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), 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:
New York Giants @ Atlanta – Sunday 10/15, 1:00pm
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Flashback to the beginning of the season… You are looking at these two teams, and thinking “The Giants and Falcons are going to offensive powerhouses”.
Fast forward to the current day, and although there are some definite strengths and big play ability on offense for both of them, neither are powerhouses when it comes to putting touchdowns on the board.
It’s this simple: this game is vital for both teams. The Giants had a win last week that gave them a temporary pass out of the doghouse with hungry NY fans. The bright side: their defense figured out how to stop another team from scoring more than 20 points. The dark side: their offense has scored only five (that’s right….FIVE) touchdowns when in the opponents’ red zone. Add in recent events; the turmoil from Jeremy Shockey’s words, an angry NY fan base, and a town that was disappointed in how the Yankee’s performed (unless you’re a Mets fan of course), and the bottom line is that a loss here could dump the Giants in the NFC East basement, and will get a tongue lashing by the New York media that we haven’t seen in quite some time. With Dallas and Washington both being favored in their respective games (Big D is at home against Houston, and the ‘Skins are at home against Tennessee), this game translates to a must win for the G-men.
Atlanta is fighting off some disappointing expectations too. Michael Vick gets all-world hype, which we suppose is appropriate since he’s playing like a World League QB. A terrible 69.8 QB rating puts him at #26 in the NFL, and with only 522 yards so far this season, his arm has him ranked #31 in passing yardage. (Remember kids, there are only 32 teams in the entire league.) And remember that little stat we gave you in the last paragraph about the Giants red zone woes (only 5 TDs in red zone)? Well, Atlanta is the worst in that category in the entire NFL with only 3. Thank God for Atlanta that they do have some positives going for them: 1) they are getting John Abraham back this weekend 2) they are coming off a bye week AS WELL AS playing at home, 3) they do have the #1 ranked rushing attack in the league, and 4) Their #6 ranked overall D is keeping them in games, and giving up only 10.5 points a game puts them in a position to be able to win every week.
Ok – this might not be considered the “game of the year” for most of the US, but both of these teams are fighting to live up to expectations. And both teams need the win to keep up with the Joneses in their respective divisions, so this should be a good one.
Seattle @ St. Louis – Sunday 10/15, 1:00pm
Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO
Let’s start out with 3 Facts and 1 Fiction.
Fact: Seattle looked shaky against Chicago, even taking into account the injured Shawn Alexander.
Fact: St. Louis is looking at resurgence in their once dominating offensive attack, currently ranking #10 in overall offense, and #10 in scoring offense.
Fact: The winner of this game gets to be the current leader of the NFC West.
Fiction: This game will suck (Well…anything is possible, but hear us out and make up your own mind. Besides, our Tarot Cards said it was going to be a good game, and how can you really argue with that?)
Seattle has been a little down and out with their star running back Shaun Alexander spending time in street clothes, and it doesn’t look like that will change this week either. At least Matt Hasselbeck gets Jeremy Stevens back from the injury list this week, and gives him a much needed additional option. With the numbers he’s put up so far, it certainly can’t hurt (#24 and #23 in passing and QB rating). But fairly solid defensive play and a soft-ish schedule so far allowed them to post a 3-1 record in the month of September. It also helps that they have had two weeks to recover from their stinging loss to Chicago. Seattle knows what is at stake, and they know they need this one.
St. Louis actually leads in a good defensive category, for the first time in recent memory. So far this year, they have forced 15 turnovers, while only giving up 3. Their plus 12-turnover ratio is one that 31 other teams in the NFL wish they had. Their ability to capitalize on turnovers while avoiding mistakes of their own is reason for hope, but their erratic play so far has them beating good teams like Denver, and losing to the likes of the 49ers. The lack of consistency is hurting them, and their sluggish offensive start didn’t help. You might be asking yourself just how St. Louis got off to a 4-1 start. Well, that turnover margin is certainly working in their favor, because so far they are winning most of their games by 8 points or less. Recent weeks have seen a resurgence of Bulger, Holt, and company, and that’s certainly a positive for the Rams, as well.
All of this works out perfectly in this recipe for a good Game To Watch:
Add 2 cups of division rivalry
Slice up 1 match-up for the division lead
Stir in 3 tablespoons of Bulger, Holt, and Jackson
Mix in a dash of humiliation of Seattle at the hands of Chicago
And add just a pinch (¼ teaspoon) of the Seahawks coming off a bye week
Bake for 60 minutes in the Edward Jones Dome.
Serve with chicken wings and a beverage of choice.
(This recipe is always a crowd-pleaser, and we don’t think this weekend will be any different.)
Kansas City @ Pittsburgh – Sunday 9/15, 4:15pm
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Let’s be honest, this wasn’t the best week for great games. So we end with a whimper rather than a bang. But this one is still worth watching for a few reasons.
Kansas City has started the season a disappointing 2-2, and to be honest, it’s not even a very good 2-2. They lost to Cincy and one of their division rivals, Denver. They beat San Fran and Arizona – not very impressive to say the least. To be fair, the loss of Trent Green in week 1 hurt this team far more than many people realized. Green is one of those underrated QBs who quietly puts up solid numbers, and has kept the KC offense from being one dimensional. The Chiefs have sported one of the NFL’s best RBs for the last few years, but the loss of Green is allowing people to key even more heavily in stopping the KC run game. You see it in decreased numbers for Larry Johnson, and you see it in their record. Let’s face it – with Denver and San Diego in their division, the Chiefs can’t afford to lose too many more, with or without Green if they have a prayer of seeing post-season play this year.
Pittsburgh isn’t the team they have been for the last few years. Sure fast Willie Parker is still an impressive back, but the Steelers are certainly missing the power running that the Bus gave them last season. It hasn’t helped that Big Ben Roethlisberger started his off-season workout with a motorcycle face-plant, and then followed that up with an in-season appendectomy. The rookie who couldn’t lose, suddenly can’t win in 2006. The boys from Steel-town are 0-3 behind their star QB, and no one really knows if it’s tentative playing by Ben, or poor decision-making, or just a bad year that’s causing his woes, but you can’t deny that unless Ben gets it worked out immediately, this season is all but over for the Steelers. He’s got to stop throwing costly interceptions (7 so far this season, compared to 0 at this same point last year). It’s not all on Roethlisberger’s shoulders though, the Pitt D hasn’t been the same unit as we’ve come to expect, either. The pass defense in particular looks markedly weaker, but that’s what age and free agency do to you. Now with LB Joey Porter and CN Deshea Townsend listed as questionable for this weekend with more hammy injuries, the Steel City is on life support, and a loss this weekend will almost certainly pull the plug on them. 1-4 just won’t cut it in a division with solid Ravens and Cincinnati teams.
Ok – so it won’t necessarily be one of the most exciting games you’ve ever seen, you still just have to watch this one. It’s like watching a car wreck, with the certain knowledge that only one of the drivers is going to walk away from this one.