Going into NFL Week 12, it looks like we will see a lot of new faces in the playoffs this year. Teams are starting to get hot, while other teams are fading far away from post-season play. This week’s schedule is highlighted by a game that by all rights could be a preview of Super Bowl XLIV.
The Superdome plays host to a true clash of the titans between the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots. Who would have thought going into the season that this could be the most anticipated non-Favre game of the NFL season? I think this is much bigger than the Colts-Pats game a few weeks back. The game becomes even bigger for the Patriots, who are chasing the Colts for home-field in the playoffs.
The New Orleans Saints is everything NFL fans thought they would be last season. The Saints have finally come together as a great team on all sides of the ball. Greg Williams has installed a Saints defense that is a true wrecking machine from week to week. Unfortunately, the defense has begun to slide a bit over the last few weeks giving up some close calls to the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams. The timing for this game couldn’t be any better for Tom Brady and company.
The Saints are undefeated, but have struggled in the last few weeks. The Saints came back to life last weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Drew Brees and company finally looked like the same team that routed everyone in the opening weeks of the season. The Saints have had a big problem finishing games up until last week. The Pats finish games and are dangerous for 60 minutes. I think this game lives up to expectations and the Pats come away with a close win. It just comes down to who needs it more, and right now the Pats need this win way more than the Saints do.
The Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins will tangle in an NFC East rivalry game. The Redskins are out of any post-season playoff hopes, and the Eagles are still alive. The Eagles laid a beat down on the Redskins five weeks ago on Monday Night Football. For those of you that don’t remember, this was the game where Brian Westbrook suffered his original concussion.
The Redskins have begun to play inspired football over the last several weeks. The Redskins were within a point and a missed field goal of beating the Dallas Cowboys, and upset the Denver Broncos two weeks ago. This has the makings of a trap-game for the birds. The Eagles just won a huge prime time game over the Chicago Bears. The Eagles could be overlooking the Redskins due to their record, and looking ahead to a feature game against the Atlanta Falcons. One of the biggest mysteries of the 2009 season is which Philadelphia Eagles is going to show up on a weekly basis.
This should be another Eagles rout. However, I do think Rock Cartwright could give the birds a lot of trouble. Cartwright is small and speedy and is exactly the kind of a running back that has given the birds fits this season. Fred Davis has been quiet since coming in for Chris Cooley, but he is also a threat to a weak linebacking core. The key here is Albert Haynesworth. If Haynesworth plays, I am inclined to go with an upset. If Haynesworth sits, I think the eagles fly like a bird in a big rout. Last year the Redskins swept the Eagles, this year the Eagles return the favor.
The other big grudge match of the week pits the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers are coming off a 2-game losing streak, which culminated last week with an embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. At 6-4 and behind the Bengals in the division, the Steelers can’t afford to lose this game. Unfortunately, this must-win game couldn’t have come at a worst time for the Steelers.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was rocked last week in overtime. Roethlisberger was diagnosed with a concussion and looked like he was in another world on the sidelines following the hit. The Steelers subsequently lost their backup Charlie Batch with a wrist injury. Shockingly, Roethlisberger and the Steelers are claiming he is fine and will play. I don’t doubt one bit that he wants to play. However, in this year where the issue of player concussions in the NFL is a hot topic I just don’t see it happening. I would be stunned if Roethlisberger suits up. If Big Ben isn’t allowed to play, former Oregon star Dennis Dixon will lead the team.
The Ravens are clinging to their playoff lives by the week. Joe Flacco has regressed, the defense is giving up very un-Baltimore like big plays in the passing game, and the kicking game has completely killed this team. Kickers are often overlooked as a dime a dozen, but the millions of dimes that the Ravens refused to use to re-sign Matt Stover could cost them a dozen losses until they get the kicking situation straightened out. I have never seen anything like it through a season. Missed field goals cost this team wins against the Minnesota Vikings and the Indianapolis Colts. We are talking about a very good football team that has a very misleading 5-5 record when it comes to the talent behind the ball.
I actually think the Steelers may be better off for this week with Dennis Dixon. I loved Dixon in college, and I think he could have been a first-round pick if he hadn’t gotten hurt in his senior year. Dixon was injured in his senior season with the Ducks, yet had the team ranked #2 in the BCS polls before he went down. He was on his way to a national championship before getting hurt. It is arguable, that he could have been a starter by now in another situation if he finished the season and won a title. Dixon has been with the Steelers for two-years, so this isn’t some third stringer off the street coming into the game with a scaled back playbook. Dixon is such a different player than Big Ben that I think the Ravens will have a really hard time preparing for him. I also think that teams have a tendency to play down to quarterbacks in this situation.
