s game in the second quarter – and the loss of one of the NFL’s elite WRs was certainly a blow to QB
Payton Manning and his offense. But it gets worse… late in the contest last week, RB
Joseph Addai left the game with a shoulder injury. If he can’t go this weekend, the Colts lose one of the best weapons in the NFL right now – the 3rd leading rusher (407 yards) and 1st leading scorer (5 TDs) among RBs. The Colts injury woes don’t stop on the offensive side of the ball. The NFL’s 11th best team in overall defense (13th in scoring) loses Pro-Bowl Safety
Bob Sanders and LB
Rob Morris. Sanders may or may not play this weekend, but Morris is done for the year.
So what still works on this Indy car? Well, the driver, QB
Peyton Manning, is having a solid season – even if the numbers so far are a bit below what we’ve come to expect from Manning. Manning’s current spot as #4 in QB ranking shows that he’s making great decisions and with only 1 interception against him this season, he’s not giving other teams defenses much to cheer about. And they still have some other gas in their tank in WR
Reggie Wayne. Even if Harrison can’t play this weekend, Wayne is currently the better fantasy WR anyway with over 300 yards to go with his 3 TDs so far this year. The D still has its share of talent, too – like CB
Marlin Jackson and his 40 team-leading tackles.
The Indy car isn’t the only vehicle showing signs of road damage, as Tampa’s “Cadillac” crashed and burned this past weekend in Carolina. RB
Carnell Williams is now gone for the rest of the Bucs season, whose 3 TDs puts him in an 8 way tie for TDs among RBs this season. And while Williams rushing yards weren’t among the elite, his 52 yards a game aren’t that bad considering players like
Frank Gore are only averaging 63 yards a game this year. The Bucs suffered a second knee blow-out this past weekend, losing LT
Luke Petitgout for the season as well.
While Tampa’s Cadillac is totally out of commission, it doesn’t mean they don’t have any engines left to drive this team. RBs
Earnest Graham and
Michael Pittman will replace Williams in a RBBC situation. Graham and Pittman combined for 138 yards against a decent Carolina D last week, so that certainly gives Tampa fans some hope that they can still have a good rushing game. Look for Graham to be the 1st and 2nd down rusher, with Pittman being the 3rd down / change-of-pace back – Pittman is also the better receiver out of the backfield at this point. QB
Jeff Garcia has been playing just how Tampa needs him to as well, amassing the 10th best QB rating so far in the NFL. Oh yeah, don’t forget that the Bucs still sport the NFL’s 5th best D in overall yardage, and the #1 in the NFL in keeping the opposition out of the endzone, giving up a measly 11 points a game.
Ok, so both these sports cars have suffered some body damage, a couple blow-outs, and are desperate need of a bye week to work on repairs – but that doesn’t mean it won’t still be a good race. And while Indy is the easy favorite on paper, don’t forget that the Bucs were 4-12 last year BUT they place in the NFC South – a division notorious in the past few years for teams going from worst to first. So while the match-up may not be as high-octane as it would have been with both teams firing on all cylinders, we still expect a great race between these two teams. Now if they can both just make it to the checked flag without another 5 or 6 caution flags this weekend…