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:
Atlanta @ Cincinnati – Sunday 10/29, 1:00pm
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
We’ll be honest, like every other person in this country, we aspire to make money. Our latest endeavor was about a month ago when we pitched some ideas to the Atlanta Falcons brass about changing their uniforms.
“Black is over-done”, we said. “The Falcon is a little to stylized and a little too large”, we said. “Picture this!” we said, and then we showed them our idea for the new Falcons jersey. It was an army camouflage with a small falcon over the breast. As the Falcons marketing people grabbed us by the collars, we said “Don’t throw us out.” And just like that, we were out on our ear.
Ok – maybe it wasn’t the best looking uniform you’ve ever seen, but it was damn fitting. The entire Atlanta Falcons team is camouflaged this year.
Everyone went into the season thinking Atlanta had at least a solid D, but as this season goes on, they are showing that maybe the Atlanta secondary was really a fraud. Giving up a fat 230 yards of passing every week doesn’t make it seem like they are any good – that’s for sure. But just when you slam the secondary for giving up gobs of yards, you realize that they are the #8 scoring D, giving up less than 18 points a game, which would seem unlikely for a team giving up passing yards like the Falcons. So maybe they are a good defense?
Let’s move onto the offense, things should be more clear and less cloudy there, right? Wrong. It’s even worse. The Falcons trot out a QB every week that throws for the lowest yardage, by far, of any NFL franchise. 132 yards a game passing is an embarrassment for any QB, but wait… is Michael Vick really a QB? On second thought, he’s one of the NFL’s best running backs, racking up 441 yards on just 51 carries. That’s an amazing 8.6 a carry. And any running back that throws for 132 yards a game is a fantasy god – especially if you can start him in the QB slot every week.
The Bengals are not without their camouflaged players, either. Chad Johnson was dressed as a high-round fantasy draft stud, but he’s playing like a thrift store WR. Carson Palmer doesn’t look quite the same as anyone remembers, either, with his recover from injury obviously not quite 100% – but at least a still respectable #9 overall. Heck, the entire Bengals team doesn’t look quite like themselves. They came into the season as one of the teams to beat, and certainly the best in their division, but they’ve struggled to a 4-2 record, even with a relatively easy opening schedule.
Both teams are 4-2. Both teams are struggling to look like the division leaders many predicted them to be. And both Dolfi and Braun have found another way they cannot make money. (Not to mention that both Braun and Dolfi have yet another restraining order slapped on them by another franchise office.)
So you can see why we want to see what this bunch does this weekend. No matter what it is, you know you can’t predict this one – it’s all about camouflage, baby.
Baltimore @ New Orleans – Sunday 10/29, 1:00pm
Superdome, New Orleans, LA
With Halloween fast approaching, what better game than the Baltimore Ravens vs. the New Orleans Saints? With Baltimoreans crazy about Edgar Allen Poe, and with New Orleanites crazy about dressing up in crazy costumes and partying – this one was made for Halloween weekend.
The Baltimore Ravens franchise takes its first ever trip to the ‘Big Easy’ to take on a Saints team that is playing well enough to be the #1 team in the NFC South, and has a home field advantage that is arguably the best in the NFL right now.
Winning their last two games, the Saints are separating themselves from the memory of the 3-13 season last year, and are showing signs of being the strength of the south. Coming off of a bye, they look to continue their momentum into a schedule that certainly isn’t a cake walk. But if they play anything like they have been, look for more partying in the French Quarter. They sport the #7 offense in the NFL, the #13 defense, and the second best record in the entire NFC. The individuals are just as good as the team, too. QB Drew Brees is #7 overall, Marques Colston and Joe Horn are playing better than expected, and the addition of the exciting Reggie Bush to the more workman like Duece McAllister has been paying dividends, too.
