Week 13 in the NFL is like the beginning of the World Series of Poker. The table is full of hopefuls looking to win the big pot, and this is where some start falling. It’s just a matter of time before teams start going all in, and whoever hold the winning cards will earn the right to play for the biggest game, the Super Bowl.
In the AFC, it is feasible that an 11-5 team might not make the playoffs. It is also possible that a team that started the season 1-5, including starting the season with four consecutive losses, could make the playoffs.
The fortunes of the Buffalo Bills ride on the legs, and the stats, of Willis McGahee. His first start in week 6 against the Miami Dolphins saw him carry 26 times and gain 111 yards. That day coincided with Buffalo’s first win of the season. The following week Travis Henry got the nod, but split carries with McGahee. That would be the last time Willis wouldn’t be the starting back for the Bills. He had 16 carries for 58 yards against the Ravens, a game Buffalo lost 20-6.
In the following weeks, McGahee rushed for 102, 132, 37, 100 and 116 yards. You can guess which game was the only one in that stretch the Bills lost. For the season, Buffalo is 5-0 in games he gains 100 or more yards. With an emerging running game and the NFL’s 3rd best defense, the Bills suddenly look like a contender again, and just in time to make a serious run at the playoffs.
The Bills are, regardless of their play, still a long shot. Not so the Denver Broncos. At 7-4 they are one game behind surprise rival San Diego and travel this weekend to “America’s Finest City” in a crucial division battle. That makes this the
Great White Shark Game of the Week – Denver @ San Diego
Sunday November 5 th @ 4:05pm ET on CBS
Just a few short weeks ago Drew Brees could see the writing on the wall. It was actually a pink slip hung by a stick pin. The Chargers had just lost two games in a row to start the season 1-2 and GM AJ Smith announced that rookie Phillip Rivers had been promoted to second string, signaling what most believed would be an early exit for Brees, who had been benched in several games the previous year. Apparently that created a spark, because suddenly Brees began looking like a Pro Bowl quarterback as the Charger went off on a 7-1 tear, the only loss a nail biter, 21-20 to the Atlanta Falcons.
Denver is coming of a Monday Night blizzard that included a loss to the Raiders and are spoiling for a fight. Their avowed mission is to find a way to shut down uber stud and surprise Pro Bowl shoo-in Antonio Gates. In the first meeting this season at Invesco Field Gates was held to 4 catches and 40 yards…a plebian effort for the budding superstar. If Denver is to win, they’ll need to muzzle him again, or it will be a long day in San Diego for the Bronco’s.
Shark Sighting – LaDainian Tomlinson was nursing a sore hamstring the first time these teams met, and Keenan McCardell was still playing keep away in Tampa. With LT healthy and McCardell giving the Chargers another offensive weapon, LT will be the key. Reuben Droughns might have some input as well, so expect the team with the most success running the ball to emerge victorious.
Whale of a Game – Green Bay @ Philadelphia
Sunday December 5th @ 4:15pm on FOX
A former Super Bowl champ meets a wannabe champion in this pivotal NFC matchup. Brent Favre has the offense firing on all cylinders and the return of Grady Jackson continues to bolster a Packer D that has helped Green Bay rattle off six straight victories, this after starting the season 1-4. Before you get too excited however, you should know that only one team during that stretch, the Vikings, has a winning record.
The Philadelphia Eagles are playing great football. Donovan McNabb is having one of his best years ever, thanks in large part to the arrival of Terrell Owens. Eagles fans are drooling over the prospect of finally breaking the post season jinx. After all, the Red Sox won a world series and the Republicans won the election despite a Red Skins loss. Maybe the team should change its name to the Red Eagles just to be safe.
Shark Sighting – The Eagles have been susceptible to the run but still sport the leagues eighth ranked defense. With the return of Brian Westbrook, this is the Eagles game to win or lose, and with Atlanta breathing down their neck for home field position, Philly won’t be taking this one lightly.
Another Whale of a Game – Pittsburgh @ Jacksonville
Sunday December 5th @ 8:30 ET on ESPN
Pittsburgh has been riding the Bus this season and doing so happily. Ben Roethlisberger has looked human in the last couple of games, but a ferocious Steelers defense has made it a non-issue. Deja Vu…remember the Ravens Super Bowl year in 2000? Roethlisberger is at least as good as Trent Dilfer, and the Steelers D is almost as good as the Ravens were that year.
But wait…isn’t there another team in this game?
The Jacksonville Jaguars may have handed off the reins as the surprise team of the AFC to the San Diego Chargers, but make no mistake, this is a dangerous team. After two consecutive losses they trail division rival Indianapolis by two games and are on the outside looking in for a wild card spot. This is a team that beat the Colts in week seven 27-24. With Byron Leftwich back after missing a couple games with a sprained knee, the Jaguars know this game could well be the end of their playoff hopes if they don’t emerge victorious.
Shark Sighting – Jaguar Coach Jack Del Rio has told offensive coordinator to give Fred Taylor more carries. Musgrave is a bit pass happy, but Del Rio knows they’ll need to have success running the ball to win against the Steelers.