This is a game that has been on the minds of the Baltimore Ravens since the Pittsburgh Steelers bounced them from the playoffs in the Wild Card Round last season. Pittsburgh swept the Ravens 3-0 last season. Cris Collinsworth called their playoff game one of the hardest hitting games he has ever seen. To put it mildly, these two teams don’t like each other. This is the last team that the Pittsburgh Steelers want to put their franchise quarterback against coming off a concussion. Regardless, I think the Ravens take this game in another hard hitting affair. Ray Rice had his first game without a touchdown last week since Week 5. I think Rice is too much of a threat in the open field, and a swarming defense rips the Steelers apart on Sunday. I look for the Ravens to take the win, and put Steelers fans in a panic seeing their team go 0-3.
Quick Hits – Just when I thought I’d get a good Detroit Lions game on Thanksgiving, Matthew Stafford has to go and injure his shoulder. Could we see a Matt Leinart vs. Vince Young rematch on Sunday? The over/under is 5 for Jay Cutler interceptions against the Minnesota defense. Doesn’t it always seem that just when you start to take the San Diego Chargers seriously, they get exposed bysomeone like the Chiefs? Carolina Panthers fans will finally get a game in which they get the quarterback advantage. We’ll see on Sunday whether the Bills have really turned their rushing defense around when they host Ricky and the Dolphins. The Houston Texans would have a shot on Sunday with another coach. Has anyone single handedly screwed up a great team more in recent weeks with the running back carousel and bad coaching calls than Gary Kubiak? I wonder if all of the people crediting Jeff Fisher for his team’s turnaround will credit him for keeping Vince Young on the bench and costing his team six games.
Fantasy Fix – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills. I am groaning as I type this, but the stats tell a different story. Fitzpatrick looks to have more chemistry with his receivers than Trent Edwards. I also think that you are looking at a lot of players, specifically Terrell Owens playing for their jobs next season. The word is out that Ralph Wilson wants an elite coach here next year, and these players want to be a part of the new era. The Dolphins give up almost 25% more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the average NFL team. The Dolphins have also given up an average of a touchdown a game, and hell even Jake Delhomme scored on them. If you are stuck on a quarterback this week, you won’t find much more upside than Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Justin Forsett, Seattle Seahawks – This is the game that you picked Forsett up off of waiver wires for. Forsett has put up double digits in back-to-back weeks. Seattle’s passing game has struggled on the road, thus they will be looking to run. The Rams also give up close to 35% more points to opposing ff running backs than the average NFL team. If you need a boost in your running game, Forsett is your man this week.
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers – Paging Jermichael Finley! Finley was turning into a top-five tight end before he wound up missing games due to injury. Finley is back and Aaron Rodgers couldn’t be happier. Finley only had five points in his previous game against the Detroit Lions, but I expect bigger things on Thursday. Did you know that the Lions have given up more touchdowns to tight ends than any other team in the NFL? I expect the Packers to get great field position throughout the game with no Matt Stafford and possibly Calvin Johnson on offense for the Lions. I would probably rank Finley in the top five tight end plays for this week. Even better news, he is available in most leagues off of the waiver wire. I’m playing him and so should you!
CamelClutchBlog.com Fantasy Football Standings
Dusty’s RedBellySpot 8-3 (Eric Gargiulo)
Havertown Spoilers 6-4-1 (Bryan Reigel)
Team Nuetral Zone 4-6-1 (Brett Clendaniel)
Team Wheelhouse Radio! 4-7 (Jeff Peck)
Team We Own You 4-7 (Erik Espenberg)
Team The Nice Guys 10-1 (Jeff Porrini)
…Not You!!! 7-4 (John Yomtov)
1st Place 4-7 (Derek Sabato)
The Kings of Krista 4-7 (Josh Usher)
Team Rowland 3-8 (Justin Rowland)
NFL Week 12 Picks!
I had a slight dropoff last week going 10-6. Even I didn’t see upsets by the Chiefs and Raiders on the horizon. I am 104-56 overall on the season. Now for the NFL Week 12 Picks (Picks in BOLD) –
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys
NY Giants at Denver Broncos
Tampa Bay Bucs at Atlanta Falcons
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
Carolina Panthers at NY Jets
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams
Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers
Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
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