The Ravens come out of a bye week as well, but with far less momentum, maybe even in a bit of disarray. Head coach Brian Billick decided a change was in order for the 28th ranked offense in the NFL, to complement its 3rd ranked defense, and fired Jim Fassel as the team’s offensive coordinator. Billick intends to take over the play-calling duties himself, which may be a mistake, as his supposed ‘offensive guru’ mind has turned out one of the NFL’s most anemic offenses during his 8 year tenure as head coach. Steve McNair, knocked out of the most recent game with a concussion, is due back to lead the team, but let’s face facts – McNair wasn’t helping much anyway. A dismal 30th in QB rating, McNair hasn’t proved to be the shot in the arm the Ravens had hoped for. Jamal Lewis is a shadow of his former self, too – the #27 RB is not what the doctor, or the Ravens, ordered.
So right about now you might be saying right now, “Why is this a ‘game to watch’?”
Well, both teams need this game to either stay on top of their division, or stay in the race for it. You’ve got a team playing good offense against one of the NFL’s toughest defenses. You get to see Billick prove he’s no better an offensive mind than Fassel. You’ve got all the hoopla surrounding Halloween, and every game at the Superdome this season. You have a good excuse not to go watch the local Halloween Parade and pretend you enjoy seeing the “Scream” movie mask for the 4000th time. And finally, you’ll get to see if the Saints continue their surprising run this year, or if the Ravens can pull it together for a tough road game, slam the door in the Saints face, and allow the Ravens to quoth “Nevermore!”.
Indianapolis @ Denver – Sunday 10/29, 4:15pm
Invesco Field, Denver, CO
Ok – first off, what the heck is ESPN doing NOT making this the Sunday night game?!? Are you seriously telling me that 2 struggling teams like Dallas and Carolina are going to put together a better game than one of the NFL’s offensive juggernauts vs. (arguably) the league’s toughest defenses?? Are they REALLY that desperate to show more T.O. nonsense? Do we really need to see more of Jerry Jones bad plastic surgery looking concerned on the sidelines? Or a dejected Bill Parcells looking like someone drowned a sack full of kittens on every play?
Ok… deep breaths, deep breaths.
Look, this is obviously one you don’t want to miss. You get to see the NFL’s #1 scoring defense, the Denver Broncos, who are giving up an AMAZING 7.3 points per game. You get to see one of the NFL’s top offenses, #3 in overall yardage and #4 in points per game (over 28 a game), led by one of the NFL’s premier QBs (and current QB rating leader), Payton Manning. And you get to see the AFC’s #1 team at 6-0 overall square off against one of the AFC’s #2 teams at 5-1.
You all know what Manning brings to the table, so we won’t bore you with stats. And we could drone on about Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne both being in the top 10 WRs in yardage for the year, and making a legitimate run at both eclipsing 1100 yard seasons at their current pace. But you already know all that. We know the Colts can put points on the board and make it look ridiculously easy in the process.
The question is whether they can do it against the Denver defense that is putting up some incredible stats through their first six games. Allowing only 7.3 points a game is just sick. And doing so without a single defensive player in the top 20 in Tackles, Solo Tackles, Assists, or Forced Fumbles is just unbelievable. The only two real standouts on the Denver defense stat sheet is Elvis Dumervil and his 5 sacks tying him for #11 in the NFL, and Champ Bailey tied with a host of others in the NFL for #3 in interceptions with 3 so far this season.
The knock on the Colts for the past few years is that although they have one of the best offensive teams the NFL has ever seen, they can’t seem to overcome tough defensive teams to get to the Superbowl (like the Steelers or the Patriots). Well, this game will show us if they can finally get that monkey off their back and stun one of the NFL elite defenses and steal a win on the road, or if they yet again stumble. For the latter to happen, the Broncos *must* do better on offense, since even their vaunted D isn’t likely to allow them to escape with a win if they throw up a 13 or even 17 point effort from their offense. It certainly doesn’t make Denver fans feel confident when they haven’t yet scored over 17 in ANY contest, even against some of the NFL’s worst defenses.
So this game promises to be a great race between two of the NFL’s thoroughbreds, the Colts and the Broncos – with the winner proving that they will be the horse to beat down the stretch in the AFC.